Thursday, February 18, 2010

Role-Playing Calisthenics

Wikipedia, undisputed internet master of facts, defines Calisthenics as "a form of organized exercise consisting of a variety of simple movements––performed without weights or equipment––that are intended to increase body strength and flexibility using the weight of one's own body for resistance." I've been playing around with different ideas and ways to apply the theory of calisthenics to role-playing. I'd like to take the theory behind calisthenics - that you can pretty much do it anywhere anytime on your own - and apply it to ways that we can all become better role-players. That's not to say that every idea I've had fits that description, some of them work actively against it, but the general idea is improving the ability to role-play outside of the role-playing setting.

My first thought is joining an acting class. I was always one for theater in high school - I really liked building sets and doing stagecraft in general. That being said, I don't know if I would have the nerve to join an acting group to try to flex my skills. I really think this could be a good use of role-player's time. I find myself kind of working up or down to those around me with the effort I put into immersing myself into a character. I love The Group and Friday Nite Gaming, but I'll free admit that we have a very hard time staying in character. I think being in a group of people all trying to work up and out-do each other in attempting to stay in character and create genuine portraits of individuals would be really interesting.

My next thought is to practice accents. I have two or three accents that I really enjoy doing around my wife or little sister, but in general I have a hard time pulling off the accents around a bigger group of people. Really though, accents don't have to be full-fledged drawls down to the specific dialect; this isn't necessary to create a lasting character. The important part is to create a little tick or repetitive bit of nature for the character that you can pull out in predictable times to help make your character have an impact on the other players. Practice doing this outloud when in the car driving to work or in the shower getting ready for work in the morning (God, I organize my whole life around work!). Do some research by paying attention to people you meet in real life or interesting characters on TV or in movies, what makes these people interesting? Don't be afraid to pull and copy things for your character.

The last idea I have to share tonight is to go out and read and watch stuff your friends have no interest in. Try to go out on a limb and explore new genres others in your group have no interest in. The purpose to this is very similiar to my previous strategy: find new things to bring to the table. It's fine if you have your character trope you like to play - we all have a surprisingly small stable of archetypes we draw from - but it can get old. The least you can do for your group when making a new character is to put a spin on it. A lot of fiction has characters that share a lot of similarities. The way these similiar characters become interesting is how the creators change their archetypes within the context of the story.

That's all I have right now! By the way, I've found my own stable of characters for Con games especially usually brings me back to the "incompetent leader" archetype, but I try to change it up that he's at least usually after something different each time. My most recent experience, for example, was the incompetent superhero leader who only really cared about his branding to help raise funds in merchandising so they could fund their superhero team. Playing an idiot leader is extremely fun (and easy!).

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