I was the only Italian player in Sunburn, a larp taking place in Israel at the beginning of 2017. I was invited by Nevo Levy and Nour Shahin, two Israeli players who came to Italy to play Dracarys and really enjoyed it.
One of them, Nevo, wanted to take back with him a concept which is quite new for Israeli Larps: the Nordic style and the immersion. So, as they started planning this game, they decided to set it in the same universe of Old Town in Poland.
Unfortunately, not many international players could be there, so there were only 5 of us: apart from me, there were two great German guys, a funny Polish girl and a Polish guy, all of whom went to Old Town.
The organizers were great people and the average level of English was extremely high, so nobody had problems with the language when speaking to the local players.
I was welcomed and hosted first by Nour Shahin, then by the chief of my group, Yuval Riffkin. She had the task of taking care of the foreigners. I really appreciated this, because she was extremely nice, kind and thoughtful. She came to pick me up at Nour’s and then we went to meet the German guys, where they were hosted. We tried on our costumes and we went out along the streets of Tel Aviv dressed as our characters. It’s been a quite strange experience but we had fun.
Yuval showed us the city and we had typical street food for dinner: falafel and hummus. Amazing. After dinner we went to the local larpers pub - Yes, they have a larper pub - “The potion”, where we met several other players, had some beers and talked about our respective larp scenes.
The next day I was able to appreciate the awesome organization of this community: they set free bus transportation to the location. It was three hours away, in the middle of the desert, near the Jordan border. The view from the hills which surrounded the location was astonishing: the landscape was a palm grove, after that a Jordan village far away and some mountains in the foreground.
Each group had to furnish and decorate their own shelter, hut, or whatever it was. So we spent the day doing that, chatting and laughing.
When the game started, the village we had created was just terrific, and the people you could see walking around were spectacular.
About the game
100 years into the future, after the world was destroyed by a nuclear war, the civilization is trying to arise from the ashes. The classic post-apoc dynamics were at the center of the larp: lack of fuel, gangs, new laws and obeying them and so on.
The game started two days after a siege allowing the character groups to take control over the town and settling in it.
It was a PVE (player vs environment), with two clear zones to play within: the settlement, called New Tel Aviv, and the wasteland, a huge desert surrounding the town.
Just few things happened in the settlement and the players had to deal with an almost empty sandbox, chatting or fighting or cooking or just walking around with nothing specific to do. The amount of available plots depended on your own ability in finding them or on the group you were part of, so, for example, the Judges (the local police) had a very funny and active Larp, while The Club (a never-ending party in the middle of the village) had very little to do; partying all day seemed a great idea for a novel or a movie, but in real larps people get tired and often prefer to play instead of dancing.
On the other hand, the wasteland was a completely different zone: the staff put thousands of cool things there and a lot of NPCs to pep up the zone. Bandits, rogues and items to scavenge and to create new stuff with, according to one’s skills. You could craft ammos, drugs, whatever you wanted, you just had to go to the game masters and ask.
Another interesting idea was not to allow everybody to the wasteland. You needed a skill on your character sheet to go there or join someone who had it, so a lot of trading between players could be done: you could hire a scout or join some expeditions, or if you were the one who had the skill, a lot of players would need your help.
|Organization:||Sunburn larp (website and FB page and FB group)
|Where:||in the desert: Nahal Ha`Arava, Southern District, Israel|
|When:||January 5 -7, 2017|
|Game System:||Post-apocalyptic, official language Hebrew and English, immersive, non stop, hit points, NERF weapons.|
|More photos:||Have a look at this Google Drive folder|
I’d like now to present some constructive criticism, which I hope may be useful to whom reads this review and I also want to underline that I recognize the stunning job the organizers made.
Only one short workshop was set up and it was in Hebrew, as most of the game was. That was completely understandable: only five of us were non-Hebrew speakers and people didn’t have to speak English all the time, but it made it difficult for me to break in other people’s plots and to find something to do. Most of the discussions on facebook before the larp were in Hebrew and the fact that you design your own character makes it very difficult if you don’t have friends in the groups. That was the biggest problem for 3 out of 5 foreign players, who found themselves in a place where most of the people knew each other and had things to talk about, very often out of character and in Hebrew.
In such a situation, a pre-larp workshop would have been desirable, and quite useful to understand and remember the many different groups and players. The guidebook they provided before the event had all the information, but was not enough to grasp the complexity of the setting.
Luckily all the players were extremely friendly and they were always ready to help and to switch language whenever we, the foreigners, shoved in.
Depending only on my individual taste, I found a lack of depth about the themes and issues the game presented: it was a movie, a very funny and marvelous movie with a lot of CGI and no plot. I personally prefer some fundamental issues to think them over.
Another criticism I have is the low level of immersion. I think that both players and organizers are responsible for that: the players are not used to this kind of game and some of them were basically OC all the time, but I have to admit that it’s really hard to act without a strong background for your character, without a story or without something happening to talk about.
In conclusion, I have to admit that I didn’t expect such a level from the Israeli community. Everything was really professional and I enjoyed the larp, the people, the weather, the desert, the food and everything else. The setting was amazing, the town was incredibly well done and furnished, the organization rented three buses to get to the location and they worked very hard before, during and after the game.
I really want to thank Nevo Levy and Nour Shahin for all the help they provided to me.
I can’t wait to see them again and I’m already saving money to join this prodigious group next year.
Written by Giorgio Capone. Pictures by Ofek Birenbaum (original photos here). Thanks to Cristina Palamini for reviewing this article.
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