That is the question!
At my local game store on Wednesday I overheard a DM at the next table over reading the published text from Tomb of Annihilation. It was perfectly fine but it sounded odd to me, since I don’t think I’ve done that since the first session I ran.
When my players enter a room in a published adventure, I almost never read the printed text word for word. I’ve read it before and I know what the room looks like and I just describe that. Or I’ll loosely follow what’s written. But in my experience, when I read directly from someone else’s script it ends up feeling and sounding wooden.
Start with the biggest, most attention-grabbing thing and work your way down to smaller bits as players investigate and explore. No scripting needed, right?
However, there are moments that I do script.
The first is the beginning of the session. I want to set the mood precisely, so I’ll usually call for a recap from the players (it’s always interesting to hear their experience and opinions on where they are and what’s important). Then, at the end of their recap, I have a prepared transition, just a short paragraph or two, to transition them from their recap to setting the current scene. That’s something worth scripting in my book, but even then, I don’t necessarily follow it to the letter.
The second thing I script exactly are puzzles. I’ve learned this the hard way. In the chaos of the moment of DMing, I can’t rely on myself to accurately give all the information players need to solve a complicated puzzle, so I’ve taken to scripting out those encounters. Maybe not word for word, but definitely an outline of all the features that need highlighting.
Scripting is cool and all, but for the most part I’ve found I can’t stand doing it.
What about you? Where do you stand on the scripting spectrum?
Now get out there and tell a story! (And if you need one, check out my work on DMsGuild!)