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Manifesto 2013: October Revolution

11-03-2015

Manifesto 2013 - highlights

- We created Terre Spezzate seven years ago because we wanted to improve on the typical live-action roleplaying experience we could find in Italy at the time. We sat down and set ourselves a few goals. Some of them we attained, some not. 
-We were successful in creating engaging events and we did our part in setting a higher standard for live-action roleplaying in Italy. Especially when it comes to the quality of the costumes, props and set design, to the realism, consistency and complexity of the storylines, to the dedication of the players, we are satisfied with what we have done.
- However, we were wrong in focusing our attention on competition. We wanted to explore character conflict and crisis, but we ended up with too much player vs player competition. While not completely eliminating it, this was clearly limiting character immersion and interpretation.
- Once again, we want to do something new, and beautiful, and raise the bar once more. We want real, immersive games that shed once and for all the vestiges of tabletop and wargame influences and finally reach their own maturity and dignity. We want to explore themes that are more adult and more interesting. We want to put the characters, their aspirations and their weaknesses at the centre of the story.
- In order to reach our new goals, a revolution will take place after this summer. We will experiment in organizing new, different events. We’ll have new rulesets. We’ll have one-shot events. While the stories will still take place in the Terre Spezzate universe, all characters, rules, and the very structure of the events will change. 
- We will do our best to offer you a new experience, one deep and engaging, something you cannot find in any of the other Italian larping groups. Stay with us and you (probably) won’t be disappointed!

End of the short story: keep on reading if you would like to know more!

 

BRIEF EXCURSUS ON THE LAST 7 YEARS

Terre Spezzate hosted its first event on the 5th of March, 2006. It was a small beta game of about thirty player characters, 4 NPCs and the organizers.

It was a new project and we as the founders had a very clear picture in mind of the kind of larp we were aiming for, and why. We shared our ideas with our potential players in the clearest way we could find: a Manifesto. This is not a common practice in Italy, almost as if having an artistic vision has nothing to do with a LARP experience.    

After organising and playing monthly events for seven years in an ongoing game campaign, it was time to ask ourselves what goals we reached, what parts of our vision became real, and where we failed. There can't be clear cut answers to these questions, and each organiser will tell a slightly different story, but we can try to summarise some important points here:

We wanted to to have better visuals and better production values, and we wanted to eliminate, as much as possible, every anachronistic or clearly out of game element from the play area. To do this we went out of our way in order to have interesting locations and beautiful costumes, clearly recognisable fantasy monsters, in game food and meals. We abolished the practice of having game masters going around with a finger pointing up to signify they were not there. In other words, we were tired of all the tokens and "symbols" that were so common at that time: for example a bi-colour tunic was used to represent an orc's armour, a modern tent was a mediaeval pavilion and game masters instructed the players to imagine cities and cathedrals where they could actually only see a wood. We wanted to get rid of all that, and dreamt of complete realism and 360° immersion. But while we took care of every visual aspect of the game (flute and hurdy-gurdy instead of a radio, a mediaeval pavilion made of wood and canvas instead of a plastic tent, a soup of beef and turnips instead of a ham sandwich), we were still playing with an extremely symbolic rule set, with "calls" that used to make a fight a cacophony of "DOUBLE!", " FEAR!", and "STRIKE DOWN!" instead of war cries and "die, you villain!"

We wanted to change the paradigm of having the players united against the game masters and the setting (Player vs Environment). We wanted an unpredictable, shared storyline: when your enemy is always there, in game, tension and conflict become main sources of play, even without the intervention of the game masters. We thought that having characters challenge each other (with some simple tweaks here and there to avoid real life tension between the players) was a good, innovative way to stimulate good play among the participants. We certainly failed here. Tension and conflict are the main sources of play in Terre Spezzate, but in the wrong, uninspiring way of drawing players' efforts towards "winning" like in a team sport game instead of focusing on character immersion, which should be the universal trait of all role-playing games.

