Sometimes you rent an entire fishing village on the west coast for a week, so 120 people can play-pretend they’re in occupied Norway during WW2.
Other times, you settle for a cabin in the woods for a one night game of 9 players. Which is what my organizers did this weekend.
A lot of Norwegians are into outdoorsy activities, which means there are a fair amount of cabins of varying standard reachable from population centers.
For the larp this weekend, we pretended we were in 1969. All the characters knew the eccentric trickster “Uncle” Waldorf, but not each other. Everyone thought they’d be meeting solo with him, but it turned out Waldorf wasn’t even present. But he had written individual letters to all of them. With specific instructions. The full title of the larp was Uncle Waldorf’s Testament, so you might be able to picture how it went. Genre? Sort of an odd, medley of noir, light crime fiction and the purely farcical.
The lost son, the shady business deal, the lover, the other lover…
This sharply focused, deceptively simple set-up helped provide a fun and intense play experience on par with longer big-budget events I’ve sometimes attended. Game time was Saturday at around 2 pm to Sunday morning. The cabin had no electricity or running water, and there was an outhouse. This used to be your standard Norwegian cabin setup in the era of the larp, today it’s almost a bit exotic. Character descriptions were kept brief, similar with the onsite rules-walkthrough (cut/brake, that’s about it. Some notes on play style and genre).
Play was fed and generated by the letters, giving certain instructions. The non-present Waldorf NPC was a successful con-man, and a bit of a dick. He wanted my character to write his wife and admit the Christian small-time publishing house he ran made most of their money from erotic literature and forgery, for instance. Why would the characters demean themselves like this? In the hope of securing a part of Waldorf’s significant riches (and in my character’s case: perhaps avoid having livelihood and marriage destroyed).
For me, the larp really hit home. Was an energizer, rather than draining me. Helped me enter that fizzy simulated-hypomania fugue state that lets me connect, free-associate, take charge, hang back all in a natural flow I get a bit high on. A kick, pure and simple!
And the night sky beyond the city lights… it was pure Disney. Two shooting stars, one with a big tail. The blood red crescent Moon before that. I’ve been to the great Norwegian outdoors since I was a child. But I forget. I always forget.
I think something like half the Norwegian larps I’ve attended have been in a cabin. Usually more people than this one (we were nine. It was a private event, rather than an open-invite). This wasn’t a black box, there were no meta-techniques. Just focused, tight play, good improv, a fairly basic “testament plot” that worked like a charm. And the secret ingredient in most Norwegian larps I’ve really enjoyed: continuous in-character play until we’re done.