For various reasons I’ve been away from Adept Play and I’ve missed the juicy discussions on situations. I’ll have to try to read those at some point; they seem interesting! I’ve got the routine now to post my actual play posts of Hantverksklubben here, and since we had a session yesterday I’ll keep that tradition and post the translation here. As usual, this is a slightly touched-up machine translation. The original post in Swedish is here, and it’s going to be better written.
Yesterday we were four people who participated in Hantverksklubben session 23: Player energy. It was me, Björn, Rickard and Lukas. The theme was Rickard’s, and it was about being involved, engaged, stoked and having energy in the scene as a player. So we are not necessarily talking about the scene being energetic, but about the kind of energy that you always want in all scenes: focus, enthusiasm and involvement.
The list of topics in conversation was long. Note that some of the topics below may be about things that reduce the energy.
- Lean back and forth
- Put “character traits” on the players
- Sit or lie down comfortably, stand up.
- Turn off or distort the senses (mute, turn off the camera).
- Listen to music.
- Uncomfortable atmosphere.
- Waving your arms
- Try talking differently. Slowly. Monotonically. Other language. No verbs.
- Work with the voice. Sound volume.
- Energy as in enthusiasm, empathy. Not just jumping and shouting.
- Take breaks. Rest by not being in the scene. Take a break between scenes.
- Conscious scene setting. Build your energy at the beginning of the scene.
- Drink coffee or drink alcohol.
- Cut the scene and do not let it fizzle out
- Flow. Adequate level of challenge.
- Technical problems.
- With or without camera
- Look for props, pictures, generators …
- Rituals (Polaris)
- Do not be afraid of silence.
- Work consciously with the language.
- Sit cold, sit warm. Lots of air. No air.
This topic was a little special because it was so personal. We worked on testing stuff to see how it affected our own focus in the scenes, and not so much on lifting the other players’ energy (apart from automatically as it is contagious). Therefore, I hope that the other three will jump in with their own reflections, as I here will mostly focus on what I personally did. But first a summary of the story. We chose the steampunk genre, mostly because it was something we had not played before in the club.
Liza Magnusson, reporter for the Gazette: “So you say, Baron de la Poitiers, that the recent operation at the front was a success, and that the rumors of radicalized veterans among the ‘terrorists’ of the resistance movement are completely unfounded? Noted. Finally, a question from our Sunday column: Is Baron de la Poitiers single?”
A slightly sarcastic but seemingly normal interview with the returning Baron de la Poitiers who, after ten years at the frontlines, resumes his mission to rule the province and the flying island. But not everything is as it seems, and both Liza’s and the baron’s lives will soon be shaken to the core. Liza’s name is not Magnusson, and she does not come from the Gazette, but Folkbladet, but the Baron does not accept interviews from that newspaper. She is also a prominent member of Red Night, the resistance movement, which tries to blow up the nobility’s new toy: Animus, a machine that will allow the nobility to change bodies as easily as they change underwear and thus live forever. But the operation goes wrong, and John, the freedom fighter, shows up at Thomas’ workshop without a memory. A complex web of body switches, politics and pangs of conscience begins to unravel and reaches its climax with a neon bomb in the Tower of Animus one fateful night.
I do not intend to make any attempt to explain the complex turns that the story took. We had a hard time keeping up for a while, but we were very happy with the story. After a couple of hours of play, we ended up in a place where we could have given an open ending, but were so committed (player energy!) that we decided to continue playing. I love the feeling of when a sprawling and tangled improvised plot is woven together in a satisfying way.
The theme, then? I worked with several of the things we discussed to see how it affected my involvement in the scene:
- When we took our break before we started playing, I changed from t-shirt to dress shirt. I think it helped, but quite marginally. As we said afterwards, it kind of demonstrated that I took it seriously, somehow. Possibly it worked worse because we all knew it was a conscious move.
- One thing I noticed clearly was when I myself did not participate. In one scene, I leaned back and closed my eyes just to listen to the scene. I noticed that it was difficult to stay focused on what was happening and found that my thoughts easily began to wander. When I instead sat upright and looked at the screen (we played with a camera) it was easier to keep my focus on the stage.
- We also worked a lot with breaks and took more than we usually do, which I think helped keep the focus up even though we played until quite late at night.
- One of the most engaging scenes for me was the second scene between the Baron and Liza, when Liza was imprisoned and just after the Baron had seen his lieutenant and close friend die before his eyes as she threw herself between him and a terrorist. It was a calm and slow scene, but extremely focused. I did two things that I think helped. First, I turned off the light and used only a low light, which gave me a darker and more dramatic lighting. Others had already worked a bit with the lighting in their scenes. I think it has a bit of the same effect as when measuring productivity in a workplace: Whether you increase or decrease the lighting, you remind people that they are observed, and productivity increases. A bit of the same thing here: putting in a little effort increases the focus. Another thing I did was say as Eugénie told me before we played La clé des nuages at OctoGônes: “Do not be afraid of silence”. Pointing out that silence can occur in the scene and that they are a natural part of it and not a void that must be filled does a lot for the atmosphere in this type of tense but slow scene.
- Another scene I noticed was how I find it easier to keep my focus in the scene if I do something physical and “act” the role. In one scene I used a pencil as a cigar, in another I stood up and polished pieces of brass. Standing up by itself helped a lot, but this thing where I was constantly holding something during the scene, which my character also holds, made me, as it were, “inhabit” the character in a different way, even when I did not say anything.
- Finally, working consciously with the language is something I generally find helps me stay focused. Thinking about what I say and not just “saying” but “narrating” things makes me kind of stick to the scene and be more engaged.
On the whole, I would say that it was noticeable that the theme of the session was “player energy”. We were all engaged, present and alert, even when we were not participating in a particular scene. It gave an energy to the game that really contributed to a really good session. Really good theme, Rickard, and I will bring things with me from this session that I will try to work on in the future as well.