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Old 01-15-2018, 01:18 PM   #1
Mark Skarr
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Default Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

So, yesterday, we had our Infinite Weirdoís game scheduled. We knew one player was iffy (family issues), but wound up being short two players. It was odd, as the other player we were missing was usually really good with letting us know if/when they werenít going to be there.

So, I dusted off some old pregens I had and ran a game off the cuff. You can read the details here (link to Denver GURPS Forums).

Obviously, parts of this were inspired by Ark Survival Evolved, but, not in the same way the video game plays. This was complete improv. No planning, no prep, just give them a starting place and throw a curveball at them: Dinosaurs. Everybody loves dinosaurs. Then keep the story going forward and take as many notes as possible so, hopefully, if they want to keep doing this, I have enough to go on.

In no time our session time was over and the only reason we had to stop was so Rubyís player could fix and eat dinner. The players really want to continue with this game as they all had a blast and were enjoying their interactions.

I know that we have some GMs out there who simply canít improv a whole game, from scratch. What advice can we give those GMs to make things easier if they ever find themselves in a similar situation?

My, main, piece of advice is to pay attention to your players as you throw things at them.

Keep the game moving, give your players a little time to think but no time to plan. You didnít have any time, so donít give them that luxury. Know what they like and what they donít like. Not everything you throw at them will stick and get a laugh or major reaction. Take notes on it, and keep trying. Shotgun it until you find what they do want and where they do want to go, then let them lead you down the rabbit hole. Let them do most of the work. Throw them branches and alternates, but let them do the leading. Donít think too far ahead, and try to keep your ideas basic enough that you can alter them, on the fly, to incorporate the aspects your players want.

Dinosaurs are always a good place to start.
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Old 01-18-2018, 10:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

I found this very inspirational. Iím very often GM and somewhat often fail to plan much.

Iíve never distributed pre-gen characters and jumped right in though... that is *good stuff*. Dinosaurs are a great place to start. Itís surprising that none of the Dinos got shot!

Thanks for sharing, definitely post the next episode if yaíll do visit it.

I never tell my players that Iíve got no clue where the story is going. I sometimes wonder if they realize how much theyíre driving it.
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Old 01-19-2018, 06:25 AM   #3
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

I think I've always fallen back on an adventure I planned but never used. I fortunately have a big pile of those.

Once I have the shape of the adventure, improving becomes much easier, and I'll admit to not planning things out beyond that. My advice is to give the PC's a firm goal, through obstacles in their way, and watch for what they're afraid of. Their fears are a great source of inspiration. But be subtle. If they're afraid of a T-rex showing up, show them why you shouldn't underestimate vegetarians. Or save that fear for a later moment.
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Old 01-19-2018, 12:08 PM   #4
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

Quote:
Originally Posted by LokRobster View Post
I found this very inspirational. Iím very often GM and somewhat often fail to plan much.
I'm usually the GM. Hand of Bobb will run a few sessions now and then, but more often than not, it's me.

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Originally Posted by LokRobster View Post
Iíve never distributed pre-gen characters and jumped right in though... that is *good stuff*. Dinosaurs are a great place to start. Itís surprising that none of the Dinos got shot!
Fortunately, the only character with a gun, currently, isn't gun-happy.

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Originally Posted by LokRobster View Post
Thanks for sharing, definitely post the next episode if yaíll do visit it.
After a NSFW discussion between Gold & Appel Inc. and myself, I may see about following TSHiggins' plan and post a thread here as well. That'll keep it cleaner.

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Originally Posted by LokRobster View Post
I never tell my players that Iíve got no clue where the story is going. I sometimes wonder if they realize how much theyíre driving it.
I've told my players, for years, that I only have an idea of what is going on, and that the game is shaped by not just the characters' actions, but also the players' input.

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I think I've always fallen back on an adventure I planned but never used. I fortunately have a big pile of those.
I'm not big for intricate planning. I like to have ideas, but not define them too much.

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
Once I have the shape of the adventure, improving becomes much easier, and I'll admit to not planning things out beyond that.
A lot of times, I'll just have an overall goal (say "Rescue Sherry" for my IW game, or "Get Home" for Comedy Devolved). And it'll be up to the players and their characters to make that happen. Most of the time I won't even have an actual solution figured out. My players are way better at coming up with random suggestions that would work better than anything I can think up.
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Old 01-19-2018, 01:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

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A lot of times, I'll just have an overall goal (say "Rescue Sherry" for my IW game, or "Get Home" for Comedy Devolved). And it'll be up to the players and their characters to make that happen. Most of the time I won't even have an actual solution figured out. My players are way better at coming up with random suggestions that would work better than anything I can think up.
Yep. There really isn't a need to make sure that players can achieve the goal. Just make sure there are angles to work, and they'll figure out a way to accomplish it. Ensuring a solution is WAY too much work.
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Old 01-20-2018, 12:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

I posted the session notes here, on the SJGames forums. I'll probably post them on the Denver pages to get some proofreading and notes from the players, then post them here, like TSHiggins does.
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Old 01-21-2018, 03:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

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I posted the session notes here, on the SJGames forums. I'll probably post them on the Denver pages to get some proofreading and notes from the players, then post them here, like TSHiggins does.
Posting here is nice. You can just stick to the drama, action and weird humor, and that's what most people like. If people want a peak under the hood -- and a fair number do -- point them at the Denver GURPS Group forum.

I really enjoyed the write-up, and I wondered how your group wound up playing that one, since Infinite Weirdos seemed to be going so well.
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Old 01-21-2018, 06:50 PM   #8
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

Two of the main players haven't been available. I'd rather not move the story forward missing two of them.
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Old 01-30-2018, 10:22 AM   #9
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Default Re: Zero Prep, improvisation and how Dinosaurs make everything better

I don't do zero prep (usually) but I do have little prep for a specific session. It has been my experiences that a GM who prepares in detail tends to railroad at worst and a lot of work gets wasted at best.

The only things I have to work out beforehand are:

1) who represents the challenge to the PC and what does he want to accomplish?

2) where are events going to occur?

Both of these can be heavily influenced by previous adventures in the setting.

There are also cheats: I picked up the Destiny Deck in the early 90's and it's a quick way to deal out basic story elements (Plot, Setting, Atmosphere, Bonus).

I have also picked up a bag of Rory's Story Cubes (9 six-sided dice with assorted symbols) a couple of years ago and while as well-suited as the Destiny Deck, they are available now. Plus they can be used in their intended role as a storytelling game for kids.
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