Odysseus is a larp about war, and the terrible actions taken in the name of survival during wartime. While these themes are just one aspect of Odysseus, and the larp is much more than that, we feel that this is a theme we want to address separately. In this blog post we aim to address both the framing of war in the narrative of Odysseus, and how we hope that our players approach these themes, as well as address some concerns players might have regarding these heavy themes.
To start with, we want to emphasize that the story of Odysseus is in its essence anti-war. Democracy, human rights, and equality are core values for our team. We do not support any actions against these values. As organizers, we are united in our full support of Ukraine, and we condemn Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine and the crimes of the Russian regime. We strongly feel that this larp will not be a good fit for players who do not share these beliefs and values. Additionally, we will not tolerate any messages of support for Putin or his regime in our event or in any of our pre- or post-messaging channels.
The themes for Odysseus can be summarized as the Cycle of Violence. It is a story of how terrible actions would keep causing terrible actions over and over again. And how our characters would inevitably become a part of this cycle, repeating and repaying for the mistakes of their ancestors.
In Odysseus, there is a lot of player agency both on personal and higher levels, but in some regards the journey of the Odysseus is firmly on railroad tracks from the beginning to the very end. The tragedies of the past will slowly unfold throughout the larp, while our characters head towards the final decisions to preserve whatever is left of their civilization. Arguably there are several possible endings to the game, but there is one ending that is far more likely than any other. It is not a happy ending, though it might be bittersweet or even considered a victory for many of the characters.
In 2018, when we first started to build the narrative for Odysseus, we decided to draw inspiration from early episodes of Battlestar Galactica, especially from episode ‘33’. This provided the set-up for the larp: coordinated, devastating attacks on human colonies in a faraway star system, executed by the machines. Essentially, an attempted genocide of the entire human populace.
We have carefully considered the feedback we received back in 2019, and while the majority of the story from original runs and many aspects of the possible endings remain the same, some adjustments have been made especially in both pre- and post-game briefings. Our goal is to provide tools to our players to discuss and contemplate the heavy themes of the larp with a clear understanding of all the sides of their characters actions.
However, it is very important to understand that war in all its ugliness is one of the core themes in Odysseus. During the larp it is easy to focus on the thrilling adventure and excitement of being a part of the ever-turning clockwork. As players, we often fall in love with our characters, wanting them to do the right thing and become the heroes who save the day. It is very natural to feel this way, and in Odysseus there are plenty of occasions for heroism; to take pride in the characters’ work and to celebrate victories big and small. However, there are also moments when the characters need to make horrible choices and carry out orders that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. We hope that our players allow themselves to also explore these more difficult themes and see that even those who are considered “good” are capable of – and will resort to – doing terrible things when desperate enough. Our aim is to give our players a chance to live through stories that create legends and see how history is written by the winners, and how easy it is to glorify terrible actions to silence a guilty conscience.
So, to summarize: Odysseus is a story about the struggle to survive against an unyielding foe. There are moments of happiness, moments of victory, and moments of celebration. However, the larp has dark and unforgiving undertones that are constantly present. For players who seek to tell positive stories and who struggle with darker and more difficult themes, Odysseus might not be a good fit. While there are moments of heroism, this is not a larp for players who seek to play purely the good guys. The shades of gray are constantly present, and the victories come with a heavy price. Towards the end, our characters are faced with decisions that should provoke controversy amongst them and not be easy to make.
We want to close by stating that this larp is not a statement regarding any real-life conflict, but it does reflect our take on the world and the monstrosities we see all around us. The larp was originally written in 2018-19 and while the world around us has changed since then, we feel that it is a story that is very much worth telling.
Blog is written by several members of the production team.