I’m speaking about agile improv at Code PaLOUsa.
You can download the slides here.
From time to time, I go from place to place.
You can keep up with me on my tour page.
Usually, this is in person, but lately a lot of it has been online.
In two weeks, I’ll be preaching at the Origins Online game convention. (Update: The entire conference was canceled)
I’ll post a followup once the new date is confirmed.
I’ll be teaching a workshop on how to use improv comedy techniques for security.
Have you ever gotten an “urgent call about you car warranty” or a demand that “you need to pay the IRS by credit card right now”? Social Engineering is the practice of talking your way into or out of situations, and is often employed by the underhanded, but can also be used to defend against those very attacks.
On Friday night, each team draws a genre out of a hat (actually, each drawing has two genres, and the team picks the one they’d like to do). The final film must be 4 to 7 minutes long (credits at the end of the movie don’t count against the maximum time, unless the film would have been too short without them).
On top of randomly drawing a genre, each team has three required ingredients: a line, a prop, and a character. Even though each team gets its own genre, all teams share those same three ingredients. Our (and every team’s) ingredients were:
This year, I was part of Company Outcast, a local theater/comedy company.
Our team included people that I’ve been friends with, like Rachel Allen (who I introduced to the 48HFP), Marcy Ziegler (leader of Company OutCast), Christie Troxell (who I’d met at my first 48HFP), Martin French (who I knew from the Alley Theater), and Victoria Wagner (who I’d met during OutCast‘s “Best Bits” show). Plus a bunch of new really cool people.
We drew Horror or Mockumentary. A mockumentary probably would have been a lot of fun, but we chose horror.
Since our character Tilden was an author, and I had run a publishing company for several years, my job for the film was to put together some prop books for him to have at his signing.
All I had to go on was that it was a mystery book, with the title “Double Vision.” And I only had about four hours to design and print the cover, and assemble onto actual books.
By that point, I’d already designed at least a hundred book covers, but I’d never mocked up made a fake cover before – they’ve all been real book covers that were printed at a press to encase actual books. The finished product turned out fairly well.
I also ended up helping to block the daylight during a bar scene, by standing in front of the curtain. Since taking up space is one of my many talents, I spent an hour or so denying the sun while the crew filmed several scenes with multiple takes. During one of the shots I ended up in frame, just standing by the door crossing my arms, the company decided to credit me as a “Bouncer.” (Possibly since I already look somewhat horrifying.)
So now I have actual real-world experience as a pretend real bouncer. You’d better watch your step, buddy.
Here’s the film we completed.
(The description says Do Not Share, but now that the screenings, voting, and awards have happened, it’s all good.)
I was away at another conference during most of Gen Con, and only drove up for the Sunday church service.
I first started holding Christian Gamers Guild church services at Gen Con back in 2002 (or maybe 2001). Several years ago, we got too big for the Convention Center (the biggest room they could give us there had a capacity of 200), so they moved us to a nearby hotel. Our current space is great, but it’s mildly inconvenient for Exhibit Hall vendors who need to get there by 10:00, since it’s a good 10-minute walk.
These days our services generally get around 250 people, which is our largest church service of the year. At smaller conventions, we might get 50 to 100.
You can see four video clips of the service here:
Here’s our program for the event.
I co-wrote the comedy skit stage show Company OutCast‘s Best Bits, a Monty Pythonesque revue and tribute.
They wanted to have a hymn parody, along the lines of the Python’s “All Things Dull and Ugly.” I put together this tour de farce based on “Amazing Grace,” but we ended up not using it in the show.
A grazing mace twas but a scratch
that struck a knight like me
No man may pass upon this path
for I will smiteth he
A logging place where I could leap
from tree to mighty tree
I like to dress in women’s clothes
and go to the lavat’ry
A squawking face could speak and sing
if he had life like me
Norwegian blue could fly so free
but he has ceased to be
A fighting space lets me behave
I argue with our customers
if they have paid the fee
(c) Dave Mattingly, 2019
At a convention a few years back, I was the Gaming Guest of Honor and Jim Butcher was the Author Guest of Honor. Since I love his Dresden Files novel series, and the game based on it, I ran a game based on all the famous monster hunters in movies in television (at the time).
I did my best to supply a balance of characters who specialize in muscle and fighting, investigating and science, and magic and supernatural. I hoped that every player would know at least one of the characters well enough to jump right in.
The are many ways to bring everyone together, varying a lot based on which characters are playing.
The rest of the plot is vague and fluid, and should be played by ear. Introduce villains one by one, perhaps disguised by a glamour spell or in an alternate identity, until a battle explodes on the scene.
The all-star villains that I generally use are:
I’ve supplied the character sheets in standard Dresden Files RPG format, and in a “dossier” format that I designed.
