On 2008-04-11, Marshall wrote:
I think that, since Jim Henley's post is connected strongly to improv, that it's worth it looking into improv a bit.
I've got some experience in improv, having been a member of an improv troupe in college. So let me say this: Improv is a parlor trick. There is a system to making it work. To make it work consistently, said system must be made explicit to all members of the troupe: it must be formalized.
In my troupe, the system was something like this:
1. Establish Who, Where, What. Who are the characters? Where are they? What are they doing? (Mime goes a long, long way in this)
2. Establish relationships.
3. Introduce conflict.
4. Raise the stakes.
5. Resolve the conflict. Most of the time this was manifested through some sort of ridiculous (and funny) redemption or reconciliation, but sometimes it was a snarky, edged, and mean (and funny) resolution. Sometimes one guy gets killed and that resolves it; sometimes a guy gets mortally wounded and the other guy feels bad about it, and it resolves that way. Whatever.
Underlying this formula were a few other rules, like
1. Everything that happens stays happened; nothing is negated, EVER.
2. Learn to say yes; related to no. 1, accept any and all traits your character is endowed with by the other players.
and some others that I can't recollect right away (it's been a few years, a'right?). But, my point is, we had practice sessions where we would lay down these rules and repeat them, and practice on them (but always improvising). It was a SYSTEM, in any sense of the word.