So i've noticed on /tg/ that there are basically two schools of DMing, the meticulously planned and the improvised.
I know each method works, just better for different individuals.
I'm curious to hear of some campaigns that have went well virtually planning nothing.. like other than a monster manual or DM handbook
Just inspiration because thats the style I want to pick up, just please share some improv GM stories and tips!
You understand you're asking GMs that don't plan what their plan was right?
I'll give you a bit: Bait your players. into speculation. They'll always find a better story than you intended to write. Go with it from there.
"Ha I knew it" can't be used at all times, but it rarely goes badly.
Even improv games have planning, its just a different type of planning.
>OK, the PCs will be traveling to Highcastle where Duke Naughty has assassins waiting for them. They'll chase the assassins through the sewer and fight their leader who will have a letter from Duke Naughty on his body.
>I've got this dungeon written out that I can easily refluff into either a tomb, sewer, or temple and the monsters could be either cultists, thieves, or guardians. That gives me three plot hooks to toss out at the next place the PCs travel to.
I do a lot of improvisational DMing.
My main strategies are:
1) know your setting intimately. Know what is going on and have a good basis on how people typically act and behave. Know how towns function, and understand the thought process behind actions. I don't have to plan everything out if I can take a second to go "my players are entering this town, what does a town need and where do they get it? What are people doing this time of day/during this season"
2) I plan a timeline. 5-10 events that transpire, because it makes sense for people to be doing stuff. As players affect the world around them, these events are subject to change. Normally this is my "plot". If I'm not using this as the plot, then I have a setting and let pcs sandbox in it, still running events.
After that I pretty much do everything on the spot. Having a realistic idea of what's going on where the players are keeps me ready and on my toes, and the events help the players feel as though the world is progressing around them, not just because of them.
Tldr: I do a healthy mix of each style. 25%planned/75% wing it.
Most my improvised DM goes like this
1) See if PC's have a enemy, a master or relative. make said person go missing.
2) Make the PC's do a "police interview" on the missing person, try to pick PC's ideas what could have happend in the interview.
3) Make profitable to other PC's the rescue of said PC familiar/master whatever.
Enjoy the adventure. That or i use the prison start, it works for Bethesda, why wouldn't work out for me?
I studied history in University so all of my GM prep tends to be tons of worldbuilding, deciding what major events will happen in the PCs' lifetimes/immediate vicinity, how those events would look at street level when they were just beginning, and kind of go from there.
Different side stories spring up naturally for me because the campaign is taking place during some period of major change so plot hooks are potentially everywhere and I can develop whatever the PCs latch on to
i'll tie the location to player a's backstory, the inhabitants to player c's, and players b and d have the relevant skills to individually or collaboratively unravel a clue or two for several other plot hooks i intersperse in the dungeon
For improv the story unfolds organically around the players. They'll essentially write the plot for you and you can flesh things out as needed.
I ran a game where the PCs ran into a woman who had been possessed by a demon cursed ring. They managed to destroy the ring, but the demon sealed inside it escaped. For sessions afterwards they started seeing every odd thing that happened around them as being the work of this demon. So of course I brought the demon back for a later game.
What this Anon is describing is essentially "fronts," which is a term for a style of GM prep and organization originating from Apocalypse World. Fronts are awesome. Apocalypse World doesn't have an SRD, but a bunch of games stole the term so here's Dungeon World's page about them:
They're a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to GM prep. Let's say you make the following front.
>Villagers start mentioning that Lars the Drunk went missing recently. Maybe they ask the PCs to help
>Lars finds a dried-up well in the woods and falls into it
>Lars encounters a scary thing in the well and makes it angry
>Villagers start hearing strange noises in the woods and people go missing
>The angry thing burns down the village
So, let's say the PCs decide to ignore the villagers at first and go loot some dungeons instead of finding Lars. That's fine! Your prep is still worth something, because the world is still changing without their involvement. The PCs can choose to step back into the front at any time--maybe they find Lars in the woods, or maybe they start taking it seriously after villagers go missing, or maybe they've left the town but hear about how it burned down and go to investigate. It's all good, because you didn't plan out a dungeon or a series of encounters for the players to go through, you just jotted down a timeline and the players can interact with it how they want.
Hell, a lot of the time my prep really doesn't get much more detailed than a bunch of that. Fronts can be as small-scale as Lars in the woods, or as big as a couple of countries at war with each-other and how those interactions go. Jot down a series of events, the characters involved, their motivations, and leave it at that. Just have an idea of what the characters want, and you'll find that they really play themselves once dice hit the table.
Oh, and keep a list of names. A big one. You're always going to need names.
Well, good luck and all, but I'd have to say most of the worst experiences I've had in gaming have been from "no-prep" GMs. About a year with one guy, about two with another, who did nothing but world building and prepared no actual quests or stuff for us to do. It ended up being mostly combat with little opportunity for roleplaying. There was rarely a sense of anything having any importance or meaning, because nothing had consequences or implications beyond the next hour. The second guy in particular essentially ran every game like a one shot, and would just tell us we walked for a day, then flip through the monster manual and pick something for us to fight. He would literally do this five or seven times a night, every week, ten weeks a quarter, three quarters a year, for two entire school years. Honestly I don't even know why my friends and I kept showing up, I guess we were just retarded.
So, don't do that. Even if the game has no prep, there should be a story. Unless you are the type who wants a 100% combat Diablo clone game. I know some people like that. I just find it painful.
>They'll always find a better story than you intended to write. Go with it from there.
Some GMs feel that only a fully constructed world that took 2 years at 40 hours a week to build is the only way to go, but you gotta realize this:
As your planned story increases in magnitude, the probability that the PCs will actually interact with any particular part of your story drops to zero at an exponential rate.
The way I usually do improv (which is a majority of the time) the players have usually gone to a point I wasnt expecting so my usual train of thought is "what is the coolest thing within reason that the party can possibly be doing right now?" This can range from: The party's airship has been hijacked and is now opening fire on the city and the party has to disable the AA turrets to the party member that hasnt been around for 4 sessions has actually been working against you all along.