PLAY SORCERER 42: There’s Always Another Idea

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A few years ago I was in a terrific acting class. In the class we used improvisation technique and applied those techniques to scripted material.

Here is the first exercise we did:

We lined up in two rows, each of us paird off and facing someone in the row. The teacher stood at one end of the two rows. He said, “Both rows turn around.”

We did.

He said, “The people in the row to my right, change one element of your appearance. Untie your shoelace, or change something about your hair. Untuck your shirt. Something like that.”

So the people on the right did that.

“Now,” the teacher said, “both rows turn around.”

We did. The teacher said, “All right, the people on the left, see if you can spot the thing the people on the right changed.”

And they all did.

Then we turned around again, and the people on the left changed something about their appearance and the people on the right had to spot the changes.

Then we kept doing it. One time after another we untied a shoe. Or unbuttoned a button on our shirt. Or took a shoe off. And I’m going to tell you something—something that might only be clear if you actually do the exercise—eventually you start running out of ideas of things to change.

And we kept doing it. Back and forth. Changing one small or large thing about our clothing. And each time we got closer and closer to thinking, “There’s nothing else for me to change.” And the fear began growing that we might actually have to do something drastic in front of these people we had just met. Remove an article of clothing. Or remove several. Just to come up with one more thing to change about our appearance on the fly.

But no one did. Although the fear was there that we had run out of ideas, no one had to.

As the teacher said, “A lot of you were afraid you were going to have to start stripping down in front of these strangers. You thought you were out of ideas. But what did you just learn? There is always one more idea. Always! There is always one more idea!”

Now, without actually doing this exercise, the experiential lesson can’t be imparted. But I tell you, it was a vital revelation for me as I’ve moved forward with almost every aspect of my life. Whenever I think I’m stuck and there’s no way out or I can’t think of one more idea to solve a script or know what to do next in a roleplaying game, I always remember the lesson from that day. There is always one more idea.

So, when I’m playing Sorcerer, whether as the Game Master or a Player, I always allow myself this confidence. That’s why I’m willing to ask for a time out for an idea or to give other players time to sort out what they want to say next. I want people who are stuck to have the time to find the idea that’s already in their head—the “one more idea”—even if they can’t see it right away.

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