Freeform scenario writing resources

442_10152903977320131_1729770880_nHere are some resources, fairly new and older, on writing scenarios and short “scripts” in the freeform tradition. Could be of interest to Fastaval writers, Golden Cobra participants and others with an interest in the format.

These are links I’ve gathered over the past two years, with generous help from friends in Scandinavia and further abroad.

If you have some good tips I’ve omitted, please let us know in comments. Best of luck with your games!

In English:

Lizzie Stark’s Pocket Guide to American Freeform (PDF or booklet for purchase)

Some articles on freeform from Lizzie’s blog.

Larps from the Factory: «writing a larp script» (mostly geared towards short-larps, but a lot of it seems relevant)

Jeepform dictionary/techniques/games

Play With Intent: Matthijs Holter og Emily Care Boss’ toolkit of freeformtechniques.

Fiction – a flexible freeform framework can be used as a stand-alone tool for improvising games in this format, or as an add-on to Play With Intent.

The Nordic Larp Wiki

Some games in English
Several finished scripts in English are available for free from the Stockholm Scenario Festival archives.

Some of the Bully Pulpit games are written in this style, such as Juggernaut, Out of Dodge, The Climb, ‘Terps.

Also see Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon, Under my Skin and Remodel from Black and Green Games.

Please also see Golden Cobra’s webpage.


Kinky Consent: Emotional and Physical Negotiation in Freeform Games

Some design thoughts and insights into the Nordic freeform tradition in this interview with Stockholm Scenario Festival organizer Anna Westerling.

In Swedish:
Tobias Wrigstad – at skriva jeepform

In Danish:

Blackbox? Semi-larp? Freeform? Balloon-form? I've lost track. White Death 2014. Photo: Li Xin.

Blackbox? Semi-larp? Freeform? Balloon-form? I’ve lost track. White Death 2014. Photo: Li Xin.

Fastaval-kompendie 2007


Scenarier – for rookies

Workshophåndboken, oppvarmingsøvelser.

En 60 sider lang dansk bok med råd til Fastaval-spillere!

En 40 sider lang dansk bok med råd til Fastaval-spilledere!

Liste over Otto-vinnerne gjennom en årrekke

De fleste av vinnerscenariene kan lastes ned gratis fra

Se også scenariemedansvarlig Troels’ kloke ord på bloggen Plan B.

Mange av tipsene over er samlet på Fastavals egen ressursside for skribenter.

Not in the spaces we know, but between them

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”

― H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) is considered one of the early masters of the horror genre, and created the "Cthulhu Mythos." Photo: Lucius B. Truesdell, 1934.

American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) is considered one of the early masters of the horror genre, and created the «Cthulhu Mythos.» Photo: Lucius B. Truesdell, 1934.

Lovecraftesque is a new roleplaying game inspired by Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s stories and the mythology he created. Lovecraft (1890 –1937) is widely regarded as one of the early masters of horror fiction. The works of the American author have also been criticized for dealing in racist clichés. The British game designers Becky Annison and Josh Fox want to let players recreate the suspense of the original, whilst shedding the reactionary tropes. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of Lovecraftesque is running at the time of writing.

Several roleplaying games have taken inspiration from Lovecraft’s works. Unlike the classic game Call of Cthulhu, first published in 1981, Lovecraftesque has no single Game Master (GM), and there is only one main character.

“We are fans of the existing canon of Lovecraftish games”, says Josh “but they feel different to a classic Lovecraft story. In them, you typically get a party of investigators, who are actively working to uncover the horror. The focus is on them and their struggle to overcome the mystery, and rules-wise you’re focused on their actions and what happens to them. And following on from that, the investigators tend to be part of a campaign, encountering one horror after another.”

“Our game tries to get closer to Lovecraft’s own formula”, says Becky. “There is one main character who stumbles across the horror, and whose personal struggle is of secondary interest to the horror itself. The character should eventually feel as if they have been at the whim of the horror all along, that we are like ants to them.”

This recipe whetted the appetites of several gaming enthusiasts online, and the Kickstarter’s main goals were funded in 48 hours. The campaign page links to a bare-bones version that can be downloaded for free

One main character

“The focus of the game is the horror itself, which you create collaboratively”, Josh explains. “There is only one main character, the Witness, whose role is to provide a human perspective on the horror, not to defeat or solve it. Everyone works together to torment and terrify the Witness and see them to their doom, and to build up an idea of what the true horror might be.”

