Latest Publications

The pre-emptive character – Love in the Age of Debasement

Six couples. A cafè. 3 hours. No orcs, goblins, mystical orders, spies, asassins, or any kind of extraordinary characters. No magic, combat, violence, mystique, politics, or any kind of extraordinary drama. Just regular people, struggling to save or sever their relationships.

Scene from "Love in the Age of Debasement". Copyright 2009 Li Xin. Used with permission.

Scene from "Love in the Age of Debasement". Copyright 2009 Li Xin. Used with permission. Click for more.

It was, of course, a larp – more precisely: Erlend Eidsems “Love in the Age of Debasement”. And the most interesting part of the larp was the innovative way it used written characters to construct the drama.

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[book review] Pervasive Games – theory and design

(this is the English text of a review published in Finnish translation in issue #23 of Roolipelaaja magazine)

Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros, Annika Waern:
Pervasive Games – Theory and Design

pg-coverThis book is important. For years, people have been playing different kinds of games that occur in public spaces, that mix play with reality and players with unwitting civilians, that can invade your life at any time and any place. Some of these should be familiar to role-players: games such as “Killer”, where you murder your friends with bananas, or the “city larp”, played on the streets, in the cafes, amongst non-larpers. Others, such as “Alternate Reality Games” (ARGs) or location-aware mobile games, have their origins in business and marketing. Yet others, such as zombie walks or flash mobs, seem to have exploded out of the creative stew of the Internet. (more…)

Understanding live role-playing / theory 101

To bind a demon, you must know its name.

How are we to design larps, to teach and talk about larp design, if we are unable to talk about how larp works, what goes on when people role-play? A lot of larps are designed and played almost unconsciously. Yes, we know how to play, we also, for the most part,  know how to design. But when people ask “how?” we resort to simplistic metaphor and simile – “like cowboys and indians with adults!”, “like theatre, but without an audience!”, “like the plot at last years summer larp, but with dark elves instead of orcs”… (more…)

Designing universes versus designing play

Kaizers Orchestra in Munich - photo by Johanna Bocher, CC 2.0 by-nc-nd

Kaizers Orchestra in Munich - photo by Johanna Bocher, CC 2.0 by-nc-nd

“Good idea – great universe!” This is one of the most common responses I get when pitching Marcello’s Kjeller, the larp I’m currently working on together with Anders Ohlson, Arvid Falch and the Larp Factory. The larp has been announced as inspired by the music of Kaizers Orchestra – a Norwegian band with a vaguely Tom Waits-like sound and lyrics that evoke film noir, Godfatheresque mafia, a rural ambience and WW2 resistance fighters. In Kaizers’ lyrics people play Russian roulette, perform the Polka in “the traditional way”, confess their sins to the Chauffeur, wear gas masks, and dance the ompa until their death in grand gypsy finales. It is a cool universe.

But will it make a good larp? (more…)

Documentation: SonsbeekLive

What do you get when you add an American sculptor to a Danish larpwright to a bunch of Dutch larpers, and mix it all with an art festival audience? The answer, it seems, is SonsbeekLive, a series of six three-day larps held sequentially in the summer of 2008, mixing the fantasy-larp esthetic with modern sculpture and a tad of Nordic-style larp ritualizing. The larp was produced as a collaboration between Danish larpwright Bjarke Pedersen and the US sculptor Brody Condon, with the central scenography (a white tower, home to the characters) designed by Condon. The other artworks of the Sonsbeek exhibition were also assigned significance in the larp and treated as scenography by the larpers.

Photo quoted from SonsbeekLive.org

Photo quoted from SonsbeekLive.org

Plenty of interesting things to learn from the documentation: Condon’s tower, of course, is truly inspirational and shows a potential third path for fantasy-larp scenography, an alternative to both crappy-looking symbolism (rope = city wall) and work-intensive authenticity (100 volunteers and 5000 stones = city wall). (more…)

Ninja trick: fate envelopes (and a word on secrecy vs. transparency)

Ninja Trick (by Plushplex, Creative Commons 2.0 by-nc-nd)
Introducing: the irregular column “Ninja Trick”, presenting clever little larpwriting ideas that are easy to share.

So there’s this group in Elverum in Norway, called “De Krakilske Papegøyer” (DKP), which no-one in the Oslo scene had heard about until they’d already organised five larps. And to the sixth one, Marthe, a larper from Oslo went and returned reporting (no) what she had experienced. Turns out they were using a novel incentive they called “sekundærrolle”, meaning secondary character description: little envelopes that you opened at particular times during the larp.

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The player’s journey and the character’s journey

I don’t remember where this model comes from. My fuzzy memories tell me that it’s a Swedish idea, from the age before good larp models got talked about at knutepunkts and gathered in knutebooks, but I might be wrong.

The model simply states that during a larp, there are two kinds of personal journeys undertaken: the journey of the player, and the journey of the character. Both might have their high points, their turnarounds, their narrative structure. They might intersect to a great degree – the most important moment of the characters life might also be – to the player – the most important moment of the larp. But then again, it might not.

journeys1

fig. 1 : the player's journey and the character's journey

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We’re way ahead of you

Some eight years ago, I decided to study interactive media – as an undergraduate at Designskolen Kolding and then for a masters degree at Media Lab Helsinki – in order to better comprehend what we did with larp, as well as to find a profession where I might benefit from my experience as a larpwright. The result was disappointing. (more…)

What larp dramaturgy is, and why you should care –

In the US and UK a dramaturge is someone who adopts theatre scripts for a given stage. That’s not the way I’ll be using the word here. I am instead using the word in roughly the same sense as the Norwegian “dramaturgi”, meaning the inner and outer structure of a play – or, in our case, a larp. The important word here is “structure”. Characters, briefing documents, rules, plots etc. are not, by themselves, a dramaturgy. It is how they fit together, and form a structure for the players’ improvisation, that makes a dramaturgy.

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The shape of things to come

Elves! Orcs!  Digeses! Ninjas! As mentioned, I drafted a  bunch of blog-posts before opening this blog. So when I’m promising at least two new posts per week for the next few weeks, it’s a promise I actually have a good chance of keeping. Here’s a sneak peak on what we’ll be covering: (more…)