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January 2018

The most common form of larp played in the world is the high fantasy campaign – the larp continues from one sequel to another in a fantasy world with a lot of combat (usually with latex or boffer weapons) and the characters have a challenge to overcome. The rules systems tend to be complex, there’s a leveling system, and the person/team/association/company that runs it also does the story. Some larps, however, are designed in a completely different way:

Limbo is a one-shot chamber larp written and published by Norwegian author Tor Kjetil Edland. Chamber larps are written to be compact and easily available for larp organizers who’d like to run those larps themselves (I’ve also written similar larps myself).

Different organizers tend to interpret these larps in somewhat different ways; they give each run a flavor of its own. On June 8, two runs happened on the different sides of the world: one in Highland Park, NY, and one in Croatia organized by me in my home, which was specially dressed up for the occasion. For a run earlier this year in Norway, an old tram was rented as a location backdrop.

Set dressing of the Croatian run of Limbo

Set dressing of the Croatian run of Limbo

The Croatian event was pretty much invite-only, so I knew all of the players. This was mainly because of space and comfort: With 17 people (10 female, 7 male) playing it, there was very little free space at my home, but it served to create a nice “crowded waiting room environment”. This run of Limbo was played in underwear for costuming (there will be no photos of this for obvious reasons), preferably white, to symbolize the vulnerability of the characters and to aid in certain discomforts and feelings of displacement and exposure felt by the players while the larp was going on. This was aided by the selection of music (classical), which was intentionally distracting and selected specifically to make the players as disturbed as possible (I used Mozart’s Dies Irae as opening and closing song). If I did a public run (which I plan to do some time in the future), I’d probably choose a different set dressing and clothing requirements, but these choices served their purpose.

Before the larp started, there was a short workshop where everyone worked their characters and shared some of the ideas about death they had – this took about an hour. The larp itself lasted for 2 hours, followed by a debriefing which took about an hour and a half where people shared how they decided some things about their characters, what happened to them during this larp, and where they ended up.

Post-larp debriefing session with players

One of the very powerful things about this larp was learning all the ways in which people faced death. Some were terrified by it. Some were more accepting. Some had already faced it in their lives, and weren’t shaken as much by the experience. Some people explored alternatives and various beliefs. It was as deep as the players allowed it to be, which varied a lot. In the end it was very educational.

All in all it was a very rewarding experience to run Limbo, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you attend a run if you have the opportunity – or do one yourself. If you’re interested in reading through or running Limbo, you can download it here. If you’re interested in chamber larps but are looking for something different, you can download similar larps from this website.

How would you interpret it? How would you represent Limbo? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ivan Žalac

Ivan started larping in 2001. He runs an English-language blog "Diary of a Croatian larper", and he's a guy behind several Croatian larps. Ivan is a member of the larp association "Lateralus".

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