Behind the Screen: The Evolution of a Roleplaying Session…

2009 August 4
by Dante

Over the weekend, I experienced a very strange session.  Our group had just arrived at the first major town at the end of the last game night.  I had laid out several interesting places for them to hurry off to, however the group proceeded to run to the tavern and attempt roleplay with practically every person that ventured within eyeshot.  I had some roleplay encounters planned for them, however those were quickly exhausted.

In Case of Emergency, FREAK OUT

Well, not freak out exactly, but you certainly make a ton of stuff up on the spot.  In the course of one session, I had to invent three taverns, a half-orc merchant NPC, an entire structure of pages and associated low level government officials associated with the city council (thankfully, I had already planned the bones of the council), and some political plots and intrigue that even I don’t know where they will end up.

What was the hardest part?  Names actually.  The WotC name generator is pretty cumbersome.  In fact, it created some repeatedly inappropriate names (what famous noble is named Horhand, seriously?) and it was tough to rapidly use to generate a small group of names.  Thanks to the miraculous wonder that is Google, I was able to come up with this handy group name generator.  I don’t know who runs the site, but it appears old (references Netscape… retro!) but really got the job done.  A single button click got me enough names to make it through the unexpected roleplaying bonanza.

Eventually, back on track

Our group eventually grew weary of exploring the town, and one of our group members fancied a fight.  Luckily, I had previously identified “that part of town” and had a bar all set up for the purpose.  Fisticuffs were drawn, some fighting was had, and eventually the group headed back to talk to the council member that they had come to this town to visit in the first place.

It was interesting to have to flesh out a town that I had already created the bones for, and have to do so all in one session in front of my whole group.  Everyone had a good time, I awarded the group copious amounts of roleplaying experience to make up for the lack of actual encounters and much fun was had by all.  Has anyone else ever had to perform a similar feat of thinking on your feet as a Game Master?  Let’s hear about it in the comments!

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Noumenon permalink
    August 4, 2009

    I am totally afraid that someone would try this on me and I’d never spring something like that on my DM. Your group must really trust you to try something like this without worrying they’ll catch you stammering and out of ideas.

    “Have a list of names ready” is frequently repeated DMing advice. I like to put some random names on some index cards with hair color or other traits so I can just pull one out. I take notes on the card how he develops in game. Then I leave the card in the envelope for the town he’s in.

  2. August 4, 2009

    Great post! This locks in almost perfectly with a post I recently wrote on how to go with flow with your party. Name generators are amazing things, thanks for the link to a good one!

  3. August 4, 2009

    @Noumenon: How do you know what your DM has planned? Sometimes I outright give away to my players that I’m making something up on the fly but often I try to just run with things (like Dante did in this game) and make things up on the fly.

    Just last Friday I ran a game that involved a LOT of improvising on my part, but thankfully I believe I pulled it together quite well. Having a list of names, 4-5 for each letter of the alphabet, is something that has helped me quite a bit and lead to the names of several of the NPC and Location names in my game.

  4. August 4, 2009

    Need a name generator? Use mine! It’s located at:

    Tons of different names available, and one of them allows you to specify particular vowel/consonant combinations. Very flexible!

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