More or less a month ago, The Game Kitchen (a London-based group of larp creators who join once a month for creating short larps together and play test them) received a mail from the Victoria&Albert Museum for doing a larp in their November open night. This night was called “Friday Late: parallel worlds“.
For me, the opportunity of running a larp in an important museum as V&A was a dream become true. I think larp should have an important role inside future museums, not only as an educational tool but also as a piece of art (as performances are). For me, being part of these is the first step of that path.
Regrettably, November wasn’t a very good month for me to be an active part in the creative process. I had a huge amount of work and a vacation planned to attend to Black Friday larp. Even though, I decided to join the group and be part of the team who ran the larp last Friday.
Finally, there were two spaces in which people of The Game Kitchen were running two different larps. The first was “Beholder Controller” of Adam James. It sounds really exciting but I couldn’t attend (they were both projects simultaneously). The second one was an adaptation of “Fallen Stars” of Larps from the Factory called “In Storage”.
Discussing in the group which game would be nice to perform in the museum, one of the first ideas was doing an adaptation of “Fallen Stars” by Martin Nielsen and Magnar Grønvik Müller. Playing with old objects was a suitable idea for an environment as rich as the V&A in those things. The authors were contacted and the gave their permission for it.
Main adaptation of the larp was made by Kate Bennett, and written down by Michael Such an Mo Holkar (thank a lot! great job!). The idea was running short (30-40 min) larps with around 10 players in each of them. It was a really interesting so we can manage to run them though the evening and nearly 50 people could enjoy it.
In Storage is about a group of objects all part of the same exhibition at a museum. As in “Fallen Stars”, the objects could walk and talk when there are no humans around. The exhibition has come to an end and the objects were in storage as the museum decides what to do next: permanent exhibition or thrown into a vault.
Participants had 10 minutes, before the larp started, to find an object in the museum. They should make a photo of it and come back. They will play this object. After that, we had ten-fifteen minutes of workshop (warm-up and character building) and another fifteen minutes of play. I hope the authors decided to make public the adaptation as I think it’s really a good job for bring closer larp and museum.
Running the larp in a museum room has its problems. We should be extra-careful with the people playing, as they shouldn’t damage any of the pictures exposed there. That limited a lot the physical actions, but the background was so nice to play in. In addition, we only had one room, so workshops were being run in one part of the room at the same time that people played in other corner and other visitors come through it. It wasn’t the ideal venue but it was worthwhile.
I was part of them team that ran the workshops, and it was an amazing experience. Running workshops for not larpers was really interesting, as you should focus in some aspects that you normally don’t do: how to role-play a character, breaking ice and encourage them to play…
I’m really glad that The Game Kitchen gave me the opportunity to be there. I think people had a really good time playing it and I hope some of them will play another larp in the future. We’re living interesting times for our hobby, and I hope to be here to see the transformation from an outcast activity to a well-known and accepted one. We’re near it!
OMG! I’m back from Black Friday (International run 1) and I’m so excited about it. As they have declared a embargo of the stories until the end of run 2, I will wait to post this out. But being all the week without saying a world about it in public has been really, really hard.
So… what’s Black Friday? Black Friday is an italian larp, the first full-English one ever done there. It was a translation from the italian runs made in. Here you have the general data of the event:
Name: Black Friday
Dates: 10-13 of November 2016
Organization: Terra Spezzate, Chaos League, Cronosfera
Nº of players: 72
Fee: 128€ (standard) + costume rental (depending on your group)
Web page: http://www.theblackfriday.it/
Before beginning the larp, the only thing we all knew about the setting was a small piece of information in the webpage: “Black Friday is set in present-day USA. If not in time, we will take you far away in space, to a remote American town, in a modern-day realistic, complex and technologically advanced setting. A setting we want to live and depict with all its contrasts and contradictions.” Finally, it was set in a little village in Wyoming in 2014 (that was really a pity because we couldn’t talk about the recent Trump’s election as president).
The other clue we had about it was the references: “Many aspects of Black Friday closely remind some American tv-shows. The dangerous secrets and conspiracies seen in “Utopia” and “Homeland”, the whirling uncertainty of “Lost”, and some flashes of “X-Files” and “Visitors” too. Add a pinch from “The Twilight Zone” and movies like “Village of The Damned” and “Blindness”.”.
And it was as amazing as it seemed from the description or even more. For me, it was living an Utopia chapter all the time, and it was so great! I don’t want to spoil a lot about the larp as I hope they run other international editions in the future (this larp is so amazing that everybody should have a chance to play it).
The experience depended a lot in which group you were into. There were three different which you have to join when buying your tickets: law enforcement (FBI, Delta Force, Swat), scientifics, and town people. I decided to play as a scientific, and I couldn’t have chosen best position for my style of play (more on this below).
The game was played in “The village of the Stars”, a rustic hamlet located in Lusernetta (near Turin, Italy). It was in a cool valley, 780 mt. above sea level, in the first slopes of the Alps. The views were really breathtaking.
The village was really beautiful, with its stone houses, a lot of communal spaces to play into, and totally out of “mundane” people. The perfect location for a larp like this. The pity is that I spent mostly all of the playing time inside the lab, that was amazing, but not enjoying the rest of locations.
Even though, I was able to go for an in-game walk at night, and it was a breathtaking experience. The moonlight reflected on the mountain’s snow, drawing the profile of the Alps. For my character, really religious person who enjoyed to be in the mountains because it was God’s creation, was illuminating. For me, it was a memory that will be in my mind for years.
