D&D Gen Con adventure

Matt Mercer & Friends Prove Every Roll Matters in Gen Con GM Improv Showdown

D&D adventure within adventure at Gen Con 50
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Gen Con 50 was a records-shattering celebration of gaming culture with countless seminars, panels, events and of course games! Nerdarchy made the pilgrimage to Indianapolis, where Nerdarchist Dave and Web editor Doug met fans and colleagues, met awesome industry influencers and forged new friendships with gamers of every stripe.

Nerdarchy also had the honor of livestreaming a very special event, immediately following the live Maze Arcana game that Nerdarchist Dave played in with DM Ruty Rutenberg and players Satine Phoenix, Amy Vorpahl, Amy Dallen and Andrew Armstrong.

Gen Con GM Improv

If you didn’t make it to Gen Con 50, Nerdarchy has you covered! You can watch the live event, captured on video above on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel.

Open Legend RPG creator Brian Feister hosted the event, described thusly by him from the Open Legend community website:

GM Improv Showdown w/ Matt Mercer & Friends at Gen Con

“Improv as a GM is the most necessary skill and arguably the most difficult. What do you do when you’ve prepped for one outcome and your players go the opposite direction? Join Matthew Mercer, Brian Feister, and other well-known veteran GMs to learn how to level up your improvisation game through a series of LIVE challenges where panelists challenge each other’s improv skills in unscripted scenarios, followed by a breakdown of the thought process that goes into improv. Get a glimpse into the minds of skilled improv storytellers and learn how to make every roll in your game meaningful by drawing on connections and inspiration from unexpected sources to create compelling stories.”

The GM Improv event offered an opportunity to hear veteran GMs tackle unscripted challenges and narrate their way out of tough situations, followed by a breakdown of the “how,” according to the Gen Con programming event page.

Thoughts from Gen Con GM Improv participants

Shanna Germain

GM Improv“I was honestly nervous going in. There were so many great GMs on the panel, and I was afraid I was going to just drop the ball. But everyone was so welcoming and funny and passionate, and I thought it just went beautifully. I’m a seat-of-the-pants GM, so improv is something I love, and it was great to see everyone come at it from a totally different angle, whether they were the GM or one of the PCs. I love being on panels where the audience members get to feel like part of the story, to laugh or cry along with the characters; that, for me, is so much what roleplaying is all about.”- Shanna Germain, co-owner of Monte Cook Games

Andrew Armstrong

Gen Con“It was a fantastic experience to be up on that stage with those fine people, to be called to do our best to perform for an incredible audience. We panelists, except for Ryan of course, had no idea what was going to happen, even what we were going to be expected to do. This, combined with the star-studded GMing talent I was with, and a huge crowd, left me rather nervous for the whole affair. However, once the scenes began to be set, once I was able to do a voice and enter into that fantasy realm, all the nerves faded away and I could just enjoy myself. I think those are two things that all gamers should know. One, even those who are in the spotlight for GMing still get nervous and two, just getting things going is most of the battle. It was a great experience and I hope to be able to repeat it in years to come!” – Andrew Armstrong, DawnforgedCast

Ryan Schapels

“I was really impressed with how each of our guests reacted and pushed the narrative forward in eight minutes. Despite the time limit, it felt like each scenario had a narrative arc and resolution. None of our panelists saw the scenarios or the characters beforehand (besides me, since I wrote them), but everyone jumped in and worked together as if they’d been playing together for years.
The highlight for me was having my character locked inside the cursed ship as it was sinking. In most RPGs you don’t get too many chances to stab your teammates (or be stabbed) in the back, but during a one shot you don’t have to worry about any continuing narratives, anything can happen. I’m a huge fan of the one shot format because it allows players and GMs to experiment and explore outcomes that would otherwise derail a long form campaign.
At Hyper RPG I was used to playing RPGs in front of an audience on Twitch, but playing in front of a real live audience adds a whole new element to the game. On Twitch, you have to get used to the delay and it’s harder to gauge what bits are working. In a packed room, you get instant feedback on your every decision and the energy really helps propel you into making both terrible and heroic decisions. There’s no time to sit and think about what you’re doing because you’re playing for more than yourself. This leads to some amazing and unexpected twists. So many times I opened my mouth, unsure exactly what would come out, but somehow together we made something coherent and genuine from the chaos.
My biggest takeaway from the GM Improv Showdown is that Open Legend will absolutely be doing everything in our power to host it again! I’d love to make this a returning event at Gen Con and bring this show to more conventions as well. We’re hoping to bring on more familiar faces and even more twisted scenarios for the next one.” – Ryan Schapals, narrative director for Open Legend RPG
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