Mo Holkar has written a piece on the elements of a larp workshop. Check it out.
Instruct the players to stand in a circle, with the left foot towards the center. Then instruct them to rub their hands together until they are nice and warm (energized). Then instruct them to slowly bring the top hand up above their heads.
Tell them that you will count down from three and that on “one” they will all clap and shout “yes” three times.
It end when you have done it 🙂
Concentration, imagination, agreements
Instruct the players (in groups) to describe a scene from the game they are going to play in as great detail as possible, while the others listen. Guide them by giving an example with a lot of detail yourself (How does it look and smell, what sounds are present, what is the mood, the weather, the situation and so on).
The exercise ends when everyone has described a scene.
Consider having a short discussion after each description to callibrate if this is really the game the players want to play.
Fun, concentration, communication, working with core.
Instruct the players to stand in a circle and instruct them in the three movements and sounds they can make.
1) Samurai: Sound = Haa’a ; Movement = lift folded hands over head (as if they were a sword)
2) Ninjas: Sound = Ho ; Movement = chop with folded hands towards the belly of the samurai.
3) Samurai: Sound = Hai ; Movement = Point to another person in the circle with your folded hands.
So…the point is that the samurai lifts his sword to go for the kill, but is intercepted by the ninjas (the persons immediatly to his right and left) after which he still chops at someone…and then whomever she has chosen starts over.
The exercise should be serious and fokused and the sounding should be clearly outspoken.
As your participants become accustomed to the exercise ask them to to it rhytmically, so you get a nice “Haa’a, Ho, Hai” rhytm going. You can also tell your participants that they have to run around the circle every time they make a mistake to increase the difficulty.
The exercise ends when you feel that your participants have found a nice rhytm.
Duration: 10 minutes
Goal: Get participants comfortable with screaming and arguing with each other; get them to understand how easy it is to change the atmosphere of a group when other players are good at listening.
Instructions: Divide participants into groups of 3 to 6. Give them a scene where a conflict is likely to arise: what to do about the club’s stolen money; what to serve at a buffet; how to organize the night guard; prioritizing the group’s needs, etc. Tell them to start playing.
Alternative 1: Make large signs (taping the short ends of two a4 papers together, for instance) with the bickering-instructions. Hold these up and show them around – all groups have to change their interactions to match the sign. Re-use signs (passive aggressive and forgiveness are good ones to have more than ones)
Alternative 2: Make small slips of paper with the bickering instructions. Give two each to the players and tell them to not show the others. Let the players know that they have to try to get the group, at one point or other, to turn towards fulfilling their instruction.
Bickering instructions (add more of your own): Louder; Even more loud; Angrier; Tears; Frustration; Passive aggressive; Forgiveness; Happy Memories; Accusations; Ultimatums; Constructive Plans; Agreement.
N.B: If you are familiar with the term “narrativist” larping style, this fits into that style. If not, don’t worry about it.
Duration: 30 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the tim you have.
Goal: Get participants to think consciously about how social interactions like confessions, spreading rumors and confronting other players in interventions makes sure more people get in on the fun of social larping.
Phase 1: The short lecture ~10 minutes.
Now we’re going to talk about a few larping tools or techniques that maybe you, up until now, never considered “tools or techniques”. For larpers with experience and/or a good “sense” of what a larp needs, this might be self evident, but our experience is that even those get a lot out of thinking about these things consciously.
First, let’s talk about confessions. Social larps typically have secrets. Characters might want secrets to stay secret for ever, but you, as players, want secrets revealed. A hidden secret is boring. This ties into an important larp principle: A character’s goals and desires are not the same as the player’s goals and desires. This then is another larp principle: When you have or find out a secret, you have to spread it around to a at least a few persons. How can you do this? [Ask group for suggestions].
- Confess to an authority figure. A priest, a leader, someone you admire. Your character suddenly feels guilt or uncertainty and needs advice.
