Becoming the Story – An intro to larp

Great intro to larp and why it makes meaning to be a part of creating a story together. The talk is made by Bjarke Pedersen from Odyssé.

Studies have shown that if a person changes their physicality or is given a means to behave differently, such as putting on a costume, they change their behavior automatically in response. This is what happens with live action role playing (LARPing), where people take on character roles and physically act them out in fictional settings. As the Creative Director of Odyssé and one of the world’s experts on LARPing, Bjarke Pedersen has spent many years exploring the power of this collaborative form of storytelling. He’s observed that by getting a chance to engage with different characters, LARPers are also able to learn more about themselves. LARPing is also particularly powerful for the ways in which it relies on building trust among people. Many individuals are able to tell their own stories within a given framework, but it is the larger output of so many different stories being told at the same time that makes LARPing so unique and powerful.

Bjarke Pedersen: Becoming the Story

Papers – Creating a surreal office larp

papers-fromgoodtogreat

In the spring of 2013 me and Martin Rother-Schirren sat down to create a larp. What started with themes of child’s play ended up with a larp that fooled around with office culture. This text make probably a lot more sense to you if you have played the larp. However, this is the story of Papers

Inspiration

The process that ended up in the larp Papers  started for me and Martin when we visited the Nordic larp conference Knudepunkt 2011 in Denmark. Gabriel Widing and Ebba Petrén from the group Nyxxx hosted the workshop Dance, Movement & Scores. A part of the workshop was to form an human assembly line in which a paper was passed between the the people in the line. One person crumbling the paper before sending it on, the next person straightening the papers out and then sending it on to the next person who crumbles it again. Then it continued like that with the whole line, and a lot of papers. After that exercise I kept wondering if that single thing could be extended into a larp.

AVATARVARO på Turteatern - Foto: Petter Karlsson

Avatarvaro at Turteatern 2012

Another important mark was the interactive play Avatarvaro. Once again by Nyxxx and first held at Turteatern in 2012. In the piece you walk around in an environment as an avatar being led by voices  received through headphones. You explore the scenography and the other avatars either alone, in pairs or as a group while interacting with each other. In one part of the piece you get an instruction to draw a geometric figure at the same time as your partner drew the same thing. This was then repeated a few times. Since you where drawing the same things but in a bit different ways the result created a simple yet interesting drawing. In the end of the play the drawings appeared and were presented as art pieces that could be bought.

Tova Gerge who later also became a part of Nyxxx wrote the play Papper (Papers) in 2005 which Martin saw at the time. It’s a story about a group of co-workers, stamping and archiving papers in an office but also about their relations. It also included assembly-line-like office work. One could think we could have come up with another name for our larp. We’ll have to claim we call our naming a homage.

So if you want to point in one direction in the question of where we got our inspiration: ➜ Nyxxx

At Orionteatern (The Orion Theatre) in 2012 I was also inspired by their surreal version of Orfeus. In their version of Orfeus an occurring theme was the building of a seemingly crazy an unnecessary project referred to as “The Project”.

Another important thing is the circus music by Georg Pommer. For some reason it just stuck with me at some point being silly, playful and energetic. After finding it I wondered if this could fit into any upcoming design.

Production

After having collaborated a few times in the past, me and Martin felt that we wanted to create something together again. It all went quite fast, we decided to design a chamber larp (a shorter larp played in one or a few hours) for the larp conference Knutepunkt 2013 in Norway.  After three evening meetings we had a working script. Both of us had been impressed by the stuff made by Nyxxx but were also just really eager to do something a bit physical and also fun. We mashed a lot of the inspiration we had been wandering with as described above.

Going from Good to Great in this larp overview from 12 April 2013

Going from Good to Great in this larp overview from 12 April 2013

Some early and scrapped ideas were that the larp should shift between the players being colleagues at an office and then turn into playing their inner childs, drawing drawings playing around on the floor. And not to forget also doing monologues. However, we did seem to manage to make it surreal anyhow.

An early focus was to create the first part of the larp into a sort of tutorial which meant very few rules needed to be explained, in fact the only rule explained is the in-game rule of “This is totally normal – it’s just something you do at the office”. This means that if you think what we are doing is weird, it is weird, but that’s just fine. Don’t worry.

