Sunday, September 03, 2006

On Improvisational Game Theater

Just some thoughts winding their way through my mind as I read about Principals of Tolkien's Magic.

The Play
I have this idea of a Theatre in the round. There is a Gamesmaster who also is acting as the Director. There is a play going on. There are Characters on the circular stage. The lighting is dark except for the center of the stage where the main action is happening, and the stage is flat black. There are no stage furnishings at all, or possibly some black movable cubes which can be stacked to make shapes, such as the outline of a door way, or serve as chairs, or a boundary. There is the sound of wind, the tinkling of soft high bells and a deep somber sounding Japanese bamboo flute in the distance. The play relies heavily on pantomime, verbal description and sounds or music to set the scene.

The Audience
There is a breeze in the theater that comes and goes blowing silky flowing pennants, of which there are twenty-four of four colors, each with a symbol of a zodiac sign or planet on it. The seats are arranged around the stage in a circle of 6 rows and 12 sections. Three rows are the inner circle, three rows the outer circle. The number of rows can be multiplied by multiples of 2 depending on the size of the theater and number of the audience. Thus there are twenty-four Sections that the audience is divided into. Over the seats of each section is one large rectangular Tarot card of the Major Arcana (two will be added to make 24).

The Action
The actors are on the stage sitting or standing depending on the situation. When they sit the crouch on one knee, or in some scenes there may be chairs if there is a feast, or meeting. The Characters are Played by Players. The Director is Gamesmastering the Elthos World. There is a music master who sets the mood based on what is going on in the scene by playing some genre of music - usually classical. There is a definite mood depending on the story that is imbued into the scene by the music master, who is not the Gamesmaster but someone else wearing some sort of cloak and who is partially hidden. On a screen on ceiling are projected images according to what the Gamemaster wishes the audience to see. It might be the path of the party along an ancient looking parchment map through the mountains. It might be an item of power, or the image of a creature standing in a dark corridor. This is the impression screen and is meant to provide enhancement to the visual imagery of the scenes. From the ceiling to the floor is another projection. This throws a grid down on the floor of five foot squares or five foot hexes with terrain. The audience should be able to see the floor and take note of the grids. When combat occurs the grids will allow the characters to move into position as if they are pieces on a grid or hex map. They move five feet per melee if human. The entire system will use the Elthos ODS Movement Rules.

The Story
Each showing of the IGT is different than the last. The stories of the IGT are either episodal (like Star Trek), or Epic (like Lord of the Rings). They embody vignettes of Elthos, and may be fairy tales, adventures, or even on occasion dungeon crawls if appropriate. The Players are playing out a scene in their campaign.

The Audience Participation
The Gamesmaster calls upon the audience to volunteer to play the positions of creatures, monsters and NPC whenever called for by the action. The audience should also be able to role play to some degree, but the GM gives them motives, and probably actions as well. He might tell the audience members to start on certain (light up) grid locations. He might tell them that as soon as the door opens they are commanded to attack, or negotiate, or something else. They can if they want play the GM's direction, or they might fumble (move illogically) or they might win the encounter. All combat is decided by rolling dice which show up as large six sided dice on the stage in a square section blocked out in front of the Gamesmaster. On another screen are shown stats for the combat which may include percent chance to hit for the current encounter of whomever is currently in action. It is a turn based game, and played according to the Elthos Initiative and Combat rules. The Audience may also be called upon to vote by Section on background events in the game, for example in a trade war between Saptar and Phidel two Sections (Mars and Pluto) might each represent a Faction, and the vote determines something related to the action of the game. The Players may give speeches to influence the Audience vote.

The Over-Story
There is an Over-Story; a purpose, moral, or theme to each Episode, most often dealing with classical themes or motifs from history or mythology. The party might meet Yaga Baba, or enter the Underworld in search of the Helm of Hades, or a bride of the copper kingdom. They might go to the red desert and battle the ant-men, or make their way to the Black Empire. Or they may wander West to the barbarian lands and the jagged sea of Kaos. Or they might adventure through the lands of King Oswald. Or any number of other places. It is a live action, on stage RPG - played live. The Over-Story will be the responsibility of the World Weaver with perhaps a small Council of World Weavers to provide feedback and advice per series. Each series should last 12 weeks and cover one season.

That's the concept.

First Steps
The first steps would be to find a troop of Actor/RPG players and setup a practice game that serves to build the background and motivations for the IGT. After practicing and getting the characters right we then build up the music and the screen or physical aspects. These might change according to necessity, but the ideas should be represented somehow. Then we gain a space in which to do the ITG at a local university such as SUNY Purchase and take it from there.

You can help
I need help to put this all together. Anyone in the region are welcome to contact me on this project if a burning zeal to do it should manifest itself. Drop a line on the LRPGSW if you are interested.
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