The Night Shift

Before We Wake: a short-larp about dreams. Copenhagen Thursday 6th of August to Saturday 8th 2015.

Dreams have been an almost lifelong source of fascination for me. I remember writing down and illustrating a dream in answer to a school assignment when I was 11. Something about a blue giant, maybe Zeus, resting against one of the neighbor’s houses where I used to live. I like the quirky, personal symbols dreams generate, and the strange stories they tell. Or those we tell about them after the fact. I’m also fond of weird fiction and surreal elements in stories and games. So I was excited to take part in Before We Wake, an experimental larp designed with the aim of exploring the players’ own dreams.

The event took place at Copenhagen Music Theatre, which has a large black box space. Thursday was dedicated to workshopping, then the roughly 50 players were split in two groups for separate runs; Friday and Saturday. I played in the second run.

The pre-game workshop was a walkthrough of the method. The larp itself was divided into three acts, with the first two almost functioning as another rehearsal for the “proper” dream-creation in act three.

At its best, I found the larp delivered some truly dream-like and intense moments. At the same time, however, it presented us as players with quite a roleplaying challenge, dialling both fixed character and coherent narrative down to near-zero.

Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).


Both the black box and its equipment were utilized in an effective way. Sounds and lights were continuously “DJed” to echo and affect the player’s actions. A projected video of abstract shapes filled the back wall with shifting light. The room where the larp took place was sparsely decorated with some thin trees and special tape serving as barriers (barriers which the players on my run happily and repeatedly broke through and stepped over; they were constantly being replaced by the organizers). Then there were some podiums placed on top of each other to serve as staircases, cliffs, mountains or hills as the dreams necessitated. It was a cool backdrop for such a game.

The players had been instructed to dress all in white, and were also provided with two sets of white theatre garments of some sort to play around with, one for the head and one for the arms. The white clothes created a striking visual contrast in the dark room.

Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

The Night Cafe

The play area had two main zones, used in every act: in the Night Café (with tables, chairs, water to drink and some snacks) you’d play the “dream envoys”, discussing the ongoing dreams from sort of detached meta-perspective, maybe even planning dream content. Elsewhere in the room, you were inside some vague, collective, shifting dream space. Either as part of the abstract, semi-conscious weaver-creatures, or playing the dream envoy playing your dreaming self, playing whatever characters you happened to be in the dreams of others. So the feeling of having one fixed character was not really there for me, most of the time.

The dream envoys are not you, but live inside you and try to communicate important messages to you through dreams. Or something to that effect. It was all a bit abstract to me, but reminded me of a peculiar concept my friend Matthijs Holter, who has a deeper interest in dream interpretation than me, has tried to explain to me without much success for a couple of years. In brief, he seems to believe that such “entities,” separate from ourselves, do in fact exist in our dreams and occasionally appear to us directly. Make of it what you will.

These beings gathered in the Night Café, where we were still in-character as dream envoys, but observing and discussing what happened in the dream space from a more detached viewpoint. The dream envoys could also make plans for dreams together, and collaborate if one of them had some specific content they wished to explore.

There were physical items stacked on shelves in the Night Café, small objects like those found at a flea market. We could bring these into the dream space. In the workshop, quite a bit of time was spent on somehow connecting these items to imagery or themes from the dream journals we had been instructed to keep in the month leading up to the larp. I had a hard time figuring when, or whether it would be a good idea, to introduce concepts from my own dream journal during play. It felt more natural to react to what happened in the game, and riff of other’s input, like with other kinds of improv.

I didn’t spend much time in the Night Café. A couple of the organizers acted as waiters. When I visited, they also prodded me – in character – about how things were going, suggesting things I could do. I read it as friendly concern for me as a player (“Is he having fun? He doesn’t appear to be into it.”) but it also felt a bit pushy or “outside the game.” Simply put: I didn’t know exactly how to relate to them. I did have a couple of nice experiences with other players though. One brief exchange with a Swedish player involved our dream envoy characters sitting at a table talking about ourselves – the players – our “issues” and troubles, what message we needed to hear, etc. We managed to juggle this conversation without going into too many specifics, without revealing the players behind the mask in a way that would “break the game”. I’ve enjoyed that style of metagaming or “fourth-wall bending” in role-playing games and larps for years, and this game catered to that.

