“Social bid”-method of playing oppression in larp

Several years ago I read this article on what factors seems to influence a happy marriage or partnership:

Masters of Love by Emily Esfahani Smith

The article introduced me to the koncept of social bids as a part of human interaction.

“Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.”

This the researcher that Emily is writing about called a “bid” or a “social bid”. The partner could now choose to turn away from the partner, rejecting the bid or to turn towards them and connecting over the bid.

So I started using the method of social bids both when I was playing oppressors or when I was playing the oppressed. I saw the dynamic role play of power-differences as a kind of relationship-based play. But at most larps there was more than one partner at larps to make these social bids to, or pick up on social bids with. I’m going to move in to examples further down.

The method has flaws, if your co-player or you yourself find it difficult to pick up on subtle clues it can be very difficult to pick up on social bids. It can be made easier if you workshop it before the game and do many repeats in the workshop, or if the game agrees on some standard “social bids” that either all the oppressed characters can make or social bids all the oppressors can make.

The social bids are originally meant to be made to one specific player, I am sure you can make a social bid at a whole group but it makes it even more difficult to notice as a group that an individual is making a social bid and it can be hard to react all at the same time. Social bids are in most larps made in person but at some games they can happen by phone or by internet.

Examples of social bids:

A thrall at a viking larp has been away doing personal play with their thrall allies. Now the player want to have some oppression play from their owner. In the fiction they often serve at the owners table and a feast is going on in the main hall. The thrall player simply gets a drink for the owner and make their way all the way to them, presenting the drink.
The offering of the drink, as if it had been sent for or as if it was a part of a daily routine is a social bid. It can be a clearer social bid if it comes with words spoken:

“Mistress, your horn, I brought your favorite.”

Also touch can make the social bid stronger. Slightly touching the owner on the arm.

The oppressor/owner could now either decline/miss the social bid by ignoring/not reacting or minimizing the interaction and just taking the horn, letting the thrall go away again. This will lead to the thrall player often feeling lost and very small out of game. Not a very good feeling.

Accepting the social bid could both be by a in game positive reaction:

“Ah! My thrall! *grabs both horn and thrall, pulls thrall into lap, chugs drink* They then proceed to showing their most precious object to all at the table and talking about all their talents.

It could also be an in game negative reaction:

The mistress looks at the thrall with a mean gleam in their eye, keeping eye contact they taste the content of the horn, then spits it out.
“what is this HORSEPISS!?” and throws the rest of the content on the thrall, and then grabs them by the hair.
“Exscuse me” to the table “I have to go take care of this”

Now the intensity of the social bids will depend a lot on what you as players have talked about before, and the general tone and safety rules at the larp.

Have you used some kind of similar method? What would your social bids be at an upcoming larp?

Modern larp:

A toxic relationship sending more and more explicit and abusive text messages to each other. Each time the other actually answers and engages with the story it will be an social bid/acceptance. No answer or minimized answer is the absence of a social bid.

Making a social bid workshop

Divide the players in small groups, 2,4 or 6. Each group should have members who will be oppressors and members that will play oppressed at some point of the larp. Ideally it will be the same pairs or groups who will play together at the larp.

Choose an everyday interaction in the fiction of the larp, that will also happen at the larp. Give them written suggestions and the props they might need. For example:

  • Servants filling up drinks
  • Prisoners getting their beds searched
  • Immigrants being interwieved
  • Prisoners of war being stripped of weapons
  • romantic partner being verbally abused

Now play through the scenes, and have the oppressed being the initiator to the beginning of the scene. Bringing the drink, standing up next to you bed with hands on head, coming to the desk of the administrator, organizing a line with hands on their heads, finding their partner and asking if they like their haircut.

Do the scene shortly. Cut. Now ask the players to do it again with a change. Maybe the oppressor is in a good mood? How do you play on that and still make it into active, engaging opression where they feel the social bids get reacted upon?
Another change can be if the oppressed is feeling filled with anger and just, have, had, enough but we still decide the scene will end with the oppressor winning?

Take the last 10 minutes to discuss if the method worked, and if anything can be tweaked for the larp.

VG-14

 

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Larp Safety Adaption

A discussion on what safety is, how it can be used and how it can counteract the original intentions. This article is not finished but might get follow ups.

