Improv Thread!


I ran an improv fantasy one-shot, and we all had a blast! It looks like the players actually want to continue and possibly turn it into a campaign. Are there any sites, articles, books, etc that focuses specifically on this style of running a game? Maybe you guys can add your experiences, suggestions, regarding running an improv game.

I appreciate all your help. Thanks!


log in or register to remove this ad


I recently came to the conclusion that running games on the fly was the best way for me to run successful games. I've only run a few sessions since but each one has been a major success for me and the players, proving to me that it was the right decision.

Not everyone can do it, though, and even those who can will find they have off days. IME, the best thing you can do to 'prepare' is the following:

1) Make sure you're refreshed, that you have a clear head, you've eaten before-hand, etc. If you haven't slept, or you're going in hungry or you've got other things on your mind, then running a free-for-all session is the last thing you want to be doing.

2) Know your players and their characters. By knowing your audience, you can far more easily come up with situations and challenges that they'll enjoy and as a DM, your enjoyment is often tied into the player's enjoyment. The more they like your game, the happier you are as a DM and the better your improv and sessions will be.

3) Know the rules well. If you can't come up with a roughly balanced encounter in a few seconds, then improv isn't for you. Knowing the system well helps IMMENSELY with this process. I can pretty much come up with a balanced and exciting 4e encounter without even using monster stat blocks and JUST using page 42 (updated...). That kind of system knowledge only comes either from lots of playing, or lots of DM'ing.

4) Know your setting. Having a really solid idea of what your setting is like and how it should be, whether it's published or your own homebrew, is really important for being able to improv. If you have no idea what the laws of County Whatchamacallit should be, then you're going to end up stammering on the spot and wondering what the heck to do.

5) Just have fun.


Mod Squad
Staff member
In the comedy and theater world, "improv" does not mean "make it ALL up on the fly". The best improvisation is typically done on a framework, a bare skeleton or sketch of the scenario.

Mark CMG

Creative Mountain Games
In the comedy and theater world, "improv" does not mean "make it ALL up on the fly". The best improvisation is typically done on a framework, a bare skeleton or sketch of the scenario.

Incorrect. The framework is not plot-specific (scenario), it's a matter of the rules of play, so to speak. While some improv performed for an audience might solicit input regarding plot points (situation), place, and most importantly character, not all does and the "best" (ideal, perhaps a better word) improv is structured based on the guidelines that govern how to proceed, not where to go nor what content is predetermined.

For guidelines, here's a good place to start -

Rules of Improv

Improv structure can transfer well to roleplaying games with a group of willing participants.


The big secret is "Yes, and..." Ask what the players want to do, then tie your ideas to theirs. If you're stuck on an NPC name/appearance, location, or any kind of setting element, ask your players.

Also, get your players to come up with 1-3 "things" that are significant in their back stories. This could be a person, a place, a family heirloom, whatever. Take notes and reference them often.

One helpful tool (best for Modern, but works for any genre) is to ask your players what famous person their character might look like. This will influence how they play their character, and you will be influenced in turn.

Example? One of my Modern players said she had an older mentor who looked like Sean Connery. He became my DM mouthpiece, and I ended up talking like him (more like Deckard Cain, actually, stealing his famous "Stay awhile and listen" line and using it often) for the whole game.

Epic Threats

An Advertisement