A Danish player later requested that I set a scene for him, and gave me some keywords for what he wanted the scene to be about and what characters we were to play. This kind of meta-planning dreams in character was part of the design, and something the organizers had encouraged. I think it was the only time I experienced it directly. We went back into the dream space together and played out a brief scene with me as sort of a coach or GM. It worked: it had a simple narrative structure, and the player told me later on he got a kick out of it, so that made me happy. And for the only time during the whole larp, I pushed through with what we were doing even though other players came running and wanted to change the scene from our “journey of self-discovery in some temple ruins” to “the house is on fire, you have to run away” when the sfx smoke machine was turned on (with perfect timing for what we were initially up to). I don’t think it was a problem for anyone; they had their dream, we had ours. But it goes to illustrate the challenge you’d sometimes have getting any kind of coherent narrative with this design, even for five brief minutes.

Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).


One of the things we rehearsed in the workshops was the concept of the weavers. These abstract creatures generated dream-stuff in the setting the organizers had envisioned. The technique was similar to contact improv: starting with their backs towards each other, player groups of two or more would together form a weaver creature. Responding to, echoing and shaping each other’s movements and sounds, they’d gradually become more and more synced. It was a fun exercise, especially when we got into those weirdly synchronized flow states you sometimes get with that kind of improv: forgetting yourself, becoming part of the group, acting in an odd way as one. During play, I mostly saw the weavers in action at the beginning of the three acts, as far as I recall. We were instructed to let the weavers feed us “themes” and other content for the dreams.

I felt a bit ambivalent towards the weavers. I liked them during the workshops, when I had those small, weird, collective flow moments I just described. But the instruction of trying to extract specific themes from the weaver’s actions made little sense to me. I didn’t feel they operated on that symbolic level. They were more generative of moods and feelings. I don’t think I brought much content from the weaver-state (intuitive, exploring, feelings, moods) to the dreamer-state (to me: more verbal, cerebral). And I was unsure how I was expected to do that.

I also had kind of an erotic experience as part of a weaver unit in the first act. Collective… heavy breathing, panting, hugging, softly touching, dimmed lights contributed to that. I don’t think it was just me, and I heard a similar moment related from the run on Friday. I was a bit unprepared for the intensity of it just then, at the very beginning of the larp, and withdrew from the situation after a short while. I was torn between the feeling of “oh, this is very nice, I wouldn’t mind for this to continue” and “oh, I hope the players I don’t know won’t perceive me as some kind of creep” and, to put it bluntly, “getting a hard-on in these thin, cheap, white pants will certainly not look very smart.”

View from the Night Café. Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

View from the Night Café. Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

In Conclusion

The production felt very professional throughout the pre-game and play, and I mean that in a positive sense. The organizers appeared confident, as though they had really thought the concept through and knew what they were doing. We were told this production had been in the making for one and a half years, and you could really tell. I’ve always been impressed, almost a bit daunted, by this aspect of larping; that volunteer organizers make such an effort for the benefit of the player’s experience.

I had great trust in the experienced organizers, and am usually happy to try out experimental designs. Parts of the larp did a nice job of generating a dream-like quality. It was an interesting production to witness and be part of. Nevertheless, it didn’t quite “do it” for me this time:

I realized over the weekend that out of all the things I appreciate with the larp medium, one of the core things I want to do in role-playing is simply play a character. The second most important thing might be for some kind of coherent, meaningful narrative to emerge from play. Both “character” and “narrative” were dialed down to near-zero in Before We Wake. I assume this was a conscious design decision. Your main character, the dream envoy, was “workshopped” by briefly closing your eyes, and envisioning the character in a room, behind the box containing your “items of meaning”. There were few later exercises directly related to strengthening or trying out that character before we started playing.

Play did generate some scenes that felt very dreamlike: shifting characters, more focus on mood than action or clear-cut narrative. I also experienced kind of a forgetfulness that reminds me of my dreams. It is hard to keep track of the “story” in dreams.

I enjoyed just strolling around playing secondary characters or even sort of game mastering other people’s dreams. I never really felt like a main character, as I usually do in other roleplaying experiences. The concept of utilizing content from my dream journal sounded interesting. In practice, however, I had a surprisingly hard time figuring out how to go about it. I found the concept for transferral of subjects, motifs and themes from journal to the game itself too flimsy.