As the larp goes on the participants learn how things work, create their characters and groups as a part of the larp, aiming for as much a seamless process as possible. All with the circus music of Georg Pommer in the background. We lead them between working with “The Project” and then back to breaks and then back again.

We also wanted to experiment with how little “larping” it actually could be. More doing things than talking. And if you where talking, what do you talk about in this office? In many larp where you have nothing to actually talk about at times – what are you supposed to do? Thankfully America has figured this out giving pointers to what to talk about during your break by your water cooler. Lists like this Do’s and Don’ts by the water cooler therefore became included in the larp.

A design challenge we took on was the scaling problem of chamber larps, how can you design something that can be run flexible with either few or many participants. Or if you have a signup to your larp and then you have participants dropping out before the start. The main thing we did to tackle this was to include the character creation in the larp and to include some things to do within the larp to make it run smooth if you would have a lot of players. Basically like in cards game you change how many cards you have on your hand if you are either 3 or 7 players, we in the script give advice to the larp director running it on how to alter the exercises to fit the number of participants in the run.

Papers can be viewed as dark and a critique of alienation at work, new public management and lean production methodology lead by mysterious consultants. Or maybe a cranked up telemarketing office. However it can also be viewed as childs play, creative and lust-filled. All in the view of the player.

Making the larp available online took some more time and it was not until the fall of 2014 we published it under a creative commons licence for anyone to freely download and play.

Larp runs

The larp premiered in Norway in 2013 and has since then been played in various other countries. Notably at Minsk Street Theatre Festival in 2013 in Belarus and in France in 2015 to which Stephane Rigoni translated the larp into French.

Papers at Knutepunkt in Norway April 2013

Papers at Knutepunkt in Norway April 2013

Player reactions

“Amazingly silly and funny and at the same time bloody fucking serious.”

“Papers is a total charmer. It’s an experiential masterpiece that grabs the player, spins him around madly and finally leaves him baffled: what just happened? My highest recommendations.”

“I think this was one of the most bizarre larps I’ve attend. Yet it, it mostly was so darn recognisable. The layers where shifting between confusion and clarity. After a while I experienced a revelation that gave some sort of meaningfulness to the meaninglessness.”

“I loved it. This game is for everyone who has ever been exposed to a decision at work that you thought was perplexing, Kafkaesque or just plain stupid. To me “Papers” refined corporate madness into “normality” and allowed me to laugh where I usually would clench my fists in anger. Having experienced a decade in the corporate jungle this game had a profoundly cathartic effect on me.”

“Just attended a larp about an office. I experienced confusion and meaninglessness. A constant result-focused process where buzzwords are used to motivate. Where it never is time for conversation about how and why. Where the breaks are filled with chit-chat about lowest neutral common denominator. It felt really good to have played this!”

“Fantastic music! Fantastic game!” 

Gallery

Hosting the larp Papers for Kulturkompaniet in Oslo.

A video posted by Petter Karlsson (@petterkarlsson) on

Spelade precis Papper på #STDH & deltagarna gick från GOOD till GREAT! #lajvsverige #lajv

A video posted by Petter Karlsson (@petterkarlsson) on

Credits

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed with feedback either by playing, hosting or co-hosting Papers.  An extra mention to Elin Gissén who was the first one playtesting the mechanics.

The works by the group NYXXX gave inspiration to the cornerstones of Papers. For this we would like to aim an extra round of thanks to Tova Gerge, Ebba Petrén & Gabriel Widing.

For feedback and proofreading we would like to thank Teresa Axner, Karl Bergström, Sarah Lynne Bowman, Martin Nielsen & Anders Östlund.

The lovely illustrations are made by the great Jesper Wallerborg Almerud.

Play it!

Download Papers today at paperslarp.wordpress.com so that you also can go

FROM GOOD TO GREAT!

 

Papers - Larpscript Promo

Jury duty! In the interactive and moving images jury for Kolla!