The only real problem with the larp, for me, was the extreme cold of the Alps in November. Even the organisers had communicate that it would be cold, it was more than we expected. Termal underwear was not enough for a southern girl like me to keep warm in the long hours of work in the lab. And in the few hours we went to sleep (I slept three hours each night of game), it was really freezing. The problem is the type of heating that the cabins had, that needed people putting wood in it all the time, and when you’re playing, it’s easy to forget those mundane things. Saturday night, not being in game, we manage to keep the rooms well heated and it was a complete different experience.
For some problems that weren’t from the organisation, the larp busses arrived 1.30 h late to the location. That was a problem as we ended beginning the workshops late. And that made them shorter than we expected.
We began with a short briefing about how to manage the guns (black fire guns), the general rules of the larp and how to do violence (realistic fights). After that, we were separated into different groups and we did some exercises around the team dynamics. For me, it was the best part of the workshops. We had time to learn all our names (we worked in a lab together for some years), and knowing the public information for each player.
I want to really highlight the exercise of “the interrogation” where we can ask the other characters questions about themselves. It was really interesting to know about their political preferences, their believes, their commitment to the company… It gave us a lot of material to use inside the larp.
The other exercise that was really useful was a flashback scene where we ought to play how a coworker ended in the hospital for breaking an emergency protocol. It gave us a lot of thoughts about the theme (that afterwards was essential in the larp) and some common knowledge. To all my co-players: DON’T BE DELGADO, MY FRIENDS!
I would have appreciated the pre-larp workshops to be longer (the last one was cut eithout having time to finish it), and having some post-larp workshops would have been great. A lot of people left with a lot of bleed that could have been managed better. But the organisers choice was doing a great after-party full of Italian food (I don’t regret that part at all xD).
Style of larp:
One of my great objectives going to this larp was experimenting an Italian game for myself. In the last couple of years, south-European larpers have been talking a lot about the existence (or not) of a Mediterranean Larp Scene. What we have clear is that, even if we have been influenced a lot by Nordic Larp Scene, we aren’t the same and we want to keep our traits. There have been manifestos, informal talks and a lot of articles in that.
So having the opportunity of experimenting the Italian style was amazing. That’s the best thing about international larps. We can knew each other and share experiences. We can learn and teach. And that’s amazing.
Black Friday was what I expected in terms of play and style. Characters have secrets that you could discover in game. There was a strong story created by the organisers but you could play your part in it freely. I prefer those kind of larps to sandbox ones!
It was a really similar style to what we do in Producciones Gorgona, in Not Only Larp or even in some of the Somnia’s or Snara’s events. So, my answer is yes, we have a southern style, some treats in common, and we should begin to talk about them. I’m looking forward to play Harem in May so I can also add to this the romanesque French style 🙂
Playing as a scientific
So I could play as a scientific, and it was so great! I’ve always wanted to play a doctor. I love medical investigation in larp, and it’s something recurrent in the games I design. But this experience was in another level. Totally.
Marco Ascanio and his team did a great job setting the lab, and the investigation design was so well thought. We could perform blood tests (we put an appliance with a blood bag inside and we could really extract blood from patients and analyse it afterwards!!). We had a book full of instructions of how to perform each test (real chemical experiences in which we should do it and actually investigation them). We had the best larp-made machine I’ve ever seen: the tomography. Running the tomography machine was a pleasure, and it gave me a lot of play with the town people, afraid of us and our strange things. And we have a pc-program where we can put all the data and it will gave us results that were needed for the resolution of the game.
I can’t really explain how terrific the experience of being there was. We worked for hours, and hours (sleeping only three each night) to being able to figure the mystery. But it was great play, and our co-players were so great also.
Now, I do know that those things could be made in a larp. The sky’s (maybe the money) is the limit! We should think bigger to archive larps like that. And the high production levels weren’t only in the lab: the real vehicles had the name of the different agencies, the town doctor has his office with all the patients files, the make-ups… So impressive!
I could talk and talk about this amazing experience (even if I know that some people had a different experience about it I think generally was a really good larp), but I’m trying to be secretive and let you experience it if they make another run. In the meanwhile, we’re waiting for more Italian larps to play on 🙂
Some years ago, some Spanish people began to participate and read about Nordic Larps. The richness they’ve brought with themselves has changed a lot the Spanish larp scene. Some organisations, as Gorgona, have incorporated some of the characteristic features of them. But for me, it’s not only copying the style or the safe rules… but to create a whole range of new styles, enriched by our own larp scene tradition.
One of these traits is the strong narrative content and the rich stories provided by the larp writers. It is not an exclusive thing about our larps, but also in other southern traditions as French ( as Romanesque larp; which Gorgona larps has a lot in common) and Italy (as Southern Way). This has tried to be resumed as a Mediterranean Larp but this term has also been disputed. Lately, we are improving our communication and I hope we could make some kind of common manifesto. In the meanwhile, I would write about that in an other post. But today is not the day.
Today is the day to write about narrative. What is narrative in our larps? How can we do a enjoyable experience when we tell a pre-written story? How characters work in this context?
Larp as storytelling
For me, larp is a mean of artistic expression in which there are two big artistic agents: the larp writer and the players. The final product will be the result of both of them, as well as the good communication between them.
I create larps for giving form to an idea, to tell a story as I could do in cinema or theatre. But with one difference: there are no passive agents but active participants, the players. So it’s our responsability as creators to be able to transmit our idea not only about the background but also about the characters, the genre of the larp… And after that, the players should play their characters, with total freedom, inside the frame we had created, reacting to the story we are telling.