One player takes on the role of the Witness, one is the Narrator and the rest are Watchers, with the roles rotating after every scene. For most of the game you’re playing through scenes where the Narrator will reveal a single strange clue. Both the Witness and the Watchers concentrate on adding atmosphere, in different ways: the Witness by speaking out loud the fears and rationalizations of their character, and the Watchers by elaborating on what the Narrator describes, dripping detail and tension into the game.

“Something important for me is that there is only one character active at a time”, says Becky. “This is not a party game and this reflects a vital aspect of the majority of Lovecraft’s stories.  They are lone tales of one person stepping into a shifting horrific new world.  The gameplay will replicate that.”

Lovecraft was little known during his lifetime, and published his works of horror fiction in cheap pulp magazines, dying in poverty at an early age. He is today regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre.

“We both love really slow-building, brooding, atmospheric horror stories”, says Becky. “Stories where you don’t see the horror or even come across clear evidence of its existence, but rather you sense its presence through countless small hints, and only really confront it’s true nature right at the end. In contrast a lot of modern horror relies on a number of shocks spaced out throughout the narrative.”

The cover image. Illustration: Robin Scott.

“What Lovecraft adds to that formula is the alien, cosmic nature of the horror”, adds Josh. “Instead of vampires or ghosts, it’s creatures from the stars or from other times or dimensions. We see Lovecraft’s work as an early example of horror with a science fiction flavour to it. And we love the bleak, hostile nature of the universe.”

“A virulent racist”

A controversial aspect of Lovecraft’s works is racism. A recent article in The Atlantic states: “He was a virulent racist. The xenophobia and white supremacy that burble beneath his fiction (…) are startlingly explicit in his letters.“ 

The game designers are keenly aware of this:

“Let’s start by saying that we’re clear Lovecraft was an unashamed racist whose views about people of colour shaped his stories both overtly through stereotypical portrayals of those people, and subtly through allegory”, says Josh. “Similarly, Lovecraft boiled mental illness down to people ‘going mad’ in a way that is nothing like real mental illness and can be insulting to those of us who live with the reality of it. We’ve written sections on both of these issues which candidly address the problematic nature of Lovecraft’s work, and include advice on how to handle these issues.”

Two stretch goals of the ongoing Kickstarter campaign are funding extended essays on both these topics. The first one, already unlocked, will see British game designer Mo Holkar write a full-length essay on Lovecraft and racism, and ‘how to run Lovecraftian games without replicating his bigotry’. The next goal is an essay by US game designer Shoshana Kessock on the portrayal of mental health issues in games.

“The single most important piece of advice is: talk about these issues with your group, and agree what you are and aren’t including”, says Josh. “If even one person objects to inclusion of a given theme, you should leave it out. So for instance, if you’re playing in a setting where overtly racist views are commonplace and acceptable, don’t just go ahead and include characters who spout such views – discuss it and keep them out unless you’re absolutely sure that everyone wants it in.”

To support this approach, part of setup invites players to ban elements or themes they aren’t comfortable with, with prompts to consider banning racist themes and characters who “go mad”. The authors also recommend using the X-Card safety mechanism designed by US game designer John Stavropoulos. (X-Card link).

“I’m not a fan of including racist themes at all in Lovecraft games”, says Becky. “We don’t tell people what to do, but we don’t see enough benefit from including these themes to outweigh the risk that someone’s play experience is ruined. In contrast, the effect of the horror on the human mind is a key component to Lovecraft’s stories. So our guidance analyses the different ways in which the horror might impact on someone’s mental state, or could influence their behaviour, without falling back on stereotype. Our bottom line is that you portray a person first, and not just a collection of symptoms. What we don’t do is provide any mechanics which would force anyone to portray any particular psychological symptoms, or to include such elements at all if they don’t want to.”

No Cthulhu

Lovecraft’s menagerie of strange and terrifying creatures have been popularized through comics, board-, video-, and roleplaying games, and even plush dolls. Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep are familiar names to most gamers. The authors of Lovecraftesque want the players to create their own, unique monsters rather than recycling these classics.

Interior art. Illustration: Robin Scott.

Interior art. Illustration: Robin Scott.

“We’re not trying to do away with dead gods and hidden cults – those are staples of the genre”, says Josh. “But instead of Cthulhu, you create your own sleeping god. Instead of Dagon’s cult, you’ll create a cult of your own.”

