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.