SAT-01: Improv for Gamers

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twelves
Posts: 47
Joined: May 13th, 2014, 11:22 am
Name: Karen Twelves
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SAT-01: Improv for Gamers

Post by twelves » July 1st, 2014, 9:02 am

What a great group of improvisors! Would love to hear feedback from everyone.

Which exercises worked best for you?
Which exercises didn't work for you?
What could we have spent more time on?
What could have been done in less time?
What other comments and suggestions do you have?

Also, would you like to see this workshop spread out to other events? We are working on a "workshop kit" which will be a PDF that outlines all our exercises, complete with coaching notes. It's still in draft mode, but if there is anyone who would like to "playtest" it, let me know! We want to see how easy it is for people to grab our instructions and run with it.

We will be running levels 1 and 2 at Big Bad Con in Oakland, October 17-19. There is also a good chance that I will be running level 1 at GenCon in August. Look for me at Games on Demand!

colinc
Posts: 13
Joined: May 30th, 2014, 11:28 am
Name: Colin C.

Re: SAT-01: Improv for Gamers

Post by colinc » July 1st, 2014, 11:43 am

During scene work, I really liked rewinding/re-doing parts of the scene to make it run smoother or illustrate a technique.

Overall, the whole class was gold. Loved it.

eddi
Posts: 23
Joined: July 5th, 2011, 2:41 pm
Name: Adrienne Mueller

Re: SAT-01: Improv for Gamers

Post by eddi » July 1st, 2014, 10:51 pm

Thank you so much for organizing this! I really had a lot of fun and hopefully some of the concepts/techniques will stick.

This is only the second improv 'thing' I've ever done, so I don't have a lot to compare it to - but, since you're soliciting feedback, here we go:

List of the exercises I remember:
Catch and Throw 'stances'
The Grail
I am a Tree
Character-from-statements
Fortunately/Unfortunately
Samurai Death
Mass Samurai Death
3-line statement-response-reply
Building an entire Scene out of people
Animal Secrets
Fill-in-the-blank scene-setting with A and B
30-second to-death
60-second-act based on card-personality


Which exercises worked best for you?
Really hard to say! I know that I enjoyed the 'person-creation-statements', the Animal Secrets and the 30-second-to-death activities the most - but it's possible that I learned more from the catch-and-throw exercises and the A/B dialogues. I think my three favourites were each valuable in their own way, in RP terms:
Person-Creation: It doesn't take an entire page of stats to make a character fleshed out - even a half dozen sentences can do the job. (I kind of already knew this, but it helps to think about the different aspects of a person that inform you about them. Their relationships, the small activities they like to perform in private, idiosyncrasies in their physical appearance.)
Animal Secrets: You can make a character instantly-appealing by giving them a flaw that is counter to their stereotype that they are ashamed of. Eg the tavern-master who hates the taste of beer, the starship-captain who is a coward, the fitness-instructor who gorges on twinkies after every class. Also - a secret that a player never shares about their character, is never really savored.
30-second-to-death: Having a goal for a scene gives you something to steer towards. It can help you incite drama by quickly getting to the action and not take forever meandering through dialogue until someone finds a purpose. Shorter scenes, or at least more-focused ones, are I think more fun to play in general.

Which exercises didn't work for you?
I don't know! I'm having a harder time thinking of how to directly apply the techniques from some of the more physical activities we did, but I think they might have been more to help us get comfortable and open up to trusting each other anyway. On the other hand, The Grail seemed like a great activity for highlighting how intonation and body expressions can convey a character's personality/feelings implicitly.

What could we have spent more time on?
Maaaybe the short scenes we did towards the end? I think it would have been fun to do more of those and try on more roles. Also I think I personally could have used more practice with the 3-line statement-response-statement exercise. I like the very constrained framework for setting up and building upon a situation. Also, that interaction felt like the basic building-block for longer scenes.

