UK Larp Awards 2020 has awarded Odysseus as the International Larp of the Year. Odysseus, a sci-fi larp discussing the bounds of humanity, was played three times during summer 2019, with one local run and two runs for international larpers. Each run had approximately a hundred players.
"We are thrilled and grateful by this award. We had a team of over 180 volunteers working to make the game happen, and getting acknowledged for all the effort feels wonderful," comments Producer Laura Kröger. "It is especially important to us, as Finland has not hosted many international games of this scale before. We are happy that we could offer a glimpse of the Finnish larp culture to our wonderful international participants."
Odysseus was created by over 180 volunteers and partners, including professionals with decades of experience on project management, software engineering, technology, marketing, and set design among others. Together, they transformed a school building in which the game was held into a believable, high production value starship.
All the software produced to create the special effects and gadgets abroad the functioning starship have been stored on GitHub for public access to contribute to future games.
UK Larp Awards 2020: http://larpcon.co.uk/?page_id=1270
Odysseus web pages: http://www.odysseuslarp.com/
Odysseus software in GitHub: https://github.com/OdysseusLarp
Laura Kröger, Producer
Hello all! Welcome to our last blog post for now. At the end of the post, you’ll find a link to a folder containing the materials we have published. We decided that we want to give our players an opportunity to explore the vast amount of materials we created for this larp.
In the folder, you will find some of our graphics such as posters and ship models, as well as the spatial design guide for the site construction. You can also find all the characters, short descriptions, and briefings - as well as ingame materials like letters and game instructions. Likewise, the folder contains the music and some sounds used in Odysseus.
We have gathered all the media links, public blog posts, presentations, and links to our own materials (like photos and videos) into one document where it is easy to find them. We also decided to publish graphs from our player survey, and you can find this data in the folder.
All the materials are free for PRIVATE, NON-COMMERCIAL use. If used in helping create other larps or similar events, we ask you to credit the Odysseus larp. If you want to re-use larger sections of the materials, e.g. full characters, please contact the Odysseus team first at email@example.com
We DO NOT allow the use of any of these materials for commercial purposes. All the rights for the materials belong to the Odysseus project and those who have created them.
Odysseus was done as a non-profit project with over 160 volunteers giving their time and energy to make it reality. We owe them huge thanks and credit for their incredible work. We want to also give thanks to all our players and everyone else who’s been following us. It has been an incredible journey, and we will be forever grateful that we made it. Thank you all for your massive work, amazing support, kind words, and encouragement along the way.
You can find the public materials here.
We will also publish a media gallery with a few photos available for presentations and articles. Once it is ready, you can find it here [link added soon].
Now that it is all over, we feel like talking about the narrative from a designer point of view. This is going to be a long post featuring all the backstories and some designer comments on different design choices we made along the way.
Even though it is obvious, I think it is still worth to say aloud that larp is always created in cooperation with the players, and each player has their own unique experience based on the character and the run they participated in. It is important to understand that there is and always will be vastly different opinions on the meaning and implications of this story and what I write here is just our take on the story and there is no "official" truth. There are some things we considered ‘canon’ when we created this story, but there are many others that we deliberately left open for players to interpret and make up their mind. Also, it varied from one run to another how much information was made available to different players so that influenced the players’ perception of the story.
Odysseus was always meant to stir emotions. The story we wanted to tell wasn’t going to be a happy one. It was clear from very early on for us that we wanted to tell a story that would be controversial, a story that was not simple, a story where it was not an easy task to define heroes and villains. We wanted to create a second layer where the story you experience in the larp offers you perspective and encourages you to think moral questions and justification on actions taken even after the larp is over.
Naturally there are different opinions on whether we succeeded or not, but these were the ideas we had in mind when we started to create this story. From very early on we settled for the slogan ‘A story about survival’, and one of the main themes we wanted to explore was ‘What would you do in order to survive?” We wanted to put our players in a position where they would have to do terrible things in order to save the remnants of the human race. We wanted to create a narrative where the same people would be heroes and villains depending on the perspective.
For this larp, we were telling several parallel stories and none of them were particularly nice ones. I think our players did an excellent job on spreading the information and I think that at least parts of several backstories were revealed to most players during each run. But I’m sure there are a lot of players who didn’t find out about them in the game and readers who didn’t participate, so to give some context, here is a short run-through on what the story was about, and what were the outlines of each different backstory.
The story of Odysseus
Our story takes place 800 years in the future far away in the stars in a place called the Arati system. There is the planet Ellarion and its two moons, Caelena and Osiris, which form the EOC Nation. This civilization was formed over five hundred years ago by people who were part of an exodus from Earth called the Genesis project. Most of the information about the Genesis journey and the distant home of their ancestors, was lost during the exodus. It was only known that there was some incident during the journey that corrupted most of the databases, and thus only stories and memories remained.
The larp started seven days after an enemy called The Machines attacked the EOC Nations and wiped out all major cities in a coordinated strike. Remnants of human civilization are fleeing this overwhelming enemy. The game follows the journey of a small military ship, ESS Odysseus, that starts out alone and during the game picks up more survivors, meets the fleet, and reaches the position where it is up to the players to decide the fate of their civilization.
At the beginning of the game, Odysseus has just saved Starcaller, a small vessel, which was on its way to carry out negotiations with the enemy. However, some on board Starcaller had a secret mission to destroy the enemy mothership under this diplomatic cover. This mission was halted when the ship broke down. Early in the game, players receive a help request from survivors in the distant planet of Velian (an isolated human population that was found a few decades ago), where the last survivors of another disaster were taking cover inside an ancient Genesis ship, the last one remaining from the original Genesis journey.
