Anthill in Store Dyrehave – Portraits of Places

On a walk in Store Dyrehave outside Hillerød i found this massive anthill, and decided to film it.

I’m a bit surprised that my camera can handle this kind of close ups, but it was fun to play around with.

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Did you know that:

  • Ant colonies can have up to 100 queens. This happens because queens that have mated are sometimes adopted back into their old colony instead of flying off and forming their own new colony.
  • This kind of ant is commonly used in forestry and is often introduced into an area as a form of pest management.
  • Wood ants typically have multiple nests so they can move around in case of drastic changes in the environment.

Eventyrridderne at Copenhagen Medieval Market 2018

Every year thousands of people attend the large medieval market. I was there to photodocument Eventyriddernes huge stand at the market. I took the opportunity to also film a bit from it. This made it a very different film from my first few films, as there are suddenly humans present.

Eventyrridderne is a danish nonprofit event and roleplay company that sell roleplay events. Anything from birthday parties to company events. It was cool to see just how popular they were at the market. They had a slew of things children could do. From building their own foam sword to fighting monsters.

It was my first time visiting Copenhagen Medieval Market, it is a big market, with all kinds of stands. It seems like the rules regarding authenticity are a bit more relaxed than the only other market I have been to, The European Medieval Festival in Horsens. At Horsens they are a bit more restrictive whereas it seems that at Copenhagen everyone could bring and be what they wanted. I’m not saying which is better, but they give different experiences for both participants and guests.

Whereas my other films where more slow and meditative, this is a bit more action filled, that was a fun difference to work with. But I’m in doubt on whether or not to include it in the Portrait of Places series. What do you think?

Branddam outside Herfølge – Portraits of Places

On the main road between Herfølge and Køge lies a small cluster of houses, some factories a few farms and this very unremarkable pond. It is either for overflow or a reservoir in the case of fire. Whatever the reason it is neither famous nor particularly pretty.

But one of the things I would like to do with Portraits of Places, other than practice at filming and editing, is to show the beauty in the unremarkable.

So one cold autumn morning, I noticed that the light from an early sunrise gave a strange beauty to the lake and its surroundings, so I grabbed my camera and filmed what you see here.

This film might not be as pretty as the others, but I find a sort of eerily beauty in it, I hope you enjoy it.

The Tropical Houses in Aarhus Botanical Gardens – Portraits of Places

The second film in the portrait of places series I’m making, as a way to improve my filming skills and give you something nice and relaxing to watch. I hope you enjoy it.

Feedback is very welcome, and please do subscribe for more calming breaks from around Denmark.

I have always found the tropical house in Aarhus an interesting experience. Because you move along a very long greenhouse, the climate changing each time you pass through a door. From temperate forest to dry dessert ending up in the warm and humid jungle in the biggest greenhouse. It’s almost like traveling through different dimensions.

I have missed going to the place ever since it closed down for renovations in 2010. It reopened with a huge new expansion in 2014. But it wasn’t until just before I moved away from Hobro I managed to swing by The Tropical Houses in the autumn of 2017, to experience the new buildings.

The old main greenhouse, that before housed the rainforest, is now a nice open visitor center and cafe. But what catches your eye is the large bubble like expansion, that now houses the rainforest.

It’s quite an impressive experience and I can highly recommend it as a nice way of getting some warmth back in your body during a cold winter’s day. Also it’s free, so if you are in Aarhus, you should really go there.

I realize now after the film, that I should perhaps have noted the name of all of the plants, I filmed, so I could have added their names to the film. But maybe if I do Copenhagen Botanical Gardens I will try that then.

I film with a handheld SLR camera, and that is very apparent here. If this is something I want to do more of, I might have to invest in a stabilizer.

Vesterfjord – Portraits of Places

I want to become better at filming and editing. So I have set myself a little challenge:
I have to publish a film once a week.

To keep it simple in the beginning, I’m making something I for fun call “Portraits of Places.”

The idea is that I film a certain place, and though visual means try and show what kind of a place this is.

Why should you watch them? Well other than to give me some helpful feedback, so I can become better, I try to make these first films simple, pretty and relaxing. So use the films as a little short break to look at something nice and uncomplicated.

I have had the idea for some time, so the first films are from the autumn and winter. But in this heat I think that is a welcome reminder, that it will get colder again.

