I just read my first RPG Now Newsletter. Didn't know they had one. Glad I found it.
In the newsletter, Sean Patrick Fannon discusses a DMing technique that Ray Greer (of Champions fame) taught him. I've been using a similar improv technique for years and I'll share my version below. A couple of my players read my blog, but I don't think I'm giving anything away. Sean is very specific about his techniques in the article. I'm not that rigid.
Anyway, the technique is this -- present clues or plot hooks to the players and listen to them as they talk amongst themselves. Sure, you'll have ideas about your clues and hooks, but sometimes, just sometimes, the players will come up with better ideas.
Steal them and use them.
Here's a real example from my Queston campaign circa 1989.
I presented the heroes with a situation where a caravan had been attacked on the road. There were many dead merchants and guardsmen to be found at the scene. I was planning on it being a pretty simple "the orcs attacked the merchants" scenario.
I must have overdone it with the descriptions of the gore and violence. Some of the players started talking about how "it couldn't be orcs" and "orcs can't do this kind of damage". Kinda reminded me of the scene when Ben Kenobi tells Luke that Sandpeople aren't this precise... (PS, if Stormtroopers are so precise, why can't they hit Han and Luke with a single blaster shot on the Death Star?)
Anyway, I started listening and I started rolling with their ideas.
By the time it was over, the caravan had been attacked by a magic using bandit leader with an eye that shot magic missiles. He had a pet wyrm that wore a magical control collar. His bandits were comprised of orcs, evil men, a few ogres and a handful of vicious lizardmen. They had a cave-fortress riddled with traps nearby. The merchants were carrying valuable materials for the wizards guild that could be sold on the black market to disreputable wizards and necromancers for a lot of gold.
A much better story than a bunch of orcs.