Do you want to be a more confident roleplayer or GM?
Do you want to encourage spontaneous creativity in your gaming group?
Do you want to create dynamic, compelling characters?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” Improv for Gamers is for you!
Based on hundreds of hours of professional workshops, Improv for Gamers provides fun and easy exercises designed to take your tabletop or live-action gaming group to the next level. Play one or two before your next session to get players warmed up and engaged, or take a deep dive into developing a particular skill! No improv experience required.
You can strengthen the following skills:
Enthusiastic and collaborative storytelling
Creating multi-faceted characters
Building authentic relationships between characters
Embodying your character and interacting with the world around them
Knowing when and how to end a scene and share the spotlight
Level up your gaming skills with Improv for Gamers!
Why a second edition?
We have more we want to put in the book!
After the release of the first edition of Improv for Gamers in 2018, creator Karen Twelves was inspired with ideas for a few more games, but the book was out and it was too late to include them. In the years that followed she kept teaching improv workshops, developing new approaches, and meeting other improvisers and gamers who had their own improv techniques and perspectives.
Karen also talked to accessibility experts and workshopped ways to make the book’s exercises more accessible to gamers with disabilities. She has formatted the book to be screen-reader friendly, changed a lot of the language, and made space in the exercises to remove or minimize the amount of standing and moving needed to participate in the games.
Then as the pandemic brought face-to-face gaming to a halt, lockdown spurred Karen to develop sections on adapting your games for online play and personalizing them to your particular group. Just because you can’t meet in person, doesn’t mean you can’t improvise together.
All of these experiences come together in this expanded and improved second edition—which not only includes more exercises, but also includes new voices and new perspectives.
Second edition includes additional contributions from: Alex Dodge, Aser and Megan Tolentino, Ash Cheshire, Brandon Wentz, Erica Riddick, Hakan Seyalioglu, James Mendez Hodes, James Oh, Jason Morningstar, Jay Brown, Jay Treat, Krin Irvine, Liisa Lee, Lizzie Stark, Marcus Sams, Mary C. Parker, Meg Baker, and Senda Linaugh.
Improv for Gamers is all about providing practical advice to make your games better. Each section pairs a set of creative guidelines with exercises that you can practice with your friends. They are all designed to be quick and easy games that focus on building skills rather than putting on a performance.
All of the exercises are divided into categories, so you can focus on the skills that you most want to develop and the types of improv games that are the most fun for you.
Example of games
Each exercise includes a brief introduction to how it's relevant to gaming and easy-to-follow instructions. Many also include additional tips and variations that expand upon the exercise.
One of our favorite games, because it always generates something that surprises you, is Three Things. It’s easy to play and it starts loosening up your imagination, making it easier to come up with new ideas on the fly!
Prompts to get you started
Getting ideas flowing isn’t always easy—even for seasoned improvisers. Improv for Gamers 2E now includes several easy-to-use tables to help you quickly get started in a scene or with an idea. These prompts can help you set your character’s point of view, or determine the relationship between two characters. And the tables are divided into categories so, for instance, you can choose from a list of mundane or out-of-the-ordinary locations to set the scene in.
Coming up with these on the fly can be tricky, but Improv for Gamers has plenty of suggestions to get you started and these prompts will also be available as print-on-demand cards so you can mix up or customize the deck as you see fit!
Karen Twelves has been teaching improv for over a decade for theater companies, corporate workshops, and through the GoogleArts program. She teaches her Improv for Gamers workshop series at conventions across the country, including Big Bad Con, Origins Game Fair, and GenCon. Karen is also an editor, and has worked on games such as Fiasco, Dialect, Blades in the Dark, and Thirsty Sword Lesbians. She loves playing one-shot games with epic wins and disastrous fails, and will tell you all about her Duelist character from a truly epic "Kingmaker" Pathfinder campaign.
Aser and Megan Tolentino were brought together over the internet through their love of tabletop RPGs and speculative fiction. They now live in Sacramento where Aser works as a tenant rights attorney and assistive technology instructor. He is usually found in the company of his guide dog Dixie, or sporadically releasing episodes for their Actual Play Podcasts: The Redacted Files and The Amber Clave.
Cris Viana is a Brazilian Graphic Designer specialized in Editorial Design and Typography. She has been in love with RPGs since high school, and now she works with it, doing layout RPG books for Brazilian publishers and abroad! When she's not working, she plays Arabic percussion, drinks lots of tea, invents crazy makeup to use on RPG streams, and her Changeling Brazilian world-building is famous countrywide and has unofficially been named "Crisverse." You can find her online at www.crisvianastudio.com.br and on Twitter @crislv.
Gabriella is an editor for Lesser Known Comics and a proofreader for Curious Corvid Publishing. When she’s not working, Gabriella can be found lost in a book or building worlds of her own in her notebooks. Fun fact: When she was a child, she wanted to be a knight. Although she still doesn’t own a sword, wielding a pen has served her just as well.
