Squat

Tacheles stairs, Berlin. Photo: Paolo Margari (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Tacheles stairs, Berlin. Photo: Paolo Margari (Flickr/Creative Commons)

(For Even, on the occasion of his 35th birthday. Dude, we’re getting old).

In this game, you explore life in an occupied building or area. It’s part collaborative world building, part role-playing. I think it should be a fairly short game, 2-3 hours is probably fine. You should have at least three players, probably no more than five.

You take turns being game master, who sets the scene, plays non-player characters and describes what happens in the setting.

Let’s find out what kind of squat this is!

We’ll use one of those mind maps for support. Break out a piece of paper, preferably large.

It’s good if you have some different colored pencils, put a regular pen/pencil will do fine. By all means doodle a bit as you’re writing.

Draw a bubble in the middle. Choose a player to name the squat. She can pick a name from this list, or make something up: Eden, The Rock, Gehenna, Shangri-La, Christiania, Blitz, Ratkeller, The Ship, Sweetness, Everway, Mordor, College of Wizardry, Z, Occupation Y, Hellfire Club, Zig-Zag, Last Train, Furiosa, The Cave.

Then each player picks a word from the list below, or makes up their own: concept, resources, conflicts, scarcities, external threats, joy, ideology, style, architecture, groups, people, culture, drugs, religion, rumors, geography, history.

«Noche okupa en tierras de Marsella. Francia 2010″. Photo: Montecruz Foto (Flickr/Creative Commons).

When you’ve chosen a word from the list, draw a bubble on the mind map, put the word in it. Connect it to the bubble in the middle with a line.

If the group feels you need a couple more words to work with when everyone has chosen theirs, add them.

Then take turns where every player expands or explains the concepts on the map. Say a little bit about your addition, but don’t spend too much time on it. Expand the mind-map with new lines and words as you’re talking.

Example: Liza starts with a bubble labeled “history”. She says: “the squat has its roots back in the sixties, when some hippies occupied this run-down worker’s housing area by the river, that previously belonged to the factory but was now owned and neglected by the City”. She draws a couple of lines from “history” and writes these keywords on them: “60s”, “city-owned”.

Do a few rounds until you have some feeling for the squat, the setting.

Some general guidelines:

  • Don’t get into arguments over the elements. Just accept whatever is added, and work with that.
  • Build and expand on each other’s ideas.
  • Keep the core theme of the game: “the squat” at the back of your mind. It could be a fantasy-squat or a sci-fi squat if the group wants to, but try to make an effort to match your ideas to whatever is already established.
  • It’s probably better to be a bit boring than too weird.
  • It’s not a competitive game.

Make up some characters.

Favela da Rocinha. Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Thiago Trajano (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Favela da Rocinha. Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Thiago Trajano (Flickr/Creative Commons)

I suggest you collaborate doing that, too. You could take turns again, Saying “I’d like to play a…”. Then the others can come up with some additional suggestions, if they think of anything. The player of the character has the final say in what suggestions are used. Don’t get into drawn out arguments. Try to accept and build on whatever is suggested.

Some concepts you can use (or make up your own. Remember to adapt them to the established setting): veteran, hobo, addict, artist, snitch, spiritual, sell-out, punk, hippie, writer, magician, hang-around, criminal, tourist, juvenile, wannabe, mother, father, child, leech, gardener, monk, ascetic, trainer, lunatic, joker.

Name the characters, something fitting the setting. Define some traits. E.g: age, gender, outlook, ideology, goals, methods, strengths, challenges. Giving them some less pleasant sides or some life-struggles will make them more interesting to play.

Make up some relationships for the characters 
You’ll probably want to use a new piece of paper for these. One method: write down bubbles with the names of all the characters in them. Take turns suggesting relationships. You can make up relationships for any characters, but the players of these have the final say. Work together, talk it over, collaborate. Draw lines connecting the characters as you establish the relationships.

Refugee Squat, Berlin. Photo: Montecruz Foto (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Refugee Squat, Berlin. Photo: Montecruz Foto (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Some suggestions: friends, lovers, ex, family, rivals, conspirators, fascinated by, admires, distrusts, feels close to, annoyed by, amused by, looks down on, depends on, works with, worships.

NPCs
You should also populate the squat with some non-player characters. You can use the same process for these, but I suggest going into less detail with them. Stick to core concepts and stuff that will generate interesting scenes, like goals, relationships (also to main characters), and weaknesses. You can also make up NPCs during play (whoever is GM has the primary responsibility for this, but she can ask for suggestions or delegate).

Now we find out what happens in the squat 
Everybody makes up 2-3 scene suggestions. Don’t tell the others. Write down a couple of sentences on a piece of paper, fold it in half. It should be something that will help whoever game-masters the turn run the scene. A starting point. It should be brief, but suggestive. Probably related to a conflict. It’s good to use the relationships, characters, NPCs and setting-elements you have established together.

Examples:

  • Character X & Y are discovered by character Z doing something they shouldn’t.
  • A boring communal meeting is coming to an end as someone makes a disturbing revelation (what is it?)
  • Someone shares a secret with a character that could threaten the squat. But the character has a loyalty bond to this person. What does she do?
  • Carnevale. Some kind of party where all the rules are upside-down.
  • Outside threat: some external threat against the squat. How is it dealt with?
  • Artefact: a strange object from the squat or areas past is discovered. Is it valuable? Dangerous? Can it change people?

Don’t go into too much detail, don’t explain how the scene will be resolved. Focus on dilemmas and challenges the characters have. Don’t try too hard to come up with something clever. Just use whatever first comes to mind when you look at the setting and characters in front of you. It’s fine to have some calmer scenes, too, where we get to know the characters a bit better and see their relationship play out.

Fold the scene suggestions in half, put them in a pile or bowl.

You will take turns being GM. The GM sets the scene by picking up a scene suggestion at random. If it inspires you and feels right, try to expand on that. If not: put it back and choose a new one, or make up a scene of your own. As GM, you have several things to support you: look at the relationship maps, review the character descriptions, look at the mind-map with the setting elements the group has defined.

Some principles:

  • Try to incorporate some of what has been previously established (explore conflicts and relationships further, re-use areas, revisit NPCs).
  • Define who’s in the scene. It doesn’t have to be all the characters in every one of them. If a player’s character is not present in the scene, she can play an NPC instead.
  • If you’re stuck, maybe you want to ask the player’s questions and incorporate their answers? E.g. “why is your character so worried today?” “What has been the main issue with the food lately?” “What’s the nasty rumor about?”
Shit Chef 2015 contribution. Logo design: Stephanie Bryant.

Shit Chef 2015 contribution. Logo design: Stephanie Bryant.

Keep the scenes relatively brief. It’s better to end them too soon rather than too late.

When the scene ends, the GM-function passes to the player to the left. If the group wants to, you can use some symbol to wear or place in front of whoever is GM.

