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just a little loving, larp event report

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Jun. 13th, 2012 | 03:17 pm

I’ve just completed another Nordic adventure. After the academic games conferences DIGRA in Tampere, I went on to the ‘just a little loving’ larp (JALL) in Sweden.

Short version
3 days of play, each day is a july 4th party for the gay and alternative scene in 1980s new York. Play 5.30pm – noon, then do workshops to discuss the play and resolve a year of downtime between each day. Each day of play ends with a meta-scene ‘lottery of death’ as characters die from aids.
More info on the website, and I believe the complex game text is or will be available.

There is a lot I could say. I’ll start by talking about some of the meta-techniques and how they actually worked in practice.
- Kissing. Kissing was allowed at the larp (and happened a lot) There was a meta-techniques of leaning close and hand to cheek stroking for those not comfortable with real life kissing/making out.
- There was a ‘black box’ room available to play out meta-scenes (flashbacks, dream sequences, etc). The convention was to find someone in play and ask if they wanted to go talk while offering a black feather (indicating black box). This got used a lot, so much so the organisers eventually had to discourage it as it was making the actual play area deserted at points.
- There was fetish play at the larp, done as ‘light touch.’ (i.e. light spanking to represent heavy spanking). This included in-game safe words (green-yellow-red) separate to the off-game safewords (break and cut, as is normal in Nordic larp). I know some players deliberately did fetish play badly (to avoid bringing in their real life skills) and at least one player discovered a new fetish as a result of the larp.
- Sex. Initiating a love scene involved offering a pink feather (as an off-game indication. In practice a lot of them flowed naturally and this didn’t get used a lot of the time (that said, the organisers also ran out of pink feathers). Actual penetration was done with the active partner holding a phallic prop and the other player touching/stroking it. This worked fine in the ‘playful sex’ context of the setting (I know it didn’t work for lesbian characters in the previous run, not sure how well it worked for them in this run). Sex was supposed to be followed with an off-game monologue about the experience. Lots of players forgot to do this, and I found it broke the flow of play and negated the pillow talk. The organisers aim was to make the sex a part of the characters interactions, and it certainly worked in that respect.


All characters got:
- a ‘core group’ – 3 or 4 characters. The idea was to think of your core group as the main characters in your own movie.
- A social group (like the club or organisation of your character). There were few family relations in the larp, so this friendship circle replaces the family dynamic.
- A few other relations (I got a lot personally).
Some characters changed core group and/or social circle each year as play developed.
This seemed liked quite a good way to organise the development/writing/briefing process. The framework would have benefited from being explained more clearly (it was easy to get confused between core group and social circle at first).
Personally my core groups dissolved every year and found new groups. This was good as we kept those relations to play on while building others.

The ‘gay scene’ was a major part of this larp. I asked for a gay character, wanting to explore it (I’ve done it in minilarps before), but got a open gay / closet bi character (he was attracted to minds not bodies, so went for the highly intelligent/educated characters with compatible temper); I know I wasn’t the only player disappointed by this as there was a lot of bi characters.
Being bi wasn’t socially accepted by the scene at this point (the character is either ‘confused’ or ‘in the process of turning gay’) which did create an irony of having to be in the closet and on the gay scene at the same time.
My character went through an arc from becoming bi-curious and openly bi – which was awkward as he started as a therapist certified by the gay community and openly gay with a gay partner. He also faded away from the fetish scene as part of that, and might ended up in a very mundane relationship at the end, if death hadn’t interfered.

Angels in Suits enter (meta-scene, so not literally what is happening) and everyone puts tickets into the lottery (1-5 tickets based on the player’s assessment of risk). Ten names were drawn, and those characters left (much crying in the room followed). We then went up to the chapel (a real life chapel; not real life conscreated) for a funeral. Along the ways some of the characters returned to us – not dead, but ill in other ways). What happens among those ten is secret off-game.
The dead character(s) were in a coffin in the chapel. An angel of death read a piece (later verses from the US national anthem) and the play stopped by the workshops.
As a scene this was incredibly powerful and a lot of character cried.
I would have liked the addition for a eulogy, with the dead character’s nearest saying some words about them. Not everyone knew the dead character that well by the end of the first day.

The scene also reminded me of the big flaw in Nordic larp – the lack of religion (probably because nordicland is so secular in real life). There was no mention of religion at all - no hymns or prayers at the funeral. This also exposed the lack of religion among the 1980s American characters. That was somewhat jarring for me (singing one hymn or saying the lord’s prayer would have been enough). I did raise this in the workshops after day one, and lots of players agreed and religion did come up in conversation somewhat more after that. (as someone else then pointed out, aids might be believed to be the sword of god to wipe out the gay community within the 1980s context so this fits the setting.) As I put it crudely at the time, dealing with death is the point of religion

This was the second run of the larp, and I've heard rumours of a possible run in finland each year (the larp is played in american english incidently) and a vague plan of a french run (but in french). I really enjoyed it, and if the finnish re-run does happen I would have a long hard think about whether I want to play it again.

*** update
One other meta-technique I forgot to mention:
- grren drink. As an in-game ritual, the characters share a strange green drink at midnight to mark july 4th. This has the effect (unclear if it's an in-game drug or pure off-game meta) of either doubling their emotions or reversing them. The idea is to give the game a kick to lift it up again with new energy.

Other posts about it here:

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