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Wing It at Least Once

At least one time in your GMing career, run a whole session completely by the seat of your pants — no adventure, no prep. If you’re worried about the outcome, let your group know in advance and make it a one-shot with new characters.

Chances are, you’ll learn some interesting things about GMing, and your players will look at future games a bit differently.

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10 Comments To "Wing It at Least Once"

#1 Comment By James On January 27, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

I highly recommend this! I have used this technique before in long term games and it works wonders to revitalize an older game and setting. Just be sure to have someone jot notes so that your off the cuff names and ideas don’t get lost in the moment!

#2 Comment By Lilith On January 27, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

I did this once and it turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever GMed.

#3 Comment By Yama On January 27, 2006 @ 1:46 pm

Problem is when your players get hooked…

It’s very hard to build an entire campaign this way, though we’re learning how. It requires more discipline by the players to know what they want to do in the game and not get led down every path they come across.

#4 Comment By Frank On January 27, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

I could do this in Cold Iron. I couldn’t in D20, at least not without it being a very painful session. Well, actually, we did end up with a no-prep session in Arcana Evolved between adventures. It really wasn’t all that great. Even though the veneer is pretty thin on my gamist games, I think the adventure prep is very important in giving some meaning to the fights.

Some games require at least some prep. I couldn’t imagine running Dogs without any prep at all.


#5 Comment By Patrick On January 27, 2006 @ 2:10 pm

I have to agree – some of the better sessions I’ve done where “completely” unplanned.

As long as you have access to lots of paper, some pre-made names (people and places) and players who will do more than stare at you, you’ll have a fun time. Also try it when you have an established campaign and you don’t know where to go from the point you’re at.

#6 Comment By Dave On January 27, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

I did this once. It was a very trippy adventure. It wasn’t completely off the cuff, as I had a basic plot idea, but when the characters got to an abandoned tower that I wanted them to explore, I realized it was very boring and so I improvised.

It ended up being some bizarre sort of weird dimensional thingamajig and involved a candy world (with marshmallow ground), a talking winged snake, a malevolent creature that changed into something different every time it was hit (as in strange things, like flying guitars and such) that I just rolled with, in that I didn’t have any stats for it and sort of just decided when the characters hit it and finally killed it.

It sounds zany, but it was actually a lot of fun.

#7 Comment By Martin On January 27, 2006 @ 10:44 pm

(Lilith) I did this once and it turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever GMed.

This is exactly why I love improving — especially when you haven’t tried it before. It can be a blast. 🙂

(Frank) Some games require at least some prep. I couldn’t imagine running Dogs without any prep at all.

Good point. There are probably plenty of indie games where this wouldn’t turn out well, actually.

#8 Comment By drow On January 29, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

heh… this is how i run games normally. at best, i have some idea of where the party is going from the previous session and one or two ideas related to that.

#9 Comment By Martin On January 29, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

drow: I ran an AD&D2e game for a year by the seat of my pants, and the whole group (myself included) remembers it as one of our best games.

Looking back, it didn’t hang together all that well, but it was fun — and I learned a lot about what I can wing and what I can’t wing. I also learned that improvisation is one of my strengths as a GM. All around, a great experience. 🙂

#10 Comment By ScottM On January 31, 2006 @ 11:19 am

Your last comment nails it Martin– some things can be winged and others can’t. The stuff that sticks (characterization, discussion, politics, etc.) is great for winging. Perfectly balanced encounters aren’t as easy– but if the focus of the adventure stays away from gripping combat, you’re golden.

Proactive players can make winging it easy. If players are waiting for the GM’s plot, then there’s a lot of waiting before the story finally starts.