Defining improv

While it might seem a little trivial, I realized that people have different opinions on what “no prep” means. Yeah, astounding discovery, I know. I figured that out after asking the following question on various channels:

How many of you have GM’ed without any prep? How did it go? What worked? What didn’t? What system did you use? Lengthy anecdotes (as well as short ones) are greatly appreciated. 🙂

If we disregard the fact that I find the above questions tremendously interesting in and of themselves, then the point is that I’m gathering some data for some blog posts on playing without any prep.

So far, I’ve only written the why: Why I think you should try it out. I’ve yet to write anything about how to do it properly.

The answers here clearly had some different assumptions about what “pure improv” and “no-prep” means, so I think it’s in order to at least state what I mean, when I use the terms. So here goes:

When I say no prep or pure improv, I mean you come to the table without having actively spent time preparing anything. Ideas and vivid pictures are fine, but nothing is written down. The game starts with the GM asking questions about the setting and the PC’s until it is clear what the game will be about. These questions can be as loaded as the GM wants.

The point of playing without any prep is to avoid doing a lot of hard work that you don’t want to do. It’s not that I’m against prepping, I just find it boring to do, and my experience is that the players have more interesting ideas than I have anyway. If you want to do prep, then of course you should! Do all the prep you want, but be mindful that it might all be a wasted effort. Players have a funny way of rendering hard labor fruitless.


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About Undreren

I'm a university student from Denmark, currently taking my candidate degree in Mathematical-Economics. I have played pen & paper RPG's since 2004, but my interest for the phenomenon sparked about 3 years prior to that. I'm an amateur programmer and knows Java and Haskell as well as some rudimentary HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript.

2 responses to “Defining improv”

  1. lordscree says :

    Prep: Reading the rules.
    Improv: Using the rules.
    Pure Improv: Making up new rules.

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