Experimental Findings is not exactly a chamber larp, because you’re supposed to run it out of doors, preferably in a bleak and deserted landscape. But it’s for a small number of players in a short period of time, so it’s chamber-larp-like in that sense.
Experimental Findings came about at a weekend larp retreat that I went on with friends. We’d been thinking of writing something together, but after a brainstorming session, we each liked different ideas… so we ended up writing four separate larps. The ones that the others wrote were terrific and both interesting and enjoyable, but as they’re still works in progress I won’t write about them here (yet). My one got playtested the next day, and then I finished it off pretty much right away so as to get it out of my head.
There are five characters: they are all connections of a prominent scientist, Professor Sanchez, who disappeared some years ago while setting up a long-term experiment. They are gathered to take the measurements that will conclude that experiment, and that will finish Sanchez’s work. And in the process, they will decide Sanchez’s legacy, and the effects that the connection has had upon each of them.
The five characters (Cameron, the Child; Kim, the Assistant; Sasha, the Lover; Dr Lomax, the Rival; and Captain Silva, the Funder) are drawn briefly and archetypically. They come with a set of self-questions that the player uses to fill out the character and make it their own.
The facilitator also needs to work out a walking tour around the site, with five stopping-points where experimental readings can be taken.
After some character definition, background calibration (defining details about Professor Sanchez, etc), and relationship building, the lap proceeds via the characters walking from one experimental station to the next, taking as they go, and taking readings. Along the way, they perhaps solve the mystery of what happened to Professor Sanchez, sort out issues in their personal back-stories and in their present interrelationships, and come to terms with some ethical questions around the performance of professional science.
Science is not a common theme in larp, and in this design I wanted to bring out what I think is an interesting aspect of it – to quote from the script, “the ritualistic nature of science – the attention that the scientific process pays to belief, and the role of scientists within that ideological framework. All the characters are professional scientists of one kind or another, and all this is second nature to them. Yet to outsiders, it probably seems bizarre, formal, and forbidding.”
This shapes play, and also feeds into what I guess is the larger theme of Experimental Findings – responsibility, whether personal, professional, or moral.
I’m pretty happy with how Experimental Findings has come out, thanks mostly to terrific feedback and discussion from the playtesters. If you’d like to see for yourself, you can download the script from here! Do let me know what you think.