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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 143 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [freeform scenario] Under sommaren (During the Summer)  (Read 4136 times)
Sven
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« on: November 08, 2007, 03:46:48 PM »

[Unnecessary intro]<friform scenario.

So it was a rough day. But our session was a lot of fun and in addition interesting. We played a scenario called Under sommaren (During the Summer). It is written by Gustaf Edman, member of the illustrious friform group ASF. Most readers of this forum won't be too familiar with this form of play, even if there have been more about similar things on these pages as of late. The curious can read this thread on the Danish freeform tradition, which will give also a good idea about the typical state of Swedish freeform. Recently there have been writings here and other 'indie' forums on Jeepform, which is a subset of Swedish freeform (at least culturally). I should also note that a couple of techniques that we used, not existing in the original game, were inspired by Jeep people.

[/Unnecessary intro]


I have GM:ed Under sommaren once before. That time I kept as close as I could to the written game. This time we made some small changes in the form, we also added one player, but all the original characters remained the same. I will first tell you shortly about the game as written and then I will talk about the changes we made and then you get the full monty.

The game as written

The game is written for five players, (which in our lingo would be four players, since the GM normally is not seen as a player, but I will use Forge lingo. Mainly because I think it makes more sense, actually.). including one GM. The GM has one character to play during a short part of the game, while the other players play only one character through all the game. The story is about five people who spent these wonderful summers together in their youth. When the game begins they have all moved away from their small home city to different larger cities . All but one. The game starts a few day after the four exiles have learned that their fifth old friend has died. They return to their hometown to visit his funeral. The game describes in about eight scenes their whole visit (about 24 hours) in the village. During this time they discover that he committed suicide. There is almost no plot, the game is almost fully about their discussions about their memories, guilt, feelings and the problems of treating all this. It should be mentioned that the game is propelled mainly by the character descriptions which quite clearly defines the character and what will happen during the game (although this is usually invisible to most players when reading only one character). The GM has usually very little work to do, mostly to frame scenes, break scenes and give some impulses when the game gets slow. The game is supposed to be played 'live'. If the player are sitting also his character is sitting and so on.

What we changed

The game as written is good, but it can really get a bit too slow (at least from the eyes of the watching GM...). Also reflection and guilt can be animated. Firstly we cleaved the scene in two. One represented present time and in one only flashbacks, scenes from past times could be played. We said that these flashbacks all should be from two specific time periods. Flashbacks could be started by any player and that player could drag other players into the flashback scene, either as their own roles or as some other role that was needed at that moment. We also said that a scene could be scene as representing that persons perspective and that another player could redo a scene if she wanted.

Secondly, we introduced a sixth player to the game. In the flashback zone he played the dead character, Mikael. In the now zone he was a second GM, that could do bird in the ear and so on. He could at times also represent Mikael in the now zone, which was perhaps a little bit confusing for the players, but not much.

The players

My old friend Fredrik (who moves to China tomorrow!) played Mikael/second GM. I didn't know Martin, Jenny, Johan and Stina on beforehand, although I had shortly met two of them at larps earlier. But the latter four make up an old friend group and I think this fact somewhat affected the game. Their present friendship resonated somehow with the somewhat lost friendship of the characters.

The game, as played

Generally the game was successful. It took about two hours of active play. I think the flashbacks really added to the game. They made it much more fun, but also allowed for more story to be told. While there were a couple of boring flashbacks, I mainly remember the successful ones. It is a powerful technique, when left open to the players. At one point the four grown up characters are looking for a track in the forrest, their track in their forrest, as it were. They quarrel and the mood is low. Then Johan jumps into the flashback zone, show that he is running and screams happily "You can't catch me, you can't catch me.". All other players join in the game of past. It is very simple, but the contrast you get through this make you really feel the characters and the change that the years have force onto them i a way that might be hard to find in table top gaming or traditional larp. Several things that I had stated about the flashbacks before the game didn't feel appropriate while playing and were dropped. Flashbacks were told from all periods, not only from the ones I had said originally. I had thought that this would be confusing, but that was just wrong. The idea of player ownership of flashback scenes also didn't feel relevant and there was no replaying. And really, I don't think replaying and editing of scenes really has a function in this scenario. There is no real fight of what is the truth here.

If this version is ever to be played again one should probably look over the Second GM role, since he didn't have much to do between flashbacks. But generally it worked very good. But I really think it was appreciated by all players and it really increased the emotional charge of some scenes. The presence of Mikael as a physical person geared the subject of the game slightly towards that and there were a few other interpersonal issues which were never addressed in the game.