Photo: Anna Ledin Wirén

Svenska Tecknare is an association that organises Sweden’s professional illustrators and graphic designers.  Among other activities they host the design competition Kolla!

The competition awards work in a variety of categories within design, illustration, animation and moving images. I was asked to chair the jury for Moving images and interactive media.

For this I was interviewed (in Swedish), where I talked a bit about my work-life and how I ended up at as a Play Designer at Toca Boca in October last year. The work process  in the jury was also covered in another article as one of the efforts to make this years Kolla! a more transparent competition.

It was really fun to be a part of this, reviewing such a variety of projects some with really grand qualities. It has been a great time working with the awesome people in my group; Roxy Farhat, Vian Tahir and Peter Ström.

Photo: Anna Ledin Wirén

Do you feel the beat? Time to JOIN The Rhythm of a Joint Venture

My friends at Nyxxx who among other things previously have done Drömdykarna and Avatarvaro teamed up with the theatre company Insite in Malmö to let us JOIN.

In breif “introduction day” of about 1,5 hour we are to play around with the organisation Corpus. We get help by four Corpus-employees who makes us find our way, but we are all jointly led by The Beat. The Beat is a weird combination of artificial intelligence, corporate-utopia, workforce-dystopia and a nice groove that makes your head nod and down.

A good read for more background is the program (PDF in Swedish)
Teaterlek om mörk framtid – review in Sydsvenskan (Article in Swedish)
Med performance som lupp och vapen – Sydsvenskan (Article in Swedish)

JOIN The Rhythm of a Joint Venture - Poster

It’s a fun piece but also filled with critique about society and where we are going. It’s also right up my alley when it comes to interactive and participatory performances, easy to participate and also with a nice touch of sandbox. Nyxxx usually plays around with a mix of play, choreography, audio and visual effects. This time a really liked the audio and how the beat melted into the whole experience.

Also, if you played and liked mine and Martin Rother-Schirrens larp Papers, you would probably love this.

JOIN plays in Malmö a few more times and then sets of to a Skåne tour.

You should definately join.

The Art of Steering – Bringing the Player and the Character Back Together

steering-720x320

The rhetorics of Nordic larp often imply that role-players play in an intuitive fashion guided by the character, rarely or never contemplating their actions during the game. In reality, however, we are often keenly aware of what we are doing as our characters and why. This paper explores the practice of making in-character decisions based on off-game reasons – also known as steering.

The Art of Steering – Bringing the Player and the Character Back Together by Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros & Eleanor Saitta.

Martin Nielsen: The Chamberlarp Revolution

Baader-Meinhof Experiment at Riksteatern. Ingame. Photo: Gabriel Widing.

Baader-Meinhof Experiment at Riksteatern 2010 during A Week in Stockholm. Ingame. Photo: Gabriel Widing.

Martin Nielsen held a keynote entitled The Chamberlarp Revolution at Knudepunkt 2015 from which he now has released the text. Martin talks about the history and future about formats for short larps such as chamber larp or black box larp.

What does all this mean for the future? I have four predictions and two wishes for the future:

1. We will continue to make larps even more accessible, by integrating workshop techniques in the design in a way that will help more people overcome the anxiety of participating

2. We will make even shorter formats to permit more people to play. Just like short key notes or formats like pecha kucha are gaining popularity on the expense of long talks, we will find even shorter larp formats. Tabletop roleplayers have «roleplaying poems» that can be played in 15 minutes. I don’t know how, but I’m sure we will also have an eqvivialent in larp.

3. Manuscripts will be attributed to author rights, that will provide royalities, which will make one more stepping stone in making it possible to live professionally from larps

4. And larps will start adapting other larps. In his Nordic Larp talk, Evan Torner spoke about adaption litterature or films into, but we will also see, just as in the theatre, that reruns will use LARP manuscripts but use their own adaptions, such as changing the setting but keeping the story.

I strongly recommend the read. And while waiting for the video of the talk to be released, head over to Alibier!

Larpfund – Crowfunding player diversity

Larpfund.org

Larpfund is a player driven initiative and fund to support greater diversity in larping. We help organisers subsidise tickets for those who need them.

