The Campaign Trail: Bratislava

The wonderful thing about the recurring larp conference, Knudepunkt, is the opportunity to meet roleplayers from almost all of the world. A couple of years ago, I housed a small group of Czechs and last year they returned the favor. I was invited to talk about jeepform and play some games with them in Brno. It was a blast.

Bratislava by Jeep

Fast forward a year. In Brno I met a small group of Slovaks as the Slovak and Czech gaming scene is somewhat connected, and at knutepunkt in Norway, where the Czech and Slovaks together held the best party of the year (and also blew votre minds when presenting the prehistory of Czechoslovak larping), we discussed the possibility of a visit to fair Bratislava.
This time I brought Tobias Wrigstad. Tobias and I have a prehistory of going to strange countries to discover the local flavor of roleplaying. Here the main attraction was of course to see what the slovak roleplaying scene was up to, but most importantly to meet the local roleplayers. Tomaš and Dominika did a great job at being hosts and showered us in information about Slovakia, Bratislava and roleplaying in particular. Both Tobias and I cheered the first beers were set on the table. Beer is an integrated part of the Slovak lifestyle, and in the end we ended up becoming very assimilated.

Gangs of Pressburg

The main attraction was a big water gun larp called Gangy Prešporku or Gangs of Pressburg in a more familiar language. This game is a recurring affair and plays out in the streets of Bratislava (Pressburg is the old name for Bratislava). Armed with a water gun, sombreros and an ill-fitting mustache, Caldo (Tobias) and Freddo (me) battled the forces of a biker gang and some heavily armed hip-hoppers. Every time you got hosed down (which happened a lot), you had to get back to your faction leader, in our case El Presidente, to receive a well delivered pep talk and a new life. In the end, after successfully defending the whore house and taking over the ice cream shop, the Mexicans (our group) won the game and got to eat the cake. It was a very fun game, perhaps a bit too long. Tobias Wrigstad, who usually is hard to impress, was totally immersed, and repeatedly went out in a blaze of water.

15 games in an evening

Also we had a session of gaming where we playtested some beeer induced ideas from the day before: The Chefs of Time, some kind of Mirror Game and Strangers on a Bus. The ideas were not all ready for prime time, but everyone had a lot of fun, and we very honestly delighted to try something else than Lady and Otto or The Upgrade. But wait, you can check out some of the ideas yourself here:

The Slovak Scene

Looking at the Slovak roleplaying scene, it is very clear that they have a lot of good things going for them. Of the people we met and talked to, they have a lot of good energy and willingness to do (new) stuff. It seems as if the Slovak community is moving forward very fast, perhaps even faster than the Czech scene, which I was told was more conservative (but still evolving fast). The Slovak scene seems concentrated around Bratislava and a smaller city called Nitra.

They certainly have a player base that can handle most of what you throw at them, both technically as well as content-wise. As they are relatively young compared to us, they can potentially take roleplaying very far. As they are first-generation roleplayers, they have the unique possiblity of skipping a lot of steps in the evolution of larping and roleplaying. There honestly is no need to learn how to play DnD to become a freeformer. Oh, and they speak an excellent english and have no problems playing in that language.

We discovered one thing that we hope to remedy. On a question of how the typical female role was like, Dominika sarcastically replied, mothers and prostitutes. We laughed a bit, but here is a thing that is easy to pick up: Make better (or more diverse) female characters. I mean, mothers and prostitutes are hardly representative of the professions of the fairer sex. Si kočka.

…And the Czech

Also, as a couple of Czechs was there, it was natural to follow up on what happened since a year ago. A key topic for them was the professionalization of roleplaying and the consequences for their hobby. They were naturally looking to the scandinavian countries for inspiration, an we coined in with our experiences. By going professional, you’ll end up making compromises between making what you want to do (make art) and what you need to do (make money)–and you’ll typically end up earning a very low hourly wage. We gave them our best advice, pitched a couple of ideas and promised them all the help they would need. Still, going professional is an intoxicating idea, and we both wished them all the luck.
Also they are preparing a big international convention, Larpvíkend (or Larpweekend) 6-8 of November. Here you’ll have the opportunity to meet Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian larpers and try out some cool new things. The webpage is still in the making, but you can read about it here: Larpvíkend (via google translate)

I hope that they pick up on what we left there and continue to produce quality games. I think that is great potential within the two former Czechoslovakian countries and it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Remember, Bratislava is closer than ever before. I know I’ll be coming when they call.

If you need contacts or more information, please send me an email at frederik@vuxenspel.dk, and I’ll set you right up.

Site News: Back in Black

This post  marks a return to the Hemingway-theme that adorned this site for a longish while. All in all I was very satisfied with it, and the slight infidelity with the other theme, was just a fad.

On a side note these last couple of months have been really busy for me. I have been evangelising Jeepform in The Czech Republic, attended the first ever Scandinavian Freeform convention, Höjdpunkt, and written two brand new games: ‘Fat Man Down’ and ‘Double Exposure’.

Expect more soon.

Love, Frederik

PS: If anyone know anyone doing freeform i France, please let me know. The email is in the letter.

The Jeep does Czech Republic

Brno, 5-7 September 2008

I will be giving the Czech Republic the Jeepform treatment 5-7 Sept. Highlights will include a presentation of Jeepform, The Upgrade, Doubt and drinking of quality czech beer. If you want to attend, contact info@courtofmoravia.com. It will be in english, I will speak slowly and articulate, so everyone will be able to follow. 

As the french say: Jeepform will blow votre minds.

