Edited by Elin Nilsen, Lizzie Stark, Trine Lise Lindahl
Review by Steve Hatherley
The Larp Factory ran monthly larps in Oslo from 2009 to 2012. They ran over 34 larps before stopping in 2012, and this book contains 23 complete larps that are ready to run.
Well, the larps don't all fit in the book. The book contains the instructions for running - there are other materials (character details, worksheets, checklists) that can be downloaded on their website. In fact, you can download them right now.
By the way, I've not actually played any of the larps yet. And know very little about "Nordic" larps, so I don't know if they're representative of those.
I'm not quite sure how to describe these larps. They're not larps in the usual British sense that the word is used - no rubber swords, no running around outside, no campaign worlds. (I know that I'm generalizing dreadfully here.) And they're not quite freeforms either (and by freeform I mean the kind of intricately plotted games promoted by UK-Freeforms and Peaky Games).They're sort of somewhere in between.
- Cafe Rene is set in the world of television’s 'Allo 'Allo. This is fairly freeformy, although everything is sketched out very loosely and the players are expected to behave in the manner of their tv characters and improvise rather than have any specific plots to go for.
- Fade to Grey explores what happens when important people stop caring about their conflicts.
- Oh Dear! We Seem To Have Run Out of Time is a time travel larp, full of paradoxes.
- In Sarcophagus the characters are trapped in a bomb shelter following a nuclear explosion.
- The Great After-Party is set during a post-larp party.
- The Association for the Advancement of Rights for Fairytale Creatures (AFC) is set at the AFC’s AGM, with lots of fairytale creatures with differing agendas trying to get their own way. Unusually in this game, the GMs, playing the Magic Mirror, also have their own agenda.
The Factory larps rely on player creativity and improvisation. The larpwrights want to create feelings and emotions in their players, and occasionally boundaries are pushed to their limits.
To help with this the larps are usually preceded by some kind of workshop activities. This may include the "ball of yarn" to cement relationships, or other activities to warm up and get into the spirit of the larp. A single larp may have several workshops - Fade to Grey has three (lasting in total over an hour), one coving “fading to grey”, one about “voices in your head”, and one on secondary plots.
Unfortunately, I find myself with a bit of a problem with some of the larps. In wanting to create feelings and emotions in their players, I feel that sometimes the writers are removing what for me is a fundamental part of larping/freeforming: fun.
I play games to have fun. I'm not sure that I would have that much fun playing some of these games. (One game, Linda’s Birthday Party, is set at a six-year old's birthday party - and despite all the words in the book, that's pretty much appears to be it. The party bit of the larp is supposed to lasts 1.5 to 2 hours. I think that's about 1.5 to 2 hours longer than I can bear pretending to be a six year old.)
I do appreciate that “fun” means different things to different people, but I’ve got a pretty good idea where my limits are.
Then there are the larps that really push boundaries, including Kink and Coffee (introductory night at your local BDSM club) and Screwing the Crew (which explores monogamy and open relationships). I really don't want to play these. I'm not particularly prudish, but they just don't appeal to me. They don't seem fun.
However, I'm making it sound like there's nothing in Larps from the Factory that I want to play, and that's not true. I estimate that I would be interested in running or playing about half of the games, and that's certainly not a bad percentage.
And Larps from the Factory certainly contains a number of interesting concepts:
- "Cut" and "Brake" are safety words that apply to all the larps (and could easily be used more widely). "Brake" means to slow down, if the situation is nearing a problem area. "Cut" is more serious and means to stop the action as it's gone too far. I don't I've ever needed either term in my freeforming, but I can see the benefits of them.
- I like the idea of the workshops. My traditional approach to warming up is to have a pint of beer, a workshop might be a better way of doing that.
- I like the way that some of the rules have been written to encourage behaviour. This makes a pleasant change than our usual freeform rules which are mostly about mechanical stuff. For example in Cafe Rene there’s a section on playing style with “rules/guidelines” such as:
- Don’t play to win
- Play theatrically
- Keep the intrigues going
- Make shameless use of stereotypes to portray different nationalities
I also really like the production. It's a lovely looking book, and the idea of separating out the player characters with the rest of the book makes a lot of sense.
So overall I’m glad I funded it, and it has really made me think about freeforms in the future.
Larps from the Factory costs 15 EUR for the pdf or 30 EUR for the book from the website.
Article by Steve Hatherley.