However, creating a story, with a complex argument, doesn’t mean to create which we call in Spanish tradition “el tren de la bruja” (the witch’s train), or in videogames “on rails”. That kind of larp, as in the fairground, only permits one way of developing the story, with some events and a predetermined end. It means create a frame in which some interesting things happens and in which the players, as their characters, should react.
In that way we created an “structural” larp (thanks Mithur for the word xD). In those larps, each action of the characters influences the developing of the story, and the organisers should react and adapt the events of the larp to it. As an organiser, as you begin the run of the larp, you don’t know how it’s going to end. And each run of the larp is really different as the players are different. Even though, you have a series of actions prepared and you have something to say in the way it develops. It’s in your hand giving to your players things to do if they are bored, or re-conduct the story if it’s going to a premature end. We have done that in all our larps but it’s the same design it’s been used in other larps as Blue Flame (with the collaboration of Not Only Larp) or Robota (Somnia).
“In this kind of larps, the characters are overtaken by their past, and they will discover during the larp a new side of their own story, when speaking with other characters or going through events. There are often a lot of dramatic revelations.”
As the second point about Romanesque Style, Vincent Choupaut talks about the importance of the past of the characters that are able to discover a new part of themselves though the larp. I totally agree with that.
For José Fabregat and I, when we created Gorgona, we based our character design in some basic points:
No-transparency. The character have secrets and personal stories that are designed for creating surprises during the larp. The design needs from secrecy to work well. That doesn’t mean that you should keep that secrets until the end. For us, it’s important that all the players “play to flow”, to create an interesting story for everybody. So, tell the secret in the most dramatic and interesting moment!
Each character has a unique and totally personalised character sheet. It’s important to create a little novel for each of them, that reflect their uniqueness. This includes a totally personalised character relation list. Because we think that when you know somebody you have your point of view about them, not only their life-facts.
All the characters should have a moment within the general larp narrative in which they feel especial, “the main characters of the film”. It could be a little event, a prop…
All the characters should have enough things to do during the larp. There aren’t objectives but personal goals of the characters, relations to develop, plots to be into… They should have enough interesting things to do, but they can choose what they want to do and how they want to develop them.
It must work together as a social engineering work. The characters are designed to complete each other and to represent different thoughts, ages, and relations. All in all, we create a complex social structure.
All in all
There are different styles of larp, but ours includes narrative as an important tool. It’s a design choice that I don’t want to lose. The influence of some blockbuster and sandbox larps is great in other ways (immersion, lack of rules, freedom of the players…) but it doesn’t mean that we should copy the nordic examples without incorporating our tradition.
Talk, experiment, read, join other cultures… and create your own way!
Some days ago I read a post in Larp Europe asking for Larps which included children or children orientated. I read the answer very closely as my talk in the first Entrerevs (Spanish larp design conference) was about it. And I discovered that between 2013 and today nothing has changed in the Spanish community and the problems that we are facing are common in other cultures (even there are some significant changes). So that’s why I decided to translate my talk to English and I will try to do a part in which I put it in perspective after the years passed.
Before I get started I will like to point that Spanish larp community is younger (in general) that nordic larp community.
Time flies, and those who began to play larps are not teenagers anymore. Fortunately or unfortunately, the pass of the time bring some new challenges and responsabilities: a work to attend to, a couple or, even, children. Is that a reason for giving-up our passions? Do we need to park our children with their grandparents or a nanny each time we want to enjoy a larp? How can we spread our hobby to our kids?
The answer is not easy. Most of the larps until know didn’t include the possibility of going with your children. And, if they let, we should carry them with us all the larp. That is why neither us or them could enjoy totally. The reason is that the needs of children and adults are not the same. And, between children, age is an essential point of breakdown, because they need different kinds of larps and more or less adult supervision.
Until know, the experiences I knew, included that the children when to the larps -as TimeLords- or, simply, they were one part more of the larp, without stories or characters written for them, depending on the interest of some players to create them content. In other larps, as “El Despertar de Cyric”, their own parents were the responibles for written the children larp so they can enjoy a little bit.
With that questions in mind, I asked myself how we can integrate the children in Gorgona larps. For years, my experience as scout instructor gave me the oportunity to integrate rol-playing in our activities in some many ways: interpretation, themathised gymkanas for developing new abilities and, with the older, little larps specially prepared for them. But for being able to integrate them in an adult larp, we need to analise well t
he problems it carries, and the benefits that we can enjoy.
First problem comes with the children between 0 and 5 years-old (Fig.1). In that age, they are too young to let them have any freedom, and they are really dependent on their parents, without any authonomy. In addition, they are not capable to realise that they are in a larp, and they can’t play a complex character for long tmes. Children in this age going to the larps usually goes with their parents, which make turns to look after them. The parent’s characters are fully integrated on the larp, but they can’t enjoy it in the same way. Sometimes, they have too much to do as a characters and it creates so much anxiety (Fig. 2).
One of the solutions that we can provide is the creation of kindergardens in the bigger larps. After a certain amount of interested parents, a person could be hired to be their nanny. They can do activities related with the larp setting. Parents could enjoy some hours of freedom and full immersive interpretation without giving up all contact with their children during the weekend.
Children between 5 and 7 can be part of a lap, but they required a strict surveillance. They aren’t going to be on character all the larp, but they will enjoy a good gymkhana, if they have an organiser focused in them. They have to be a small group, between three and five per organiser.