The design gave us many good toys and tools, but we were also given quite a roleplaying challenge. With no fixed character, we were to play out dream content personally significant to us, but in a setting that worked a bit like “the collective unconscious,” where all the other players and their impulses also had a say on the ever-shifting story. We were to be inspired, maybe, by our own dream journals and the unpredictable results of an exercise in contact improv.

Sometimes it was nice just to look at the game unfolding. I had momentary flashes and scenes that felt both a bit profound, and very dream-like. Feedback during the brief post-larp round and online afterwards indicated many players had a great experience.

These remain, obviously and as always, just my reflections.

Larp designers and project managers: Nina Runa Essendrop, Kristoffer Thurøe, Jesper Heebøll Arbjørn, Sanne Harder, Mathias Kromann Rode, Kirstine Hedda Fich, and Peter Schønnemann Andreasen.


More photos from the game.

Improv-instructor Alex Fradera attended the first run Friday, and has some interesting perspectives about the design: After Waking: Thoughts on Before We Wake.

Danish larp organizer Peter Munthe-Kaas delves deeper into the design of both workshop, scenography and game structure than I have done here:

Swedish author Karin Tidbeck was very happy with her experience, and writes about it in this short blog post:

Danish participant Thais Munk has also written a personal blog post about his experience:

(Many thanks to Alex Fradera, Martin Nielsen, Dave Chapman and Evan Torner for valuable input on this text).

Game mastering Danish larp. Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Game mastering Danish larp. Before We Wake 2015. Photo: Karin Pedersen / Mathias Kromann Rode / Kristoffer Thurøe (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

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Not the Travelling Circus Manifesto

The Circus will change with every show, in every new location it appears.

Will there be boffer weapons? Will there be a black box? Will there be formalized rules? Will there be an attempt to create a 360 degree illusion, or could a pen symbolize a rose? Maybe, maybe not.

The Circus travels far and wide. Tanzania, Palestine, Russia, Czech Republic, North America, Brazil, even the Nordic countries are frequently visited by this colorful, ever-changing spectacle. Everywhere; learning, changing, adapting, playing, challenging, creating, getting to know, partying, laughing (sometimes crying too).

It learns from local traditions, shares its own traditions freely: acts, tools and tricks.

You can never know for sure who belongs to the Circus. Maybe that businesswoman who just passed you on the street is a member. Maybe your shrink? You’d be inclined to think that dreadlocked neo-hippie juggling on the square would know, but he turns out to be clueless.

If you want to be a member, you are. You don’t even have to travel. You’ll be there, if you want to. Close your eyes, or open your laptop. You can stay on this road for as long as you please, take a break and come back when you’re ready.

The Travelling Circus didn’t start when the first story was told in a paleolithic cave, not with the pageantry of sixteenth-century Europe, not with the theatre of spontaneity in 1910, not at the Loose Moose Theatre Company in Canada in 1977, and certainly not in Gary Gygax’ basement. Yet all of those are spiritual ancestors.

There is no such thing as The Circus.

Just draw that magic circle, and you can summon the show.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Sources for Public Domain/Creative Commons images

Photo: Giulio Zannol (Creative Commons/Flickr)

Photo: Giulio Zannol (Creative Commons/Flickr)

Useful for games, blog posts, articles etc:

Flickr lets you search specifically for Creative Commons-material, mostly photos.

Wikimedia Commons has a huge repository, a lot of which is historical.

Wikimedia also has category-specific lists of Public Domain image databases, like art and history.

Old Book Illustrations

Internet Archive Book Images, huge volume of book illustrations in the Public Domain.

DeviantArt: Do a site-specific search on Google Image Search. E.g: «owlbear»

Select Search Tools -> Usage rights. Select, for instance, «Labeled for noncommercial reuse». (Still turns up a lot of irrelevant results, but I guess it’s better than nothing). has a bunch of links to free/open licensed artwork.

Stock photos that doesn’t suck

Free photography, UX photo resources and Image Search

Icon-style art from or from

Thanks: Yanni C, Nick W. 

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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 

From our first test-run (notes in Norwegian). Photo: Me.

From our first test-run (notes in Norwegian). Photo: Me.

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.

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.

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.


  • 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.

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

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

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.

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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.

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chaoticneutralFør jeg skal poste noe på Facebookgruppa (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 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
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. 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).

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.

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).

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.

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

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.


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?)



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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