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Min skandinaviske tour har givet mig en hel del perspektiv på de ting vi går og tager for givet i forbindelse med rollespil. En af dem er hvordan den danske drukkultur er smeltet sammen med vores måde at spille rollespil på.

Jeg skal ikke gøre mig hellig, jeg har selv brugt vampire-kampagnen her i Århus som undskyldning for uansvarligt meget druk og afholdt scenarier med et ret stort fokus på baren. Nu har jeg så også haft en chance for at udforske den anden side af mønten og efter en god snak med Rikke Munchkin har jeg gravet følgende konklusioner frem.

Jeg vil mest fokusere på live-rollespillet og kongreskulturen her, da alkohol er langt mere almindeligt til den slags end hjemme om bordet. Ihvertfald i min side af kulturen. Jeg ved at der også er folk der mødes til deres kampagner og tager en øl eller to til, men det har jeg ingen erfaringer med. Det er heller ikke så problematisk når det foregår på det niveau.

Hvorfor vi drikker

Til live er det oftest fordi vi spiller en social situation og som danskere er vi forprogrammerede til at den slags altid indebærer alkohol af den ene eller anden slags. Det er en del af scenografien at det er lettilgængeligt og fordi vi er fattige nørder er det oftest også billigt.

Til kongresser er det mest uden om spillene at vi har muligheden for druk, for hvordan skal vi forholde os socialt til hinanden uden? Alle ved jo at det vigtigste sted på Fastaval er baren. Jeg synes selv at det tit ender i ucharmerende fuldskab, men det er tydeligt at jeg er i minoriteten her.

Legitim uansvarlighed

Det er blevet et fast indslag at man slutter aftenblokken på kongressen med at snakke om spillet over en øl. Det er ganske hyggeligt at få oplevelsen rundet af, men ender tit med ovenstående druk som aftenen skrider frem. Med hårde tømmermænd ifølge. Og her er min hovedanke overfor denne kultur: Det er næsten blevet helt legitimt at være for vissen til at spille sin morgenblok. Kun spilledere og forfattere får hug for den slags forteelser, når det kommer til spillerne synes alle at regne med massivt mandefald fra de tilmeldte på morgenblokkene. Og det er jo klart at spiller man om morgenen er man selv ude om at skulle spille med bagstive idioter.

Til liverollespil er der selvfølgelig en efterfest, så hurtigt man kan komme til det. Hvis ikke man kan nå at pakke sammen inden, ved alle at man er nødt til at sparke folk vågne for at få dem til at rydde op. Igen hvis ikke de er så sløje at de føler de har retten til at tage hjem inden alt er færdigt. Tømmermænd er blevet et legalt cop-out fra ansvarlighed, og det er et problem.

“Jeg spiller bedre med en lille fjer på”

Jeg hører ofte dette, og har selv på et tidspunkt sagt det. Ingen tvivl om at lidt sprit er med til åbne os op overfor hinanden også når vi leger rollespil. Men der kommer bare hurtigt et punkt hvor beruselsen er mere til skade end gavn for spillet og et sted hvor det ikke længere er rollespil, men druk i kostumer. Alkohol kan gøre et dårligt live til en tålelig fest eller et sparke lidt mere gang i et middelmådigt spil, men jeg har aldrig været ude for et godt spil der blev stærkere af fulde deltagere. Jeg har også selv i min ungdom brugt alkohol til at komme over min generthed, men det er en krykke jeg er glad for at jeg ikke har brug for længere. For det er en krykke vi slæber rundt på og når vi bliver fulde, slår vi folk i hovedet med den.

Sikkerhed og tillid

Vi er ret gode til at tage vare på hinanden her i rollespilsland. Jeg føler mig altid meget sikker, blandt andet fordi vi har sådan en høj andel af læger, sygeplejsker og reddere. Men der sker tit uheld og folk der skal på skadestuen er en almindelig hændelse i actionlives. Det bliver bare altid grimmere af fulde idioter, ca. halvdelen af de alvorlige skader og størstedelen af de mindre, som jeg har oplevet har haft alkohol som en faktor. Ligesom ude i den virkelige verden. Jeg føler mig langt mere sikker i at kaste mig ud i fysisk spil med en ædru utrænet medspiller, end selv den bedst trænede stuntman, der har drukket.

Også uden for det fysiske plan skader sprit sikkerheden mellem spillerne. Det er sværere at holde ens rolle og en selv adskilt, svæerere at holde sine grænser intakte, svcærere at tage hensyn til andre omkring en. Det bedste rollespil kræver stor tillid mellem spillerne og det saboterer vores drukkultur. Hvis jeg hele tiden skal holde vagt for fulde idioter, er mit fokus på spillet meget mindre.

De unge mennesker

Vi har en konstant mangel på nye kræfter i rollespilsarrangørkredsene, der er bare ikke nok unge mennesker til at tage over fra os gamle nisser. Men samtidig har de fleste af vores events en aldersgrænse, så vi kan servere alkohol og have fulde idioter der skræmmer de unge væk. Jeg synes ikke det hænger sammen.

