The larp ran in a notional 4-hour slot starting at 1930.
Pre-larp (as soon after signup as is practical)
- Send players general background briefing.
- Ask players about their Lines and Veils.
- Send them the character skeletons.
- Tell them about food and drink during the game.
Things we didn’t do but would think about next time:
- Circulate the list of requested Lines and Veils in advance of game, so people get familiar with them – rather than first seeing them at the workshop.
- Get players to choose character skeletons / provide their own, in advance of game? – this would save time, but lose the interactive element of selection.
Workshop (intended as 1930–2100)
Welcome everyone to the game. Have them introduce themselves (player names). Remind them what it’s about. Explain the purpose of the workshop and how it’s going to work. Working together, clear as large an open space as is practical.
Explain a bit about the game set up – why they’re not a regular watch, that most people are off at the Eurovision event etc. (Strictly this is ‘game’, not ‘intro’, but it fitted better here.)
We planned the ‘shake hands’ exercise: shake hands and say hello with as many people as possible in a minute (repeat if necessary). The idea of this is to get the players moving around and making rapid and spontaneous physical contact. We had to cut it because the space we had wouldn’t permit it, but it’s pretty good as a warmup in a more open setting.
“Yes, and…” (positive addition), then “Yes, but…” (negative addition)
Unless you have more time than we did, you’ll need to keep this simple exercise quick-moving, not linger over it.
We used a human knot exercise (in two groups) to accustom players to each other’s touch, proximity, teamworks and physical trust. But at least one person wasn’t able to participate fully because of physical limitations, which we should have checked for beforehand. (Might be better to use eg Scorpion.)
Explain the timing and structure of the game. Indicate the bathroom. Say that eating and drinking in the game is entirely appropriate in character. Indicate that we have provided the basics: tea, coffee, milk, sugar, biscuits, crisps.
Cut, brake – explain and demonstrate. The door is open.
Go through the submitted lines and veils. A quick reiteration should be all that’s needed if these are sent to the players before the game.
Explain them as follows:
At some point during the game, preferably during the build-up phase but if not then during the aftermath, each character is encouraged to do a flashback. This is signalled by standing in a designated place and shining a torch [which we provided] under your chin. Once you have some people’s attention – as many as you feel is appropriate/likely to happen – start narrating. The flashback should go back to before the character joined the fire service (or maybe to their very early days in it?) Describing a formative incident (perhaps the trigger to them joining) which brought home to them how brave they were or weren’t. Or any other aspect of their state of mind/feelings that the player wants to get out there. GMs will demonstrate an example. [In practice this was used for general monologuing rather than flashback.]
At any point when in the mess room you may chink mugs with another character. You do this to get them to deliver a brief internal monologue about what’s currently on their mind. This is ‘out of character’ ie. your character doesn’t hear it, just you do as a player (and so may anyone else who chooses to listen). Keep your mug in contact with theirs, and raised, so other people can see what you’re doing. When they’ve finished, they break contact and take a drink (real or imaginary), and the game reality resumes. (If you want to do this with someone who isn’t currently holding a mug, pass them one first or improvise with a fist.) GMs will demonstrate an example.
Each player makes a statement about something they’d like to be true about Elmridge, the small town where the game is set. They will be defining the town together. All we have determined as designers is that it’s of a size to only have one fire station, and that it’s holding a popular Eurovision event tonight. Everything else is up for grabs. (The GMs can note down these statements for future consistency reference if they like, but there’s no real need to: this bit is more for the players.)
To get to this point took about 45 minutes from the 1930 start.
Each player chooses a character ‘skeleton’ from those we have made available. They may change any details about it that they wish. They should choose a name, and write a badge, and put the badge on.
Each character should then introduce themselves to the group. (As they do so, the GMs make a note of the officer hierarchy and hand out rank insignia for the ranks above ‘firefighter’.) We should probably have a printed version of the ranks pinned up somewhere on a noticeboard, so they don’t have to ask us.
Get the players to line themselves up in order of seniority. Break them up into three groups of five along the line. Within each group, sit them in a circle. Recap the introductions. Ask each in turn to make a statement (out of character) about what they respect or what they admire about one of the other characters in their group of five. Bolded because some thought they were supposed to make such a statement about everyone, which made it take a lot longer than it should have. (I can see why they thought that’s what was meant; because they didn’t know it was just the first of three such exercises.)
Then get them to line themselves up in order of experience. Break them in three groups again, and ask them what they fear or what they mistrust about one of the other characters in their group. This line would have been very similar to the first one, if we hadn’t mixed it up. Probably need something different as the line criterion here.
Then line up in order of how ‘big’ a personality they feel that they are around the mess room. Break into three, and say what entertains or what reassures them about one of the others.
Finally, line up in order of how brave they believe themselves to be.
It took a further 45 minutes to get to here (ie. 2100).
Get everyone back into a big circle.
Ask them each to say how they feel about the Eurovision party that they’re missing.
