Actual Play – Archipelago at the Improv (12/7/2013)

ArchipelagoPlayers: Karen Twelves, Milo and John Kim, Julie Southworth, and Sean Nittner
System: Archipelago

After four hours of awesome improv at the Improv for Gamers workshops, we sat down to play some Archipleago. After a bit of discussion we opted for English Manor Houses. What started as a Jeeves sand Wooster vibe, quickly when to a dark Downton Abbey.

The story was a tight one, I think because (and this is based off my previous experience feeling a bit undirected) we pushed for some urgency up front, and because we were still warm from improv games so we were ready to be vulnerable, push for our destinies, and reveal our true intentions.


The cast

  • John – Mrs. Prudence Westerfield. A widow and ward of Westerfield manor. Her daughter and heiress Presicilla was of age to marry and secure their future. Destined to marry her daughter against her will.
  • Milo – Clyde the butler of Westerfield manor. Fiendishly loyal to the Westerfield family because his own life was in debt to the last Mr. Westerfield. Destined to give up his life to protect his ward.
  • Julie – Jenny the assistant to the cook in Brinkley manor. In love with the lord of the house Viscount Aaron Lunceford. Young and innocent. Destined to make a fortune to support her lover.
  • Sean – Viscount Aaron Lunceford. A posturing lord who was made the pretense of wealth but was horribly in debt. Terrified of his uncle (lord of Scottham manor) finding out that he was broke. In love with Jenny. Destined to lose his manor but gain his true love.

Other characters of note:

  • Earl Terrance Lunceford – Aaron’s disapproving and stern uncle.
  • Alice (Harding) Lunceford – Terrance’s wealthy american wife.
  • Bob Harding – Alice’s brother, a rich Montana land owner with an offer for the English Gentry.
  • Priscilla – Young heiress, daughter of Prudence, and a free spirit who just wants to live life.

Notably we made all eight characters as “people that need to be in this kind of setting” and then picked the ones to play based on what drew us and how they formed relationships with the other characters. This left us with a wealth of interesting NPCs to bring in throughout the story. All but Alice saw quite a bit of action.


Based on the problems we saw people had, we picked these as our elements:

  • Love
  • Innocence
  • Social Status
  • Money

The Play is the Thing

We started with a garden lunch at Brinkley manner with the Westerfields coming to visit. This was a scene with all of the player characters present and it allowed us to establish several thing right off the bat.

  • Aaron wanted Prudences money to help him invest in Montana land (and hopefully get him out his debts.
  • Jenny wanted Aaron to forget about his financial obligations and marry her.
  • Clyde wanted to protect the Westerfields interest, which meant keeping Aaron away from any upstart servants.
  • Prudence wanted Aaron to marry her daughter Priscilla to secure their family fortune and status.

And yeah, things spun out from there. Priscilla didn’t want to marry Aaron.  Aaron was indebted to the Westerfields, and things pushed to the point of desperation until Clyde decided to betray one Westerfield in order help another. He stole money and send the now landless Lunceford with his wife to be and the heiress, away from Prudence, lest she marry her daughter off to the even more despicable Mr. Harding.

Actually, playing Bob was quite delightful. We traded who got to do it, but him representing new money, and total disregard for for the English social mores. He was also the impetus that pushed a lot of the action. Truly the external threat.

At one point we were using the map to represent the marriage license between Aaron and Priscilla and I literally tore it to pieces. Yay!

Shots from after the game

IMG_1868 IMG_1863


Thoughts on this game

Pushing for destinies, establishing situations up front, and really using the Archipelago “say this” actions really helped with pacing, momentum, and drama.

We hit all four of our destinies! Woot!

Actual Play – The Beast of Sucker Creek (7/13/2013)

Sucker CreekFacilitator: Sean Nittner
Players: Colin Fahrion, Mia Blankensop, and Tim Sanders
System: Fiasco
Playset: The Beast of Sucker Creek

After another great Improv for Gamers workshop we sat down to play a little Fiasco!

Our goals (beyond having fun) were to find the emotional connections between the characters, to find the beat and cut the scene, and to open scenes jumping into the action.

