Tag Archive: Rants

Jun 04 2014

Foundational Improv

Last time I mentioned it’s been over a decade since I ran a game that was a story I laid out. Since then I’ve developed what I call foundational prep which gives me the tools I need to improvise sessions.

First off, if I have a location I know what’s going on there. I hate static dungeons, towers, spaceships, warzones, whatever. There needs to be something going on in the place that the PCs need to deal with. It also needs to be something that has a real conclusion if the PCs don’t mess with anything in it. If you’re not running a location based scenario then come up with some solid motivation and goals along with an understanding of why the bad guys or gals want to achieve it, and how they go about doing it. For longer games I drop in more locations within the place, have a few more threads of events going on, and mix up the previous two ideas. A great example of this is in the beginning of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The final and most important piece to this is to make sure the characters are tied to the troubles that are about to happen or build your adversary faction with pieces the PCs want to interact with. There are tons of ways to do this but directed questions work pretty well for me which is where I’ll pick up next time.

Talk to you then,

Chris

Jun 03 2014

Why I Think Improvisational is Better than Story

Last time I said,

“I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM.”

So I think that might be a little out there but then again it’s not. Now this is all anecdotal evidence from the games I’ve played in over the last 20+ years. When an indoctrinated player sits at a game table they defer to the GM and wait to be spoon feed what they’re supposed to do. When a player joins a group and is more willing to be involved I find they either leave the game or conform and that bugs me as a norm for most traditional game tables. I work pretty hard to include players into the process of crafting our experience with a Role Playing Game, traditional or not. It matters to me because I don’t want to tell a story. I want to be part of the experience; sometimes facilitator, sometimes active spectator, sometimes active participant. We use storytelling ideas because we’re comfortable with them, and improvisation acting games and techniques when we know them. Heck, sometimes we use them even when we don’t. Sort of a discovering or inventing of something that already exists and we just didn’t know about it. Either way, having learned more about improv, how it works, its principals, and usable improv techniques at the table, I can say my favorite gaming moments in RPGs are a direct result of improv, second to the drama of the dice, and almost never because a story played out the way the GM thought it should, including when I was the GM. I love those games from the last category but looking back I know they were forced. Even if the players had fun with the experience I laid out their choices and when they made their own that conflicted with the story didn’t really have an impact. It cheapened their and my experience.

It’s been over a decade since I ran a game like that and next time I’ll talk about how I set myself to be able to use those improv techniques with something called foundational improv.

Talk you you then,

Chris