Kategoriarkiv: Spilrapport

Larping in Minsk

I must start by saying how well organized the whole thing was. I’m gonna steal a lot from Minsk Larp Festival for Black Box Horsens.

Just look at those stickers! They worked as both flyers and well stickers. I now have one on the back of my phone. It’s brilliant! They even had name tag stickers.

And as a game designer I have never felt so taken care of. Before the festival they had asked for a list of what I needed, so when I came into the venue there was a bag with the name of the game with everything I had requested!

First I played “Take a lift” a game about people somehow stuck in life. And in an elevator. Imagine the scene from “You got mail” in the elevator and you get a pretty good idea of the larp. I sadly have no pictures from the larp.

It used space very well. With the lift, flashback and flashforward spaces as tape squares on the floor. The interesting thing was that in flashbacks the player having the flashback could control that scene, but in flashforward he could only set it and then the other players decided what happened. Nice little twist.


Next up was my own game “Waiting for Flight GO901” it went well, there was crying. It was also the record for most surviving travelers. It didn’t change the game that much, which surprised me.

Apparently there’s a game called “Turbulence” from a previous Larporatory. I talked to one of the designers about combining the two games, as Turbulence is about people on board a plane that crashes.


First we were joking, but in the end we actually had a cool idea for how that could work. So it might happen. It would basically be running the two games simultaneously but workshopping them together so that the instead of a bag you are actually waiting for another player character.

Then play the games as normal but when it comes time to find out who survives you bring the two groups together. They stand in each end of a room. One at the time the travelers move forward, then the people waiting for that person also moves forward. We wait for a painful moment. If a red spot turns on, on the traveler is dead and must walk away. If it is white she survived and can go to the ones waiting for her. It’s so over the top it might work.


Any way that was the program for Saturday the rest of the evening was talking and dancing.

On Sunday I had the first slot off so I hung out with some of the organisers and just relaxed. I needed it.

After that I played Ground Rules a very well designed larp from this year’s Laboratory. It’s a funny yet serious game about living in a communal flat in an unnamed communist country.


I really liked it and the tools it used. I could have played it for longer. I kinda want to hack it and make a day long version.

All the plot happened a bit too much at the same time for my taste. But I like dwelling games.

But the structure was so good. A scene took place in the morning or evening with either players waking up and going to work or coming home from work. Work was a space outside the play zone with chairs facing the wall. There we could imagine how our day went. I liked that.

Between each scene we slept and each player was asked to do a inner monologue about what happened between each scene. It was a way we could signal intentions to each other. Really cool.

Workshop and character creation was also well handled. Although a bit too fast for my taste. But they had each family do a scene for the others showing why it was that they had to move into this communal flat. And that had the most alcoholic line I have ever heard:


“Are you drunk again?!”
“I only had one bottle.”
“Of whisky!”
“Oh I didn’t notice…”

Loved it. All in all good players in all my games.

As I said in the last post I could ramble on much more. But if I did I would never get it done. So let’s stop here

Being in Minsk

I haven’t written about any of the things I’ve been doing since JaLL. I haven’t had the time for the long rambling posts I used to. I have long drafts for last years Larpwriter Summer School, Black Box Copenhagen and Before We Wake, but haven’t had time to get them edited and everything after them I haven’t even had time to write a draft. And it looks like that won’t change for the foreseeable future.

So I’m going to try and develop a new and quicker way for me to write about my larp experiences. This is an attempt at that format. Tell me what you think.

So this weekend I went to Belarus to participate in Minsk Larp Festival. They had invited me several times and finally I could go. This first post is about my time in Minsk. The next will be about the games I played.

The format I’m trying out is to write this on my phone on my way home. And I’ll try and make it picture based by picking some pictures I took while there and write whatever thoughts they give me.

All in all it was a great trip where I again and again thought “wow this is not something you experience every day”. Right after we were picked up at the station came one of these experiences.

  We went to a flat some of the other international participants had airbnb’ed. Through a hazarded and definitely not building regulated route they showed us up on the roof of the building that sat right in the centre of Minsk to the view above the central square of Minsk.

  
The next day our local hosts (all my fellow LWSS alumni) showed us parts of Minsk. Me and Yauhenia (Who I stayed at during the festival and who was a great host and guide) started out by visiting the national library that is housed in the space station you see above. It’s just one example of the size of Minsk. Everything is built big and with lots of space between.

  
We went to the top of that building and got a great view of Minsk including these soviet era buildings still with the original murals. 

  Inside the top floor was a small art gallery. This picture is from that. The artist painted these landscapes littered with these strange ghost ladies. Very moody. 

  We then meet up with Jamie and Mark, some of the other international participants and lwss alumni, and went to a museum for sculptures. As you can see most of them prominent communists.

  They were all by by the same artist apparently known for his ability to show emotions and personality in is works.  (can’t remember his name). This picture is of one of the first female officers in Belarus, I really like the strong expression.

  The artist was very fond of sculpting Lenin.