I threw out a few playsets that caught my fancy, but Tim won us all over with the Beast of Sucker Creek. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like a good big foot story?


Elrita “Boomer” Buchanan (Mia) was a local of Sucker Creek and the resident expert monster hunter, just like her daddy, and his daddy before him. Her heart had been broken into a billion pieces years ago, and she had a not so secret crush on Booger, who she thought could put all those pieces back together.

Relationship: Monster Hunters… when not huffing butane. Boomer and Booger knew the swamp like the back of their hands and spent every waking moment hunting for the beast… that is when not taking a hit for courage.

Object: Chump-Hunting…Fancy hotted-up paintball gun. Named Nancy. And retrofitted to fire from butane tanks instead of CO2. Like you do.

Bobby “Booger” Coover (Tim) was an entrepreneur at heart. While Boomer wanted to catch the beast for the sake of it, Booger was interested in the payout. Or at least using monster hunting trips to scam outsiders wanting a look at the secrets of Sucker Creek.

Relationship: Swamp Friends. Ufo Investigators. As soon as Booger and Jeff met, the city slicker was immediately fascinated with the swamp monster, but thought that if it walked on land and swam in the water, it must be a lizard-fish, aka, an alien. Together Booger and Jeff would find it.

Need: To profit from misguided beast hunters. Namely Booger, profiting from Jeff. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as aliens!

Jeff Daniels (Sean) was a city-slicker by Sucker Creek standards because he came from Truckee. Even after being in town for a spell, working on the Starfield Acres project, people treated him like an outsider. Jeff had a fancy for Boomer, but she was in love with Booger, and he didn’t stand a chance. What really ate Jeff up though was that nobody would give him a nickname. So he’d call himself “Jeff, just Jeff” often. Eventually people started calling him “Just Jeff” but it wasn’t the same.

Relationship: Troublemakers. You bring he rifles. I’ll bring the beer. Jeff and Dingo has lost their job at Starfield Acres simply because of holding a beer in one hand while on the job. The two of them were fun loving miscreants that didn’t really care which way the wind blew them, the followed it into no good.

Need: To explore a legal way to stop the Starfield Acres II project. After being fired off it Jeff and Dingo had a grudge and they wanted some revenge on the big money Starfield project people. But they were smart enough not to get on the wrong side of the Sheriff. Instead they planned on claiming the monster was an endangered species and that the new housing project was destroying it’s habitat. To prove it though, they had to catch it!

Duane “Dingo” Buchanan (Colin) was coming back from his foray into the big city (Truckee) and after getting fired from the project, hoping that his family would take him back in. His big sister Boomer was always looking after him and she gave him a spot in the basement, away from all the mason jars filled with moonshine, on the old mattress the dog used to use. Which he could share with Jeff. Dingo didn’t really want for much, and perhaps that’s why he did so well in the end. Well, which is to say, no completely terrible.

Relationship: Family – Siblings. Boomer was his big sis and always had his back. Because of these too we introduced a few other Buchanan’s as well. Namely their little 9-year old sister Poodle (yes, if you’re a regular reader, you’ve seen that name before) and Pa Buchanan, the croc-hunter who came back only when something bit back.

Location: The spawning channel – rabid racoon den. Everyone knew about the racoon den, and that it was best to stay clear of it. But when really drunk, and convinced the monster was out there, a racoon, especially one with neon pink paint on it (from Nancy above) could often appear as the monster itself, or perhaps the monster’s brood!

Elrita “Boomer” Buchanan (Mia)


The play is the thing

Our first round of scenes were all about color and introductions. We started with Dingo showing up, head hanging low, asking his sister for a place to sleep for him and his buddy Jeff. Next we saw Boomer and Booger out monster hunting, huffing butane, and talking about how Booger and Crystal just broke up. Third scene was Booger and Jeff being introduced and discussing the possibility that the “monster” was actually an alien, and that discovering a real one could mean big money for everyone in Sucker Creek. The forth scene showed Jeff and Dingo conspiring against Starfield Acres and generally being up to no good. It also established Jeff’s crush on Boomer.

