Making Stuff up As We Go Along

My favorite GMing style has always been “making stuff up as we go along” which means I basically improvised from start to finish instead of doing some prep work before the game. Depending on the setting you’re playing in and the system you’re using this can either be awesome or a terrible trainwreck of a game session. Luckily it worked fine for most of my games.

Especially Numenera by Monte Cook supports this GMing style perfectly. The world is weird and mysterious, you never know what lurks behind the next corner or beyond the next hill. Usually I just came up with a very simple setup and then started improvising.

In one game the player characters stumbled upon a small settlement in dire need of help. People kept disappearing and noone has even noticed the culprits responsible for it. That was basically what I had prepared before the game. I also decided that I wanted something from the past responsible for it. So I came up with a crashed spaceship which was buried underground. At this point I had no idea how the story could progress. Using my imagination and guided by the players’ actions I improvised the whole adventure. Everyone had a blast and the players never expected that I didn’t prepare the scenario beforehand.

BUT this approach has its issues. If you are not at the top of your game an inprovised session may quickly derail into a disaster. Things get worse if you are having doubts about your ability to improvise.  Even with my depression and anxiety issues I still have good days where I can improvise the heck out of any game. But on bad days – which are more often lately – I feel a lot of pressure. I’ve had to cancel games after the first session because I was terrified of running the game. So I am now thinking about trying a new approach.

At first I should give Never Unprepared and Odyssey another read. Especially Never Unprepared gives great advice on how to prep a game without going nuts about it. Back in the day when I started taking up the GM’s mantle, I tried to prepare for everything. Sometimes I planned endlessly on a single adventure which in the end I never even ran. As I grew more confident as a GM I quickly started to improvise more and more up until the point where I am now.

I guess I should find a middle ground between improvising everything to preparing everything. Since I just took a break from running games I now have the time and opportunity to think about how to do things in the future. At the moment I am really looking forward to making a change, learn some new skills and become a better GM. I’ve done this for about 20 years now, but I think there’s still much to learn.

P.S.: The featured image on this post is called “Improvisation 26” and was painted by famous artist Vassily Kandinsky in 1912.

Ask The Readers: Can You Recommend Any GM-Less Games?

In my last post I talked about my plan to take a break from running games. But this doesn’t mean I want to stop playing. but taking on the GM’s mantle feels like a burden to me right now. The players from my group are currently not interested in running games themselves, so I thought about an alternative.

Here you guys come into the equation. Please help me find a GM-less roleplaying game to try out with my group. I already own Fiasco, which sounds like a lot of fun. The other game I’ve checked out is Remember Tomorrow which feels closer to regular roleplaying instead of the story game approach taken by Fiasco.

I am sure there are other games like this out there, BUT since I have no experience with GM-less games, I ask you to provide me with some advice. What games would you recommend? If you have played such games can you please provide some feedback? Every comment is highly appreciated!

Taking A Break

Today I have decided to take a break when it comes to roleplaying games. Over the last few years I’ve been mostly the GM, which a few opportunities where I was actually able to be one of the regular players. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the GM’s chair, but combined with my mental health issues, this responsibility has become more of a burden recently.

That’s why I decided to take a break – not from gaming in general but from running games. This might actually affect my blogging activities as well, but to be honest I recently haven’t posted that often anyway.

During the coming weeks I plan to do some more reading and think about what I really would love to play instead of thinking about what my players would like me to run for them. For a while I had the feeling that I am not 100% committed to the games I’ve run and by doing so I did a disservice for my players and myself. I believe that taking a hiatus will help me to find my bearings again.

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