You play as long as you’re having fun. Again, it’s probably good to end sooner rather than later. I’m thinking 2-3 hours tops could be good for this game. If you run out of scene suggestions, you can take a break and make up some new, or the GM can just frame the scenes based on what has happened previously. It’s perfectly fine to take small breaks between scenes for toilet, cigarette or even some food. You can use this time to think things over if you’re GM. You can also discuss a bit among yourself: how many scenes should we play from this point, or content of the stories/ideas for dilemmas the character can face. Don’t do debating society, however. And don’t pre-plan too much. A big part of the fun of these games is playing to discover what happens, not enacting a script.

I’m not sure the game needs a “resolution mechanic”. I think most of the action can be worked out in conversation. The game master is the final arbiter during her scenes.

If you want one, you can print out the resolution cards from Itras By (not the chance cards).

Or you can just use a 6-sided die where 1-3 means “shit result” and 4-6 means “good result”.

—-

Thanks to Graham for coming up with the contest.

There are several inspirations for this game. I can’t remember half. Some from the top of my mind: Apocalypse World, Archipelago, Impro, Play Unsafe.

I might do some tweaks and adjustments after playtest, but I’m fairly confident it should be playable as is. Consider this a first draft. Or a hashcan.

Publisert i Rollespill | Merket med , , | Legg igjen en kommentar

My games

2013-07-12 12.03.25 (2)This is a list of all the games I’ve made I could think of, including links where available. Some are long, most are very short. Many are playable, some less so. Hope you’ll see something of interest. In English unless I specify it’s in Norwegian.

Not Chaos Magic (Really!), 2015
My contribution for David Schirduan’s 200 Word RPG contest. I see some clear thematic links with entries further down on this list. I’m actually quite happy with the text. I don’t know if it’s REALLY A GAME, but it sure is about some subjects I’ve been thinking about a lot for the past decade+.

Øyet (Norwegian), 2015
A one page collaborative storytelling game commissioned by the Norwegian National Museum of Art for an exhibit they had about juxtaposing scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies with 19th century illustrations of the Norse sagas.

Me& Matthijs' children's book on role-playing includes some rudimentary rules to get started with.

Me & Matthijs’ children’s book on role-playing includes some rudimentary rules to get started with.

Rollespill (Norwegian), 2014
A children’s factbook about role-playing games, published by Cappelen Damm. Includes some simple rules designed by my co-author Matthijs Holter.

The Hirelings, 2013
Published in Larps from the Factory, an anthology of Norwegian short larp scripts. The Hirelings is a D&D-themed comedy, utilizing a lot of techniques and exercises similar to theatersports and improv. With Håken Lid.

Bipolar Lush, 2013
One of my first stabs at making something in the vein of «Nordic Freeform». It started of as kind of a joke: what’s the most Danish shit I can think of? I ended up with this autobiographical scenario about alcohol addiction and mental illness. Cheerful stuff. It had an ok run at the Grenselandet short larp festival in Oslo that year. There were three test runs. One that was very intense and good, one I’ve heard was ok, and one that was a bit shit (where we lacked a player).

2013-09-21 09.06.45 (2)Fiction – a flexible freeform framework, 2013
With Elin Nilsen. Fiction is designed to provide a framework and some guidelines for both inexperienced and experienced players to lean on when improvising a game from scratch.

Small talk the RPG, 2013
Is it a game? Is it a blog post? Maybe it’s just common sense?

Dagsrevyen (Norwegian), 2009
You’re newsmen in Norway in the 60s, and all the news are very strange. A very rough outline of a game. I actually still think the core idea is sound, but don’t really believe in the game as it stands. Can’t even recall if I ever playtested it.

Itras By, 2008
Itras By is a surreal role-playing game by Martin Bull Gudmundsen and I, with the kind assistance of several friends. We started working on it in 2001, so it only took us seven years to finish. Unlike most of the games on this list, it’s a complete role-playing game book. It’s been translated to Finnish and English, with French, German and Catalan editions to follow (or so I’m told).

2012-02-28 18.57.44 (2)The Drunk Man in the Corner/Mr. Happy Loveshine, 2007
A slightly morbid, existential hack of «Spin the Bottle». I’ve actually played it two or three times, and it can get quite intense. I wouldn’t really recommend anyone play it, though. Especially not if you’re feeling down, or are the fragile sort. Let’s say it’s meant as a «reading game only». I find it a bit funny that I sat down and wrote this two years prior to getting the diagnosis. It’s a pretty «bipolar» game. Norwegian original.

Impressionist roleplaying, 2006
Some notes I made after running a brief improvised session at the small gaming festival HolmCon. Not exactly a game, more an outline of some GM techniques and philosophy for a certain style of play.

Grab Life by the Balls, 2006
More existentialist drivel, probably written in a state of hypomania. It was fun and weird to see this again, especially including the translated forum comments. I’d forgotten about Skjalg’s translation. Thanks, man!

Legio (Norwegian), 2004
A playful meditation over personality and character traits, inspired by chaos magic. I seem to have returned to these topics over and over again.

Zorgelig, men sant (Norwegian), 1996
Zorgelig is the first game I wrote. It was published in Imagonem in 1996, when I was 15. It was wildly pubescent, and the humor revolved around violence. It was inspired by Preacher and Lobo and similar things I read at the time. I never played it myself, but over the years I’ve actually heard of 2-3 groups that did and claimed to have fun. I’m a bit embarassed by the whole thing.

Matthijs was the editor of Imagonem, and I think here I finally see the thematic link between all these games: I made them to impress Matthijs! (He was actually quite impressed by Itras By. Then again, he contributed setting material and designed half the system).

***

That’s what I could come up with and find online this evening. I may have forgotten something. At least one game I know of, we took offline. There may be some sketches on forums or social media that I’ve forgotten.

A lot of what I’ve written in relation to role-playing games these past 20 years has also been more in the form of advice, reviews, interviews, blog post doodling and stuff like that, sometimes with a touch of journalism. But not game design as such.

Publisert i freeform, Itras By, Rollespill, spilldesign | Merket med | Legg igjen en kommentar

Rollespill.info & I

chaoticneutralFør jeg skal poste noe på Facebookgruppa Rollespill.info (og det gjør jeg jo til stadighet) tenker jeg ofte litt på disse tingene:

