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Black Friday: Výlet do Itálie

Je to sotva 10 dní, co se poměrně velká česká výprava zúčastnila „modern-day thriller„ larpu v Itálii s názvem Black Friday. Děj larpu je zasazen do rurálního městečka Liberty Town ve státě Wyoming. Protože nebylo snadné na larp sehnat ohlasy, poprosil jsem Davida Františka Wagnera (stejně jako jednoho z autorů Francesca Pregliasca), zda-li bych mohl na larpy.cz zveřejnit jeho zpětnou vazbu na larp, kterou vnímám jako kromobyčejně kvalitní.

Pokud se tedy nebojíte anglického jazyka, níže je k dispozici.

TL:DR: a very nice equivalent of a blockbuster movie. See it, be thrilled, go home, remember the soundtrack, wait for the second one, see it…
Worth playing for sure, if the role suits you at least a bit. And it did suit me perfectly, my personal experience was great!

Longer version, here we go. I have some more thoughts and explanations for some of the stuff, but I’ve cut it short to keep the document readable. Good things are the really positive things, Bad things are problems that I think should be avoided  and Ugly things are controversial things, which depend very much on your larp culture.

Pregame communication

GOOD

The ability to start a hype. I don´t really know how that happened, but it happened and I was also infected. That is a great thing.

Also, the level of graphic preparation of all the pre-game documents was really great, awesome work with that.

All information before the quite chaotic last two weeks was delivered in time to take it in and remember it. That´s great work! The slight chaos after that is something that I can fully understand: you are 100 % volunteers and these things just happen.

BAD

Communication in groups tended to get heated even from the organizer side, which should really not happen. Yes, sensitive topics were discussed, but it even led to some people from our group cancelling. Regardless of what your stance on something is, it could have been communicated in calmer manner.

UGLY

Some parts of the documents were just very provocative. For example, stating that „if you don´t like to be kissed or slapped, don´t play this larp (fine, I guess, there is no law for larps to be inclusive). Or preferably do not larp at all (what the hell?)„ serves no one and spurred quite the talk at least here in Czech Republic. It may be your aim to use this edgy, provocative style of communication – but then please use it everywhere and consistently.

Pregame workshops

GOOD

The check in and getting the costumes went very quickly and with only very little delay. Everybody was also very nice to us during workshops and has shown great care to try to solve the problems. Very nice.

BAD

What I deem very, very bad and unfit for organizers is to criticize whole groups of people from previous runs – and they got quite a lot of flak. For me as a player, that was a very uncomfortable string of moments. I really really get why that happened and that you can´t control everybody and so on and do not really think you are bad people for it :). I would just be much happier if I knew that these sort of talks could be avoided.

UGLY

I think it was not stated enough (OR the players have broken it willingly) how we should approach the pre-game discussions of „how should we play this?„. I come from a culture where we discuss only very intimate relations before game and of course, we do build relations and play on them during organised worskhops. But the situation when some of the players were discussing things before the game and making stuff up and other players (including me) were refusing this concept on the basis of „it doesn´t fit in with the organizer´s aim„ was confusing and annoying.

Characters

GOOD

They fit in very well with the genre and cliché and being mostly very simple, it was very easy to get some idea of who is who and what kind of interaction you can get out of him in the law enforcement group. When I got to know people in the town better, it also clicked together quite quickly: of course, there was nothing like „wow, what a great new idea!„ – but there was no need for that! These archetypes were selected very, very well and worked together quite nicely. Awesome job there, nearly everyone I met was easily recognizable and I could start playing with him quickly without long introductions.

BAD

For a game oriented on mystery and content brought mainly from the organizers, the characters were very simple and extremely disbalanced at first glance. I was the lucky guy: and a lucky role it was, with my own miniplot to get people, my own conspiracy and some interesting relationships to explore. On the other hand, there were people in the same group (like the Riot Squad guys, from my POV) who just felt as extras. I think that this is one of the things where play cultures tend to clash most. Also, it kinda eroded that „I am in the lead role of a blockbuster movie„ part.

 

UGLY

The casting. I really hoped that the age brackets and clear gendering of all roles would have some meaning and effect on the game. From what I saw, they didn´t and it was just restricting people to too few characters sometimes and creating an uninviting environment. I think that it´s totally fine to use tools like this – when you have a complex reason for it in the game.
Of course, stuff like this depend on overall larp culture: but I really wouldnt mind if this would change.


Photo by Larson Kasper

PACING

Good

I really liked the early start of the game, along with the „if you want, play long into the night” thing. Overall, if you took the „investigate the whole thing„ approach, there was enough to uncover, enough people to interrogate and all in all stuff to do. Finding the motivation could be hard for some characters, but with my „find anything and tell us„ kind of game it was easy, natural and I could happily go from a high level corporate intrique to „this guy really loves his son and hates his colleague„. Very nice.

Also, I had no problem with not sleeping, keeping watch and fires going was interesting enough and interacting with the people of Liberty Town was nice (bit edgy, bit tiring, bit flirty…great mix). It was interesting that new things to do were popping up (pun intended) all night.

BAD

It´s awesome to use every hour of the larp, but most people need some sleep. And the level of discomfort of sleeping in someone else´s cabin with people exploding there at 5 AM is quite high. Stuff like this should really be voluntary OR set in such a way that it´s personally extremely important for your character, not just a (albeit interesting and tragic) random event.

Also, the Saturday was kinda slow I think, but it may be a group specific problem.

