I ran two sessions of Numenera for Free RPG Day this past Saturday and rather than using a pre-written adventure, I employed my improv skills to craft these adventures. Here are some thoughts on how to do that at your table.
“Let’s go to that floating castle!”
If you introduce something shiny and intriguing, your player WILL want to investigate it right away. So be prepared or at the very least willing to let them do so. It’s a little unfair to throw a floating castle and expect them not to run heedlessly, or however they run, towards it. If you are saving it for a later session, introduce it then. Don’t tease them.
“Can I do this crazy thing?”
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Who remembers that time we all did that super cautious and practical thing and succeeded by observing the rules in a dry, logical manner? No one, that’s who! Everyone will remember the time you lassoed a dinosaur, jumped a canyon and decimated your enemies! Seemingly stupid ideas are the best, let your players try them. However it pans out, it will be more entertaining.
“Can’t we just walk around it?”
You may have planned a sinister, dangerous but not unsolvable puzzle or trap and you know, know in your heart of hearts that there is only one way to resolve it. Until your players look at it and find a flaw. You could say they can’t do that or it won’t work but let it work. It’s better to reward cleverness than punish it.
“I’m not here to kill you.”
I shouldn’t need to clarify this but of course I mean player characters, not players. You should always be a fan of your players, they are the stars of the show. Even so, the dice do not always share that sentiment and characters can shuffle off this mortal coil. Mechanics aside, this need not be the end. Maybe the giant whose castle they invaded wants to know why they did so and has healed them just enough for a chitchat, sans weapons of course. They can awaken on a starship bound for some distant colony or anything else you can think of. This is a story and you can alter the narrative so it continues, in spite of what the dice may say. Think of it as a detour rather than dead-end.
“Does this seem familiar to me?”
If you listen to your players, they will do a lot of your work for you. This is not being lazy. Well, maybe a little lazy, but your players will thank you for it. Planning is important but again, it’s about the players. You might think your narrative is clever, compelling, and exciting but if the PCs are secondary to it, write a book. This is not to say you should let them run roughshod over everything but take your cues from them. Are those the guys who kidnapped my brother? Why yes they are! No is the enemy of fun. In improv, we always say yes and. It works at the gaming table just as well.