  As you can see…

  We were told that during the soviet an artist could make a living just making Lenins because every city, no matter how small, always had to have at least one Lenin. This artist was known for making some of the best Lenin’s. 

  After that we went to the area where the festival would be. It was in the middle of the hippest part of town. 

  It was an old factory area were the old factories were being turned it to studios, cafes, workspaces, galleries and so on. A very strange mix of old rundown buildings and incredible hip and modern activities. 

  In one of the galleries was a showcase called “21” it was a group of 21 year olds who each had been given a disposable camera (with 21 pictures) and asked to show their life and identity through the pictures. It was really interesting and they had really but some thought into the pictures. 

  It kinda connects to “…And that’s it” a game I’m designing where I want the players to create the characters through mood boards.

  We talked about that it could be interesting to give players of a long larp a disposable camera as preparation and take pictures to represent how they will play their character. Then you could put them on wall before game start and that way everybody could get a visual idea of the other characters. That could be cool. 

  In connection to the gallery was an independent publisher and its bookstore. They had not been outright banned but their permit to print kept getting delayed by small “mistakes”. So they had been fined for printing books without a permit. This created an outrage and people donated money to help pay the fine. All these stars are names of the people who helped. 

  In the evening I had the most special experience of the trip. We went to see The Belarusian Free Theatre. A well known theatre group where the writers and directors have had to flee because of their critical plays. Now they continue to work in London and the actors still perform the plays but in hidden locations. 

  The play was called Being Harold Pinter and was a mash up of parts of his plays and his Nobel speech. It was very intense and I both felt like an outsider and like I was being included in something special. I understood the play on an intellectual level. But looking at the local audience I could see this struck them much much deeper. One of them said afterwards: “it was like they kept poking us with the things we know about our country but don’t want to think about.” It was a very powerful experience. 

There’s many many things I haven’t mentioned now that I’m trying out a shorter format. Many cool talks and you know all the social stuff. But you might later hear about it from the ideas and thoughts that they gave me. 

Humm that became longer than expected. Next time is all about the larping. What do you think about the format?

Fastaval 2015 – “Things that happen…” – part two: war stories and steering

I’ve said before, that I try not to tell war story in these posts, but I’ll break that rule now, because my story have some interesting elements with connection to character shifts and steering. But to do that, I need to tell the story we experienced, so here goes:

SPOILER ALERT:
I’m going to reveal things about the game in this post, that you really want to have as a surprise, if you want to play it.

To keep this short, I’m assuming you’ve read the first post about “Things that happen to other people” if not you can read it here.

1-IMG_1970There was four characters, each character had a focus or a goal with the stories they told or the bits they added to other’s stories. For my character, Henrik, it was ambivalence. He’s a man without a foothold, not being able to keep his focus on the same thing for long, growing tired with one thing and then moving on to the next, never able to make a final permanent decision, but fully aware that he should. He’s also ambivalent about their situation, on one hand he knows that it’s dangerous, but on the other:
it’s something new, its an adventure.

At one point the characters come across a house, they assume that it is abandoned, but it turns out an old man “lives” in there. He’s an old soldier, evident by the rifle we found. He’s clearly been left alone for days, stuck in bed, delirious and impossible to get in contact with. He rambles and talk to people not in the room and ignores the players. They can’t even feed him.

Henrik, kind of seeing himself as a hero, wanted to help the man, (me the player knowing that was impossible). Henrik tried suggesting staying here taking care of the old man, but that was not safe, the others would only stay for one night, but that would not help him. Henrik then tried suggesting bringing the old man with us, but no that would slow us down, even Henrik could see that.

He started stacking some food next to the old man’s bed, but no, what when that ran out? This would only prolong his suffering. Desperate and in tears Henrik asks the others: should we maybe end his suffering? The others horrified said: no! and no more talk of that. In the end we all went to bed, and the GM asks: so what do you do about the man? And everyone looked at me.

The way Henrik is written, I don’t think he could have killed the man, but I also knew, that if Henrik did something so violent, that it would change him forever. So remembering the talk about steering from Knudepunkt this year, (steering: the act of you as a player making choices about what your character does, to get a stronger or different experience. There’s one or two articles about it in the KP book.) I decided ok, lets go for broke, and see where that gets us.

So I slowly narrated how Henrik couldn’t sleep, in his mind going through all the options again. Tried to feed the old man, tried to talk to him. And then just ended my narration with the words: “the other three are suddenly woken by the sound of a rifle shot.” The look of horror on their faces was almost intoxicating. I did say, I went for broke. Everyone had expected Henrik to use a pillow, but no, the whole point was to end his suffering as quickly as possible.

After that shock the GM had us all do an inner monolog, about how the characters reacted to that. And it was just: everyone hates Henrik! (Well except Andre who was “secretly” in love with Henrik, he was in shock, how could Henrik do that? What is happening to him?) I had no words by that point, what does Henrik think now? Nothing, so thats what I did. (You know I love silent role play, so now I have done a wordless monologue!) (achievement unlocked.)