I hope you enjoy the film, read about Vesterfjord below:

Vesterfjord

The first place I portray is Vesterfjord near Hobro. It’s a brackish lake, that used to be the end tip of Mariagerfjord. But the town of Hobro, that lies between Vesterfjord and the rest of Mariagerfjord grew bigger and in the end the connection between Vesterfjord and the sea became a small stream, turning Vesterfjord into a lake.

Because Hobro practically lies around this little oasis of nature it is a favorited walking spot for many locals. I often walked around it, when I lived in Hobro. It’s nice for a short walk, if you don’t want to brave the longer routes that the area is full of.

The cows in the film graze the marsh lands that surround the lake, to keep it from overgrowing. A small sign friendly informs the public that this bread of cow apparently is adapt at this kind of wetland.

This first film is edited on iMovie, but since then I have moved to Premiere Pro, so I can’t make changes to it. If I could I would properly have reduced the amount of time the snail gets, and cut the last few clips.

I hope you enjoy this little silly break.

Writing games down the black box way

I designed my first black box larp, “Waiting for GO901” back in 2014 but it was only in 2016 that i finally made the larp script available. A stark contrast from the Fastaval tradition, where you write the game and only run it afterwards, (This is because at Fastaval, the game must be able to be run by other GMs. Also the must not have been run anywhere else before Fastaval except as a playtest).

That is the way I have done it for many years. But where my Fastaval games always felt incomplete after the ultimate taste that Fastaval is, the script i finished for “Waiting for GO901” still holds and is to this day the best larp script I have produced. The reason was, I think, that I didn’t write it down until after i had run it several times in very different conditions.

By then I had the structure, design, workshop, instructions and mechanics down to a point. I knew exactly how the game was to be run and the biggest challenge was putting that to words. It is a clear and concise script and much less rambling than any of my previous scripts.

This has change my way of making games. Where before I got as much done as possible and then maybe, if there was time for it, I would make a playtest to see if it worked. Now I playtest as early as possible and as often as possible. And I don’t really see them as playtests, perhaps except the first one, which really is a proof of concept. Here I test if the mad idea even works. The rest is to run the game again and again to really get af feel for it. What works, what doesn’t, which way is the best way to explain or practice a mechanic. What phrase really gets the point across to the players?

The end result is that my lastest game, “…And that’s it”, got praised for its communication. That has always been my weak point and suddenly it was the strong point.

So how does it work?

Well for the first playtest, the proof of concept, I only write down what I need to run it. A bullet point list of things I need to say and do. A rough descriptions of scenes and whatever text the players need, (characters, handouts, and so on). I do no layout it, I keep it as simple as possible.

They I run the game. Often parts of it don’t work, and I change them on the spot, so that they do work, and make a note of it in the text. Then during the game I add notes of things I did different than what I had written down. I also note where the game isn’t working as I want it to.

Then after the game I talk with the players about the elements I was in doubt about, and how they would feel about changing it this and that way. This is very helpful, as often, something I felt went bad, worked perfect for the players, so it’s good to know, if the worry is only in my head or a real thing.

I also talk to the players about the experience they had. And then in my head match that up to the experience I’m aiming for. Players can have a great experience at a game, but still not have the experience you wanted. Did they manage to find tragedy in your feelgood story, or create an action adventure out of your grimdark superhero story? Do you want to move your idea in that direction or how do you bring it back to the experience you wanted to design?

After this first proof of concept I have a rough short draft of the story and input on what I need to change. From there I run the game again and again each time getting to know the game better and better, changing it, tweaking it.

The actual writing often only happens shortly before the next run, as I hastily add the change and improvements, I have come up with from the previous runs before I have to run it again.

Then after several runs, I don’t see them as playtest more as practice runs, I have enough a feel for the game that I start to write down all the stuff I know how to do, but haven’t written down, because I just do it. This is often prep of the room, a more detailed workshop run through and instructions for the scenes rather than just descriptions of them.

I think this is where the biggest difference lies. This is where I have changed my style the most. Before I had to guess what a GM needed to know before running my game. But now having done it five or four times I know what needs to be said and done to run this game.

Another result of this format is that my games become much more fluid. I can change them a lot more than before. “…And that’s it” went though a lot of changes much, more than I’m use to, and I think this approach is one of the reasons. Because if the playtest come late in the process the game is set in stone in my head, and only small tweaks can be made. But as long as the game is in the fluid state of only a rough draft it costs nothing to make great changes.