1. Har det noe med rollespill å gjøre i en eller annen forstand? Hvis ikke må jeg nesten droppe det. Jeg tipper for eksempel at 60-70+ prosent av gruppas medlemmer kan tenkes å være interessert i neste Star Wars-trailer. Men hvis jeg ikke gidder å skrive en liten følgetekst som knytter posten til rollespill i Star Wars-universet får jeg heller dele den lenken på min private tidslinje. Vi ønsker ikke at dette skal skli ut til en «allmenne nerderier»-gruppe.
2. Av og til snubler jeg over nyheter om spill jeg vet er populære, selv om jeg ikke spiller dem selv. Pathfinder er et godt eksempel. Hvis jeg får inntrykk av at det er nyhetsverdig deler jeg kanskje lenken likevel. Yrkesskade, antakelig.
3. Jeg har også en snikete privat agenda (hysj-hysj) om å bidra til oppmerksomheten om utenlandske indiespill, norsk spilldesign og mer smale/eksperimentelle greier, fordi jeg synes det er gøy, er involvert i det selv osv. Så da hender det jeg poster om det også, selv om det sjelden blir så mye aktivitet på de postene.
4. Jeg har gått den tabloide klikkhoreskolen og vet utmerket godt hvilke triks jeg kan ty til på ymse flater. Selv innenfor et så snevert felt som dette. Jeg bruker noen av de knepene av og til, men det er ikke hovedgrunnen til at jeg er aktiv her. Eksempel: fotoserie av pen russisk cosplaydame i sovjetisk Space Marine-uniform = 78 likes, 96 kommentarer.  Lenke til en artikkel om et indiespill om kvinnelige sovjetiske kampflypiloter under andre verdenskrig = 4 likes, 3 kommentarer. Jeg kommer til å fortsette å poste begge typer innhold, fordi jeg mener begge har verdi i en slik gruppe.
5. Gir lenken/bildet tilstrekkelig informasjon, eller må jeg skrive en følgetekst på en setning eller to for å tydeliggjøre hva det handler om/hva slags føringer jeg ønsker å legge for evt. diskusjon?
6. Kan posten tenkes å ha interesse for noen andre enn meg? (Ok, av og til poster jeg vel strengt tatt om ting det føles som jeg er rimelig ensom om å bry meg om, men i hovedsak tenker jeg – om ikke direkte «tabloid» – så i hvert fall litt bredere enn som så.)

Jeg har selvsagt min tilnærming til disse tingene, andre har sin. Min tankegang er preget av at jeg har vært journalist i en 14 års tid (inkludert utdannelsen). Den er også preget av at jeg har deltatt aktivt i onlinediskusjoner om rollespill i 20 år; fra BBS (via papirutgivelsen Replicant) til Usenet og webforum (jeg la igjen 5000 poster på webforumet Rollespill.net i perioden 2003-2013). Andre har sin bakgrunn, sine erfaringer og perspektiver.

Jeg er opptatt av at det skal være romslig på gruppa, grei takhøyde for å diskutere uavhengig av erfaringsnivå og hva man driver med ellers i livet. Folk er forskjellige, spiller forskjellige spill. Vi kan lære av hverandre.

Hva vil vi med Rollespill.info?
Tja, si det? Opprinnelig var det et prosjekt for å blåse liv i et webforum som holdt på å daue. Det var det ingen som beit på, sosiale medier er der det skjer (så lenge det varer). Men jeg synes gruppa har blitt et interessant og givende prosjekt, nærmest en hobby i seg selv. Jeg er blant de som har postet mest her de siste tre åra, og er (sammen med tre-fire andre) blant de mest synlige moderatorene. Jeg tror slike grupper (og for den saks skyld webforum) har behov for jevnlig aktivitet og noen ildsjeler. Det er mange «elefantkirkegårder» der ute, grupper med flere hundre medlemmer hvor det cirka aldri skjer noe.

Noe jeg virkelig liker, som jeg stadig nevner, er å se folk finne nye spillgrupper og venner via gruppen. Selv har jeg ikke noe behov for den funksjonen: jeg bor i Oslo og kjenner mange jeg kan spille med her. Men det gjør meg happy når en nyinnflytter til et mindre tettsted kan poste her og i løpet av en halv dag ha en ny spillgruppe på plass.

Andre spennende «synergieffekter» oppstår også. Rollespill.info har ikke æren for at Vandrerne nå endelig kommer ut, men kanskje bidro entusiasmen blant gruppemedlemmene og det at gruppa finnes som en arena hvor man kan informere om slike prosjekter ørlite grann til å motivere Øivind i innspurten? Den typen ting gleder jeg meg til å se mer av.

Det er også spennende å høre om små prosjekter folk pusler med, enten det er komplette spill, kongressmoduler eller private kampanjer.

Det vil garantert skje mye jeg ikke kan spå om, og ikke har oversikt over i dag.

Jeg tror vi er veldig nært et slags «sweet spot» for medlemstall og aktivitet. I løpet av 2014 pisket jeg knallhardt på for å spre ordet om gruppa, ved å poste i relaterte grupper og rekruttere på ymse vis. Den høye skuddtakten på mine poster var selvsagt også en del av det. Det er ikke helt planløst.

En privat observasjon på tampen: jeg bruker, uten tvil, for mye tid på internett. Det har jeg gjort i en årrekke. Det har kanskje toppet seg litt med sosiale medier de siste par åra. Jeg har lyst til å bruke mer tid på å lese bøker igjen, og mindre på å scrolle meg gjennom feriebildene til perifere bekjentskaper. Det styrer til syvende og sist kun jeg, selvsagt. Og det har slett ikke bare med denne gruppa å gjøre. Selv om jeg og andre har lagt ned noen hundre ulønnede arbeidstimer her siden 2012 synes jeg det har vært verdt det, når jeg ser hva vi har fått til i fellesskap. Jeg tror det å ha en arena som denne er viktig for det brede rollespillmiljøet i Norge. Jeg håper dere også trives, og at de som eventuelt ikke gjør det finner frem til de mange andre arenaene det står enhver fritt å benytte (se lenkeoversikt i filarkivet).

I filarkivet har jeg skrevet en tekst om gruppas historikk og opprinnelige formål, for den som måtte orke mer etter alt dette  (se også diskusjon i kommentarfeltet).

TL;DR
Den mer «offisielle» teksten om gruppas formål og retningslinjer ligger i gruppebeskrivelsen til høyre på landingssida. Veldig fint om folk tar seg tid til å lese den.

(NB: jeg startet denne gruppa, og er moderator. Men akkurat denne posten er ment som privat drodling, snarere enn en «offisiell» moderatorbeskjed. Moderatorbeskjeder merkes gjerne #moderatorhatt, som i en mer visuell fremstilling fortoner seg slik).

Publisert i Intertubes, Rollespill | Merket med , , , | Legg igjen en kommentar

Games you can play with social media

goldenI’m not thinking here of apps or hangouts. I mean text/layout/image-based stuff.

Cryptic Profile Image Rebus
Yesterday, I changed my profile photo on FB (because I’d been using me friend’s profile photo without his permission for a day or so, and I thought it might be weird or creepy to continue doing that. It was as sort of a joke. Or a game. Enough about that). I didn’t have a recent selfie I was happy with, but some stray thought led me to use a simple golden apple I found on Google Images. In my head, it was an obvious reference to Greek mythology and Discordinanism, but I didn’t know how many would catch that. It was fun to see people who were «in on the joke» comment («fnord», «Kallisti», «something in Greek» etc). Another girl told me to «go to bed», but that was because of another game we were playing that evening, that started in the comments under a friend’s posts.

Selfie-miming
Once I asked people to give me some kind of adjective or person to portray, and I’d do a series of selfies in the comments section where I try to have my face «portray» those words/emotions. That was kind of fun. I did a similar ask-me-to-draw-stuff recently. AMA could be another variety. You could also do those with specific themes. Another FB friend had a nice thing with «let me give you a compliment» last year, that really spread around (I think she came up with it).