What could have been done in less time?
I'm sorry, I can't say. Thank you for keeping things moving and making sure we didn't linger overlong on any one activity or taking breaks.

What other comments and suggestions do you have?
For the final mini-scenes, it was hard to make the characters fit (/ the scene flow) without knowing who the other was. The 'death' scenes in that sense were easier, because we were handed a relationship and location and could both start on mostly the same page.

As difficult as it was to come up with ideas under pressure, I think it was great practice to be put into a position where you're obliged to just say -something- instead of stalling. Although I don't have anything against it, I think delays in response can lower the energy of a game, or break the immersion of a scene. Hopefully, by practicing with exercises such as these, a person can get better at reacting on-the-spot.

Also, thank you so much for stressing personal boundaries.

Also, would you like to see this workshop spread out to other events? We are working on a "workshop kit" which will be a PDF that outlines all our exercises, complete with coaching notes. It's still in draft mode, but if there is anyone who would like to "playtest" it, let me know! We want to see how easy it is for people to grab our instructions and run with it.
I would love to see this workshop spread to other events. It was a ton of fun and can only benefit everyone's future play experiences. I personally wouldn't feel up to facilitating it any time soon, but I'm looking forward to participating in class No. 2 at Big Bad Con!

I took away from this that:
1) People generally do get the gist of the character you're portraying and it's okay (even desirable) to trust them to with some narrative control.
2) When you ask people questions, it's possible that you're putting them into an awkward position. Try to give them a leading question / one with an implied answer so they have something to work with. (Is this also true in RP? If I have a Paladin, then I probably also know what God they follow and I'd rather be asked, "So, who do you pray to?" and not "So, your God is the God of Baby-killing?" But in a one-shot, I might like to have the GM ask me, "Does your Paladin worship Lunitax, the Glorious Giver?" Seems situation-dependent.)
3) Endowing! Making statements about another character that gives them something to riff off. "I see you're wearing Drizella's lucky cape." "John is going to find out you cheated on him." "You're so smart, acing that pop-quiz." (I don't know if these are actually examples.) Not only are you showing your interest in a character by interacting with it, but you're shining the spotlight on them so they get to 1) shine, and 2) develop the character's personality a little more. Again, I think I'm going to want to use this slightly differently in a game than we did in our exercises. Because the characters in a game are more defined than those in our excercises, I'll want to try to make the endowment fitting for the player's concept for their character and not just a curveball they have to cope with.


Many, many thanks to Karen and Matthew for sacrificing their gaming time to help make us all better players. I'm so happy I got to participate.

twelves
Posts: 47
Joined: May 13th, 2014, 11:22 am
Name: Karen Twelves
Contact:

Re: SAT-01: Improv for Gamers

Post by twelves » July 9th, 2014, 1:55 pm

Adrienne, thanks so much for such detailed feedback! I've got some good ideas now for when we run this next time:

1. Allowing more time for scenework. I've noticed that we always run a little longer in the first half than I'd like. We'll either have to cut out an exercise or allow for more time in general. Some of that time is also eaten up by starting a little late, breaks going slightly longer than planned, etc. And with larger groups, everyone has to wait a little longer for their turn in the spotlight, and sitting around can create a huge drop in energy. We've had groups as large as 20, but I think that from now on we'll really need to limit it to 12 or 15, tops.
2. Giving relationship suggestions for both 30-second and 60-second scenes. I definitely see why it would be more appropriate for gamers to always have a character concept at the start. I've always switched up the prompts to start scenes just for the sake of variety, but perhaps relationships should always be in there.
3. Explaining if we're doing an exercise for the sake of gaming or for the sake of improv. You're right, the more physical exercises are mostly to help everyone loosen up and get over any feelings of awkwardness. Perhaps I can be a little more clear on that so people don't wonder "WHY are we doing this exactly?"

I'm so glad that you came away with some cool ideas and insights! Looking forward to seeing you at Big Bad. =)

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