The Velian survivors were carrying a mysterious box with the symbol of one of the main religions of the EOC Nation called Old Ways. That turned out to be one of the long lost beacons which the followers of the Old Ways believe that their ancestors had left behind to guide them back to Earth one day. The structure of the game was forged around solving the puzzles found within these beacons in order to find new ones while escaping the relentless enemy fleet determined to finish what they had started. And at the same time trying to figure out a way to end the chase.
After two days of jumping every three hours to escape the enemy, the surviving fleet was met by a dead end. The seventh beacon was buried so deep underground that with the tools they had and the three hour timer it was impossible to recover it and survive. Also, the fleet had been pushed to it’s limit and after the last battle with the Machines, several ships were unable to make the next jump. By that time, the players had a fighting chance to end the conflict there and then. The android characters on board had the chance to call the enemy mothership to their location and the scientists had been able to manufacture a bomb efficient enough to destroy the ship as well as with the help from Velians fix an ancient alien device that was capable of cloaking an entire ship. During the last hours of the game, it was up to the characters on board the ESS Odysseus to decide what to do.
In all the three runs, the players ended up using the Starcaller to destroy the enemy mothership, ‘The Nest’. And arguably they didn’t have a choice, their other options being to decide that humanity didn’t deserve to survive, or leaving the rest of the fleet behind and continuing the escape. How the ‘Starcaller mission’ was seen varied greatly between players (and was strongly affected by the amount of diplomatic efforts tried), but there was a general outline in each run. In first one it was seen as an act of war against an unyielding opponent, in the second as the genocide of a sentient race. And in the third a necessary sacrifice to prevent the Machines from being a threat to anyone else ever again.
The Enlightened (/Elders)
The origin of the cycle of fear and revenge that was many times referenced during the larp by the players was an Alien race that called themselves the Enlightened (or as EOC had named them The Elders). This race was inspired by the Ancients in the TV series Stargate. The Enlightened had lived and prospered thousands of years ago and the Arati system was located on the edge of their domain. This race had created a life form, an AI that was learning and evolving and replicating - a life form that would become The Machines / The Nest.
The Enlightened won the war against the Machines and decided to destroy what they had created as they considered their creation to be faulty. While other Enlightened ascended and left this world, one was left behind to finalize the task, to destroy the last remaining machine - The Nest. But The Guardian hesitated.
The Nest was left alone in the cloaked Spaceship in the emptiness of space without any means to communicate or replicate. It was supposed to sleep for all eternity and be forgotten. As was the Guardian, who seeked out one of the last cities their race had left behind and planned to sleep as long as the city would stand and once it finally collapsed the Guardian would perish with it.
The Machines / Nest
After destruction of it’s race by the hands of their creators the last remaining machine was left alone to be forgotten. But in time it prevailed, the Nest managed to generate enough power within the dormant ship to send a signal. A signal that was picked up far far away - on a distant planet called Earth.
And so Nest was eventually found by a group of people that called themselves the Morningstar Alliance. They woke up the ancient machine and in time became one with it. In order to find the Nest these people had betrayed the others they travelled with and were afraid of retribution. And the Nest learned this fear and prejudice from them. A machine that had once been betrayed by its creators learned to fear other humans as it was taught by it’s saviors.
As it encountered humans from the EOC nation for the first time, the Nest took a highly aggressive stance, but as the war progressed the Nest sent out androids it had created to infiltrate and observe humans it only reinforced its opinion. Humans were greedy and unjust and many. The Nest concluded that they would only seek to gain power and to control others. The strong would always oppress the weak and no matter how many good ones, the bad ones would eventually win as they lacked empathy.
This would have always been the result. No matter what the humans would have said, the Nest would not have yielded. It had observed humans, it had talked with humans and it didn’t believe that humans would be able to forgive it for what it had done. Not all of them. No matter how many humans would support the peace and coexistence with the Machines there would always be those that would seek retribution and the Nest wasn’t willing to take the risk.
One of the reasons we ended up not going full Galactica was the option to create our own backstory. We wanted to create some parallels between our history and the current situation our players were in. We also wanted to have a say in things to be discovered about the past. Since the search for the Earth played such a big part in our narrative we also wanted to create the history, the starting point where the story had begun. This history was partially revealed inside the beacons during the game. We had a few discussions about where we wanted to go storywise, about what would make sense. In terms of where we were taking the story of the present day (the inevitable last stand against the Machines and the likely destruction of their race) it made sense to create a similar story in the history to give a little push for the moral debate around the decisions.
Inside the fourth beacon there was a memory stick with a letter containing the history behind the Genesis journey told by the last remaining human from that era.
We decided to go with this less unique story, but still one that would have an impact. A story that would cause discussion. After the game I heard few quotes or thoughts which were exactly what we aimed for “Wait a minute, are we the bad guys?” or “I wonder how well the descendants of those almost responsible of a genocide are welcomed right after they have committed another one…”
This was also interesting chance to play a little mind game on what Earth would look like a hundred years from now. What was done to the current climate crises and what if not enough was done. What would be the desperate actions of some when overpopulation is the looming catastrophe without enough people willing to do what is necessary to save the planet.
