A larp will typically have one setting, or world, in which the story is set. Between steel and glass has two. It is also set up as a two part game with a break in-between. The beginning of the story is the same in both worlds. There’s war, albeit not necessarily an old world one, the nation states collapse and there is terror and natural disaster. You can read more on our fiction and the timeline of the fictional frame here. All the special words in italic can be found in our glossary.
The steel setting
In what have become of society in our particular bit of the Steel setting gangs rule the never ending urban decay. Each king has a tribe of soldiers. The other humans are either his or someone else’s properties. The most valuable are the wives of the king but there’s also other men living in his fiefdom, female slaves to wives or the gelled, no longer men but thereby suitable as slaves in any context.
The wives of the king are held separate in the Kernel where no other man than him are to even glimpse them. Our game takes part in such a Kernel, The one belonging to Leif, King of the Old Brewery gang. The year is 2125, but most humans doesn’t know that. It’s mostly the Kings that keep count as the council is held every five years. A lot has happened since the last one. Leif has been king for 14 years, following the death of his father, William. For most people here that means that its year 14 now. That’s how time is counted.
The soldiers are generally of the same or younger generations as Leif but one or two old-timers remain in the hirdu, the guard of the king. You don’t grow very old in the service. Most are granted pater and get to marry, receiving a small household of their own to protect and keeping armed enough. Some die. More and more as skirmishing has been more of a problem. In some areas none even knows where the boarders are anymore and in-between ours and Yosufs, successor of Israel, and King of the Tanglewood gangs turfs. Yousuf is very young, only 11. His father died six months ago, creating great unrest in his turf and surrounding fiefdoms.
Right now Leif is away with most of his fighting hirdu to take part in the Council. Some of the hirdu guarding the Kernel fear that he won’t come back. This years Council is hosted by King Brian, of the Green Rabbits gang. They replaced the old king there (Who’s name are now forbidden to remember) and that gang the Great snake’s sisters. This was less than two years ago now. Brian has promised that he won’t stop there. If Yosufs turf would had bordered to his, it had surely been overtaken by now. Luckily it doesn’t. But neither does ours and that means that Leif and Brian has no diplomatic relationship to speak of.
Most of the wives and their sobarica (slaves) as well as some of the younger soldiers might not even know the names of all the gangs. If they do, it’s because of gossip or because they where not always part of the Old Brewery estate. Mostly new wives arrive in spring after the fair shift of the coronation day. This year two wives left to be married to newlymade paters. Some with that more had been given away. The kernel has been a little bit overcrowded since Leifs successful campaigns against Jamil, the new king in the Bloody Slibas gang, who overtook it a year ago but levt the turf unstable for a while. Five new wives and their sobarica came almost at the same time! Leif is indeed mighty!
When he left for the council he took two wives with him, both for pleasure but also to trade. One of the sobarica that followed were the storyteller of the Kernel and this has caused more grief than to get rid of some competition did. Who will be the new storyteller isn’t decided yet. None of the women hopes that Leif has traded the ones that left, Sofia an Jel’an, for new wives. The competition is tough as it is and it’s a fierce battle among the wives to keep sumptuous enough to be of comfort and pleasure, to show of wide hips that could easily carry strong sons to the King and of course to further themselves in esthetic writing and other skills that can prove so valuable that one is called to his chambers more often.
To give birth to a healthy son grants the mother a possibility to live more permanently outside the kernel while nursing. A special room is prepared for her. After the nursing period she and the son moves back but when he starts to walk he spends more and more time with the soldiers. At four he moves to the gelded ut gets to visit his mother at least until he shows signs of early puberty. Then, in a rite, he says farewell and they then won’t meet again if he isn’t the next king. In that case she’ll have to move (if she hasn’t already been married to a particularly important pater already). During the time she lives on in the Kernel she’ll be granted some special favors and she’s guaranteed a good marriage. Because of this pregnancies are guarded jealously. There’s many stories about forced abortions and poison given to those who others suspect to be pregnant. Some fear having to leave the others so much that they might seek to avoid pregnancy themselves. Knowledge of contraceptives are low and any kind of herbs or other medicin has to be traded for with the gelded.
