Review – Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters

So I finished reading this book I spoke of. (The surprising thing isn’t that I’m done, but that it took this long… the book is only around 110 pages). Anyways, I promised a review/impressions post, so here it is.

In Short

The cover

It’s a small book about improvisation, primarily for game masters. There’s 23 essays from different authors in there, each with their own take on improvisation.

What’s Inside

Each of the texts are a few pages, and deal with the concept and practice of improvisation. A few of them share somewhat similar topics, but not so much as to make any of them redundant. Overall there’s a nice spread of subjects (all in the realm of improvisation, of course). All of them could see use or be helpful in some way, I think.

Some of the specific things covered are improvising dialogue (always useful), quick preparations, improvisation and horror, the value of the quick and weird ideas, and quite a bit on the distribution of speaking rights and narrative power. It’s all rather interesting.

Who’s written this stuff? Well, there’s 23 people. Do names like Vincent Baker, Robin D. Laws, Kenneth Hite, or Stacy Dellorfano sound familiar? Aren’t some of them pretty well-known in the right circles? There’s a lot of people from GnomeStew.com too.

The book, being split into easily digestible parts of only a few pages each, is quite practical for one who doesn’t have time to sit down for an extended read. You can read one of the essays at a time, and get the whole picture on that specific one. The size itself (“digest size”, which is apparently around 15×23 cm)  also allows you to easily bring the book with you.

Opinions

Well, how useful was it? Pretty useful I think. If I had to rate it on a scale from 1 to 5, I’d give it a solid 3.5¹ (not as in “D&D 3.5”, but rather as in 7 usefulness units out of 10). Not life-changing (for me), as I already improvise lots of my campaigns, but definitely useful. First and foremost, it described things I already instinctively try to do. And that’s really good for defining why, when, and how these things work.

For those pro GMs that already improvise gold-tier adventures out of nothing… this might not be for them. Unless they want some additional perspective, of course. For those of us already using improvisation without perhaps having mastered it, it’s a useful book. Perspective and defining things is helpful. And most of all, for people just starting out on running without rails, it’s probably great.

TL;DR

It’s a book about improvisation. If you’re new to it, or wish to get started, it’ll probably be good introduction, but it could be interesting for more experienced people as well. It contains 23 essays about different facets of improvisation, and puts words on these things you might already be doing in some capacity.

I’d recomend it to those interested. It’s short, yes, but interesting and not too expensive. I haven’t really read any other books in this style, so I can directly compare it to anything. However, I think I’ll return and read it again, if that says anything about if for you.


(1) The scale is pretty much 1 (worthless) – 2 (some good things) – 3 (pretty good) – 4 (really good) – 5 (masterpiece).

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