This page contains instructions on how to play in Halat hisar.
Halat hisar is a game about life under occupation. It focuses on the experience of the occupied, and the majority of the people enforcing the occupation from outside are non-player characters. They are not treated as deeply as the occupied. This is an intentional artistic choice.
Instructions for Play
Halat hisar differs in many respects from traditional Finnish larp. Thus, the players should read the following instructions carefully.
Cut, Brake & Freeze
The safe word cut is used to interrupt the scene currently being played. When this is done, players go off-game and discuss the situation. Typically cut is used when a player feels the scene is too much. Don’t hesitate to use cut if you feel the slightest need to do so. In one game, cut was used when a character received discouraging remarks from an NPC cook.
Brake is used to “slow down” the scene, and it can be used when the player feels that she is approaching her personal boundaries (physical or psychological). It can be interpreted as “this far, but not further” or in some situations “one step back, please”. It can be included in ordinary conversation, as in “please, brake, don’t be so mean.” The players who hear brake being used have the responsibility for resolving the situation.
1) An army officer is interrogating a prisoner and suddenly demands her to strip to her underwear. The player feels uncomfortable with this, so she says: “Please, brake, I can’t do it.” The officer then stops demanding it.
2) An army officer is interrogating a prisoner and pushing her face down on a table. It is getting really uncomfortable. The player of the prisoner says “brake”. The interrogator then loosens her grip so that the prisoner’s player can find a better position (or lets go of altogether and continues the interrogation without touching).
The main difference between cut and brake is that while cut ends the scene altogether and the players go off-game, with brake roleplaying can be continued.
Freeze is used to halt the game action. When someone shouts: “Freeze!” everybody should freeze in the positions that they are currently holding. Freeze is typically used when real-world danger in involved in a game situation. For instance, when two players are involved in a fight and on the verge of dropping off a cliff, freeze would be used.
Traditionally, Finnish games have been very secretive. Halat hisar, however, is a 70% transparent game. This means that the players will know many things about other players’ characters even though their characters don’t have this information. Let’s say for instance that your character really likes to play the tough guy but secretly enjoys romantic comedies. In this case, the other characters won’t know about your secret but their players will. This style of play may seem strange, but it will enable the players to create drama for others. The secret about the romantic comedies will not create much game content if the topic never comes up. However, if other players know about the secret, they may intentionally bring up romantic comedies in scenes involving you, and with everybody knowing about your secret, this will be more interesting.
Some secrets relevant to the game plots will remain secrets from the players, however. If you are a collaborator, don’t tell it to the players whose characters you are spying on. It will be more interesting for them to try to figure out. However, remember that as a collaborator, you are not supposed to play to win. Getting caught or being suspected might create interesting scenes, both for you and the others!
This is a technique used to express things your character thinks or feels but does not (for one reason or another) say aloud. The player makes a square in the air, rather like a TV-screen around her face, does a meta level comment (i.e. the thing the character does not say aloud), and then closes the box with the same gesture. Things expressed between the opening and closing of the box are not heard by the other characters.
Minna and Marko are having a discussion.
Minna: How are you?
Marko [opens the monologue box]: My girlfriend just got arrested and I’m afraid they’ll be coming for me soon. But I won’t say it because you are probably a collaborator.
Marko [closes the monologue box]: I’m doing ok, no, I’m doing great, really.
In this case, Minna’s player will understand that Marko’s girlfriend has been arrested and that Marko himself is afraid of being arrested. Minna, the character, will not know this.
The technique has the same function as commenting your characters emotions during a tabletop roleplaying session even though they don’t show in the game. The monologue box can also be effectively used if you happen to be interrogated by the soldiers during the game. If you (as a player) would wish the interrogator to be a bit rougher with you, you can do the monologue box and say e.g. “I am lying to you.”
The black box is a room where you can play scenes that do not happen in the game. These might include e.g. happenings from the lives of the characters, or their fears, hopes and future dreams. If you wish to play a black box scene together with (an)other player(s), you may discreetly ask them to join you in the black box. The game masters might also instruct you to follow them to the black box at some point in the game. In some cases, a black box scene might resemble tabletop roleplaying.
In a conflict situation, the character(s) with a gun or guns are always in control of the situation. In the end, they can impose their will on others. This does not mean that they cannot be resisted. You can refuse to do what they say, but in the end they have the power to decide what happens. You may run away from them, but their players may decide they succeed shooting you in the leg if they wish. This will be discussed more in the workshop.
If there is a conflict between unarmed characters, the players decide amongst themselves who will win. If you find it hard to decide, do rock-paper-scissors. After making the decision, play out the scene of conflict in slow motion.