- Confess to your best friend – you can even get them to promise Never Ever Ever to tell someone else. (We’ll get back to this)
- Confess to a complete stranger – they will never be involved with this (your character thinks) so surely it can’t be a problem to confess to them.
- Misspeak! Your character suddenly “thinks out loud” or says something that gets others to suspect that something is wrong.
- Your character gets drunk or angry or incredibly happy and just shouts something out in the middle of the playing area.
- Write a diary or a letter with your secret. Leave it (“Forget it”) in a place where a lot of people go. (Do not hide it, people are unfortunately often too polite to look at “forgotten papers” unless it is very obvious that they should.)
This brings us to the next technique: Gossipping or Spreading rumors. If you have a secret, you have to get it out there to more people. And, here’s the next principle: if you hear a rumor you have to spread it on to at least one (preferably more) people. And if someone tells you to Never Ever tell someone else the rumor, remember that you can always get the same promise of the next person you tell it to, and you’ll be safe: use Promise-Not-To-Tell-rumor chains. Now, what are some different motivations for different characters to gossip? [Ask the group for suggestions]
- Spread the rumor because it’s fun to spread rumors! (“Oh dear, listen, listen, I hear the most horrible thing – did you know that they say that Sara cheated on her wife?”
- Spread the rumor because you wish the person it involves ill. (“That Sara is no good – I have it on good authority that she cheated on her wife. She’s such a pig.”)
- Spread the rumor because you wish the person well. (“You know what I heard? That Sara had cheated on her wife… She’s such a sweet heart, it must be the stress, I really worry for her, what can we do for her?”
- Spread the rumor because you Simply Can’t Believe It. (“Someone just told me that Sara – our Sara! – had cheated on her wife. Why would people say such things? Make up such lies? What is this town coming to, I wonder!)
The next logical step is confrontation – or intervention. An “intervention” is a practice where people who are concerned over a friend’s behavior get together to confront the person as a group. A confrontation can be more openly aggressive. When you have the slightest reason to do so, as a player you have a duty to start to work towards creating a confrontation with people who you have heard rumors about. Now, when you do this, try to use another important larp technique: always bring a friend along. Whatever you do, try to involve at least one other person, spreading “play” and cool scenes along. What are some motivations for creating a confrontation you might use for you character?
- Do it with bad intentions (“Sara, you pig, you’ve cheated on my sister! Admit it!”)
- Do it with good intentions (“Sara, we’re all here because we love you. We know about the cheating. We think you are in a bad place emotionally right now, and we’re here to support you, but also to tell you, one by one, how your behavior has hurt this famiy, and how hurt we are by you.”).
- Do it in support (“Sara, we’re here to say that we’ve heard the rumors about your cheating, and that we of course, don’t believe them at all! We wanted to give you the opportunity to say exactly what you think about these false accusations.”) (This is, of course a good opportunity for Sara to confess).
To sum up, we have the following principles
- A character’s goals and desires are not the same as the player’s goals and desires.
- When you have or find out a secret, you have to spread it around to a at least a few persons.
- If you hear a rumor you have to spread it on to at least one (preferably more) people. (Remember that you can use Promise-Not-To-Tell-rumor chains.)
- As a player you have a duty to start to work towards creating a confrontation with people who you have heard rumors about
- Bring a friend along
Phase 2: Exercise instructions
The participants will now larp a mini-larp in a dream that their characters are having. They can use their characters from the larp they are about to attend, if this exercise is done in preparation for a larp. The setting can be, for instance a queue for something where everyone is waiting, or maybe a party. It doesn’t matter if the participants characters would be unlikely to meet prior to the larp – tell them that this is a dream and that they are vaguely aware of it being a dream. This is a good opportunity for participants to “test out” their characters before the actual larp starts – they can test and discard mannerisms that don’t work out, for instance.
Give out x number of slips of papers with secrets (where x = (number of participants/7), approximately). On these slips are secrets. Give them out to volunteers. These are the rules:
- The participants have Y minutes (at least 15) before all the confrontations have to be done.