Three intentions:

  • The intention for what larp safety was supposed to do from the people who initiated modern larp safety – one could argue that this is now mostly interesting from a historical background.
  • The intention for what larp safety is perceived to be by a larp culture at large (there is more than one larp culture). A culture is a set of interconnected larp organizers, players, influencers and project groups.
  • The intention for what larp safety is supposed to be, what role it is supposed to play at a specific larp.

 

I also made this pyramid with at what levels larp safety interacts with the larp communities. The lines I draw here is what I see in my head right now and these can be drawn differently by other people. I see how every level rests on the one below. But I also think the top level of the specific larp also influences how the larp culture the larp came from handles larp safety in the future. How different larp cultures interact with and interpret larp safety also influences the way the academics, influencers and international designer think and write about larp safety. Maybe I should add arrow that point up and down?
larp safety

My original intent for larp safety was mainly getting rid of the largest dangers to health, life and safety. There were actual rapists larping in Sweden, committing rapes at the larps. Putting a foot down, catching them and then supporting organizers in blocking these players from coming to the games was the first priority. There was a lot of information trading and I do hope that the biggest offenders were actually caught and evicted.

Then there were the offenders who weren’t rapists, but used their out of game strength to hurt other players on purpose.

 

Now mostly this wasn’t people who had hurt others on accident, they might occasionally be contacted and told “don’t do that” and it helped. This was about people (mostly men) who methodically, on purpose and repeatedly victimized other larpers. And until then had gotten away with it because no one had the whole picture. These people when confronted would often blame others, or completely deny actions that had eye-witnesses. They might even blame addiction or mental illness, but not as something they worked on but as a fact that could not be helped.

 

I’m thinking that even though we are adverse to pitting different kind of suffering against each other I’m thinking it is possible to measure the severity of a threat against the players and organizers of a larp on a scale. Basic risk assessment. How high is the risk of this happening again? How bad are the consequences, and to how many.

 

I also think if many feel either stifled or overworked by an approach to larp safety where the intent is to cover and prevent as much pain or danger as possible before, during and after the larp event the paradigm will shift again. Larp safety will fall out of style if it does not become a useful area to assign work to. You need a return of investment.

Hopefully we can take what we learned about how to prevent some of the more severe dangers while also freeing up players and designers to take manageable risks and both play and design boldy while avoiding the most harmful pitfalls?

 

I have written about the largest risk factors that I have identified before but there is no reason to not add them here as well:

 

  • The presence of unrepentant, unsupervised repeat offenders. There is a special class of offenders who individually are responsible for several instances of out of game violence against other players/volunteers/organizers. These have often normalized their behavior to themselves and others. “That’s just the way they are” is often said about them.
  • The presence of alcohol. The repeat offenders use alcohol but alcohol also increases risks across the board. It increases sexual misconduct and the risks of out of game conflict escalation. It also makes driving from the event the next day more risque (and so does too little sleep).
  • Food safety compromised. This can be anything from a food poisoning happening to allergic cross contamination. This can be really serious because it can affect so many of the players. While some allergic reactions are noticed by the organizers, a lot of the time players don’t really want to tell anyone about their diarrhea.
  • Unsafe venues and structures. This mostly leads to physical injury like concussions, eye lesions, sprained ankles or broken bones. Players can also get lost and become dehydrated or get very cold. Very rarely they lead to death. To Unsafe Venues I also count when the toilet situation leads to fecal matter being handled in an improper way.
  • A macho culture that celebrates volunteers and organizers working themself ragged and players going far beyond their physical, social and mental limits without the proper after care. This doesn’t only increase the risk for injury but also tempers run high and friendships can break for years to come.
  • “Rock star behaviour” and  “being dependant” When one or a few larpers have several that look up to them so much that they get away with behaviour that would get others booted long ago. Or the other side of the coin when some larpers are entirely dependant on being in one established larpers good grace. The second kind is often much less exhibitonist and instead of charming the group they will work on giving newcomers everything they need to participate. Watch out if the newcomers don’t seem to really form relationships with anyone else! A good mentor makes sure their newcomer meets a lot of good people, they don’t isolate them.

 

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The sign up for Vedergällningen is open

The story: In a pre-christian Sweden a set of women and other non-men with spiritual connections to the Völvic magical traditions are visited by a crew of traumatized returning vikings and before the evening is over, the Völvas fall victims to a heinous crime.