We believe that the nordic larp community should be accessible to everyone and that we, as a player community, are the ones responsible to make this a reality.

Larpfund is an amazing initative in which you can donate monthly or as a one-shot to a fund which larp organiser can apply to. The money is then to be used to subsidise the tickets to their larp. Currently only operating in the Nordic countries.

Check out larpfund.org

Women in Larp at Larp.guide

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I was also really surprised that to find out that in fantasy worlds where people can fight dragons and spit fireballs from their hands, there was a notion that women at LARP can’t do things as well as men. I kind of assumed that because it’s a fantasy world then people would just treat others equally, but it seems like that is not the case on occasions.

LARP has a Woman Problem at Larp.guide

Also watch Ann Eriksens great Nordic Larp TalkGirls in Armour – a Danish Feminist Movement

Lessons learned from re-running the larp Last Will

Last Will Larp

The great team of Frida Gamero, Sofia Stenler and Annica Strand, a part of the organizations Ursula as well as makers of the blog Arrtankar (Organizer thoughts) have just finished the second run of their larp Last Will. As a part of their great tradition of documenting their work they have now written a summary of change made between the two runs. A great read for any larp designer and also great reflection on how to run a signup process.

This is a breakdown of the changes between the first and second run of Last Will. It will include changes in the sign-up procedure, design, information to the players, workshops and also situational changes that greatly affected the outcome, for the players and for us organisers.

Head over to Arrtankar to read: Practice makes perfect

The Wyrd Con Companion Book 2014

Cover of The Wyrd Con Companion Book 2014

Wyrdcon is annual larp convention held in California, US. It is accompanied by the Wyrd Con Companian Book which this year was edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman.

The book both looks back on history of larp as well as current topics, primarily from an American perspective.

Among other things it was fun to read about the article Culture Shock: Building a Freeform Scene in Edmonton. It is written by Eleonora and Mikael Hellström and hold both great reads about the larp scene in the Swedish 90’s as well as the culture shock for the couple when they tried to get into Canadian larp.

What we learned during these years is that patience is a key word if you want to introduce a non-traditional larp design into an established community. With that come also optimism and stubbornness, as well as repect for other people’s preferences. We met with—and still meet with sometimes—anger and fear of change. These emotions need to be met with respect as well, but also with an open discussion about how the larp community as a whole can only benefit from diversity.

You find the pdf here

College of Wizardry – A magical larp in a Polish castle

Czocha College of Wizardry and Witchcraft. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

I went to College in November – magic College. 
In the fan-made production College of Wizardry myself and almost two hundred others travelled to Czocha Castle in Poland to attend college Harry Potter-style. I’ve interviewed Claus Raasted from the organizing team about the production the media attention it has received afterwards.

Continue reading

Trailer for the larp documentary Treasure Trapped

In 2012 a UK-based production company called Cosmic Joke embarked it’s journey to capture larp in the form of a documentary. They started a Kickstarter-campaign, got it funded, and now it looks like the final result soon is here.

The movie will be screening at the German larp conference Mittelpunkt 2014 in November.

There has been a few attempts of making a good documentary about larp. My hopes about Treasure Trapped are still very bright. I met the team when they where filming PanoptiCorp in Copenhagen during the spring of 2013.

Continue reading

Nordic Larp: Performing for the first person audience

Radiation suit for work down in the reactor. Photo: John-Paul Bichard (CC-NC-ND)

What is common to Nordic larp is that it is primarily directed at a first person audience: the participants are the primary audience of the performance. If I play a mother of a family in Ground Zero, I try perhaps to remain calm and composed in order to avoid frightening my children, performing a strong mother to the other players. At the same time, however, I probably try to engage emotionally with the horrible tragedy, playing an ordinary scared civilian to myself. Everyone in the shelter is engaged in these two performances for the whole 24 hours, pretending to be a refugee in a bomb shelter.

Markus Montola writes about Nordic larp in an article at for the Goethe-Institut’s project SPIELTRIEB! – Nordic Larp: Performing for the first person audience.

Photo: Radiation suit for work down in the reactor at The Monitor Celestra. Credit John-Paul Bichard (CC-NC-ND)