I have been drawing inspiration from performance studies and theatre for some time now in terms of game design. In particular, since I often ask inexpert players to come up and act without rehearsal, I have found myself interested in improvisation. I have a close friend, Jordan McRae, who runs a monthly tabletop RPG-themed improv show called “The Dice of Destiny” — it has been happening on the last Thursday of every month since August or September, and I have attended every show that I have been in town for. Importantly, this show incorporates game mechanics and improvisation together, with the outcomes of important player/improvisor actions being determined by a d20 roll. In a lot of ways, there many similarities between what I am designing and this show such as the in-character and interstitial scenes (character creation in Dice of Destiny, the mid-game intermission/check in) and the other improvisational aspects.
Last night, I went to see Jordan’s show, and afterward, discussed my current reflective games project with him — although it’s a larp, there are heavy improvisational elements. Jordan pointed out a missing piece in the design, which was how to ensure that players who have the odd genre out would deliberately try to raise the stakes in the scene and actively try to highlight their genre, instead of going along with the other players.
Jordan suggested adding a new dimension: there would be a public goal for the group, but the odd person out will also have a secret objective related to their genre that would actively encourage them to interact with the others in a genre-specific way.
I think that this will encourage interesting scenes. I’ll be working on programming an app to handle the game this week. Here’s the pseudocode/wishlist for what I’d like the app to be able to do:
1. Display an introduction to the game and the game rules.
2. Display instructions for gamemaster [i.e. responsible for texting/letting players secretly know the genres, responsible for describing elements in the scene, responsible for cutting when they feel it is appropriate] and players [act like yourself if you were in that genre with its horizon of expectations, work with other players’ ideas (yes, and…), try to accomplish your set task, answer questions between scenes].
3. Display a genre and a goal for the group chosen at random from a list.
4. Display a genre and a secret goal related to that genre for the odd person out, chosen from a list. Compare to see that the genres are not the same, and if they are, re-roll before displaying.
5. Display a question chosen at random from a list.
6. Have a button that the gamemaster presses to re-roll for a new scene and question.