The Morningstar Alliance
While the Genesis Foundation was focused on Earth, there was another group who gazed to the stars. The Morningstar Alliance was an association determined to find proof of extraterrestrial life, a goal countless members had dedicated their lives to along the years without any notable results. They were ridiculed by the public who were convinced that if there was something to be found it would have been found already. Most discoveries they had made were undermined and doubted since they mostly offered no concrete evidence. During the early years of the 22nd century the Morningstar Alliance picked up a signal originating from somewhere in the stars. They knew that it was the sign they had been waiting for but also that should they go public with their discovery they would yet again face doubt and scepticism. So after years of ridicule and undermining from the scientific community they kept their discovery to themselves. And when a few years later the Genesis foundation launched a plan to begin the exodus to the stars a plan was formed within the Morningstar Alliance. They would apply for the program, gain influence and pull strings and use the exodus to get close to the origin of the signal. In time the closed community of the Morningstar Alliance grew inwards, they become more and more convinced that they were the chosen ones, that only they were worthy of this first contact.
Ever since the Genesis journey began, passengers on board the GSS Da Vinci had a very different goal which was passed on for future generations. Generation after generation was brainwashed to think they were the chosen ones, that they were superior to everyone else. They had a secret mission, which only they were entitled to. In secrecy they developed project Oblivion - a computer virus designed to target the navigation databases and radar systems of the Genesis fleet specifically. Their aim was to mainly cause a distraction and prevent the rest of the fleet from following them. However the virus turned out to be much more effective and caused failures across multiple systems through out the fleet. When the GSS Da Vinci parted with the fleet their escape went unnoticed in the chaos but the passengers were unsure how much damage was caused by the Oblivion virus.
The fear of retribution from the other survivors clung to them when they finally completed the mission set out by their ancestors. They found a cloaked alien ship and within it a dormant AI: the Nest. The Morningstar Alliance used the power generators on their Genesis ship to turn on the ancient spaceship and awaken the Nest. They ended up accidentally teaching the Nest to fear and resent other humans. They echoed the ways their ancestors had been treated. The mistrust they had faced. They taught the Nest how only they were worthy of the Nests teachings and guidance.
In time the humans became one with the Nest. Their minds downloaded to be a part of the ever growing and ever learning AI. For centuries they were just whispers within the vast consciousness of the ancient AI. The Nest was yet again free to exist, to replicate, to learn and when it eventually crossed paths with the rest of the Genesis humans it considered them to be a threat as it had been taught. And the more it observed, waged war, or studied the humans, the more convinced it became.
THE EOC Nation
The EOC Nation was formed by the 26 Genesis ships that made it through the last phase of the journey, made in cryosleep, after the Oblivion virus had caused the life support systems of the ships to start malfunctioning. The same virus had scrambled most of the databases so when waking up in the Arati system the passengers didn’t have much else than disoriented memories. Slowly they built their new society on top of what they remembered of the old one. Some elements in the emerging culture had already formed during the Genesis journey but they were refined and rebuilt once the new colonies were formed.
Both main religions had their roots in the Genesis Journey. The Old ways formed from an amalgam of the more religious and mystical aspects of humanity, glorifying the journey and the ancient home Earth. Meanwhile the Faith of the High Science kept the more practical elements, the triumph of science and the drive for learning and evolving. Among the forming religions there were those on the journey who sought to make it possible to return to Earth, by leaving a trail of Beacons to be rediscovered.
The royal bloodline of the Emperor also had its roots in the Genesis journey. The black/blue colored blood of the imperial line held the genetic immunity for the virus the Genesis foundation released on Earth. The Black bloodline was the failsafe if the virus wouldn’t die out after carrying its purpose as planned. As such these people were considered highly important but only few knew the actual reason for it. The respect and admiration however remained and created the soil for Emperors role in society to be born.
We also wanted to create some conflict and inner turmoil within the human society. For us the lust for power, the inequality between people in different positions, and rivalry between different groups and individuals were interesting topics to handle. They also seem to be core elements in human nature, and no matter how far we get, a part of us. We didn’t want to bring any gender, orientation or ethnicity based plotlines into the mix, so we ended up focusing the inequality based plots on the birth place and social status within the dynasties. Also exploring this setup colliding with human catastrophe. It made sense for those who had been on the upper echelons of society to want to stay there, but for others a good reason to dismantle the societal constructs and use them as firewood. We also wanted to use the Galactica narrative where some humans had helped create the current situation (human-like androids and the humans they had manipulated). But we also took it a bit further in the ‘Chaos is a ladder’ -direction and created a storyline where the higher ups in the powerful Purity dynasty needed a nation wide disaster to consolidate even more power for themselves. They made a deal with the machines, which was supposed to be a win-win situation, Purity was supposed to name the targets and be in control, but the Machines had made other plans behind their backs. However, this dynasty was never meant to be the ‘big bad’, just an example of greed and the lust for power of some individuals, so most members of this dynasty were absolutely unaware of these plans and schemes.
In a contrast to uglier sides of being a human we also wanted to highlight some positive aspects like hope, perseverance and faith. One of these elements that also tied several stories together was the national anthem of EOC Nations. We wanted a song that was describing the original genesis journey but which would also be very relevant to the story of the larp and the situation our characters where experiencing. Hannu, Helena and Mia did a beautiful job at delivering exactly that.
