Monday, June 3, 2013

What Kind of GM Are You? A Planner or an Improvisor?

As I read through Odyssey (The Complete GM's Guide to Campaign Management) I'm being reminded that there are two basic types of GMs:

Those that "plan and prepare" are on one side of the graph.

Those that "improvise and pray" are on the other side of the graph.

Me, I'm pretty well situated on the "improvise and pray" end of the spectrum. It's not that I don't prepare, but my plans towards preparing greatly outweigh any actual preparation that gets done. With my group, that is probably a good thing, as they couldn't follow a straight line or a plot path without some major whacking with a 10' pole.

Odyssey covers both extremes of GMing style (I named the styles here, not the book, but I feel they are accurate depictions, at least in my eyes). Even the "improvise and pray" side of the spectrum does require some prep, but it's generally much looser in nature.

So, while I'm enjoying the sections that are aimed at the "plan and prepare" type of GM, I also know that despite my best intentions, I'll carry over very little from these sections. It's just my nature. As for the "improvise and pray style" - there's some gold within. Thankfully both types of sections are readily identifiable.

Where do you stand on the GM graph? "Plan and Prepare"? "Improvise and Pray"? In the middle? "P&P with some Improvisational Tendencies"?


  1. I usually have an overall concept for the campaign, plan the actual details session by session, and constantly improvise during and between sessions to keep up with what the players are doing.

  2. I always have a basic "floorplan and timeframe" in mind when I design an adventure. However, I love it when the PCs go off on some tangent I hadn't planned upon as it allows me to play along with them, so to speak. My goal as GM is to herd them back to the plot at hand, but those little side treks keep me sharp as I end up improving the entire thing half the time.

    Going into it cold? Never. But if it evolves during the course of the game? I'm there.

  3. I know this is going to sound a bit like hubris, but "both." You need to prep, but also need to be ready to improvise. I think I've done a decent job of balancing planning and improv in my time.

  4. I'd say I'm mostly improvise and pray. I am a jazz musician after all! I do do some prep work. Mapping out the world, the general area, planning some encounters, but for everything else it is on the fly. I just plan simple concepts. Rescue villagers. All I need, the rest I'll just come up with on the spot.

  5. Plan but roll with the punches of player ideas.

  6. Planner. I LOVE making handouts, pictures, extra characters, maps, etc and organizing them in binders prior to game night. Maybe it's the public educator in me. :)

  7. I plan like crazy, mainly because I enjoy the process. When I was younger, this turned me into a crap GM as I followed this by forcing the players to go down my planned route. These days, I lean back and enjoy watching them and the dice wreak havoc with my plans...

  8. I have to say both also. I usually have a few ongoing campaign plot threads, and I do some planning for the upcoming session, but I'm willing to throw any and all of it out the window and improvise if the players find something else interesting to do (or if something cooler occurs to me at the last minute).

  9. I've done both. With a long running campaign, winging it is far easier and a lot of fun just to allow flexibility. New campaigns or turn up the heat needs planning. I find it all about balancing between player expectations and player wrecking pre-planned stuff.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition