Research

I have been doing research to try to better my understanding of the games we love to play. It will make me a better larp organiser if I delve into what makes games fun and challenging and what makes players cooperate when playing. For that purpose, I have been playing:

dbd

Seems like an odd choice, I know, but this game is intriguing beyond its survival horror pvp exterior. It’s a game of 4 versus 1, yet it is fairly balanced. How? I think that’s a question that can help me balance out my larps when answered. There is much to learn from the asymmetry in this game.

Furthermore, the game gives the players a very limited way of communicating with each other, yet it clearly pushes and motivates the players to work together and to take risks to help each other. How? When I understand that, I think I will have learned something valuable about how cooperation in different games works, including roleplaying games.

I’ve spent quite a few hours playing this game, but to truly understand, I think I will need to write about my observations. So I will be blogging about the various aspects of the game.

If you’re interested, you can watch me play on Twitch

playing a Good character vs combat and killing people

The way we play larp in our country involves combat. We like that, it’s part of the fun. If you want to have fun at a Dutch larp event, you have to sit down and think about how your character reacts in combat situations and how your character feels about killing people, friend or foe. If you want to have fun, drink and laugh with the other characters, and not constantly feel guilty or sad about the amount of death and destruction that happens around you, it’s easier to play a character who can shrug at the death of another character somehow. There is no time for mourning at a larp, even though we sometimes honour the deaths of heroes, I have experienced first hand that if your character is going to be shocked, frightened, sad or broken every time you stare in the face of death, that’s going to be a very heavy weekend for you. Many players solve this by playing characters with evil or simply callous streaks.

But how do you play a Good, honest, god-fearing, compassionate and/or kind character in a story where people are killing each other left and right? Many larps try to solve this problem by dehumanising the enemy. We fight against zombies, monsters, demons amd other creatures who clearly deserve no mercy whatsoever. But the story does not always allow an inhuman, insane enemy that must be eradicated. Sometimes the story involves a misguided, ignorant enemy. People just like you, only with different idealogies or different laws and customs. How does your character react to the death of one of those?

At Charm this weekend, I saw a young elf be disgusted with herself and her orders when she had to kill a defenseless enemy, while others around her did the same without much afterthought. I saw an elven wardancer with tears in his eyes try to solve this conflict peacefully, because neither side of the conflict was his enemy, while behind him, orcs and dwarves were ready to smash in some skulls. My character panicked and froze on the battlefield, surrounded by people whose lives she wanted to save, but powerless to stop them from lunging at each other. How do you play a good character in a situation like this, without descending into trauma and grief?

When I look at this from a story-writer’s perspective, I see that the combat at these larps is a plot device. Killing the enemy is an easy and satisfying way of resolving a conflict. There can be a sense of victory among the characters, which is very rewarding. Making enemies who can be captured and convinced that what they did was wrong may also be satisfying for the players, but that requires a different approach towards writing the enemies and the plot. It is simpler to let the characters defeat the enemies, than to capture them, hold trial for their crimes and letting them atone accordingly. It’s necessary to let non-player characters die in order to let the extras change their clothes and play more characters that the players can interact with. If every non-player character is caught alive and held captive, you simply run out of extras too quickly, and player characters are usually not organised enough to handle such a situation quickly and effectively. There are good reasons why we write our larp stories like this.

Which still leaves us with that question. How do you play a good character in a situation like this, without descending into trauma and grief? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Hobbies and other things to do

While many of my larpy friends are in Denmark, I’m home alone tomorrow. I’ll use that time to think things through. I don’t larp as much as I used to, as you can see by the list of larp events on my website. There was a year that I went to 13 larp events. Now, it’s a lot less. I was never passionate about making my own costumes, it’s all about the drama and the interaction for me. Which is funny, because I also prefer fantasy larps over more contemporary settings, which means more costume stress.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my hobbies and why I do the things I do. Right now, I’m not tremendously interested in experimental larp. Me and the other Badgers, we’ll be over here doing our thing, which is Firefly at the end of this month, and perhaps other things later, when we’ve made up our minds. Isak speelt has recruited me to help write and play in one of his larp plans, but I won’t divulge much about it. That’s not up to me. I want to focus on other things. Or rather, people.

If I don’t find a job in the coming months, I’ll use my free time to visit those people I don’t see often enough, to reforge and strengthen bonds. Some of them live across the country, some in Scotland and France. I’ll plan trips and visit and bring gifts. I’ve come to realise people are just more important than silly games to me. I’d rather listen to you than pretend we’re going on an adventure together, or challenge you to do something you’d normally never do. Life makes us run and challenges us constantly. I want to pause the world and give you a hug.

So if you wonder where I am, I’m probably off to hug a friend.

