When The Game Kitchen was set up, one of its ambitions was for the group to be able to design from scratch, and playtest, short larps entirely within a one-day session. In February we set out to achieve this! Read on to see how we fared…
First we all sat around a large piece of paper and threw out several dozen ideas for themes, settings, and player experiences that might be interesting to design around. These were voted on, and the most popular allocated to the two writing-groups that we then split into. As it turned out, both groups departed somewhat from the ideas that they’d started with, but that seemed perfectly OK.
All That Remains (Erik, Karolina, Laura)
A tense committee-style game set at a crisis meeting in a nuclear survival bunker. The inhabitants were preserved during the global catastrophe, but now a devastating plague is sweeping through the bunker. How safe is the outside world? Are there any other survivors in other bunkers? Who is already infected? Who has drugs?
The seven character roles were allocated randomly, all being various responsible people within the bunker hierarchy. Inter-character tensions were set up, including status levels which indicated the respect generally shown to that role’s viewpoint. We played the game out over about an hour, which was basically a series of arguments and posturings and attempts to do each other down. It was a lot of fun, and conjured up a lot of gameplay from a familiar and identifiable set of premises.
One suggestion for the future was to have the players together draw out a rough map of the bunker, showing where their character’s area of operations was in relation to the others, etc: this would add a physically-creative component to the setup, as well as giving the players something to point to while gesticulating furiously at each other.
The Baby Club (David, Jamie, Mo, Omar)
This intense family-and-friends drama, for six players, looks at childlessness and coping strategy. Two childless couples agree to mutually pretend to each other, for one joint holiday each year, that they each have a child. The game plays out through three of these holidays – the children’s notional first, eleventh and twenty-first birthdays, with the characters talking about them as though they are only temporarily absent. Each couple involves a close family member in the fiction. Players must decide for themselves why their characters want to go along with it, and what they get out of it.
While designing it this felt like quite a weird and difficult idea, but it turned out to be very playable and developing surprising amounts of emotional intensity and (what felt like) truth. The designers are keen to take this further, possibly pitching it to the Minsk Larp Festival this spring.
It was very satisfying to get two strong and playable larps out in such a short space of time – and encouraging that the non-judgemental brainstorming beforehand felt productive despite its products not being obviously linked to the designs that followed. It might well have freed our creativity in some way.