Last May, we announced that Odysseus would be returning in Summer 2024. Since then, we have worked non/stop behind the scenes, and now we are finally ready to shed some light on the progress!
Since the announcement, we have secured a location (the same one as in 2019), and our teams have begun working on rewriting, logistics, and other pre-production tasks. Now it’s finally time to get you interested players up to speed as well. Leading up to our sign-up, which will open in autumn 2023, we will be posting a series of blog posts to talk about the production, and we will update our website to match the improvements we have planned for the 2024 runs.
We believe that a shared vision between the organizers and the players’ expectations is key to any successful larp, so we start this series by sharing our vision on what Odysseus is – and what it is not.
This post is divided into segments highlighting different aspects and elements of the larp. Below, we will cover themes of playstyle and player experience, narrative choices, practical matters including safety and accessibility, and we’ll wrap up with thoughts on a 360° spaceship and expectation management for the game.
Themes – the story we tell
In its narrative, Odysseus touches on some very dark themes of war and survival at any cost. The overall story takes a look into the justifications of actions deemed necessary and the glorification of heroes to pacify guilty consciences. These themes and contextualizing them will be a topic of a separate post later on, but since they are at the core of our design, we feel that it is important to mention them here.
Leading up to the end of the larp, there are some heavy and non-reversible decisions to be made by the characters. This is a design choice we made in 2019, and we still stand behind it today. We will make some adjustments to the ending of the larp, but the somewhat controversial themes of the original runs are still very much present. Rest assured that we have heard the feedback, and this time these themes will be addressed and debriefed more thoroughly both before and after the larp.
Playstyle – the Finnish larp culture
In 2019, we described Odysseus as a “Finnish style” larp, and in 2024 that is still very much what it will be. Odysseus can also be described as a Nordic larp as it is also close enough in style to give our players a general idea on what to expect.
Compared to many Nordic larps, Finnish style larps are more heavily story driven with fully pre-written characters that include a backstory, an agenda, and meaningful connections to other characters. Because of this, players are expected to respect the material given them by playing out the objectives set in their character as well as playing with their pre-written connections. To completely ignore the pre-written connections in favor of making new ones is considered impolite as it will leave other players without planned game content. Of course, players are encouraged to make their character their own by emphasizing aspects they most enjoy playing and calibrating contacts with other players. It is also very much expected for everyone to play inclusively by including others in your plots.
Our pre-written characters have about 5-15 pages of backstory, and they include several fleshed out connections with varied significance. In addition to character sheets, there is world material and various group briefings. Some of these materials will provide instructions on performing the character groups’ tasks, while others are there to make the world come alive around you. The more familiar you are with the world and the setting of the game, the more you will get out of the experience.
Player experience – running the clockwork
There is railroading. The overall story of Odysseus has a somewhat pre-determined ending towards which the game runs like a train on rails. While we are putting quite a bit of effort into hiding those rails under plausible ingame reasons, it is very important to understand that this larp is not a sandbox.
While the path is set, it shouldn’t feel forced or out of character to follow along the trail of breadcrumbs that has been set out. If we have done our work right, every step of the way should feel like it is ultimately in the best interest of the characters (most of them, anyway) to go that way. Though the broader narrative of Odysseus is pre-planned, the larp as a whole is still a sum of the individual stories of 104 characters and the ways players choose to play them. Inside Odysseus, there is plenty of player agency and clashing personal goals to be explored.
There are several very different experiences to be had in Odysseus, the biggest dividing factor being whether or not your character is strictly a part of the clockwork elements of running the ship or not. The character groups involved in this clockwork are the officers and bridge crew, pilots, marines, engineers, medics, and scientists.
The core clockwork element of the larp is making a jump every 2 hours and 48 minutes for the entire 48-hour game duration, day and night. In order to do this, the marines need to complete land missions to retrieve so called “beacons”, the scientists need to solve puzzles within these beacons to determine the next destination, the bridge crew needs to calculate the flight path and steer the ship, the engineers need to prepare the ship for the jump (and fix it when it breaks), the pilots and sometimes the marines need to fight off the enemy until it is safe to jump, and the medics need to keep the sickbay running and patch up any wounded. A significant part of the larp for these character groups will be focused around fulfilling these tasks.
While this clockwork play is the bread and butter of a military scifi larp, there are also other kinds of experiences to be had. Drawing inspiration from the civilian politics and survival stories in Battlestar Galactica as well as other science fiction stories, there will be a significant amount of characters that are not strictly tied to the clockwork.
Most civilian characters either are or will be drafted to help out with different tasks of the clockwork. However, for many civilians, the larp will be more heavily focused on the emotional experience of a world-ending catastrophe, and some will have a significant role to play in rebuilding the society and the government. Especially the politicians, religious characters and the Velians* will be very involved in steering the plot forward during the last day of the game and in making the final decisions. For other civilian characters, the experience will be more focused around the community, their personal plots, and finding your place after the world has turned upside down. Players of civilian characters are more free to steer their experience in the direction they want, and they can decide their sleep schedules to fit their own daily routines. The players of civilian characters do not need to get familiar with the various game mechanics beforehand (for example using the Empty Epsilon spaceship simulator), as they will be taught the tasks they might need to perform ingame.