Lets get in some trouble

Knowing the 2nd round was the round before the tilt, we all worked towards putting our characters in precarious situations.

Dingo and Jeff went and did some monster hunting of their own, only they happened upon the rabid racoon den instead and armed mostly with beers and poorly aimed rifles, the left mostly with rabid racoon bites.

Boomer and Booger went “real”  monster hunting at the same time and while out Boomer told Booger her true affections. That her heart had been broken into a billion itty bitty pieces and he was the one that could put them back together again. When the gunshots went off (the scenes were done split-screen), Boomer fell into Booger’s arms and her love for him was just as sure as monsters in swamps!

Boomer and Booger, announcing their betrothal realized they’d have to get permission from Pa first before they married. Pa was a surly son of a gun. And Ma was a free-spirited woman who came and went as she pleased.

Jeff and Boomer, conspiring to stop the project and make a fortune together, decided to approach the mayor… only they found him golfing with the Starfield Acres corporate elite and when the tried to catch him at the 12 hole, slipped in the mud and fell in a sand trap instead.

The Tilt!

Feeling pretty good about the trouble we had gotten ourselves in already and the impending doom (Pa, the Mayor, catching the monster, and the nuptials) we rolled some bones to get:

Failure – You thought it was taken care of… but it wasn’t.

Mayham – A dangerous animal gets loose!

Act Two

Pa arrived (which was a blast for me to play) and though at first dismissing his son (cause Dingo is pretty much a screw up) when he heard it was fired just for drinking beer on the job and that he had been bit by a coon, they had a bonding moment raiding the coon-nest with shotguns.

Pa also allowed Boomer and Booger to marry (she was already pregnant) but only if Booger could best him in a crotch kicking contest. “Poodle, fetch me my steel toe boots.”

Boomer caught the monster! But forgot to lock it up. She wanted to give it to Booger as a dowry. Booger wanted to turn it into money. Jeff wanted to use it to stop the Starfield Acres project. Nobody got what they wanted!

The mayor, against his better judgement went out to the Buchanan lot to see the beast, and when it wasn’t there, things got ugly. Boomer, insisting that Nancy (the paintball gun powered by butane) was up to the task of stopping the beast, got shot and a bit exploded (only a bit) but the overzealous Dingo. Boomer, who was mauled by the beast, watched everyone in her life pass her up to try and catch it.

And through all this Jeff never got a nickname!


Just as bad as you might imagine. Jeff lost an arm trying to blow up the Starfield offices and ended in jail, bunked up with “friends of of the mayor” (he had shot the mayor during the monster ruckus).  Boomer had kid after half-mosnter looking kid, while she watched Booger marry Crystal. Booger ended up working Walmart. shudder. Dingo did the best really. He got rabies, but that passed, and eventually went back to work for Starfield, hating himself but at least making a buck.

The monster. Which may have been an alien. Which may have been a lizard-fish. Which may have had gills, or claws, or who knows what. Well, about that monster, nobody knows. Except maybe Boomer, and she’ll never tell a soul.

Improv for Gamers Level 2 – July 13th at EndGame

I’m incredibly thrilled the workshop has thrived and grown. Now we’re offering a second level!

As a gamer you may have heard that improv is closely tied to role-playing, especially in narrative-based games. It’s true, improv theater teaches many skills that can make your game rock: collaboration, embracing failure, and taking risks. The goal of this workshop series is to highlight those skills (and more!) as they apply to role-playing games through improv exercises and scenework.

Level 1
Level 1 focuses on exploring dynamic characters, collaborative scene-building, and the success/complication model. Beginners to improv are welcome and encouraged!

Want to attend Level 1 in 2013? Come to Big Bad Con in Oakland, October 4-6!

Level 2
We are expanding our content with GMs in mind. Level 2 will explore story-building, pacing, and finding the beat in scenes, as well as doing advanced scenework. For this workshop we ask that attendees have some prior improv experience (yes, just the Level 1 workshop counts!).

Attend the  Level 2 workshop July 13, 2013 at EndGame in Oakland. Registration start June 15th!