Opløsning

Det niveau af gensidig tillid og dybde som stærkt rollespil har brug for, har jeg ikke set med alkohol. Når man spiller med fulde mennesker er det næsten umuligt at underspille, de små cues og detaljer man kan kommunikere med forsvinder i fuldskabens tåger. Jeg har hørt udtrykket ‘high resolution’, altså høj opløsningsgrad, brugt om den slags spil hvor man spiller på djævlen i detaljerne. Det er vidunderligt at have mulighed for at lege med den slags, synes jeg. Drukspil går derimod altid imod højråbende drama og overfladisk ævl, det begrænser hvad vi har at spille på frem for at skabe nye muligheder.

Hukommelsen

En af de ting jeg synes har været det bedste ved at være til scenarier uden druk, har været hvor klar min hukommelse af spillet er. Jeg har haft intense scener både med og uden beruselse, men detaljegraden i minderne er så meget større i de tørlagte. Det er da federe at kunne citere en dyb samtale end at stå med en vag fornemmelse af awesome som ingen andre forstår. Munchkin har en fin anekdote, hvor hun snakker med en medspiller dagen efter et spil og nævner en fed scene de to havde sammen, hvortil medspilleren melder blank “Det kan jeg ikke huske, men jeg var også virkelig fuld.” Hvis ikke du kan huske hvad du har lavet sammen med mig, hvorfor faen skal jeg så lege med dig?

Late night MIA

Når man drikker sig fuld bliver man tit længere oppe end de kedelige afholdsmennesker, blandt andet fordi alkohol fungerer ret effektivt som sukker for kroppen. Man spiller til langt ud på natten, måske bliver det til den lyse morgen. Der er aldrig rigtig nogen der kan huske hvad der skete i de timer, for dem der kunne huske gik i seng før det skete. Næste morgen ligger fulderikkerne og sover rusen ud, mens resten af scenariet forsøger at fortsætte spillet, men det foregår på halv kraft for det er kun halvdelen af spillerne der er vågne. Det ender ret ofte med to scenarier der forløber simultant med et lille overlap hvor man kan spille sammen. Det er sgu ikke optimalt.

I de alkoholfri scenarier har der også været spil til langt ud på natten, men folk er mere villige til at gå i seng og være friske til næste dag når spillet begynder at tabe tempo. Langt mere synkront spil og folks energi og dermed dramatiske kurver topper omtrent samtidigt. Desuden er det også sjovere at spille tømmermænd end rent faktisk at have dem. På samme måde med fuldskab, det er flottere som rollespil end den virkelige vare i min bog.

Alkoholfrit spil

Jeg har været til et par rollespil i Danmark uden eller med meget lavt alkohol niveau. Sjovt nok var et af dem et spil om en meget kristen kultur, hvor druk er tabu, men det skal ikke stoppe os spillere fra at få vin til maden og godt med cognac til kaffen. Det kunne sagtens have været helt tørlagt hvis arrangørerne turde være konsekvente, men jeg skal ikke klage, det var her jeg mødte min yndlingscognac og vi elsker stadig hinanden.

Desværre er det her til lands ret meget et tabu at anvende alkoholfri eller simuleret øl og vin, uden for børnerollespil. Der blev fniset meget over den kasse Død Påske/Tuborg Superlight der var lavet til scenariet Påske på årets Fastaval, fordi alkohol er forbudt i spillelokalerne. I de andre nordiske lande er der en langt større kultur for den slags, man kan rent faktisk få anstændigt smagende øl og vin uden procenter. Carlsberg har en udemærket pilsner som jeg ikke har set herhjemme og der er også god mørk øl. Den slags giver alle mulighederne for at spille rollespil på den slags, uden det tab af kontrol og tillid som normalt følger med.

Uden på nogen måde at tro at jeg har en glorie, synes vi skal kigge kritisk på hvordan alkoholkulturen og rollespillet overlapper og hvilken side vi skal prioritere når der er interessekonflikt. På samme måde vil jeg gerne udfordre live-arrangører til at være modige nok til at lave alkoholfri scenarier, både for selve spillet og det sociale miljøs skyld.

Og lad for helvede være med at drikke så meget når du ved at du skal spille imorgen, det er bare at pisse på os andre.

Reklamer

This is the third part of my experiences at the larp Just A Little Lovin’ the story itself. Previous posts are a review in danish and one in english.

For my fellow time travellers:

I won’t say much about Sterling before you all met him, except that he grew up in rusty old Pittsburgh and that he ran off to Canada, away from his family, to avoid the draft. He’d always loved music, as long as anyone can remember. You met him when he’d just started living his dream: Working as a producer in glamourous New York City. Married to his beautiful Chantelle, whose star was clearly rising to the top of the charts. Some might say it was a fire and water marriage, but it never lacked love.

She was the one who invited him to the 4th of July celebrations with her Saratoga survivor friends. He’d met them the year before, just after the honeymoon, of course. Some of them in the city too, Kohana’s drum circle with Laurence, Wallace and Lester. Kim, who held Chantelle in focus. Mary Lou through the studio and of course Chantelle’s best friend Beatrice. Poor Beatrice’s cancer had returned, so Chantelle or Sterling sometimes slept with her, when Chantelle decided to be good to her friend.

