Larp Review: Ash wedding

Published on Friday 21 March 2014 in Reviews

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Original post: http://www.electro-gn.com/461-critique-lesnocesdecendre

The LARP « Les Noces de Cendre » (Ash wedding) takes place in 1945 in Argentina with its troubled politic events. Two sessions have been organized by the association Rôle, in april and may 2012[1]. Véronique Gresset, who signed here her first game, worked during three years to achieve this result. The writing was long; the fictionalized character sheets let us see complex characters mixed up in many plots; the game documents are extremely meticulous and everything is done to put the players in the hoped-for atmosphere. Such an effort of scriptwriting for a first larp is enough rare to be noted.

tango-gn

Picture: Joram Epis

This game gathers about twenty characters with mixed up fates for one very special day, which will be decisive for each one. This structure is similar to many larps of the same kind, where some pretext or other gathers the characters so as they can solve the plots weaved between them for a time. This classical structure entails traps and faults, and the game doesn’t succeed to avoid them, but it has fortunately many qualities which offset them.

The game starts for real on Saturday morning and ends in the night, but the organizers invite the players from the Friday evening, in order to create the atmosphere and revise some steps of tango. This gently preparation is efficient and with the tango lessons offered to the players the weeks before, we can say that the organizers use their resources to reach the atmosphere they want to create.

gn-homme-argentin

Picture: Joram Epis

The efforts of the organizers continue during the game, since the musical atmosphere gives a strong identity to the game, with tango tunes which carry on in the background, some good surprises we can’t reveal here and of course the dance which is part of this universe and characters. Tango echoes the plots through its sadness and passion and matches the hoped-for atmosphere.

The game documents and items are beautiful, just like the ones organizers sent before the game. Other elements are used to strengthen the setting of Argentina in the 40’s. They remind the players that they are not apart from the rest of the world and that their choices have effects. Giving to the players the feeling to be Argentinean for a game was a daring challenge, but the organizers tried it with passion.

gn-militaire-argentine

Picture: Joram Epis

Besides the atmosphere, a key point of the game comes from the richness of the characters. The writing is important of course, but also the way the characters are designed (I’ll come back to it a bit later) and the complex relations between them. However we may regret a main structure of the scenario which mixes the fates of the characters in an artificial way through multiple coincidences. They make sometimes tasteless some beautiful relationships which lose their subtlety and depth.

When we look at the rhythm, we can see that organizers preferred a light event schedule, which emphasizes the atmosphere without being too intrusive. This willing is a success, since each player can gauge the rhythm of his/her game as he/she wants, according to his/her meetings and talks.

gn-femme-argentine

Picture: Joram Epis

Let’s come back now on the structure of the characters, which is noteworthy in this game. The author wanted to put the characters in front of dilemmas of every kind, which gives to the LARP a special tone. The characters are indeed built around these dilemmas, which are at the heart of the play of everyone. These dilemmas were worked for a long time so as the players can take the most of game from them. The characters have complex psychologies, since they are often pulled between opposite values. They offer real questions to the players, sometimes universal ones. Besides, this universality is at the origin of the emotional strength of some scenes, because several players talked after the game of the way they feel touched by these characters who echoed themselves (a good example of bleed effect).

reflexion-gn-argentine

Picture: Joram Epis

Since this approach is applied to every character, it creates a tone’s unity during the LARP. The questions of each character, even if they are different, echo to the others and enrich the scenes and the dialogues bringing sense to the story. This is a rare and significant quality for a game centered on personal plots. These games offer usually characters with so different stakes that the main coherence suffers because of it. Even if this LARP doesn’t avoid completely this problem, because it offers to the characters many different plots which don’t always match to the others, we have to emphasize the effort of the approach, which gives depth to many scenes because they echo to the story of each character.

We may add that this structure built around the dilemmas gives to each character specific strengths and weaknesses. The way the players have to interpret their character is guided by a moral point of view which is clearly defined before the game. This is sometimes a lack in some larps with vaguer character design.

gn-campagne-argentine

Picture: Joram Epis

More than ever, these dilemmas are worked to force the players to make real choices during the game, and it’s probably their main asset. Indeed, many games which are centered on crossed character’s relationships and revelations focus on the past of the characters. Everybody will talk about what is written in his/her character sheet, creating surprises for the players who will understand the story during the larp[2]. This kind of revelation is a useful tool to make progress in a game, but it’s regrettable that it sometimes becomes the prime mover. Some games forget that players have to live and physically act in a setting, making decisions which impact on their environment and on the future of their character. Thanks to the real choices the characters have to make during the game, the author of “Les Noces de Cendre” puts back the current action at the heart of the players’ concerns. The evocation of the past is relegated to its real place: a tool to make progress in the story.

Les Noces de Cendre

A game by Véronique and Raphaëlle Gresset, produced by the association Rôle

Various advices, website and visuals: Frédou

Interview of the author (in French): http://www.electro-gn.com/29-radio-gn-episode3-lesnocesdecendre

Official website (in French): http://agoniedupoete.fr/NocesDeCendre/


[1] Since the article was published, two other sessions were organized.

[2] You recognized maybe an element of the frenchstyle Romanesque LARP.

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