Then, invite them to write down another character who they have a strong positive feeling towards – it might be romantic, friendly, or professional – and someone who they have a strong negative feeling towards. These can be open or secret. If open, announce them to the group. They don’t have to have such things at all if they don’t want to.
(This part didn’t happen, because of time pressure. But it might not have been necessary anyway, as a lot of such feelings had already been expressed during the earlier exercises.)
Get the seniormost officer to divide them up into three ladder teams, and to appoint one of each team (usually will be the seniormost, but needn’t be) as ladder commander. Then do the ladder drill exercise.
Finally, get everyone to think of, and write down, a person who they would lay down their life for. Could be another PC, a family member, or whatever.
Game (intended as 2100 – 2300)
Entering the game (intended 2100, actually 2115)
The players are taken out of the building and the transition music is played. They are admitted to the game space in parade order, in fairly quick succession, representing them turning up for their watch duty shift. As soon as each enters, they are in time-in. There is background music playing in the mess room, representing a local radio music programme. [Eurovision classics playlist] Scattered about the table are fliers for the Eurovision event and other bits of flavour and stage set as you fancy. Mocked up newspaper articles were handy and a memo from head office about how dangerous the estate where the shout happened was.
The build-up (intended 2105, actually 2120)
Essentially for establishment of relationships, banter, interaction while going about routine tasks at the station.
Some small external tasks (cat up tree, etc) will come in and will be assigned to characters to deal with. [Not sure about this now – feel it would be bad to take players out of the group during this period. Would break immersion and remove them from group dynamic?] Feedback from the game run suggests that this may have helped the game along. If so timing will be even tighter. Mm, I think it’s going to be really tricky to squeeze it in. Also fear it might detract from the impact of the big shout.
[Towards the end of this phase, facilitators set up the Fire Room.]
The big shout (2200)
A GM announces the shout, via the walkie-talkie system (see above – GM improvised it in a loud voice). [Announcement to be written.]
Play the theme music, to signify transition from time-in to time-ish. (Could also have main lights go down and a flashing red light here, to signify ’emergency’.)
Tell the players what’s going to happen in the Fire Room:
- you will be admitted to the room;
- there will be noise, smoke, flashing lights, heat;
- you will need to erect all three ladders, as per the drill, in order to rescue the trapped people and to fight the fire;
- this will be against the clock;
- before that, you need now to decide how brave you’re going to be: choose Cautious, Moderately brave, Very brave, or Recklessly brave.
- Hand out Cautious, Moderately Brave, Very Brave and Recklessly Brave tokens as the players choose their levels (coloured beads? On cords to be put around their necks maybe? yes, like it a lot)
Start the cound, light and smoke effects, admit them to the Fire Room, and start the clock. Watch as they panickedly perform the task.
When the clock has counted down, fade the lights and sound effects and stop the smoke.
Play the theme music.
Tell the players that as well as fighting the fire together, they each carried out individual actions of some sort to be determined. They already said how brave they were being: now we need to find out how successful. They should draw a card, from which deck depending on which bravey level thsy chose, and read the result accordingly (the GMs can process this in two queues perhaps, giving the player an outcome card with the summary).
It was about 2210 at this point
They can interpret that outcome how they wish, in terms of some action carried out during the fire, probably related to the person who they’d lay down their life for (as per the workshop). They should in turn narrate it to the group, in a few sentences only. If people want to be severely injured or dead, they can be.
Tell the players that it is when time comes back in it will be the next morning, getting towards the end of their shift. They are back on shift (those of them who survived).
The aftermath (2220)
Play the theme music and admit them to the mess room. There will be recriminations, reconciliations, closure of personal and interpersonal stories, and preparation for their mutual future.
During this phase they can again use the Flashback and Chink mugs metatechniques.
End this phase by playing the theme music. The shift is over, and so is the game.
We timed out at 2240, which was too early. 2300 would have been better. Mo thought the mood in the room was ‘phew, had enough now’, but actually the players were just being naturally subdued after action.
Debrief (2300 – 2330)
Tell the players to close their eyes, and narrate a re-embodying. (Don’t make participation in thie compulsory… some of our players didn’t like the idea, and it’s better not to break the mood by forcing it. Let those people make a cup of tea or something instead.)
Re-embodying notes: three breaths, feel space around, people around, sounds, smells. Fill your body. Feel weight pressing down through you into floor and chairs.
Once everyone’s back in their bodies and relaxed, sit them in a circle, offer biscuits or something similar. (If it feels necessary, get them to ritually place their badges in an imaginary fire in the middle and silently renounce any bad feelings that they may have about their character.)
Then do a round in which each person speaks for one minute without interruption or comeback about how the game felt for them, and how their character felt for them. (Or not do so, if they don’t want to.) Try to stop them critiquing the game structure and other such things: they can do that later. This round is about sharing feelings. With a publicly-visible minute timer (which might not be needed. But do be prepared to cut people off.)
Thank everyone for taking part!
Then break up into unstructured discussion/drinking/hugging/whatever. Suggest that players may wish to talk one-on-one if they have particularly emotional stuff from the game to resolve/unfold.