The reason I tell this long winded story, that no one will read, is this: it completely changed the character, but the change still had roots in the dilemma of the character. He went from someone who thinks too much and never makes a choice, to someone with a blank mind and who now finds action all to easy, (evident later where he rather cold hearted knocked a man down and robbed him.)

So I thought thats it, game over for Henrik, no coming back from that. But I was wrong, the second to last scene took place on a ferry, taking the characters out of the country. A journalist, played the the GM, Kat Jones, asked to interview the players. It was a powerful scene, because we all reacted to her questions in such different ways, one by shooting questions back at her: “how do you think it would be like to lose everything?” One shut up like an oyster, and one while crying tried to give her an impression of the war, (it might help, if other people learn of our suffering.)

I being cold and dead inside just went for the unrelenting cold truth. But when I told her about the old man, she asked: “Oh so you murdered and robbed him?” That came out of the blue and struck me (and Henrik) very hard, this was the opposite of steering, I had not seen this coming, but went with the flow, and let Henrik finally break down and cry.

Ok I thought, right so this time, this is the end for Henrik right? Not a cold dead inside shell, but a broken traumatised weeping man. But no I was wrong, (again). The last scene was open to us, a song played, and when that ended, the game was over, but we could do whatever we wanted during that time. Henrik curled up in the lap of his sister who caringly caressed him, I tensed up my whole body and just let it shake once in awhile.

In the mean time I could hear Andre confessing his love to Henrik to his mother, and his mother encouraged him to go to Henrik and tell him, “he needs you.” I thought great, when Andre does that, I’ll say nothing but turn away! Yes so cruel (God Nordic larp right?) But Andre surprised me just as much as the journalist, by going up to me and softly asking: “can I lie here with you?” What could I say? I let him, and together we curled up. Slowly I let the tension ease from my body and just like that it ended on a happy note. It was so beautiful and so unexpected.

And that is why I told this long story. It was unexpected! I could never had foreseen this outcome. It was those so fundamental shifts, they really surprised me. Especially the last two. That so much can change from so little. But only if you let it. I could at each point have chosen to stay with the direction the character was going in. The way Henrik is written, he could never have killed the man, but by steering, and accepting this change, I got a much more powerful experience. In the other two changes it was much more going with how my body reacted. My mind had chosen a path, but I listen to the way I emotionally reacted to those two small events and said yes to that input.

So the lesson is: don’t stick to the word of your character, but use it as a starting point, and let the character evolve, using the words as guides. And allow yourself to be surprised and say yes to outside inputs, even though you had decided otherwise. If we do not open ourselves to those things, we will not take full advantage of the unpredictability of the role play medium.

The game (and this post) ran long and the after talk even longer, so in the end we only stopped talking when the next group of players arrived, a bit embarrassing (sorry Tim.)

Tomorrow the last post, with the rest of saturday and sunday. Don’t worry it’s short.

Fastaval 2015 – “Things that happen to other people” Part 1

Saturday the last real day of Fastaval, (sunday is mostly given over to the big otto party.) I had just one game: “Things that happen to other people”, a game by Tor Kjetil whom you may remember from “Just a little lovin” and “I say a little prayer,” (which I played at last years Fastaval, read about that here (again in Danish sorry).)

IMG_1969It was this years most emotional experience, which I had not expected from a storytelling game with a lot of breaks and shifts in style. (Flow is something I’m beginning to find really interesting (as I’ve mentioned in some of the other posts). To give instructions in roleplay, you have to stop the flow, so strong games tend to be games where the flow isn’t interrupted or it is interrupted in a gentle way, like Deranged does, or like most black box games do.

The game is, well I wouldn’t say complex, but it does have a lot of elements, and the style switches a lot. That’s one of it’s strong points, the way the storytelling works, differs from scene to scene, but that also means that the game flow is interrupted many times for new instructions on each scene.

My group also had the problem of a player who liked the spotlight, and wasn’t so good at giving it away and a bit to good at grabbing it from others, which is unfortunate in a game that has some clear instruction on how each scene must run. If we are instructed to have a scene where someone tells a story and then afterwards everyone adds their own thoughts and versions to it in character, it’s not a good idea to interrupt that story within the first 30 seconds. Respect the meta-rules man!

The problem was, I think, that he wanted an immersive game, where the goals and feelings of the character was the guiding stick. But that just isn’t this game, yes you are supposed to feel and immerse, but more than that: be part of the shared storytelling.

In Lasses description of the game, he also points out, that the character description apparently encourages this behavior. A few meta pointers in the character could properly help, (you might want to do this and that, but it would help the game if you held back once a while or do it in this less disrupted way).

But enough whining, as I said even with all this, it was still an amazing game, I shudder to imagine what the game would be like with more focus on flow and a less intrusive player. That being said for my experience a lot of it came from the other two players being really good, and the intrusive one wasn’t bad, just not a good group player. (Although some of those strong scenes really also do pack a punch), As I’ll talk more about in part two).

