I've talked in recent weeks about the smearing of magic outside the confines of the trick itself.
Reps are a way of smearing the magic past the conclusion of an effect.
Before I explain what it is and what it means, I'll start with an example. This is something my friend and JAMM/Jerx AV-guy AC used to do a long time ago when we were in our teens and he has continued to do for twenty years. The first time I saw it was at a card game in the high school lunchroom. But he says he's done it "probably 50 times" over the years at family functions, with friends, co-workers, even with strangers on Amtrak trains. There is a deck of cards on the table. The deck is not AC's, but he asks if people would like to see a card trick before they get to whatever game the cards had been brought out to play. People pretty much always agree to that.
So AC has someone pick a card and show everyone except himself. Let's say it's the six of diamonds. The cards is shuffled back into the deck and he says he's going to find the card. He looks through the cards and pulls out the card he thinks it is. It's the four of clubs. He's wrong. "Oh, what card was it?" he asks. They say the six of diamonds. "Watch," he says, "with a wave of my hand I'll turn the four into the six of diamonds." And with the wave of his hand, the four of clubs changes into the six of diamonds. Nice trick, nicely done. Nothing earth shattering.
Everyone settles around the table to play the game.
"Oh, wait," AC says. "Do you have a permanent marker or something?" They ask what he needs it for. "So we can write on this six of diamonds that it's actually the four of clubs." Everyone tries to understand what he's saying. "Remember? I turned the four of clubs into the six of diamonds. So now we have two of those." He spreads the deck and pulls out the other six of diamonds. There is no four of clubs.
Those of you who actually interact with people will not be surprised to learn that this moment actually gets a more profound reaction than the trick itself did. Not in the "wow" sense, but in the lingering "magical" sense. The trick itself was just "a magic trick." It lived in that black box. But this was... what was this? Now we have two 6 of diamonds, no 4 of clubs, and for the rest of the night whenever they see that jacked-up 6D/4C they're reminded of the trick. Actually, this little idea is even more devious than that. Because it's not only for the rest of the night, but whenever that deck is used in the future that story is remembered and often retold.
You might think, "But certainly it's obvious that he just brought a dupe that matched the deck he knew they used, he introduced it into the deck, and then he stole out the other card after the effect when people's guards were down." You'd think that might be obvious, but having seen this play out, and having done it myself a few times, I can tell you it's not. I can't say 100% why not. I'd have to really break it down with people to figure it out. I'm guessing it's because people aren't inclined to scrutinize stuff that happens outside the box of the trick.
This is why I'm so focused recently on obscuring the edges of that box. I think it makes the magic trick a slightly different type of experience. And thus it can generate different types of reactions beyond the canned responses people have prepared for a trick.
In the example above all he's doing is treating the effect as if it had some repercussions. If you were to really magically change one card to another (and not magically exchange the cards) then what you would have is two of one card and none of the other. And going forward you'd have to deal with that minor inconvenience. (If someone says, "just change it back" then you say. "That's not how it works. I could change the card into your selected card, but not backwards. The butcher can change the pig into bacon, but not the bacon into a pig.")
To extend the magic past the climax of the trick, give a trick some repercussions.
That's what Reps are (repercussions) and, like Imps, I have a document with dozens of them that I've been testing out.
Think of how magic is normally presented. "I have five 1 dollar bills. Now I've changed them into five 100 dollar bills. Now I'll put them in my pocket. See you later." So often it's presented as if someone had challenged you to do so in the least compelling way possible. We present things as if we want them to be dismissed. "I'm going to do this really quick and then go into another effect." That's maybe appropriate if you're table-hopping, but if you're performing in social situations you can do so in a way that makes the experience much richer for people.
Reps are a way of letting that bell ring and resonate past the conclusion of a trick.
Often Reps will be trick-specific. But I'll finish this post with some broad categories that you may be able to use in a general way. And then in the future I'll explore the concept in more depth.
Physical repercussions: Maybe you perform a trick and you're completely drained of energy for the rest of the night. "I can break this lightbulb with my mind, but if I do I won't be able to go bowling with you guys. I'll probably just crash in bed for the rest of the evening."
Or perhaps it's the opposite, maybe you need to absorb a lot of energy to do a trick so the repercussion is that you're bouncing off the walls after. "Hell yeah! I'm all charged up now. Let's go do something. Let's go bowling."
Don't torture yourself. Let the Rep be based on what you actually want to do (for example, if you want to go bowling or not). You can use the reps as an excuse for what you're inclined to do anyways. "Sure, future mother-in-law, I'll read your mind. But then I'm going to have to go in my room and play video games for a while away from all of you here. Once you open up that channel of communication it remains open for a while. And it would be like hearing 6 radios playing different things all at once if I were to stay out here with all of you and participate in the wedding planning."
There are innumerable other physical Reps you could consider. Put a little fake blood in a tissue and stash it in the bathroom. Then, after some mental exhibition, start doing a couple heavy sniffs through your nose. Then hustle off to the bathroom where you get a tissue (your prepped one) and come out faking a nose bleed. "No big deal. This happens."
Or get some of these and some blood capsules and spit a bloody tooth into the kitchen sink after a trick. Collect some of your hair and make it seem like a clump of it fell out after you perform something. Who knows how some mental effect might affect someone?