UGLY

Ending at noon when we could have just slept more and ended the game later was kind of strange. Worked 100% for me, but most of the stuff happening at night would be crazy enough by day :).
Also, the strange problem with pacing were a few confusing moments between people. After the game I found out that a few riot squad people were very disappointed by getting killed while they were, from their point of view, transporting themselves to the final showdown scene. At the same time, there was some confusion about “I was shooting them, were they not dying because of the plot of the final scene or because shit happens?” from the POV of the FBI agents, but those are fortunately quite minor things. I could imagine that the Riot Squad death would get me very, very disapointed as a player. It could be avoided probably just by stating more clearly which kind of killing people is interesting in game, so everybody could have the same idea.

The oppression thing

It was probably a great idea, but it was very poorly designed and executed. It´s really not enough to just tell players “be oppressive” – setting a game like this takes planning, learning about how these situations work in real life, what the weak points are and so on and so on. This time, we were just told us to “be oppressive”; based on workshops probably meaning “beat them randomly and be rude”.

We had no need to do that and to go from 0 to 100 in one second without a cause is completely unreasonable, not authentic and turns the whole thing into something between a power fantasy and a farce, depending on your preferences. It would be really enough if there were just more critical situations: common gatherings with a symbolic meaning (lectures, prayers, even political meetings…), actions to relate to (create a martyr and then hold a vigil for them…) and so on.
Of course, there were weak points in play on both sides: people wanting to be beaten up to just stand up and be completely OK and rebellious after ten minutes are just as much of an annoyance as officers randomly beating people.

The biggest problem was the curfew. I had the pleasure of attending to it the whole night and from that point of view, it worked quite well in the “night of the evil dead” two nightmarish hours of everyone going crazy, panicking and so on and with just 3 officers to handle it. But even in that situation, most of the trespassers going around town would have reasons like “I´m going to the bathroom”, “I left my X somewhere and I´m really freezing” and so on. In situations like this we had no other option than to let them go: I´m not forcing anyone to pee into a bucket, not without warning and workshops about it. At the same time, people had to smoke outside the houses, so streets were getting slowly crowded by people you don´t want to force inside for OOG purposes. And yes, you can have nice scenes like “everybody´s a smoker now”, but they are based on respect to player´s needs. Some people are just addicted and don´t function well without the cigarette and at the same time smoking indoors is mostly considered (at least here in CZ) grossly unhygienic. Quite similar thing happened at Castor´s – I let people stay there, because their cabin was cold, small and someone already really wanted to stay there. From “keeping the curfew” POV the worst idea, from any other…you know, people freezing and not talking in one small room is not a basis for great gameplay I think.

Also, it was completely reasonable that when some time after midnight, Delta arrived to help handle the situation, the major just made 5 so democratic and calming speeches for everyone that people calmed down (also, most people were quite tired in that moment). At the same time of course the need to rebel has waned – especially when it got to the point that everybody considered NIPHA and not the government their true enemies and exchanging evidence for “ok, you can get together and listen to those tapes” was the only logical course of action. Also, “Night of the living dead” part was only manageble due to cooperating civilians – why beat them, when suddenly we have common problem?

Well, the thing didn´t really work, but what was kinda unnecessary were both players and staff people complaining after the game about “well the players messed that up, not so much as the previous run, but still they were pussies”. I understand the rush to talk after the game, but this was really strange.

First aid

It was a bit strange not to be told when we could get first aid, what with the location being kinda cut off. But truth be told, it came to my mind in the game and I could just have asked at the workshops. There were no injuries and if there were, they were handled so expertly that nobody noticed.

More importantly I was quite surprised by the complete lack of care for the players’ mental well-being. There were no people pointed out that we could go to talk to in-game, no debrief, no anything. I thought that due to the cinematic nature of the larp (which I was enjoying very much) it would not be needed much, but considering that the game aimed for an oppression thing, including messing with people´s sleep and things like that, it could have been very useful. Also, the number of people displaying very strong emotions is really high right now, so at least some de-rolling ritual would have been nice.

(and BF being an international larp I think that if you have no people trained in this, you could have easily found someone who could have prepared a simple methodology and a consultant or two to be on site)

Production values

AWESOME. Nothing bad here – from the overall location to equipment for players to such crazy details as stickers on everything and so on, the production was awesome. Only little problem I had was with food: if we were told earlier what would be in fridge, I could have bought vegetables or some fruit. I had just one soup and slice of pizza and truth be told, it messed with my stomach  enough. Also, I was A BIT disappointed by the ways the players managed the food – all the Red Bulls gone before Friday evening? Really? I guess that some of the people playing through the night could have used them…(the organizer´s approach was really OK here and it was cool way to gently push people to go to town for food)
(a tiny nitpick – it´s really important that it is possible to talk on the phone :) I had such a strong feedback on mine from some sort of speakers that I had trouble understanding. Also, text messages can work better sometimes – I have left my phone full of CIA messages in care of campers willingly, so they could go and use it; with just the phone calls, there would be no evidence to play with. But hey, I do not even consider it a problem, whole phone plot was very nice)

Summary

Well, see “TL:DR” above. While at times this commenty may seem a bit harsh, it´s just a way of commenting on things that could be done better or I see as problematic. I would very, very much like you to make more larps in this cinematic direction: I don´t need everything I play to be artistic and so on; a very well made larp with some points and flawless execution is a miracle in and of itself.
The team has put in loads of very, very hard work and it payed off. It is also up to us, players, to get to know how the game should be played and to respect it.

And it seems that games from these great people should be played over and over again – at least I really want to play another game from Terre Spezzate right now!

 

Larp Black Friday

Počet hráčů: 78
Délka hry: 48 hodin (dva dny)
Cena: 125€ (+ 0-50€ za kostým)
Organizační tým: Francesco Pregliasco, Chiara Tirabasso a tým dalších cca 16 lidí
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