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Early 1980s, Sheffield. Thatcher’s Britain. Millions out of work. A decrepit block of council flats on the outskirts of the city. One of the flats is vacated – an empty space, in the neutral zone between two territories. Two groups move in on the flat, to try and take it over. This is the story of what happens next.

A really cool Nordic Larp type game, preceded by a workshop and an intense group and character building session. I played Ashe, the leader of the more hierachrical group, a control-freak. We each got to tell the group what we wanted for our character: I told everyone I wanted my character to lose control and break down because of it. Yes, I basically wanted to play Rick Grimes.

(not really the speech I was going for, but you get the idea!)

It’s deadly cold outside, which heightens our immersion something fierce. We really, really want this apartment. When we find there are already people there, everything goes crazy. The apartment seems to belong to Oliver for the moment. Oliver is not interested in power or domination at all, he simply wants to share this apartment with whoever needs it. Ashe is pretty much incapable of that kind of reflection, especially in an unsafe space, and his exploring questions (“What do you do?”) are almost mocking. Ashe will have none of it and tries to dominate him which quickly leads to him pulling out his gun.

This, of course, changes everything. A gun means a gang, and gangs are something you need to stay clear of at all costs. This leaves only two options for Ashe – bide our time until we can get control of the gun (a very unsafe option, especially since we do not want to find out if we have what it takes to use it) or leave.

This is about when the lights go out. We stumble around in the dark for maybe thirty seconds before time out is called. I try to position myself to control the situation if necessary – and feel someone softly grabbing my hand. It’s T, who has been talking to Oliver.

That’s when we time out, and we talk about what each character will do in the dark. Faye and Oliver sneak off to have sex. Hugo sneaks after them to take Oliver’s gun. N explains she will take Faye’s heroin and shoot up – I’m shocked. This will turn out to be the event that changes the entire situation..

While people talk in turn in the dark, I have time to gather my thoughts. What with the gun, the group spreading out and weakening our power, Ashe is losing control and starting to flip out about it more than I realised when I was in the moment. Having T provide a hand at just this moment, before Ashe even realises she badly needs it, is a very big thing to her. She never shows weakness but somehow he’s seen it before she did and is not taking advantage of it.

This wasn’t quite T’s intention at all. He had been talking with O on the couch. Oliver had been talking about the huge stick up Ashe’s ass, and T had been defending her. At some point he looked at Ashe in a way that makes Oliver ask if he has told Ashe about his feelings. T says he wouldn’t stand a chance and Oliver says something charismatic along the lines of “Well, you don’t know until you try”. That’s when the lights go out and T tries. Ashe’s hand holds and squeezes his, and then starts shaking quite heavily.

The lights come on and we talk for a bit, but soon N is discovered. She’s far gone, and we worry that Faye’s addict dose is enough to kill her. This changes the entire situation. Fuck claiming apartments, fuck guns, the safety of the group goes before everything. For the moment, Ashe knows what to do and can take charge again – pushing away what will happen when N doesn’t make it. N is put in the bathtub, and Ashe drags in T’s ‘useless druggy brother’ who steps up to the task of keeping her alive. Ambulances and taxi’s are not showing up, and in the end it’s T and T’s brother who carry N to their house, where they can make it to the hospital.

Out of things to do, Ashe has nothing to do but fear N won’t make it, and the terrible price of her decision just waltz into this apartment without even bothering to check or prepare. To her, everything that happened here tonight is her fault and hers alone. She is falling apart.

That’s when Hugo steps in holding the gun. He says he’s taking over the apartment and both groups get to stay there as long as they behave. ‘It’s not a perfect solution, but there are no perfect solutions, Ashe.” “I’m glad you finally realise that, Hugo.” 

T shows up and tells Hugo to go back into the apartment. That he and Ashe have been arguing like this for as long as he can remember and that nothing ever comes out of it. That he should claim the apartment if he wants to, but go. He does so.

Ashe is shaking and keeps repeating that everything that happened tonight is all her fault. It was her responsibility to keep them safe and she failed utterly and is losing the control to do something about it. And somewhere in the back of her head the nagging feeling that she failed in the first place by working so hard to keep people where they were – drug-addled and miserable, fearing it could only get worse and not better. “All we can do is keep going like this, but we can’t just keep on going like this…”

T tries grabs Ashe and tries to hug her. She struggles, knowing this means she won’t be able to hold back the tears any more, but she doesn’t have a lot of strength left and starts sobbing uncontrollably.

T realises that’s it the group who has put all this load on Ashe and who made her the way she is. That they’ve been unloading so much of their personal responsibility on her that it has made them all dysfunctional and that he’s been breaking the person he loves. (When we break up the hug, I see that T’s player has actual tears on his face, and am a bit shocked. But it’s all good).

T’s brother comes back and shouts up at them that N is going to be fine.

In the background we hear Hugo update the apartment’s inhabitants on the new situation with his first leader speech. It seems to go down well.

Everyone goes back inside, and time is called.

Game of the con for me! Very psychological and deep, with some great people/fellow angstbunnies to play with.

What worked really really well

I already gave the GM’s lots of feedback, but just to sum up here: the workshops worked really really well. We basically said to each other “Can we do this before every game from now on?”

What could use improvement

The debrief after the game was too long, and the questions didn’t really get at the things that we felt like talking about.