The ideal age is between 8 and 12 years-old (Fig.3). In this age, children can read their character independently, understand it and play it. They feel it, being part of a big adventure. With an organiser dedicated to them, the results will maximise (and he/she didn’t need to be with them all the time). The could have more freedom or, at least, believe they have. They can play with the adults characters, but they always should have an adventure specially designed for them. So they can feel special. Each child should have their moment, when they are important to the group. They will learn to work in team and solving complex problems. Even though, you should know that they are children, and they need a big physical activity. You should design active parts, that allow them to be tired and more relaxed.
The most difficult age is between 13 and 16 -when we consider that they can join most larps as an adult player-. In those years, children aren’t anymore, they are teenagers, but they are not mature enough to be part of the adult themes in a complete way (Fig. 4). In his stage, we need to give them characters with more responsibility and relation with the general larp, but being conscious about their age. It is a moment of adaptation, growing and mixed feelings. And we should be aware of it for integrating them. The ideal is having a group of youngsters of this age so they can play and work together, nor being children nor adults, but being the bridge between both groups.
Nevertheless, not all larps are prepared to welcome children in them. If you are preparing a really immersive horror larp, maybe having little children isn’t the best choice. If they are truly terrified, they are going to be out of the character, and they can’t follow the adult argumentation… It’s neither a good idea if you’re going to do a survival larp, or a larp with adult content as sex (as a main thing).
If you believe that your larp and your organisation are prepared for accepting minors in them, those are the things you should be aware of:
Are there violent scenes? Even if you think that they aren’t a big deal for an adult, a child could be shocked easily. For our own experience, we should design the larp for children not to be present in the programmed violent scenes. They can see attacks, and they should interact with those scenes, but they have to be design as something childish and surmountable for them (Fig. 5).
Be aware of some topics: even it’s really interesting to work in gender issues since they are kids, it could be difficult to manage for them. So, if you’re going to do it, have a person with them all the time.
Be careful with the rythm: Think of the child larp as an adventure film or book for children. Don’t understimate the capability of children to discover things in a look, or of being stocked in the most stupid things (for adults, obviously). You need to have somebody guiding them trough the adventure. Ideally, you should have an NPC only for them, and a full-time dedicated organiser.
Don’t accept more children that the number your are capable to handle. Be aware of their ages, so you can know if they can work together and the numer of organisers you will need to control them.
Finally, I should encourage you to integrate children if you can (Fig.6). It’s an amazing experience for all the players, including scenes that are truly unforgettable. In Eureka -our steampunk Rome larps- we made two with children integrated, and an intermediate one (only for them) so they can do the transition between them. I wanted to acknowlege all the parents that had rely on us, and the children -between 9 and 13- that had come to play with us, and they had put all their illusion in each adventure (Fig 7). They are the ones to make true my crazy ideas and the reason why I’m writing this: a personal reflexion about my experience that I hope it will be of your interest.
In those last three years, a lot of things have happened to larps in Spain. We had opened to an international audience (La Sirena Varada, Blue Flame, Hasta que la Mafia nos Separe), we had made new big boffer larps, we had improved a lot our progressive scene… But, even though, things are not better for children in our larps.
All the larps that I’m aware of in Spain that admits children, rely on the parents to prepare things for their kids. Even ti could be an amazing family experience, I think we can do more, and better. Larp can be an amazing educational tool, so larp writters can use it to improve the target of the larp, creating a yuxtaposed stories that enrichened everybody experience.
About larps fully dedicated to children, I’m not aware of anyone if they are not edu-larps done inside schools or scout groups, usually with a short lenght. In this matter, there have been some improvements as the first academic works in Spanish edu-larps (Thank you, Janire for your amazing job).
So we need to work together, as a community, to be able to do family larps that could be as interesting, or more, than the adults ones. Don’t be afraid, there’s a world to discover!
It’s not very common than an Spanish larper goes to a Nordic Larp. In the last year, things have changed a bit due to the big Blockbuster larps as College of Wizardry or Fairweather Manor. Before that point, only a few have gone out of our borders (thanks Zuell, Juan, Pablo and Nast for opening the path). But each time it happens, the Spanish progressive larp scene learns lot of important stuff, has the opportunity to mix with the people who created the larps we have read about… It’s undeniable that Spanish progressive scene has learnt a lot of Nordic Larp books and papers, but experimenting the techniques it’s a whole different thing.
And that’s why I decided to write this review from another point of view. I don’t want to talk about (or not only) the metatechniques or the evolution of the game, but explain what I have learnt and how a Spanish girl feels when is larping abroad and alone. Maybe this is not the post you where expecting, but it’s what I needed to write. So here I go.
I finally decided to join The Solution after a talk with the great Esperanza Montero (to whom this post is dedicated :-* ). She was going to write characters to get a cheaper ticket, and she encouraged me to ask for the Nordic Larp Fund (as I wouldn’t have time to write with the wedding and the honeymoon). And I get it! I was so excited about it! I could finally go to a proper Nordic Larp (FM experience was great, but blockbusters have many differences), in a setting I loved (I truly love dystopias).
The doubts and fears appeared a few months after, when I began to prepare the travel. I needed to travel by myself to the other part of Europe, and Esperanza couldn’t came. Was I able to do it? I told myself “yeah! You’re a strong woman. You can do it”. But it’s not as easy as it could seem. I was really terrified of spending a night alone in Amsterdam, and, after, went to a larp where I barely knew a few people and not really well. I felt alone and all my insecurities were stronger than ever.
