I am not much of a prep GM. That is the reason I like systems that make it easy for me to simply take and run. Just let me go and don´t constrain me, but give me some frame of reference I can stick to.
Usually at the table I can go off “script” easily and wing my way into a cool plot that engages my players. If you put me on the GM chair during a convention with nothing in my bag besides dice, pen and paper I will fail miserably however. If I start to prepare or run a published Adventure I tend to cling too close to the book. No way to leave the written path! That kills every game pretty quickly. So I sat down the other day and thought about what works for me.
What prompted me to think more about this was this scenario I posted. I wrote that in 6 hours start to finish, including marking the map and surfing for the perfect image for the Big Bad. Personally I think that was relatively quick. In any case I realized: I can write adventures. That is a huge deal for me as I have never written anything before. It seems I need to get a story in my head that needs to get out.
What is the problem at the table sometimes? Why does it work one day and not the next? And how do you get these Stories in your head in the first place? What do I learn from this?
I brooded about this for a few hours and boiled it down to two answers for me.
- Visual Inspiration: I saw the map and the story was there. It just happened. It also happens with pictures in general, but mostly maps without annotation.
- Music for Mood: The music I listened to while typing really influenced what ended up on the page and how it did. It controlled the encounters, NPC´s, tone, everything.
These two are my main Catalysts for creativity. Granted, it is a bit limited as I usually like to run a dungeons. That made me realize I am “Derivative Creative”. On my own I’m pretty much lost. But give me something I can bounce off from and I simply run with it, winging my way along. That is probably the reason I have so much trouble with published adventures too. If the adventure states “The Characters can do A B or C” I rarely get the inspirational spark to think of D and E too. My mind goes on a one way road “Follow the Plot” as I am far to busy to keep the written word in mind.
That is why I wager the scenario turned out like it did. It has some descriptions and enough character to get into the mood of things. It guides you in the general direction, but all the small details are for the GM to fill. There are lots and lots of places not described, the GM could put anything cool in there. That is a format I live and can use the best.
The realization of my limitations leaves me marveling at the truly off the cuff GMs and writers who seem to not need anything to spin a story. However I am glad I realized the issues I have and what makes my creativity go off. Now I only need a way to use this reliably to snap me out of railroad mode and get me writing.
I truly believe everyone is creative in his own way. Maybe you just need to find your trigger to set your imagination flying. What are your primary used senses? Touch? Use Props! Taste? Foods and Drinks. As you may guess I am a Visual guy. I can´t remember the name of a road but when I stand there I can tell you I was there and where to go. If you add Audio so I can listen to something I remember it even better. So I remember movies best. And that is how scenes and stories unfold for me while I am GMing. The movie plays inside my head and I simply describe to the players what I see. Sadly I tend to neglect the other senses like smell or touch. I am trying something like the Statblock I posted about earlier for my future preparations. Maybe a list I can always have in view to pick adjectives from by senses?
To sum up, for me there is a definitive link in what I remember best and how I remember and learn things to the way I am creative. What about you? Do you have a trick up your sleeve to get creative? Or do you also need to have a certain something? Post in the comments!
Read you soon!