2020 Playbook

Welcome to this year’s Improvathon Playbook! Here is the list of games you can play at the competition this year. If your favorite game didn’t make the cut, don’t worry. Teams will have opportunities to play games that are not listed. 

The rules and number of players below are suggestions. If you play by a different set of rules, that’s okay, but you’ll need to let the judges know about any differences. Unless you tell us otherwise, these will be the rules used to score your Mechanics and Objectives.

Each team is allowed to perform up to two games that are not on this list during the competition. Just let the judges know which rubric to use for any off-playbook games. The games are grouped by the rubric used to evaluate them.

C.O.R.E.M. Games

These games will be scored using five 1-4 point scales measuring character, relationship, objective, mechanics, and environment. In each short-form scene, performers should: fully develop original characters, show how their characters are connected to one another, establish the world in which the scene is set, and follow the rules and restrictions of their game. One bonus point may be awarded if the mechanics of the game are used exceptionally well.

2 Line Vocabulary
(3-4 Players)
One player performs freely and it is their job to keep the scene moving. Assign two lines to remaining players. Each player can only say the two lines that they have been assigned. This game works best when 2 Line Vocabulary includes one question and one statement.

4 Corners (Pan Left Pan Right)
(4 Players)
The four players stand in a square on the stage: Down Stage Right (1), Down Stage Left (2), Up Stage Left (3), and Up Stage Right (4). The front pair (1 and 2) gets a suggestion. Then the cube rotates to the actors’ right and players 2 and 3 get a different suggestion. The cube rotates and players 3 and 4 get a suggestion and then finally players 4 and 1 get a suggestion. The scene begins with players 1 and 2 facing the front. At any point during their scene, a caller yells “Pan Left” or “Pan Right” to rotate and a new scene begins with the pair now in front.

(4-6 Players)
This is a short form version of the Chicago-style Herald. This game starts off with all but one performer forming a back line. The performer not on the back line, will receive a suggestion from the audience. From this suggestion, the improviser will perform a short monologue. Once he or she is done with the monologue, the back line will perform a scene based on the monologue. 

Blind Line
(2-4 Players)
Each player is given lines they have not seen to put in their pockets. Then the players improvise a scene in which they must incorporate the lines.

Chit Chat
(4-6 Players)            
One player is the talk show host of the show “Chit Chat.” This host will interview an up and coming playwright/composer that has just written and directed a new Broadway Musical (get the name from the audience). The interview will be about the play and the playwright will have brought two cast members to perform two numbers/scenes for the studio audience. The talk show host interviews the playwright about the Musical then introduces the two performers, who will perform a number from the show (you can have a few lines of dialogue to lead into the song if you want). After the first number, the host and playwright chat about where the storyline goes next and the second number is presented.

Choose Your Own Adventure
(2 Players)
The scene can be paused by a caller who then gives two choices to an audience member. For example: “PAUSE! [points at audience member] What do you want to pop out of that box, an engagement ring or a break up message on a post-it note?” Choices should be equally viable options, but send the scene in different directions. Performers incorporate the choice into the scene and continue.

Cutting Room
(2-6 Players)
A scene is interrupted by a caller, who directs the action forward or backward in time or to other locations and events. The new scene can be either directly or indirectly related to the original scene. The caller switches scenes by saying: “Cut to [the time, place, or situation they want to cut to]."

Dead Bodies 
(4-5 players)
A short scene (90 seconds) is performed from an audience suggestion. Then, a caller will take an audience vote to "kill" one of of the players. The same scene is then replayed, except now one of the characters is lying dead and limp on the floor. The remaining actors move their lifeless scene partner around and say their lines. Repeat this process until there is one actor left "alive" to do the whole scene while dragging everyone around and doing their lines. This game is very physical, and for it to be successful, the original established scene should have lots of movement. 

Living Bodies (var. of Dead Bodies)
(4-5 Players) 
Same as above, but backward. 

(3-5 Players)
Actors create a short scene based on a suggestion from the audience. They then replay the scene two more times in different movie genres suggested by the audience.

(4 Players)
Two players perform a short scene. Two other players watch the scene, but are unable to listen to the scene due to loud music in their ears. An iPod was a thing that could play music. After the first scene is over, the second pair tries to replicate the first scene after only seeing the actions and not hearing the scene. It is important to mimic the physical actions of the first pair and justify them in the second scene.