Link: Court of Moravia

[update] Check out the rave reviews!

Convention pre-report: Fastaval 2008, Denmark

As some of you might already know, the premier danish freeform[1] convention, Fastaval, is just days from happening [during the easter holidays]. I’ve been a regular for the last 11 years both as a player, gamemaster and writer of cool games.

Fastaval is really unique. First of all, all games are written for the convention, most of them freeform or even jeepform. They are all one-shots, with premade characters and such. However, some very vibrant story-game peeps have been making quite a splash the last couple of years.

The convention takes place at a school and has access to the classrooms and the communal areas. The classrooms are used for the games and the communal areas for hanging out and the like.Games are played at two set times every day, but with multiple sessions each time. It is not unusual for a single game to be played a total of 10 times, some even higher (the highest I’ve seen was 18) with different players and gamemasters. A typical afternoon hosts 5-6 different games, all of these played by 5 or 6 teams each. Thats a total of 25-30 game instances for an entire afternoon.

As a player you sign up to the games via the conventions webpage and you get to play with a lot of people you might know, but more likely people you don’t know. There is no way of signing up as a team. As a gamemaster, you do the same. This is great, since it facilitates a lot of experience exchange. For a new idea, way of gamemastering or playing tecnique , it takes one or two years to propagate and enter the mainstream. The author is not the only person gamemastering her game. The gamemaster get the game sent by mail (or as a downloadable pdf). The games vary in length, but is, as a rule of thumb, read within a cople of hours.

The games are high quality. The writers use a lot of energy to make the games both look nice (layouts etc.) and make them accessible for other players. This is essential. For a game to be understandable for other people than the authors, it has to be well dispositioned and easy to understand. This does not mean that the games are simple, some games are very complex and challenging for both players and gamemasters. It just means that it must be easy to grasp the idea and what the author wants. This has in turn helped getting the games outside the convention, so that today it is possible to download these quality games from several websites like Alexandria.dk and Project R’lyeh. All games are in danish, but you get the picture. This makes it very easy for a gamemaster to pick up a game, gather some friends and play.

Afterwards players, gamemasters and authors engage in informal discussions of the game. Players playing the same character across gamesessions discuss the finer points of that character, relate what they did or said. Gamemasters tell each other what was cool, what worked well and what didn’t work. The author is of course always eager to know how everything went and discuss what people got out of the game. Beer always helps facilitate such a discussion, of which  there is plenty.

The mean age is around 27 and people are able to handle mature subjects. This is in turn matched with the topic of games. Some are very high-brow examinations of the nature of love, hate or complex human interactions, some have a comic streak and yet others are action packed gunslinging adventures. There is a focus on rules-light (or even absent) and a no commercial setting (like WoD, D&D). This is of course a result of several years of change. In the beginning everything was just D&D, Call and the like. In the later years the occational story-game (forge-type) has appeared and has in many ways, brought back the rules.

There is an award-show at last day of the convention, where the best games are celebrated. As an author you can win in several categories. The winners are selected by a jury that has read all games that year. The players and the gamemasters provide valuable input to the jury to help them choose the winners. This competetive element really helped improve overall quality of games both for the convention itself, but also rpgs in general in Denmark.

Fastaval is interesting because, after seeing several other conventions all over the world, I have come to realise that Fastaval really is unique. The conventionmakers worldwide, really should look to Fastaval for inspiration or ideas.

Any questions will be answered in the comments.

[1] Freeform in this context means “freedom of form”, that is you can, as a gamewright, choose whatever form you want, however it *has* to fit the story you are trying to tell. In more practical terms it means “rules” for telling the story, and tecniques that emphasise the story told. Ex: ‘All supporting roles are played by the players’, or ‘the gamemaster must use this tecnique to choose which scene is next’ and so on. Look at www.jeepen.org/dict for more examples of rules and tecniques.

A Late Telegram

So, last time was august. I’ll try to catch up on the last couple of months rpg-news for me.

First of all, I attended A Nice Evening with the family, which was a blast. The Jeepform techniques worked like a charm. Almost playing from a script was excellent. The players were very talented. One of the characters filmed the nights events and when we watched some of it the day after, it could just as easily have been a movie. Brilliant. Oh, and the location. And Sweden. And the gamemasters. And Anna Westerling. Talented, beautiful and full of health. Much love from here.

Secondly, Jonas, my wife and I attended the italian convention ModCon, which was a beast of a convention with almost 4000 guests, mostly playing boardgames, cardgames and the traditional tabletop D&D game. Of cause there was the Flying Circus of italian Donkeys who made the entire stay worthwhile. They are the freeforming aspect of italian roleplaying. Their english is not as bad as they themselves think and their games differ slightly from the standard freeform experience. I think I prefer the smaller scale Ambercon, which is more focused on Freeform gaming.

Thirdly, there was Viking-Con, which is the old old convention in Denmark. The visit was a first real visit. A very conventional thinking convention, although it changed a lot this year. There was a bar selling quality beer, it had a Jeepform game on the programe and Jason Morningstar was the guest of honor. Jason was a lot of fun, but I realised that the american roleplayers do not, I repeat, do not, play the same way as we do in scandinavia. More on this later as I get reports from Tobias Wrigstad who is taking on the entire continent of America!

Also, the news are reporting of an upcoming czech translation of Lady and Otto and an italian version of The Mothers. This is great and Im really honored.

Lastly, and a more personal note, I got married, bought a car, got a new apartment, restarted my master thesis (again) and moving to Zürich in Switzerland (in january). So if anyone know anything of the Swiss rpg, I would be very interested.