After-larp-dip

Today, I’m just puttering around the house, putting clothes in the laundry, putting things back in the wardrobe, cleaning the floor. It’s the monday after a larp-weekend.

Friday, I helped get the groceries for 70 people: food, drinks, toiletpaper. We drove to Oosterhout near Breda and installed ourselves in Kamphuis Ahoy. We donned our costumes and spent two days in the fictional Barony of Marsilac, where I am Viscountess Ellenora. There was intrigue, magic, combat, mystery and drama. We went to sleep late at night, and had breakfast with pancakes and eggs at nine in the morning again. It was Rene and Anita’s last weekend as plotteam, and for the last time they gave us everything we asked for, careful what you wish for.

When it was all over yesterday, Remco and I left early to check on his father in the hospital. He’s fragile and not all there, but we might be able to move him to a nursing home later this week. Looking at him, holding his hands in mine, I can hardly contain my tears…

waiting for daylight savings

The autumn weather has me all confused whether to wear a sweater or a T-shirt, and I hate standing at the busstop in the morning at eight in the dark. It’s that time of year again, I’m tired and cold and in need of hugs.

On the bright side: I feel welcome and needed at work, without undue stress. I’m the assistant to a manager who really cares about getting all the work done right, all the projects finished and financed, and the interim manager overseeing the reorganisation of our unit likes me to make his presentations and mood boards, and his coffee.

In other news: almost seventy people have signed up for Maerquin in November. It’s good to see the group of adventurers in Marsilac grow again, and I hope this will make Rene and Anita’s last event as organisors a memorable one. Me and Jørgen will try our very best to be dependable and available OC while living dangerously and challenging others IC.

But there’s still a few quiet weeks before Maerquin. Poor Bimfoodle can’t get used to living indoors now that we both have a job again. We try to console him with hugs in the evening. I swear he’s going to sit on my lap and let me hug him one of these days.

Not a baroness

We had a continuous Maerquin adventure this weekend, with hardly any sleep. I love Maerquin because the team makes sure there is plenty to do for every kind of player, and not every plot can be solved by using foam rubber violence.

My characters often gravitate towards the “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” trope, the woman that must not be crossed, passionate, opinionated and painfully honest. I spend a lot of my time at larps argueing with people, loudly calling them horrible things, and then later making up again, with real tears. It’s cathartic in many ways, because I’m such a people-pleaser in real life.

Ellenora was a reluctant noblewoman, ran away from home when her parents’ expectations were too high, married an impulsive adventurer, and then the country exploded into war. She put on her big girl dress and shouldered the weight, believing in peace and trying to be an inspiration to others. Fighting on the frontline against the forces that threatened her people, she even helped assassinate the noble who would lead her people even further into ruin.

She worked so hard, gave everything, did only the right thing and asked nothing in return. And then her people kicked her out. They didn’t want a baroness, they wanted a council of the people. And the people voted that Ellenora should be kicked out of her own country, because she hadn’t supported them enough.

My character is depressed now, Ellenora is quite capable of drinking herself into a stupor and/or attempt suicide. It’s a little hard to separate that from my own feelings, but once done, I realize this is a beautiful story. A realistic story of humans being human: cruel, naïve, idealistic, bitter, strongwilled, flawed. Beautiful.

milestone

It was in 2001 that I used to spend my free evenings hanging out in a bar with a bunch of fantasy nerds. One of them was a wonderful story-teller, I spent hours listening to him recounting the plot of the Wheel of Time books as if he had been there himself. And I thought to myself: “This is why I want to write fantasy. Because one day, I want to be in a room and hear someone passionately tell a story that I wrote as if it had happened to them.”

Today, I walk through a room in a daze. Around me, everyone is excitedly telling each other the secrets, intrige, and dramatic moments they have seen in the past 48 hours at Lang Leve de Koning. And on my mind is only this one thought: “None of this would have happened without me.”

An impression of Lang Leve de Koning:

Notes on this Maerquin weekend

This week, Maerquin is on my mind. I’ve just woken up from endlessly dreaming about the adventures we had this weekend. and I simply must write about it, or it will haunt me for weeks. So, excuse me.

Ellenora’s aantekeningen

Ik aanvaard volledige verantwoordelijkheid voor de dood van Isabella von Strahd. Zij was als een zuster voor mij, beiden beschermd opgevoed door strenge vaders die hoge verwachtingen van ons hadden. Ik aanvaard ook de verantwoordelijkheid voor het volk van Zepultoera, en ik wil iedereen die zich nog Zepultoeraan wil noemen, oproepen terug te keren naar Ten Vorsel en Siloportem, zodat wij kunnen beginnen aan de wederopbouw van ons verwoeste land. Wij zijn niet in de positie om hulp te weigeren, of nieuwe vijanden te maken. Daarom zullen wij Marsilac verlaten met slechts onze eigen bezittingen, en de lichamen van onze overleden vrienden.

