Why improv is so damn fun!
I knew improv was fun before I began playing Dungeon World, but this game has been a key factor in enabling me to actually play improv-based games, because the system feel so natural to me. It is without a doubt the easiest game I’ve ever tried to GM. Sure, it has a learning curve, but once you get the paradigm shift wrapped around your brain, this game almost plays itself.
But that’s not what this lesson learned is about; it’s about why I think improvising everything is fun, and why I think you should try it out. This lesson learned is mainly inspired by my session with Misha and James, as well as my three session with Eric and Bastien. The adventures we’ve played have been major milestones in my effort to perfect my GM’ing skills.
GM’ing is a load of work in some games, it’s tedious sometimes, and most GM’s I know would really just rather be a player for the same reasons. Ever since I moved to Aarhus, I’ve sat on the GM’s side of the table, with few exceptions.
Previously, I thought that the core premise for roleplaying games was player agency. Player agency is on every one’s lips at the moment it seems, and I’ll borrow a handy definition from Papers and Pencils:
A player with agency is one who is able to make meaningful decisions about their actions, with regards to the game world.
I no longer believe player agency to be the core premise of a satisfying roleplaying session. It’s still important, tremendously so I’d even suggest, but it’s only a core premise. The other is play to find out what happens. I think the first is what makes it fun to be a player, while the latter is what makes it fun to GM.
The thing is though, that these two premises are inseparable. You cannot play to find out what happens if the players doesn’t have any meaningful choices. You cannot have player agency if the GM has planned everything from the beginning of the game, and will apply force to make sure it happens the way he planned.
So, why is improv so damn fun? Because it forces the GM to play to find out what happens, and in turn enforces player agency. You have to build upon the foundation laid out by you players, and in turn, they will take the story in wonderful directions, ones you’d never have taken on your own!
I’m at a point where I’ve become confident that all games I’ll ever GM will be better off if I plan just about nothing. I simply love to ask questions about the PC’s and the world, until I know what both the players and myself want to play! I have GM’ed, almost consistently, for the past 5 to 6 years, but I’ve never had so much fun since I stopped planning ahead.
If you don’t believe me, then I’ll encourage you not to take my word for it; try it yourself! Pick up that game you always wanted to try, and call your friends. Tell them the deal; no prep, only improv. And then just try it out. You’ll be amazed how different the experience is, and how easy improvising actually is once you get the game rolling.
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