In the last few years, I’ve started experimenting with live-action roleplaying. In my youth, I looked down on it — particularly on Vampire LARPers, because that’s all I knew about LARP. Today, I’ll talk about how this non-LARPer starter approaching LARPs.
(Holy crap, this got super long. I’m going to split this into multiple posts over the week.)
My first foray was a bit of a doozy. At Dreamation 2008, I played in my first jeepform game. In Scandinavia, LARP is huge, far bigger than tabletop. They’re massive events. So, a number of people same to the same idea: what if we challenge all of these assumptions in our hobby. The jeepform movement was born, which is pretty much to Nordic playing as the Forge is to North American gaming culture.
(Note: before you click on that link, if you’re the sort of person who needs trigger warnings, be warned. One of the games there is…yeah.)
Jeepform draws more on improv than any other tradition I’ve played. There are no resolution mechanics in these games, but that isn’t to say there aren’t mechanics and structure. I’ve seen some jeepform games with inherent pacing mechanics. Others with mechanics revolving physical space — the Upgrade! (which I’ll get to in a moment) has this. Structures like “the story will end with this scene, no matter what.” Roles that change the social dynamic, like one person playing the inner thoughts of other characters.
I played in a game of Night of Nights (the site lies; it’s old, there’s no English version forthcoming), a game about a 20 year old college student and virgin who meets by chance a 40 year old prostitute, and they have a romance for a night. I was playing with Jason Morningstar and Alexander Newman, so I was honestly nervous. In Night of Nights, two people play the lovers, and one person is the GM, playing any other character that has to come up, and whispering what our characters are really thinking into our ears.
Focusing on that bit, a technique called “bird in ear,” that’s really fascinated me. Alexander played the GM, and he played up the shame my character (the 20 year old virgin) felt at being a novice when it comes to wooing and sex. I would say something nervously, and Alexander would stage-whisper “Look at her. She’s beautiful. What hope do I have?” Alexander was playing my self-doubt, and in a way that allowed Jason (obviously playing the whore) to hear it as a player and work with that, just as I was able to work with that prompt.
It was an amazing moment with a lot of poignancy. I wish the English translation was available, because it’s a beautiful game.
The next game I played was The Upgrade!, which I’ve played and run multiple times. It’s great for introducing people to jeepform, because it takes a large group (7 to 10 players) and uses a number of jeepform concepts. And it’s wacky! It’s essentially the horrible reality show “Temptation Island” as a LARP. What’s really interesting about it is that it uses space in different, deliberate ways. The conceit is that this is the show’s finale episode, with most of it done as a clip show of events over the season. There’s a main stage area, where those clips are played out. There’s an audience area, where the contestants and host sit and play out the occasional moments that are live (like answering embarrassing questions), a “past” stage to the left of the main one, where we as the players get to see what happened in the past, and a “possible future” stage to the right, much like the past stage.
The past and possible future are sort of like advanced “bird in ear” techniques, and they showcase another element of jeepform where “character monogamy” is eschewed. (That’s the idea that you entirely own your character and just your character.) Other people can step up to a past or future stage while you’re playing something out, and play your character in the past or possible future to give that scene nuance.
Enough about jeepform. I love it, think there’s a lot in jeepform to explore for other games, and will happily run The Upgrade! if given enough people and space.
Next time, I’ll talk about Houses of the Blooded!
 This is because my GURPS friends did this, and I didn’t know better, so I parroted them. If I had known that they were full of shit, and that being a Vampire LARPer would have gotten me laid, my tale would be different today.