To avenge themselves they commune with Aesir and Vaenir, the gigants and dwarves, the elvenkind of the underworld and the spinners of fate themselves. And so the vengeance comes to heed their call as they dance naked through the blackened forest.

They cannot undo what they have done and as vengeance lays waste to all, these humans who hate each other must join forces or perish against monsters and gods that but toy with their minds and bodies.

Head on over to the events own site:

https://vedergallningen.wordpress.com/

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Links to musicians, larps and creators!

Musicians

David Bergkvist
Swedish troubador who also is part of the band Gråfötterna. Long time larper who has made music for a lot of Swedish larps.
http://davidbergkvist.se/

Mary Read
Mary Read hails from Sweden, and is made up of Lars Nerback (accordion, mountain dulcimer), Teresa Axner (vocals) and Magnus Nygard (sequencers and soundscapes). Their lyrics take inspiration from historical events and oral storytelling, while their music echoes of Nordic traditional music, Americana, neofolk, industrial and dark ambient. Mary Read’s songs have been described as cinematic, moving and catchy.

https://maryreadband.com/

Creators in larp

Sweden

Anna-Karin Linder
Works with both analogue and digital narrative design, and writing – both pop cultural nonfiction and fiction. She makes and create pedagogic content for all kind of games, roleplaying games for educational purposes as well as larp scripts and interactive art. Digitally she mainly does narrative design in computer games, but also project management and audio design. She is currently working for Toca Boca

annakarinlinder.se

Anneli Friedner

Personal blog about larp and feminism.: https://jeu-de-roles.blogspot.com/

Croatia

Miroslav Wranka / Terrible Creation 

A Croatian based LARP collective, mostly focused on chamber games
website – www.terriblecreations.com

Netherlands

Susan Mutsaer 

Real life games: From larp to escape room. Real life games are the ultimate tool to tell your story. Creative work: From costume to photography. Production leader: Your festival, conference or workshop taken care of from start to finish.

http://www.susanmutsaers.com/

Current larp project: http://www.cirquenoir.nl

United Kingdom

Mo Holkar

Larp writer/designer and event runner.

Current larp: On location https://onlocationlarp.wordpress.com/

Larp Conference: The Smoke https://the-smoke.org/

Personal projects: https://www.holkar.net/

Charlie Gray

Blog Larp Guide – Resources for live action role play: http://larp.guide/
photography site with images from Empire, The World went dark, Badlands, Curious pasttimes and more: https://www.larpimages.com/

 

USA

Rebecca Roycroft / CozyLarp:

A group of larpers based in Los Angeles, USA, interested in creating original works and running excellent short larps from around the world at our yearly mini convention.
Wordpress: https://cozylarp.wordpress.com/

Tara M Clapper

Digital larp designer and runner. Also does live streams and manages social media and editing.

Main page that also has most blog posts and link to larps she’s doing. http://geekinitiative.com/

Live: https://larpchat.live/

 

 

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KH8.3 Four Weddins! – Here We Go Again

I’m one of the Swedish larpers who like the Krigshjärta fiction (Heart of war or WarHeart). I went to the first Krigshjärta larp and I was hooked on the game style and the possibility to do so many different things while also being physical and always having a job to do in game.

This is their main site for all info on Krigshjärta (in Swedish): krigshjarta.com

In may 2018 I went to Krigshjärta 8.1: Four Weddins and a Funeral, a game about the Hessbrännare (Hessians) people in a county in Hessbrand (Hessia).
I played a member of the extended family/clan O’Doyle. That game was organized by  Isabelle Kyed, Jan-Erik Grenlund and Martina Green and centered around family affairs and how the war slowly was making it’s way into Hessbrand.

Now Isabelle Kyed and Julia Fahlman are doing a follow up larp Septmeber 21-23 called “KH8.3 Four Weddins! – Here We Go Again”

You can find the facebook group for the new larp here: KH8.3 Four Weddins! – Here We Go Again

Here is the homepage for the first larp: KH 8.3: Four Weddins and a funeral In there you can read all about the village and the visiting clans. It’s part in English and part in Swedish but in game most players speak English because that in game is the “Hessian dialect”. So if you want to try

IMG_4683

I need photo credit, I couldn’t trace this photo. So either Torbjörn Wahlgren, Ellis Bloom or Johan Nylin.

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Physicaility of larp manifesto

In which I argue that without physicality a role playing event is not a larp.

