This morning I woke from a dream in which I was at a weekend larp, with an Edwardian setting (first decade of 20th-century UK), at a country house of some sort. My character was wandering in the woods, chatting with some others, when they came across a small summerhouse. Laid out inside it were a bunch of papers, which turned out to be the materials for a chamber larp. Our characters were intrigued and decided to have a try at playing it… that was the point at which I woke up.
Although great in a dream, I don’t think this structure — having a chamber larp for the characters presented as incidental within a standard long-form larp — would work so well in real life. For a start, our characters had to do a lot of self-aware “ho ho, what is this ‘larping’, how peculiar to pretend to be another person, I suppose it just might work” kind of thing, which I think ideally you would want to avoid. More practically though, it would take people out of the larp unpredictably for long periods; and also everyone would want a go, so they’d be queuing up outside the summerhouse all day.
So thinking about that gave me the idea for Larping: a Larp about Larpers Who Larp (working title). The basic form is a chamber larp for four people, lasting four hours. The characters are a tight group of chamber larpers, with various relationships and attitudes to one another. They’ve got together to play through a microlarp — lasting half an hour. They will play it four times, rotating its four characters (who are also a tight group etc) between them: prefaced by an establishing scene, and followed by a debrief. They are doing this for fun, so that they each get to experience all of its characters etc1; but it will end up being an investigation into bleed. For the characters; and perhaps also, from a slightly more objective distance, for the participants.
I thought it might also be interesting to run this for eight participants. In two groups of four, each working as described above, but in the same space (at either end of a room). In (either layer of) the fiction, the other group doesn’t exist: but in real life I think it might be of interest to be able to hear another set of players doing the same things that you are doing, at the same times. In effect, it would bring in acoustic bleed, as well as the usual kinds.
And then finally the long-form version, which I figured could only work well if it was actually ‘about’ this structure in some important sense. For 24 participants, playing the roles of larpers who have come together to test a new chamber larp design. Each has been allocated to one of six timeslots over the weekend where, in groups of four, they play through it together. Inbetween, they live and interact together as larpers might normally do on a weekend’s break (ie. maybe drink too much, argue about philosophy of larp design, have unwise hookups, etc).
I haven’t thought this one through very much yet, but the general idea will be to look at how things change over time — in what ways it’s different for those who play the chamber larp at the end of the weekend, vs at the beginning — how what happened in the chamber larp bleeds out into the main larp, and then back in to the next run of the chamber larp — etc.2
Anyway though so I don’t suppose this will come to anything: like most ideas that come from dreams, it’s probably a bit rubbish really. And also the idea of a larp within a larp is so obvious that it must have already been done many times? But I will see if I can chew it over a bit, and if anything useful emerges.
1. I think this is partly inspired by Elina Gouliou telling me about how she with three friends had done this with A Family Affair, a few years ago. (Which, if you don’t know it, is a wonderful storygame designed by Ashley Griffiths. it was a large part of the inspiration for my chamber larp Keep it in the Family.)
2. This bit is kind of related to the interesting structure of the successive runs of House of Craving.