I was having a discussion with friend about GMing and RPing, and we came to the topic of preparation and skills.
Personally I don't need the GM to make a big performance (unless it feels spontaneous and on a whim), practiced at improv, accents, and a lot of props prepared (virtual or actual). I look for a comfortable environment and trust. Everything else is really just made up of imagination, as +Christian Blouin put in the game "Its all in the theater of the mind' (I don't know where he was quoting from, but I remember it being a philosophy of the mind quote).
One big hindrance to imagination would be attitude. Lethargy would really hamper attitude, and checking to see how your player's day was actually prepares the GM how much effort he should allocate to power through bad moods or dispositions. I think i've covered that with a previous post in Emotional Energy.
Imagination can get hindered also by rules or technicalities. I noticed in a recent game I played, i was in "tactical mode" and based my narrative of that. I guess if the system was 3rd Gen RPGs that are focused on Narrative then I'd be inclined to give way to narrative and hold back my technical.
In that game I paid a small price for being reckless, I deviated from my plotted optimal strategy and suffered the predictable consequences. I guess in some systems you have to really master the rules to get it out of the way as it informs you on the best course of action.
My inner munchkin feels bad by the mistake but my role-playing part feels indifferent. I did do the research and should have trusted 2-months-ago Justin with his final analysis.
Back to Imagination AND EMPATHY fueling the creative side of the game I find myself talking about +Mark Knights Topsy Turvy Traveller post where he regrets certain GMing decision. As one of the players I didn't mind the Retro Feel and simply assumed the best of him (which is very Naive but I find a great way with dealing with people even though I'm the paranoid guy who looks for and sees risks everywhere).
The Empathy part of imagination was that I tried not to second guess his assumptions, because I need to trust the GM. I also try to do the same with all my GMs and Players (but as a GM I screen players). Trusting and Assuming the best in intentions is where I think one cannot go wrong, even if they are fooled more than thrice to learn. Its that empathy that makes all my Roll20 games enjoyable (I admit its Naive but its not like I'm giving anyone bank information).
It also helps that after many many hours of Debates and Flame wars, I learned my lesson about never assuming the Assumptions of another person. I can't read minds, I may have clues, but I will never know for certain their assumptions and motivations and the Diplomatic thing to do is deal in Good Faith.
Good Faith (a wikipedia link)
One of the business concepts that is in the tackled also in Philosophy, Ethics and even in Cognition/Psychology. You can say, its even a pillar of society because without it (or very very little of it) destroys economies, communities, and civilization.
Pretty much how Empathy is used as I talked about it above falls under Good Faith. but there is a Catch to good faith, you have to be clear in assumptions and proceed to communicate clearly and comprehensively. Often you will write and communicate like a lawyer being clear with your objectives, motives, and intentions.
I know it bogs down the game, but I do ask if certain moves are legal (unless its a Yes&/Yesbut game where there are no permissions) before proceeding. The problem which arises and triggers "Lawyery-ness" is assuming that your assumptions are the same.
(Even friendly) Arguments begin when we have contradicting claims, and there is need to peg assumptions and bring about the burden of proof. My policy is that if I'm not prepared to bear the burden of proof I'm not going to argue AND if the other person doesn't know how Burden of Proof works then I don't argue AND if the person doesn't know that assumptions have to be pegged down I do not entertain even a "friendly" discussion.
Its like sparring but the person doesn't know how to keep it non-lethal, its just gets lethal... and people get pissed and everything is ruined.