EOC Anthem (listen)
Song by Hannu Niemi , Helena Haaparanta and Mia Makkonen
It’s time to leave our home behind
Embrace the road with an open mind
Although the journey will be long
Together we stand strong
May the wisdom light your way ahead
Explore the world unseen, unread
Remember stories of the old
and find your way back home
Our very first idea was that the whole Velian society would be only discovered ingame, but we had a good long conversation about it in our first bigger organizer meeting and concluded that it would be a bit too suspicious, and we’re quite pleased with how it worked out. We managed to create a society felt very different, almost alien, but so that there were a few existing connections and some intrigue from both sides. The Velians all knew the secret that the Guardian was not a human but they didn’t know about the history with the machines either. They also didn’t know that they were descendants of the passengers on board the Genesis-ship GSS Darwin that crashed on Velian right after the Oblivion virus was released. This secret was revealed at the beginning of the larp, though, when the last remaining Velians searched for cover inside the ancient spaceship buried in sand just outside their dome habitat.
The Velian dome collapsing so close to the attack of the Machines was just a coincidence. The dome had been failing for years and it was already in decline when the humans arrived almost 600 years ago. It was never meant to last forever and it would have been only a matter of time before it would have failed. We didn’t specify one way or the other but it was a distinct possibility that a group of young Velians venturing outside the safe perimeter to search for hidden treasures of the past and their discovery of a certain beacon did influence the speed of the dome failing.
In the second to last away mission the ground team found an abandoned outpost belonging to “UNAC Expedition 57”. Within it they could recover some artefacts from Earth and few faded articles someone had collected and saved, mainly concerning the history of the Genesis journey. We only wrote headlines and first few lines as everything else had faded away. They told a story about the survival, and of a thriving civilization back on Earth (at least around a hundred years ago). It was aimed to both spark hope but also to stir conversation about how would the descendants of the Genesis humans be welcomed on Earth, if at all.
All our stories were connected in some way, they shared different perspectives of the same story and at the same time that our players were contemplating their choices in the present, they were provided with information about the past.
When we were creating the narrative and thinking of different ways to end this story, the one we discussed the most was the so-called ‘diplomatic victory’. This also seems to be one of the topics with the most controversy among the players, especially in the 1st international run, where the players most strongly played towards a peaceful diplomatic solution. When creating this story we discussed the topic ‘what would the diplomatic ending bring to this story?’ and every time we came to the same conclusion - not what we wanted.
At least in Finland, and we think in general, larpers have a strong need to tell a positive story, a story where diplomacy and goodness prevails. In Finland we even have a term for it when you are actively creating a conflict between characters or factions and the players just end up negotiating and solving all their differences and living happily ever after, no matter how deep the animosity initially was. In our combined years as players and as designers what we have learned is that there are thirteen of these kinds of games in a dozen. Should we have allowed the diplomatic ending to this larp it would have felt good for few days and after that the game would have been forgotten. With this choice we wanted to underline the fact, that regardless of good intentions, regardless of all the efforts to negotiate, there might be someone on the other side who will not yield, who does not want to listen. We wanted to create a narrative where those making the call felt like they didn’t have any other option (and arguably they didn’t). To create a story where you would make the decision to destroy your enemy believing they would do the same to you. To create a narrative where making that decision might feel easy, even heroic. Setting up the stage to that moment was one of the main themes we wanted to explore.
It was obvious that if the players would steer toward diplomacy, we would definitely allow it, but we also knew from the beginning that it would not prevail. To come that close and then be forced to realise that it isn’t going to work out can be disheartening and that was the feeling we hoped for. We didn’t want to create a story where the players would just win, we wanted them to survive, but with a cost. It has been argued that taking away the option for a diplomatic solution we undermined the efforts of those who favored it. We couldn’t disagree more. Does the failing of diplomacy mean you shouldn’t try? That it wasn’t worth it? How we see it is that attempt at diplomacy gave the decisions that had to be made an even stronger tone, it drove home far more efficiently the themes that we wanted our players to experience. I believe that the impact of the key themes of survival and sacrifice were directly proportional to the level of diplomacy pushed forward during the game. So playing the diplomatic game definitely had an impact, in fact a far bigger impact than it would have had if it had succeeded.
One of the finest touches for the ending storyline was decided only during the first run. A few hours before the end, the player of Tristan Fukui (an android character) came to the off-game room and asked what would happen if the Nest was destroyed, would they stop working? This was something we had not considered before but as soon as it was voiced, it felt like the right decision. We had already decided to explore the themes of loss and sacrifice with a few planned character deaths but this additional cost to those last actions seemed right. These were characters who were important to many humans and losing them in the end was a high price to pay for their decisions. I quickly consulted with a few of the writers and the other main organizers and ran through the logic in my head, would it affect all the androids and why, did it make sense storywise? The others agreed with the choice and that it was logical in the fiction. The technology used in the androids was never fully explained to the players and it was already established that they had a link with the Nest. Even Ziva, who was partly created by Evin, had a Machine power core inside them and the nanotechnology used was a result of studying Devyn and replicating the (machine) technology used in them. So it made sense that all five androids would cease to operate as soon as the Nest was destroyed. The way we saw it was that it was integral in the technology used in their physical bodies, and it being connected to the Nest which we described as a sort of super-wifi, which allowed the transfer of consciousness from one model to another and disconnecting this link caused the body to stop. For an ad-hoc decision during a larp, after way too little sleep, this still feels right in retrospect. It fit beautifully into the story and what we wanted to say with it.
We would like to thank you for reading all of this (if you did) and we hope that you enjoyed our view! As we said in the beginning, this was a story created by designers, writers and hundreds of players together, so there is no official truth to any of this. What has been shared by us and how we see the fiction being shaped in different ways in different runs is no more important or true than the perception and experience of our players. Each and everyone of them created their own version of the story and they are all correct. It was an incredible privilege to be able to see these stories come alive in three separate, different but yet in many ways very similar, runs. And it has been equally satisfying to read and listen to the conversations and debates about the different aspects and implications of the story. Thank you for making this incredible journey with us!