Kick It!
(3-5 Players)
At various times during the scene, the referee will shout “Kick it!” after a line of dialogue. The actor that delivered the line begins the rap and the rap ends when the rapper yells “WORD!” Other players can join in.

New Choice
(2-3 Players)
From time to time during a scene, a caller shouts “New choice” and the actor must replace his previous line of dialogue or action with a new one. The caller may clarify what to replace. For example: “New way to enter” or “New response”.

(4-6 Players)
All performers start off stage. Once the suggestion is given, Player 1 enters and begins a scene alone. After Player 1 establishes a scene, another player claps in, freezes the scene, enters, and starts a brand new scene with brand new characters, utilizing the frozen position of the other player(s). This continues, with each person entering one at a time, starting a new scene, and justifying the physical positions of the other players. Once the last player (Player 6) has entered and established their scene, they must justify a reason for their character to leave the scene. Once Player 6 leaves the stage, the scene then reverts to the scene that Player 5 started when they entered. The performers then continue “peeling off” the layers, going through the scenes in reverse order until they get back to the initial scene established by Player 1. The physical positions should be rejustified as the scenes are peeling off, as well.

Point of View (Rashomon)
(2 Players)
A short scene is played by neutral characters. The scene is then replayed from each character’s point of view. The point-of-view character remains neutral, but the rest of the scene changes to show how that character perceived the original scene. For example: A parent sees the child as a pain and themselves as reasonable, then the kid sees himself as reasonable and the parent as heartless.

Sit Stand Kneel (Lie down)
(3-4 Players)
At any time during the scene, there must be one player sitting, one standing, and one kneeling. An optional fourth player may be laying down. No two players can be in the same position at any time.

Slumdog Date Night 
(2-4 Players)
From a location suggestion, two players take the roles of people on a first (or early) date. We follow their date as they get to know each other, and throughout the scene, other players can support as passing characters or, more importantly, call for flashbacks for an individual character. (“Flashback CHARACTER NAME”) Like in its namesake film Slumdog Millionaire, these flashbacks are used to inform the present scene. The flashbacks reveal characteristics or histories that affect their behavior on the date. 

Sounds Like a Song
(4 Players)
At various times during the scene, a caller will shout “Sounds like a song!” after lines of dialogue. The actor who delivered the line of dialogue then breaks into song using the line as inspiration. The characters should sing to the other characters, who can hear the song and are allowed to join in.

Doesn’t Sound Like A Song
(4 Players)
Same as above, but opposite. The actors will be singing the whole time, however at various times during this scene, a caller will shout “That doesn't Sound like a Song!” The accompanist will stop playing, and the actor who was last singing speaks their last sung line to begin a normal non-musical scene. Then the musician will sneak back in with music and when the actors hear the music come back in they will start singing again until the next time the caller calls "That doesn't Sound like a Song!"

(4-5 Players)
The team performs a one-minute scene. One player is removed and the remaining members must perform the same scene again, covering all the important actions and dialogue. Performers can jump back and forth between characters from the original scene. Continue removing performers and repeating the scene until one person has to do the entire scene by themselves. Be sure to establish CORE in the original scene. 

Word Count
(3-4 Players)
Each of the players in this game will be assigned a number between one and ten. Every sentence that the player speaks must contain their assigned number of words.

Mechanics & Creativity Games

These games will be scored using two 1-10 point scales measuring mechanics and creativity. The mechanics score will reflect how well the performers followed the rules of the game. The creativity score will reflect their… creativity.

2 Headed Expert
(4 Players)
Two pairs of performers put on a scene. The first talk by trading off saying every other word. They act as one person who is an expert on a topic suggested by the audience. The other pair must speak in unison. They act as one person who is either interviewing or learning from the first pair.

Chain Murder Mystery
(4 Players)
Three suggestions are taken for this game. They follow the acronym LOW: Location, Occupation, and Weapon. Typically, the suggestions taken are unusual for a real crime. Three players start the game out of the room. One person stays to hear all of the suggestions. This performer then conveys to the next person, via mime and gibberish, all three clues. Once the new player thinks he has it, he kills off the first player using the weapon, and gameplay continues until the fourth player kills player three. Afterward, they all stand up and the final player tells us what he believed the suggestions were.