“Lovecraft is well known for his bestiary”, says Becky. “But there is so much more to his writing and that is what we are trying to bring out. Lovecraft had a particular style for constructing a mystery, starting out by describing something odd but explicable and then peeling back the layers until the whole monstrosity is revealed and yet all the tangible evidence is destroyed.  We want to re-popularise that slow burn story.”

To aid the players in creating their own “Lovecraftesque” stories, the authors have included advice on his writing style, together with lists of inspirational material. The game utilizes a special set of cards to guide the story towards Lovecraftian themes. Each card represents a Lovecraftian trope of some sort – a weird artifact, cultists or time travel, for instance.

“Each card enables you to introduce appropriate material for a particular Lovecraftian theme, often allowing you to break the normal rules of the game as you do so”, Becky explains.

Can they kick it?

The Kickstarter campaign started 15th September and runs for 30 days. The main goal is to produce the book and cards.

Sample layout.

Sample layout.

“We’re raising funds for layout by Nathan Paoletta and art by Robin Scott, as well as the printing and shipping costs, of course”, says Josh. “We’re really excited about Nathan’s layout: the book will look like a tattered notebook that gradually degenerates as you progress through it, with increasingly horror-laden margin notes.”

You can see a PDF version of the draft layout here.

Layout artist Nathan Paoletta is an experienced game designer himself, and recently released the acclaimed World Wide Wrestling RPG.

“Nathan, Robin and other game designers have generously given of their time to provide advice and support to this project”, says Becky. “It’s one of the things we love about the indie design community, and we are very grateful for it.”

The book will be A5/half-letter size, available in softcover and hardcover. An easy-print version of the PDF will go alongside the version described above. The plan is to make the game available from a range of RPG outlets, including Drivethrurpg.

Among the stretch goals are more artwork for the game, quick-start scenarios by several well-known game designers, and the essays about racism and mental health.

“We’ve already raised our initial funding goal and we are making great progress in unlocking stretch goals”, says Becky.

On the author’s webpage, they have published material about running such a Kickstarter-campaign. They hope this will be a useful resource for other game designers thinking of self-publishing.

The authors about themselves:

The authors. Photo: Private.

The authors. Photo: Private.

Josh Fox:

I’ve been roleplaying since I was 10, when I played D&D in my lunch-breaks. In recent years I’ve been all about the indie games: my favourite games include Apocalypse World, Dream Askew, Monsterhearts, Dog Eat Dog, Microscope and Durance. Although I’ve noodled around with game design for many years, I’m relatively new to making finished games: previous projects include Disaster Strikes!, a game based on classic disaster movies, and House of Ill Repute, a political playset for Fiasco. In real life I play a 36-year-old civil servant who dreams of being a famous game designer.

Becky Annison:

Like Josh I started roleplaying when I was 11. I remember taking all my birthday money on my 11th birthday and rushing out to buy D&D.  It was amazing and I devoured it.  Since then I’ve played in so many different types of games both tabletop and LARP.  I’ve been designing for a few years now – I started out designing and running large LARPs (as part of a team) but since the indie revolution I’m hooked on designing indie games. Games which are really pushing design work into unexpected places.  Apart from Lovecraftesque the game I’m most proud of is When the Dark is Gone which will be coming out in an anthology with Pelgrane Press later this year.

Our hobby has such an amazing choice of games on offer.  My favourite games are probably Amber: Diceless, Monsterhearts, Itras By, A Taste for Murder and 1001 Nights.

Det brygger til storm

Etter åtte år er spillskaper Øivind Stengrundet (39) klar til å bringe hjertebarnet Vandrerne til verden. 

Over øyplaneten Terrenia slynger det seg usynlige bølger av ren energi. Men med rundt 100 års mellomrom slår disse bølgene seg vrang, og danner magistormer. Da forandres alt: øyer fødes eller synker i havet, nye planter skyter opp av bakken, steiner og trær blir levende, katter får seks bein, og andre merkelige ting skjer. Planetens beboere lever hele tiden med uvissheten om hva som vil skje ved neste storm.

Vandrerne er et forbund av utvalgte med mål om å kartlegge verden slik den er i dag, så den ikke skal bli glemt neste gang magien går amok. De løser mysterier fra gamle sivilisasjoner, og hjelper innbyggerne med problemer stormene skaper.

Illustrasjon fra boka: MajdAddin Alhasi.

Illustrasjon fra boka: MajdAddin Alhasi.