The gelded are castrated as young boys. Not all survive. Those that does gets a very special place within the kings households. Most of them are captured from rivaling gangs as young boys. They are slaves but still not servants to anyone but the king and even to him they sometimes rather have the capacity of advisors. They are the messengers that can move in all circles, above and in the Kernel. Some are lovers to the soldiers or even, in much secrecy, allowed to please the wives or sobarica. Some become key players in the diplomacy between turfs, gangs or even different groups within the fiefdom.
Most of the soldiers can barely remember their families. Most are raised in the barracks of the kings troops from an early age. Most come from Leifs turf or fiefdom and most are volunteered by their parents. Some come from the other turfs, but were taken in as small boys. Some here in the Kernel come from The Long points gangs fiefdom where Leif was raiding a lot after his coronation. Now there’s piece between the two gangs and Tristan of the Long points are one of Leifs strongest allies.
Largely the soldiers encounters with women has been violent as part of raiding or terrorizing neighbors. Affection, love and devotion are something you, as a soldier show towards your fellow soldiers and your king. Although it’s considered a sign of weakness to allow someone to penetrate you it’s not uncommon that adolescents are encouraged to service their older peers. Mostly the relationships aren’t sexual, but rather affectionate and physical in many different ways. Regardless if through wrestling, holding hands or by stroking each other it’s generally accepted and appreciated. The concept of homosexuality doesn’t exist.
All soldiers in the hirdu, the kings special forces, are more or less adult. They are his bodyguard and guardians of the Kernel, his primary home and where the wives are. Leifs Kernel is underground and safely guarded both on the surface and down in the heart of it.
He saved me
There is no other way to put it. He saved me, so I owe him my life. He owns me, not only in the figurative speech of course, and even if there was a way to repay… I don’t think that I’d want to be free. Not that I wouldn’t repay and save him in return, I’d just never want to go back out there.
Sure, not all ways are bad. Serena, who was my best friend, or more like a big sister, when I came here, is out now. When I see her she seems to be doing well. She has three kids now and one of them is named after me, for luck!
I was truly lucky. My father was a soldier for another king, one of those we don’t call by name any more. As that king was disgraced and fell all his loyals and possessions fell with him. Most of the unhirdu pledged a new allegiance to his replacer, but as my father was killed, before, in a skirmish with my new king, there was no one there to do that for us. When my mother found out she couldn’t bare it. Maybe she thought that I’d be safe with my brother but that was a desperate hope. When she died I was simply a pray. That I hadn’t even come of age mattered little. I was part of the loot, something for my new kings soldiers to play with to celebrate their victory.
Many lives were taken and even more were ruined. Quite a few young women were rounded up to be sold, children were killed and there I was, left in the middle of it all. So, he saved me. For some reason he took pity on me, or maybe he just needed me more than his men. They had more than plenty to choose from already.
I remember how I, as a child, used to play and hope to one day marry a soldier or even a king and carry his children. Today, as I said, I’m not sure that I would, even given the chance. I am a slave to my kings wives and I am safe. No man has ever touched me and although I have seen that some of us who are given to his soldiers seem to enjoy it I don’t think I’d ever. I’m not like Serena.
In this house I am free. My life was spared and I’d like to think it was for a reason. From Rau, one of the gelled, who I knew from before, and like me were spared, I sometimes get news about my brother. He is now a hirdu and I hear that he’s doing well. I haven’t seen him. I wonder if I would still remember his face…
There are five gangs that rule this bit of the world. Their main territory is the turf and each also have a bit of less guarded, more rural, territory. All in all the domain they control is the fiefdom.
Each gang is ruled by a king, the title is generally inherited and it’s been the same five gangs – with one important exception – since the start of the kings era. These five meet every five years at councils. Inbetween councils, one is the capo.
Each king has soldiers. The special forces closest to him is the hirdu. They also guard the Kernel, his base, where his wives, and their slaves sobarica, are held. The older soldiers and other men can get permission to marry. They then become pater and swear new allegiance to the king.
The five current kings and gangs are:
Leif of the Old Brewery – Our King
His neighbors are: Jamil, the new king in the Bloody Slibas gang
Yosufs, successor of Israel, and King of the Tanglewood gangs turfs who’s only 11.
The others are: Tristan of the Long Points – allied Brian of the Green Rabbits (who replaced the original the Great Snake’s Sister gang) now hosting the Council instead of his predecessor.
