I’m pleased and proud to present this collection of three freely downloadable larps by Finnish designer and doctor of larp, J. Tuomas Harviainen.
Harviainen’s larps are the drug of choice for many of us seeking to introduce the Nordic style to our friends stateside. It’s quite possible that his dystopian military game The Tribunal is the most-run Nordic game on this side of the Atlantic, thanks to its animal-based characters, designed to be transportable across national borders. Two of the three games, while widely passed around on email networks, are not available elsewhere on the web.
Harviainen mentions that these games are “old, but not obsolete,” so they may evidence ideas about larp design that hail back a few years. I think they’re still pretty dreamy. Synopses, player numbers, and scripts below.
…and if you try one of these games? J. Tuomas is continually refining his designs and would love to receive feedback from you–just drop him a line at email@example.com.
5-12 players, 2 hours
“A participatory scenario about the mechanics of oppression, inspired by Orwell, Krylov, Büchner, Linna and the classic dilemma exercises.
The premise is simple: two soldiers from your unit – private Magpie and corporal Badger – have been charged with the crime of stealing bread. This is serious. You are all hungry, there is a food shortage. So if found guilty, they will be shot. The problem is that they are innocent – they were with all of you when the crime took place. It’s probably been a major, Pig, who has a tendency to steal and sell stuff from the barracks. Yet no one wants to hear about that – most of the officers here are corrupt or afraid. The scapegoats will be found guilty and executed, unless enough people testify to their innocence. To say so, however, is extremely dangerous, and may land you as the next person in line to get shot. What will you do, and how many others would you need to stand up for honesty along with you, should you choose to defend the innocent?”
Lizzie’s Note: J. Tuomas tells me that this has been all over the world, including in places with governments that restrict free speech. It’s been run in Belarus at least six times. If you have a large room, I recommend using furniture to confine the players to a selected location, and providing fewer chairs than people.
J. Tuomas’s Note: This script is intentionally in an unadorned .doc format, so that each game organizer is able to localize it according to his or her own needs (e.g. changing the names of animals to better fit the country, adding details of the world or precise years, and so forth). I prefer that format, for all of my games, so that they can be altered if needed. For example, a lot of organizers have also played through the actual interview/interrogations.
Prayers on a Porcelain Altar (2007)
8-10 players, 1.5 hours
“A larp about waking up hung over and feeling mean. You do not remember much from last night, but maybe the others do. Did you punch, or fuck, someone last night? Or, maybe both? While finding out, why not call that ugly guy next to you some bad names, and have a good laugh at his expense? Everyone here, including you, wants to become an actor. It’s fun to keep the competition on its toes.”
J. Tuomas’s Note: This is supposed to be a mean game, best played by people who want to experiment with how disturbingly easy it is to be impolite. Recommended for the verbally innovative, not recommended for the easily offended – or close groups of friends.
Lizzie’s Note: I haven’t played but I’ve heard about one run of the game played at the end of a convention, as the organizers cleaned up after last night’s real-life party.
Serpent of Ash (2006)
6-12 players, no more than 2 hours
“All of you here today were once members of a religious sect called “The Liberated”, located in Boston. It was a Christianity-based movement led by a man called Timothy Barke. (Always “Timothy”, never “Tim”.) He was about 35 years old and single. Tall, dark, handsome and incredibly charismatic. The Lord Christ spoke directly to him, and he in turn passed the message forward to those who deserved it, the only ones who would be saved. You.
The movement died in winter, 2002, when Timothy slipped on a hillside while jogging and broke his neck. No one from his closest (“inner”) circle was able to take control of the sect, and all members eventually went their own way. With no more money coming from cult members, and no one knowing what exactly happened to what had been donated to the movement, the house’s lease soon expired as well.
Now, five years later, M_______ has summoned all of you together again, to talk about what actually happened. About what made you stay in the sect in the first place, and about what Timothy really may have wanted out of all of you.”
J. Tuomas’s note: To my knowledge [this larp] has seen at least 23 runs around the world. Not a game for everyone, and I don’t recommend running it in a room with a table – it benefits from player mobility.
Lizzie’s note: This larp has some secrecy–don’t read the full script unless you are facilitating!
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