Since discovering Urban Shadows at Origins a few years back, I’ve come to enjoy the low-prep, play-driven style of PbtA games, and it’s become one of the most enjoyable systems for me to run. I appreciate the prompts that the moves give the GM to take and run with, and I especially like to be surprised by the story instead of feeling disappointment when players miss the material I prepared for the adventure: the secret rooms of the dungeon, the skeletons in the closets of the NPCs, and so on.
I also enjoy investigations and scary scenarios in particular, and I’m curious how the mystery and horror genres lend themselves to improvisational play in general. I have found that games like Gumshoe and Dread still require a significant amount of prep, and I’d love to offload that onto the players via moves and playbook questionnaires, plus a hefty dose of GM improvisation to tie things together. Besides Tremulus, are there any other PbtA games or story games that facilitate horror and mystery scenarios, explicitly without preparation?
Do you think that it’s even possible to pull off a good investigation or a good scare without meticulous plotting? I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations, and any hard-won advice you have to share. Thanks!