The project Between steel and glass has several stages and different events. Some of these are larps, live action roleplaying games. Just as with other medias — like film, book and theater — larps comes in many different shapes and genres. What they all have in common (and makes them different from most other performances) is that the performance is participatory and co-creational. Each participant takes on a character, a role, within a common frame. There’s no spectators. The frame has two parts:
- agreement on the structure and methods that will be used and
- a common understanding of the fiction, the setting of the story
In creating such a — sometimes chaotic — many chefed bliss, the organizers take on the task of setting the scene, deciding some aims, main story and creating a fictional frame. This is part of a design process. There are a lot of different opinions on how this design should be done and what its impact is. For some of that discussions we recommend Erik Fatlands thoughts on the matter.
The setting shapes what possible characters could come to life within it and the main story tells us what actions could be possible for them in this episode of their life. A setting that contains elves might allow players to play elves, in a story of a dwarf marriage, the elf character will have some restrictions and affordances that will be different than in a story about chasing after some orcs. Also, the players can expect very different experiences from going to these different larps.
Between steel and glass contains political larps. They aspire to explore and teach us something about our lives and in particular something about the present day western gender binary and about freedom or liberty. The fiction of the game is designed to highlight these themes, both through caricatures, rather than true enactments of our present-day society, and through allegory. All the made up words we use in our fiction are italicized the first time they appear. You can also find them in our glossary.
The fictional truths
The main sub theme we want to explore in the Steel setting is the very real and prevalent notions that not only are men and women (biologically) very different but women are also dependent on, and indeed prefer, men to protect them. Men, on their part, feel a sacred duty to protect women before their own well being, at least women they have a connection to. Other women — the ones unprotected by another man — are simply prey. These beliefs are unfortunately not fiction. Many people in our real world base at least some of their actions on notions like these.
The main sub theme we want to explore in the Glass setting is the slightly unfashionable, but still very persistent notions that men and women are (biologically) fundamentally different from each other and while men represent some form of order, it is always destructive and focused on war and competition: “boys will be boys”. Women on the other hand can represent the somewhat chaotic but always creative aspects of life, such as giving birth, nurturing and organizing: “if women ruled there would be no more wars”.
It seems to be a yet not found part of the womb that gives women this ability to nurture, love and get things done, some sort of a transmitter that connects all women in a special understanding. It also seems that the only reason women are not rulers over the universe is that they don’t care for it. It’s easier to just live with your man, let him do the stuff you could do better to humor him. Men, who des not have the good fortune of having such a supportive woman kan easily turn stray. “Men are animals” and women need to put on adequate clothing to not set them off (as trials where victims clothing are discussed as well as some discussion on burqa/niqãb shows).
We do not believe that any of the notions we’d like to understand better are ‘truths’ but rather that gender roles and norms are social constructs. Human culture change over time and place. (Regardless, we also believe that there’s a huge difference between natural and moral facts.) However, we’d like to highlight some of these notions because they essentially enforce and enable our worlds stereotypical views on gender. To do this we’ll, for the purpose of the game, assume that they are truths. What if, we ask, this really is the case? What kind of world could this lead to? What would it mean to relationships, everyday life and realist politics?
The themes of our search is not the theme or story in the games. On the contrary, these questionable notions are simply truths in our fiction and not really part of our story any more than the facts of gravity. Most of our characters will never have a discussion that even broaches on these themes, although we certainly hope our players will, both before and after the games. We ask our participants to suspend disbelief on these accounts during the game. Revolution is not a part of the theme in any of the settings.
The fictional frame — setting
Our larps are set in possible future versions of our own world. There’s no more elves or magical elements than you see around you now. We will visit two such possible futures, two settings, that both share the same apocalyptical origin. In our stories the world as we know it has collapsed: Multinationals and global companies have, for all intents and purposes, taken over world government. The nation states have, as a last attempt to bring order, launched a war to end all wars, only to bring further chaos and environmental disaster. The wars last a decade and not even then is ceasefire reached. It fades, more as a result of industrial breakdown and environmental disasters making it more and more difficult to live at all.
