[RPG] As a GM, is it bad form to ask for a moment to think when improvising


As an amateur GM, I, like many other new GMs, often find myself having to improvise in the wake of unexpected player action.

In the past, my approach to this has been to rush to think of something on the spot, which often results in a poorly thought out, cheesy/cliche, or just plain boring response.

Would it be bad form if, when thrown a substantial curveball by the players (such as, for example, the party deciding to wait for enemies to push their position, as in this answer) I were to say to the party something like:

Okay guys, give me a minute to figure this out

Or would that be too jarring/immersion breaking for the players as it results in a sudden pause in play?

Best Answer

No, it is not bad form

Regardless of how much immersion1 you are trying to achieve, you are still a table full of people playing a game. When you run across a situation that surprises you as GM, or has you thinking "what?" it is most often better to put some thought into the solution, and make a ruling, than allowing yourself to feel rushed. (As with other things in life, snap decisions often have undesirable consequences).

Or would that be too jarring/immersion breaking for the players as it results in a sudden pause in play?

That will depend on the situation. If as the GM you feel that pacing is what needs to be the top priority at that moment, go with your gut and sort it out later.

Sorting it out later

Depending on the game system that you are in, a technique to reverse a quick decision that you made that later looks to become a problem is to (after the session or during a break)

  1. Bring up the decision

  2. Explain why it was a poor one,

  3. Explain "how it works in the future."

    Discuss with the players as needed, since the level of GM authority (between absolute to not much) varies enough among systems to make an absolute recommendation unrealistic. Getting their buy in will be helpful in the long run.

1Immersion: that elusive quality of an RPG
@KyleDoyle points out (rightly, IME) that "immersion" is not something that every player values as highly as another one will. While an immersive atmosphere can be a great part of an RPG session, particularly during serious dramatic moments, some players are more concerned with other elements of RPG play. Tastes differ by individual, and by group, in this regard.