Prepping To Improvise

From an April 6, 2015 G+ discussion. Initially Adam asked about stumbling blocks to improvisation as a DM/GM.

Awesome discussion! I just now had a chance to read through all the comments.
Having played in two sessions of +Adam Muszkiewicz‘s Kickassistan at Marmalade Dog and having him play in my first effort at running a game at the same convention was a very powerful experience for me.
After we got done, I asked for input from all those who had ran games at cons before and got a lot of very helpful advice.
For me, I put so much time into prep to run an off the shelf module, that I wish I had put in some work on fleshing out a new area of my campaign.
If I develop something, I know it inside and out and can wing it all day long. For a pre-existing module or campaign, I have to spend a lot of time to digest it and get the feel for it, so that I am comfortable running it.
I may do a good job of running it, but my comfort level with doing so is not the same as something I brewed myself. I may be the only one aware of my discomfort. There is always discomfort with new experiences and figuring things out. As long as the discomfort of the DM does not become a distraction to the players it isn’t a problem.
In my own campaign, only something that takes advanced preparation can stop me. Even some things that would be smoother with advanced preparation, I find that I can wing it and my players have fun and come back for more.
My players have plans that have nothing to do with any plots or background. They know there is something going on that connects a lot of the humanoids and undead they have run across, but their main goal is money and power for its own sake. They are doing the good deeds to get in good with the powers that be, not for the sake of doing good. The result is somewhat the same, but the motivation for action is different. I have been totally surprised by players’ choices and actions, as I would not do what they did knowing what they know (but I have been playing for 37 years).
However, my fun as DM is watching how the players interact with my world. Yes, there are things I have in mind that would be cool if they ever go in that direction, but I won’t force them. But, seeing how they think something I considered to be an innocent aside or description, they see cryptic and important things, and they run with it. I know how my world works, so I can run with their inadvertent building of a direction/portion of my world.

Adam then posted this article of his organized thoughts on the matter.

He boils it down to 6 things:

  1. DM a Game
  2. Take Notes during the game
  3. Invent a tool between sessions
  4. Bring new tool to next session
  5. Make notes in the next session, rinse and repeat.
  6. Apply the consequences of the player’s actions to their characters.

I would sum this whole idea up in two points:

  1. Don’t make more work out of it than there needs to be.
  2. Remember to have fun!
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