It’s not likely that the player characters would wish to kill each other during the game. You are at the university, the area is closed, you can’t get out, authorities are present, you will probably get caught. But if you really feel you need to kill, hospitalize or otherwise impair another character (a collaborator, for instance), do not do it before Sunday 12:00 noon. Find an in-character reason for this.
In the game, only soldiers will have guns. Your character might have weapons at home, but to come to the university you had to cross a checkpoint where you had great odds of getting searched. There was no reason to bring weapons to university.
Possible sex scenes will be played verbally in the black box.
In the game, Finnish will be Finnish, Swedish will be Swedish, Arabic will be Arabic, English will be English etc. In reality, the soldiers should be speaking Uralic, but in the game they speak English. Use suspension of disbelief. The big events happening during the game – The Tolkien Studies lecture, The Elections Panel and The Conference Opening will all be held in English.
Alcohol & Drugs
Halat hisar is an alcohol-free game. You should not drink real alcohol during the game. Needless to say, the same holds for drugs. However, the characters might drink alcohol or have drugs. This is propped with suitable look-alikes: tea for whiskey, water for vodka, candy for drugs etc. Be creative.
Game Events & Timetable
The game will be structured around the visit of the Jordanian Minister at the university and around a military blockade that will stop the characters from leaving the university. The main rule with the timetable is that events that are scheduled for Saturday on the general timeline (that is, the lecture on Tolkien Studies and the elections panel) will be held, while events on Sunday may be cancelled if the characters so decide. Thus, the student council elections or the conference may be postponed or cancelled if the characters wish.
On Saturday morning most of the characters will attend a lecture on Tolkien Studies, and all student characters will be there. If your character is not majoring in Tolkien Studies or anything related, make up a reason why she is taking this particular class. Even people in the sciences sometimes take up this stuff for fun!
All characters will be present at the elections panel on Saturday at 15:00. Make up a reason for your character to be there. The same holds for the Conference opening on Sunday at 14:00. Your character will be there, be it to protest the event or to listen to the speeches. All of these events will be played in English.
In addition, there will be individual events scheduled on the characters (these should be on the character brief you receive). Before the game, check with the other people involved in these scenes that your timetables actually match (we have double-checked them, but it’s always best to make sure…).
Be inclusive of other players. If you wonder whether you should tell a secret to someone or not, do it. While playing, do your best to create interesting scenarios for others. If the character text you received includes plot pointers, play them out during the game. If you want something from someone or feel something, make it show during the game.
Playing to lose
In many situations, you might want to play to lose. That is, consciously make choices that you know will hinder your character from achieving her goals.
The final version of your character and her relationships to other people are going to be built in the workshop. So don’t panic if it seems to you that the character isn’t detailed enough or doesn’t have many contacts written on it. The character sent to you is merely a sketch, and the final one will be built interactively in the workshop. Group dynamics and the relationships between the different characters are also built in the workshop.
You are free to make up yourself any details not mentioned in the written character you received. For instance, if it does not mention which political party (if any) your character supports or whether she likes drinking red wine, you can decide by yourself.
We recommend that especially the players of the Finnish characters think about the following questions before the game (they will also be brought up in the workshop):
The Visit of the Jordanian Minister
Does your character think the Minister should visit the university or should the visit be cancelled? Does the character care about this? In some characters an opinion about this is stated. If this is not the case, you may decide for yourself. In this, it might help you as a player to know that the visit is the main question the game is structured around.
Politics and the Occupation
On some characters, there is a political party mentioned. In that case, your character is a member of that party. If no party is mentioned, then your character is not a party member. She can, of course, still support some specific party. Read the documents on politics (or your character’s specific movement) and consider the character’s personal views in relation to them. If your character is a student at the university, does she know who to vote for in the elections? If your character is a Finn, how does she deal with living under occupation?
In all the Finnish characters a religion is stated. This means that the character is a member in the said religious group. It does necessary mean that the character actually is religious. Unless the character’s religious views are stated in the character text, you may decide them for yourself. For instance, if it says “Religion: Lutheran” on the character but nothing on religion in the text, it means merely that you are a member of the Lutheran church. You may decide for yourself whether you actually believe in God etc. If it says “Religion: Atheist” or “Religion: Agnostic”, then the character is not a member in any religious group (and is, indeed, either an Atheist or an Agnostic). It is a good idea to think a little bit about your character’s religious views.
Where is Your Character From?
Where was your character born? Where is her family from? Is there perhaps a town inside Uralia that she sees as her real home? If this is not stated in the character text, consult the map in the geography section to decide.