- The volunteers have to, as soon as possible, find a reason to confess the secret to a few people.
- Anyone hearing a secret/rumor has so spread the rumor on to more people.
- As soon as you tell someone a rumor that that person has already heard, you have to form a group of people and go and confront the person the rumor is about.
Examples of secrets are: I’ve stolen money; I’ve cheated; I’ve stolen a really nice hat/scarf/pen; I’ve lied about (a task I had to do/that I’m guilty of something) to X; I’ve gotten access to Y in an unfair manner etc.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any suggestions of questions about the workshop!
Susanne A vejdemo DOT se
This list is compiled from a facebook-thread on good sources for energizers. Some are Danish.
– Online collection. The password is “play”
– Book (Danish)
– Online resource
Promote a common understanding of the cultural norms in the society where the larp is set and uncovering cultural preconceptions the players bring with them.
The group is ideally 10-40 players. With small groups, you don’t use observers. With very large groups, the discussions can be broken down in groups and someone speaks on behalf of the group.
This exercise should be used after there is some common understanding on which culture the larp takes place in. It doesn’t matter if that culture is established by the organizers, by building on an existing culture or by a collaborative workshop process.
This exercise involves playing for fellow participants that are not playing at the same time. Some larpers may be uncomfortable with that and they should be allowed to opt-out. Introduce cut and break rules for this exercise, at least if the scenes can be very intense and/or physical.
Explain the concept of culture for the players. Culture is the common understanding of norms, “how things work here”. It is stable, and will generally not change during a larp unless there is an “external shock”.
Explain that we will play test scenes to calibrate the cultural understanding in terms of:
– Everyday life (e.g. children playing, meal)
– Rites (e.g. member leaving the group/death, festival)
– Taboos (e.g. violence, person of authority crying)
If you have limited time, skip some of them. Divide players into groups. If the culture consists of several sub-groups, for example different departments within a company or the horsemen, swordsmen and the archers in an army, divide the groups like that and start by defining each group’s subculture. After some scenes in each subgroup, do a scene that includes several subgroups at once.
Give each group one scene each to prepare (i.e. portray a family sharing food). It doesn’t need to involve all the players, or some players can have secondary roles (i.e. bystanders at a proposal). If not all players have something to do, the rest can either join the observers, or you can do a variation where they can “tag in” or be directors. It can be useful to also give a way to end the scene (i.e. the scene ends when someone leaves the room).The players play temporary characters used for this scene only. If you spend a lot of time on this exercise, the players can be given the opportunity to suggest scenes too, but let the first scenes be pre-defined by the organizers.
When the players have had a few minutes to discuss let them play the scene when the rest of the groups observes.
Encourage the observers to take notice of small details in the culture, and to observe both “the exotic” and “the obvious”. This is important to increase the awareness of how easily we reproduce stereotypes and our own culture. “The exotic” is things that are clearly making the culture different from stereotypes or our own culture. “The obvious” is the opposite, it can be for example shaking hands when people meet, the distance between people when they talk or gender roles as we know them in our own society. Be aware that if the players cultural background is diverse, you can expect the cultural differences to bleed into the workshop in the sense that what’s “the exotic” to some is “the obvious” to others.
After the scene is over, ask the observers to describe what they saw, both “the obvious” and “the exotic” cultural norms. Take notes on a blackboard or flip-over if possible. It is OK if different people have observed contradicting norms. When the observers are finished, ask the people playing the scene if they have anything to add. Then, open a discussion of whether or not we are satisfied or not with the norms. Criteria for assessing the norms can be:
– Is the culture in line with the vision for this larp?
– Is the culture playable for all players?
– Is the culture sustainable over (sufficient) time?
– Is there anything we can do to increase playability?
– Are changes required due to off-game concerns, such as player safety
The organizers can take part in this discussion along with the players. If the players and organizers agree that major changes would make a better larp, the scene should be replayed by the same group or another group and another discussion can follow. Of course, time will limit how many reruns you can do, but the more scenes that are played the better will the calibration of the culture be.
