The Sense of an Ending

So this is actually some notes from a few years ago, but I thought it might be good to capture them here, rather than in the Facebook post where they first appeared.

I was thinking about ways of ending a larp: and this is an initial attempt to categorize possible endings.

Here I’m talking about one-off larps, which are contained within a particular period of time – a weekend, or a few days. Ongoing larps might never need to achieve an ‘ending’ as such, although you’ll probably still need a way to signal the formal end of each session, if you’re at a site. Letter larps etc might not even need that.

Based on time

  • Absolute – The larp will end at 1500 on Sunday.
  • Relative – The larp will end exactly 3 hours after the start of play.
  • Relative – The larp will end exactly 20 minutes after [some internal or external event].

(Methods that don’t require the participants to keep an eye on a clock will be easier to use satisfactorily. Eg timing via a soundtrack of fixed length.)

Based on criteria

  • The larp will end when the box is opened [by participant action].
  • The larp will end when everyone (or, all but one person, etc) has transitioned to the other side.
  • The larp will end when 20 shots have been fired.
  • It can be different for different participants, eg. the larp ends for you when [X happens / you do Y], but it continues for other people.

(There are obvious possible combinations of criteria and time, eg. the larp will end exactly 20 minutes after the box is opened.)

Based on GM declaration

  • The larp will end when the GMs say “The End”.
  • The larp will end when a particular piece of music plays.

(Which might be decided based on any of the above endpoints, but the participants won’t necessarily know that.)

Based on participant declaration

  • The larp will end when a certain number of participants have indicated that they want it to end. (Perhaps by moving to an offgame area, or by putting a token into a bowl.)
  • Individual participants may leave the larp due to a ‘The Door is Open’ policy, or because of illness, an outside emergency, a dispute, etc.

Based on agreement

  • The larp will end when we (or, enough of us) agree, out-of-character, that this is a good time to end.

Based on outside intervention

  • Larps may end because of outside forces taking effect – authorities, weather, etc. This will rarely be a design choice, but I guess it’s possible.

Have you been involved in a larp that finished in a way that’s not covered here? I’d love to hear about it!
Also if you can think of another good way that may not have been tried yet…

Many thanks to Thomas Be, Elin Dalstål, Martin Grey, Gints Halcejs, Anna-Karin Linder, and David František Wagner for their thoughts.

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