Inheritance at Dreamation

I ran Inheritance at Dreamation and it was a great experience. Inheritance is a LARP scenario from Burning Wheel. Set in 10th century Denmark, Inheritance tells the story of what happens when a family patriarch dies and his family and friends gather to mark his death. Stories are told, toasts drunk, and secrets revealed. It’s a game driven by characters’ beliefs and their willingness to fight for what they believe.
We played Thursday night, the first night of the convention, and so had the luxury of three rooms in which to play. This worked out really nicely, as I used one for administration such as character selection, rules discussion, etc. Character selection was random, with players simultaneously holding the looped end of a lanyard while the character cards hung underneath—similar to drawing straws. I had taken the family tree diagram from the back of the book and enlarged it to a poster size display as we talked about characters. The second room I set up for the first scene with a couple of upturned tables draped in tablecloths to represent the funeral longship of a Viking funeral. Another crumpled up tablecloth became the bonfire on the beach. The third room became the manor house with its central great hall, a kitchen and bedroom areas as well as outdoor areas such as a stable and even a privy. No one used the privy! But the separate areas did allow for plotting and stratagems, later in the game.
Unfortunately, we only had seven players for the nine possible characters. I had been thinking about this possibility and had sequenced in what order to remove characters. I eliminated Aurvandil and Tyr. In the natural alliances that build in play, these two are likely to be on opposing sides and so their elimination left the balance largely intact. Aurvandil was an easy(ish) first choice, being a stranger to most of the family, as he is the exiled son's companion and a great warrior. Tyr, devout Norseman, adopted son of the deceased, de facto uncle to the remaining boys, father of one of their betrothed and an aging but still great warrior himself, has the potential to play so many different roles in the story but his absence seemed to balance Aurvandil's. So be it.
Undoubtedly, the absent characters affected some of the sub-plots that might otherwise have arisen, but we nevertheless had a fun game. As the facilitator, my role was largely reminded the players of their role as an audience member as well as a character so that sidebar or simultaneous conversations didn’t happen. Characters could certainly share secrets, but as audience, we wanted everyone to see what was happening. So, for example, when Thorvald and Fulla, husband and wife, share a secret in their bedchamber, as players we were able to watch and listen.
A moment-by-moment summary of the game would probably be unsatisfying for readers and players alike because I can’t do justice to the motivations and thinking of the characters at the time. I would love it if some of the players might add to the comments! I can say that, at the end, two characters lay dead; Daxo, the exiled son, and Ansgar, the missionary priest who had been with the family for decades. Ring, the third son, came away maimed. In his designer notes for the scenario, Luke Crane writes that he will sometimes ask, “who won” after the game. I’ll leave the players to answer in terms of the characters. From my perspective, I won, having witnessed a fun story and now having a great memory of it.

Comments

  • I played the daughter. I encouraged my betrothed to get into a fight with a tougher opponent (the guy who had killed the man I loved) and get injured. Later, I poisoned that guy and tried to pin it on my betrothed, and convinced my mother that I'd never do anything so villainous. Then after inheriting a lot of land, my broken shell of a husband left on a sea journey and probably never returned, I ended up essentially widowed and running the estate. <=)
  • Great write-up. I'd be curious to hear about how the game resolves things like a duel and an attempted poisoning.
  • Great write-up. I'd be curious to hear about how the game resolves things like a duel and an attempted poisoning.
    For duels or any violence where a character intends death for another, each player has a packet of cards for the other characters. The card reveals the results of the fight, from the perspective of the attacker.
    Poison works similarly. Character who can use poison have similar cards just for poison. The trick with poison is keeping track of where the poison is. Anyone can drink from a poisoned mug.
  • The note about players listening in on the husband and wife having a private dialogue makes me wonder if this LARP had framed scenes or some otherwise game structure where players have "audience time".

    Is that so?
  • The note about players listening in on the husband and wife having a private dialogue makes me wonder if this LARP had framed scenes or some otherwise game structure where players have "audience time".
    I think the answer is "yes" about framed scenes. There are three planned acts--a funeral on the beach, a funeral dinner, and a Will reading. In our case, we almost didn't get off the beach, which would have skewed the following acts.
    In terms of "audience time", a key element is that the participants are both players and audience. There is no explicit time where certain characters are sidelined in order for the players to be the audience. There is, however, meant to be a culture in play where simultaneous conversations are not done so that all participants can listen in. There is a mechanism--hand on one's heart--to indicate the _player_ is listening to a conversation, rather than that player's character trying to eavesdrop. In our game, I found being the facilitator frequently meant sequencing what were actually simultaneous conversations. Does that address your question?
  • Yes, that's a great answer. Thank you! Very interesting. I've never participated in such a LARP, so it's a great illustration.
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