The glass setting
In the other of our worlds, the Glass setting, the war got a totally different ending. Women rule a structured but not urban society of production enclaves. Most men have been killed off but some remain, caged, for their sperm and as exotic animals. We visit one of these production units, The reproduction unit of st Barbara, either as the product, the buyers, tourists or the people who live there such as doctors, guest house hostesses or handlers.
Units like st Barbara serve several purposes. Formost it’s a very safe cage for some of the preserved men, the producers, as they are called. What they produce is biomass, or as we would say, sperm. The st Barbara production unit has a guesthouse run by the hostess Silvia and her partner Lee. The guests are people who are either tourists who have come to see the livestock, traders or groups where one or more wish to be inseminated. A major part of societal economy consists in trade and while conducting their business the traders stay at the guesthouse as well.
Traders usually trade other products for the product of st Barbara but not all are here to trade. The guesthouse is a well used stop on the perilous routs between different enclaves. The ones who are on the road see in as a particularly good alternative for the big feast. It’s a home away from home. Traders are usually considered rough and a bit unsophisticated. It’s considered ‘unusual’ and not held in particularly high esteem in the community.
After the liberation the efficiency rose to a degree where only about half the people needed to work. There would simply not be things to do for everyone at the same time. Some stay home full time in social work, as it’s called, and has never worked in production. Others alternate with other people. Mostly it’s those who have small daughters who are more prone to do social work.
The group of people with social work in the unit are socially very strong. They have very few things they have to do as all children are considered everyones the people take turns and help out. Their days are generally filled with literature, art, social experiments and work out. They are also known to call for one or two of the privileged producers to entertain them from time to time in so called private viewings. One of the most important functions they perform each day is the afternoon tea when everyone get together. When there’s traders in the unit this is a time for news and updates on the rest of the community as well.
The unit has its own medical laboratory where the doctor Mariad and two assistants work. Their job is both to secure the physical state of the producers and to administrate the medical service for the visiting ovalators. The assistants main responsibilities consist of meeting the quality requirements of the product and make certain that only XX-products reach the fertility market. The residue (XY- XXY- and XYY-products) is mainly used for research but also for producing stem-cell medicine, new stock etc. It is therefore sent on to bio facilities and to the correctment units.
Crime rate is very low and violent crimes has more or less disappeared since the Liberation. Crimes like theft, and different betrayals still exist. There are no prisons but those who commit the worst crimes can have to serve community time. To have to carry a male fetus to term is the worst of all. To mix with male energies are always considered difficult and a little bit dangerous.
The extraction workers who work directly with the producers are part of a rotating system that ensures that all the production chores are carried out. The physical and psychological needs of the producers have to be met and only the bravest dare to take on the demanding work required in this kind of production. The unit is supervised by a director that handles both economical other administrative chores. The director has been politically assigned.
The director Sirah, the doctor Mariad and the hostesses Lee and Silvia have planned the celebration together and the only work that will be done will be the interviews with buyers and the necessary handling activities.
There’s a hierarchy among the males where some are entrusted with assignments within the group. The only formal position in the group is the two bosses, Alfa and Beta. They are in the difficult position to both act as spokesmen for the producers and to be held responsible for their piers behavior. There is also a physical instructor, Kappa, that also has the duty to inform the keepers on a more informal level. To have responsibility has its advantages, like not always being confined to the cage. Not everyone strives to be a boss though since it’s to a certain degree less safe. To be allowed out of the cage is, for instance, filled with certain expectations too.
To create a “natural” group among the producers the keepers use structures of group punishments as well as singling out individuals to be favourites and some to be picked at. The keepers are constantly feeding theses roles within the community by affirmation and scoldings. The groups are constantly rebuilt by transferring males between units, terminating old ones and introducing newer stock. Producers are kept in hatchling units until they come of productional age (as soon after puberty as they are expected to survive in a production cage).
The producers exist only to produce sperm. They are nourished, work out and are kept as calm as possible with their biology. They are expected to deliver one to three times per two-day period. The ones that don’t deliver by themselves are extracted mechanically. There’s a strong group pressure to deliver as it makes living conditions more pleasant for all. Most of them are happy and complaisant, and because they’ve never known anything else it’s hard for them to imagine a better world for themselves. As the celebration of the Liberation draws near the producers might be a little more restless, after all there’s more people moving about. The ones who knows anything about it might, them too, want to celebrate their luck of not having to be victims of their instincts to fight and wage war – but rather to be protected and taken care of.
