I tend to improvise a lot. For example, on a campaign I usually just think the place where the players starts, their first "objective" and a bit of the setting and the world, but everything as light strokes.

GM intrusions, for what I've read, looks more like something you do to create some kind of difficulty or to spice up the story. The problem is, if I'm making up the story and putting stuff at the scene on the fly, that would mean that everything is a GM intrusion.

How can I solve this problem? Am I forced to do some prepation?


3 Answers 3


Intrusions are indeed used to create some extra difficulty or spice the story but only in response to a character's action whether the player rolled for said action or not. Thus you can make up a scene with whatever you like. As soon as your players' describe what their character does, you can create an Intrusions.

Alice meets a bar tender. She likes what she sees, so flirts with him. Unknown to Alice's player, you decide right here that the bar tender is an assassin. This is not an Intrusion, just the GM improvising.

Alice and the assassin head out to find a more quiet place. The assassin now tries to stab Alice. You ask for a surprise combat roll. Alice's player rolls a success. Now, you think "If Alice gets stabbed and poisoned, that would make for a much better story: she can then look for a cure and talk to the medic NPC. Cool!". So, as the GM you create an Intrusion where Alice gets stabbed and poisoned. Alice gains two experience points (one to keep, one to share) if she accepts the Intrusion, or spends one if she refuses.

Alice fights the assassin. Now, Alice's player take a drink and whines that they really like said bar tender and even as an assassin would like for the story to continue featuring him. So, instead of of acting like a murderous cretin, Alice just subdues the assassin. You decide that the assassin realises that he could have been killed but was not thus he decides to help Alice find the antidote for her poising. In addition, you (as GM) decide that the assassin is Frederic's (another PC) long lost brother 'cause why not. There are no intrusion here, just gross tropes.


GM Intrusions take a while to grok, but once you "get it", you'll see they're actually a great tool to grease the narrative wheels.

The One Rule that Lets You Break All The Rules

The way I see it, as informed by the book, and by various blog posts, GM Intrusions are a way to break the rules within the framework of the rules. With them you can handle everything from a PC getting their weapon stuck in an enemy's carapace, to just happening to be standing on the wrong place at the wrong time as a trap-door opens. As the blog post I link to at the bottom states, it would be pretty weird for the GM to just tell you that your gun jams, unless your system has specific mechanics for guns jamming. Rather than provide specific mechanics for gun jams, and every other type of problem that could conceivably arise, GM Intrusions give you a way of creating problems that the rules don't cover, without breaking immersion.

Where I think you may be going wrong is in thinking that Intrusions are just an extra bit of narration. In actuality, they are a special kind of narration, in which, through bad luck, something complicates the character's life. I would almost always treat a GM Intrusion as bad luck rather than incompetence (because PCs shouldn't look like jackasses).

They are a mechanical way to open up a dialogue between the GM and the player, as facilitated by offering and rejecting points. With this back and forth, you create what is acceptable and desirable within the fiction you are creating together. The GM offers 2XP as a carrot to accept a problematic twist. The player either accepts this, implicitly stating that this kind of thing is OK in the game, at least in this instance, as well as receiving an opportunity to reward a fellow player for whatever behavior they think is worth rewarding. Or, the player spends his hard-earned XP to say, "No, I don't like that, at least not this time".

Please review this blog post on the Alexandrian for further details


Intrusions allow you to improvise things that would screw player characters over or rob them of agency.

For example, if a character successfully dodges an attack, and you said: "I think this would be a more interesting story if your character failed that roll", it would be unfair for you to arbitrarily make the character fail. But if you make it into a GM intrusion, then you're allowing the player to participate in the decision (because they can choose to accept or reject the intrusion). Hopefully they'll agree with you that the story would be better if they took the failure, and they won't be angry that you've jumped in and made them fail.

Likewise, if the player comes up with some very clever solution which lets them skip most of your plot, it would be unfair for you to say: "well you can't do that because it would wreck my plot" -- they'd call you a railroad GM. But what you can say is: "As a GM intrusion, something about your plan fails." That way, you're rewarding them for being clever (because they get experience points), but you're also getting them to do the plot you prepared.


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