Surreal status updates
For a while last year, I think it was, people in my feed would write something weird about not believing anyone read their posts and writhing on the living room floor in a sleeping bag or something. I enjoyed those status updates. I could immediately tell it was a game, but I didn’t know what it was about. So it was kind of a mystery too. I eventually googled it, and found it was some European(?) politician(?) who had started it as some kind of awareness-raising campaign for breast cancer(?) or another good cause. If you commented on one of the posts or PMed the poster, they would tell you about the good cause and that now you had to post some similar weirdness. I didn’t like that aspect of it, because I don’t like being told what to do and would rather have important information communicated to me in a direct, accessible manner. Also, the fact that I’m not exactly sure what it was about today makes me doubt the effectiveness of this way of «raising awareness». But I enjoyed the posts before I got to know the answer. Game.

"Let's fill Facebook with sexual-satanic imagery. I received "Baphomet eating out a nun" from A*** M***, and challenge S*** E*** to post an image of "the witches' sabbath"."

«Let’s fill Facebook with sexual-satanic imagery. I received «Baphomet eating out a nun» from A*** M***, and challenge S*** E*** to post an image of «the witches’ sabbath».»

Annoying chain-letter
There are also the «Let’s fill Facebook with art/comics/cheese/whatever» things that sometime happen. They easily get to be too much for me, because when everyone is doing more or less the same thing, it soon amounts to spam. We have them on G+, too, with the hashtag-something, but so far I mostly enjoy those. Smaller and more theme focused community there (for me, at least).

«This is your team»
And the one were you write some kind of list (like «This is your D&D adventure party»), and a description of each person, and then the reader will fill in with semi-random people from their «recent friends box» or something. Those can get a bit spammy, too. But they’re fast and fun to write, as I tested with the theme «supervillains» earlier this spring (see below).

Role-playing
I’ve sometimes tried running something a bit similar to text-based roleplaying games in the comments section. But the intitial post has to have very simple and very clear rules for it not to descend into complete chaos after a short while. And depending on the rules, you may or may not have to set aside the time to be present for the game.

Supervillains team
I wrote this annoying-but-sort-of-fun style game for Facebook:

You’re the leader of a team of super-villains.

To find out who’s on your team, check the people in your “friends-box” to the left on your profile page.

From left to right:

1) The mutant with a grudge against humanity:
2) The cosmic trickster demigod:
3) The vengeful android:
4) The shape changer from a parallel dimension:
5) The symbiotic costume from an alien planet:
6) The despotic wizard-ruler of a fictional Eastern European nation:
7) The radioactive genius:
8) The half-man, half-beast creature:
9) Your even more evil twin:

Publisert i Skriveri | Merket med , | Legg igjen en kommentar

The Minotaur instinct in me

minotaur[Written in the context of a G+ discussion about the role-playing game The Clay That Woke. Re-posted here for easier sharing.]

If I were an animal, I think I’d be a squirrel.

On a good day, maybe I’d feel like that mythological squirrel who lives in Yggdrasil, the world tree. Travelling up and down this cosmic axis of existence, bringing news between gods and men. And talking too much. All the time. Chattering away. Telling secrets. Whispering in ears, revealing things. Telling stories. Still; running away at the first sight of danger, covering his own ass, holing up. Foraging for winter. Stashing away contacts, friends, relatives for those dark days of winter. Which I know will inevitably return.

Most of the time, I don’t feel like a particularly mythological kind of squirrel. I feel more like that “meme”-squirrel from a few years back, the one that would always pop up in random photos looking intense.

But somewhere inside me, in some vague archetypal corner of myself, I have a Minotaur, too.

And that guy; he’s a reliable kind of guy. He doesn’t say much. You know he’s handy. He could help you carry that piece of furniture. Maybe listen to you talk. Not for too long, though, but you wouldn’t go into details and shit with that guy. Wouldn’t be soppy in front of him, but his mere presence would be comforting, in a way. You could share a cigarette. Have some coffee. He makes you a little afraid, the guy at the back of your head. He seems so tame, so domesticated. Loyal. But you know those horns, those fists, could really fuck someone up. You’ve heard some stories about his kind. Maybe not this guy in particular, I mean he’s cool, he’d never hurt you. But, y’know.

I was robbed the other day. Strange circumstances, won’t go in details here. But it was full daylight, city was full of people, and the dude just took my money. Now, as you will recall, I’m a squirrel, so I did the sensible thing and walked away.

The minotaur wasn’t too happy about that. But I’m not a minotaur. I just have him, in me. Like most of you who read this probably do.

In Itras By, the game I helped write, there’s kind of a minotaur character. He has the head of a musk ox. He’s rich, clumsy, kind. Everyone laughs at him behind his back because he looks weird and is clumsy. He sucks it up, tries to keep his cool (but he has a violent temper, if sufficiently provoked). They can see he’s a beast, he’s reminded when he looks in the mirror every day that he’s a beast, but he’s born in polite, high society. He has a function, a role. He’s an heir. There’s a hopeless love-story in there, too.

Anyway, I typed up that character kind of randomly when I was 23 or something. And I mention it here because of the superficial similarities, but also because many readers seem to connect with this character in particular. If there’s talk we might do an Itras By larp at some point, someone will eagerly volunteer to play this guy. Various illustrators want to draw him, on their own accord, without direct instruction from me. I think there’s something with that age-old mythical image that is very powerful to us.

I thought earlier today how I was fascinated, maybe a bit repulsed, certainly titillated as a 12-year old when I heard the story of the original minotaur’s conception on some radio show (this is Norway, folks), or maybe I read it in a book I had on greek mythology. With the bronze cow, the queen and that. I have some half-formed thoughts/feelings about this topic and sexuality, or some aspects of sexuality, rather. But I think I will listen to the squirrel on this: run away while you still have your bushy tail.

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7 Camping Concepts

Yet another satisfied customer at Alpha Male Camping. Photo: Budi Nusyirwan (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Yet another satisfied customer at Alpha Male Camping. Photo: Budi Nusyirwan (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Alpha Male Camping
A camping concept for alpha males, AND anyone who identifies as an alpha male.

Activities include (and are limited to):

– Eyeing
– Drinking
– Pissing contest
– Drinking
– Bromance
– Drinking
– Circle jerk (OR klittra)

An enjoyable game of Quappitsche at Wizarding Wonderland Camping. Photo: Antonio Cinotti (Flickr/Creative Commons).

An enjoyable game of Quappitsche at Wizarding Wonderland Camping. Photo: Antonio Cinotti (Flickr/Creative Commons).

The location varies, but this annual event usually takes place somewhere with rugged and unwelcoming terrain, with a lack of running water, electricity and mother. (Certain parts of Northern Norway would be ideal, if it just wasn’t so fucking expensive).

Wizarding Wonderland Camping
A family-friendly camping concept where all visitors are provided with their very own capes, “magick schticks” (not wands) and funny hats.

