Text messages from beyond

Coven had a really interesting component, in the way we had npcs who sent text messages during the larp. It was an optional thing we could do as players, to recruit some friends as text-larpers, to take the part of a contact outside the coven itself, that we could interact with during play.

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Bad roleplayer or intense play? Photo by Carolina Dahlberg.

It was a fun addition, providing a feeling of a world that extended outside the physical boundaries of the larp. You had a lot of control in how it was going to start, since you recruited your own minions to take the part of your family and loved ones, but quickly took on a life of its own as the text-larpers got going and started coordinating their efforts, sharing numbers of people in the game.

I set up an old friend from my character’s previous coven and his ex from that same coven and got them in touch with the other player who shared that background. During play I also got messages from another character’s grandmother who was very insistent that I take care of her grandchild as well as threats from two different anonymous sources.

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There was a lot of threatening and scary pictures sent, this is one of the less creepy ones.

It worked really well for a larp about teens, that we had our phones out all the time and doing stuff on them. I have been to teen-larps without phones and it felt weird. There was a lot of story and interesting developments coming out of the texts.

There were some small issues with it, that should be kept in mind if you want to do it in your own larp.

First off, I’d estimate that the text larping ran at about 120% efficiency. So quite a bit above what would have been optimal. There was a lot going on that took players attention away from what was going on in the “real world.” Also, the text-larpers got carried away and escalated some situations beyond what was established in the fiction and sent some really scary photos and videos of loved ones being tortured and killed. It put some issues into play that the fiction had been designed to steer around and that ended up messing with gameplay on site. There really should have been a gamemaster function with tabs on play at the larp in charge of coordinating the text larpers. As well as a better briefing of the text larpers.

I also found that the texts were unevenly distributed, some players had a lot going on there, others not so much. During play you’d find groups huddled around one player’s phone and what was going on there, it was a bit distracting to more immediate interactions. A minimum level for everyone should have been offered, rather than everyone having to set it up for themselves. Not everyone is privileged with a large network of eager larpers with phones. I did like that the organizers helped the few of us who didn’t have Sweden-friendly sim-cards with some that worked there.

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The main thing i realized was that this was a perfect example of a piece of advice that Vincent Baker gives in Apocalypse World: Create PC-NPC-PC triangles. My contacts were all shared with someone else and two of them had direct agendas to push me to play with someone at the larp. I shared two of my contacts with another player and the interaction through the intermediaries and sharing opinions was great. We’d set it up so we each had an ally and an enemy, but reversed. It worked well. The other part was getting pushed to play favourites with the new arrivals. I had very little reason to do so in the fiction, but having someone from outside forcing me to do so started up some beautiful play. So I heartily recommend making sure each text-larper goes in between two actual players in an interesting way. Otherwise you just have stuff that dead-ends out of the larp. Some might like that, but I think it is a waste.

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Of course there were many selfies taken as well. Photo by Clara Linderland.

Another fun advantage to having people on the phone during the larp is that you can take pictures and video during play. And it’s a lot less weird than having someone sneak around with a camera documenting people’s lives for no reason.

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The embarrassing but well documented “teabagging” incident. Photo by Hannah Merkelbach.

I am definitely putting this in my larp technique toolbox. It’ll be a lot of work to set up, but you could easily delegate it to a helper and I think it could add a lot to a game.

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