Hoe Down
(4 Players)
This is a singing game in which actors line up and each sing a stanza of a country western hoedown song. The rhyme pattern for the stanza is AABB. At the end of the song all 4 players sing the final punchline together. Here’s an awful track if you need background music!

Interrogation (Good Cop Bad Cop)
(3-4 Players)
One actor is the criminal and is sent outside while suggestions are taken from the audience. The remaining actors are detectives. There has been a murder and the the suspect will be interrogated, but they do not know who they murdered, with what, or where. Get suggestions from the audience of a famous person, an object, and a location. The job of the detectives is to lead the criminal to guess the details of the crime through verbal clues. The detectives should act as if they are speaking with a suspect, using leading questions and verbal clues to help the criminal guess what he or she has done. 

Irish Pub Song
(4 Players)
Four players sing a song about a subject, suggested by the audience, on an Irish-sounding tune, one line at a time. Four lines makes a verse. After the first verse, Player 2 starts the second verse. This pattern continues through four verses so that every player has started a verse. Each player sings half a line at a time, and the rhyme pattern is ABCB. Here’s a track to use for background music if needed!

Late to Work
(4 Players)
There is one guesser, two clue givers, and the boss. The guesser has to guess three things: how he was trying to get to work, what stopped him, and how he overcame that obstacle. The clue givers may only do charades, and must help the guesser without getting caught by the boss. The clue givers are also employees in the scene and they must justify their actions if the boss turns to check on them.

Head-to-Head Games

These games will only be played in the head-to-head rounds. Entire teams will be competing against one another. A referee will run this competition and award points, but these points will not be factored into teams’ scores. Judges will never score head-to-head rounds. They are just for fun!

Beastie Rap
This rap game will be performed to a track and the first rhyme word will be given. The first player raps the beginning of a line, and their team must finish the last word for them, Beastie Boys style. After a measure of rest, a player from the opposing team starts a line and their team guesses their intended rhyme word at the end of the line. Players on both teams alternate until a failure. A point is earned when the opposing team fails to come up with a line or fails to guess the final word. Might as well practice to the real thing.

Last Action Line
The audience will suggest a topic, then performers give witty last lines before killing the player in the front. For example: [audience suggests “Traditional dwellings”] “This is gonna yurt.” After the line and murder, players stay in the front until another player comes to deliver a new pun and death blow.

Players get the initials of an audience member (For example, OWS) and must perform short scenes that begin with one player saying three words that start with those initials (Ouch! Why, Shannon?) They may say no more than those three words to start that scene, then the other player must justify that opening sentence (I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hit you with the baseball!) The scene continues for a few more lines until new players run in and begin a new scene using those same initials (One without sriracha).

Try That on for Size
Players from each team stand next to each other. One performs a motion from a suggestion from the audience (washing hair) and says, “I’m washing my hair. Try that on for size.” The player from the other team copies the motion, but says something different that still makes sense, like “I’m checking for ticks. Try that on for size.” The two go back and forth with the same motion until someone repeats or messes up. They are replaced by the next member of their team who then starts a new motion.

An audience member comes onstage and is seated in a chair. The referee gets a suggestion from the audience, and the audience member will say "Waiter, there's a [suggestion] in my soup!". One player at a time will go up to the audience member and make a pun related to the suggestion. All puns should be delivered as if the players are employees of the restaurant where the audience member is eating.

What You Got?
This rap battle game will be played with a track. The referee gives a pair of suggestions, one for each team (For example: “Oldest sibling” and “Youngest sibling”). One player from each team comes up with a line and a physical action based on their suggestion. They say line in rhythm once and their team joins them for two repeats, then motions to other team saying, “Whatchu got?!” The opposing team responds in the same way. When a team hesitates, messes up, or the referee arbitrarily decides, teams rotate and the next player on each team leads with new suggestions. Here’s a track to practice to!

Worlds Worst
4-6 Players
A moderator asks the audience for a situation, profession, or title. The players line up across the back of the stage. The moderator calls out the chosen suggestion as “World’s Worst __”. The players then take turns making micro scenes individually or together featuring the world’s worst version of the suggestion. For the suggestion “World’s worst babysitter,” a player could bring another player up and sit on them, acting as the world’s worst babysitter. As soon as the current call-for feels exhausted, the moderator will pick another.