One of our major re-writing tasks for Odysseus 2024 is focused on making changes to the political game to make it more engaging and even more relevant to the larp as a whole. We have also re-organized and re-distributed the tasks required to run the ship a little more evenly this time around to ensure a bit more clockwork play also for characters outside of the original crew of the Odysseus.
* Velians are a tight group from a different cultural background who are rescued onboard Odysseus. During the larp they are integrated to different groups depending on their skills, but they will also have their own plots and themes centered around their own closed community.
Practicals and accessibility
There will be an extensive guide about practicalities, safety and accessibility on our website later on, but since some aspects of these are very relevant to knowing whether this experience is for you, it is worth taking a look into those in this post as well.
The ingame time is 48 hours non-stop – all eating and sleeping are done ingame. Those who are part of the clockwork play have shifts dedicated to being on-duty, off-duty, and asleep. There are events (including land missions) happening throughout the larp, including during night-time. However, it is always possible to step out of the game to calibrate with others or to take a breather at any time, but the larp itself will have no breaks.
For us, player safety is at the core of any larp, and for that reason we will have a full-time safety team available for players on location throughout the event, as well as before and after the larp. We are also making improvements to improve safety on issues identified during 2019 runs, including land mission safety, to ensure as safe an experience to everyone as possible. We keep looking out for any safety issues throughout the production and will act immediately to solve them.
The location is a modern elementary school with modern amenities, including showers and plenty of single toilets. The school has two floors with an accessible elevator. All the main spaces are accessible with a wheelchair, with some exceptions including fighter cockpits and engineer tunnels. Land missions for the marines are outside the main location, mostly in forests and other types of difficult terrain with players transported to these missions in a van.
The default food option will be vegetarian. We will do our best to accommodate players’ dietary requirements. Meals will be served several times a day, and snacks, coffee, and tea will beavailable at all times.
Sleeping will take place in bunk-beds or on mattresses in shared mix-gender rooms (roughly 20 people per room). It will be possible to sleep off-game, but the facilities for off-game sleeping will be similar to the ingame ones. There will be no private sleeping areas.
A soundscape will be present throughout the larp, and some events will cause a significant rise in the volume (e.g. jump, red alert). While we try to ensure that the sleeping quarters will be kept quieter, some of these sounds will be heard there as well. If you are a very light sleeper, this is something you should take into account.
When it comes to military scifi, some might have fears and expectations regarding gender roles and character competence. We want Odysseus to be as inclusive as possible, so almost all our characters are written gender neutral. In the world of Odysseus, anyone can be anything. Discrimination and inequality based on ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation does not exist in the game world, and any bullying behavior based on them is forbidden both in- and off-game.
Some tasks in the larp will include simple skill checks (for example the spaceship simulator Empty Epsilon, engineering puzzles, science puzzles and land missions). The game will utilize various game mechanics to help players play out the full competence of their characters. For many civilian characters, these skill checks will not be present at all.
On the medical side of things, there will be a lot of fake blood present, as well as very graphic and real-like prop injuries and simulated medical conditions (e.g. nausea, fainting). For the players of medics, these will be impossible to avoid, and others might also unexpectedly encounter glimpses of them.
All in all, our aim is to create an event that is as accessible as possible. However, due to the complexity of the game environment, it may be impossible to accommodate every individual requirement. It is also good to keep in mind that, depending on the kind of accessibility needs you have, some character groups might be less accessible than others.
Closing words – expectation management
When we say that Odysseus will be a 360° larp, the image that comes to mind will likely be that of a fancy spaceship with immersive scenography and fully integrated and working technology. While we now dare to promise even more than we had in the original run in 2019, there are still plenty of disclaimers to be made.
Even though the 2024 venue is the same as in 2019, the layout will experience several strategic changes, and since we will build everything again from scratch the ship won’t look exactly the same. It’s also good to remember that even though the technology worked borderline flawlessly in 2019, that is not an easy task to repeat, so minor hiccups can happen here and there – we can be pleasantly surprised if there are none.
A fully operational and immersive starship might be the main attractor for many. However, it should not be the only one. At the core of any Finnish style or Nordic larp is the character, the community, and the relationships and interpersonal plots the characters have. The characters and their relationships are the beating heart of the game. Ignoring your character’s plots and connections will diminish the experience for all. So if you have a vision in your head of just solo piloting the Odysseus to boldly go where no one has gone before, we ask you kindly to recalibrate these expectations.
Last but not least, we ask you please not to sign up expecting a product. Any larp is a collaborative project created together by organizers and players. While Odysseus is on the more expensive side of larps and we aim for it to be as professionally made as possible, all organizers do this as volunteer work – no wages are paid off the game fees. We do not want our players to join us as customers but as participants. So we ask you to co-create this awesome experience together with us.
We hope that this blog post has managed to clarify what Odysseus is and what it is not – and we hope you have nodded along the text and found this to be the game for you. And if it is, we hope to see you onboard in 2024!
In the next blog post, we will be discussing how player casting will be done for the three runs.
Blog is written by several members of the production team.