So “Things that happen to other people” is a game where you follow four refugees in a fictional modern country torn apart by civil war (*cough*Syria*cough* sorry about that). The scenes often have a strict storytelling part and a more freeform larp part, and the two sort of interacts, sometimes a scene would start with storytelling that then would graduate into freeplay, or the story telling would pop up once in a while. It was a very cool form, and a great way of using storytelling, but requires concentration from all involved.

The focus was very much that the characters experience hardship but also told each other stories about others in similar situations, as a way of reflection on their situation. Did that work, I don’t know. As I said I had a powerful experience, but i’m not quite sure it came from that element, or just a good group or from the fact that it’s a very strong story with some thought elements in it, (properly a mix).

I ended up writing a lot about this game, so this is only the first part, the next will focus on my in game experience and the insights that game me. It’s even longer than this one, so yay!

Fastaval 2015 – Room and Friday

At Fastaval there’s always someone who doesn’t show up for the games they have signed up for. I’ve done it myself, if I have no energy. For that we have the reserve que, were people who wants to play can show up and get one of the spots that aren’t filled.

I didn’t have any games friday evening and one of the games I really wanted to play, but hatten’t gotten a spot on was running that evening. So I got a number for the que nice and early and hoped to get a spot on Room, and luckily I got that, so I went to play that game.

Room kinda does the same as my own game “The Courage of Teddys.” It takes a child’s viewpoint on something very serious, in Rooms case one of those horrible long term kidnappings and especially the difficulty of helping a child that has never seen the outside of his little room, when the horror is finally over.

It kinda have much of the same feel as the film Mary and Max, where a lot of very dark things happen, but you still end up laughing between the tears and in the end it’s still a feeling of beauty you have inside. Very strange.

The language of the game is childish and simple and because a child can’t comprehend the horrendous situation, he is in, the horrible details are left unsaid and just hinted at, which almost makes them worse. Because then we can just imagine them.

The first half of Room is played in Old Nicks shed, (thats Room). Old nick took Mom and placed her there when she was 17, after some years Jack was born. Jack has many friends in Room, there’s: Closet (where he sleeps at night), Bed (that creaks when Old nick visits in the night) Carpet With Stain On) and so on. One player plays Room and can interact with Jack, talk to him and even move him around and move the objects he is interacting with.

Room is kind of Jacks invisible friend very much like Calvin and Hobbs. Room is real for Jack but for everyone else He’s talking to the furniture and messing things up, “But mom it was Pensel that didn’t want to write numbers.”

One player plays Jack the whole game, and the game is really about him, the same way the game is about the wives in Distance. But the other three characters shift in the second act, where Jack is at the crisis center trying to come to terms with his new surroundings.

In the first act I played Old Nick, which was just as hard as playing the dad in Tilbagefald (Relapse, which I wrote about here: In danish though). But he had an interesting meta technique: He could enter and leave the playing area as He felt like, (the Room, which we had designed our self, both by narrating about it but also by physically building it, btw another cool thing)

It’s a small but important distinction. Normally you have a responsibility to time when you come and go, but here it was presented as a power. You were encouraged to increase the pressure on the players by appearing more and more often, but it was a power not a responsibility, which was scary as shit. One scene I just went in and stood there for a minute, watching, just being a pressens. Oh and btw: He also decided when the act ended by taking Jack out of Room.

In the second act the player playing Mom is now Social Worker, Old Nick (me) is New Room and Room is Mom. Where Rooms job in the first act was to support Jack and keep him safe New Rooms job was to be a counterweight to Jack. When he was moving forward I should push him back, make life difficult for him, show how he just couldn’t adapt to New Room. But if he was sad I could chose to have sympathy with him, and support him.

The small brilliance is that Old Nick and New Room are both kind of the pressure players, the ones that move the game forward, but in New Room you have the ability to also be nice, and I needed that after playing Old Nick and being a bastard.

We had a great game with a very beautiful ending, that I would love to keep on telling about, but it’s already too long, and war stories are only fun for us players.

IMG_1967

My brilliant group. In our story closet ended up playing a big role, so we had to try and take a closet selfie, it didn’t quite work out, but well there you go.

After the game more late night talking. I remember a lot of conversations, but when they happened I don’t know, it’s all a blur. Oh yes now I remember: my whole group went to the bar and just talked and talked and at some point the author arrived and humbly asked if she could listen, we shouted “yes!” and continued to praise her game and tell and retell war stories. As another author I know how wonderful an experience that is.

But I began to feel tired and when other players from other groups join the conversation and told about their games, that been much more cruel, I left. I didn’t want my experience sullied. I decided to go home, but on the way bumped into Kroll, one of the original Fastaval people, and a general from the ancient times (at least it feels like that) who convinced me to go to the after party at the hostel, so I ended up getting home even later. But it was good.