Anyway, let’s get on with the real stories:

4th of July, 1982

This year was a year of introductions, the party had been merged with Mr. T’s next door. Lot’s of new and exciting people to meet, old and new friends. Some interesting characters from the city’s musical club scene on the gay side: Leon, star of the 70’s; upcoming Urban Rennaissance, Enrique from the dope crew at Studio 54 and Chantelle’s horrid little half-gay friend, Chain the porn actor.

But enough about the neighbours, what Sterling really loved was being part of the whole Saratoga New Age stuff. The massage circle was wonderful, three weeks of painful studio work gone, though new guy Micky was kind of creepily groping. Kohana’s drum circle was just great, sitting on a rock above the sea with the guys, beating a rythm and talking about your troubles. All of the traditions and community activities made the whole thing feel like a big family get-together. Chantelle was sort of on her own thing, flitting around like a pretty butterfly. He loved her so much, even if there were some small fights over the little things. And it was fun finding dancers among the drags and gays for her upcoming music video in Max’s hardware store, doing things together. After the drag show, the fireworks down on the beach and the traditional green drink, things got a bit dramatic and some of the homos showed their dark and decadent sides. Mickey the creep nearly had Beatrice’s ex-husband Walter rape Lester for art, until Walter punched his lights out. Sterling did what he could, just kept the Saratoga disco going, until there were no dancers left.

5th of July, 1982

A morning of gossip over Peggy’s wonderful breakfast, old and new friends at all the tables. Then back to the city and the rat race.

A year passes

Chantelle’s star just keeps rising, her hit is on the charts and the video on tv. Sterling feels a bit lonely with her touring the country, so he spends more time with Beatrice even though Chantelle told him not to, after finding about about what Beatice did in the gang bang room at the swingers club. In the spring, the Saratogans get together for Wallace’s funeral, a sudden, unexpected death of some random little cancer…

4th of July, 1983

A year of rampant fear. The AIDS, a new disease spread amongst and by the homosexuals. Noone knew how it infects, just that it kills in the ugliest possible ways. Sterling struggles with his personal fears and his need to stay on good terms with the gay community, the communal barbeque was scary, what if the disease spreads via food? Chantelle got all upset because Sterling nearly forgot to get her a spot in the evening’s show, but it wasn’t really all that a big deal, or was it?
Skye, one of the Urban Renaissance guys collapses on stage at the show and afterwards Leon falls over from a seizure. There was almost none of the Saratoga community activities, instead people started fighting and shouting. Sam and Kim got beat up by one of neighbours, Sterling nearly get’s in the fight, but chickens out and punishes everyone by shutting down the disco. It all leads to a horrible meltdown of Saratoga in the aftermath. Kim out cold from the punch and Sam so drunk she can’t even stand up or talk. Everyone’s shocked when Lester starts beating on her.
People left to take care of poor Sam, except Kohana who looked completely despondent. So Sterling tries to listen and give his amateur advice to the guru. It turns out that Kohana is completely empty inside, just a shell of a man, he needs to leave Joani. When she enters Sterling leaves to give the two of them time to talk. The heart of Saratoga is broken. Sterling finds Max and to reclaim some sanity the two of them have a nice talk about baseball watching the moon over the water.
He had no clue where Chantelle had run off to and just gives up and goes to bed alone, thinking this might be the end of the Saratoga pact and at the very least the joint party with Mr. T. Maybe his marriage?

5th of July, 1983

Lots of hangovers, both from drink and bad breakups all around. People are still scared and angry over the disease. Escape back to the city and burying himself in work.

Another year passes

The followup single from Chantelle mysteriously flops completely. Sterling works harder and harder in the studio to try and catch up, until he is hospitalized and nearly dies of pneumonia in early spring. An observant young doctor connects the dots to AIDS, Sterling tests positive. At the same time Beatrice discovers she’s also got it. Sterling and Chain, who is also infected, drag Chantelle to the clinic to get tested, though she won’t have him in the doctor’s office. The test is negative, she is safe. Afterwards Chantelle refuses to speak to Beatrice, knowing she was the one who infected Sterling. Sterling hires Allan, the nurse that took care of Wallace, to tend to his health and fears along with Evelyn. Both Sterling and Chantelle find new meaning in helping them with the AIDS-prevention movement.