Vandrerne er også et flunkende nytt norsk rollespill. Den første utgaven av spillet ble skrevet i 2007, til en spillskapingskonkurranse på webforumet Konkurransen gikk ut på å skrive et komplett rollespill på bare sju dager.

– Jeg var nysgjerrig på hvor minimalistisk et spill kunne være og likevel regnes som komplett. Med det utgangspunktet har jeg bygget videre på manus, sier forfatter Øivind Stengrundet.

I første omgang vil alt salg foregå via nettsiden,, men forfatteren vil også gå i dialog med lokale bokhandlere og nasjonale spesialforretninger. Nettsalget åpner onsdag 9. september.

Testet med elevene
Selv begynte han med rollespill på begynnelsen av 90-tallet. Stengrundet jobber som lærer ved Trysil ungdomsskole. Han opplevde fin støtte i skoleverket under arbeidet med Vandrerne.

– Da jeg jobbet som lærer på en barneskole for noen år tilbake fikk jeg rollespill inn på timeplanen, med en liten gruppe elever som trengte gode opplevelser og sosial trening mer enn noe annet. Det ga meg en flott mulighet til å teste ut spillet, og mye av det vi gjorde den gangen har kommet inn i det ferdige rollespillet, sier spillskaperen.

Etter å ha gått noen runder med et norsk forlag har Stengrundet til slutt landet på at egenpublisering er veien å gå i denne omgang.

– Forlaget virket interesserte, men pekte på et avgjørende problem: rollespill kommer ikke inn under innkjøpsordningen, som sikrer forlagene et minimumssalg. Spillene faller midt mellom fag- og skjønn-litteratur, og dermed turde ikke forlaget å gi ut spillet. Jeg holdt derfor på å putte hele prosjektet i skrivebordsskuffen, sammen med veldig mye annet, men etter at bekjente med ujevne mellomrom fortalte meg at de spilte det, bestemte jeg meg for å gi det ut selv.

Forfatter og spillskaper Øivind Stengrundet (39). Foto: Privat.

Forfatter og spillskaper Øivind Stengrundet (39). Foto: Privat.

– Kan du si litt om det å gi ut rollespill på egenhånd?

– Da jeg først bestemte meg, gikk det egentlig ganske fort. Jeg undersøkte ulike publiseringsløsninger både innenlands og utenlands, og fant ut at jeg gjerne ville ha eget ISBN-nummer på boka. De fleste utenlandske aktørene opererte med egne systemer, og dermed konsentrerte jeg meg om norske løsninger. De fleste av disse var imidlertid ganske dyre, med høy egenandel og lite utbytte for forfatteren. Dermed endte jeg opp med å registrere et eget forlag, uten å starte enkeltmannsforetak, og registrere meg i ISBN-registeret. Så undersøkte jeg priser ved diverse trykkerier. Den største utfordringen kom kanskje når layout-jobben skulle gjøres, og her skulle jeg nok ønske at jeg hadde mer kompetanse. Men litt svetting og banning senere ble jeg fornøyd, og jeg er veldig stolt over hvordan spillet har endt opp.

Boka Vandrerne er på 120 sider, og inkluderer eksempel-eventyr. Forfatteren sier boka inneholder alt man behøver for å komme i gang med spill. Systemet benytter vanlige spillterninger med seks sider. I første omgang trykkes det 150 eksemplarer.

Rollespillet forside er illustrert av Zaina Isard.

Rollespillets forside er illustrert av Zaina Isard.

– Siden jeg har alt liggende digitalt vil det være en smal sak å trykke et nytt opplag. Jeg har valgt ikke å gå bredt ut etter sponsorer eller støtte-ordninger, men jeg er veldig glad for at hjemkommunen Trysil har gitt noen kroner til utgivelsen, sier Stengrundet.

Det blir slippfest i Oslo 3. oktober (sted annonseres på Facebook-gruppen Ordinær pris blir 199,- (inkludert porto), mens boka blir noe billigere på slippfesten.

Vandrerne-roman nært forestående
– De viktigste støttespillerne mine underveis har vært deltakerne på det gamle Det var her den første utgaven ble lansert, og jeg fikk mange gode råd og tips derfra. Jeg vil spesielt trekke fram Matthijs Holter og Ole Peder Giæver [meg! – journ. anm.], som har vært ivrige pådrivere og spilltestere underveis. Jeg må også takke tidligere undervisningsinspektør Bjørn Matsson, samt elevene som deltok i spillgruppen min på barneskolen.

Illustrasjon fra boka: Ståle Tevik.

