“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”
The Life and Death of Richard the Third (1.1)
I’ve known Duncan Rowe for years, and early this year something we’d been kicking around for some time crystalised: an educational lrp for his sixth form students, teaching them about the Wars of the Roses.
We had the advantage this year that Profound Decisions had just secured a suitable site, so we could use their infrastructure. Pretty quickly, we decided that it had to be set in 1483, and thinking began…
The following is the write up of our initial meeting. I’m going to try and blog the development process, and then publish the lot in October.
- To introduce students to the events of 1483,
- To help them understand some of the dilemmas faced by historical figures though live-action roleplay,
- To help them understand the ambitions; the hopes and fears of historical figures,
- To give them the opportunity to understand how the personalities, and pressures, experienced by historical figures may have influenced their decision-making,
- To help them understand the events, people, and circumstances that may have affected the decision-making of historical figures,
- To help students develop their analytical thinking within a framework presented by experience.
We have 53 students from a local school for a “short weekend” starting Friday evening, and ending Sunday morning. Other educational activities are in place for Friday and Sunday. In order to make best use of what is essentially one day of roleplaying, we intend to use Friday evening to introduce both the concept of roleplaying and the historical setting. Saturday will be taken up running what is essentially the same scenario more than once, inflected by variant historical premises that explore different theories as to the motivation of the main historical actors. (Which essentially boils down to “Richard of Gloucester; man or maligned?”…) This approach also means that every young person gets to experience more than one historical role without necessarily having them learn all of a situation more than once in a day.
The plan is to divide the students into a number of factions reflecting the different families/interests at the time, and have them play out the events of the year. At present, we imagine 7 factions: Gloucester, Woodville, Buckingham, Hastings, Tudor, Londoners and the Foreign Powers.
We will interleave the roleplay with demonstrations of medieval kit and equipment etc, depending on availability of demonstrators/heralds/etc. This will give us the opportunity to introduce additional educational material and also to re-set the scenario itself.
We’ve got two scenarios to write.
- Friday night – the Christmas of 1482
- Saturday – the events of 1483 and their aftermath
The Saturday scenario will be presented in variants to ensure multiple runs are not simple repetition, and do the job of exploration.
Having arrived and been allocated accommodation, the goal for Friday is essentially to get them ready for Saturday. These means we need to:
- set the historical background to the events of 1483 – introducing key characters, issues and rivalries;
- introduce students to the notion of what a role-play might look and sound like;
- introduce the idea of factions, victory conditions and resolution mechanisms.
In order to ‘best’ achieve this, we plan a set-piece banquet with NPCs playing the leading figures and the students attending as members of their factions. Students will be assigned coloured tabards that reflect the retinue that they’re in. The NPCs will generate group and inter-faction interaction in the pursuit of certain aims that will need to be written. The whole process might be pulled together by a group vote/decision at the end of the session (Do we go to war with France? Who should we marry Elizabeth of York to? Etc.)
The scene is the last Christmas of Edward IVth. Surrounding him will be some of the key protagonists including:
- his wife Elizabeth Woodville;
- his long-standing friend and Lord Chamberlain, William, Lord Hastings;
- his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, recently returned from the war with Scotland;
- members of the other factions.
As a minimum, there will be following opportunities for students to get involved:
- some will be asked to approach/impress the king,
- other protagonists will approach members of their faction for advice/action.
The plan is to write a 3-hour role-play that is played out 3 times during the day. The purpose in doing this is to give students ample chance to immerse themselves in the history by experiencing it three different times. They will play different characters in different factions each time. It also allows us the chance to reflect the different interpretations of the period by changing the victory objectives for each run through – for example in the first run through Richard III’s objectives are a reflection of the Tudor myth of Richard, while in the second his objections are those that reflect the views of his most ardent admirers – the third could be an attempt at a more neutral view.
Within each scenario the 7 factions will all have 4(?) potential outcomes upon which their overall success will be judged, ranging from a supreme victory to defeat. As established above, these may change from scenario to scenario depending upon which interpretation is in play.
There will be 7 or 8 students in each faction and they will be identified by a coloured tabard and a hat distinguishing their role. Each faction may have at least 1 ecclesiastical figure, 1 member of the Commons, 1 member of the Lords and 1 member of the Privy Council. Key events that will necessitate a decision from these different groups are outlined below – there will be a sound and location associated with each group; a bell and Star Chamber for the Churchmen, a ‘?’ and Westminster for Parliament (Westminster Hall), a gong and Tower of London for Privy Council. Other locations might include Westminster Abbey and Crosby Place (London home of Richard III)
Each scenario will be punctuated with a number of set piece events that drive the action forward. The following is a list of possibilities. Most key events will involve a choice between ignoring/not acting upon information or making decisions/events public. In the case of the former a role-playing ruse involving rumour will be deployed so that information emerges more quietly, and less reliably. (possible use of NPCs). Some key events will necessitate key groups gathering and making a decision (see above)
- Death of Edward IV – his Will is read to the Privy Council – do they act upon it? Who will be named Lord Protector? When will the coronation of Edward V be set? (He starts the game in Ludlow – this is an ongoing debate for any individual wishing to become king)
- Who controls Edward V when he enters London? Woodville or Gloucester?
- If Elizabeth Woodville ends up in sanctuary the ecclesiasts will have to decide whether she can keep Richard of York (the younger of the two princes and Edward V’s brother) in sanctuary.
- Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, tells the Privy Council that Edward IV was married to Eleanor Butler when he married Elizabeth Woodville thereby bastardising Edward V and siblings. What do they do? If they turn the matter over to Star Chamber what do they do?
- Will Hastings accept the disinheriting of Edward V? What will be Gloucester’s reaction to any decision Hastings makes?
- Will the crown be offered to Richard III? Will he accept?
- What does Richard III (and the other factions) do about Edward V? Are the Princes murdered and if they are, does Richard declare them dead or keep it a secret? Are they smuggled abroad? How do the different factions react?
- Post-coronation, do Buckingham and/or Tudor revolt?
- One final option is to end by lining up the sides at Bosworth – who is fighting who? Which side controls the majority? Who will actually engage in the conflict?
De-brief – which factions have won? What might have happened next?
1483 – The scenario
There are 4 possible kings at the end of the game – Edward V, Richard III, Henry VII (Buckingham) or Henry VII (Tudor) Different factions are driven by their aims for the throne, individuals within the factions should have their own objectives also.