Just recently I took part in the playtest of Weave, a new online larp from Spark LRP.

Weave is played in Discord. It takes place almost entirely via text — the concluding section has some audio and video broadcast at you, but you as a participant don’t ever have to use sound or camera. There is also an excellent atmospheric soundtrack, which works via Cleanfeed. It’s for eight participants, and in our playtest it lasted somewhere between 2 and 3 hours.

The premise for Weave is a variant of the classic ‘you wake up in a room with no memories’ setup. In this case we did have a few memories, and there were things associated with our former identities around the room: but no recollection of who we were, what we were doing there, etc. The only means of communication with the outside was via a computer terminal (simulated in the Discord chat channels).

During the course of play, channels become available and characters get moved between them and their permissions changed quite frequently. So you might just be able to talk to an NPC, or to one other character, or to read what one is saying while writing to another, or in a group of four… etc. Each phase seemed to last no more than 10–15 minutes.

I won’t say what the plotline is, or what Weave is about, because that would be a bit spoilery. And also I don’t really know 😀 it was left interestingly open as to exactly what was actually happening. Suffice to say that it did make sense in its own terms and was narratively satisfying.

There was a feeling among the playtest group, I think, that the larp was a bit too long. I didn’t feel that myself — apart from the end section (of which more shortly). I found that the frequent moving from one chat combination to another succeeded in maintaining my interest and engagement for the whole period. But this is one of those very personal things. I type quite quickly and also read quite quickly, which probably helps.

One slight issue I did have, though, was around immersion. Because the chats were fast-switching, and a certain amount of time was taken up in working out what had changed this time and who these new people were and comparing notes on what we knew and what our theories were, etc — and because of the kind of gamist nature of the setting (by which I mean that Weave feels like a puzzle that the participants are trying to solve in a limited time) — this worked against me really feeling my way into my character very deeply. Which is a pity, because the atmospherics and the ‘set dressing’ around the way that we interacted with the larp’s materials and setting were very conducive to immersion — but it felt like we didn’t really get the breathing space to let them do their work.

The other thing, which unfortunately is a kind of pet hate of mine, was the concluding passage of the larp, which took half an hour or so in all. This consisted of listening to NPCs monologuing and conversing with each other, and us playing through trying to find the magic words to talk them into doing stuff which OOC we knew they were pretty much going to do anyway once enough time had passed. It felt to me sterile and pointless, and there was no meaningful interaction between the PCs (at least in my half of the larp) during this period. But I’m sure some of the playtesters will have enjoyed it greatly, and for sure there are people who would really welcome the chance to spend the end of the larp in a bit more passive mode like this.

Anyway though overall Weave was a fun and enjoyable experience, and a clever and interesting piece of design. I love that online larp has seen such an explosion of creativity and terrific ideas!

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