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Describe in detail

27 Oct

Purpose
Concentration, imagination, agreements

Instruction
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).

Ending
The exercise ends when everyone has described a scene.

Variation
Consider having a short discussion after each description to callibrate if this is really the game the players want to play.

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Confessing, Gossipping and Confronting as conscious tools for a better larp.

2 Feb

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!

Love,

Susanne

Susanne A vejdemo DOT se

Calibration of cultural understanding

23 Apr

Purpose

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.

Requirements

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.

Instructions

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.

Ending

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.

Varieties

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.

Slow-mo fight sequence

9 Apr

Purpose
Creating group background, collective memories. Fun.

Instruction
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.

Alternatives
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.

Character Co-creation: Surrendering to the group

5 Mar

Purpose

To create characters collaboratively. To let go of the power of your own character creation, and give it to your group.

Requirements

The group must be smaller than 6 people, or else you have to split the group in two.

The players need to be comfortable with improvisation. If not, then you have to work a lot more and add a couple of improvisation exercises.

Instruction

– Tell the participants of the concept of Veto and Retake. If someone gives you a suggestion about your character which you don’t want to use in play, say Veto and the person gets to do a retake, i.e give another suggestion.

– There’s a point with every part of this workshop, and the order they come in. However, you may rearrange and pick out the bits that fits your larp.

Improvisation

-Start with instructing the players to lie on the floor or sit comfortably. Take turns to say random words in the relationship and trait categories, e.g “shy” or “lovers”

Attitude: Pair up two and two. Give each other your (pretend) opinion of them, e.g “I think you’re a pain in the ass”, or “I love how you fight”. Take some turns, and then change direction of the improvisation. If A has been giving and establishing what he/she thinks of B, then it’s B’s turn. “Oh, you think I’m a wonderful dancer!” or “You hate my guts”. Remind them that you’re supposed to pretend stuff, and not tell your partner your real attitudes.

Secrets in the closet: Pair up two and two. A asks what B has in his/her closet, and B presents one of his/her secrets. “Look here, I’ve been cheating these last two years!” or, “I’ve been lying about my past to get a job!”. Change direction after a couple of rounds, so that A establish what B has in his/her closet. “Oh, you have an inferiority complex!”

Accusations: Pair up two and two and start accusing each other. A “You have exactly the same sweater as me, you’re just trying to be like me, aren’t you?” and B gets to shortly react.

Character creation

Fragments: The group shall collaboratively write as many character fragments as participants. The fragments may only consist of an external unreasonable anticipation, “My mom always expects me to get top grades”. You should also add two long-term goals, that in certain situations will be in conflict and force decisions. “I want to make my parents proud, but/and I want to have as much fun as I can in my life.”

Memories: Gather up and give out the character fragments at random. The group shall focus on one character at a time and describe a memory they have about him or her, from the perspective of their own character. “She always used  to laugh a little too loud at my jokes. It’s was quite uncomfortable”. Do a few rounds while the owner of the character take notes.

This exercise’s purpose is primarily to find out who the character is, through someone else’s eyes. But a lovely side effect is that you get to know the relationship between A and the other characters, and a bit of who they are. Point it out to the players.

Eavesdrop: The group improvises a scene where they talk behind the back of the character, while he/she eavesdrops. Make a scene where they talk positively and one negatively, e.g. a scene where A did a great thing scolding the teacher, or when A fucked the whole project up. The character has heard this in-game. The other players play their own characters. Switch so that everyone gets to eavesdrop.

Short-term: Take turns improvising in couples while the rest watch. You will make up scenes where you explore the characters short-term goals. B starts with an accusation or assumption, with focus on relationship and personality. “I know it was you who made me trip during the exercises! You always try to make me look bad in front of everyone, what have I ever done to you?! “

Master and slave

4 Dec

Purpose
Fun, working with status.

Instruction
One person in the group will play the master and the others slaves, each one in turn. the slave tries to please his master and to fill all his master’s demands. If the master gets irritated – even a little – by his slave’s behavior, he snaps his fingers and the slave ‘dies’. When the exercise is finished, the master should tell the reasons that made him snap his fingers. You can also try this exercise with the option of the slave having three lives (and thus a possibility to change his behavior). When you are the master, have courage to use your power.