Activities include:
– Quappitsche – local game a bit similar to rugby but with more elements from MMA.
– Advanced Traumaturgy – a.k.a. “The Crying Game”.
– Viralicious: see how fast you’re able to spread your fun time holiday photos from Wizarding Wonderland Camping on social media. The winner receives a Farnabus Binkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting.

Wizarding Wonderland Camping is located at a genuine Polish campground from the late 1980’s, near scenic Pruszków and the local raw sewage treatment plant.

An elective outdoor recreational activity

Photo: Christopher Michel (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Photo: Christopher Michel (Flickr/Creative Commons).

The concept: participants leave developed areas to spend time outdoors in more natural ones in pursuit of activities providing them enjoyment. A minimum of one night is spent outdoors, distinguishing it from day-tripping, picnicking, and other similarly short-term recreational activities.

An elective outdoor recreational activity may involve sheltering in the open air, a tent, caravan, motorhome, or primitive structure.

Guesstimate Camping
A variant of the “Dice Man” concept. At Guesstimate Camping, the guiding principle is to take a wild guess at anything. How long it is until dinner, the price of various items, the current amount of camping site visitors, etc. The most outlandish claim that can be backed up with some kind of vague anecdote or “research” will be honored with prizes like groupies, media attention (the local newspaper runs a column) and grants from the city council.

Site: anywhere in the Nordic region.

(Guesstimate was originally “This Big Camping & Fishing”, but the IP owners wrote a cease-and-desist).

Rock Star Camping
Did you ever wonder where all those rock star mammoths go when they need a well-deserved break from touring and rocking a million faces?

Rock Star Camping near peaceful Grindsted (DK),  that’s where!

Here you’ll encounter the likes of Keith, Sir Paul, Bob and Ozzy, basking in the transcendental nothingness of the Grindsted countryside, safe in their knowledge that they’re at the height of awesome despite being 127 years old (well; obviously you won’t encounter them, but people with similar souls, is the selling point).

Activities include:
– Reminiscing
– Snoring
– Failing to maintain an erection

Self-referential In-Jokesters Sensitivity Test Camping

An including time outdoors. Foto: News Øresund - Johan Wessman (Flickr/Creative Commons).

An including time outdoors. Foto: News Øresund – Johan Wessman (Flickr/Creative Commons).

The concept: you go camping with a group of DF supporters at Holme Å in Region Syddanmark. To get acquainted, you’ll play along with their jokes. But that’s ok, because you can tell yourself you’re ironic and post-modern. The bait-and-switch is that there are three genuine minority “sleeper agents” at the camping grounds. If they are able to tell you apart from the DF supporters at the end of your stay, you’ll win a crate of Carlsberg Elephant Beer and a hug from a homeless Inuit at Amagerbro Station. If not, you’ll be exposed as a chauvinist to all your FB contacts (in a public post including video from your trans-ironic week at the camping site).

BFF Camping
A small, friendly camping site on Djursland, East Jutland. Most of the visitors are regulars from year to year. It’s a place where you can just relax and be yourself, smile, enjoy a cool drink and play games. Somewhere you can spend time among friends who are accepting of each other’s differences and employ charitable readings of the rules of boccia. A space where you can safely leave your tent unlocked, your worries far behind and just bask in the privilege of belonging to such a considerate and thoughtful community.

Publisert i Religion

7 Campaign Concepts

Some of my kindred RPG-bloggin’ spirits from Denmark have been having sort of a challenge going where they pitch 7 different RPG campaign concepts. I thought I’d join the fun. (The original post that started all of this, in Danish)

Copenhagen by Night
Back in the late 90’s, my good friend and partner-in-nerd Magnus had a V:tM concept I liked a lot. I think it was inspired by some Danish crime novella he’d read, set in Copenhagen. The campaign never materialized, but I made a character, a Brujah inspired by Vinnie Jones’ character in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Kind of a money-shark/sociopath. Anyway: Vampire, Copenhagen, Grittier-than-thou, probably inspired by those Danish “Pusher” films that came out in the nineties.

Tim Bradstreet: Brujah. Vampire: the Masquerade.

Tim Bradstreet: Brujah. Vampire: the Masquerade.

I wouldn’t use the original system, and I’d probably adapt/simplify the setting somewhat (fewer clans and fractions etc), but use enough of the original material to keep some kind of “feel” of that 90s goodness. Yes, it would obviously have to be set in the nineties too. Because.

I think I’d look into that free version of the Undying game that’s out, which is some kind of “Vampire done right” deal that’s Kickstarting now.

(I was sick and tired of vampires about 15 years ago, almost – but not quite – as fed up as I am with zombies. But a movie like “Låt den rätta komma inn” goes to show there’s still something to be said for the old monsters. And I’d definitely play this campaign if the opportunity presented itself. Especially if Magnus GMed. Well, I’ll play anything Magnus cares to GM.)

Swords without Master
I recently bought this little game, published in the Sword & Sorcery fanzine “Worlds without Master”. At 3,99$, there’s not really any reason not to, and I’ve heard good things. I’ve only briefly skimmed it so far, though. As far as I understand, there’s some kind of rotating GM-system, and it enables no-prep or low-prep sessions. Which sounds pretty ideal for busy people like my friends and I (ok, I guess I could cut back on time wasted online, and I’d suddenly have bucketloads of time on my hands).

I haven’t really read all that much fantasy. Tolkien, LeGuinn’s Earthsea, Narnia. A few more. I read a few of the original Conan stories (owned that gigantic collected edition at some point), but found them a bit dull/repetitive after a while. But I’ve certainly played around with fantasy tropes in RPGs for the better part of my life.

There’s something about the Sword & Sorcery genre that really appeals to me, from what little I’ve understood. The whole “pre-Tolkien” aspect is certainly nice (nothing against Tolkien, but it feels like I’ve been swimming in his derivatives all my life). And the “pulpishness”, for lack of a better term. More human-focused, fewer humanoids? And epic in a very specific way. “Epic while gritty/hard-boiled”. Or something to that effect.

I think I’d look at the Sorcerer and Sword supplement for Ron Edward’s Sorcerer for further inspiration. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, as far as I recall. Maybe pick up a few more copies of Worlds without Master while I’m at it.

(This one might conceivably happen, especially if my impression about rotating GM + low-prep sessions is correct).

Somewhere dark
They’re remaking Kult for the 25th anniversary. I never really made that game work, but it’s one of my “holy grails” or “one that got away”. I don’t know if I’m all that interested in action-horror. The system wasn’t all that (as far as I recall). I’d probably have to ditch more than half the concepts and clichés of that particular setting (not because it’s bad, just because the players and I would know them too well, and it would feel like rehashing 90s horror clichés rather than experiencing something genuinely new and frightening).

