For some time now LARPBook has been taking a look at Nordic Larp. Here in the UK it is seems to be seen as something more artsy and with more depth than the typical UK game. Seen by some as a kind of next generation larp.
Well we were very lucky to be invited to Fairweather Manor 3 by Claus Raasted and to get a chance to take a look at this for ourselves. It was an offer that could not be refused.
This is our 3rd Fairweather Article and so I’m going to try and take a different tack and look at the game from a procedural and emotional viewpoint in order to paint a picture of it.
Let’s start at the beginning with the workshops. These ran through the evening of the day before the larp. I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the idea of a pregame workshop and here I was in one being run by an organisation that is extremely experienced in these. What I found was a chance to compare my characters feelings towards key topics in the larp, and to think about the issues that perhaps I might not have before the start of the game. This was emotional prep. Getting us ready to think in character. Additionally it was a chance to understand practical aspects as to how the game would run. By the end of these I felt much clearer about the game and had also had a lot of fun. These were not boring briefings. The organisers skillfully employed fun as a media of communication. A sound tactic.
And so we drifted to bed. I was playing in the servants group and for me that meant that the game would start the next morning at 7.30 AM with a trip to chapel. The game actually started earlier as all the servants started waking up, being woken up and wandering around in period pyjamas, nightshirts and nightdresses as they prepared for the service.
Chapel was a fantastic start. It instantly enforced the discipline of being a member of staff and served to remind us that this game was set in one of Englands darkest hours. I don’t think I can remember coming out of the start of a larp feeling quite so full of trepidation. As a note to other larp writers the service felt like something that would happen in an English chapel of that period, but the words said and songs sung were very religious agnostic. They just sounded right without actually invoking a specific religion and risking player offence. Clever!
So now the game was really on. Let’s chat not about what happened next – as that would fill a number of volumes. Instead let’s look at the structure that allowed for enough plot to fill an encyclopaedia to happen. There were about 135 players split into servants, nobles and experts. The servants ran the house. Looked after both Noble and Expert alike. The nobles were those entitled from birth. The experts were those who had become important due to a skill. Such as solicitors, actors, artists and so on.
Pregame players in each of these groups had been creating character histories and also talking with other players about inter-character relationships. In addition to this servants had tasks to fulfil. The interaction between servants and entitled characters created both plot and opportunities to learn things that could become plot. Add on to this the over arching plot of a wedding being prepared for and unexpected incursions of the war (such as a bombing that knocked out power for while), and historical events (the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II) and you have a rich playing environment. In essence this made the game a network of plots. So from a UK point of view it was like a very high immersion fest game, or a very good freeform.
It both depended on the creativity of its players and also grew from their ideas. I think this was part of how it generated emotional involvement. It gave people an emotional buy in as they created their own story lines that were then allowed to flourish.
To me this is the mark of great larp. Something that has been skillfully crafted but instead of putting players in a straight jacked it allows them to add to the experience and transform it something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
So if you’re tp ask to me if you should go to this larp? I’d say that if you like immersion, playing a character and seeing an opportunity to take something and turn it into a story – no matter how larger or small. Then yes. If you like low immersion or surfing a story rather than a part of it then this may not be the larp for you.
This swarm of plots continued for two days straight.During that time we were well looked after. Food and drink was integrated into the game so no one went hungry. It was possible to have off game moments – all you had to do was find a space in the off game area and not damage some else’s immersion.
During this time I had good moments, bad moments but never wanted to stop.
Which lets me to stopping the larp. Just how do you stop a juggernaut like this? You do it by gathering all the players in one place. Giving an emotive mood speech and having the organiser formally and with great humour bring it to an end.
Things were not quite over yet…
First there thanks and applause for the different player groups. First time larpers were singled out and were given a round of applause so thunderous it could have shaken the castles foundations. Finally (if we wanted it ), we were split off into groups off 3 so that we could talk. We were asked to talk about how we felt., how the larp made us feel and what it made us think about. Truth is I can’t remember the exact questions as by this point I was in a truly euphoric state. But I did talk with players I hadn’t yet met and it was both eye-opening and interesting.
After which I was still bouncing off the walls happy
So thank goodness there was an after party!
Even thinking back about the ending of this larp I get a little tingly and excited. So I guess that means it was good