Creating a Carnival

It’s been a while since I had time to type up my next blog, but here it is finally! I’ve been caught up with larp after larp, and I’m loving every moment of it!

I figured this time I’m going to give a look into how I designed my carnival as my first over arch at Dystopia Rising. What a better way to celebrate my 3 year anniverasry, right? It’s something I’m proud of, looking back on, and something I did put a lot of thought into. I needed to come up with a design that would have people feeling fantastic during the day, and add that horror into the night.

As expected, people did not trust the carnival at first. Friday night my face NPC Eleanor, and a friend’s face NPC Elvira, had paid people that helped us out with our carnival set up. One of the setup locations was at the Fun House in the middle of the woods. Once things were all set up Elvira had asked the helpers if they thought this was going to be a trap. Nearly all of them agreed they thought something terrible would happen, but instead they all walked away with a few cred! That was about it for Friday night, other than a bit of mingling as our face NPCs. We had gained a small bit of their trust.

Saturday morning came. Time for the carnival to get started. People were setting up their own booths at the carnival, as well as some of the carnies with their prizes. The carnival itself wasn’t the main area I had to focus on though, it was the fun house. 12 in the afternoon we opened the fun house. The first mod going on inside? A happy fun water balloon fight with some of the carnies! People were hesitant at first to go in, but once they did they had a blast. The carnival was going pretty well so far. No reason to not trust them, but it still was early.

As things went on it was time for the fun house to switch it up again. This time there was a string maze with 4 floor traps. The strings had no mechanical effect, they were just for the fun of dodging and weaving through. The floor traps though were actual IG bombs. The question here is ‘why would you put bombs inside if you wanted to win people’s trust?’. The answer is a few things. First of all, the traps were in plain sight so it wasn’t like we were hiding horrible things from people. Second, if someone were to hit one of the traps (as did happen) it was a way for Elvira to go in and explain how it’s all part of the fun. If there’s no thrill, then what would be fun about it? Third is so we could go ‘apologize’ later to anyone that we had upset, assuming their character had become very angry about it. And fourth, word of mouth. When people hear what happened they tend to bring it up to the carnies, even though they had not gone through themselves, and it gives us a chance to explain ourselves and invite them for a run through to see for themselves it’s really not all that bad.

As the day went on, it was time to switch up the fun house again. Now it was time to start prepping them for a few of the horror aspects. Inside we had splatter mods going on, but rather than water this time we had fake blood. There were people inside that were menacing, making weird sounds, spraying blood, just being scary. This way when someone came out of the fun house with a bit of blood on them, again, it was all part of the show. Nothing to worry about.

Over the next few hours there was a pause in the fun house as the main show started up. The show was also being run as part of the carnival. People saw familiar faces perform, and they saw some NPCs perform (all did an AMAZING job). Eleanor and Elvira went on stage, Eleanor made an announcement thanking people for coming and inviting them to the final part of the fun house while Elvira did her contortion act. At this point we’re hitting about 8pm and still nothing has gone wrong at the carnival. Maybe it was just a really awesome carnival.

As the fun house was being set up for its final funs, Eleanor and Elvira walked around and mingled, prepping for a night of terror for a select few unlucky people (or maybe very lucky if you look at it OOG). We had two types of tickets to hand out. The good tickets, and the bad tickets. When someone was extremely helpful to the characters in a certain way, we handed them a good ticket that could be redeemed around 9pm. The bad ticket was for later that night. How did these tickets help out with validating the kindness of the carnival? If you were given a good ticket and you redeemed that ticket, you would tell people ‘oh the carnival people gave this to me!’ Thus spreading the idea that you want to get their special tickets. Those that got that ‘bad’ ticket were people that had given trouble to the carnies early for a variety of reasons. These tickets were given as ‘an apology for upsetting them’ earlier on in the day.

Finally it was time for the last fun house run. This was the most important (and by far it sounds like everyone’s favorite) piece to making the fun house seem harmless. At this point it was dark, about 10pm. We had been advertising to everyone not to miss out on the last run because we would really be amping up the spooky aspect of the fun house. Inside there were lights, there was fog, there were people being tied up and tortured. The carnies were screaming for help with desperation in their eyes. But once the PCs went to save them from the horrible torture of the pig person, everything stopped. Elvira came storming in and the people being tortured halted their screams. It was all for show, it was their job. No one was being tortured, it was simply part of the fun house. The PCs quickly learned this and allowed things to continue as normal inside the fun house. After, they would go around telling their friends about how all the screams inside were for the fun.

Before we reach the final part, let me give a quick recap on the build up throughout the day. First we started off by paying people for help, then we moved into the fun parts, then an accident or two in the fun house that we would clear up as their own fault for not paying enough attention to where they stepped. We amped up the horror a tiny bit by introducing blood and some unsettling things in the fun house. During this whole time there was mingling and fun and games happening outside. The final run was to gain trust over the screams and any unnerving sounds coming from inside.

Now we’ve reached midnight. Everything so far has been going great. Several people had asked Eleanor for the carnival’s return in the future. People were loving it. Midnight and not a single thing had gone wrong at the carnival! How could that be?

The fun house was prepped for it’s special midnight showing. Only those with tickets could come in. The tickets included a plus one, because it’s more fun if you bring a friend! The hardest part this whole time was ‘how do I get players to come to the fun house at midnight without bringing 20 of their biggest baddest friends?’ and while some had thought to do just that, some had chosen to come with just their plus one. We people still nervous about it, of course. You’d have to be out of your mind to fully trust a fun house at midnight. But people still came. And they still enjoyed what it had to offer.

And with that, I’m going to wrap things up here. I don’t want to give out much more info, because what fun would it be for the players if I told you everything? This was my very first time designing an arch that expanded through both Friday and Saturday. Everything went better than I could have asked for. Thank you to all the staff and all the players for making my carnival come true.

I can’t wait to design my next major arch :)