Fastaval 2015 – Prunes and Prejudices

After Deranged there was a bit more time before the next short game, but my energy levels were low and I hung out with Jeanette in a kind of stupor and considered dropping the game. But we convinced me to go. So glad I did! It was a simple game, it was called “Prunes and Prejudices” and it was a humoristic improv game about judging the other shoppers in a super market based on their groceries.

The game really is as simple as it sounds, it’s based on a similar game called IKEA but this was kinda more coherent, also IKEA is semi live but this was a pure storytelling game. It consisted of some instructions and a deck of cards. It wasn’t GM less, but after the GM had introduced the game he played along like a regular player, and could just help answer questions, just like with a board game, that someone teaches you and then you play with them.

So we each got a card with a picture of a different kliche: the old lady, the man straight from the gym, the hipster and so on. (Remember this is a game about prejudices). Then we got five cards that each showed a grocery, you might find in any supermarket, on the top and bottom of the card there was a number, a high and a low, this showed how many of the item you character had in her shopping basket, (there’s a difference between going home with just one bag of toilet rolls or 12.

We then choose three from our five and which number of them we have in our basket. Then we take turns turning them over and the other players give out inner monologues on what they think about the person, it’s okay to be a cliche and a bit nasty, thats the humor in the game, and we went for broke. It was great fun (in a more quiet way than “And I lost my fangs”).

It’s a game I would consider running with some of my non role playing friends as a way of showing what we do without going for a big game. All in all quite and easy, just right for my situation. I didn’t end up expending a lot of energy but had some nice laughs and went away form the game with more energy than before. I had forgotten how roleplay can give energy as well.

So it was with energy I went to the reserve que, but more about that and the game that got me tomorrow.

Fastaval 2015 – Deranged and start of friday

The big one, my record breaking three games day. I started out with Deranged, that later went on to win three ottoes (the oscar of Danish role play and one of the reasons the games at Fastaval are of so high quality.) What amazed me was the player composition, they were mostly over 30, most of them very experienced, and the ones I knew was of the same player type.

It just gos to show what a well written preview can do, they got just the right players, (oh and a strong clear theme, such as classical music.) This actually ties in to one of the points in my post about what games I wanted to play: be honest about what your game is and who should play it. Don’t beat around the bush, just to get more players.

I ended up with yet another international group alongside Lasse, who also played in my group from Distance. It’s become apparent, that if you play a lot with international participants, you will end up playing a lot with the same people. Luckily Lasse is competent and fun, so it’s kind of a first world problem. The other players were: Lars Nyberg a singer (!) and a british girl with the loveliest british accent (I often long for good accents from my second home country.) She turned out to never ever have played role play before, but you really couldn’t tell, she did a great job.

Deranged have the flow I felt This Miracle (and as you shall later see “Things that happen to other people”) lacked. It had a lot of scenes, and they had clearly worked very hard at creating a perfect cutting technique.

The frame of the game is that the german composer Robert Schumann is dyeing at a mental institution alone and mad. As life slowly leaves him, he remembers central scenes in his life and tries to make sense of it all, in his mind creating a symphony from his own memories. But because this all takes place within his deranged mind, things doesn’t have to makes sense, we can jump back and forth in time and even play some of the same scenes several times. We were actually encouraged to play the same scenes several times rather than try and play many different scenes. The whole point being the scene could be changed, he could remember it in a new light or focus on something else, or even change it.

IMG_1948

Like this:

The way it is done is where the flow comes in:
On one of the walls in the room a lot of scenes was arranged in three acts. But not just in any odd way, they are arranged as notes on a sheet of music paper, (it looked great, and became a backdrop for the game.) There’s three acts or stages (each with a separate overall theme), in the beginning we can only choose from the first act, but as soon as someone picks a scene from the second act we can start to play that as well, and the same with the third, så we ourselves decide the tempo of the game, although the GM could place a symbol signaling that now there was only 20 minutes left. But we still decided when it ended by someone picking the epilog scene.

So we would play a scene, when one of the players, even those not on stage started saying a certain line from a piece of music written by the character you played (we all played historical characters and it was their music that was used) that meant the scene had ended, but we would continue to say the sentence either going lower or higher until the music the sentence was from started. (Mine was “Die Rose Die Lilje”) While that music played one of the players (didn’t matter which one) would just chose a scene read it out and then we would play it.

So the cutting and pacing of the game was completely in the hands of the players. It was done on an individual basis, but we still managed to create something coherent. It’s interesting that it can be such a cooperation even though the choices where individual.

When I talked to Marie and Jeppe afterwards they said they wanted us to do it in silence and not by talking about where to go now and what to do. I think we did that a bit too much, in our group, and as a GM I would have been more strict with this rule. This is intuition not planning, but like my post about Distance, it’s a taste thing. But it was a beautiful game both to play and to watch. I kinda want to run it now.

All little boys are dead

This was what you could call an effects game, it seemed like they wanted to make a really cool experience using all the tool of the black box, and that worked really well, it had a few weaker points but all in all it was a good game.