4th of July, 1984

Sterling knows he’s going to die. This will most likely be his last 4th of july in this beautiful place. Everything glows with meaning and beauty. Waiting for the original Saratoga survivors to come back from their pact reaffirmation, enjoying every single bite of Peggy’s hamburgers, the evening sky over the water. There’s no room for animosity between the Saratogans and Mr. T’s guests, everyone is too tired from losing friends and loved ones for that. It’s all really one group now, united by love and death. Even Chain has turned out to have a good side and Sterling can’t hate him after realizing how much he does for Chantelle.
At one point Sterling tries to talk to Barbara who is full of thoughts on her dad’s death of the sickness. But he ends up having to tell her about his own condition and instead drowns her troubles in his own, and he can’t even give her a hug. Telling Lester too, on the deck, and telling him to take good care of his daughter now that Sterling will never have any.
The drag show is packed with acts. Max singing Elvis to Steven is the perfect picture for the new unity. Chain and Chantelle do a little act to advertize condoms followed by a rather disgusting safe BDSM demo. Chantelle takes pity on Sterling and hides his face so he doesn’t have to watch. The finale was Kohana showing of his new side as Karl, the disco dancer. Sterling just watches Joani watching him with awe.
Sterling had promised not to speak to Beatrice until Chantelle had made up her mind, but when she reaches out to him during a break in the show, he just holds her tight and cries for Chantelle “I almost killed her. We almost killed her.” In the end, Chantelle and Beatrice make up. Giggling like little girls again under the fireworks on the beach. Sterling tries to talk to his wife’s old friends, to get their promise to take care of Chantelle once she is alone. And she will be alone: Sterling, Beatrice, Chain and Kim, all dying of this disgusting disease. Everyone around her. But tonight the group is all here, together. Sterling dances, until he can’t stand up anymore.

5th of July, 1984

A beautiful morning, friendships mended and new loves discovered. It’s okay to be dying now.

.

I could tell many more stories about Sterling, but these are the most important ones. I don’t know how it went after the 5th of july, I left him there. His story is done and there are many more lives from those three years that could be told. If you were there, please tell yours.

This is my official evaluation of Just A Little Lovin’. I also made more of a review for outsiders in danish and next is my story, so I’m going to assume you were there. If you weren’t and want to know more, then please comment with your questions or mail me directly at rivoclavis (at) gmail (dot) com. But this is for my co-players and the wonderful organizers: Thoughts on the game and play of the roles and my own part in it as a player and as Sterling. Please comment or ask questions as well.

Just A Little Lovin’ was by far the most intense experience of my roleplaying career, the sheer level of emotion and involvement is unmatched. I came a bit late to this sort of roleplaying, I haven’t been to many games like this as I never caught the bleed or jeep bugs. But still, I’ve been around a bit, just not this far out.

Signup and pregame

When I first heard of the game at Knudepunkt I really wanted to go, Monica Traxl had been filling my ears with the wonders of Mad About The Boy and I knew I had to go to Norway for a game. Plus it sounded like the big pan-scandinavian larp of the year. Unfortunately I had no money, so when I finally got my hands on spending money, I signed up in a heartbeat. It was a bit harrowing to be on the waiting list, not knowing my summer plans and I was all giddy when I got the OK mail from TK.

Signup was scary, prioritizing my play and character type. I went for a focus on love, because that is something I hadn’t yet explored in my previous games and I am always trying to expand my repertoire. If I’d thought it through I would have limited myself to a gay character, since it would have been easier to handle this kind of play with a hard difference from my own offgame sexual preference, but I’m happy now that I had to jump in the deep end. Still I liked how much you were forced to think about what kind of character and play you wanted, I’m used to much shorter and shallower questionaires.

Communication from the organizers was confusing at first. I don’t know what is assumed as standard in other countries, but I had wonderful help from Monica in deciphering the messages. Mostly it was about figuring out what level of work was needed in developing character background and costume and how much to plan ahead with the other players.

Character

I always have a lot of fun getting from written character to playable role. The written character was a bit oddly balanced in the background story and the five traits, but the relationship texts was for me the core to work from. I want to deliver the most interesting and dramatic relationships to those I play with, so that came to the forefront. The written Sterling seemed like a very consistent character, just not an entirely good dramatis personae. The problem was for me that the character was written as an introverted and timid type,* it felt too limiting on my play, so I changed that up quite a bit and made myself a new and more interesting personal issue as I neared the game. Shopping for costume and researching background knowledge was a lot of fun, instead of making stuff up I could actually use historical basis and that opened up new questions to answer about Sterling, questions that gave depth. It is a lot harder to do that in a purely fictional setting.

Workshop and player relations

I didn’t have a chance to go to either of the two official workshops, just the improvised danish second-hand one. It was nice to meet others and hear their views on the game, it took away a lot of my fears. Especially about the meta and sexual techniques, plus the hot seat rounds added a lot to the roles. I was pretty settled in the character when I came to the workshop, but it still helped.

Emailing with my close relationships was hard, where do you start? I’ve been wondering if you can set it up in some mandatory way from the organizers, but it’s probably something you have to be strong about as a player. In my core group we were all quite busy in the time up to the larp and didn’t manage to get a strong connection. It helped a lot though, to be able to facebook-stalk and get a picture of the player before the character. If I had to change one thing about my experience I would have insisted on more contact, probably via video chat or phone call.

Travels and arrivals

We had a lot of fun going from Copenhagen to Oslo on the ferry, nearly all the danish players went together. We did rounds of hotseat in the cabins and a couple of us tried out the characters at the discoteque. This was a natural habitat for Sterling and I really found my body language there, plus some practice in wearing sunglasses at night.

It was good to arrive a day early to the site and meet everyone. I really like the setup spirit, where we’re all working on the same goal. Also to catch my two romantic relationships and talk a lot more. A little thing that gave me a lot was setting up the sound systems, of course it would be Sterling’s thing for the event. Always nice to have a practical connection with the setting.