My Impostor Syndrome was stronger than ever. I felt like a bad larper, that I shouldn’t be playing with the “olds”, that my English wasn’t good enough to be there. I suppose everyone has felt something similar in a point of his or her life, but the fear was paralysing me. And when I discovered that this week I had to move to England, I nearly quit. However, my wonderful husband convince me to go. He knew that I needed to do it by myself, play it and feel empowered. I’m so grateful for that.
When I arrived to Gothemburg, even Marie receive me, I felt so alone and lost. And when I arrived to the larp, the feeling increased. I could say hello to some people (Linda, Mila, Karolina…) but they were in the previous wave so they were preparing themselves to be took into the larp, so I couldn’t really speak with them. I normally need the socializing previous to the larp, I love talking with people, know them… but my fear was so big that I couldn’t. I felt misplaced.
The workshops helped me to lose my doubts and enter into the larp. I will do a ellipsis here as I want to speak about them and the larp in different parts. But when the larp was finished, I felt better with myself, happy to have been able of playing it. During the postlarp party my fears came back, and I felt so lonely. After an intense larp, I really need hugs, having a friend with whom I could relax, but I hadn’t. I have met some amazing people during the larp, but I have no further relation with them, so they were with their friends, and I was alone. I didn’t know where I was going to sleep or what was going to happen with me, and the freak control inside me couldn’t manage that. But I finally came over it and I made myself speak with others, enjoy the party and solve the problems as they came. And I’m so happy about that. I push my limits a little bit harder, and I discovered a lot of things about myself.
First of all, I attended to the third wave of the larp (short ticket: 30 hours). That’s important because, as I could see later, the experiences not only during the event but also in the previous workshops, have changed a lot between the long, the standard and the short waves(1). If you want to see an interesting review about the standard experience you could read Karolina’s review.
My experience in the workshops was totally different. For me, they worked so well not only for building the relationships but also for learning the meta-techniques. Their rhythm was so good, and I really appreciated the ars amandi and fighting ones.
The ars amandi workshop was the best I’ve ever done. For being clear, I usually hate the loving meta-techniques. When we have used ars amandi in Spain, is usually meanless. It made the sex feels weird, people having sex in front of other people without caring about it, and that isn’t realistic for general situations. Relating with intimacy, I’m with Karolina when she wrote about it in her blog. Maybe one day I would develop my thoughts about it, but this is not the correct moment. This workshop was really well done, and for the first time, I realised how it could be used for rape, and all different kinds of sex. I learned a lot of how explaining and work the technique in a workshop, and I hope we could use that knowledge in future Gorgona larps.
Furthermore, the fighting technique was developed for the needs of this specific larp. And it worked so well. As the set was narrow, they need something that could represent violence without danger for the people involved. They decided to do it pushing the other by the shoulders until they reach the ground. It hasn’t have to be a real fight, just a way of representing it. It was physical, it made you sweat. For me, it worked so well.
During the game, as it usually happens, they were developed. They set the mood and the beginning point for the participants to use them, and the players use them in the way they are more confortable with. In some of the study groups (2), both techniques changed into something more physical, allowing more contact. But it was ok at it was escalated between the larpers.
The larp began going inside the white room. Inside it, you can not speak or touch anybody. For me, it worked well for the beginning of the game. It helped me to go inside my character and trying to find ways of communicating without words. When we were conducted into the complex, my mind, as player and as character, was totally empty, and full of fears. Even though, the long stay in the room made some people to begin to sleep, or doing some strange things, that didn’t help the immersion. I guess that the experience in the white room was so different due to our own core groups (3).
When I went inside the facility, all was in it maximum point. We were the last group to go into so everyone was shouting, was part fo some of the study groups… It was a shock. That was the larp I wanted so badly to be in.
But I blame myself. I couldn’t really immerse in my character. And that’s something that usually don’t happen to me. It was really frustrating. I keep thinking and acting as myself, as I thought I should do. But not as Eeva. And I hated it. I have one of the most important scenes without feeling it. I was sad and I blame myself for it.
But in the middle of the larp, they call me for an interview with one of the npcs. And it worked so much for me. I realise that I should change my play, become more aggressive (as the character was that kind of) and change of core group. I also realise that I hadn’t eat for nearly 24h, and I cried when a guard says that I should go into the facility with the banana I had as compliment after the interview. I had cry for a banana! And suddenly, I realise I could be Eeva.
After that point, I enjoyed the larp more. I joined the Pack and I could finally be part of something (thanks all the players for that). Physicality helped me to be one with the character. And social interactions were stronger from that moment.
Even though, it wasn’t one of my best larps. I have real problems with being one with the character, and I can’t blame the organizers nor the other players for that. I think it was something inside myself. I only hope that the others that played with me enjoyed it.
What should we learn?
As a person,
You shouldn’t be afraid of going alone for a larp. Larp community is so welcoming. If you want to go and can, do it! You will learn a lot about yourself and about larping.
Impostor syndrome doesn’t have to paralise you. You’re better than you think!
You’re able to made new friends!
As Spanish larp community,
We don’t have to be afraid of going out and learn from others. See how they do it isn’t the same as seeing it.
We also have really good larps and larp designers. Progressive larp in Spain is rich and have it distinctive treats, we should not destroy them!
We should keep writing in English about our larps and doing international larp. We are beginning to be known, and we should continue in this path.