 

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Regardless of our original intentions, during the years this challenge among the players became the norm, to the point of becoming an almost sports-like activity. Character immersion and interpretation are often overlooked. While sometimes they are touted as the most important part of larping, they always ended up as just the icing on top of a cake that is still about "winning" the game. Many of the most influential and looked up to players are very competitive, or at least partially so. This has lead many inexperienced players to focus on competition, and disregard roleplay. In the worst cases some of them cheated and then whole scenes were ruined because of arguments about the rules of the game.

When it comes to us organisers, on one hand we tried to encourage character immersion and interpretation, and on the other hand we had taken for granted the utmost importance of team balance. But we have realised that this is important only in a game centred around competition between different groups. We limited our creativity in the games we wrote out of fear of giving a disadvantage to one of the "teams" in play. Because of that we lost many opportunities to introduce game dynamics, storylines or NPCs that would have helped the players tell more interesting stories.

To sum it up, compared to our original intentions we drifted towards games that have "competition" as the main source of play. This is mainly our fault: we didn't know about the side effects and about the possible alternatives to competition, eventually we ended up presenting games that didn't reflect what we actually wanted to achieve.

 

OUR GOALS TODAY

Our first manifesto was dictated by our need to break free from a gaming approach that we felt was limited, confusing, and quite inelegant. Compared to what we were used to, we introduced many innovations and we like to think that we managed to create a well received campaign and organised several good events.

After much self analysis and self-criticism, this manifesto is dictated by the need to grow out of what we've done in the past few years. Just as we were 7 years ago, we're aiming for a game that is more mature, more immersive, more engaging, and more significant. We want to change course, and we'll be bolder than last time. Here are our new, ambitious goals: 

- We want to organise events that can be equally enjoyed by both veteran players and complete neophytes. It currently takes too long, even for a dedicated and motivated newcomer, to get into the thick of the game. Quite a few game events are needed to become familiar with the rules and the previous story, and quite frankly it's all just too complicated. We want characters, all of them, to be at the centre of the story. 

- We want to give up competition as a game dynamic. Just like any good narrative, conflict has to exist among the single characters. They may have personal objectives, opinions, or even missions that are theirs and theirs alone. Whether it's a single event or a campaign, all characters must be linked together and the focus must be on their personal stories. All characters in an event have to be "real" and "alive", with no distinction between PC and NPC. Every event will present a specific theme and all characters will explore it, live it, and draw different conclusions from it.

- We want to simplify our ruleset to the point of making it transparent. The old approach "describes" the game world and the characters: only what is described in the rules as having some sort of "power" or "effect" is relevant to the game. This clashes both with our desire to make any event immediately accessible to new players and the necessity to have more realistic, immersive games. In our view, live-action roleplaying needs to be based on players' interpretations and the direct action of their characters. Rules will exist only for those aspects that would be too difficult or dangerous to carry out in a natural, spontaneous manner. 

- We want to keep our game world and ongoing campaign. Back in 2006 we created a vast setting, which only grew bigger and more complex during 7 years of new characters, stories, twists, turns and changes in the power structure. We will keep maintaining our main setting, but we will explore it more deeply, and we won't necessarily focus on the eternal fight among the seven courts. This will allow us to tell stories from a wider perspective or from a more focused one; to explore different themes; to have stories set in the past, or even to follow the current events, but with an approach that will be more free and more mature than before.

 

EPILOGUE

Once again, we feel the same energy and enthusiasm as the early days, and we want to experiment with a new approach to role playing. We do like to think that in the past years we gave our small contribution to the attractiveness and respectability of live-action roleplaying in Italy. We want to get better at it, so we'll explore new techniques, new sources of inspiration and new approaches to the game.

To the players who already know us and have been following us in the past years we say: trust us! Everything we do has the ultimate goal of letting you immerse yourselves more into your characters and give you more interesting play opportunities.

To those who haven't played with us yet: we want to offer a completely new gaming experience, something that is impossible to find with other Italian groups. All the experiences we offered until now were just the beginning: we want you to feel deeper and live deeper stories than ever before.

 

Acknowledgements

The ideas behind this Manifesto were largely inspired by the Monitor Celestra larp (Goteborg 2013), attended by some of our Staff. The Manifesto was originally written in Italian here.

 

 

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