Briefings, downtime and debriefings

The briefings and workshopping on site were somewhat confusing, it felt like the organizers were overwhelmed by time, practical stuff and the players enthusiasm. But I liked the introduction excercises, it was nice to be forced to put words to some of the fears and hopes for the game and to get comfortable with physical contact among the players.

I’ve tried a game with a similar downtime structure once before and I really like it, it gives a chance to breathe and collect energy for the next act and check up on where the other players are and are going. It was good to have workshop content, something that the other game lacked, but I think everyone would have wished for more time to talk with each other. The free time just before game was too short for anything except rushing into costume and cleaning up the rooms. And the time set aside in the workshop part felt rushed and too short. Still we got a wonderful chance to make it feel like a year had passed and to create coherent stories for ourselves.

If there was too little time for the negotiations, there was nowhere near enough for properly debriefing. It was okay after act two, but the end of game debriefing was way too short for such an intense experience. I understand the need for cleanup and a party, but please make sure the players are forced to take time to talk it out afterwards and get their own faces back on. The party was weird, it was hard to see how far people were out of their roles and it’s really not the right place to get grounded again. Instead of sending people off as soon as they were done cleaning, make us sit out of the way and talk or something similar. I felt there was time for it, instead of sitting in Olso waiting to go to the party.

Meta techniques

I never got to use the feathers myself, no sex for me either. It wasn’t a big deal and I can only blame myself. I did do a couple of blackbox scenes, a first for me. It really is a wonderful tool, the montage of hiv-test results was a truly gruesome thing, TK was a wonderfully horrid doctor. I think it’s hard to set up a blackbox scene if you haven’t been in the mindset before. I hope to be able to take the initiative next time I get the chance at a larp and think up some ideas. Likewise with Cut and Brake, didn’t get used, but as Bjarke tells, they are there as an alibi to feel safe going further. I’d love to hear other players experiences with those bits I didn’t get to play with myself.

I went offgame a couple of times during the play, it was good not to feel ashamed for doing it. Especially after poor Johan had his seizure I needed to sort out what was character, situation and my own feelings. And I ended the nights of act two and three with Monica in the offgame area, talking about how our movies were going. It was a good tool to put some perspective on the thing, thank you Hanne.

The death lottery and funerary ceremonies were an emotional punch in the gut. The opening dialogue and funerals over the sea were quite beautiful, those poor angels or who they might have been. When the names were called, you just hoped it wasn’t one of your own people. But then you heard the cries and realized that someones life was just crushed. In the end I was just thinking over and over again “Stop, please, no more names, no more lives, please stop.”
At the funeral the first morning I was hammered with bleed and flashbacks to funerals of dead friends, it was so hard to get back to just playing a game. In a way it was easier when my own name was called, I entered a bubble and stopped thinking. Atleast until we entered the blackbox and read the names in the coffins, I was okay with lying down myself and just felt sorry for poor Sterling, but when Beatrice, my other love, lay down in the next one over it became all about her. When the lids were placed I didn’t give a damn about myself, just don’t take her! And again the horrid realization that someone else had to die because we didn’t. I’d like to know how the names in the coffins and who got the lid put on were decided, was it GM fiat or another random lottery? At any rate the lottery was random, but it did create some uncanny patterns: When first Kohana, then Sterling was called, it made perfect sense that Beatrice would be next.

For me these things happened in some sort of liminal space between character and player, it was too much and too abstract to deal with as just the character without opportunity to play. Cruel, ugly and beautiful rituals. They were handled with the gravity and taste needed, by TK and Hanne.

Structure

Each of the three acts really had it’s own theme, not just in name. The first feels like the weakest, but it was really a solid baseline. To escalate you need to start with a strong foundation and we got just that. Plus we all needed to get a feel for our relationships and the other characters in the game. We had time to establish what the traditions were and how the groups interacted.

The second act was chaotic and almost too dramatic in the moment. The fear and pressure really sparked off some ugly things, everything drowned in drama and conflict. I have a hard time getting a feel for what went on, everything was falling apart too fast. Afterwards I had a hard time seeing how the game might pick itself up again for act three, it just seemed so broken and as if all the interesting drama was played out.

Getting infected put everything upside down for act three. I don’t know where it might have gone without that, but it completely set the tone for my act. The players were tired from the dramatic play and the characters were tired from all the death and fear, it put a dampener on further drama. But the sheer awfulness of the whole situation made everyone try to be the best they could be. I’ve never seen this degree of positive play and mutual support in any roleplaying game, and it worked beautifully.

Acts one and two were confused and incoherent things, but act three tied them together in a wonderful story arc.

The morning breakfasts were somewhat slow and hard to be in character at, but a nice slow denoument to each act and fun to gossip at or just look at people being people.