It was my first role playing session of any kind except for on-line role playing (I have played some table top and free form over chat and phone) for over two years. And now I want more again!
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Emily Care
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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2007, 10:52:31 AM »

What a sweet game to come back into face to face role playing with, Sven. Great write up.

It sounds like the flashbacks changed the game considerably, and for the better. You say it speeded things up, did that make for shorter play, or was it a matter of getting things to a greater level of intensity more quickly?  And to clarify, you made zones on the floor that corresponded to different time periods, right? Did you end up using them, or was it enough to know that you could do flashbacks.  Did you do flash forwards too?

Quote
There is almost no plot, the game is almost fully about their discussions about their memories, guilt, feelings and the problems of treating all this. It should be mentioned that the game is propelled mainly by the character descriptions which quite clearly defines the character and what will happen during the game (although this is usually invisible to most players when reading only one character).
This is an interesting aspect of scenario and various types of structured freeform play. It makes the writing, and interpreting for play very different. Do you have any reflections on the relative strengths and weaknesses of this type of presentation? It's something I'm thinking about a lot right now.

Thanks for sharing this.

best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Sven
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2007, 03:36:15 AM »

Thanks for the questions, Emily.

It sounds like the flashbacks changed the game considerably, and for the better. You say it speeded things up, did that make for shorter play, or was it a matter of getting things to a greater level of intensity more quickly?

I don't really think it made the game shorter, I actually think this game was a bit longer than last time I played. But it is inherent in this game a risk of getting scenes that are a bit too slow, where everyone knows that there are issues to resolve, but everyone is waiting for the right moment to push there. With the flashbacks you can much easier push forward when you need to. The game should be played slow, though, but there are limits.

  And to clarify, you made zones on the floor that corresponded to different time periods, right? Did you end up using them, or was it enough to know that you could do flashbacks.  Did you do flash forwards too?

We used them all the time and kept the lines farily strictly. We had almost no off game communication during the game. I dragged sometimes people into the flashback zone, I sometimes told them them to go in there in one word, framed a scene in one or two sentances and then they played. (All of the players are rather experienced larpers and everyone except me visited the 'Jeepish' larp A dinner with the family, that U think you are familiar with).

The absolute best way of using flashbacks might be like the one I described above. Here one of the players in the middle of ordinary play jumped into the flashback zone and the others all joined him. After a couple of minutes they jumped out and continued the game quite exactly where they had been before. Sometimes you want to cut to a new scene after a flashback, it depends on the flow of the story.

One point: As a GM you get incredibly happy when the other players by themselves create new scenes and all join into them together. That's where it should be, traditional (Swedish) freeform is often very bad on the collaboration part.I guess it's mended now!

We used no flash forwards. There would have been room for it, but I felt like it wouldn't have helped the story. I thought about, but I actually think it might have made it worse. I believe that the players would have felt the urge to play forward scenes where the characters all bonded and were happy again and that would have made the present game a bit too easy and removed some of the friction.

Quote
Quote
There is almost no plot, the game is almost fully about their discussions about their memories, guilt, feelings and the problems of treating all this. It should be mentioned that the game is propelled mainly by the character descriptions which quite clearly defines the character and what will happen during the game (although this is usually invisible to most players when reading only one character).


This is an interesting aspect of scenario and various types of structured freeform play. It makes the writing, and interpreting for play very different. Do you have any reflections on the relative strengths and weaknesses of this type of presentation? It's something I'm thinking about a lot right now.

I can say I do like it a lot, I'm really into character driven plots. Because you can get a really coherent and partly prescripted story, which - in the ideal case, is rather invisible to the player before the game and you don't need to push it onto the player during the game.

One obvious drawback is that you don't give much freedom to you player about the character and the player might feel to occupied with trying to push into the game all the pieces of the character. But if well done it would leave the player with a rather strict framework for what to do as a character, but it is important to leave a lot of freedom in how to do things.

I also want to add that I don't really have that much experience with these types of games, although I might come off as I did. I'm also exploring all this stuff a the proverbial kid in the candy store!

I am right now working on setting a date with the same players (except the guy who moved to Chine yesterday) for a game of Doubt. I'm looking forward to that.
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Jonas Ferry
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2007, 09:33:08 AM »

Hello Sven,

Thanks for the report.