I want to really congratulate the organizers not only for the larp but also for being such amazing people. They helped me a lot. I didn’t speak about the design of the set (it was really amazing!) or about the food (it was disgusting but really well design), as I wanted this to be a personal experience post. If I find strength I will try to write another part speaking about all the other things. 🙂
(1) The tickets of the larp were sold with three lengths; long, standard and short. They cost different prices and they provide different game experiences. The long ticket holders could experience the design of the experiment. The standard holders how the groups were formed. The short holders could experience going into the experiment when all was already settle, with the difficulties to fit into the different groups.
(2) The larp was divided in four study groups that you could join or abandon when you wanted, letting you explore four different approaches to the experiment.
(3) Core groups where the previous relations of your character, so they have a common story and they had decided to join the experiment together.
The last weekend of May I played the second run of the Spanish Larp “La Sirena Varada” (The Strainded Mermaid), based in the play of Alejandro Casona. It was created by Somnia and played completely in English.
The location was the Al Jatib caves (Baza, Granada, Spain). I have been there for the Entrereves, the Spanish larp conference a couple of years ago, so the surpise wasn’t as big as for the others. Even though, it is one of the most amazing locations I’ve played in (including some blockbuster events as Fairweather Manor). Of course, it is not as big, or as rich, but it was the ideal place for this kind of larp
One of the things that surprised me more about the propaganda of the larp was that Somnia didn’t make a big point about the location. Of course, they say it was in the caves, and they provided a link to the hotel web page, but it was nearly all. And it was a luxury accommodation.
The Republic of the Free, the community who we were playing, was a rich one. They have just retired to some place in Spain to create art together, to be themselves. And you can truly do that in the caves. The rooms were excellent, the bathrooms amazing. We have a beautiful swimming pool around which we created a lot of amazing art pieces. And, the main point of the location: the hammam. So, it is a perfect 360º place.
Even if you don’t like this kind of games, the location is fantastic if you want to spend a couple of days relaxing near one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Granada.
The workshops were well explained in the design document. They were 15 of them, occupying all the first evening (from 4-12 pm). During the 5-6 first workshops, you are yourself during the explanation of the larp and its mechanics. Even though, you begin to work in the character personality and its relation with the others. After the 7th workshop, you had built your personality and you are inside character most of the time, even you continue working in some aspects of the characters. After that, the breaks are in character (including the dinner break).
It was a curious approach to the pre-larp workshops. Usually, you are out of your character until they finished. We could work in there the different methatecniques (I will explain them latter), built new realtions between the community…
I don’t want to explain them one by one, as you can read them in the design guide. Although, I want to focus in those who were best or worst.
The character creation was done by the technique of the personality triangles. It worked well for me as I could fix the main points of the physique and the mind of Comrade, the character I was playing.
For creating new relations, they used some different workshops. I really enjoyed playing the tandem, as I could create one of the main relations for my character. I also liked the ghost workshop as it really helped to get the mechanique of that point (when your character dies, its memory remains there and people can interact with it). The flashback exercise didn’t work as well as the others, at least for me. It was play in thirds. Other player directed the scenes for the other two, and we changed after. As the director didn’t really knows your character personality, it was difficult to do it.
The most difficult part of the larp was the “fluid time”. We played a full year of the community in only one weekend, so the times flies quickly. When somebody left a conversation and comes back, time has passed in a significant way (for example, two weeks). The workshop tried to help with that but it was done fast as we had run off time. I think this point should improve for the next run (if there is) so players could use the technique more easily.
After the workshops, the larp began with a party.
One of the things that I loved more of the larp was that all –or nearly all- the methatecniques were diagetic in the game. For me, as I came from the Spanish larp tradition in which we don’t use lot of them, was easier for remaining in my character all the larp.
Ars Marte was the technique used by the community for resolving their violent issues. Fighting was a thing for the grey people, the outsiders. We had a workshop for learning it (people came from different countries and some of us had never used it before). Personally, I didn’t like it. Maybe because it feels extrange if you aren’t good doing it, maybe because it was my first time or because I’m not a physical player. I don’t know. By the way, nearly anybody used it. We prefere to solve the problems in a less physically.
They didn’t use Ars Amandi but they were inspired by it to create a way to approaching each other. They use the code “green”, “yellow” and “red” for indicating if you can increase the level of the relation or not. They encourage us to put it inside a sentence for being less intrusive with the game, but I’m not sure it worked well. Sometimes it was confusing.
Even though, making a workshop and knowing that we have a security code for it, made us feel comfortable with personal intercourse. If fact, without really using it, I had some of the best solved sexual relations I’ve ever had in a larp. They wasn’t sex for sex, they meant something to the character and they truly created a link between the couple.
As I already explained in the workshop, the time flows in a non-realistic way. I found the idea very potent. It improves the larp. However, the workshop related to this has to be improved so the awkward situations could be avoided in a better way.
The Shadow caves
I truly love that technique. The Shadow cave was an in-game space where you could go and take a drug that make you have visions. Before going, you should ask somebody to go with you and guide you inside your hallucinations. Your character could share its concerns with the others so they can help him/her. The other character could chose if they are going to help or maybe do something bad to you. Once you take the drugs, everything that the others (that puts on a mask for non-being themselves) said is real for you. Therefore, as the other character, you could use the technique to implant new memories, help with traumas…
I could use the Shadow caves twice during the larp. For the nature of my character (I was an anchor), I didn’t take the drugs but I wanted to help the others with their experiences. It was an amazing experience.
