The December meeting was a design workshop along the same lines as September’s, only with more people! As before, participants were encouraged to bring existing ideas or work on new ones; and as before there turned out to be enough existing ones to keep us busy for the whole session.
The Argument (Laura)
A short (5-10 minutes) larp for two people that can be used as a prep or warmup, as well as being fun in its own right. Laura suggested that it might be particularly useful for a group of mixed larp experience – old hands could be paired up with newcomers and essentially use the game to show how basic larp interactions work, and how to respond to and build on each other’s creation.
Each player draws a character card from the deck – it has a name, a brief description, and a few prompt questions to help the player get into physically portraying this person. The pair then together draw an argument topic card from another deck: for example, Affair, Money, Road rage, Illness, etc. This card also has some prompt questions to help the two players develop a playable angle on the topic (and the players can put it back and draw again if they don’t want to use that particular topic). They do a bit of calibration to agree the context of their relationship or encounter, and then go straight into larping an argument scene. The scene ends when either player leaves it.
Laura wrote up a selection of cards, and we tested the game through three pairings. A marital quarrel about housework, overwork and support; a flatmate dispute about unpaid rent and suspected malingering; and a very awkward parents’ evening which exposed and ended an affair.
The Argument worked smoothly and well, and we achieved a variety of tone across the three test scenes. It seemed like it would work well as a prep, with a suitable briefing about expectations of play. And it was quick, simple fun! Could be a nice filler game when a few people are waiting for others to finish, or something like that.
The Lowland Clearances (Jamie)
Jamie talked about his participatory theatre project, which will be opening at Camden People’s Theatre on 16th January. In it, players construct houses, a street layout and a neighbourhood; articulate the characters who live there; embody them in live scenes (currently envisaged as a street party); and respond to threats to their housing and community.
In London ‘social clearing’ of low-value residents to make way for more lucrative uses of the land is becoming commonplace, and communities don’t always have the resources or networks to make a concerted or effective response. The game (if it can be so described) has been tested already, but there were some questions of detail in the design that needed talking through. Really looking forward to seeing this terrific project come to life next month!
Untitled game/exercise (Jamie)
In a recent class Jamie used an exercise about workers in a remote factory: their work, leisure, dreams and nightmares. The participants established the setting between them and then were able to ‘vote’ for possible futures both good and bad. A selection of these were narrated, either as reality or as dreams, and the characters responded accordingly.
It sounded like a fascinating way of exploring the topic and involving participants emotionally, which we were keen to see written up.
Untitled secret-diary game (Karolina)
For three players. Invent a group of three characters in a tight relationship (the example we tested was two parents and a child). Do some calibration to establish common background. Run a group scene of all three together; then three two-player scenes, each sitting out in turn; then another group scene; then three more two-player; then a final group scene.
Scenes are framed by mutual agreement and ideally either flow directly or have only short interludes between. To determine the end of a scene, each player is given a token: you place it in the middle when you feel it’s time to finish. Once two tokens are in the middle, the scene ends.
While each player in turn is sitting out as the others do their two-player scene, they write in their secret diary. This should be personal and reflective material about how they feel, and particularly about how they feel the other characters have behaved in preceding scenes. The premise is that they all have personal secrets and things that they keep from each other – resentments, disappointments, hopes and fears, etc.
As the game progresses it should increase in pressure and emotion, so that issues which were politely repressed in early scenes can be exposed in later ones. But each character has the choice to not rock the boat, and instead to maintain the uneasy status quo – this was symbolized by a technique of repeated routine motion.
We playtested the game and found it quite fascinating – the power of repression of issues and maintenance of secrets made for impressively involving play. The scene structure and heightening tension worked well, and reading back the secret diaries afterwards was highly entertaining. Overall it felt like a good strong concept that has a lot of replay value, using different situations and character combinations.