Story

I won’t tell my story here, that’s the next post: Sterling’s Story. Suffice to say it was gripping, wonderful and bittersweet. Just what I had hoped for. I didn’t need to seek out or create drama, it just came naturally. Very little time without content, except for the first evening where I had to round up people to get the disco started. I had a lot of little interactions with people that felt genuine and meaningful even if they didn’t relate directly to the main stories. My story stayed in my core group all through the game and it had a different tone in each act, even if it stayed pretty much true to the drama designed into the characters. I know that they were written with an aim of a big breakup, but that just made it feel all the stronger for staying true to each other. The most important of my scenes were all underplayed on my part and it is a testament to the skills of my fellow players that they became so strong.

There is a forum thread for character epilogues, which I am staying far away from, I will neither post or read. I never liked doing epilogues for roleplaying, even when the game is written for it. I love open ended stories, the kind that makes you think and dream on. For me a game is like that, it’s only what happens in the actual play that is real. Besides, the whole third act was an extended goodbye for Sterling. I tried to give him the best send off I could. Not everything was resolved, but enough to give some hope. He might have died after or lived a long time, either is beautiful.

The players

I knew very few of the players before the game, even the danish participants. For me it’s always stronger to play with new people, you accept everything as character, there’s no obvious player level. It was rough with the close relationships though, as said above, I would have liked more time to get to know the players. Still, I managed to use it constructively in the game: The awkwardness really worked well in the disconnect between Sterling and his wife Chantelle and getting to know each other during the game made the last act one with a feeling of new/renewed connection. Overall I felt very comfortable with everyone at the game, it was a safe space to explore some powerful issues. It was a bit tricky to keep track of everyone’s names and places at first, but my character and the game setup made it a pretty forgivable offense. However it quickly felt like a whole bunch of old friends that you really cared for.

Genderbending

I probably had one of the most hetero-normative characters. Heterosexual and married, I had the option of “omnicurious”, but I didn’t feel the need to use it. I loved how comfortable everyone seemed at playing various new or extreme sexual orientations, it seemed quite natural to me though I never explored it indepth. If I get to play this or a similar game again, I’ll probably insist on playing that side of the game.

The girls playing boys (playing girls) were amazing. It was super easy to relate to the gender of the character and not the player. Two examples: Dancing with Daniel the first night, that beautiful woman was really a man. Also, Sam and Max played by Miriam and Johanna, both were very masculine, but Sam was obviously a woman and Max was one of the guys. I wish everyone could see how easy it is to cross those cultural boundaries and free the games from limiting reality.
At one point at the afterparty I tried to see if I could tell the real people’s sexual orientation and decided not to care, it’s all just people and roles.

Post-larp and bleed

Thanks to Tobias and Pernille’s workshop on de-fucking at Knudepunkt** I felt quite prepared for exiting the game, but damn it was sticky. The emotions had been so powerful and pervasive that I couldn’t face going home for real and I had to run off to be with people in Stockholm to keep sane. It was a wonderful trip and a nice way to wear myself out. I’ve also listened to the Dusty Springfield album I bought after the game a dozen times or more since the game to reverse the pavlovian reflex. I think a better landing right after the game might have helped, but it takes a lot of work to get over this sort of thing. It’s not unique to roleplaying, I can get similar things from movies, plays and books, it’s just a hell of a lot stronger when you were there with all of your body and soul. I think having such a clear story arc that I could close in the game itself made it a lot easier to leave behind, I quickly put Sterling in a box labelled “My beautiful friend from the eighties.” It’s good to think of the character in the third person after a game, get some distance and perspective.

The issue

I won’t claim to have any idea of how it must have been in the real world, but I have a better understanding and more respect for the horros of the AIDS epidemic. What really stayed with me was that everything Hanne and Emma told from the real world is so much more abominable than anything this game created. Roleplaying really gets the lesson under your skin, there’s no thing like it for teaching hard truths in a safe way. I’m also a lot more clear on sexual politics and how the little things you do can make a big difference for people, it’s something worth fighting for.

Conclusion

It was a truly powerful experience on so many levels. An amazing combination of story, relationships and setting that really worked for me. There were little things that could have been different or better, but most of it was drowned in the engagement and talents of the players around me. I’d like to thank everyone involved in creating this crazy, gruesome and engaging experience. This is what roleplaying is supposed to be like. Thank you.

*) I have a blogpost here (in danish) on the problems of introverted characters. I must say that my fears came to nothing in this game, through my co-players and the changes I made to Sterling.

**) Read their article about it in the latest Playground Magazine, go do it!

This is the first of three posts on the game, an external review in danish, next up is my internal review in english and finally the story of the game as I experienced it, again in english.

– Et live fra spejlverdenen kaldet Norge

Efter knudepunkt havde jeg besluttet at tage ud i verden for at spille rollespil. Monicas evindelige evangelisering af Mad About The Boy pegede imod Norge, selvom emnerne de leger med er tunge.

Oplægget, som man kan læse mere om på hjemmesiden er en fortælling om sex, kærlighed, venskab og dødsangst i skyggen af 80’ernes pludselige og grusomme AIDS-epidemi.