From the pamphlet of st Barbara
There was a time, believe it or not, when men was thought of as people and not only did they share the world with us, they ruled it. This was of course before the liberation and in year L our ansisters rose up against that malfunction of the world and changed it. Back then there was what they called “war”, a social structure, that allowed for certain humans (men) to kill other humans (according to the rules, other men that took part in the war, but in most cases the victims were non-participants and the casualties were mostly considered “justified” since the war were thought of as a super structure, superior to other social structures).
Because of aggressions and killings superiority all other structures soon became useless once the plague of the wars had spread around the world. So chaos and disorder ruled. Men and their natural impulses of destructiveness were about to end all possibilities of life on this planet. People were called women, meaning not-men and were kept subjugated and oppressed through a complex system of discrimination called patriarchy. Through this their natural life giving abilities to form society was diminished and people were kept separate with a man to guard and oppress each and every one of them in a marital structure consisting of only one person and a man. She then was charged with the task to bring up children in an environment almost totally void of co-parents.
People that didn’t conform into the patriarchal mould were oppressed even harder and as long as the non-war structures were in place they were also punished accordingly. Therefore, in a strange way, it was the opportunities that arose through the war-related collapse of the oppressive structures that led to the Liberation.
The Liberation itself was not, as some historians claims, the result of an isolated movement, but rather a mass revolution cleverly orchestrated and organized through world wide networks. It was not only preceded and made possible though the collapse of male failure. It was a direct consequence of the scientific achievements of that otherwise so dysfunctional rule. The bipolar biology of mammals was until the breakthrough of bioval conception a reproductional issue that made both sexes imperative to the existence of humans.
The consequent mental space that was created through the discovery that only people were needed to produce more people, not a specific group, was in fact the spark that set it all of. Men were made obsolete! Everywhere the so-called women celebrated the takeover of laboratories by turning on their former oppressors and killing them. This was another kind of war, the only one the men had neither started nor foreseen.
Their whole system where dependent of the altruistic sacrifices of people and once this aid was cancelled the system fell. The first wave went quickly. The old and middle-aged men were wiped out almost completely within a two-year period. Only some patriarchal strongholds like the USA and the isolated areas of Switzerland (where they actually managed to fortify for almost a decade) remained.
What proved more difficult were the annulations of those male pups that had parents still alive. A vital part of the patriarchal enslavement had been to lead people to believe that they could only be whole though two things, the love of males and by bringing up children, including male pups. It was thus, through the exploitation of the very loving and life affirming nature of people, the oppression was enforced. Still, it was the very inability to harm ones male offspring, which in the end saved us.
Less than twenty years after the Liberation the bioval reproduction method proved to be disastrous. Although sufficient as a revolutionary spark, it was not at all as efficient for reproduction as hoped. In 21 aL. scientists discovered the MNA, a counter-part to the mitochondrial RNA and a result of one of the mutations in the dysfunctional Y-chromosome. The MNA is present only in the membrane of the sperm and is dependent on male DNA substance. Unfortunately, people born without this are sterile and their ova are unable to perform the initial cell division. The enigma of the MNA remains a puzzle to solve and quite possibly it’s the major challenge of our biologists to this day.
Following the discovery that men were still needed came a turbulent time. Which men should be preserved, how many were really needed and most importantly how should they be contained? Due mainly to the kind nature of people, experiments with keeping them more or less sedated and industrially extracted proved to be hazardous for the workers and also reduced the quality of the product. Some males were kept as pleasure and reproductional toys. Some were saved by their influential parents.
Once the liberation generation had died out the problem could be looked upon from a more rational basis. The current system of production units that were formed in about year 50 al solved all this as the sperm came to be seen more and more as the product it is. Soon pedigree charts could be made up on a worldwide basis and the product was exchanged by traders in order to supply people with correct material preventing inbreed. Since this masterfully crafted system was finalized, only very small changes have been made.
Today we see efficiency rates that require us to keep as few as ten males per thousand persons. The st Barbara Reproduction Unit was started in 27 aL and is one was one of the first to combine the extraction with the parental clinic. This of course enables the kind of tourism and on the spot choosing that many parents prefer. The facilities was at first built to contain ten males but was expanded to a population of fifteen and later twenty when the popularity of choosing grew. The facility has been slightly renovated to accommodate the comfort required for visitors. Although completely modern we have strived to keep some of that older charm, reminding everyone that it is very dangerous goods we handle.