Your First Idea Sucks

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0886

Why do we fear improve?

In my experience, GMing by the seat of your pants means facing embarrassment and frustration because of ________.

You fill in the blank.

For me, it’s been marbles in my mouth, crappy idea or no idea, paralysis, fatigue.

Game master Fog of War has so many awesome benefits. When you can’t see two corners past the PCs you are engaged with the story, you avoid over-prep and burnout, and you feel excited and alive instead of a plot pusher. You become one with the PCs.

Today I want to talk about a strategy to solve for having a crappy idea.

In the past, we’ve talked about arming yourself with tables and generators. It’s partly why, I produced Campaign Logger, so you are never left alone in the burning-bright spotlight shining on your screen.

If stuck, use a generator, tag, or table!

In addition, I want you to learn how to become an Idea Factory. Here’s how.

My gym teacher saw I couldn’t throw the softball far. He told my friend Brent and I to toss around a heavy medicine ball before throwing the softball. Weird. But we tried it.

And it worked.

After throwing a very heavy object around for a couple of minutes the softball felt light as a feather! We threw it better and farther. Thus proving the mind is a weird trap.

So too it is with ideas.

Next time you prep and you need an idea, I want you to come up with d4 ideas. Then pick the best one.

Chances are your first idea sucks. And most GMs stop there and limp along with it or give up.

But if you work just a little bit extra to tease out three more ideas, you’ll almost guaranteed have a better idea to work with.

In addition, you’ve just tossed a mental medicine ball around.

Do every time you need an idea.

For example, you’re GMing and players ask what’s around the corner. You pause and start typing an idea into Campaign Logger or whatever your ideation method is. But you don’t stop at your first idea. You take a few extra moments to come up with more ideas.

And then you pick the best idea.

Do every chance you get.

Then start adding reps.

Always create more ideas than is needed.

Creating a random d6 table? Create a d10 table instead.

Crafting d10 treasure ideas for next session? Create d20 instead.

Building a d20 generator for NPCs? Draw up a d100 table. (Remember that research and leveraging books and generators and stuff from your toolbox is 100% cool to help your imagination. Surround yourself with GMs aids as you become an idea factory.)

Next time you need an idea, do not settle with just one. Toss the medicine ball a couple times.