Vi spillede tre fortløbende 4th of July fester, 1982, ’83 og ’84 i to grupper af venner og elskere, henholdsvis Saratoga Pagten, en tæt kreds af canceroverlevere og deres partnere og Mr. T’s gæster, en udvalgt gruppe fra New Yorks bøssemiljø. Hver af de tre dage havde sin helt egen unikke stemning ud fra temaerne, der gav farve til de individuelle oplevelser og historier undervejs. Første år var den konsekvensløse fest og kærlighed fra den seksuelle frigørelse. Alle var glade og på jagt efter nogen at elske. Senere blev det mørkere, efter vi opdagede grusomhederne igennem spillets metateknikker.

Der var en hel del forskellig teknik undervejs, fra det meget uskyldige i at give fjer som invitation til sex- eller blackbox-scener, over den meget explicitte sex-simulation, til den fuldstændigt uretfærdige og sønderknusende udvælgelse af ofrene for sygdommen.

Spilpersonerne var korte og meget relationsbaserede, jeg indrømmer blankt at jeg var ræd for at have fået en rolle i en social blindgyde, men det blev sat fuldt og helt til skamme af alle mine medspillere. Venskaberne og kærligheden virkede ægte og troværdige, hver rolle var unik og genkendeligt portræteret.

Som sagt var første del meget fokuseret på kærligheden og den fri sex, hvem har knaldet med hvem og hvem er blevet såret af det. Drama der er lige til at gå ombord i. Samtidig var der en række fælles aktiviteter der virkelig satte tonen for de to selskaber og deres interne toner. Trommecirkel blandt de spirituelle mænd på en klippe over havet og massagecirkel i fællesrummet overfor gay-lympics og fabulous drag-show. Spillet fortsatte over natten og vi vågnede ingame til en fantastisk american breakfast fuld af ingame sladder og skamfulde ansigter.

Og så kom mørket.

De to arrangører delte sedler og kuglepenne ud, mens de udførte en dialog mellem to dødsengle og fortalte at vi skulle lægge mellem nul og fem sedler i hatten, alt efter hvor promiskuøse og seksuelt aktive vores spilpersoner havde været i året mellem denne og sidste 4. juli.
Det hele var lidt surrealistisk og i det sære mellemrum mellem at spille sin rolle og være gået offgame. Eirik, en af spillerne begyndte at trække navne op af hatten, hvorefter den nævnte rejste sig i stilheden.
Og han blev ved med at trække navne.
Hver eneste trækning var et grumsomt øjeblik hvor man håbede at det ikke var en af ens egne nære, lettelse ved at det var en af de andre, fulgt af indsigten at man lige havde ønsket en fremmeds død for at holde sine egne i live!

De elleve kaldte, rejste sig og gik ud, mens vi andre overlevende sad og tænkte over hvad der ville ske med karakteren over det næste år. Vi kom ud til en smuk begravelsesceremoni hvor to af de udvalgte blev båret ned, lagt under sort klæde og vi tog afsked med dem til ordene fra Star Spangled Banner.

Jeg var sønderknust, der var ikke nogen nære roller der var blevet kaldt ud eller dræbt. Men hele situationen var bare så fucked up tilfældig, grusom og værdig.

Efter en alt for kort pause til at komme os oven på chocket og tårerne gik vi igang med workshopindholdet, der handlede om at fremskrive rollerne et år til næste spilperiode. Hvordan havde spillet ændret retning? Hvad ville vi gerne se mere af? Hvilke konflikter var der til næste akt? Und so weiter. Det var hårdt og tætpakket.

Vi var vidst allesammen fysisk og følelsesmæssigt kvæstede da vi skulle igang med at spille akt to og gennemblødte af en pludselig, intens tordenbyge. Temaet var denne gang frygt og paranoia over den nye sygdom, hvordan smitter det? Hvem spreder den? Er vi sikre med alle de bøsser fra naboejendommen til vores barbeque?

Det hele eksploderede i drama, gråd og slåskampe i løbet af natten. Forhold gik i stykker til højre og venstre og alle råbte ad hinanden. Hhv. homo- og heterofobien fik frit løb og der blev en grim ‘os mod dem’ stemning.

Næste morgen havde et grimt lys, folk lukkede sig om deres borde og turde ikke se hinanden i øjnene. Men døden er uundgåelig og ligeglad med hvem man gemmer sig for. Tretten navne blev kaldt ud, inklusive mit og Beatrice min elskerinde. Det var nok det værste øjeblik nogensinde, ikke så meget at jeg selv blev kaldt op, men at en jeg elskede, og havde et uforløst forhold til, måske skulle dø.

Vi tretten udvalgte gik ud i stilheld og op imod blackboxen, der var spredt gråd og de der var så (u)heldige at have deres nære med sig knugede sig sammen. Vi fik at vide at inde i blackboxen var fem kister, hvis vores navn var skrevet på puden skulle vi lægge os ned i den ellers skulle vi gå ud. Det var grimt at se mit navn på puden, men jeg nåede slet ikke at tænke over det før jeg opdagede at Beatrice skulle lægge sig ved siden af. Det var noget af det klammeste, at ligge der i stilheden og vente. Vente på at arrangørerne kom med lågene der, hvis de blev lagt på ens kiste, betød døden. Jeg tror mit hjerte stoppede da de løftede låget over Beatrice, men det gik videre til en anden. Vi tre der ikke fik låg på, var i den situation at vi havde fået en hiv-positiv diagnose.