Het is mijn intentie om een nieuwe wet in te voeren in Zepultoera: de Wet van de Natuurlijke Dood. Annmarack is als God de enige met het recht om te beslissen wie er wanneer hoe sterft. Wij stervelingen kunnen dat niet. Eenieder in Zepultoera die een moord begaat of een andere misdaad, zal worden geketend in de Tempel van Vergiffenis, die ik laat bouwen, alwaar zij zullen bidden tot de Goden hen een teken van vergeving schenken door hun ketenen af te laten vallen.

Ook wil ik oprichten in Siloportem, de Orde van Claudius, waar kennis van alle soorten zal worden verzameld en opgeslagen, toegankelijk voor eenieder die nieuwe kennis wil opdoen of delen. En de Orde van Aurelia, soldaten die zullen strijden voor de bescherming van het leven en de onschuld, en die nimmer hun wapen als eerste zullen opheffen.

Dan wil ik ook nog laten bouwen, naast nieuwe huizen en landerijen voor de inwoners van Zepultoera, het Weeshuis van Alle Kleuren, vlak aan de grens met Marsilac. Daar zal eenieder die zich ontheemd en eenzaam voelt, jong of oud, ongeacht van rang of stand, welkom zijn te verblijven, zolang zij meewerken aan het verbouwen en klaarmaken van het voedsel.

Het is mijn intentie dat Marsilac en Zepultoera een vreedzame tijd tegemoet gaan, waarin wij een nieuw vertrouwen kunnen opbouwen, zodat er veilig gereisd en gehandeld kan worden tussen beide baroniën. Het is mijn mening dat wij allen teveel hebben geleden onder de aanvallen van de Zwarte Graaf, en dat wij nu allen rust en vrede hebben verdiend. En ook aan elkaar zijn verschuldigd.

steady as she goes

I’m still here, still unemployed, still not writing, still keeping busy. Emotionally I’m good. I’m thankful for all the good things in my life. My friends who call me and break through the silence, the people who appreciate the work I’m putting into this new larp we’ve been working on with Badger’s Business, thank you. I’m still a happy person, overall.

The work for our larp “Lange Leve de Koning” is piling up. The other day I was at a plotmeet, and my partners were explaining the mechanics of the royal succession to me. I had to take their word for it, it looks solid, but I certainly can’t keep score. I felt thankful that they are organising this thing with me, that I can trust in their know-how.

We were going over some backgrounds together, tying all of the loose ends together, connecting players to each other, and I managed to connect and reproduce details from backgrounds by heart. Inge smiled at me and said she was glad for that gift I have for being able to remember all of the players’ stories like that.

Players message me on facebook, telling me how they’re looking forward to the day in December when we can all don our costumes and enter this world of my creation, play out this scenario of my invention. It’s humbling to see how they’re enjoying this so much already.

The reality of organising a larp is, from my point of view, a lot of text, a lot of emailing, a lot of communication, explaining, editing and trying to retain information. A lot of reminding, a lot of agreeing and then adding new things to the story. Other people do beautiful things like crafting and costuming, and I admire them for it. I do a lot of running around, telling others how it should be, how much money we can spend, and worrying whether I didn’t forget anything.

On the weekend, I will be giving a lot of directions, and speeches, I’ll be organising information, trying to not freak out, and then freak out anyway. I will be told to eat something, drink something, go to sleep, and I probably won’t. I’ll try to enjoy watching my plot unfurl, watching the players do their thing, and try to anticipate. When it’s all over and done, I’ll say thank you and coordinate the cleaning up.

It seems like a lot of work. But just reading the backgrounds already makes it so worthwile. The players put so much trust in us, they write these stories, they dig their own graves, write their own legacy, and they trust us with that. They trust us to make it into an awesome story, a weekend they won’t easily forget, with drama, confrontation and death. Thank you. I hope I can live up to those expectations.

Lang Leve de Koning!

It first dawned on me when I wrote a new CV a few weeks ago. I have experience organising events. Events where thirty people or more sleep, eat and play together for three consecutive days. And most of those events were a success thanks to the organisers, thanks to me.

It’s not just something that looks good on my CV, it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing immensely. But this time, it’s different. This is the first time that I can call the plot “My Plot”. I may have handled finances, food and organising stuff before, but this is the first time that the story is mine. Not entirely mine. I could never do this without Anastaszia and Erwinl. But it’s mine nonetheless.

One post on facebook and I get five new sign-ups. We have more than fourty seriously interested people. For our event in December. I am astonished and humbled. But I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Write more plot.

If you’re interested in what this is all about (and you can read Dutch): Lang Leve de Koning!