The judgemental mirror

8 Apr


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.


  1. 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.
  2. The group hands him a slip of paper with an action on it
  3. 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.
  4. 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


8 Apr

Establishing physical connection between players. Illustrating personal boundaries.

Tell the players that they are going to hug. Help them pair up in an inclusive fashion.

Have them to stand facing each other at arms length. Tell them to look each other in the eyes. Tell them to wrap their arms around each other and hug.

Whenever they feel uncomfortable, its ok to say ”cut”, ”break” or whatever safe words you might have. When a couple has used the safe work, have them step aside.

When every last player has called the safe word. Or, something like 10 minutes of hugging (if they keep hugging).

Instead of hugging, have player #1 bend player #2´s finger until it starts to hurt. Use safety word. Switch and repeat.

Culture calibration in pre-larp workshops

8 Apr

Martin Nielsen wrote a great article on culture calibration on his blog. Check it out:

With a few exceptions, all larps take place in a set culture. This can be either a fictional culture or a culture based on the real world. For the previous larps where I have been part of the organizer team, we have made an effort to define the culture together with the players through a pre-larp workshop. This includes facilitating that the players calibrate their understanding of the culture. Earlier this month, I facilitated a workshop on this subject based on the larps Tinget (2011), Till Death Do Us Part (2012) and Huntsville (2013) at the Swedish larp conference Prolog. This blogpost is based on that workshop.

I will go through different strategies for communicating cultural understanding and present some suggestions on how to use a workshop to calibrate cultural understanding. I will also present some arguments for why I believe traditional means of communication has a lower potential than a workshop in order to calibrate cultural understanding.

Read the rest of the article here

Move that body

8 Apr

Helping players become less self-conscious. Spatial understanding.

You can play this with non-rhythmic music or in silence.

Have the players walk around randomly in the room. Tell them to stop, stand up straight with their arms along their sides. Guide them through their body, making them aware of every part. Have them focus on the blood stream and the pulse. Tell them that their pulse is a natural rhythm that occurs in their body every living moment – that their body is always moving, always dancing to the rhythm of the heart.

Instruct the players to move to the music in any way they like. Tell them that they dont have to worry about doing smart moves or looking cool.

Elaborate by having the players interact with each other.

This exercise can last for around 15-30 minutes. It usually benefits from a slow pace.

Character Co-creation: Surrendering to the group

5 Mar


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


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.


– 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.


-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?! “

Pre-larp workshop in France

22 Jan

A friend in France just sent us this video documenting a pre-larp workshop. It is lovely to see that the techniques are being used abroad.

Ateliers PréGN ados 2013 from LJC secteur ados on Vimeo.

Master and slave

4 Dec

Fun, working with status.

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.

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.

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

Fun, working with status.

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?

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.

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

Fun, working with status, working with bodylanguage.

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.

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


Status and status play

4 Dec

Status play means playing consciously a person’s hierarchical position in regard to other people, as the status of a person describes the person’s place in the hierarchy. When we speak about status we have to differentiate between social status and status play. The social status can be for example a profession related position: religious leaders, army commanders and respected professionals (i.e. important to other people, for example doctors) have a high social status. The hierarchy of the social status is based on the values of the social culture and the social positioning of being upper class or lower class, not necessarily your behavior.

Status play is not directly related to your social position, but to your behavior. In real life, when we meet other people, we quickly define other people’s status and find our place on the hierarchical ladder. Our own position is affected by our personality (shy, introvert, self-confident, extrovert), our prejudices and our first impression of others (for example their age, education, knowledge, wealth). In normal communication our status changes often and very rapidly: if another person says he has done something you respect, his status will rise, if you do something embarrassing, your status will decline.

The status of a person can be expressed by themselves in body language and voice, but can also be played up by others. If I treat you as having high status, then your status is heightened. This is extra important for some roles, like high status roles, but the playing of lowering your own status, and raising the others (or the opposite) can be more subtle too.

In any drama – larp, film or theatre – the status play is more important in the relationship and the social status is more important in character creation. For the drama to seem alive, an actor/player must know his own status, understand the hierarchy of status in his surroundings and be able to perform the changes in hierarchy.

Master and slave, Decision making and status chairs are some of the status exercises already on the handbook. More information and games on status can be found in Keith Johnstone’s books Impro and Impro for storytellers.