Ending
The point of the exercise is to play with status and it should end when the players have gotten an impression of extreme power relationships.

Variation
The exercise could be used after creating characters and relationships in the player group to work with which things will trigger a reaction from the high status characters.

Decision making

4 Dec

Purpose
Fun, working with status.

Instruction
As a group choose four roles, which give clear association of some kind of social status in relation to each other. Choose the roles from some easy environment. For example from school world: headmaster, history teacher, young trainee, janitor. Write the roles on piece of paper and put them in a box. Then choose in your mind a number for yourself from 1-4 (your own status number). 1 = highest, 4 = lowest. If you choose number 2 or 3, decide who of the others have higher status than you and who has lower without telling them. Don’t tell others your number. This is your status play position in the hierarchy. Then decide a situation in which the characters must make a decision together. For example dealing with the tasks of preparing for the school’s annual party. Now you all pick a role for yourself from the box. These roles are your social status, not your played status. Play the scene remembering to express your character and hold on to your status at the same time.

In this exercise it is good if part of group can be an audience and try to find out what number each person has chosen; what is the status hierarchy from each persons point of view. Notice, that the persons may have chosen the same numbers and/or there is a conflict between their role and the status position chosen. For example, what kind of a headmaster has status number 3? Or a janitor with number 1? What happens if everyone has chosen number 1 or number 4?

Ending
You can end the exercise in many ways. When there is a visible status conflict or whenever you want can use what is happening in the scene to visualize something that would be useful in the larp.

Variation
Once you have all played this game a few times each and you are getting good at it, you can mix it up by trying to play your status as close to your partners as possible. In the right position but just below or above your partners. Try to make it more sublime and less overt. Try being as close as possible without loosing the differentiation. Or why not play with a turning point where there is a reason for the statuses to shift (someone looses face, everyone realize someone is cooler then they thought etc). Hopefully you have had at leased some scenes where people try to lower and heighten each other or them self by now. If not, choose together to play the same status to practice this.

Status Chairs

4 Dec

Purpose
Fun, working with status, working with bodylanguage.

Instruction
A person with low status usually tries to use as little space as possible. Sit on a chair using as little space on the chair as possible and make the impression of a very small person: crouch, keep your toes turned inward and your face down, avoid eye-contact, keep your hands close to your body. Try this exercise in a group: try to be smaller and less noticeable than the person next to you.

Those who have high status know how to use their space. They are certain and have large gestures. Sit on the chair using all the space you can: sit upright, keep your head up, make eye-contact with the others (remember that they have lower status than you!), if the person next to you comes into your space, “push” him away socially (give a judging  look, drop a snide comment etc) or physically.

Try this exercise while presenting yourself to the others sitting down. Think about how your status affects your way of speaking.

Ending
End the exercise when the players have gotten an impression of how status and body language are interconnected.

 

Blind animals

10 Feb

Purpose
Fun, working with senses, working with character foundation.

Instruction
Instruct the players to lie on the floor and close their eyes. The start leading them through a short storytelling session where you go through the senses one after one, instructing them to focus on this particular sense for a while. When you are through, instruct the players to find a “character” in the setting of your choosing (a damp forest full of animals or a cave full of trolls are recommended) and tell them that they are allowed to move around and interact as they want.

You also instruct the players never to open their eyes and not to use language (other sounds are perfectly fine).

Ending
The exercise can last for a long time (20-40 minutes is easily doable) and you can end it whenever you feel that the players have had a fulfilling experience.

Variation
Before you start the exercise hand the players small notes with inspiration for their “characters”, for example “large”, “agressive”, “slow” or whatever you want.

If you want, you can choose to use the characters the players have created as the basis (or an element) of the characters they are going to play in their larp.

Relationship development

29 Jun

Purpose
common understanding of relationships and their development

Instruction
Ask the players to divide into pairs with someone they are going to (or allready are) playing closely together with. Tell them to make an image of their current relationship, for example portraying love, anger, fear, conflict or whatever. Then ask them to portray their future relationship in the same way, for example moving into sorrow, friendship or whatever.

The exercise makes it very visible for both players how their relationship is going to develop during the larp and makes it easier for them to play in the same direction. The physical character of the exercise also creates another kind of understanding than what would occur if the relationship development were to be discussed – and its faster.

Ending
The exercise can be repeated with different players as many times as you deem it necessary.