Saturday, April 30, 2005

Beginning the journey between Blekinge and Atlantis: Blekinge and an aeroplane from Lanzarote

I have previously mentioned Från Atlantis till Blekinge (From Blekinge to Atlantis; Blekinge is a province in Sweden) by ASF, the former friform writing collective that these days is a company. I think I have treated the book as an artefact already; now it's time for the game evaluation - the holy grail of game reviews.

From Lanzarote to Göteborg

There are three full scenarios in book, three scenarios which have all been played in gaming conventions. In addition there is a small game called Plan 714 till Göteborg, which is played in les than 45 minutes. We played it in less than thirty. I arranged the game last week. Three of my players were from the Regula Falsi group, Jonas, Linnéa and Kristoffer. But I also tricked two completely new players into it, Elna and Oskar from my student corridor! They haven't done any kind of role playing, but since friform is more intuitive than sex I was sure it would work out great.

The game is very simplistic and leaves very little work to the game master. Two couples have had a common vacation to Lanzarote and are now on the plane heading to Sweden. If you have five player there is also an older man Bengt, sitting between the two couples. Each player get a character description of little less than one page, which they read before the game. I told the players to play on drama more than realism.

We put five chairs in a line on the floor in Linnéas living room and let them be cahirs in the plane and then just stepped on it. As always the first two minutes were a bit slow, but the players very soon found a good pace, reached a climax after maybe twenty minutes and a few minutes later I called it off.

The game worked very nice actually and I think everyone hit the spot of his/her character. We concluded after the game (but also guessed before) that one weak part of the scenario is Bengt. The game might run a bit tighter with only four players. Bengt has no relation at all to the other players, while the other four all have some relation to each other. He is also a bit hard to play. But Jonas did a really great interpretation of Bengt complete with answering questions just too many seconds too late, dropping things all the time and making the completely wrong comments. So his character worked out fine, but I suspect he was quite a bit of a speed bump for the problem solving between the two couples.

I really think everyone enjoyed themeselves. And I liked Elnas comment that night after the game: "I you only would stop calling this role playing, then you might actually get some grown ups playing this." That's a paraphrase, but that was what she meant. They do. In Norway.

From Adulthood to Blekinge

Under sommaren (During the Summer) is a scenario written by Gustav Edman (who by a sheer coincidence at the moment share apartment somewhere in China with a friend of mine). I arranged this scenario earlier this week with Jonas, Kristoffer, Linnéa and Anders as players. The pace is quite the opposite to the one above. I have never really done any role playing like, a few lajv-experiences might partly be a bit close, but no table top. The scenario is calm and sad, quite slow and very little story. There is a kind of emotional crescendo built into the game, but even this isn't too intense. After the game it seemed like everyone had peaceful and cathartic experience.

It's all about summers past. Five youngsters had these wonderful summers together. During semesters they had mostly other friends, but in the summers it was always these five. And they all knew that this was their best time, just hanging out together under the immense freedom of childhood summer. Over five years have passed, they have all moved away from the small town Älvsjö in Blekinge. Or rather four of them have left Älvsjö and one day they all get the message that their fifth friend has passed away. Mikael never left his hometown. He was two years younger than the other, but he was also a bit different. Retarded some might say. Let's just say he was different. But it really doesn't matter, because now he's dead.

The game starts when the four arrives to the small main square of Älvsjö. This game also gives very little work to the game master, since the almost the whole plot is already in the written characters. The character texts are three or four pages long and are very wellwritten both to keep the scenario together and to give a distinct different feel for each character. A nice touch is the significantly different language used in the part where the characters describe themselves.

The game is cut into eight scenes. I had actually some worries that my players might do completely other stuff, but led by the well written character text base they all naturally did what the scenario predicted. It was quite beautiful to see how the plot automatically evolved so nicely just by the players playing their characters and taking appropriate stuff from their background. It was really hard for me to see, while reading the scenario, that it would evolve so nicely. I'm quite sure this game has been played a lot of times and being subject to change in a long process.

Not all players would like this game, I'm sure. It could very well be seen as boring by many. It's slow and all drama is on an emotional level. But the scenario is really written to do and be these things and nothing else. I find it very hard to really criticize the scenario as such, then you would only criticize what it aims to be. Maybe I could think that it would be interesting to play the same kind of scenario with characters slightly less tragic.

We had a really nice time playing this and I really think this is worth a try for everyone. Friform as medication for your soul.


The two scenarios we have left (both much longer than Under sommaren) have I left to Jonas to read. I will really try to make him game master a scenario soon. Either one from the book or one from the old Friforms boxen from ASF, which Jonas has.


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