None of the changes was to make it a different game, but change that made the game come closer to the experience I was looking for. They made the game more stable more sure to yield the result I wanted.

So this has become my new approach.
What do you think?

Waiting before the beginning

Players for Uledsaget waiting for the game to begin.

The experience of a larp starts before the larp it self, it even starts before any workshop. It starts when you arrive. How you are greated, what you do while you wait, and the people around you all are part of creating the mindset you have, as you go into the workshop or introduction and from there to the game. So we should be aware of that part of the experience and try and design them, so that they support the experience you want to create or at the least make sure it doesn’t work against you.

My background is Fastaval, and in more recent years the black box scene in Denmark. And for both, but especially Fastaval, I really don’t like the time leading up to a game. For me it really works against the hopefully great experience you are about to have. So for my last three games I’ve been working on how to make that time before a game starts to work for the experience not against it.

So at Fastaval you turn up at a room and wait until everybody is there. Then someone will divide people into groups and go play. That waiting time can be a bit awkward or just spent smaltalking or resting for a bit. But last year for my larp “…And that’s it” I made that time part of the experience.

Some of the main themes of the game was drawing and waiting in a relaxed almost meditative state. It was designed to be an almost calming experience. But Fastaval is a stressful place, so I decided to try and use this waiting time to start getting the players into the mindset I wanted them to be in.

As people arrived they were given a piece of paper instructing them to be silent while they waited, it told a bit about the larp and finally invited them to draw a bit and just enjoy the quiet while they waited.

It was really interesting to see how people reacted as they arrived and saw a whole room of people in quiet contemplation just drawing. It really set the game apart and set the mood for the rest of the experience.

This year I’m making a game about refugee children, and I’m gonna try and do the same again. For this I still want them to be quite, but I also want to start them in the childlike mindset that this larp aims for. So I well get a punch of toys, legos, teddies and yes also something to draw on and with.

So as the players arrive they will be told to be quiet and go and play silently with the toys like they were children in a waiting room, a bit nervous with a lot of around them but still young and playful. So still contemplative but more in the way a child is.

It will be interesting to see how this works compared to …And That’s It. And as I design more games I will try to do this more. And you can as well. Think about the arrival experience of your larp or scenario and how it can help get you players into the mindset you want them to be as the game starts.

Munzee – perhaps the explorations game I have been looking for

So I’ve recently discovered another out in the real world walking game. It’s called a modern scavenger hunt and apparently it’s like geocaching, which I’ve never tried. But I have tried Ingress and Pokemon Go and while I have enjoyed both games one thing has frustrated me with both: they don’t encourage exploration. They are in essence grinding games. The game designs have you move in tight little routes, in a very slow pace, often repeating your steps. There’s no reward for going off the beaten path or exploring new eares.

But this game, Munzee, has had me crawling and exploring until I ran out of battery and tomorrow I’m gonna go out for a long walk and see what I find. The game is very simple, but with a few mechanics it makes the players act in a way I find really rewarding and interesting.

Like Ingress and Pokemon Go the main display is a map showing a lot of locations you want to seek out around you. But unlike the two other games when you reach the location you have to look for a QR code placed in the real world. It’s only when you scan this, that you capture the location and get your points.

There is also virtual locations, and a whole host of variations on the just find the QR code, such as puzzles you have to solve before you can capture the location and so on. But the basic game is: go to the marker on the map, look for the QR code using the clues in the title of the marker. The game does a few things I find really interesting:

No repeated visits = more exploration
I’m not sure about this, but it seems that when you have captured a point that’s it you can’t return and capture it again. I don’t know if after some time, I might be able to take it again or after someone else have captured it, but I kinda hope not. Because what this means is that you are encouraged to move away from your normal route to find new points to capture. Unlike Ingress where the best gameplay is to create a five mints rute between the same points until you have gotten all the resources you can from them.

So as I play this game I will have to find new places to go to get more points I will have to move further and further away from my home, I will have to take new routes home. And I love that. It also means that if you are on your way home, and you can’t be bothered to take that one point just over there itøs fine, becuase you can do it tomorrow, where in pokemon go you get help but go over there or just wait that little longer so the cooldown on the pokestop is over so you get the chance for one more spin and more pokeballs.

