Lets start by saying what this is – it is the skeleton outline of a LARP game that should run for 3 – 4 hours long. It is flexible, it is adaptable. However what this is not a is a complete play plan – details are left open to allow for different styles of interpretation or implementation. This should help you out should you choose to adapt it to your own use.
The Base Premise
When it comes to the matter of death and the afterlife no religion has it entirely right. Also no religion has it entirely wrong. The premise of the game is that the afterlife exists and there are various gods, heavens and hells all of which exist independently. On death – depending on belief a soul will travel to the appropriate heaven or hell, enter limbo or be reincarnated. The problem is that there a lot of people who do not have a clearly defined destination. To cope with this a sort of clearing house system has evolved. On death if a soul needs to be judged it goes to the clearing house. Judgement is decided by an Adjudicator (who typically looks a little bit like the ancient Egyptian god Anubis and two assessors – one to fight for the case for good in people and one to point out the evil. They are in competition with each other and both want to get the largest number of souls possible to their side of the afterlife. Most of the game takes the place of a trial. The name “The Weighing of the Heart” comes from the ceremony said to be conducted by Anubis which determined if someone was suitable for the afterlife.
This game suits itself to indoor play. However it has been run with some of the characters starting outside. If this done then it is recommended that the game is played at night in a remote or seemingly remote locations.
Angels and Demons
Also known as those that act for light and dark, good and evil. Angels try to remain out of sight but act in the clearing house to make sure that there is a level playing field. This usually means they act to give the characters in the game a means of defending themselves from Demons.
Demons on the other hand take a different approach. They attempt to kidnap souls to their domains and they are not too fussy on who they take.
Generally neither demons or angels interrupt the trials of the souls. Though in exceptional circumstances it is possible for a demon to attempt this. There would probably be consequences for its master – but that is a separate issue. What does matter is this – when a soul is taken by demon its body can be reanimated by the demon. Possession will take place. Again something for a later event perhaps. Once the game starts though the player characters can be made aware of the consequences of possession. Giving them a common foe to fight against.
Creating Player Characters
The Weighing of the Heart does not take place in a physical location. It is place occupied by souls beyond our physical plane. The upshot of this is that characters can be drawn from any background. The downside is that this can be confusing for players trying to create characters. It would be a good idea for refs to generate the characters (preferably with plenty of opportunity for inter-character conflict). If you’re using player generated characters then it is a good idea to create a common hook that will guide players.
I’ve found one that helps is “You can play want you need but give me some background notes about your family and relationships as this game is based on relationships”
Starting Point – The Player Characters
For the PCs the game starts moments after the death of their character. For each PC the game starts with the last moments of life being played out, and then they realise their surroundings have changed.
Starting The Game
The game starts with the player characters reliving their last moment. I’d recommend giving the players some time to settle in and get to know each other. From this point you can go one of two ways.
We now need a period for the characters to get to know each other. Any bonds forged now will become important later in the game. One solution is to split the characters into 2 groups (A and B). Group A is locked in an enclosed space with nothing but their own company to content with. Group B and placed in a larger area (outside). Both places represent limbo before trial. Group B are pursued by demons looking for newly released soul to capture. Eventually the situation of both groups converges on where the trail of their souls will take place,
The Living Won’t Leave the Dead Alone
We often don’t let the dead go peaceably. It is reasonable that their may be attempts to stop death or get around by those the characters have left behind. This includes attempts at resuscitation at one of the scale to attempts to talk to the soul at the other. An upshot of this might be that during the “bonding” phase dead characters have communications from the other side or temporarily see their rescuers before “relapsing” into death.
The Trial of Your Life
This is the point on the game where the assessors and the adjudicator enter. The playing of these characters is critical to the game – so spend time figuring out how you want these 3 to interact and play. Their goals are
Adjudicator: The dead must go to the right place. The adjudicator has 4 options – “Heaven”, “Hell”, reincarnation, miraculous return to life.
The White Assessor: Find people with a good heart and make sure that they end up in “Heaven”
The Dark Assessor: By any means fair or foul get as many souls to “Hell”
These 3 characters will now do what they need to force a trial. Each character will judged for life decisions and actions. The assessors will make statements about the character and ask questions that will prove the characters inclinations.
During the process the characters are able to defend themselves and this is where the meat of the role-playing is. Given the circumstances – what would you say to save your soul?
During the trial both the Adjudicator and the assessors will use the other players as a jury of sorts.They will ask if they believe the character being judged, and use the jury to but pressure on the character in the spotlight.
At the end of each trial the Adjudicator will ask the jury what they think should be done with the character and may or may not follow the advice of the “jury”.
Once a judgement is given that character is taken out of the game – either consensually or by force.
The trial continues until all the characters have met their fate.
The game then ends.
For You The Game is Over
One of the problems with this game is that characters tried early leave their player with nothing to do. Fortunately there is a way around this. The Adjudicator will want to maintain a jury pool that is a similar size. To make up for the natural loss of people being sent to their fate he will summon previously judged souls to make up for the loss.
When a player is removed from the game they are not taken out of play. They are instead taken to a prep area where they are issued a new character and costume and briefed on their new role as a judged soul being called for “jury service”.
You should pre-build all the additional jury member characters with a view to pushing the mood of the game the way you want it to go and also with consideration for your players to ensure that they will get something they can play. Its also a good idea to build more characters than you need – that way you have some flexibility to help account for changes in how the game is going.
The weighing of the heart is a talkative game. It can be played in a number of different styles. The only thing I would remind you at this stage is that if you run a version of it remember that it depends on a key part of religion to work – so try and make sure you don’t insult any of your players beliefs – or at least give them an idea of what they are in for if that seems suitable.
This is published under a creative commons licence and you are free to use and adjust as necessary. If you do use it – then it would be fantastic to hear about your version.