In the same vein as the 20% rule for new campaigns, there is value in deliberately limiting your options when you GM — even to the point of excluding things you’re used to.
I call this the “haiku approach” because it’s got a lot in common with haiku, the Japanese poetic form best-known for its restrictive structure (five syllables, then seven syllables, then five syllables — at least, that’s how I learned it).
As with haiku, giving yourself some GMing constraints can be a good spur for your creativity — you’re forced to do more with less, and that can have intriguing results.
This also ties in with thinking about your GMing history, especially the things that you do by default — not just your GMing style, but the elements that make up your approach to GMing, and your campaign in particular.
The haiku approach boils down to this: Think about what you do as a GM (it might help to make a list), and about how you approach your campaigns. Then make a conscious effort to restrict yourself from taking your default approach to a couple of those things.
What specific options you limit will be an entirely personal decision, based on how you think, how you GM and what your players enjoy. It’s not about improving your GMing directly (like writing your own naughty list), it’s about challenging your assumptions and stretching your creativity in new ways.
It’s almost impossible to give general examples of what I’m getting at, so I’ll give you one specific example from my GMing history.
A few years ago, I realized that my D&D campaigns tended not to feature many monsters — I tended to focus on plotlines that revolved around PC-race antagonists (humans, elves, etc.). There wasn’t anything wrong with that, but I wanted to try something different.
So for my next game, I made the conscious decision to include fewer PC-race villains and more fantastic elements — especially monsters — in my campaign. I tried to embrace an aspect of D&D that wasn’t always part of my default GMing style, and for me that was the genesis of the haiku approach.
This had a lasting impact on how I think about running D&D, and even though I didn’t do a perfect job of implementing my changes, overall they worked out well.
What do you think of the rationale behind the haiku approach? Have you ever voluntarily limited your GMing options — and if so, how did it turn out?