If there are disagreements, it is important that the organizers make sure that a conclusion is reached before the end of the workshop. This can be done in many ways, a compromise will usually be the best, but other mechanisms can be a vote or the organizers making a decision.
When the culture to some extent is calibrated, divide into groups of common background and use the same method for playing scenes from the past. The purpose is to calibrate the understanding of the relations. Since the cultural understanding is already established it will be easier for the players to isolate the relation patterns.
When merging many subcultures, you can do a large scene where all players take part and are both players and observers.
If there are more players in a group than necessary in a scene, you can allow remaining players to tag-in and change the scene under way by tapping one of the players on the shoulder, or be directors. Directors can sometimes feel the pressure to do stuff even when the scene works well already, and they should be encouraged not to intervene too much.
Let the players use the characters they will play in the larp for these test scenes. This has the advantage of saving time by calibrating relations at the same time, but it makes the exercise less focused, and it can be harder to identify which actions are determined by cultural norms and which are determined by relations. This drawback has minor importance if the larp is only about one group of people, which makes this variety useful for small, short larps.
A more extensive variant of the same exercise is playing a small test-larp, for example for one hour. This must not be confused with a prologue where what happens enters the minds of the characters as their background. Nothing that happened in the test-larp, is part of the characters history when the real larp begins, it is just a way to try out understanding ofculture, relations and characters and then adjust and calibrate before the real larp starts.
Thanks to Sigve Indregard, Øyvind Kvanmo Sund and in particular Grete Sofie Bulterud Strand for co-development of this method.
Creating group background, collective memories. Fun.
Divide players in groups of 5-10 with a GM for each group. Briefly, sort out character relations. Instruct the players to agree on a point in their group background where fighting was about to occur.
The scene is played in ultra rapid slow motion. The GM plays all antagonistic forces. The GM helps to stimulate the narrative, but whenever the players take control the GM can let go of telling the story.
Like tabletop roleplaying, everyone tells their next move out aloud.
Have a larger group assist one player in a matrix “bullet-time” style fight. The assistant players are allowed to mould the “hero-player” s body against other groups. This way of doing it might change the purpose of the game into something more silly, in a good way.
This exercise experiments with a characters perception of how others perceive him or her
The group writes down around seven actions that can be taken in social situations, which the person later has to perform nonverbally in front of them. While this is going on, the person playing the character should leave the group. This should take a maximum of five minutes.
Examples, for a young person, who is in love with a girl, but scared about how the family will judge him, might be performing the following actions:
- Smiling at the family.
- Looking serious in front of the family.
- Greeting the family for the first time, by trying to shake their hand.
- The First Kiss
- Kneeling and asking her to marry him.
- One participant stands in front of the rest of the group. They are all bunched up closely, such that he can see all of them, and they can stare back at him.
- The group hands him a slip of paper with an action on it
- The person then has to perform this action, nonverbally, whilst all the other participants stare at him and comment on his behaviour in a judgemental manner. The other people never do anything other than stand and stare at the person. The main participant must maintain eye contact with the others at all times.
- Whenever the situation has drawn out for long enough in an awkward manner, another slip is handed to the player, which he then has to perform
Examples might be:
- “That smile is very awkward”.
- “My god, seriously, he is doing that?”
- “Grow up.”
- “This is a disaster.”
- “Thank god I’m not him”
When all the notes have been used you thank the players.
- If done as a character preparation exercise, the other players might play their respective characters as well, while being judgmental.
- The affirming mirror. Instead of being judgmental, the other players notice nice things about the character.
- The status mirror. If done as a character preparation exercise, the other characters might comment on the behaviour based on their relative opinion of the person. A rock star might be showered in praise, with certain people finding his actions ridiculous, whereas a bully victim might be despised by some people, pitied by others, and loved by one person.
Created at Knutpunkt 2014 by Danny Wilson and Frida Karlsson Lindgren