Back at the end of October I was at Grenselandet, the international chamber larp festival held in Oslo. Unlike Stockholm Scenario Festival which I wrote about recently, Grenselandet is just for proven games, not new material – they all have to have run properly at least once – and each takes place only once and is GMed by its designer (whose travel expenses are paid by the festival).
Grenselandet really has a very international feel – of the 30 or so games being run, only 4 were by Norwegian designers, and another dozen by other Nordic writers. The majority were from further afield – and that was also reflected in the attenders. I don’t have figures for that, but it felt like much less than half were locals.
From the UK, I took These Are the Days of Our Lives, and also Kevin Burns took our co-authored game Real Men – which started off as a male-characters version of TADOL, but has developed into a rather different experience thanks to Kevin’s design and GMing input.
Room to manoeuvre
The games at Grenselandet take place in several different venues in central Oslo, clustered around the organizational hub and social space. They range from an office meeting-room to a professional studio theatre. It was quite fun being led off by our hosts and wondering what sort of place we were going to be playing in next!
My first was In Your Hands, designed (at the Larporatory) by Åsa Nilsson, Simon James Pettitt, and Lea Pullerits. I’d been wanting to play it for a while, as two of the authors are friends and had told me about it. In Your Hands is an abstract black-box larp about the support that friendship can give – in particular, in helping to deal with feelings of fear, guilt and alienation. I found the blend of music, narration, symbolic interaction and physicality very powerful – and the act-interlude structure works thoughtfully and effectively to guide players through the emotional journey. It also has (what I felt to be) a very well-structured and productive preparatory workshop.
The next morning I played Bring Your Own Bottle, another Larporatory-originated project, by Nastassia Sinitsyna, Yauheniya Siadova and Alisa Matavilava. (This was one of four larps – all really interesting – being presented by designers from Belarus.) Again about a group of friends, but not abstract. We were old pals who had decided (for our own different reasons) to give up alcohol, and this was our last blow-out together. We workshopped up our characters and relationships (this was another excellent workshop) and then the progress of the evening’s drinking was moderated by lighting cues: periodically the lights dimmed further, and we became progressively more drunk. At the end we were all lying passed-out in a drunken heap!
An interesting rule was that we weren’t allowed to talk about negative things, or about the reasons we were stopping drinking. I had wondered if this might make for a lack of tension, but actually it was a great way of ensuring that the game did what it was supposed to, rather than the players getting distracted. (I will remember this aspect of less-is-more for my own writing.) Overall it was a very enjoyable, warm and human experience.
Those were the days
In the afternoon I ran my own game TADOL, which seemed to go pretty well (as had Kevin’s Real Men that morning), and then there was a party and then that was it. A three-slot event (compared with five at Stockholm Scenario Festival, and eight or nine at Consequences) but compact and intense. I was very glad to have had the pleasure of attending!