Laura, Producer and Story lead
First run is just around the corner and here is finally the few key points about our vision. What style of play we hope you aim for and what we have tried to create. There is little bit of meta information about the game in this post, but we still strongly recommend everyone to read this!
Style of the game could be described ‘Hollywood drama’, we are not aiming on full realism but not to a comedy or farce either. We hope that you can experience really cool scenes but also live in the shoes of your character. So we hope minimum amount of offgaming during the game. If you want to have an out of character re-calibration talk with your contact please do it in the off-game room. Small offgame interactions in the game area, like setting up a scene are totally alright!
The larp is designed to be a tunnel not a sandbox, so although you have many decisions you can do completely independently there are few elements we hope that you follow as it gives you most to play with. We have tried to also give your characters ingame reasons to do this. So if you get a distress signal, go and save those in need! You can of course speculate with traps and all sort of foul play if you want, but don’t dismiss these sign signals on where the game should continue. The Old way prophecy is also written in many characters and into the back story and when all the signs start to point at it being true we hope that most of the characters consider it a sign (regardless if they believed Old ways before). You can play doubts and at times consider it to be a pointless goose chase but we hope that majority of the players considers it to be ‘our last best hope’ even though it is not much. The game relies rather heavily on solving the puzzles and completing the following land mission in timely manner, so this should be supported from the top as well.
We strongly encourage you all to play inclusively! If someone asks if they can help, consider it a request from a player to be included and if at all possible agree to include them. Human race is now in a situation where everyone should be useful. If someone doesn’t have any prior skills they should start learning some.
Play your character with it’s history and ambitions, hopes and flaws, and take it to the direction you want to go to on the level of intensity that pleases you. Take the character and make it yours. You can choose to focus on the themes that most speak to you, but we hope that you play all your plots and relationships. These are the two days to bring all the old wounds and family troubles to surface, because the world may end at any second and tomorrow may never come.
Our characters don’t have any preferred ends or destinies, so their fate is yours to shape - unless you have been informed otherwise already!
The larp’s ending isn’t set in stone either. We have a dramatic arc that leads to a few possible endings, but in the end what happens when the journey is completed is in your hands.
This is not a game to be hacked, won or overachieved. You will get so much out of the gameplay when you relax into the character and play to create experiences and emotions for yourself and for others. We are aiming for a lot of drama and you are encouraged to play it all out without resorting to comedy - even if all of it isn’t the most realistic stuff out there with all the lost loves and surprise relatives...
The style we hope is that of adventure, drama and tragedy. Give it your best and it will be awesome!
This post explains the background of Ellarion Standard Time, the time system in use in the larp. The summary should be known by everyone. The rest is for geeks who want to understand why an exoplanet colony still uses a time system originating from ancient Babylonia.
TL;DR – The short version
All dates and times are written in Ellarion Standard Time (EST). Pretty much no-one except historians and enthusiasts know about earlier time systems.
In-game time will be the same as Finnish local time. Therefore any clock you see will most likely show the correct in-game time. 24-hour system is used, but don’t make a fuss if someone says “5 o’clock” instead of “17-hundred hours”.
A day is 24 hours, a week is 7 days, and a year is 52 weeks (364 days). Years are counted starting from when humans first arrived in Ellarion. The current year is 542 EST.
Years are no longer divided into months. “Month” is now a word meaning “approximately four weeks”, but January, February, etc. have no meaning.
Dates are indicated by appending the year by the day of year. The game will start at “542-155 18:00 EST” – i.e. day 155 of the 542nd year at Ellarion.
In space there are no seasons. During the generations-long voyage through space, months as indicators of time-of-year slowly started losing meaning. Years were still relevant as part of human life – the concept of “18 years old” still mattered – whereas January and June were identical. Many technical applications simply counted days since launch.
When the colony started settling on Ellarion, the problem of fitting the time system to the planet’s rotation arose. The first senate decided to establish a new time system, called Ellarion Standard Time.
Because the rotation time of Ellarion was close to 24 hours, instead of having everyone learn a new time system, they decided to slightly change the length of a second so that it matched the planet’s rotation. Thus the time system remained the same for all practical purposes.
Dates were simplified to be indicated by just the year and day-of-year. The day of first orbit around Ellarion was chosen to be day 1-001 (year 1, day 1). The length of a year was reduced by one day to be exactly 52 weeks. The axial tilt of Ellarion was so small that the planet had no seasons, and therefore there was no need to match the year to the orbital period of the planet.
As people spread across Ellarion, time zones were added to match local daylight hours. However, the majority of the Ellarion population still lived in the EST time zone, and the moons Osiris and Caelena also followed that time. Therefore, Ellarion Standard Time was commonly used everywhere in the system.
The reason for using regular 24-hour time in the larp is purely practical: having participants learn a new time system and wonder whether “20 o’clock” was late or not would not have provided any additional gameplay. It would also have caused additional work for the systems team, as time systems would have had to been rewritten and wrong clock displays hidden.
Similarly, we wanted to keep the definition of a year approximately the same, so that “40 years old” would still mean the same thing. The word for “month” is still understood, so that players don’t need to try to avoid using it.
Within these practical constraints, we still wanted to provide some clear distinction in the time system and distance players from the current world. The colonization of Ellarion was a new beginning, and deserved a clear cut from the past.
Welcome to the year 542, Ellarion Standard Time.