Illustrasjon fra boka: Ståle Tevik.

De innvendige illustrasjonene er alle i sort-hvitt, og det er omkring 30 illustrasjoner fra 9 illustratører i Norge, England og Tyrkia.

– Fordi jeg ville håndtere utgivelsen selv, gikk jeg i utgangspunktet ut med et «billigst mulig»-prinsipp angående illustrasjoner. Jeg hørte litt rundt om noen kunne tenke seg å bidra bare for æren, men jeg innså etter hvert at jeg måtte belage meg på litt utgifter på dette feltet. Illustrasjonene har derfor kommet fra en blanding av glade «amatører» og profesjonelle kunstnere. Hvis jeg skulle gjort det hele på nytt ville jeg nok ha benyttet færre, utvalgte illustratører for å sikre en gjennomført stil, men jeg er veldig fornøyd med måten illustrasjonene har endt opp.

Mange av tekstene i boka har skjønnlitterært preg. Det finnes også korte noveller fra spillets setting på hjemmesidene. Forfatteren er ikke snauere enn at han parallelt med å ferdigstille Vandrerne har skrevet en roman satt til spillets univers! Denne kommer ut senere i høst, også på eget forlag.

The Night Shift


Imagonems Onkel Reisende Mac har vært på laiv i Danmark for å se hvordan de gjør det der. Men er han skapt for denne surrealistiske rollespillkunsten?

Originally posted on Snarglebarf:

Before We Wake: a short-larp about dreams. Copenhagen Thursday 6th of August to Saturday 8th 2015.

Dreams have been an almost lifelong source of fascination for me. I remember writing down and illustrating a dream in answer to a school assignment when I was 11. Something about a blue giant, maybe Zeus, resting against one of the neighbor’s houses where I used to live. I like the quirky, personal symbols dreams generate, and the strange stories they tell. Or those we tell about them after the fact. I’m also fond of weird fiction and surreal elements in stories and games. So I was excited to take part in Before We Wake, an experimental larp designed with the aim of exploring the players’ own dreams.

The event took place at Copenhagen Music Theatre, which has a large black box space. Thursday was dedicated to workshopping, then the roughly…

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Moon Design tar over Chaosium


Moon Design Publications, firmaet bak Hero Quest har tatt over Chaosium heter det i en pressemelding som rollespillhistorikeren Shannon Appelcine skal ha motatt på e-post og postet på RPGNet.

2015 Diana Jones Award Winners Moon Design Publications welcomed as new management team

30 July 2015

GEN CON, Indianapolis – Greg Stafford, founder of the iconic game company Chaosium, used the «Future of Chaosium» seminar at Gen Con today to announce that Moon Design Publications has become part of the Chaosium ownership group.

The Michigan-based Moon Design acquired the rights to Stafford’s legendary game setting Glorantha and the game systems RuneQuest and HeroQuest in 2013. It is the publisher of the critically acclaimed Guide to Glorantha, multiple nominee in this year’s ENnie Awards, and winner of the 2015 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.

Going forward, with Moon Design now part of the Chaosium ownership, Chaosium becomes the licensed publisher for RuneQuest, HeroQuest and other products related to Gloranthan universe, and will continue to publish the famous Call of Cthulhu line.

«I’m really excited to see Glorantha and RuneQuest return to their proper home in Chaosium,» said Greg Stafford, «The band is now back together, and we’re ready to rock on».

The four principals of Moon Design are the new management team of Chaosium. The new officers of the company are Rick Meints, President and Secretary; Jeff Richard, Vice President and Creative Director; Michael O’Brien, Vice President – Product Development & Community Outreach; and Neil Robinson, Chief Financial Officer.

«Our first priority is leveraging the experience from Moon Design’s previous successful Kickstarters to fulfill everything the backers are waiting on for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, said Rick Meints, new Chaosium President.

Greg Stafford, who founded Chaosium in 1975 and was its original creative force, becomes Chairman of the company’s board of directors. Sandy Petersen, whose own involvement with Chaosium began in 1980, continues as a director of the company board, along with Meints, Richard, O’Brien and Robinson.

Chaosium will also continue to work in partnership with Sandy Petersen’s Petersen Games, with upcoming releases including the Cthulhu Wars «Onslaught» expansion, and God’s War, an epic boardgame set in Glorantha.

«I for one welcome our new Lunar overlords», said Sandy Petersen at the announcement.

For further information please contact:

Gen Con 2015 Chaosium Booth 501

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