So we played soldiers in the trenches during world war one, but unlike Dulce et Decorum, form Fastaval 2013, this was much more symbolic.

Every character was played by two players: one was blindfolded but could talk, but only by telling memories nothing concrete like: “lets go over there.” No only: “I remember starry nights under the old oak.” The other could see but not talk. So those two had to work together, but all the players also had to work together in keeping most alive.

Each player had two memories, so each character had four, and you could only move if you had at least one memory left. These starting memories we decided beforehand and used to create the closes to a character we had, not that it was used much. These memories had to be from home.

So during the game we could lose memories and gain a few more. And the goal was to keep all alive by having at least one memory each.

We could lose memories in two ways: First there was a soundscape in the game. In it was two kinds of explosions: a small one and a big one that was preceded by a whistling sound, (like that of a bomb falling).

The small one was not dangerous just atmosphere, something to react to. The big one on the other hand would hit anyone not in the trenches, and they would have to leave a memory and stay put until someone else came out and brought them back.

The trenches was a part of the play area separated from the rest by a stage module that we had to crawl over (oh we could only crawl unless death was here, more about that in a bit.)

Whenever a big explosion happened we would also get pelted by dirt, that had no game effect it was only for effect, but it was a very strong effect. We wore helmets for this reason, a great simulation trick.

In the start of the game when we heard the ominous whistle of an incoming big explosion we would all cover for our lives, but towards the end one or two hours later we had already learnt how long the whistle was and only covered us in the last second.

I have heard that soldiers in the trenches got this ability. That they could hear by the sound on an incoming grenade if it’s going to land close and when to go for cover. But is was a very fascinating to actually experience it on your own body.

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Me with one of the death gas masks after the game.

Any way why would anyone then leave the trench? Well once in awhile a war memory would appear out in the rest of the playing area, the battlefield I suppose, and a not blindfolded player could crawl out and retrieve it by going to, it giving a short monologue about it, and crawling back again. But as mentioned he would be struck down if a big explosion fell while he was out there. Also the memory would disappear if it was still there when it became time for another memory.

Finally once in a while Death would come, which was to NPC’s in raincoats and gasmask with glowing eyes. They would move slowly, but if they got hold of you they would take a memory, during this time we were allowed to stand up and move around and the non blinded could say the name of the blind to get this one to move away from danger. But in all that confusion the deaths would often get it’s memory, luckily each death would only eat one memory per visit.

So that’s the game, a symbolic slightly gamist but very physical game. An experience more than a story but still a very cool symbolic representation of life in the trenches. Could use some work but it gave a very strong experience.

Waiting for Flight GO901

This wasn’t the first game I played at Black Box CPH, but because it’s my game I’m going to be selfish and start with that, I’m also running it at Knudepunkt in a very short while, so that kind of fits, then I can do another post about how that went later. (I have run this game one more time at Østerskov Efterskole with a few changes, so I will refer to that once in a while.)

It’s the story of a plane crash, but seen from the eyes of those loved ones waiting at the airport, as the plan first gets delayed, then have technical problems and finally crashes.

The idea originally came from the plane that was shot down over Ukraine this summer. I read a story about it, that said that it was a double tragedy, because there was quite a few AIDS researchers onboard on their way to a conference. And it struck me: there must have been people at the airport waiting for those, wow that must have been horrible.

But my mind expanded on that thought: that’s how it must be every time, theres always someone waiting at the airport, and they must go through the worst set of emotions, from happy anticipation to the most horrid loss. And then, because that’s how broken we nordic larpers are, I thought: that would make a good game.

The game has two main challenges: could wating be interesting play? And can you feel for a fictional character you never met?

Dealing with the second one first: we all know this problem, we play in a story where we are lovers and it’s not really working because it’s hard to simulate love. This is especially true for written characters. If it just says: “you love him very much,” then how do you play on that? No feelings must be created during game or at least in workshops.

So how do you do that with a fictional character that we never meet in game? I drew on another true thing: player ownership: they feel more strongly for things, they have created themselves rather than something written for them.

Which I just now realize is the weakness with “The Courage of Teddies” (one of my other games). Here the players have to as Teddies fight for a dying child that they only meet once in game, but if they get a say in the kind of child he/she is they might feel and fight more for him. Any way I digress.

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The bags for the Copenhagen run during the first brainstorm.

So what I did was to hold a long character creation workshop starting with the person on the plane called the traveler. I drew heavily on some of the things I learnt on the Larpwriter Summer School.

We started with a bunch of bags I had gotten before the game, as different as possible. Then all the players (all four of them) were given post-its and had to go around write short thoughts and words for each bag and put the notes on them. Starting from the question: “Who would own such a bag?”

Just free association. Notice they don’t yet know which bag they will create their traveller from, they have to think about each bag. We go through a few rounds of this, where they can also look at the notes already written to get inspiration for new notes and so on.