In reference to Doubt, Emily discussed "playing close to home", meaning the players deliberately bring parts of themselves into the character. I don't want to confuse ASF with the Jeep, they're very different, but did anything like that happen in your game? Did you discuss the game in relation to you as people before or after play?

Also did you, Sven, learn anything new regarding the game's theme this time? The scenario seems like a wonderful tool to examine your own view on suicide and how to handle it. But are the players (and game master) free to make personal statements or are they supposed to focus on acting out the pre-written characters?

- Jonas
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One Can Have Her, film noir roleplaying in black and white.

Check out the indie RPG category at Wikipedia.
Sven
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2007, 11:01:41 AM »

Quote
In reference to Doubt, Emily discussed "playing close to home", meaning the players deliberately bring parts of themselves into the character. I don't want to confuse ASF with the Jeep, they're very different, but did anything like that happen in your game? Did you discuss the game in relation to you as people before or after play?

We didn't deliberately bring bring ourselves into the game, as you can (to some extent should) in Doubt. As a briefly mentioned above the four players who played the original characters constitute an old group of friends and I understood that they all felt the parallels between themselves and the characters, especially in the way of 'If we would ever loose contact, what if seven years later this how estranged we would be towards each other.'

You always bring yourself to the game and the issues in this game certainly of the type that at some level hits close to home for anyone, but as far as I know there were no explicit 'personal' play in this sense. After the game we had a brief discussion on funerals. Some people didn't feel that funerals helped them in any way and even tried to avoid them, while I had a very good experience of a funeral last spring that really helped me.

Quote
Also did you, Sven, learn anything new regarding the game's theme this time? The scenario seems like a wonderful tool to examine your own view on suicide and how to handle it. But are the players (and game master) free to make personal statements or are they supposed to focus on acting out the pre-written characters?

Well, I guess I did learn something, although it's too personal for me to write about here. But, yeah. I know the characters in the game very well by now, having readit a lot of time and GM it twice and working with tweaking the game and so on and it's realy interesting to see played what others see in the same characters. It learned me stuff about myself. That's not why I play in the first place, but it's a golden bonus.

The game is clearly written as to not allow personal statements during the game. In Doubt the GM is supposed to have personal monologues, which really are about him. You could bring this into Under Sommaren, for sure! I just never thought about it. It's not a techniqe that I feel comfortable with, but I guess I will have to learn...

Thanks for the questions, Jonas. See you over Spione next time!
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Jonas Ferry
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2007, 11:31:40 AM »

Thanks for your answers, Sven. I have a couple more questions if you don't mind.

How close do you get to the actual funeral in the scenario? Is there a scene in church or immediately after? You say you discussed funerals afterwards, and I'm wondering if it was triggered by something that happened or didn't happen in game.

Also, how do you handle other people, like relatives? Is it possible to meet the dead man's parents in game? Or would that draw focus away from the group of friends?

- Jonas
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One Can Have Her, film noir roleplaying in black and white.

Check out the indie RPG category at Wikipedia.
Sven
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2007, 11:52:55 AM »

Jonas,

For the present-time-scenes I kept it very close to the original. The original game has eight scenes and I framed those eight pretty straight. I was prepared to play other scenes, but the players just didn't do much unexpected things in the present day time flow, so there was no need.

In these pre scripted scenes there is one that starts right at the end of the funeral, right after the priest has finished speaking. They almost don't play in the church. I describe them being there and say they walk out and then they have a discussion on the church stairs. There is also only one real NPC, which is Mikael's (the dead guy) mother. I played her in two scenes. Otherwise we didn't have any relatives. And I think the point is that except for his mother you don't want anyone else, because that would divert your attention from the main issues. I think it would suffer from more people. In the flashbacks we put in other people for extremely short visits. It came naturally.

I haven't thought about this before, but it's quite interesting. In the flashback scenes the wife of the character Nils appeared a few times, but always 'out of the picture'. That is, Nils's player was standing in the flashback zone (in two different scenes) and screamed to his wife who answered (voiced by a random other player, not by me) with screaming from outside the flashback zone. It was obvious that she was 'out of sight', only her voice could be heard.

Luckily you read Swedish, so you can actually read the scenario. It's short. You should. You will.
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Sven
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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2007, 05:27:20 AM »

I should also add that the author of the original scenario is Gustav Edman. I misspelled his name earlier.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2007, 04:07:12 PM »

No english language version, huh?

*sigh*
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Sven
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2007, 07:20:21 AM »

There is none, as far as I know. I could ask the guys, to make sure.
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