Background to the manifesto: I have come across larpers who design games and then call them larps, because this is the gaming culture they grew up in and learned their trade. Calling it a larp they might get acknowledgement from their peers and also makes it easier to make other larpers try their game. I find this lacks a connection with gaming and role playing history as we rename and rebrand other games or forms of role play as larp. We don’t need to call a game or a role playing event a larp to make it valid. Other forms of role play is valid and entertaining and can tell a variety of stories. But they are not larps and don’t need to be larps.

Intro to the manifesto: Not all good things are larps, larps are not inherently good things. People can larp their way through things that are not larps, or even role playing games. A Role playing experience does not need to be a larp to be valid. Not every role playing experience a larper creates is a larp.

Larp will not save the world.

The Manifesto

A larp is an live action role play event that uses physicality as a way to tell a story and/or give the participants a physical experience. Physical experiences can teach on multiple levels, beyond the cerebral stimulation of an intellectual exercise.

Just as cooking a meal for the first time teaches us things about the recipe using more channels than reading the recipe or talking to a chef or a friend about cooking the meal.

To larp something is to use physicality and role play as a way to enact something.

A larp does not have to involve more than one person, but it needs to involve at least one person, who uses physicality to explore and experience.

“Internal play” might happen at larps, but is not an essential part of larping. Internal play lacks the physicality I argue is an essential part of larping. Without external expression of internal play there is no physicality.


What is physicality?

Physicality is experiencing things first and foremost with your body and senses and not only with your mind. Physical interaction between human beings also takes more than mere communicating information through speech or written information.

The physicality of a larp will not be and on/off switch but a sliding scale. I am arguing a larp needs have enough physicality for it to even be a larp, but I am not saying it needs to have everything listed below.

I will now give examples of physicality.

Physicality of the senses, sensuality.

Looking at many different things and people, not merely pictures or representations of these things or people. Perceiving them with your eyes.
Touching objects and people, perceiving them with touch. Being touched by objects and people, perceiving them as pressure, heat, cold, movement, vibration, texture, pain.
Tasting things and people, perceiving them with taste buds.
Hearing sounds made by objects or by other people or animals, perceiving them with your ears. Acceleration and falling might also fall into this category due to the workings of the inner ear.

Physicality of physical expression:

Relating information about in game events and facts through speech that is formed by what kind of character you are playing. Speaking as your character and not as yourself. Using a body language designed for the character that is not your own.

Physicality of bodily functions:

Eating in game food fitting the setting and the character you play when your character is hungry or choosing to stay hungry because it connects you more with your character. Eating food that fits the larp event. If the participants cook their own food it can be an exercise in physicality to cook the food using fitting methods and utensils.

Going to your characters in game bed when they are tired or postponing going to bed due to the characters having duties. Bathing and showering as your character in a bathroom that is in game or choosing to stay dirty because this is what the character would do.

Physicality of the expression of emotions.
Crying with fluid leaving the eye. Laughing audibly. Showing emotions with your face, relating feelings your character is having or is trying to make other character believe they are having. Showing that your character is experiencing a stomach ache or shaking hands of excitement or anxiety. Having cold sweats or simulating these with other liquids. Being drunk or simulating drunkedness.

Physicality of the body.

Either playing your body type or using physical representations that other players are is sensually able to experience. Such as using pads or prosthetics or a binder to change the gender expression, perceived weight or mimicking a pregnancy of a certain stage. Also simulating a menstrual cycle or tending to a real menstrual cycle using “in game methods” could fall under this.

Physicality of intimacy: Playing on attraction and desire for a character that fit your character sexuality, their sexdrive and their social standing. Seeking physical closeness with the person they desire and striving to enact (out of game consensual) intimate acts using the systems in place for doing so (these might however be void of physicality).

What is not the physicality of larp?

Any meta technique that removes the physical element of an interaction. (this can still be a part of the larp but not the physicality of it) such as resolving conflict through rolling dice or exchanging battle values or playing out intimacy between characters using a non touch technique.

Eating food that is not a part of the larp event, such as power bars at a dark ages fantasy larp.

Finding your out of game partner and being intimate with them when your characters are not intimate.


The grey areas of physicality.

Being dressed as your character if the clothes are something you would normally wear.

Being dressed as your character in clothes so comfortable you forget about wearing them.

Saying things your character would say, but without emoting them differently than you yourself would.