Jacky is an ENnie award-winning Chinese American TTRPG writer, editor, and designer. He is also the Creative Manager for Unbreakable Publishers, seeking to uplift Asian creators to tell their stories in their own voices. He has worked for Paizo, MCDM, Baldman Games, and others. He is a big-time foodie, sampling cuisine from around the world whenever the travel time permits. You might also spy Jacky's improvisation and appearance in multiple murder mysteries lost to time, always seemingly cast as the culprit—he swears he didn't do it!
Maegan Penley is, according to her husband, a swashbuckling heroine who overcame great internal struggle and nearly unbeatable odds to rescue an entire planet from an invading species of parasitic aliens. She may also (and possibly more accurately) be known as an illustrator who loves helping authors bring their works to life. She enjoys working with a wide variety of media, and particularly loves any project that is lighthearted or nostalgic. (Or both!) She lives in Georgia with her imaginative husband and two energetic boys. She tries to get at least eight hours of sleep whenever possible.
Megan is a TTRPG podcaster and sometimes game designer. She has an enthusiastic passion for horror, octopuses, science, accessibility, and cryptids. She has learned much about accessibility standards through her husband Aser and work as a software developer.
Trivia has worked in games in some form or another for over a decade, first as an illustrator before moving into creative management. Their journey in using tabletop games as a form of personal expression and exploration started in the late 90s and hasn't stopped since—though now they are more often working behind the scenes in art management! Notable projects include Thirsty Sword Lesbians, Vampire: The Masquerade, and My Little Pony Roleplaying Game. Trivia's day job is Art Acquisitions Manager for RPGs at Renegade Game Studios. You can find them on Twitter @DarkDeerTrivia.
Alex Dodge has been performing and teaching improv for the past 22 years across the Midwest and East coast. As an instructor, Alex has taught improv classes in scene work, character, and long-form for Hashtag Comedy Columbus, The Baltimore Improv Group, and for Indiana University, and he currently serves as the Arts Director of The Arts and College Preparatory Academy in Columbus, Ohio, where he teaches improv and comedy performance. In addition to his improv work, Alex is an avid tabletop gamer, and he regularly puts his improv skills to work when he plays or creates games. His game Fork Creek Almanac, co-written with Matt Jent, won a Golden Cobra 2018, and he regularly writes and designs games in a game design workshop at the The Arts and College Preparatory Academy.
Ash Cheshire worked professionally as an actor and then as a trained drama therapist before disability led to a transition to faer current work as a game designer and artist. You can find more of Ash's games at ashcangames.itch.io or get all the games fresh and hot by becoming a supporter at patreon.com/ashcheshire.
Brandon (Rev) Wentz is the executive producer at Critshow Studios, GMing and producing The Critshow (A Monster of the Week actual play podcast) as well as let's plays for new and newly launching RPGs, and hours of weekly patreon content. He holds an MFA in acting from UGA and has worked with EarPlay on a number of interactive games, including Pugmire, The Orpheus Project, and Mr.Robot. Brandon is also the co-host of the Emmy award-winning PBS show Journey Indiana.
Hakan Seyalıoğlu is 50% of Thorny Games, an independent design studio of larps and RPGs that tells new and unconventional stories. In his design, he’s explored what language means for us culturally and emotionally, and how it can be an engaging mechanic for play. A GenCon Industry Insider, a keynote speaker at multiple conferences, and co-designer of multiple Indiecade Finalists and Award Winners, Hakan hopes to spread the word of play. Hakan helps computers keep secrets and crack codes (a genuine cryptographer). He also really enjoys breakfast.
Erica Riddick is a devised theater dramaturg and improv performer who was enticed into RPG back rooms through the gateway game Fiasco. Also a competitive ballroom dancer, Erica adores improvisation in all its earthly forms, especially LARP for its physicality. She’s always up to play Revived: A Support Group For The Partially Deceased and Gone. Erica has dipped a baby toe into the game developer waters with their first game, Lost & Found, exploring the unexpected objects that enter and exit our lives. “I love RPGs because the end result must be created in partnership (I see you solo RPGs, and playing together is where the magic happens!^)” Erica is captivated by a good story in any form, and the intersection of those mediums. She’s trying to break the sixth wall through a playwriting exploration of life insurance.
Freelance game designer, professional gamemaster, and host of the Diceology podcast, Jahmal “Mad Jay” Brown has works published by Evil Hat Productions, Fandom/Cortex Prime, and Paizo Inc. He likes games and stories about outsiders and underdogs. Jay games with his kids and loves his momma but she doesn’t game yet. You can tweet him @madjayzero.
James Aaron Oh’s time playing D&D likely spurred on his career as an actor, which is where his knowledge of structured improv stems from. He hopes the tips he has added to this book similarly spur a love for the spontaneous creation that only TTRPGs can facilitate. You can find him playing TTRPGs on Quests and Chaos via Twitch or YouTube. For his acting career, check out www.jamesaaronoh.com or @jamesaaronoh on Instagram for the latest news. Wishing you all the best in your adventures and keep on rolling!
