Jotta vahva ei sortaisi heikkoa

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Jotta vahva ei sortaisi heikkoa
Duration24 hours
First runJuly 14–15, 2018 (2018-07-14 – 2018-07-15) in Bengtsår, Finland

Jotta vahva ei sortaisi heikkoa (Eng. So That the Strong Should Not Harm the Weak) was a larp about the Hammurabi Code and the judicial system in ancient Mesopotamia. During the larp, judges from the city of Uruk came to the fictitious town of Kaprum, located by the river Euphrates. They had been invited there to solve a dispute over an inheritance. The larp was set in the temple of Nabu, the god of literacy, scribes, and wisdom. At the temple, various court hearings were held, where the locals could accuse each other of crimes or bring up various disputes for the judges to solve. In the preamble for the Hammurabi Code, "so that the strong should not harm the weak" is mentioned as one of the rationales behind the law, hence the title of the larp.

The designers described the genre of the larp as historical drama. The focus was on personal relationships, the fates of individual human beings, and disputes between people. It was a slow-paced larp that was structured around the court hearings and focused on atmosphere, community and culture. There were various period pastimes available. One could e.g. play the ancient Mesopotamian boardgame Game of Ur or take part in a debate contest hosted by the high priest. In the evening, people would tell stories by the fireplace.

In addition to the inheritance case, there were other cases brought to the judges. A mason was accused because he had built a house that fell down causing the death of the son of the owner, and a couple was accused of adultery. The players of the judges were instructed to start the first hearing around two hours into the larp, and hold the last one in the morning of the second day. Verdicts would not be issued before the morning so that players could have meaningful play even if their characters would be sentenced to death. After the final court hearing, there was a scripted scene where the adulterous couple was executed by drowning.

The larp was set in Babylon a couple of years after the death of King Hammurabi, during the rule of his son King Samsu-Iluna (1750–1712 BCE). It strived for historical accuracy, but since many details of that historical period are not known, the designers had had to fill in some gaps. The society, including its norms and gender roles, was portrayed as it historically was, but players were allowed to play a gender different from their own. Moreover, the designers had taken a close look at history to find the kind of positions where women could have been relatively emancipated. There was, for example, a female scribe, some powerful priestesses, and a female fortuneteller with some political power, and the manager of the temple was a woman. At points where historical facts are not available or there is no scholarly consensus on the issue, the designers had often made choices that allowed greater leverage for women and gender or sexual minorities. For example, some members of the clergy had non-binary gender identities and could take either a male or female role depending on the situation.

The judges interpreted actual laws from the Hammurabi code, but instead of the whole code (which is very lengthy), the designers had given them a shortened version that contained all the laws that were relevant to the larp, together with some additional ones so they could not guess in advance what kind of cases would be brought up to them. The law text existed also in-game, and it was propped with clay tablets that had the beginning of the text written on them in cuneiform. On the backside, the organisers had attached a printout of the same text in Finnish. In the ancient Mesopotamian culture, writing verdicts and contracts on clay tablets was important, and many people were illiterate, so scribes had a big role in the larp. The temple had an archive of clay tablets of various contracts that had been written in Kaprum, and the judges could study them (or send their scribes to study them) if they needed to find out what had happened in the town in the past while trying to settle the cases.

Full credits

Aino Haavisto - production, history research.

Ada-Maaria Hyvärinen - story, history research.

M. Joukamaa & T. Hanhimäki - help in e.g. character writing.

M. Joukamaa - player support.

External links