But I love the spirit of the thing. The no-holds barred “let’s reach down in the dirt and blood for entertainment, shock and thrills”. I think scary movies are good for us, in some way. Roller coasters, ghost houses, horror stories by the campfire. I think it’s primeval. But I also think we’re a bit jaded (at least I am). So we’d need something… close to home. Subtle and unpleasant, rather than “screaming in your ear at full volume and oh, hey, here’s a bucket of pig blood to go with it”. Something really, really dark. There’s some kind of “wave of sensitivity” going on, so I won’t go into specifics here. But I mean… dark-dark.

I find, as I get older, films (fiction in general?) has a stronger grip on me. I’m more easily moved. Identify with more of the characters, maybe? Maybe it’s just some natural age-softening going on. Less of the touch of sociopathy I suspect many young men suffer from, less testosterone… I dunno (I’m just 34, not Yoda). But more, I think it has to do with experience. That stuff could happen. I know someone that happened to. That could happen to me. That’s me. Up there. That’s us.

What I’m trying to say is: I don’t know if I could stomach a campaign like the one I just sketchily envisioned. But it could be interesting. Maybe just two or three sessions. For health reasons.

Funky Experimental
Back in 2006-2007, Matthijs started an Itras By campaign that I took part of for the first few and the last few sessions. For the middle ones, I was in South America (working on the book, amongst many other things), but I’d eagerly read the updates on mail and blog. His take was to do a *lot* of experimentation, but still true to the spirit of the game/setting. Surreal games, shared narration rights, new cards, lots of stuff. He described some of the techniques, methods and rules he employed (that would often vary from session to session) on a wiki that’s sadly lost. Some of it was also discussed on the old Story Games forum, I believe.

Sketch for new illustration for the French Itras By edition by David Cochard.

Sketch for new illustration for the French Itras By edition by David Cochard.

Anyway, what I’d like to do is capture the spirit of that campaign. The free-wheelin’ anarchy and joyful experimentation. With a group I knew could “click” and jam. Setting up a campaign as kind of a laboratory of ideas and experimentation. Maybe with some game as basis or loose scaffolding, maybe just some simple rules we could make up as a start. And then we could just… try out stuff, you know? There is so much hippie goodness floating around out there now, just seize some of that. Pick and choose. Change the cards around every session. Some stability would be good, I think. Maybe the same characters from session to session. Or at least more or less the same setting. One trick could be to explore the same core setting by means of a varying troupe of characters. Not exactly a new idea at this point, but in my experience very few ideas are actually new. Deep immersion. Trance states. Playful weaponry against perceived GM authority. Yeah. Something like that.

Over the Edge: It is just a tribute
In some inspired, hypomanic moment a couple of years ago, I typed up these short texts and labelled them “A Tribute to Over the Edge”.

Truth be told, I haven’t read OtE cover-to-cover (I borrowed it in the 90s and bought the anniversary edition a few years back). I’ve only played a single session in the 90s (I believe). Still, I think it’s had a strong influence on my gaming philosophy, both through Matthijs (as always), and as some kind of background radiation.

I don’t think the setting itself is presented in a very interesting manner (too many lists and old school “Monstrous Manual” vibe). I’m not enamored with all the “violent gangs”. But I love the simplicity of the rules, the anarchic mindset, the surrealism (of course) and many, many of the concepts.

I’d like to bring the whole setting to 2015, and go a few rounds with players of the same mindset to see what that means. The blogpost I linked in the first paragraph here could be a point of reference. And other weirdness. Chuck Palahniuk, maybe? A touch of Burroughs, obviously. I think this could be easily combined with the “Funky Experimental” campaign. We could imagine we were kids again, with some hope of revolutionizing gaming, ourselves, the fucking world.

Draug

The draug as envisioned by Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen.

The draug as envisioned by Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen.

Matthijs once wrote a game called Draug (in Norwegian). It’s set in Norway in 1801, but – a bit like Ars Magica – it’s a Norway where creatures from fairytale and folklore are real. I’ve briefly toyed with the idea of bringing that concept to present day Norway. I would probably look more to the Norwegian movie Thale than Troll Hunter for inspiration. The former is a sort-of-creepy present-day take on the “hulder”, a beautiful woman with a cow’s tail who’d enchant and guile hapless men and boys into the mountain. Troll Hunter is more of a comedy. Finnish “Import-export” is something in between.

Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist (Låt den rätte komma in) has some great contemporary takes on some of these creatures in his short stories. I think that’s the kind of vibe I’d be aiming for: creepy, contemporary, “what-if” type stuff.

(Yes, I am in love with Matthijs, what’s it to you?)

Star Wars
Around the time the last batch of Star Wars movies were coming out, we ran three campaigns in-between movies, using the same era and some of the same characters/NPCs. I think we first used a “d20”-system, later “Saga Edition”. Now there are new games out from Fantasy Flight, so it might be fun to check out those. We had a *lot* of fun with those, consciously ripping/riffing of the vibe of the films, unapologetically paraphrasing concepts and tropes. Played the “theme song” before every episode etc. Nerdcore joy, 13 again. “Look mom, I’m a Jedi!”

What I envision here is a relatively short campaign to coincide with Episode 7, so it would need to happen this fall or next spring at the latest. In the previous campaigns, we set it a thousand years prior to the films. Some of the players were inspired by the KotOR computer games. It gave us a lot of freedom to invent setting. Most of the tech and society worked in more or less the same way as in the films, of course.

We could go back to some of that old material from 10-13 years ago. But maybe it would be cool with a different approach, this time. Make it more specific or different. “Smugglers in the Outer Rim”, “Coruscant Low-Lifes embroiled in Galactic Drama”, “Secrets of the Galactic War” (stuff happening off-screen in the original films), etc, etc. There’s a thousand possibilities, and brief googling will certainly provide further ideas. If we choose to step back onto the path of pure fanboy joy.

(Blog post continues under image).

«Chewie, we’re home».

At least one of the Danish «7 campaigns» blogs was in English, but this is the only one I could find at the moment (please feel free to link in comments): Elias’ blog Filemonia.

(This is currently kind of wishful thinking, for the day I’m yet again a 20 year old student with seemingly unlimited amounts of time for nourishing long-term campaigns, or my friend’s kids grow up, or we all retire or something. I’m very happy to be in a seemingly long-term D&D5 campaign we started in November (my character has the fireball spell and we’ve met an owl bear. It’s awesome). We’ll round off our The Clay That Woke campaign sometime before the end of summer (I believe), and there’s this series of small-press/indie oneshots I’m planning with a couple of friends. Maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in some kind of mini-campaign this fall, but there are also two larps, life, job, other creative projects and the girlfriend abroad. We’ll see. Anyway, I can dream, right?)

BONUS TRACK

PATTERN RECOGNITION? Linking to: https://blog.vandalog.com/tag/edward-snowden/

It’s your Destiny
At some point I feel like I should grok Fate, like I did Apocalypse World. I’m not particularly enamored with post-apo as genre, but the game itself just felt very important to try out, you know? Seminal influence and all. Modern point of reference, like GURPs in its heyday. I feel the same way with Fate, but I just get so impatient/bored with rule texts, man. I definitely understand there’s  something there (and even tried to run 3-4 sessions in an aborted fantasy campaign. Magnus helpfully provided me with a simplified summary of the rules. There is something wrong with my head, when it comes to game procedure…).