Mendez is a writer, cultural consultant, and game designer. You might know his writing from articles like “Orcs, Britons, and the Martial Race Myth,” his consulting work from games like Magic: the Gathering and the Jackbox Party Packs, or his design work from Avatar Legends or Thousand Arrows. He has an academic background in West African religion, Eastern classics, dance, and English literature. His interests include martial arts, hip hop, and collecting stuffed animals. He lives in the greater New York metropolitan area.
Jason Morningstar is an analog game and experience designer who lives in Durham, North Carolina, USA. Best known for his game Fiasco, which earned him his second Diana Jones Award for Gaming Excellence, Jason’s design credits include Ghost Court, Night Witches, and many other games. His work was featured in the Gen Con 50th anniversary collection. Beyond tabletop and live action games, Jason consults on designed playfulness with organizations like Google, the University of Michigan, UNICEF, and Kaiser-Permanente Health Care. In addition to design, Jason has spoken extensively on game-related topics to groups like the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Cympub-Korea, and ECGC.
Jay Treat is a full-time board game designer, part-time actor, and constant improviser. He's performed on the Colorado stage, with Second City and The Groundlings, and is writing his own improv book. Karen Twelves taught Jay's second-ever improv workshop, and he's honored to be part of the sequel to her first outstanding book on the subject. Games and improv are for everyone, and I'm ever grateful to share them.
Krin Irvine is an occasional game designer and frequent gamemaster and player, who loves solving puzzles and storytelling with their friends. They are also an experienced improv theater instructor, director, and performer. Wearing their various hats, they have enjoyed facilitating people’s first experiences of playing games or improv, including plenty of people experienced with one but brand new to the other. They also contributed to the Fiasco Companion in a chapter on improv and gaming.
Liisa Lee is a multi-faceted creator. She’s an award-winning voice actor, voiceover producer, food photographer, game writer, and PR marketing director. Her career spans musical theater and professional ballet, apprenticing with the American Dance Machine at 13, and her first broadway national tour at 15. Film, TV, and college brought her to LA. She's also an alum of the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Her game-writing career includes work on Dragon Realms, Gemstone IV, Fantasy University, and pre-production design, casting, and consulting on D&D Live, as well as award-winning live play podcasts D&D Live: Off The Table, Dice Camera Action, How We Roll, RedMoon Roleplaying, and more. She rode elephants before she could ride a bike, and has been killed by a horse kick, but that's another story.
Lizzie Stark is an author, journalist, and award-winning game designer. Her most recent book is Egg: A Dozen Ovatures, although in gaming circles she's best known for 2012's Leaving Mundania, about larp, and its accompanying blog site, and for co-editing the #Feminism collection of nanogames. For her, game design is all about collaboration—frequent collaborators include Jason Morningstar and Bjarke Pedersen. Their work has appeared at game conventions and theater festivals throughout the world. She relishes introducing first-timers to roleplaying with well-designed workshops that foster collaboration and creativity while supporting any new participants who have the jitters.
Marcus Sams is the founder of Moment Improv Theatre as well as the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Improv Festival and a board member of The Improv Network. Moment Improv (established 2014) is one of the first African-American owned improv training centers in the United States.Marcus is a pioneer in the online improv space. He has created the style known as Teleprov, advancing what is possible in the world of online improv. Between 2020 and 2022 he taught over 960 hours of online improv instruction. He also facilitates online, in-person, and hybrid team-building sessions for companies like Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn, among many others. Marcus also serves on Union Square Alliance’s marketing committee, is the co-founder of the Bay Area Film Mixer, and has professional representation through MDT Talent.
Mary C. Parker is an international applied theater facilitator, consultant, and coach. She earned an MA in Applied Theatre, a BA in Sociology, and is a credentialed International Coach Federation (ICF) Professional Coach. She has researched and published in the areas of identity, comedy, and structural racism. In her applied theater work, Mary employs humor to deepen humility and disrupt fragility, one laugh at a time. As a teacher, Mary educates on topics of anti-oppression and white supremacy culture, creating ensembles, and using our identities to create characters. As a performer, Mary has performed in improv festivals around the world, played on London, UK, and Pittsburgh, PA-based improv teams, and had a recurring role in a virtual dramatic improv soap opera series. More about Mary and her work can be found on her website, www.marycparker.com.
Meguey Baker started playing RPGs as a child with her sister and two friends in the 1970s. As a co-designer with her husband, her work on their award-winning Apocalypse World broke ground with attention to the characters' relationship to sexuality, and in their newest game Under Hollow Hills, a key question is how characters are in relation to each other when times are good and when times are bad. Meg has a background in counseling, education, ritual design, history and dance. She believes everyone has a story worth telling, and that we are all connected. She is the curator of a local history museum, where she delights in the stories of all kinds of relationships.
Senda Linaugh is known for her un-spellable Twitter handle and contagious giggle. She is a podcaster and game designer who favors improv GMing and rules-light systems. While she loves a good long-form campaign, life has conspired to make her extremely well versed in running one-shots of four hours or less. You can hear her dulcet tones on the ENnie nominated podcast She's a Super Geek or on Panda's Talking Games, or catch more of her gaming opinions in written form on Gnomestew.com.
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