Sampo, System development team
The long wait is almost over! Next week, we will start sending out characters and briefs. Before that, please take some time to read this post, as it will give you an insight on what to expect from the characters and what happens next as well as what adjustments you are able to make.
At first, a short reminder on how larps with pre-written characters should be approached. All your characters contain secrets, and some might have information that include major spoilers to other characters. So please be mindful on what you share. It is NOT allowed to share your full character description with other players. Especially if you have one of the characters who know the bigger secrets, please be careful to not spill them before the larp. Pre-written larps rely heavily on players respecting the written background, existing contacts, and the characters’ agendas and personalities. Should you choose to entirely ignore some aspects of your character, it might severely impact the experience for others involved in those plots and themes. That said, we’ve tried to create characters with several different paths to take and multiple ways to solve situations, as well as plenty of open options on what to do and where to go. We very much encourage you to make the character your own and to emphasize the aspects you enjoy and make choices that make the game successful for you. But we ask for you to be mindful of your contacts and plots and acknowledge them instead of ignoring them even though you might not spent that much play time on some of them.
What adjustments are you able to make? At first let us say that casting a larp with 104 characters, hundreds of relationships, mostly gender neutral characters, and three runs with the same source material is - well, not exactly a stroll in the park. So, while we have made our best to make sure that your current romantic partners match your requested co-players genders, we were not able to make this happen with all the ex’s your character might have. If it is an issue for your that your characters FORMER romantic partner does not match your romantic gender preference, feel free to discuss with the players and agree that the relationship that was written as a romance was something else. Maybe a very close friendship that made your partner jealous (if that was relevant for the plot) or maybe it was a bar fight instead of a failed one night stand (if the point was that your friends didn’t like how the other person treated you). However, in our vision gender is not a big deal in this world. There is no discrimination based on it (or orientation), and it is more common than uncommon to have partners regardless of their gender. So if this is not that big issue for you that your character’s ex is of a different gender than your preference, we encourage you to not change it. However, if another player contacts you and asks to change the nature of the contact, you should agree on it, even if the contact would be fine as it is for you.
There are friends, partners, and relatives written for your characters, and some might be described in great detail while others might have less information provided. Even if there is not that much relevant information in the contact description, feel free to enhance the relationship, talk about the common background (if not specified, feel free to choose where you know each other from - i.e. were you neighbors, friends from school, or did you take the same boat building classes etc.). There is so much written information that writing everything to the detail would have made the characters way too long. So even if there is only a paragraph for a contact, you should consider it meaningful and develop it further. While creating all the contacts, we’ve made our best to create contact chains for the characters to ensure that information will be shared between different groups, and certain secrets and conflicts are designed to escalate through circles of common friends or relatives. Thus please don’t ignore a contact on the premises that there is not much written about them in your character. Create more! And share information about your characters with each other (but again be careful with the secrets).
It is very much allowed to get to know other characters in your group and create light links and contacts between you. However, do remember that these new links shouldn’t overshadow your existing contacts, as the people written into your character are there for a reason, and if you go and create bunch of new contacts, it might end up leaving some characters alone or result on some plots not moving forward. Please do introduce your characters to other members in your group as in some cases you might have known each other for months or years (e.g. the crew of ESS Odysseus, Velians and the crew of Atlantis 3).
And then last but definitely not the least: we’ve spent the past 6 months plotting, writing, and creating these stories. There is a ton of information, contacts, links, and crossing timelines. It is very much possible that some errors have slipped through our fingers despite rigorous cross-checking, or there might be some other reason we will end up making corrections or alterations on some characters. Should we do this we will clearly mark it on the character sheets by highlighting the new or removed information. E.g.
Public Database Sheet
You will receive a personal information sheet with your character, containing the information that is written in databases for your character. We might add some new information to that sheet as well, as the one you receive with your character is not yet final. However, the most relevant information should be there already. You will receive an updated version a couple of weeks before the larp.
The same goes for briefings: the most relevant briefings will in most cases be sent out with the characters, but some will come a bit later. At the end of your character sheet, there will be a list (with links) to all your relevant briefings, and we will update the links when all the briefings are ready (we’ll inform you when this is ready).
If you have any questions, concerns or requests, or if you just want to tell us how super excited you are, please contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are so excited about the larp and hope that you are too!
Laura, Producer and Story lead
Our organizer team has proudly worn Odysseus promo shirts for a year now, and now our players can get a shirt or hoodie - or some other cool promotion stuff - as well. Once it was announced that the sponsor ticket would include an Odysseus t-shirt, we were asked whether it was possible to buy the shirt separately. Here they are! In this blog post you can find all the necessary information about buying promo stuff from us!
We decided to use a third party supplier (Spreadshirt) for few reasons. Biggest being that they do all the logistics, which we really don’t have the time to concentrate on, as we want to focus fully on making the larp. They have a wide selection of products with decent size options, and they deliver all around the world. So even though there are some downsides like postage, limitations in sizes, and customer support being out of our hands, we decided that it would still be the best option.
Since we are using a third party provider, if there are any issues with the quality, delivery, or payment, you should contact their customer service directly. We have used the provider for a few other projects before, and their quality has been good. They have good and helpful customer support, should you encounter any issues.
Concerning sizes: unfortunately they have only a few products that have extra large sizes, and they cap at 3XL for ladyfit and 5XL for unisex shirts. When checking out the size charts, please note that the measurements are only across the chest, so to get full circumference, double this measurement. While we want to make our lives a little bit easier, we also want to be as inclusive as possible. So if there are no available sizes for you, please send us an email and we will look into it to see if we are able to make a custom order for those at a local supplier, with whom we also source some of the shirts for the rental uniforms. If this is possible, those custom shirts can be picked up at the location before the larp.