Aspects and all that. Learn it I must.

Me and Magnus talked about setting up some kind of Pirates in the Caribbean anno 1700s (not the Disney-stuff, more historically inspired) for a run of 5-7 sessions. And use Fate. Not sure if I’m sufficiently in love with the idea. We could come up with something else. I imagine Fate would be particularly good for pulpish games, but that could just be prejudice.

Pattern Recognition
I love William Gibson’s writing. Especially when I can understand it. It’s the kind of text that makes you feel cooler upon reading, y’know? I tried a few pages of the new book, The Peripheral, but had to give up. It was like every 20-30. word caused me some kind of friction. Maybe I’ve grown denser over the past 15 years, maybe it’s just a harder read.

Anyway: loved the cyberpunk-stuff. Loved the Blue Ant trilogy. Especially the first book, Pattern Recognition. That kind of… what is it? Contemporary sci-fi? Magical realism? Thriller? Capturing some kind of vibe/spirit like that in a game would be awesome, or at least interesting to try.

Probably something very-near future, or maybe even contemporary but with a focus on cutting-edge technology. Trouble is, I imagine it would take a lot of research and setting-building to generate the experience I’m looking for. I’m simply not knowledgeable enough. Maybe read 3-4 books and some Wikipedia articles. Maybe ally with players with more insight into the world of hacking, espionage, weapons technology, political economy and corporate machinations than myself.

Maybe there’s a game out there that would cater to all this, but I haven’t heard about it yet.

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#51in15

«Ta Land» («Take Land» – The Larplaboratory April, Ingrid Galadriel et. al). Photo: Private.


Can we/you/I play 51 role-playing games, larps, boardgames, card games etc in 2015? Here’s Eipidiah’s challenge: https://dig1000holes.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/51in15/

001I’ll probably  update this blog post now and then over the next few months.

The games I’ve played so far:

25. Kaleidoscope
24. ‘Terps (co-GM)
23. Timeline
22. There’s a Fan Fic for That
21. Klossmajor (similar to Jenga)
20. Shave a Sheep
19. Ligretto Dice
18. Take Land (short larp, Laivlaboratoriet)
17. Experiments with robots (short larp workshop, Laivlaboratoriet)

Consequesting Omens (Dresden Files larp Stavanger, January: investigating academic). Photo: me.

Consequesting Omens (Dresden Files larp Stavanger, January: investigating academic). Photo: me.

16. Demons (Fastaval 2015)
15. The Bunker (Fastaval 2015)
14. Split Utopia (Fastaval 2015)
13. Grotesque (Fastaval 2015)
12. Room (Fastaval 2015 – GM)
11. This Miracle (Fastaval 2015)
10. Itras by (GM)
9. The Clay that Woke
8. Femkamp (card)
7. Aye, Evil Overlord
6. Consequesting Omens (Dresden Files larp)
5. Dixit
4. Happylaiven (Potter larp)
3. I know you are, but what am I? (chamber larp )
2. D&D (GM 1 session)
1. Cards Against Humanity

«Badges I’ve earned»:

For those who have played at least five games with more than five players apiece.

These are for the brave souls who can rise to the challenge and have made at least 6 of their 51 games roleplaying games.

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KoiKoi

A young nuk got to wear the white colours of the nuk after their initiation. Photo: Li Xin.

A young nuk got to wear the white colours of the nuk after their initiation. Photo: Li Xin.

Larp. Finnskogen, Norway, July 1-5, 2014. 

Organizers: Eirik Fatland, Tor Kjetil Edland, Margrethe Raaum, Martin Knutsen, Trine Lise Lindahl, Elin Nilsen, and Jørn Slemdal.

80(?) players.

After KoiKoi, the organizers asked us to postpone analysis and dissection of the larp design for a week, and instead share stories and personal reflections. This text is a slightly edited version of a “letter” I wrote to the organizers the day after the larp. It’s meandering, subjective and personal.

If you’d rather read a more analytical approach, please see the links at the end of this post.

Intro
KoiKoi was set in a hunter-gatherer society; maybe in our world, maybe elsewhere. Maybe the present era, maybe the future. Every second year this nomadic people gathered for feasts and rituals at their sacred home in Koi valley, and the larp was set during such a gathering. In “reality”, we were in the woods, somewhere in the east of Norway.

I’m Laughter

Laughter, my character, was one of the three elder nuks permanently residing at Koi. Photo: Li Xin.

Laughter, my character, was one of the three elder nuks permanently residing at Koi. Photo: Li Xin.

My character, Laughter, was also aldnuk at Koi. The nuk were sort of a “third gender” at the larp: hermaphrodites, outcasts, transsexuals, queers, shamans, “sensitives”, or crazy people. These kinds of people would often end up with this gender. Ald was the prefix given to the elders. They lived at Koi, where they were taken care of by the nuk. The larp used the gender-neutral (Swedish) pronoun “hen” to refer to nuks. In this translation, I’ve tried to use the form “singular they”.

When I first heard about the larp a year ago, I immediately knew that I wanted to play a nuk. But I didn’t realize until quite shortly before the larp was to begin that I was to portray a sort of Übernuk, with a lot of responsibility for several of the communal rituals that made up the framework of the larp. I was a bit nervous in the face of this task, as leading so many people in ritual improvisation is something I’d never done before. But I received good help from the organizers, and when I called my co-player Gustav I was assured that this would work out just fine. Gustav played my aldnuk-colleague Fog. In real life, he’s a full-time nuk: he makes a living as a travelling storyteller at various Viking and medieval markets, and has a lot of “nukish” knowledge of the forest, stories, religion and rituals. With the player Fabe as aldnuk Storm, our trio of elders was complete.

Memories, moments and thoughts

Storytelling in the main hall at Koi. Dew, one of the elder men. Photo: Li Xin.

Storytelling in the main hall at Koi. Dew, one of the elder men. Photo: Li Xin.

After the main Koi Ritual, there’s always a feast at Koi. People sang and danced. I’m often uncomfortable with dancing (even though it’s become better over the years), but Laughter entered the dance floor shirtless.

I didn’t know I could chant and make didgeridoo-like sounds with my mouth. I learned it at Koi. It’s not often I scream and sing and hum until I’m hoarse in my daily life. I did at Koi.

I never got around to reading all the stories the organizers had provided in advance of the larp, but I wanted Laughter to tell stories. So I just improvised based on what happened at the larp, plus fragments from the cultural compendium and other stuff that came to mind.

Laughter told the story about the nuk who let everyone steal their face: children, women, men. But when they had taken off the face and put it on their pillow and thought they could safely go to sleep, the face pulled a terrible grimace.

The ancestral spirits, Kwath, were invisibles to the characters, but we the players could see them. Photo: Li Xin.

The ancestral spirits, Kwath, were invisibles to the characters, but we the players could see them. Photo: Li Xin.