After this they get time to look over the notes and in their head choose two bags, they want to create a traveler from. Then the sorting starts, they each pick two bags and then I sort of sort out, who plays with whom. The optimal is to have two or three sharing each bag, as they only develop relations with those. You can play alone, but that is a bit challenging and no one should be forced to it.

After this they start creating the traveler, the one they are waiting for. I spend a lot of time on this again to get the players to have just a bit of connection to this fictional character they are about to lose.

I also asked the players to create a sympathetic person, if you make an asshole you would just think well good riddance and that was not the story we were looking for. There could be conflict, but not one you would hate. Interestingly enough they ended up creating people balancing on this. Well thats nordic larpers for you.

After they have created the traveler they create their own characters by asking: “who would be waiting for this person?” In both runs the players had touched upon this during the creation of the traveler, you can’t help your self that, but now they clarified and expanded it. I switch between the player on his/her own imagining his character and then they two or three talking together getting it all to fit. As mentioned they only create relationships with the one or two other players they are waiting with, the rest are strangers who just happen to be waiting for people from the same plane. In both runs this barrier disappears as the tragedy unfolds.

With both the traveler and the characters in place the game starts. The game follows this run: first they just wait and all is good, it’s an opportunity to get into character and settle down a bit. This is the waiting part of the game, it’s ok if it’s a bit boring, thats part of the simulation. One of the things I stress during the workshop is that silence is good and not awkward in this game.

Then things start to change. As part of the game area is a screen with plane times on it, I change this during the first part of the game. As that changes the plane they are waiting for (Flight GO901 from the title) gets more and more delayed and the anticipation becomes frustration. The first part of the game ends with the plane disappearing completely from the screen turning frustration into questions and maybe a bit of nervousness.

Two things to mention here: the run of the game is completely open, the players are told how it will go from the start, but how they react and how much time there is between each change is unknown.

The other is: This game is fiction, during the design I considered contacting an airport and ask how they would handle it. I might still do that at a later point, but for this version I stuck to what gives the best story, not what is real.

I give the players a bit of time in this uncertain state and then a NPC (played by yours truly) enters the scene. I play a flustered airport personnel that ask if any one is waiting for the plane.

The players of course say “we are,” “do you know any thing,” and so on and they are told that the plane has some technical difficulties, nothing to be worried about, but they might have to wait for awhile, while they try and figure it out. And then is offered to let them wait in a meeting room. That will be more comfortable and private and also to keep them together so new information can reach them easily.

Again this has been told to the players beforehand so they know to accept this and follow along. They will ask a lot of questions and I did the mistake of starting to answer these in the Copenhagen run, but that gave the game more details than this lose fiction could handle. Such as where is the plane and what is the problem.

So for the second run I told the players during the workshop, that they were welcome to ask questions as part of their play (it’s only natural) but don’t expect any useful answers. One of the themes is uncertainty about your loved ones. And during that game I gave more vague answers such as: “its something technical, I don’t know anything more than that.” This worked better.

From this point on the players are in this meeting room, but the format is much the same, they wait for new information, just now it comes from me not a screen. The next time I appear they a told that we have lost contact with the plane and that this could just be the equipment malfunctioning, but it could also be something worse.

Next time is the worst: it’s confirmed the plane had crashed there is signs of survivors and that rescue personnel is on their way to the site and that they must now wait for news of survivors.

Finely they are told who have survived and this is where the games go into a more metaphysical mode. So they are still playing, but we break down the barrier of realism and use black box techniques.

The players gather in one part of the room, the light is low and a spotlight shines on the floor. One by one the bags they used to create their traveler from is placed in the spotlight and those belonging to that bag must go in and look for a small glass heart in the bag. If it’s there the traveler survived if not well quess.

In the first run I placed the hearts after the game had started, but it was suggested that it would work better, if they were placed beforehand, so that by choosing a bag, the fate of the traveler was already decided. So the players know that the fate or their traveler is decided, but they don’t know what it is. This is a great idea but if any one open a bag or even lifted it the heart might be discovered, (by sight or sound).

So what I did instead was to before game starts chose a random number of random numbers and they were the survivors. Only a few rules applied: the number of bags must be greater than the number of participants and the number of survivors must be very low.

In the two runs so far there have been none survives, all the hearts have been in bags that were not used. Lets see how it goes at Knudepunkt.

For the second run I changed one other thing: I got some passport photos and postcards that the players had to pick for their traveler. The passports work well in making the character feel more real, the postcard did nothing. But I need to find more passport, as one group designed a young child and I only had one photo of a boy and of a girl, so they were limited to those two. So more diversity!

Wow this become way too long hope my process and thoughts were interesting.
Next time the other gems I played.

Spilrapport – I say a little prayer

Af scenarier jeg helst ville spille på Fastaval i år var dette et af dem, af scenarier jeg var nervøse for at spille på Fastaval var dette det eneste! Kunne det leve op til forventningerne, som en Fastaval udgave af det meget omtalte live Just a little loving? Kunne jeg leve op til dets niveau og levere en god nok performance for de andre. Ville det være noget for mig? Ville jeg overhoved blive rørt? De tanker rodede rundt, indtil jeg besluttede mig for at skubbe dem væk lukke ned og bare kaste mig ud i det.

