SHOWTIME – How a Silly Joke Turned into an Experimental Larp

SHOWTIME – How a Silly Joke Turned into an Experimental Larp

During a christmas dinner last year, my friend (and then boss) Claus Raasted got drunk and played “truth or dare”. He ended up getting dared to announce a larp that same evening. Being of a minimalist nature, he got the idea of announcing a larp with absolutely no information, except for a title, some organizers and a date. People had to sign up and pay without knowing anything more than that.

His original thought was that when people signed up, he would send them their money back and tell them not to trust such a silly scam. For better or worse, he put my name as co-organizer together with Anders Ebbehøj (who had bought the rights to be named as main organizer at a Rollespilsfabrikken larp years back – but that’s another story). Claus and I were at the time high on College of Wizardry madness, so it seemed natural that he’d just put my name on a weird project without asking.

Unlike him, I didn’t wanna pass up the chance to actually make a larp, though. Especially not when my name was on a mysterious website about said larp! So I ended up telling Claus: “Fuck your plan! We are going to do this! I will write a draft for it!”

We stuck to the idea of running a larp in complete secrecy. Participants had to pay 250 DKK (35€) up front, with no knowledge whatsoever of the content. Even the location was just listed as “somewhere in Copenhagen”.

Piling on the Silliness

Once we agreed on doing it and on keeping it silly and fun, the ideas we threw into the pile had no end. “How about if the main game mechanic is players drinking champagne?”, “We’ll make a gimmick out of Anders Ebbehøj being the only actual organizer and being super pretentious!”, “Let’s have players meet up on a public bar and hand them a letter and say we know nothing!”, “There should be a real prize for winning the larp. 1000 DKK sounds right!”

I hadn’t had this much fun creating a larp since I created a parody larp making fun of Swedish Jeepform. It was called We Åker Jeep – The game, but it was a lot more fun than it sounded. Anyway, this was even more fun than that. We basically laughed every time we got new ideas and said yes to everything

A Highly Competitive Larp about Pretentious Larp Organizers

We – that is me and Claus, and definitely NOT Anders, whose role will be explained later – ended up creating a five act larp about a group of pretentious organizers meeting up after the first College of Wizardry; dedicated to making a better larp than that mess. It was heavily inspired by Martin Jordö’s, Stina Almered’s and Karolina Staël’s comedy larp from 2014 about pretentious Nordic larpers; The Alpha Elite Larp of All Times. Except ours was even more outrageous and self-congratulatory.

Every act started with them opening a bottle of champagne and ended when it was empty. At the end of every act, they had to rate each other on their larping. We gave no rules for how to rate people, only that everyone had to give one of the other players a sticker for being an awesome larper. At the end, the one with most stickers would get a grand prize of 1000 DKK. Yes; real money. Also, it was about half our budget. The other half was spent on champagne. The third half we spent on pizza, thereby blowing our budget.

Anders Ebbehøj Presents

We decided early on that it would be Anders’ larp. Anders had no intention of working on it, though, but neither Claus nor I saw this as a particular hindrance. In fact, this was even more fun. So Anders’ role in the project was simple – he would be the star in an instructional in-game (oh, sorry, diegetic, you pretentious fuckers!) video that we put together, and we were to be his henchmen. He would be the diva of the production; showing up for our filming session and reading from an already-prepared script while dressed in various silly outfits. For the actual larp he’d do nothing but appear at the after party and get the war stories and fame. Just as planned.

No Organizers on Site

We (Claus and I; NOT Anders) met the players at a bar and gave them a letter with a map and keys to the location. They asked a lot of questions, but we told them that we didn’t know anything either. It was all part of Anders’ brilliant design and we were just the messengers. We also bought them beer. Then we wished them good luck and prayed for the best. On location we had prepared bottles of champagne and the video with Anders explaining the larp and how it should be played. What could possibly go wrong!?

They Nearly Sent Away the Pizza Man

None of us were on site for the larp itself, but “Anders” had ordered pizza for them. They weren’t aware of this, so when the pizza guy arrived with pizzas that were already paid for, they almost sent him away. Luckily, one of the players did a “Oh, wait, I ordered pizzas for everyone!” and let her character take the credit for it. More on credit-hogging later.

Rerunnable Larp

Since the complete design of the larp is described in the self-explanatory video we made in English, the larp can easily be run again by anyone interested in something crazy and fun.

This larp is clearly not for everyone, but when we met up with the players later after the larp, they didn’t know what was up and down and had had a quite funny experience. Our only German player won, and walked home with a 1000 DKK cash prize, and of course we had players complaining about how they should have won instead, but played to lose. Beautiful.

Game Mechanics

The Rule of I

In SHOWTIME you only talk about yourself, and never say “we”. This is about your achievements and contribution. (This was a mechanic meant to create alibi for even more outrageous competitive play.)

Sounding Important is More Important than Being Important

This is a larp about being pretentious and sounding pretentious, so you should play according to that, by focusing more on sounding important than on actual results.

Fear

Since this is a competitive larp, you should embrace your fear of losing and use that fear as a motivator to outplay the other participants.

Conclusion

There are a few things I take with me from creating SHOWTIME.

  1. If you have fun while organizing, your players are more likely to do the same.
  2. Sometimes it’s great to just create a larp, without overthinking it.
  3. Videos with a person explaining what is going to happen actually work!
  4. Intentionally breaking with the rules of good design can be a great learning experience.
  5. Watching the video one year later is hilarious.

SHOWTIME

Credits: Anders Ebbehøj and co. (Charles Bo Nielsen and Claus Raasted).

Date: January 17, 2015

Location: Rollespilsakademiet, Denmark

Duration: 1 evening

Participants: 13

Budget: €435

Participation Fee: €35

Game Mechanics: “The Rule of I”, “Sounding important is more important than being important”, “Fear”

This article was initially published in The Nordic Larp Yearbook 2015 published by Rollespilsakademiet and edited by Charles Bo Nielsen, Claus Raasted & Erik Sonne Georg.

Cover photo: Anders giving instructions (Still from the YouTube video).

Authors

Charles Bo Nielsen
Charles Bo Nielsen (b 1988) is a poser, poet and pirate. Mostly known for help founding the larp franchise College of Wizardry and teaching at the Larp Writer Summer School. Specialized in co-creative design and loves meeting and working with new organizers.
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