In the “Steel setting” the nations, governments of any kind, as well as the companies collapse and we are left with a dog eats dog society scavenging the ruins of our civilisations. Most of the horrors of disaster movies comes true.
In the “Glass setting” bi-oval reproduction (where only eggs are used to produce embryos) is successful leading to an international revolution “The liberation” that seeks to exterminate all men and thus end all fighting forever. This is the year L
In our particular part of the Steel world people have organized themselves into a gangs making claims on their particular bit of the vast decaying ruins. The first council is held and the leaders of the five gangs involved proclaim themselves Kings. The area is divided into turfs and fiefdoms, where the gangs can rule and raid supposedly in peace with each other.
In the Glass world women have created a well connected net of small production units. The only glitch is that it’s discovered that the children produced by two ova are sterile. The men who have managed to stay alive are granted amnesty or are captured. They are kept in special production units where women can go and be inseminated.
2125 CE – when the game start
In the Steel setting gangs has run out of new land to raid. Most of the people in the fiefdoms have been incorporated in the turfs. Women have become a currency that determines how much power the pater who owns them have. The more women you have the power to protect, the more powerful and ‘in’ with the king you are. The kings have special forces, the hirdu, deployed to protect the kernel, the home of the kings wives. To allow to marry is a favor only loyal subjects get. Over the last years competition has hardened again among the five. Two of the old king-families were overthrown and had other kings installed. An another king died six months ago leaving the kingdom to a very young son, the truce has become less and less stable with light skirmishing turning into guerrilla warfare at least once a month.
In the Glass setting society has stabilized. The new civilization and peace spreads as the Community expands and incorporates more family groups and units. The environment is still hostile but clean up is progressing. There is news of a farm that can produce healthy food outdoors. This opens up for discussions on wether producers too could be grown outdoors and maybe be held in reservations. Most of the older women who is strongly against and others argue that men should be made obsolete by new investments into science. The men are never asked and by now not considered human any more. Production units where the producers are kept acts as both vacation homes, zoos and insemination facilities. As animals aren’t held for entertainment due to the cruelty acts, producers can serve this purpose too.
You can read more on the fictional frame and the game worlds here.
The fictional here and now
Both of the settings will have the character of a typical “village larp”, meaning we’ll portray a small group of people living together and experiencing things that are more or less dramatic in their everyday lives. You can read about what people will be present in the two “villages”, the Kernel in the Steel setting and the Production unit of st Barbara in the Glass setting.
In the steel setting our story takes place underground, where inhabitants wait and prepare for Leifs homecoming from the council. Maybe he’s been made Capo, maybe there’s been a fight or worse, an ambush. The solders might be nervous, some are happy to not have the king here, all of them are preparing for the possibility of a fight. While the women do everything but wait for him, an entire society of only women and a world of opportunity. Well guarded, by each other and the guards outside, they know that each gaze, each movement has a meaning. Status is important. The one who can bare the Lords child is forever safe. The one that can give him pleasure for the nigh will be highly unsafe but well compensated for the moment.
In the glass setting we celebrate the Eve of declaration a celebration of the Declaration of Liberty. This means that the production unit of st Barbara will have extra many guests who either wants to get inseminated at this feast, for luck, or who just find it suitable to celebrate it so close to the producers. While the tea is being served in the parlor for the traders to tell their tales of distant settlements the producers either fear the extra excitement or revel in it to enjoy every glorious moment of attention for the moment it lasts.
Further (but not necessary to participate) material:
Representation of theme as one of the design choices: Talk at the 2014 Larpwrighters summer school by Emma Wieslander.
On affordances of characters (and other things): Talk at the 2014 Larpwrighters summer school by Erik Fatland. (Affordance is focused 29 min in).
On how clothing and reputation of the victim influence blaming the victim in rape cases: study from National Criminal Justice Reference Service (USA).
Dispelling some of the myths of virginity – Short booklet from the swedish organisation for sexuality education, RFSU – Vaginal corona. (Also available in swedish and Arabic).