Be careful what you say or do,
as Santa Claus is watching you!
The story of Midwinter takes place in The Workshop, Inc.: A repressive fusion of corporate dystopia and cartoon North Pole, where elves slave away for meager wages and have to pay for their board, clothing, and other necessities. Their behavior and thoughts are monitored and controlled, and the purpose of their existence is to produce value for the faceless Old Man Santa, whom they’ve never met.
At the bottom of the hierarchy, worker elves struggle to manage their everyday lives. The work is hard, the hours are long, and failing to pull one’s weight may result in serious trouble. The quotas for toy production seem to increase day by day, and the stressed management is buried in corporate bureaucracy and paperwork. Order and decorum are maintained by the menacing Reindeer Guard, and misbehaving elves may expect to find themselves on the Naughty List, tracked by the dreadful Krampus.
Underneath the dystopian sweatshop surface lies a deeper origin story of the elves and the workshop. Uncovering this history and making personal decisions on what to do with it create the thematic core of our story.
This is the revised second edition of Midwinter, redesigned in cooperation with the original production team. The original design was envisioned and directed by Martine Svanevik,
and run by Avalon Larp Studio in Birmingham, UK, in January 2020.
Remixing a larp that has already been tested is a luxury, and we have been given free hands to change design based on earlier player experiences. While the thematic vision, immediate situation, and core story of Midwinter remain the same, we have made changes – big and small – to the larp’s structure, in-fiction culture, and other design elements to increase playability at a larger scale, and to further escalate the emotional impact of the larp’s themes. The most notable changes include:
creating new character groups with new themes,
remixing themes and content of original character groups,
rebranding Santa’s workshop as The Workshop, Inc. and implementing corporate, bureaucracy as a central part of runtime design (while taking care that your fictional bullshit job will always generate a ton of interesting larp content),
adding new ingame events and activities, and
adding an extra day to the larp to better facilitate the extended content.
The Workshop, Inc. is essentially a panopticon, running on slave labor. During the larp, participants can perform concrete, realistic tasks, and interact with a 360° immersive environment. Characters will maintain the workshop, build toys, take part in corporate activities, play games and sing songs, sort out family matters — and keep their personal secrets (and naughty side-hustles) hidden behind jolly smiles. Those taking on management roles also engage with corporate bureaucracy, and drudge to keep The Workshop running despite dwindling resources and absurd production targets.
The larp is divided into three acts, during which different activities and events take place. Only some of these are revealed to participants ahead of time. As the events unfold, some characters may try to rip open the web of lies and propaganda, while some may focus on keeping their family and loved ones safe in an abusive environment. Some benefit from the system and aim to make it stronger.
Dissident thoughts start as mere whispers in secluded nooks and crannies of The Workshop, but grow consistently louder. Eventually, the lid of the pressure cooker must come off — but to what end? Does your character want to save the myth of Christmas, or rise against it? Both options have drawbacks — and both offer rewarding play. Whether a willing cog in the system or a rebel fighting to stop the machine, everyone needs to find their cause and make a stand for it.
Make no mistake, this larp will explore some very dark themes — but it will do so surrounded by jolly Christmas music and tinsel. Some of the content may seem absurd, or even funny, but our intention is not to play this for laughs. Any humor, intentional or accidental, is meant to be very dark indeed.
Each participant is expected to contribute to the repressive atmosphere of the workshop. No one gets to be a full-time innocent victim — everyone in the system is at least a little bit messed up, and at times ends up spreading the harm they’ve experienced. Whether harmful actions are unintentional, well-meaning but ill-advised, or actively malicious, is up to the player to decide.
To balance the oppression taking place in the fiction we want to pay utmost attention to cooperative play outside of it. While the fiction involves some secretive plot elements, the play style we aim for is otherwise transparent and inclusive. We encourage all participants to consider what is fun for others as well as for themselves, and observe the impact of their actions on their coplayers. Inclusivity and ensemble play will be important focus points in the pre-larp workshops.
Midwinter touches themes and content that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Before signing up, we ask you to consider whether this design is suitable for you, and if unsure, contact us for clarification.
Different meta-techniques for safe and considerate play are practiced in pre-larp workshops. Participants are always free to opt out of any content, scene, or activity, no questions asked.
The design includes different forms of abuse and violence that will be visible to all characters in the larp. Most characters will at some point be subjected to bullying or harassment. Physical confrontations are played out as slow motion theater fighting. More realistic portrayal of violence is allowed, if specifically agreed upon between players in question. In all cases, everyone in the scene should be given time to react and/or opt out.
The design does not include explicitly sexual themes, and they will not appear in public play. Open displays of sexual abuse or sexualized violence are not allowed in this larp. Play depicting real world racism, sexism, or homophobia is also forbidden. While we recognize that representations of these themes can be important for liberatory play, they are out of scope for this larp and the kind of oppression we want to explore.
No alcohol is served during the larp, but consumption of alcohol is allowed in small amounts. Under no circumstances is intoxication allowed: Participants appearing drunk will be removed from the larp.
A staffed offgame room is available throughout the larp for negotiation, calibration, support, or just taking a break from play.