Vi bar de to døde ned til terassen i den stille sommermorgen, en efter en, dækkede dem med sort klæde og havde den smukke begravelsesceremoni igen. Jeg kan ikke huske så meget, for jeg var ret meget inde i mit eget hoved og havde ikke rigtig spillet med de to afdøde, men jeg havde rystet og grædt lige siden vores navne blev kaldt.

Denne gang var der lidt bedre debriefing og system på at få følelserne rettet tilbage imod spillet. Det var noget af en opgave at finde ud af det mellemliggende år og hvordan diagnosen ændrede tingene. Det var overraskende let at finde Sterlings retning, Beatrice var også ligetil, men stakkels Elin, der spillede min kone, havde rigtig svært ved at finde ud af hvor hun var på vej henad. Vi havde alle en grim følelse af at dagen før havde været spillets dramatiske klimaks, med konflikter og brud, hvad så nu? Hvad så nu hvor vi sidder med en langsom dødsdom?

Der var ikke rigtig tid nok til at snakke i de små og de store grupper. Spillet kom igang uden nogen rigtig vidste hvilken vej det ville tage. Det startede med en mindehøjtidelighed for de to der var døde i det mellemliggende år og et par ord fra forskellige grupper om sygdommen og en utroligt bevægende tale fra et desperat kongressmedlem. Med den sobre start gik spillet igang, der var mange små og store scener. Fordi situationen var så grusom, havde alle et behov for at være gode ved hinanden. Jeg har aldrig oplevet at kunne spille en hel dag uden konflikter eller drama, uden at kede mig. Det var en smuk og unik oplevelse. Meget intens, meget meningsfuld. Min egen historie fik en værdig afslutning, bittersød og fuld af symbolik med Elton Johns I’m Still Standing.

Den sidste morgens dødslotteri var hårdt og direkte, fem døde. Alle blev ramt af tragedien, det var grimt. Spillet sluttede der, vi havde en kort krammeleg og en alt for kort debriefing/deroleing. Derefter igang med oprydning og pakning inden vi kunne tage tilbage til Oslo. Det gik ret effektivt, Monica og jeg var med det første tog ind til byen, hvor vi sad i solen og snakkede indtil vores vært kom hjem. Erlend havde ikke været med til spillet og det var godt at fortælle om oplevelsen til en udeforstående.

Om aftenen var der efterfest på en swingerklub, det var en sær oplevelse at snakke sit eget sprog igen og høre folk tale andet end engelsk. Der var ikke rigtig tid til at snakke i dybden, men det var godt at få festet med medspillerne. Vi endte med efterfest hjemme hos Hanne, en af arrangørerne. Fester i Norge er spøjse, specielt når man har været sådan en tur igennem.

Det var en helt afsindigt intens oplevelse, jeg har været ramt af post-larp og fucked up længere end noget andet scenarie, selv om jeg er blevet meget bedre til at håndtere den slags. Det er klart en af mine top oplevelser, jeg har fået en fornyet respekt for hvad man kan kommunikere med rollespil og hvor stort et spektrum af følelser og handlinger man kan sætte fri. Scenariet var ikke perfekt sat op, men tæt på og de små ting der var, tog den yderst kompetente spillerskare sig af. Jeg har fået spillet med en masse fantastiske mennesker og set at rollespil sagtens kan lade sig gøre ud over grænser, fysiske og mentale.

Det var for mig et smukt eksempel på at køn er noget man kan lege med. Ud over det åbenlyse med at spille en anden seksuel orientering var der også gode eksempler på kvinder der spillede mænd og endda kvinder der spillede mænd der klædte sig ud i dametøj! Det var ikke på noget tidspunkt et problem at holde rede på rollernes køn.

Vi kan rigtig meget med denne her hobby, hvis vi tør tro på det. Dette scenarie var endnu er glimrende eksempel på mulighederne og hvor sindssygt intenst det kan være. Sørg for at få prøvet rollespil uden for vores lille danske miljø og få noget perspektiv på. De bedste og mest intense ting sker når vi tager ud af tryghedssfæren.

This was supposed to be a duck

Rollespil?

Ja, du ved nok hvad det er hvis du læser denne her blog, så jeg vil nøjes med at fortælle hvad jeg ved og hvad jeg synes:

Rollespil er fedt! Jeg har prøvet alt muligt rollespil, fra den røde kasse i min barndom over episke lives dybt i skoven og fastaval-følelsesporno til sære scifi storygames.
Jeg mangler endnu at skrive et rigtigt scenarie, men det varer nok ikke længe sådan som det ser ud...
En af mine store interesser er rollespilsteori og mine meritter er at jeg har læst og forstået The Forges modeller for rollespil. Jeg har læst nok til at jeg har mine egne meninger om det.
Grundlæggende er jeg reduktionist og kyniker, så jeg siger tingene som de er og lærer dig at gøre tingene simplere, lettere og renere. Rollespil lider af ord, der er alt for mange forfattere der sidder og masturberer prosa, det er en uvane der skal kureres med grafik og skalpel og and!

Logoklasmus!

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