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[Drill] Invisible Knife

Started by Jason Morningstar, April 03, 2006, 02:27:40 AM

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Jason Morningstar

Ok, this is a little goofy but I think it is relevant.  I'm taking this improv class, and one of the little focus exercises we did was called "invisible knife".  You stand in a circle and throw an invisible knife around.  Fast.  The reason it is useful is that you don't ever know where the knife is going - you have to be fixated on following the knife from throw to catch, and then to throw again.  Eye contact is important.  You have to really concentrate on physical communication. 

As we were doing this it struck me as being relevant to role-playing, in that someone is always speaking, in the spotlight, with focus, and this focus is shared, given away, tied to authority and role in different ways, but it is always easy to lose interest when you aren't a part of that, even for a few minutes.  So in invisible knife, two other people may be interacting, but you are absolutely riveted to what's going on.  I could see the exercise being a good pre-game drill to get everyone in the mindset of alert focus.  I'd also like to see a game that included this element of mindful uncertainty about privilege and spotlight time as an ingredient.

Thunder_God

Another thing related to this is "Stunts" in Exalted.

By drawing the attention of others you gain a mechanical bonus.
There is good reason to not let their attention wander.
Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010

Clinton R. Nixon

Quote from: Thunder_God on April 03, 2006, 03:08:15 AM
Another thing related to this is "Stunts" in Exalted.

By drawing the attention of others you gain a mechanical bonus.
There is good reason to not let their attention wander.

I apologize for my rudeness, but flat-out wrong.

I was in the same class as Jason, so I've got more insight, but go back and look at his post. The game is about you, as a participant, being focused and engaged. It is not, at all, about each participant having to make sure he's engaging other participants. And that's an important distinction.

I don't want to veer too much off course, but the biggest thing I got from this drill, and from the first day of class, is that each participant is expected to be excited and be a part of the team, period.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

MPOSullivan

i'm intrigued by this idea.  I've had a little bit (and i mean a little) of experience with improv so i kind of know what you're talking about, though i havne't done this exact drill. 

The application of a drill like this would be interresting as a role-playing exercise, but i find myself wondering if it could be placed within an extended role-playing framework.  Can there be a sustainable application of this drill, wherein perhaps narrative power or something similar is handed from player to player, that helps maintain individual focus on overall experience?  or is that really a question of semantics and the ideal gaming situation is sustainable individual focus?
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Graham W

This drill sounds really good. It's a mindset drill: it gets you into a "focussed" mindset, concentrating on the other players, prior to playing a game.

There's an improv game with a similar effect: the counting game. Everyone stands in a circle and the group tries to count as high as they can go. One person says one number, then someone says the next number and so on. But if two people speak at the same time, you return to 1. It's an exercise in listening and concentrating.

There are other improv games which tend to induce other mindsets: for example, there's one where you fire random words at people and they have to create a story out of them. Fascinating stuff.

Graham

Ron Edwards

I am really gonna be a spoilsport today ...

I think we need to work on role-playing drills - which means, if anyone wants to read up on improv drills as they exist, they can go on-line or find a book or take a class. Now, if you for instance wanted to adapt an improv exercise into something that'd be useful for role-playing specifically, then sure, describe it.

But right now, what I'm seeing is material ported directly from and about X to a forum dedicated to Y. It's as if I were to describe, in detail, the sequence of punches, steps, and shouts to be found in the first half-hour of a martial arts class. It's not useful for our purposes here unless I made a good case for how it contributed to role-playing. I'd say to myself, "Ron, if people want to know more about that, they can go on-line or find a book or a class."

So Jason, I'm interested: how would you adapt Invisible Knife as a specific-to-role-playing drill? Would you decrease the physicality (which is absent during role-playing), or preserve it as a builder for attention? I can see a good case for both.

Or, as a potential criticism, I suggest that one benefit of Invisible Knife to the improv team is to establish some imaginative ownership of the physical space of the stage itself, or whatever open area they're standing in. "If it's in this space, if I imagine it and signal properly, others can 'see' it and use it." But this is, as I say, very physical, and is very strongly related to the audience, who will be looking at that precise space soon. Role-playing doesn't utilize a bphysical space to establish an imaginative one, but rather "auditory" cues, much like old-time radio.

Could you do Invisible Knife using only spoken cues, not visual/physical ones?

Best, Ron

TonyLB

Quote from: Ron Edwards on April 03, 2006, 01:31:09 PM
Now, if you for instance wanted to adapt an improv exercise into something that'd be useful for role-playing specifically, then sure, describe it.

Quick request for clarification:  What do you mean by "useful for roleplaying specifically"?  Are you saying that you'd prefer not to have people working (here) on drills that limber only general skills like attention and engagement and communication?
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Jason Morningstar

I'm interested in your answer to Tony's question, too, but here's a reply to your query:

Invisible knife was preceded by, in order, strictly verbal and verbal/physical combination exercises that did the exact same thing.  But I didn't see the utility until we did the knife one, perhaps because the others were too easy, or perhaps because they warmed me up for an entirely non-verbal focused exercise.  There really wasn't a "space ownership" component, although I could see the utility of that as well. 

