The Longest Stay – A larp about political prisoners


Detail of the prison building

So these days I’m always looking for someone who will do one of those big larps at The Prison Museum: Horsens Statsfængsel (now famous from Black Box Horsens.)

I myself have never designed a big larp and I also know I’m bad at getting ideas this way, (starting from the need of a larp and not from ideas slowly crystallising into something finished.)

So it took some time before I realised, that the newest idea I’ve been chewing on fit perfectly at Horsens Statsfængsel (Horsens State Prison).


The locals call it the Castle, (with good reason)

It started with the thought about the intensity there must be in connection with a system change were political prisoners are suddenly set free and now have to decide how to deal with the ones that locked them up. But I also quickly realised that it must also be strange to be that guard, to be told that the ones you have been keeping locked up indefinitely suddenly has to be set free and will soon be the ones in power. If you know your history you know that i’m especially thinking about apartheid and Nelson Mandela.

As far as I remember he was rather graceful about it, but it might not have been so. And that is what I want to explore. So this is the concept:

The larp is set in a prison in an alternative world where what played out in South Africa has played out in Denmark. Much like they did in Finland for the larp Halat hisar, (where the situation in Palestine now played out in Finland)

This prison is where political prisoners are held. And they are to be held there indefinitely. There will be different kinds, leaders, activists, rebels, and different opinions among the imprisoned.

There will also be the guards and the rest of the prison staff. The point is that in preparation for the larp the two groups will design the two cultures that live in that country, the natives and to colonisers (So they are completely fictional, so no one will be offended). So it’s a fictional world but being a clear and open parallel to the development in South Africa.

The larp will take place over a couple of acts, three or four with five to ten years between each. In between the acts it will be workshopped (and maybe black boxed) what happens in those years. I’m also thinking that the characters will have makeup added as the years progress, to show that passed of time.

It will also be a larp where it’s possible to play all of it or some of it, both as guard and prisoner because you might just be imprisoned or hired later. Some change in staff will also make sense, as they move on with their lives, (unlike the prisoners).

Each act will have some kind of focus. It must be a time when tensions in the country comes to a peak, so there’s something to play on. But what exactly that will be requires more study of South African history. But the last act will of course be the system change.

It will be a story about many things: prison life, the feel of the world moving on without you, the meaning of freedom, the effect of apartheid on both cultures, revenge or forgiveness, duty or conscience and so on.

So that’s the idea as far as I’ve gotten so far. Will it be made? I don’t know. If I go forward with it, I would hope to ally myself with some of the designers of some of the bigger larps from recent years, as they have experience doing stuff like this.

It will be an expensive larp as the prison is not cheep. But there’s also a lot of opportunity for funding or even cooperation with the prison, (I’m considering make parts of the game in crowd during the opening hours of the prison.) Theres also the possibility that human rights organisations might want to support it, and I definitely want to write the game in such a way, so it’s open for non larpers who are just interested in the subject. They could be activists from NGOs, students in as different fields as psychology and history, teachers, politicians, researchers and so on.

But what do you think?

2 thoughts on “The Longest Stay – A larp about political prisoners

  1. Rugerfred

    It seems very interesting. Of course the gap from organizing smaller larp to the big ones is a big gap, but that could be done. I love the theme of the prison, and sociology and psychology ever had a big interesting in that environment.

    Keep going with this project, and best luck!

  2. Ryan Rohde Hougaard

    Don’t make the gap between small and large larp bigger than it is. There are two main aspects: Dynamics and logistics. Dynamics is that you have to set the right focus for the player because social dynamics are different in small and large groups. You can tell different stories with groups of different sizes. Logistics are easy – especially when you have a location.


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