The other caves
In the Other Caves, the truly nature of your character emerge. So, if you go with somebody and you secretly hates him/her, you should act as a hater inside the cave. It was very useful to deep into the real emotions of your character and his/her relations. Inside the cave, you cannot talk and you should act in a primary way (you can make primitive sounds).
I really wanted to test it but I hadn’t the time for going there. Even though, other character that used them had a very good feedback about the experience.
The waters divine
The Waters Divine was the name for the Hammam. We could use the hammam for four hours on Friday and Saturday afternoon. When you go to the Waters Divine, they have to change you in one or other way. Inside, the characters meditate together, help to improve the other’s experience… Some of the most potent feelings of the larp where inside it.
The archetypes and the character sheets
In La Sirena Varada, the character sheets were pre-done, but you had huge liberty to adaptate your character following the advice of your organizator. They use some archetypes based on the theatre play to help the equilibrium of the game design. I don’t want to say a lot about them but you can have the explanation here (http://somnia-larp.wix.com/lasirenavarada#!tools/c11rf).
In La Sirena Varada, you should go into the madness, embracing it. And it was like that. I don’t want to explain a lot about my character or my personal experience and I really recommend to live it yourself. The development of the larp was quite sandboxy so it’s a very different experience each time you play it (in our run, there were two players that were repeating it).
Generally, it worked so well. However, I must point a little thing. The first day should be more relaxing, art-centered, and beginning to embrace the madness. The second day, the madness becomes the central part and the characters began to realise that the utopia maybe it’s not an utopia anymore. We arrived easily to that point but I think that the organizer’s characters were reinforcing that point too much, so they nearly killed the artistic expression and the joy of the madness. I think I would have liked a final with more excentric madness and not a depressing one. However, I had a beautiful end and I liked the experience a lot.
For me, arts were the best part of the Larp. Inside La Sirena Varada, you can find a secure environment to let your artistic abilities go. People created amazing poetries, shared their favourite songs with the sound of the guitar, danced, photos, write stories…
I can only congratulate all the participants for their amazing performances and for letting me sharing mi poor bellydance skills. I was so comfortable with it and I could create a piece of dancing out of nothing (and it was, maybe, the best piece I’ve ever danced).
“La Sirena Varada” is not a larp for all publics. And it doesn’t intend to be. Moreover, that is one of the main points of larps as these one. They are created for the adult public, to let you explore new facades of your inner self. They are not fun for fun. You should know in what are you getting into, and I think Somnia has been very clear about it (If you don’t believe it, see “the vision” in the web page).
First of all, you should be interested in exploring deep emotions, craziness and strong relationships. The characters are pre-written but adapted to you, so you could really do what the characters can. However, you should work in them to interiorise them. Don’t be afraid, the workshops help with it. Personally, it’s really important to be an immersionist, enjoying really being another person, for truly enjoying this game.
Secondly, you should like sandbox larps, as you will be required to create stories both for others and for yourself. According to the organizers, it is not a truly sandbox game, as they are already written characters and some plots. For me, it is. As there is not an overall story that make you into it. You have to create it yourself.
Finally, you have to enjoy art or, even better, performing some of it. It is a truly creative Larp. It is designed for letting you create and share your creations. It could be a painting, a poem, a song or, maybe, a dance. The other characters are encouraged to listen and even participate. For me, this is one of the best things of La Sirena.
Amazing shot of the second run by Herman Langland.
Finally, Janire Roldán, one of the participants, has made a review of “So, Mum, I made a Sex Tape”, because, and I said in #Feminism. A review (II), I was playing “My Sister Malala” at the same time.
Four of us decided to play this game due to the topic that is funny and taboo at the same time. The game is designed for 3-5 players with preformed characters. One of them is the girl who has made a sex tape and is proud of it but she wants to know the opinion of other female members of her family.
It is a good way to know the evolution of feminism from its beginning through the role of the grandmother until nowadays thanks to the role of the girl. All the characters are strong in their convictions and the way a woman has to live and think about sex and porn.
If you want to play this game, here there are some tips:
-If you are 4 players it is better to include the aunt rather than the sister. It will be very refreshing and a good support for the girl.
-Don’t create tense relationships. Mother and aunt should be sisters, no sisters-in-law.
-We played during 20 minutes and it was too short! We could be playing for, at least, 10 more minutes.
-And the most important one: enjoy every moment and have fun.
Writing about “Flesh” is, maybe, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Flesh is designed by Frederik Berg, Rebecka Eriksson and Tobias Wringstad, and it became the strongest experience of the weekend. It was, even, a life-changing one for most of us. Therefore, trying to make a review without telling personal histories is not easy.
First of all, Flesh it’s not a larp. It’s most like a therapy. And it’s only for women (trans or cis). At least in the way that we played it. It requires a private space and certain grade of reliability between the players. We weren’t sure about how to play it exactly (if we have to do it all together, the times of each action…).
And that’s why we adapted the game in a way we think it could work. Maybe, when you read it, you realised we were totally wrong about it. Yes, we admit that.
We played it in turns. Each of us chose a song, which really meant something to her, so they can, literally, nude their bodies and souls. When we did that, we wrote in our bodies the problems we have with them, and our strengths. We objectify ourselves until the point of being nothing but a body. And after, the other players erase it for us –while explaining why it is not important-, letting us be only flesh.
