Improv?

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Bootlegger
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Improv?

Post by Bootlegger » Fri May 15, 2015 9:00 pm

Hi, everyone -

I wanted to start a discussion about the crossover between improv theatre (comedic or not) and roleplaying.

Though I've only recently come back to roleplaying games after an extended hiatus, I have been performing and teaching theatrical and comedy improvisation for nearly twenty-five years.

I find that many of the same principals apply to RPG's and to on-stage make-em-ups, and I think that the same things that make for a good improv show also make a great gaming session - good listening, teamwork, "Yes, and..." etc.

Similarly, there seems to be a specific type of person that's drawn to the world of cooperative spontaneous storytelling, and people that don't "play well with others" in one or both formats tend to quickly find themselves without a group.

Are there any other Miskatonic students or faculty that have a foot in both worlds? I'd love to hear stories of how your improv training has affected your gaming or vice-versa.

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Re: Improv?

Post by Shannon Mac » Sat May 16, 2015 12:34 am

This might add to the discussion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cURofiOR0XE
My gaming blog with pretty pictures: http://www.storytellersjem.blogspot.com/

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Re: Improv?

Post by Bootlegger » Sat May 16, 2015 6:55 pm

Thanks, Shannon Mac - I'll check this out!

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Re: Improv?

Post by Shannon Mac » Sun May 17, 2015 12:05 am

I like these, too. One if a Youtube and the other is an online article.

http://analoggamestudies.org/2015/05/co ... ovisation/

http://analoggamestudies.org/2015/05/co ... ovisation/
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Re: Improv?

Post by Bootlegger » Sun May 17, 2015 8:37 am

Very cool! I got to do a little bit of the mask performance stuff mentioned in the article with Keith Johnstone in the early '90's. It was pretty weird and intense, but a truly unique experience.

Theatrical improvisation (mask stuff or otherwise) is terrific for establishing characters' points of view and can be easily applied to RPG's. I find that when role-players, like improvisors on-stage, really dig into the emotional inner lives of their characters, the storytelling takes on a whole new dimension. In improv, you learn to quickly know your character inside and out, and much of the joy comes out of revealing that character's desires, fears, loves, and so on. Whether or not you're a trained improvisor or actor, it's fun and satisfying to challenge yourself to play some emotional moments during a game (when appropriate). Really go for it. Aim for the Oscar! These more personal dramatic elements can help to keep a session from being simply functional ("We go here. We do the thing. A couple of us get away.") and instead elevate it to something special.

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Re: Improv?

Post by Dr. Gerard » Sun May 17, 2015 6:34 pm

Bootlegger wrote:Very cool! I got to do a little bit of the mask performance stuff mentioned in the article with Keith Johnstone in the early '90's. It was pretty weird and intense, but a truly unique experience.

Theatrical improvisation (mask stuff or otherwise) is terrific for establishing characters' points of view and can be easily applied to RPG's. I find that when role-players, like improvisors on-stage, really dig into the emotional inner lives of their characters, the storytelling takes on a whole new dimension. In improv, you learn to quickly know your character inside and out, and much of the joy comes out of revealing that character's desires, fears, loves, and so on. Whether or not you're a trained improvisor or actor, it's fun and satisfying to challenge yourself to play some emotional moments during a game (when appropriate). Really go for it. Aim for the Oscar! These more personal dramatic elements can help to keep a session from being simply functional ("We go here. We do the thing. A couple of us get away.") and instead elevate it to something special.
Absolutely agree.

I wouldn't say I still have a foot in both worlds, but I have an undergrad degree in theater and from my teens to mid 20s, I was almost always working on a show of some kind. I did lots of improv, and though I was ok at it I was never as comfortable as I was with rehearsed and scripted pieces. However, I do see lots of crossover with RPGs and in fact I think games are now the way I scratch my theatrical itch. I would like to strengthen those skills. You're not alone in thinking about the similarities between art forms. A lot of game designers are specifically building improve-style mechanics into their work.

Please find, purchase and read a book by Graham Walmsley called "Play Unsafe." It's a great guidebook on how to incorporate an imrov-like approach to RPGs.

Robin Laws talked about improv in relation to gaming, and a technique in game mastering that builds on the "yes, and..." concept. He recommended that GMs, as generators of interesting obstacles, try using "yes, BUT" as a technique to advance stories that are driven by player input.

Here is the link to the podcast episode where they talk about it.
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Re: Improv?

Post by MikeM » Sun May 17, 2015 6:39 pm

If you've read Keith Johnstone's Impro then Play Unsafe is not that necessary, it just uses the same improv techniques for RPGs, so you'd be covering ground you're already aware of.
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Re: Improv?

Post by Nvision » Wed May 20, 2015 2:37 pm

Call of Cthulhu got me into theatre. One of the members of my group is a professional actor and after playing with us for a while he suggested that I try out for a play he was producing. My wife and I, though highly apprehensive, decided to audition. The audition process was partly script reading and partly improvisation in character. Thanks in large part to gaming experience we were selected for the lead roles. After a sold out show before over 200 people we were both hooked.

I find that gaming and acting on stage are mutually beneficial. Working on the fly, especially with a group that is constantly off of plot, really helps with quick thinking and adaptability during a show (like when a cast member misses a cue for over three minutes :shock: ). On the other end, there are a number of techniques for enriching your storytelling technique and connecting with your players that you pick up from stage directions and character development activities. Learning the importance of eye contact and subtlety of tone when characterizing NPCs has been the biggest boon to increasing immersion with my players.

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Re: Improv?

Post by Bootlegger » Thu May 21, 2015 12:19 am

Great post, Nvision! I couldn't agree more. Also, it's fun to hear stories about people crossing from one form to another.

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