Laughter told the story about the KoiKoi where everyone was so horny. Woman lay in her bed, and made horny woman sounds (the others in the circle made the sound womanwoman makes when she’s horny). Man lay in his bed and made horny man sounds. And nuknuk, what sounds did they make? They made a ritual for HornyKwath, and Laughter spoke with HornyKwath using an effeminate, strange voice as they walked around the circle.

Laughter spoke of the two foreigners who were so afraid. They were at the mountain by Koi and tried to talk to each other, but they didn’t have language. Aldnuk Gust came and held the Language rite for them, so that they learned words.

During the rite of remembrance, Laughter told the others about Gust, aldnuk at Koi. They never really liked Gust. After many somber and sad stories of death, I, speaking as a player, wanted to tell a story that would be fun to listen to. It was amusing to see how Gust took on a life of their own after this ritual. Several people spoke of them, and anecdotes were told about how strict and angry they were.

The flow

Newly become men, engaged in ritualistic fighting. Photo: Li Xin.

Newly become men, engaged in ritualistic fighting. Photo: Li Xin.

After Nuk rite I got into character. From there on out the larp proceeded more or less by itself for me, just the way I like: flow, immersion, channeling. Call it what you like. Ideas, stories, sounds and sentences came on their own, and I think a lot of it came out exactly the way Laughter would have said and done things. We had a framework, created by the organizers in the compendium; we had the actions of the other players, and we had the physical limitations and possibilities of the setting. Into this framework we poured chaos, and new things arose. As it happens.

The Death Rite. Photo: Li Xin.

The Death Rite. Photo: Li Xin.

I asked one of the organizers at our two-man workshop before the larp whether our Death rite was in fact a ritual murder, and he confirmed this. During the larp, Gustav, Fabe and I concluded that Laughter would lead the ritual. Thus, they were the only person in the ankoi people who could kill other people (at least in a ritual context). I think the Death rite as a whole worked, at least for the main characters affected – the elders who were to die. Some parts obviously worked better than others. But as the time for the killings approached, I felt the atmosphere grow tense. I think the ritual provided interesting contrast, both personally, for my character, who was often a light-hearted, silly person, but also for the whole culture. Ankoi were not only peace-loving hippies who drummed and sang by the campfire. Their culture also had dark, brutal aspects.

Masks contained spirits. Everything had spirit: plants, animals, the water and the air. Through the use of masks, they could posess the characters. Photo: Li Xin.

Masks contained spirits. Everything had spirit: plants, animals, the water and the air. Through the use of masks, they could posess the characters. Photo: Li Xin.

After the Death rite, I was uncertain how Laughter would act for the rest of the evening. We solved it by having the three elder nuks return to Koi with two white ribbons from the place of the ancestor spirits. There was singing. The nuk Breeze, who lived at Koi, opened the doors wide. The three elder nuks entered the ceremonial hall. Fog had the white ribbons tied to their staff. They danced around the fire, chanted. Laid the ribbons down by the fireplace. Laughter got down on their knees. Sometimes, they’d burst into sorrowful moans. The song in the room continued, but changed character. After a while the circle (on its own?) started chanting the names of the deceased: Ebb, Dew, Ebb, Dew, Ebb, Dew… The names of the two aldmen became a melody. Laughter, the only ankoi who takes human lives, crept towards the fire on all fours. Screamed, and left.

Later that night, they sat by the fire at Boarfam. Told lighter stories. Were comforted by their old friend and lover, Wave. Joked. Laughed. Their face still painted with the death mask.

Aldnuks applying ritual makeup. Photo: Li Xin.

Aldnuks applying ritual makeup. Photo: Li Xin.

Sometimes I was Laughter. Sometimes I was Ole Peder, observing. That’s the way larps are, at least for me. The illusion is never constant; the most intense immersion comes and goes. Ole Peder saw his friends from all the Nordic countries. Skilled, experienced role players, alongside younger larpers. Grown-ups and youth in somewhat comical costumes, playing with seriousness. I liked what I saw. A lot of good play. Many good “scenes”, as we sometimes say.

I didn’t have much plot to speak of; more like “tasks” to be performed. I often find that to be a good base for a larp, as I would still be embroiled in the plots of others.

I thought NukRite was nice. To me it was the first rite that “really worked”. I hope we who were there (the elder nuks, the travelling nuks and the nuk who lived at Koi) gave a good (and maybe a little scary) ritual to the children”. We mostly followed the instructions in the ritual compendium, but added a few details of our own. Amongst other things, there was a round of somewhat impossible questions, like who would you choose, your father or your mother?” When the ancestor-spirits were called upon and one of the organizers appeared with the large clay mask, the children had to approach Storm, who whispered two questions: Did you hear Kwath?” and What did Kwath say?”

Photo: Li Xin.

Photo: Li Xin.

I was happy with my “family”: the elders and nuks who lived permanently at Koi. We had no bigger inner conflict or drama. We were the eye of the storm. It gave me a feeling of great calm to play with them, a calm that has yet to evaporate as I’m typing this.

The weather was good, thankfully. Three days of rain would have changed the experience a lot. It’s good to be in nature. I forget how good until every time I’m out there. Maybe it’s what we’re really meant to do? Us people, I mean?

During the “debrief”, we were separated into groups of three and told to talk things over. I got together with two larpers I’ve known for a long time. Nice things were said. One of the players talked about how the larp had dealt with fundamental human themes. Gender. Death. Change. Growth. It’s true.

Sometimes, there was too little time. Many rituals were to be held before KoiKoi was over. The nuks had to remind the others to attend. Pestering other players doesn’t feel good, but timing can be hard in a game based on improvisation.

The cheers and thank you rituals straight after a larp can be hard. It’s easy to feel left out. This time I had the energy for it. I felt included.

We’re not actors, most of us. We can’t do another take. What happens, happens. Larp isn’t perfect. One of the organizers talked about this before the game. “Dare to fail”, they said. Give the character time, a chance”. Sometimes I failed; some things I did wrong. The character came to me in the end.

I was impressed with how well the techniques for ritual improvisation worked, especially the wall of sound we created together. To dare to take part in it made me proud. I’m not a singer. But it seems I can make a lot of sound! Exciting.

I saw a lot of good play. I was happy that there were some relatively new players; fun with some new faces. Many participants were internationals, mainly from the Nordic countries. I knew many from Knutepunkt and other festivals, but it was my first time playing a longer larp with many of them.

KoiKoi (analysis/blog post by Danish Peter Munthe-Kaas)
Experimental anthropology at KoiKoi (by Finnish Kaisa Kangas)
The larp’s homepage (in Norwegian)
Selected photos (by Li Xin)

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Matoppskrifter og matinspirasjon

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Idas mat-blog: All den rare maten

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Lenkeliste på Veggispreik

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«Avansert vegetarisk»: greenkitchenstories.com,

«For litt manneperspektiv»: ordentligmat.no

Fra Boller til Buritos («helt uten oppskrifter, men veldig morsom»)

Hobbykokken («når du har fått litt mer erfaring»)

Fru Timian

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