So Angry wrote another interesting article this morning (well I don’t know when he wrote it, but is was there this morning for me to read.) It covers what exactly he does or does not do when it comes to preparing and planning a D&D session. It is a very good read, and I encourage people to go here to read it:
He touched on a few things but the one thing that he touched on that really got to me was the idea of a GM using Improv for a session. THere are a couple of points that I want to expand on there, more so than I did in a comment on the post itself.
When a role playing session is at it’s best, when someone does or says something funny or cool, it feels like great improv theater. When I was younger I did some high school theater, and we did some improv for practice. And one of my favorite television shows of all time is ‘Whose line is it anyway?’ which is all about pure improv. The point here is that improv can be a lot of fun. It can be serious, bringing out deep thoughts and feelings. And it can be the funniest thing you have ever been a part of. But not everyone is good at improvisation.
And that is why there are pre-written adventures out there. Not everyone is creative. And not everyone can come up with adventures, encounters and NPC’s. So an adventure module is like a scripted play. You follow the script. It can still be great fun. But it does lack that spice of improvisation. Although it can get you ready for it.
Which brings me to my next point. It takes hard work and practice to get good at improvisation. You have to know the fundamentals, like a great athlete. When you are asked to say something that your character would say or do, you need to be able to react. To know what your character would do, why they would do it, what they would say. So you have to practice, you need tools and notes like inspirations and such from your character sheet.
Well if you are the GM it is the same only multiplied. Because you have to know not just the motivations of one character, but a whole host of bad guys. And you have to keep things consistent within the frame work of your game and campaign. Angry talks about introducing an NPC on the fly. But he could do that because he knew his game, and the setting and as a result it would all fit together.
That’s why I write these little fictional snippets once in a while. It helps me gather together in my mind and set there a character’s motivations and thoughts. So that I know where the players are, what rules apply and what rules do not.
I am not great at the improvisation of that yet because I have not practiced letting the players have much free will. So they only encounter what I have planned. Fortunately for me the boys are pretty content to do just that, and not challenge me too much. But that’s because they have not had a lot of practice either, so the idea of acting in a fashion that would fit their character is still pretty foreign to them. If I am lucky they will grow into that at about the time that I am ready for it.
For now though, I rely on notes, and such. But with practice I hope to get to the point where I can be more off the cuff. Although I am beyond the need for a full script.