Needed: warm-up excersise/ice-breaker

edited May 2013 in Story Games
I'm designing a freeform game for four players. I need a good physical warm-up excersise that will help break the ice. The game's theme is quite serious in nature, and the gameplay might be heavy, so I want the warm-up to be relatively light hearted (without necessarily being ha-ha-hilarious). Any ideas?


  • -Take turns and have each one say one thing they like about freeform games. Next do the same about things each one doesn't like. Now you've got parameters for the veil.

    Uhh, now you'll need to have something that connects people a bit in an emotional sense. I was about to suggest to have each one share one good memory of their own, but you may consider this too invasive among strangers or perhaps too much time taxing. I'm out of ideas for now, sorry.
  • Here are two old standards:

    Stand in a circle. A makes a face at B, who stands to their left. B mimicks the face back at A, then makes a new face at C... pass it around a few times. You can add a sound to the faces, if you like.

    Alternately, pass a sound and a gesture around the circle in one direction. When the players get good at it, add a second sound and gesture. See if you can get them going in different directions.
  • edited May 2013
    What's In Your Closet?
    Two people are standing in front of each other. One person ask the other person what's in that person's closet, and the person pretends to open a door and ask what the first person sees. The first person then asks why the second person have an X in the closet, and that person has to come up with an answer.

    "What's in your closet?"
    "Why don't you take a look?"
    "Why do you have an elephant in the closet?"
    "I got it at half price."

    We're Building a Tree
    We are going to make a painting by being the elements in a painting. The first person stands at one spot and tells the others, while portraying it, that the person is a tree. It's then someone else's turn to "enter the painting" and portray a new element. It has to be something that's relevant to what's already in the painting (a tree). This continues up until the last person. To continue this exercise, everybody except the last person, leaves the spot where the "painting" is. The last person keeps it's element and it's up to the rest to continue on that.

    "I'm a tree."
    "I'm a writer under the tree."
    "I'm the writer's depression." (last person)

    "I'm depression."
    "I'm France."
    "I'm in war with France."
  • I love the world building aspects of Fate games for that reason. It gets people talking, creative, and invested.
  • One of my favorite theater camp games was always The Knife. Players stand in a circle and the facilitator throws an imaginary knife at someone else. If they catch it, they throw it at someone else. If they aren't posting attention our choose not to catch it then they die. Play continues until all are dead or time is up.
  • Invisible knife! That one is fun. Another good one is Zip Zap Zop. Improv warmups tend to be really good at combining focus and activity.
  • I got ideas, but do you want the exercise to be a lead up to play?
    Do you want the exercise to hint at theme?
    I mean, shaking hands is nice, and introducing yourself.
    I imagine I could give a better example if I knew a bit about the theme, or the requirements of play.
  • Invisible knife! That one is fun. Another good one is Zip Zap Zop. Improv warmups tend to be really good at combining focus and activity.
    Zip Zap Zop all the way.
  • For a heavy game, I would never run a lighthearted warmup. The warmup up should warm up the players in more than one sense.
    1: It opens the players to each other, removing shyness.
    2: It helps set the mood for the subject matter.

    I run a lot of games written by other people, and most have suggestions for warmup exercises. Many of them are there because the writers have been told that they need to be there, but have never really thought of what they DO.

    A few examples: I was running Suldrup, a game about a very real murder, with one player playing the victim and the others her daughter and husband, both suspects. The game is about their lives leading up to the murder (it was never proven whether the husband or the daughter did the deed) and is a very solemn affair. Not violent. Sad, maybe. Quietly horrible.
    The way I ran warmup was to enter the room, lower the lights and speak softly. I had the players close their eyes and listen as I described a few facts about the murder and the family. I had them answer a simple question: Why did she have to die? And, lo and behold, they spoke respectfully in a soft voice, and even, when we were in the questions mode of play (it switched between playing out scenes and asking and answering questions) the players kept their eyes cklosed (not my intention, but it worked) and spoke softly.

    Dulce et Decorum, a rather horrifying and wonderful WW1 storygame about life in the trenches, began with the players lying, eyes closed, on the floor, imagining various aspects of warfare, the smell of gunpowder, blood, deafening booms and such. Worked great.

    If I run a relationship drama, my favourite warmup is having two players face one another. I give them a part and set the scene, usually "You just got home from work. Your husband's in the kitchen unpacking groceries". Then I let them play the scene, and, using bird in the ear, add a complication. Then I let them play for a minute an pull out one player (physically) and push someone into that part. I keep escalating the conflict and keep switching the players to keep them on their toes.

    As for bad examples, I've seen them with games like the ones mentioned above, where the writer used children's games as warmup, a very common thing. Except people don't war up to the game. They may war up to each other, but not the game. Warmup should always set the mood for the subject matter, shape the mind for the theme.
  • edited May 2013
    Thanks for the thoughts, Tore.

    The scenario is in the Danish/Swedish freeform tradition, and I will pitch it for Danish Fastaval next year. It features a main character who has to deal with a psychiatric disorder (bipolar 1) and substance abuse (co-morbidity). There will be a warm up where the players are asked to talk about experiences with psychiatric disorders (to get them in mood/mindset for the scenario), and then the impro warm up I'm asking for help with. As the scenario involves some touching, it would be good to prepare the ground for that in the warm-up excersise. Play is physical, it's played out on the floor. Semi-larpish. That's also a reason that I want the physical impro warmup. As the content of the game is quite heavy, I'd like the warm-up to be relatively "light", without leaving the players giggling, though. Opening a safe space. Making everyone feel comfortable playing together. If you see what I'm getting at. But you may be right that it's a poor choice. Playtest will tell.
  • The human knot game is a nice quick game that introduces some mild touching and helps people become physically and emotionally comfortable with each other as a group. However, it doesn't work well for people who struggle with normal physicality - my sister would not be able to do it with her super bad back (like, she has pain med implants, it's that bad) but my coworker, who can't do much exercise because of his bad back would probably be OK.
  • olepeder, send me the game when you have a draft. I'm sort of infamous at fastaval for running any game I can get my hands on (I ran 10 games and 2 workshops this year), so I do have some experience in what works and what doesn't.
    For your game, what little I know of it, I'd say begin with describing the mental illness and how it affects people. You might get players who'd play a bipolar as a raving lunatic, because mental illness=insanity in their uninformed minds. As for touching, I usually just ask what peoples limits are, usually everyone's fine as long as there's no kissing or groping of genitals.
  • olepeder, send me the game when you have a draft. I'm sort of infamous at fastaval for running any game I can get my hands on (I ran 10 games and 2 workshops this year), so I do have some experience in what works and what doesn't.
    That'd be great, thanks for the offer! The first draft is ready, and will be playtested Tuesday next week. Please PM me your e-mail, or mail me at ole.peder.giaever [], and I'll send it over.

  • oooh, lovely! My email's
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