Det er jeg glad for, at jeg gjorde. Det er et rigtigt godt scenarie, meget intenst, utroligt velskrevne roller, og helt utroligt smukt. Man følger et homoseksuelt kollektiv i 80’erne hvor Aids kommer til Danmark. Første akt handler om gruppen, om deres fælles relationer, om kærlighed, venskab og begær. Men mest af alt skabes en fantastisk føles af en gruppe af mennesker i et samfund, som stadig ser mistroisk på dem, der skaber en familie stærkere end noget, de har prøvet før.

Og så rammer tragedien selvfølgelig og en af dem dør af aids. Et af de værste øjeblik i scenariet, for mig, var faktisk sådan ca. 10 minutter inden første akt sluttede. Der lå vi hulter til bulter på gulvet og snakkede om en fest, der havde været dagen forinden. Jeg var dybt inden i rollespillet på dette tidspunkt og havde virkelig en stærk fællesskabsfølelse med disse fremmede. Jeg var glad og afslappet, jeg nød deres nærvær.

Og så pludselig tænkte jeg: åh gud når denne scene er slut, så er sidste akt slut, og så skal en af os dø, og i et lynnedslag indså jeg, hvor meget det ville ødelægge denne “familie.” En fiktiv familie vi havde skabt, men stadig virkelig for os i disse minutter. Og jeg vidste, at jo større lykken var netop nu, jo kraftigere ville tragedien ramme om lidt.

For at blive kold og analytisk et øjeblik, så er det rigtigt interessant, fordi jeg oplevede det samme, da jeg læste om anden verdenskrig i Berlin. De værste passager var dem, som var uskyldige og søde, men som vi med fremsynets gave ved, hvad vil lede til. Som da skolepiger signerede en bog til en veninde, som skulle afsted sammen med hendes jødiske familie, og forfatteren blot tilføjede: Det er findes ikke flere referencer til hende efter dette… Lykke kombineret med viden om, at den snart skal knuses, er den værste tragedie. Det er det omvendte af forventningens glæde. Og åbenbart ekstra stærk, hvis dem der bære lykken ikke ved det, men vi læseren eller rollespilleren gør.

(Jeg sad lige og overbeviste mig om, at så meget havde scenariet ikke påvirket mig, og så satte jeg dets tema sang på, der det får sit navn fra “I say a little prayer” og så følte jeg. Ikke vildt og voldsomt, bare et lille lingering jag i maven og en følelse af hvad? Melankolsk, lykkelig afsavn?)

Jeg havde en fantastisk spilgruppe, der nok bar mig lidt af vejen. Med Jakob som en fantastisk dragqueen og vores alle symbolske mor, en ung infonaut, som en af de mere unge, en finne som den yngste og endelig en canadisk kvinde som min mandlige elsker Robert. Jeg selv spillede Jim en rigmandssøn, der drømte om at blive forfatter, men i bund og grund lidt tom.

Da tragedien ramte familien brød den nærmest sammen med det samme og fik sig kun langsomt samlet. Jeg var lidt i tvivl om, hvilken retning jeg skulle tage min rolle i. Men siden den havde startet sådan lidt selviske og selvoptaget, så fik jeg faktisk langsomt trukket rollen fra selvmedliden over til at være villig til at ofre alt for sin elsker, og min største frygt var at Robert skulle dø og hvis jeg døde, måtte det ikke tage Robert med i faldet. Det var meget rart, men også desto mere frygteligt jo mere vi nærmede os afslutningen og endnu et dødsfald i gruppen. Især fordi Robert blev gruppens holdepunkt og jeg hans. Så hvis en af os to røg, ville det betyde enden på de to andre.

Det skulle ikke ende sådan. Og det viser en del af rollespillets styrke. Den vi mistede, var den gruppen bedst kunne undvære, den efterhånden nedbrudte Lady Verona, trist, men næsten nådigt og heldigvis fik han lidt genfundet sig selv inden. Havde det været en bog eller film, havde det ikke været ham, men fordi det skete tilfældigt, kunne rollespillet vise os en anden historie end traditionelle medier kunne. Så fedt.

Der blev grædt meget, der blev givet mange knus, både fordi det var følsomt, men også fordi vi havde mange hårde scener både i starten og i slutningen, hvor det var nødvendigt at give et knus til den, man lige havde råbt af.

Slutningen var fantastisk med de tre overlevende stående krammende mens de to faldne havde en nærmest drømmende scene hvor faderen til Lady Verona forligede sig med sin afdøde søn og sagde undskyld for, at han aldrig havde fået læst den der børnebog færdig med ham. Der snøftede jeg, det havde jeg ellers ikke resten af scenariet, og generelt græder jeg ikke i rollespil, men der blive mine øjne våde.