Finding a well hidden QR code is very rewarding
The pictures is of my favorite find today. It’s a well hidden Diamond spot, that gave me more points and was just hard enough to find that I really felt like a proper explore looking for it, and when I at last spotted it it was, well a rewarding moment. And it feels even better, knowing that it has been placed there by a fellow player it’s a strange kind of contact between strangers.

Players build the games themselves and are rewarded for it
So how do the QR codes get to their spots? Well they are placed there by the players. And as a player you are rewarded for doing that. You get points for placing a QR code and you get points each time someone captures it. So even here in little Hobro the place is full of places for me to seek out a QR codes to find and scan. There’s so many I’ve had to filter out all of them except the most basic so I don’t get overwhelmed which is cool because that means I’ve got more to look for in furete walks in the same areas.

As a final note the way I discovered the game was very much in the spirit of it: during a normal walk I spotted a QR code on a bench and decided to scan it. It turned out to be one of the spots for the game, and that lead me to the website and from there it was just signing up getting the app and beginning. And I can’t wait to play it more and soon starting to place my own spots.

What do you think?
Do any of you play it?

Mini Fastaval and reflections over …And that’s it

So my most minimalistic Fastaval is over. Due to my neck problems I had to limit my time at Fastaval. Had I not lived in Hobro, I would have had to cancel it all together. But I managed to get some Fastaval.

I gave on the honorary otto to a very well deserving Rene Bokær, but also got to congratulate the other amazing nominees:

  • Fastaval Junior (Maya Krone og Mette Finderup)
  • Andreas Ravn Skovse
  • Designer brætspil (Troels Vastrup + Bo Thomasen)
  • Bjarke Pedersen & Johanna Koljonen

One thing I have learnt during this process is: god there is many amazing people in our community!

I had a chance to have some great talks with many of the lovely people there at the organizer reception, the author reception and at the ottoparty.

But I also ran my game “…And that’s it”, and that is what I want to talk about now. Designing this game has been a strange experience as it stayed flexible up until the very end. What I mean by that is that, normally when I design I game I reach a point where it kinda freezes up and I have a very hard time changing anything. This game didn’t hit that point, I even made a few changes after the GM run a few weeks before Fastaval.

It’s also a game that kinda snuck up on me. It started as a bit of a provocation. How strange a game could I make for Fastaval. But slowly it became more and more important to me. And now I think this is one of my favorite of my games. And that leads me to something else:

One of the things I like about “…And that’s it” is that it shows I’m not at my peak. “The Courage of Teddies” was a good story, but the design and especially writing is a bit flawed. “Waiting for flight GO901” was the best I had made and I have been worried about never being able to top it. It is such a clean and simple design and it just works. “…And that’s it” was for a long time way more clunky than Flight. But through the many edits and changes it ended up almost as clean but still more complex. And I’m proud of that and it shows I’m not done.

It ran five times and all the runs seems to have gone well. I ran the two international groups myself. I’m really pleased by the experiences that I have heard that people have had. Many have said that afterwards they felt empty but in a good way, and that is exactly what I was aiming for.

And the five runs have now been added to the online gallery, see them here.

I’ve been allowed to share share Anne Vinter Ratzers reaction to the game. And I think she sums it up very well:

In the evening I had a deeply moving experience playing Simon James Petitt’s And That’s It… A scenario without words, with only gestures, touching and drawings as communication, it struck a chord deep inside me from the first moments, and my character – created only as a handful of drawings and relations decided in a few minutes – still lingers in my mind. We really found each other in my group, and every death tore a hole in my heart. It was emotionally exhausting, but in the best of ways. It is hard to do this scenario justice with words. I can only say that I have a deep admiration for Simon’s ability to take tragedy and sorrow and make it beautiful and gentle and deep and unforgettable at the same time.

My dream and hope for the game is to run it at a gallery or some other aesthetically pleasing place with a mix of larpers and artists for a whole day and then after that showcase the artworks that come from it.

 

…And that’s it galleries – visualizing the ends

Part of my Fastaval larp “…And that’s it” is the creation of drawings ingame by the characters. As a different way of documenting a larp I’m going to be publishing galleries with the drawings from each run of the game.

As a warm up for Fastaval I’ve created the galleries for the four playtests of the larp that I have held before Fastaval.

You can see them here.

On that page the runs from Fastaval and any future runs will also be found.

Read the preview of the larp here

Read the synopsis for the larp here