After Action Report: [CREW] The Quota

We’ve just come back from providing crew support to Avalon Larp and Broken Dreams LRP’s The Quota – a scenario depicting a hypothetical near future where the UK has broken up, economic stagnation and isolation has caused near-collapse in England, and an independent Wales is an appealing destination for economic migrants. When I first heard the scenario decribed it seemed a little far fetched; as the economic projections for Brexit continue to be made public, I am reconsidering that position.

Anyway; politics aside, the event is set in an immigration processing and detention centre where migrants are held ahead of an annual quota of refugees being accepted over the border. The rules are byzantine, impenetrable and have no recourse to appeal; navigating them is an opaque process. The event was run in conjunction with The Refugee Council, and all profits went to their associated charity.

I sometimes describe the bureaucracy associated with some other UK larps like Empire as “kafkaesque” but the hyperbole, here, was deserved. Crewing the event – playing a variety of visitors, debt collectors, “volunteers” forced to teach classes to baffled and disinterested detainees as community service, and at the last, a representative of the Welsh government come to investigate the goings-on at the facility was among the most challenging crewing I’ve ever done and on one or two occasions, I just couldn’t meet the brief of casual, bored or disinterested cruelty to the full. I, categorically, would not have enjoyed playing this game in the slightest; but those who did committed fully to it.

I heard a lot of comment in the run-up to the game about it being “misery tourism for rich kids” – my firsthand experience of this strongly suggests this wasn’t the case. The participants took the experience very seriously as an opportunity to walk a mile in some ragged trainers that, one hopes, they will never have the experience of for real. Is that not one of the whole points of roleplaying? To see things from a perspective you cannot normally, to use roleplay as a means of exploring and empathising with a viewpoint you don’t have?

The game also used a lot of European techniques to explore incidents and vignettes from character pasts, futures and what-ifs in a black box environment. I’ve discovered that minimg character backgrounds for useful titbits for black boxes is right in my wheelhouse and it’s something I think you can expect to see used increasingly in BD and BDCF games moving forward.

I have learned a lot about what I can and cannot – and, will and will not – do as crew at an event. Some of those discoveries were completely new to me – things I thought were easy turned out to be impossible to deliver in practice – and some were long-held suspicions; but it means I’m going to be better at doing this kind of thing moving forward. Know your strengths.

We haven’t got any joint projects with Avalon on the board at present – though given who’s involved there, I can’t imagine we’ll be strangers for long – but as ever, it was a pleasure to work with Rob and Helly. I remain in awe of their work ethic and commitment. The Quota was Helly’s concept from the word go – and I know exactly how satisfying, fulfilling and damn fine it is to stick the landing for a hard project.


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