Stay In Character
players.png ~1-12
time.png 10 min
props.png cue-deck × 0 inspire-deck × 0 dice × 0 a timer big enough that every player can see / Game Cards (downloadable) / a writing utensil for each player

Similar to leveling up RPG game style characters, but for music improvisation!
Each player picks a different Character with specific limited musical skills. At certain times throughout the game every player can level up their skills opening up new musical possibilities. There are also Chance Cards and Soundpainting! What kind of character will you be? Choose your skill paths wisely and experience the creative mysteries of this musical adventure!


Download the ‘Stay In Character PACKAGE’.

Character cards

These are the cards from the package that each player will choose to play the game with. Print all the pages in multiple copies, two-sided (so you get the front of the card on one side of the paper and the back of the card on the other side of the paper).

I recommending printing the cards big enough so the players can easily read them during the game. I print each card on standard size office paper (A4 in the US).

There are 7 Character Cards.
Here is one Character Card:

Take some of the Character cards out if you think that they won’t work with your specific group. For example for those not into music theory, you can build groups using Characters such as “Weird Noises”, “Ambience”, possibly even “Rhythm”.

Repeated Characters are fine. Get creative with your group. Enjoy mixing and matching Characters! Players don’t have to pick Characters that directly relate to their instruments. Each Character is designed to work with any instrument. For example “Rhythm” doesn’t have to be only for drummers or percussionists.

Chance cards

Next, in the ‘Stay In Character PACKAGE’ find the ’Stay In Character CHANCE CARDS’ and print them. Cut them out and put them in one big pile. Shuffle them.

Set up

Character cards

Each player picks 1 character. Characters will be in charge of roles and other players will have to follow them. The Rhythm Character is in charge of the tempo of the music. If there are more than one of the same Rhythm Character then the highest Tempo skill level is followed by all Characters, hence multiple Rhythm Characters will have to see each others cards.

If Characters are missing then Players are free to play anything those Characters would normally control. For example, if there is no Rhythm Character then the group can play at any tempo or tempos they want to.

Before the game each player should look over the Skills, Skill Levels, and notes carefully. Read the back of your Character’s card carefully. If you see a number like this: (1), read it’s corresponding note on the back of the Character Card. Understand your limitations. You can think about a loose route to take or leave it up to the moment. The Skill Levels with an X in their boxes are free to use from the start.


Chance Cards

Every player gets 3 Chance Cards each. The Ambience Character gets 4 additional cards that can only be used with the Group Chance Card Skill Set.
Players can’t see their Chance Cards until they use them.
Use a Skill Point to pick a Chance Card.
You must follow the instructions on the card for the time remaining until your next skill point (30 secs or 1 min).
During your Chance, you are free to ignore any restraints (Skill Levels or otherwise) you have.
Some Chance Cards are very clear with instructions and some are vague insisting on interpretation.
There are 48 unique Chance Cards in total.
And as always, you are making music with the other players. Always connect!
Here are a few examples of Chance Cards:
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41208156491_a171380af4_n.jpg 39397686460_85d7b2c83a_n.jpg 41208156011_873b30c167_n.jpg

Gameplay instructions

Start the timer and begin improvising. A count-off is suggested, preferably by a Rhythm Character.
Players don’t have to start playing right away. But every player must strictly follow the timer to level up Skills.

Every player must improvise under their character only. Each Character has it’s own unique 5 Skills with 5 different Skill Levels. Every player starts on the first Level of every Skill. They already have Xs under them. This is free and doesn’t count as a level up.

Add a Skill Level every 30 seconds. Mark off the chosen Skill Level in the box under it with a writing utensil.
Make the transitions from one Skill Level to the next seamless and natural.
You don’t have to use a new Skill Level immediately after it’s chosen, or at all. You simply have the choice to use it anytime you want.

A Skill Level allows you to play any value up to that Skill Level. For example, the ‘Rhythm Character’ starts with a Half Note value. But, you can play anything longer such as whole notes.
When you level up a Skill usually you’re adding to what you’re already allowed to play. For example, with the ‘Bass Character’ the first Skill is to play only a root (the 1 of the chord playing), but when you level up to the second Skill called “5th” you can now play the 5th of the chord as well as the root.
Any Skill for your Character can be chosen in any order, or not at all, but the Skill Level must be chosen in order from left to right.

At the 6min mark, you can only choose a new Skill Level every 1 minute until the end at 10 minutes (4 Skill Levels left at this point. 14 Skills Levels total).

Group Chance Cards: Note to all players on the Group Chance Cards Skill Set for the Ambience Character (if you’re not using an Ambience Character then you can disregard this).
This skill set allows the Ambience Character to choose a Chance Card and hold it up, or pass it around, for the group to follow. So, if you see the Ambience Character doing this you must follow what is on the card. It cannot be used during Soundpainting (see below). The Ambience Character can hold up to 4 Group Chance Cards at separate times. Every player, including the Ambience Character, must continue to follow the card until the next Skill Level (30sec. or 1min.).

Soundpainting: Note to all players on the Soundpainting Conduct Skill Level for the Weird Noises Character (if you’re not using a Weird Noises Character then you can disregard this).
Soundpainting is when all players, as a whole, must interpret the Soundpainter’s movements into music. The Soundpainter cannot play while conducting. After the Soundpainter acquires the skill level then he may start anytime after by moving in front of all the players and raising both hands in the air. At this point, all Players must interpret the Soundpainter’s movements into music. Musically following the gestures and movements how they see fit. There is no truly correct way. This will continue for as long as the Soundpainter wants, or until the game is over, at the 10-minute mark. All Players, except the Soundpainter, must continue to level up their skills during Soundpainting. To stop Soundpainting the Soundpainter will lay down on the ground for a few seconds then return to his instrument area. The Players continue playing how they like, without stopping.

Most important: listen to the players around you and make music together!

Game end

The game is over at 10 minutes.
The group should work on an ending when the 10-minute mark approaches.

Gamemaster's notes

Note about effect pedals: Unless otherwise noted per Character effect pedals can only be used when the Skill Level is reached. However, certain pedals can be used from the beginning such as compressors, noise gates, (subtle) gain, and EQs. But, can only be used for the function of clarity of instruments. Ex. a mic’ed acoustic guitar relies on EQ to stop feedback from occurring.

You have 14 chances to choose from 20 new Skill Levels, 3 Chance Cards, and a few other surprises!

Don’t be surprised at some of the strange actions of other players at any time. Do not attempt to stop them. They are merely following the rules!

This is a deep game that may take some time to learn, but it's extremely rewarding on so many levels!

There are also Empty Character cards included in the package so you can create your own characters!

Different decks will be added later. Coming soon: Specific Instrument Deck.

For those without a large timer: If you search "timer" in Google you will be directed to the Google Timer. Expand it to full screen on your laptop and set it for 10:00. If you have a projector even better.


Free Power Up: Before you begin every player can choose one Skill Level. First row only. Eh, I don't like this but I learned that some people play it this way :(
Easy version: Only characters; no Skills or Skill Levels.
Extended version: New Skill Level every 1 minute, at the 11-minute mark every 2 minutes, end at 20 minutes.


Coming soon!


Marcus Staniec (notrightmusic)
Copyright 2018 (Can be used in performances of any kind. The game itself must not be sold)

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