Improv 101 — Story

Story, or as it may also be known, Story Story Die, is a group game that is simple in concept, but can actually get pretty difficult once the cast has experience with it. In this game, a bunch of people stand in a line while the ref/coach points to them. Whichever actor is being pointed at is the one narrating a story, and the idea is to have one cohesive narration regardless of how quickly the ref moves their finger.

This game works best with at least six people, but can work with up to about twelve before things get a little boring. This is the first of a sub-genre of group games, however: elimination. Whenever somebody messes up, they are out, and can no longer play. The ref or coach gets a suggestion of a book that has never been written (Typically you’ll get a title like The Lost Shovel or The Little Engine That Couldn’t because people aren’t very imaginative). Then, starting with chapter one and speaking one at a time, the improvisers will narrate the tale of insert possibly clever title here. When somebody “messes up”, they are out, and that chapter concludes, starting over a new narration sequence with chapter two, until finally you only have two people left (which will usually be around chapter eight or so).

So, what constitutes as “messing up”, you ask, oh theoretical reader? There’s a number of ways. The idea here is that the actors are reading from a book. If an actor says something that doesn’t make grammatical sense with what the person said before it, they’re out. If they stutter or mess up their own sentence, they’re out. If they take too long to say anything (hesitation), they’re out.  They can also be eliminated by a number of additional rules to make the game harder as the game progresses (rules you can also begin with depending on how skilled the cast is).

The biggest rule to establish if the previous ones no longer work is the cutting of stalling techniques. “So”, “Decided to”, “And…”, “uhhh…” that sort of thing. With this rule, if an actor says or does anything that doesn’t add to the story, they are subject to elimination. My favorite phrase is “… and so they decided to….” because that can provide an extra two seconds to figure out what you’re going to say and it makes use of nearly every common stalling technique. Nearly everyone says it at some point in their improv career.

Lastly, when all else fails, you can eliminate letters themselves from the game. “No more words that start with the letter C”, or even “No more words that contain the letter E at all“. It’s hilarious to watch somebody struggle with talking with multiple rules like that in place. For my group, typically the final two improvisers will have two or three letter eliminating rules like that, usually making it impossible to say a main character’s name, or even mention and important plot object (say, a shovel). The best part about this rule is that you can pile more and more on, and regardless of how experienced the cast is, it will always overcome them eventually.

This game is pretty fun and my troupe has a lot of inside jokes from past runthroughs. It’s easy to play, but it forces beginning actors to really start thinking and getting into an “improv” mindset where other games do not.

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