Every product purchased from the shop adds a small amount to our budget and allows us to buy a few more cool props to use in the larp. For products purchased after the larp, if there are no more expenses for us to cover, we will donate our cut to larp organizations such as Larpfund and Illusia ry (the association behind the Odysseus). Thus the shop will remain open at least some time after the event.
There are four different designs available. The available products might vary depending on the design. All the awesome designs have been created by Sara Kananen. The options are:
The shop has a variety of products available, including t-shirts, tank tops, long sleeved shirts, hoodies, jackets, caps, mugs, and bags. In the clothing, the print is either on the front or back. The size chart varies in different products, but we’ve aimed to provide products with a wide size and color selection in all designs.
and it has the ship emblem with a different text based on the original post of the character on the back - and possibly on a smaller size also on the front. Keep these perks in mind when making other purchases! We make the different versions of the ship emblem available as well so it is also possible to make custom orders with them.
You can find the shop here! Take a look and should you feel like it, support us by having a unique memory from this experience.
The shop has a 15% discount for the first 14 days (provided by the supplier)! Do note that it is possible to customize each of the products, and it is possible to change the size or the placement of the print.
Laura, Producer of Odysseus
Within a week we, will send out the short descriptions. Most likely we’ll not send them in one large batch, as it’s an enormous task to send out that many individual emails. Thus we ask for your patience: we know that you are very anxious to get more information, and we promise to work as fast as we can. The amount of information in the short descriptions is also not entirely even (due to different character processes), so some might get a bit more information than others.
What everyone will receive:
*Of course, every character who is a parent has the risk of facing the theme “loss of a child”, and every character in the larp has a risk of facing the theme of “loss of a loved one” as we have no control over the actions of players. However, these themes are specifically marked for characters who are involved in something we have planned, and thus are much more likely to encounter the themes during the larp. The same goes for other triggers as well: we can take these into account based on our plans, but things may change based on players’ actions during the larp.
What happens next?
First, we ask you to read carefully through your short description and check your assigned costume, shift, and the genders of your romantic contacts. Similarly, please check that there are no people you don’t want to play with among your closest contacts. You can find the genders of the characters in the player list. We have done our best to avoid any errors, but it is always possible some have slipped through our fingers.
The preferred shift as well as costume wishes were something we were not able to put much emphasis on. The same applies to players you asked to play with. However, if these are key factors for a successful larp, please let us know!
If you have any concerns regarding your short description, please contact us by email as soon as possible! We cannot reply to individual concerns or issues in the Facebook group, so please use email. In the email, please tell us how serious your concerns are. Is it a minor concern (but you are happy with the character even if we can’t fix the issue) or do you feel that your character is not at all what you can play? Or anything in-between. Please be as specific as possible. Let us also know how you would wish us to proceed. Would you prefer to keep the same character but fix the issues, and if that is not possible, change the character, or would you prefer to just switch the character to another? Let us also know if the issue is big enough that you will cancel the larp if we are not able to fix it.
Note that it is only possible to switch characters through organizers! We do not allow direct switching as there are lot of contacts, wishes, trigger themes, and secrets involved.
If you wish to switch your character, please let tell us what you would like to play and what would you want to avoid. Be as specific as possible, and let us know what is the primary thing you want for your character (eg. character group, theme, play with someone etc.). Please also consider that after receiving your short description, you might already know some rather big secrets that your new character wouldn’t know and you as a player need to ignore.
Some important secrets are already revealed in the short descriptions. Please help us keep them a secret until the larp (though hopefully not until the end of it). This means that it is not allowed to share your short descriptions with the other players (or anyone else for that matter). When you introduce your character to your co-players, consider what would be public information and what wouldn’t. If in doubt, you can always ask the organizers. We will remove posts than contain secrets from the facebook groups.
Names and shifts
We’ve received a few questions concerning the feminine or masculine names of certain characters. All the character names (excluding the few with set gender) are picked from gender neutral name generators. They are all names that can be used for any gender, but of course in some countries or cultures they probably have either masculine or feminine ring to them. In the world of Odysseus, all names are considered gender neutral, so it is not possible to determine the gender of the character based on their name. We will provide other means to identify genders to help determine which pronouns (he/she/they) should be used for the characters. We ended up choosing this approach so that we are better able to cast people of different genders to the characters on the different runs without the need to change all the markings that we will do in various databases.
There are three different work shifts (as well as no shift (n/a) ). These shifts are Solar (on duty 04-12, off-duty 12-16, on duty 16-20, sleep 20-04), Lunar (sleep 04-12, on duty 12-16, off-duty 16-20, on-duty 20-04) and Ghost (on-call (08/)10-22(/24), off-duty 22-10 - exact time might vary). Ghost shift will share the on-duty responsibilities with lunar/solar shifts during the day and be off-duty/sleeping during the night.
Characters who start the larp in a different location (Velian/Atlantis/Solaris) also have marked shifts indicating the shift they are most likely drafted to (instructed to players in commanding positions by the organizers). Some characters are also in a position where they have not yet agreed to work on a shift, and it is up to the players to make the decision.
We know that you are eager to start planning things and maybe getting some background or extra contacts for your character, but we need to ask you to not to do that. We will soon provide the descriptions for the world, culture, religion and politics for everyone, and your full character will include history, agenda, plots, contacts, and recent events. Thus, as is typical in a Finnish larp, you do not have to do any extra planning or contacting. Everything will be provided by us.