I haven't done the full tooth thing, but I do have a chipped tooth in the back of my mouth (tragic Sugar Babies incident) and I have spit out a piece of "enamel" (a chip off a piece of Dentyne ice gum) after some trick of the mind. "Aw shit," I say. Then I explain, "it requires a lot of energy to do that and it can reverberate in weird ways in your skull. Eh... that sucks. It could be worse. I know a guy who did that trick and his jaw broke in three places. Like you really have to struggle to keep the energy contained sometimes."
Financial repercussions: If you magically produce something of value and then let your spectator keep it, then that trick has a repercussion for both you and the spectator. You're losing something of value and she's gaining it; that goes past the trick itself. If you do the $100 Bill Switch and then let them keep the new, higher value bill, that's a much more intense effect than changing a bill and changing it back and putting it in your pocket (no repercussions for anyone).
Again, you can use this Rep to justify something you wanted to do anyway. Want to help someone out financially, but don't want them to feel indebted to you? Well, maybe you try out this Tibetan Blessings ritual you read about. (Perhaps a variation on Blomberg's Konami Code. You shuffle up a series of cards that direct you around your back yard and you dig a hole wherever you land. When you try it, nothing happens. When they try it, they find, buried in the ground, a small ratty bundle of cash. You see how, presented this way, they might still suspect you orchestrated it all, but you can deny it forever so they can never 100% know what really happened. This is a combination of a lot of ideas presented on this site (Imps, buy-ins, engagement ceremonies, Reps, smear technique) all of which demolish traditional "trick" structure. This transforms "magic tricks" into magical moments and experiences.)
I'm not suggesting it's feasible to give away 100s of dollars on a regular basis. But on certain occasions you may want to do something like that. And you can get a similar reactions with smaller investments. Change a $1 to a $5 or $20 and let them keep it. "Yeah, sure. You can have it. I mean, I wouldn't take it to the bank... that might get you in trouble. But you can spend it at a store or a fast food place or something. I can almost guarantee they won't find anything weird about it." You may find it's worth $4 or $19 to mess with people like that.
Mental Repercussions: Perhaps mind reading and other mental feats aren't a zero sum game. Maybe there are repercussions for taxing your mind in that way. Perhaps it manifests as a very subtle, low-level dementia or amnesia throughout the night. Maybe you just keep forgetting your friend's name. Or some kind of aphasia where you start using the wrong words. You warn the people you're with that this can happen and not to freak out. And perhaps it doesn't even happen, perhaps just the expectation of this Rep is enough to extend the experience of the effect.
If someone was performing a demonstration of great physical strength, we would expect him to be worn down and in recovery for some period afterwards. The idea that a mental demonstration might slow you down mentally to some degree afterwards is perfectly understandable.
Environmental Repercussions: I haven't played with these much yet, but I definitely think about them. An environmental Rep would be any sort of thing that doesn't affect you or your participant, but it affects the world around you. Maybe you summon a spirit and then afterwards a bunch of mirrors in that room are cracked, or your dog refuses to go in the room, or the flowers on the table are dead. These are things that aren't done as part of the trick, they're just noticed sometime after. So you have some leeway methodologically.
Maybe when something is restored something else in room has to break (to balance the energy in the world). Similarly, maybe restoring order to a mixed-up deck requires there to be a minor explosion of entropy in some other area of the house.
I have a friend who wants to do a Telekinetic Timber effect where everyone in the room concentrates and causes a block of wood to tip over. And then moments later the repercussion of all this concentrated energy is a hyper-localized earthquake, shaking the house. We have no idea how this could be accomplished (other than maybe doing it in a trailer-house or something and having people outside literally shake the trailer around). While we may never come up with a workable method for this, it's the sort of thing where thinking big usually generates more interesting ideas than thinking "workable."
With Imps and Reps we are essentially fleshing out the story of a trick's cause and effect. This may seem like mere ornamentation for a trick, but what I've found, and what other people I know who are exploring similar ideas have found, is that it's these things that spectators remember. So I don't think these things are inconsequential. In fact it's pretty clear to me that the actual mechanics of an effect are somewhat irrelevant once you get past the level of basic deceptiveness. What people remember aren't all the trick details. They remember being creeped out by going to the cemetery to see something strange, or how you were slurring your words after the mind-reading demonstration, or the peculiarity of following some weird instructions you found in faded pencil in the back of this old book you bought at a garage sale. Of course, having a strong trick is important to justify all this extra stuff. But it's the extra stuff that stays with people the most.
I've never had someone come up to me two years later and say, "Aw man, you know what trick I remember? The one where you made four piles and you placed the ace of clubs on the bottom of one pile and it rose to the top. Then you placed the ace of diamonds on the top of the next pile and it sank to the bottom. Then you placed the ace of hearts on the third pile and it reversed itself. Then you shuffled the ace of diamonds into the fourth pile and found it by spelling to it. That really affected me deeply. It reminded me of the times my grandpa would make four piles and place the ace of clubs on the bottom of one pile and make it rise to the top. Then he'd place the ace of diamonds on the top of the next pile and it would sink to the bottom. Then he'd place the ace of hearts on the third pile and it would reverse itself. Then he'd shuffle the ace of diamonds into the fourth pile and find it by spelling to it."