Any visible disability that you might have that you choose to not incorporate into the character. It will affect your own experience of the physicality of a larp while others will attempt to see it as an out of game circumstance.

Addendum:

Larping outside of larp

To larp something is to use the physicality of the body in a physical space and use role play as a way to enact something as someone other than yourself. You can larp your way through menial tasks of your everyday life, imagining you are a maid in another age and adopting the physical characteristics of the character.

You can also larp your way through some board games, although parts will still be representative and not larped.

Non larp role playing events might contain parts that are “larping” without that making the whole event into a larp.Larping can be an ingredient that does not turn the whole event into a larp.

There is also the larping happening outside of larps that is done at so called pervasive games. A larp can also have a possibility for the larpers to leave the larp event and go out into a non larping area for some pervasive gaming. This happens at city based larps such as Vampire where a venue might be fully in game but you can take your character out on the town and play with a smaller group of larpers.

Also there is Alternate Reality Gaming in which might fall under this or under the next title.

Being at a larp without larping

I argue that if a person is merely looking at other people larping, even while dressed in character clothing (clothes donned for the event that are not a part of your everyday clothing) then they are not larping. This is because this lacks the element of role playing. Internal play does not count, as it is merely Shrödingers larper.

At games where certain bodily needs are cared for out of game, I argue that a person seeing to that need, is at a larp but is not currently larping, because of the agreement that such bodily needs are managed out of game.

At Alternative Reality Games, you are usually not donning a character, and is not role playing and I would say not larping. But you might commit to doing physical actions that you would not do outside of the missions of the ARG , making the game have the element of physicality, if not role play.

Larping is something that some participants do during the whole larp event and that some participants start and stop, even if they are not removing themselves to an out of game area. I think this is the reason why some people have a need for out of game spaces while others find them less needful even if they might be practical for other reasons.

A brain in a jar has no physicality in its experiences.
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Working while inspired: Nuns

I recently participated in a Facebook thread where one should describe ones dream larp using a gif. I choose a gif of a nun wielding a automatic rifle.
I also know I have several friends who would have like to go to a larp about nuns and upon coming up with this idea the creative Cecilia Redner helped me come up with even more ideas.

My thoughts so far are these:

A larp about a convent of nuns who are being evacuated by UN troops to escape an escalating civil conflict after being witnesses to an act of genocide in their own convent.

I’m thinking 12 characters that are nuns and novices, and maybe even lay women connected to the convent. The about as many UN soldies of mixed genders.

I base this on real world events, both where nuns have been convicted of participating in genocide but also on armed conflicts where nuns have been among the people being dehumanized and murdered.

I decided the setting should be in a real world region, but that the country in which the armed conflict escalates and the reason there is an armed conflict will be fictional. The time of the events of the larp will be 1990-ies because it will be a time slightly before cell phones becomes common and the clothes for the UN troops will be easier to get hold of for the participants.

The religion will be real world Christianity, because I find it an important subject to analyze, how Christianity has affected armed conflicts and real world political decisions. But the religious order the nuns belong I will probably make up so as to not misrepresent an existing order and so that I can make some changes if needed to make it into a playable larp.

Sisters of the faith, brothers in arms.
So the larp would consist of two groups, the sisters who live according to their vows to god and their Order, and the soldiers who live according to the military rules and the orders they get. Both groups live accordingly to routines.

The soldiers have orders to evacuate the sisters, but the sisters don’t necessarily want to be evacuated. The larp possibly even starts with one or several of the sisters being forcefully dragged from the vehicle into the safe house where they are to wait for further transport out of the country. The Prioress will get a opportunity to speak on the phone to someone further up in the church, who explains to her that this is indeed the will of the church, that they leave their convent and the people they are connected to.

I would also like to incorporate a black box in this scenario. The Black box is a room to the side, with few props and sometimes the possibility to play with lighting and sounds. In this room the participants could play out possible pasts and futures, possibly what kind of horrible deeds the nuns have been witnesses too. But I would also like them to try to enact their character fantazies, stray thoughts and dreams who are contained by the current situation and their respective duties to monastic or military life.

The themes would be some of my old ones:

  • women centered stories
  • relationships and conflicts
  • ethics versus obedience
  • self sacrifice versus self care
  • doubt
  • insitutions
  • religion
  • all female groups
  • the erasure of the ego
  • being part of something larger than the individual
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