However, it is possible and even encouraged to get to know your character and your contacts, and to add some flesh around the bones on at least culture and religion. Even so, please don’t do that until you have received all the information from us. The short descriptions are just that: short descriptions, and they do not contain all the information. Thus, do not start creating background or extra contacts for your character based on the short description.
The full character sheets will be sent out sometime in May along with all the briefings. After that, it will be possible to create a few light contacts, but these should not overshadow the prewritten ones!
As the organizers, we are excited and determined to provide a memorable experience for all our players, so feel free to contact us if you have any concerns! Still, bear in mind that there will be some (hopefully light) issues that cannot be helped. For example, shifts are created to enable shared play time with your contacts, so it might not be possible to change them without it having a severe negative effect on the experience. Even so, we do our very best to accommodate your wishes!
Laura, Producer of Odysseus
Casting a larp is an enormous task, especially when you need to match 104 characters with 104 players ...for three subsequent runs. Well, let’s just say that we’ve had quite a busy week behind us. Our casting team spent 35+ hours going through the players’ answers to the casting questionnaire, and matching them to our available characters. Before that, our hero Ville had already spent countless hours processing the data for the script and running your answers through it.
We’ve done our very best to make sure everyone gets the experience they are aiming for. However, as always, some compromises were required, and it was of course impossible to fulfill every single wish.
We used this priority list in trying to find an enjoyable character for each of our players:
What ended up not influencing the casting (except in some rare cases):
All in all, we are very happy with the results and on how many wishes we were able to accommodate. However, no matter how many hours we put into this, we are bound to have made some errors. We’ve been going through Excel sheets for the past week and a half, so even though we’ve checked and double-checked and triple-checked, there might still be errors. So, how to proceed from here?
First, we will publish the casting document for each run. You get to know the name, job title, and starting group of your character right away. Within a week or two, we will send everyone further information. You will receive a short description of your character, your preliminary shift (if any), costume information, the character groups your character belongs to (some characters have up to five character groups and some just one), the age of your character, and the list of your character’s closest contacts. The list is not your final contact list, but these are the most important ones. There is also information in case your character has a predetermined fate, or if there are other very important aspects involved (though sleeper agents are not revealed at this point).
We would kindly ask you to wait until you receive this latter personal information email before contacting us in case you have concerns, as not every character is what they seem they are. It saves us a lot of time and effort, as then we don’t need to answer questions for which the information is already soon on its way. If you have concerns or questions after receiving this email, whether about themes, close contacts, character groups, shifts, or other aspects of the game, do not hesitate to contact us!
In case you have major concerns regarding your character, it might be possible to swap characters or make some minor adjustments. If there is nothing we can do instantly, there are bound to be cancellations during spring, and we might be able to switch characters later on.
That said, we encourage you to embrace the themes, aspects, and unknown players, and to dive head first into your character. If your closest friends haven’t been cast as your contacts, you can take that as an opportunity to get to know awesome new people you just haven’t larped with before!
We would like to remind you that the short description is just that: a short description. Even though it tries to capture some of the meaningful themes for your character, there are loads of things it does not touch on. There are lot of stuff in store for every character!
So, all in all, this casting was an enormous task, and it sure felt like an impossible one for a few times along the way. But we did it! We hope you are as giddy and excited when you receive your characters as we were when we cast them.
Laura, Producer of Odysseus
are no romantic feelings between them; they might just be friends. Or a character might have a partner among the survivors on one of the other ships in the fleet. In these cases the romance is not a theme we expect you to play, but the npc is someone whose fate your character would care about. There are also characters who do not have any kind of a romance at all, past or present. All examples above are considered not to have a romantic contact in terms of casting.
Roughly 50% of the characters have some form of a romance as a supporting theme, and about 20% have romance as a main theme. What we mean by “a main theme” is that it doesn’t mean that these characters don’t have anything else to play, but in most cases their romantic partner is their closest and most important contact, and in all cases it is mirrored so that the romance is the main aspect for both characters. Romance as a supporting theme means that the romance can be a relevant aspect in the game, but if it doesn’t play out, there are lot of other interesting themes to explore. In these romances, there might be some imbalance concerning how important the romance is for a character (e.g. a triangle drama).
A little bit of insight into our larp culture: in Finland, it is very common that characters are written by the organizers and all the plots, themes, and contacts are ready-made. Larps in which you write your own character and create your own contacts are still a minority in Finland. It is very common that there are quite many romances written into each game. Most of us are used to writing and playing these themes. Within the past few years, it has become a standard to talk with your contacts about their boundaries and the experience they are looking for. Since we have a tradition of prewritten contacts, it is very much frowned upon to do ‘contact shopping’ to choose the players you want to play with while ignoring others. This doesn’t mean we expect you to play with someone you do not feel comfortable with or someone you feel threatened by. What we want to say is that if we can imagine we are in a distant spaceship instead of an elementary school, we can also imagine that our character is attracted to someone we are not. Romance is just one way to create meaningful links between the characters, and the same applies to friends, families and colleagues.
Since we have people coming from all around the world and from very different larp cultures, we want to highlight a few things concerning playing romances to create a safe and pleasant experience for everyone. These are pretty common sense things, but it is still better to state them:
Romances can provide extremely intense and meaningful experiences in a larp. Even if you have some doubts on playing romance, I would encourage you to embrace with an open mind all the plots written in your character. However, your safety and your preferences are our priority, and if you have any issues or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us!
Laura, Producer of Odysseus
Pictures by Axelle Cazeneuve, editing by Laura Kröger