Building Stuff: Improv Pros and Cons

It’s been a while, so in case you forgot, we already talked about setting up a campaign, and getting players into it. What about adventures within a campaign? What do you do then?

Not what I mean by ‘character spotlight’ – from D&D2: Wrath of the Dragon God.

Now, as also discussed earlier, you can play a very improvisational game with little to no prep. You know basically where the story is going – your players have a goal they are moving towards – and each session you just move them a little more forward. You may be involving them in the creation of the adventure, which is what I am doing right now. You may also just base the forward movement of the story on the characters’ actions and your ideas for moving the plot forward.

Let’s consider the improvisational game before we consider a planned adventure. I see a huge benefit to both players and GMs in improvisational games, as long as the GM is good at thinking on her feet. Players are involved in a more dynamic, evolving game where they may even see their own fingerprints on the work being done. That’s going to help at least move the story in a direction they probably want, and it will probably also help increase their investment in the game.

For the GM, there is minimal prep going into the game. That’s a very big benefit.

However, it can be a lot of work for the GM during the game. You need to be reacting quickly to all the different fastballs the players are throwing your way. Hopefully, you are making the improv somewhat seamless. I’ve had players ask me how much I prepared for the game, because it seemed like I was always ready for the directions their characters took. I wasn’t prepared in the way a player might expect, I was just prepared enough to keep the game going. That doesn’t mean it was easy for me. Sometimes, it can be really hard as you hit a wall, your creativity drying up.

For the players, it may be pretty difficult for the GM to make sure each character gets a chance to shine every session when she is making up the game as it goes along. I think character spotlight, maybe even more so than character advancement, can be the main motivator for some players. If characters aren’t getting the spotlight because the GM hasn’t prepared for the adventure, it can kill some of the enjoyment.

That’s not to say the GM is always going to have a hard time improve-ing a game, or that in an improv’d game, characters will miss getting the spotlight, it’s just a risk that goes along with the style of play.

It’s up to you to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks for your group.

You can find the Building Stuff series here.

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