It’s been a hectic workweek for me lately, spending almost entire workdays over at clients, pulling me away from precious time that could be spent on less productive things like coming up with a D&D scenario. Then again I did promise myself that I’d run a game that’s more lighthearted than the standard World of Darkness games I usually run.
That being said, I find myself edging ever closer to the first session and my notes are barely written down. I have a few ideas stewing in my brain, and I’m hoping that these fevered ideas born of work stress and commuting hours are enough to string together into a game.
Having failed my expectations to plan something out specifically for the session, I’m going to resort to a traditional skill found in most GMs: winging it, or improvisational GMing. Unlike more structured approaches, this is partially improv theater with money shots. When I’m in this mode I consider several key things:
- Will it matter to the players? Characters are the focus of a players attention, and all the fancy game mastery in the world will mean absolutely nothing if it doesn’t involve the players via their characters. As such, my first order of business is to find the hooks to snag the players. I’ve partially set something up with the Pathfinder Society as detailed in my earlier articles, but now I’m looking for personal reasons. This is where I go back to character concept and their motivations. In working directly with their backstories I have a powerful motivating factor and I tailor the scenario to their characters.
- What’s the plot? Plot matters. Even in games where you can’t control the protagonist the semblance of a plot keeps things in a narrative structure rather than a sandbox. While sandbox moments are fun, a game completely based on a sandbox type of play is lazy GMing. The moment when I’m doing nothing but waiting for players to do something so I can react is almost as bad as being a player that shows no initiative.
- Who’s the bad guy? Bad guys are what makes conflict fun. Sometimes you can swap out bad guys for a situation or even a disaster, but combat and villains are staples of D&D. Not to mention that since this is the first game in the campaign, the players need to find their combat legs… and so do I.
- What’s the money shot? This is where I start drawing on the simple fact that rpgs don’t have a limit to the special effects budget. Sprucing up the scenario, calling on all sorts of things like fancy combat environments, badass monsters, and all sorts of other impossible things. These are what makes combat or other scenes memorable.
With all that in mind, it’s just a matter of drag and dropping some monsters from the monster manual, and a little brain work with regards to the plot and the dungeon (if any). NPC will need to be fleshed out too, but hopefully I can save that for later.
And there you have it, Pointyman’s quick and dirty GMing.