Honestly, I don't see how this isn't directly applicable to tabletop gaming.  If you did this prior to starting play, maybe everyone would experience a change in focus and awareness - settling into the game and interacting with each other in a mindful way.  Or you'd all look like a bunch of silly mimes.  Either way, everybody wins.

Clinton R. Nixon

I've got to back Jason up here, pointing to my response to Thunder_God above. The primary benefit to this drill is that it reinforces this concept: hey, guys, we're all here and we're responsible for paying attention to each other, and if we don't, everyone loses. That's not as simple a concept as it sounds like.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

timfire

Quote from: TonyLB on April 03, 2006, 02:16:19 PM
Quick request for clarification:  What do you mean by "useful for roleplaying specifically"?  Are you saying that you'd prefer not to have people working (here) on drills that limber only general skills like attention and engagement and communication?
I don't see the point in building excercises that build general skills, because there are so many out there that already do it, and likely will do it better than anything we can make up here. If you want to build those skills, you can go to the library and after a few minutes/hours researching, I'm sure you'll find books and books of such excercises.

What we don't have are excercises that build role-playing specific skills. One such skill would be building adversity, or transitioning from conflict to conflict, maybe recognizing the emergence of theme---I don't know, stuff like that. The excercises should also focus on the SIS, 'cause that's what role-playing is all about. I think something Ron was trying to get at was that the physicality of Invisible Knife as practiced in the improv doesn't neccessarily build a SIS.

--Timothy Walters Kleinert

timfire

Hey, if we want to discuss what the purpose of our drills are or whatnot, let's move the discussion to the main drills thread, so this thread can stay focused on Invisible Knife.
--Timothy Walters Kleinert

Thunder_God

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon on April 03, 2006, 02:52:58 PM
I've got to back Jason up here, pointing to my response to Thunder_God above. The primary benefit to this drill is that it reinforces this concept: hey, guys, we're all here and we're responsible for paying attention to each other, and if we don't, everyone loses. That's not as simple a concept as it sounds like.

While I agree with what you say, and what you said earlier, you can say that this is what we're about here in First Thoughts, getting mechanics to support the desired playstyle. While it is only close, it's a lot better than nothing(The Stunts).
Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010

Marc Majcher

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon on April 03, 2006, 02:52:58 PM
I've got to back Jason up here, pointing to my response to Thunder_God above. The primary benefit to this drill is that it reinforces this concept: hey, guys, we're all here and we're responsible for paying attention to each other, and if we don't, everyone loses. That's not as simple a concept as it sounds like.

Or, rather, it's a terribly simple concept that's often forgotten, and not practiced nearly as often as it should be.  Not only paying attention to the other players in your group, but making sure that they're paying attention to you before you throw out an offer - or knife.

There are a number of improv games that help focus attention like this, starting with a simple one like this, or passing a clap.  (Make eye contact, clap simultaneously, repeat - like the invisible knife, without the knife part, and with more participation on the recipient's part.)  My favorite, though, is "red ball, blue ball" - one person starts off miming a ball, gets another player's attention through eye contact or whatever, says "red ball", and passes them the imaginary ball.  The recipient catches the ball, repeats, "red ball, thank you", and passes it to someone else.  At some point, another ball of a different color is introduced, until you've got as many balls going around as you do players.  This requires a whole lot of cooperation, concentration, and clarity - balls will inevitably be lost or transformed, and the game will break down, but that's okay.  If the game doesn't break, you're not playing hard enough. 

Again, this exercise is so, so, so important to role players in a group, because it encourages and reinforces the primary things that allow people to play together in a shared imagined space by making their offers clear, making sure the recipient(s) of their offer is paying attention, and making sure that they're paying attention to offers coming from everyone else in the group, all the time - whether you're currently involved in an exchange or not. 

Not only is the concept simple, but its application to what we're doing with our games here also seems very simple to me.  I don't think that just because these exercises come from another creative sphere, they should be discounted in the realm of improving our role-playing.  Is it not incredibly obvious how a "drill" like this is useful to roleplayers, where a step-by-punch recounting of a martial arts form is totally not?

Jason Morningstar

Quote from: Marc Majcher on May 08, 2006, 07:39:38 AM
Or, rather, it's a terribly simple concept that's often forgotten, and not practiced nearly as often as it should be.  Not only paying attention to the other players in your group, but making sure that they're paying attention to you before you throw out an offer - or knife.

We played "red ball/blue ball" and "pass the clap" to warm up for our performance just last night, and they do highlight agreement and focus.  I agree that a whole body of these warm-up games used in improv would work to emphasize paying attention to each other, some of them better than invisible knife.  Of course, convincing your fellow players to toss invisible blades at each other may be an easier sell than clapping, colored balls, &c...