Just back from Midwinter larp, a genuinely gorgeous bit of genius.

Get this for a pitch. You’re an elf in Santa’s toy workshop. You’re working shifts to get the toys made on time. Deadline – well, there’s one. 24th or bust. The pressure is on.

Then, there’s official toy-making process. Designed off-game to be as dysfunctional as possible by an actual product designer – thanks Halfdan! – actually using the official process was mandatory in-game. This and other rules were enforced by the Reindeer Guard. They wore matching red forage caps, matching combat trousers and jackboots, and matching Christmas jumpers. Yes, that was exactly as sinister as it sounds. Outside of the actual work, your elf-life was full of more problems. You were in a workshift. Most of your workshift relationships were probably broken in some way. You were part of a family. Most of your family relationships were broken in some way, and if the relationships within your family weren’t, relationships between your families and the other families sure are as hell were. In your breaks, you were in a social club of some sort just to keep the jollity levels up.

Because A Jolly Elf Was a Productive Elf, A Productive Elf Was A Good Elf.

You want to be Jolly don’t you? Of course you do, otherwise the Children Will Be Sad on Christmas Morning!

(If this sounds familiar to anyone who’s played Paranoia, that’s exactly how brilliant an idea it was. Yes, every elf was in a secret society too. Secret societies had goals and ambitions which were Not Jolly At All.)

So right at the core, there’s a tasklarp and around the edges are a whole cloud of interlocking relationships built for maximum awful.

Into this heads Mitzi Spruce, misfit of the Spruce family, clumsy and incompetent worker, and perpetrator of a recent mirror-breaking mishap which left Mitzi in possession of a shard of broken mirror, and fellow members of practical-joke specialist Secret Society “The Whoopee Club” affected by a Steadily Worsening Cough.

I had a blast at Midwinter. I did the top 4 things I wanted to do: planted a whoopee cushion on the Reindeer Guard’s Big Seat in their security office; stole a dozen or so sets of cracker components from my first workshift to sell on to another work team later; helped my Daddy Elf get supplied to sate their addiction to illegal candy sticks; and covered that and some mischief involving Brussels sprouts (Thanks Vicki!) up with public displays of paper-chain-making on behalf of Festive Club, my social society.

But with a grim inevitably, Mitzi got snitched on. In the central social area, there was a Nice List of Jolly Elves, and a Naughty List of Elves who weren’t Jolly at all. Elves on the Naughty List were sent to the Krampus or one of the Grimm Family to be Reducated, and a really ace scene with the Krampus was the end of Mitzi as a functioning member of elf society. Still, you can’t keep a totalitarian regime on the rails without breaking a few minds, and there it is. The event ended in regime change, but honestly by then it was too late for poor Mitzi. I was really proud that during dinner before the final act, the Managers Got Proper Crackers, which cracked obediently to show the elves that they didn’t have crackers. 🙂

The food was totally appropriate – turkey dinner for both main meals, of course, rice pudding for lunch. The boiler was never empty. The cocoa never ran out (Nor did the milk, or the tea, or the the coffee of the biscuits.)

The site was dead on theme too. I’d not been to Bravo One before. If you need a site for a future horror, it’s not only awesome, but also opposite a relatively inexpensive hotel for r&r between bouts of dystopia.

My goodness the sound, though. Brilliant sound design by Anni Tolvanen- actual sound design with 300m of cabling and uncountable speakers – covered up anything from the outside world with Extra Jolly Mood Music. The Reindeer Guard transmitted Morale-Boosting Messages, which were sometimes followed by messages summoning elves to the Social Area for Specially Jolly Chats.

And a Jolly Anthem!

Bit more follows later, but that’s the core of it.

Thanks to Jonaya for the character – the truth of Mitzi was just super-sad – thanks for Simon Brind for logistics and to Martine for the concept. A genuine character arc, gorgeous writing, and a lovely, lovely game world.

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