Family Business is a small dramatic larp about a family of professional criminals in the 1980s.
It was run in twice, on November 16th and 23rd 2013. It will be run again in June 2014, official announcement here. The larp uses the DramaSystem to create a one-shot semi-live game for 6 players and 1 GM in 6 hours.
The story is set in motion when the family’s parent and leader is arrested and held at a high bail. Because of the police investigation the family’s accounts are legally frozen which hamstrings the family’s crime operations. With their parent out of the way the rest of the family needs to decide whether to bail the Boss out, or who will take over without them.
Family Business is a larp version of the series pitch by the same name in Blood on the Snow written by Aaron Rosenberg. The initial situation was also inspired by The White Dog Runs at Night written by Jesse Bullington. The characters were inspired by The Wondersmith and His Sons by Astronautalis.
Family Business explores belonging, ambition, and family loyalty. The focus of Family Business changes each time it is played, dependent on where the players choose to take the story.
Scenography and Props
Organizers created a few props for use in the November runs, most notably a briefcase of cash that starts in the Bookie’s possession.
The set for the prison visiting room was created by setting two chairs on opposite sides of a narrow table. Players held telephone receivers to their ears to talk, as if there was a pane of glass between them.
The 6 characters are Boss, Heir, Talent, Bookie, Grifter, and Cop. Characters are not named or gendered by play materials, players flesh that information out in a workshop before play. The characters are presented in a folding 8.5×11 booklet which contains description of motivation, mechanical information, and rules reference.
Each character playbook has evocative cover art borrowed from DramaSystem core books, representing as much diversity as possible given the source material. Artists are credited on the back of playbooks.
Family Business uses a semi-live interpretation of the DramaSystem, according to the rules presented by Emily Care Boss in Blood on the Snow. The major exception is organizers omit any action scenes that do not further the dramatic plot. If an action scene is truly unavoidable, players propose outcomes and vote for the one they like best. The intent of this change is to simplify the mechanics players need to learn and prioritize dramatic play.
The larp has no non-player characters in order to tighten the focus of play to inter-familial issues and give every player more scenes.
Players are tasked with setting, cutting, and mechanically resolving their own scenes. With workshop guidance both groups of players rose to this task with gusto.
Intros and Debriefing
The larp includes sets time aside for introductory workshops and a debrief. Introductory workshops are important for learning the rules, goals for play, skills warm-up, and getting to know one another before play. Debriefing is important because it gives players a space to tell war-stories, process strong emotions, and distance themselves from their character.
For emotional safety valves Family Business uses explicit discussions of content before play, Cut/Break, and the high degree of narrative power that every player has in the DramaSystem.
- Podcast interview with organizers, 12 minutes.
- One player’s reflections on 2013 game, what they learned about DramaSystem, larping, and role-playing.
- Original announcement of 2013 game.
The Larp House
Family Business was created by and for the Larp House. The Larp House is an inclusive collective of nordic-inspired larpers who organize in the Twin Cities. We are writers, designers, players, and organizers. We’d love it if you joined us!
- Get That Snitch from Attack the Block Soundtrack, perfect music to design to.
- Lizzie Stark, for helping us realize we were American Freeform designers.
- Our players, for their excellent feedback.
- Petter Karlsson, for the inspiring documentation of Terra Incognita