It was wonderful, and terrifying. We discovered things about ourselves that we had never realised before. We open our souls, and let the others be inside. We broke, but we manage to rebuild us in a new, strong way.
Writing about 6066 after Flesh, it’s hard, because they are two totally oposed experiences. 6066 is a comedy larp written by Elin Nilsen. We played it on Sunday morning, one some guys and other girls had come also. Even if it’s supposed to be from 3 to 6 players, we were 11. I think it is a larp that could be escalated, but I didn’t recommend to be more than 8 (we were too many people for some of the actions).
I have to admit that it was one of the most appealing larps for me. As being a doctor in Archaeology, I’m personally interested in how you can know a society by the things they left behind. In that way, using a soap opera was really an amazing way to point the gender roles problems that we are leaving behind.
On the other hand, it was hilarious to play. We were inspired by the south american soap operas (the most common in Spain) and we translated the title as: “Amor, Lujuria y Desconfianza”. One of our friends invented the entire song of the credit lines, and we were singing it for days.
I have to confess that we played it for nearly two hours, but it was so much fun. The mechanic of changing between the soap opera and the students seeing it, and being able to stop, pause and rewinding was so well designed. Totally recommended.
We found all the games of #feminism that we played very interesting. It was a pitty not having more time on Sunday to play more of them (we wanted to test with the guys the games “Catcalling” and “A Friend in Need”). So we have decided two important things. The first of all is that we have to do them another day. The second one, it’s that the girls will meet once a year, alone, for enjoying that amazing experience. We hope to design our own games next time.
It was an incredible experience for ours (the girls who passed all the weekend). After it, we are like sisters, we have share too much for not having a real liaison, something special. And that’s something that you cannot pay with money.
After lunch, we divided in two groups to play simultaneously. Three of us played “My sister Malala” (me included) and other four went to the other terrace to play “Mum, I made this sex tape”.
“My sister Malala” is a play designed by Elsa Helin. It’s a free form for only three players. In this game, you will play one of three Pakistan teenagers, who can use the Internet in their schools, and the different lives they live and suffer. For that, each of them has two scenes: a Facebook state and its conversation, and a live-role playing short scene.
We only made two changes to the original design. The first one was beginning the Facebook conversation by an actual written state just below the Facebook page we designed in the workshop (we decided not only to describe the photos, but also to draw them). We think that helps to reenact how a real Facebook post is. After that, we continued the conversation orally, as it is described in the game.
The second change was in the short scenes. According to the designer, all the players together have to decide about how the scene will end. In the Spanish larp culture, that is a very strange concept. We prefer playing the larps without knowing the ending, flowing with the events. So we agreed on adapting it. Before the scene began, the other two players (non-protagonist ones) spoke about how they are playing their characters and how they want to finish it. Therefore, for the main character, the entire scene was a surprise, in the same way that it would have been to the real teenager. And I think that this change worked marvelously.
Overall, I think that the design is very solid. It was amazing the way in which it creates a scale of tension and identification with the different girls. I totally recommend playing it if you can.
Mum, I made this sex tape
The other four girls played “Mum, I made this sex tape”, designed by Susanne Vejdemo. I couldn’t make a complete review of the larp as I hadn’t played it. Nevertheless, they had an amazing time and I hope some of the players will make a review soon and I could attach it here.
Mentioning the Unmentionables
After two hard games, we decided to play something more light-hearted. And our choice was “Mentioning the Unmentionables” by Kajsa Greger. It was the funniest game I’ve ever played, especially the first two parts.
As it happened with the other games, as we wanted to play all together, we adapted the game for seven. It wasn’t a problem for the two first games (“Vulvas” and “Dying for a cup of coffee”) but it was for the last one (“Just Put Some Salt on It”). When you play the last one with more than five people, it is very long, as you have to replay each scene three times. So, as the games can be played separately, I highly recommend to play the two firsts with more people if you like, but not the third one.
“Vulvas” is an easy game, but it is so much fun. We nearly double the objective number, so we were very happy about it (after, we continue with it all the daylong when we remember a new film). For Spanish speakers that want to made this game, we translated the word “vulva” for “vagina” as the meaning in Spanish is funnier (Spaniards tends to be more open with saying some words as “coño” –c***- and “vulva” is like a high level word for us”).
I’m not going to explain a lot about the other two games, as they need to be played without knowing the twists they have. However, if you need a funny game but, at the same time, with important issues addressed in them, “Mentioning the Unmentionables” has to be your choice. It is time for the women’s anatomy, problems and needs to be spoken by its names.
After them, we went together again and we decided to play “Glizty Nails” designed by Kat Jones. Glitzty Nails explores the relation between women of different social classes, and how their problems are not only different but also they made them fall apart in the fight for rights.
The larp is for 2 or 4 players, but we decided to play it for 6 (3 clients, and 3 workers). Moreover, as we were 7, two of them played as one (one played the emigrant and the other the executive). Even it is not a problem to increase the number of players in pairs (2, 4, 6, 8…), I highly recommend not to play it in impairs. It is more interesting if you can play both roles.
We decided to make other change in the setting. According to the design, you must play it in a table, as they do the manicure in most of western countries. But, based in our experience visiting southeastern countries as Vietnam or Cambodia, we put three armchairs for the clients and we made the manicure in our knees. It increases the feeling of humiliation, the difference between them. It work so well (even all of as have pain in our legs the day after).
For me, this game was one of the better designed in the book. It was well thought, well written, and it was even better when you play it. You could totally feel how a women loses everything when they abandone their countries to find a new life.