Years ago, my friend Joe Linehan ran a roleplaying game based on cereal mascots as the player characters. To ramp up the strangeness, he kept it grim and gritty by running them through the plot of Watchmen.
I loved the idea so much that I spun off a scenario based on Independence Day and Aliens. In my game Plan Q from Outer Space, Quisp invaded Earth with giant cereal bowl spaceships poised to shoot giant beams of milk to destroy major cities. On board the ships were alien Soggies, with lactic acid for blood.
Joe and I have run several games in the cereal-verse since then. My favorite title was Joe’s wartime epic A Box o’ Trix Now (“I love the smell of cereal in the morning.”).
In the zombie horror game “Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch,” the dead rise and want to eat your grains.
The Breakfast Club is…
We start with the groups in pairs on separate adventures. Cap’n Crunch and Toucan Sam start out on the Crunchberry Islands, being chased by Cocoa Krispie pygmies. Tony is coaching Sugar Bear out of his hibernation. Lucky has been asked to deliver the eulogy for Dig’em Frog. Chocula is sponsoring Sonny at his first chocoholics anonymous meeting. Quisp is trying to teach Trix the “basics” of nuclear physics.
Everyone gets back to headquarters, the Honeycomb Hideout, to compare notes, when the phone rings. It’s Fruit Brute, howling for help. “Cap’n, they’re all over me!” The crew heads to Bransylvania to investigate.
After exploring the moors, they find their werewolf friend dismembered, with stinky white goo at the “edges.” They find themselves surrounded by zombie soggies (around two per PC) that can turn others into zoggies by touch. Trix or Lucky can try to reverse the effect, or Tony could suppress the effect with effort in a pinch. Frankenberry probably has medical equipment that could help, as well.
A spell from Lucky or some super-smell from Sam could find a trail of weird residual energy leading up to Frankenberry’s castle.
To find out what’s really happening in the plot, select the text in the following box. (Triple-clicking inside the box will work for that.)
I was inspired by another friend’s game props. Karl Keesler ran a League of Extraordinary 1970’s Gentlemen game, with the character sheets designed as 8-track tapes. That inspired me to step up my character sheet presentation, and I found a way to print cereal box wrap-around designs. So I turned Joe’s original character sheets into boxes, and taped them onto actual mini-cereal boxes. These are written using the HERO System rules.
I used the Marvel Super Heroes (1984) system for the game. The system is sometimes nicknamed the FASERIP system, since that’s what the initials of the abilities spell (Fighting Agility Strength Endurance Reason Intuition Psyche).
Since the movie included Peter A Parker, Peter B Parker, Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Penni Parker, and Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, I chose to write-up some of the other Spideys that have been in comics over the years.
A standard FASERIP character sheet is a rather nondescript wall of text.
In the movie, characters each introduce themselves with a comic book cover, so I formatted the character sheets to look like a comic.
Each “comic cover” features the character name and a pose. The inside holds the character write-up. The back cover highlights the character background, motivation, or other key scenes from the history.
For characters with Combat Sense, I also highlighted the Intuition stat to remind the player that the power’s rank replaces the Intuition score during combat,
I vaguely followed the Spider-Geddon comics story-line that covered the attack from Morlun and his family of Inheritors. They’re an immortal family of interdimensional totem-eating vampires that like eating spider totems the best.
Depending which characters the players have chosen, they can get pulled into the adventure through Spider-Man 2099 watching Morlun kill a different Spider-Man 2099, a dire warning from Madame Web, a galactic alert to Agent Venom, an Avengers alert to Spider-Woman’s dimensional watch, or some other hook. From there, it’s a matter of Spideys gathering their forces before Morlun attacks.
You can download the Spider-Verse Characters (PDF) here.
|Wed||Dresden Files||Urban Fantasy All-Stars||Hellboy, Ash, Buffy, Ghost Rider, John Constantine, Hermione Granger, and others join forces to defeat ultimate evil.|
|Thu||Champions||Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch||The dead are rising, and want to eat your grains. America’s favorite breakfast cereal icons star in this grim and gritty urban adventure. Role-playing and a sense of humor stressed.|
|Fri||Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP)||Spideys on Infinite Earths||Tickle your Spidey sense and thwip into the Spider-Verse to team up with Agent Venom, steampunk Lady Spider, Superior Spider-Man, Six-Arms, Spider-Woman, Spider-Monkey, Supaidaman, and other variations.|
|Sat||Champions||Meep on the Borderland||What if all of your favorite fantasy movies were remade with Muppets? Arm your felt with broadswords, holy symbols, magic wands, and a ten-foot pole. One does not simply wokka wokka into Mordor.|
|Sun||Christian Worship Service||Non-denominational worship service sponsored by the Christian Gamers Guild|