For many of us, high school was a mostly terrible, confusing, and disempowering experience made tolerable by our best friends and our favorite records. But what if the oft-repeated lie was true, and our teen years really were the best of our life, precisely because of the power of our emotions and our relationships with the things we loved in the way only teens can?
My Jam is a one-shot larp in the American Freeform tradition* that explores what high school might have been. In My Jam, you play teen musarchs: people who gain magical powers from their relationship to music. When the DJ plays your song, you become the deity of the dance floor, and your whims are law. But when your song is over, someone else will reign, and they’ll remember how you treated them...
(*If you know what this means, please explain it to us. -Ed.)
Our initial goal with this game was to write a love letter to Phonogram, the brilliant comic about music magic by Kieron Gillen and Jaime McKelvie. But after reviewing the feedback from our first playtest, we realized that by combining music, magic, and larp, we had struck a deeper chord (no pun intended.*) Players reported a sense of revisiting and reinterpreting experiences from their youths, experiencing the same emotional whiplash and intensity through the filter of adult emotional maturity.
We took that initial experience and refined it to try to focus on the rollercoaster of youthful emotions, the complex webs of relationships, and the core experience of being empowered over an entire high school dance. We've been running playtests and iterating for the last year or so, and we're thrilled to bring this game to you!
(*Pun absolutely intended. -Ed.)
My Jam is a larp for nerds, but different from what most people think of when they hear the word “larp”; it can be played in a single night, in a single room, with no costumes. If you have a set of speakers and some friends, you can play!
Here’s how the game plays:
You play students attending the biggest dance of the year at Robert Johnson Memorial High School. This dance is important not just because it is an opportunity to show off your superior musical taste, but also because you might be elected Dance Monarch and funnel all the emotional and magical energy into a world-changing ritual.
Before the game, players are familiarized with rules and principles to ensure their safety and comfort within the context of a simulated high school environment.
Players then create characters in stages. First choosing one of the game‘s covens, which reflect the characters’ relationships with music (i.e., melancholy, hype, chill, fanatical, or aggro). Each player then answers questions about their character‘s biographical information and chooses a song that represents the character’s attitude and source of power (their Jams). The game’s facilitator compiles these songs into a playlist while the players determine their relationships to their covenmates. Finally, every character introduces themselves to the group, and establishes relationships with other characters via a highly scientific preferential sorting method.* After all this, every player has a character with a defined personality and set of relationships to play with.
Then the music starts, and characters dance, mingle, chat, or whatever, until someone‘s Jam comes on, they don the ceremonial laurel wreath of power, and start using and/or abusing their power. Maybe they just want everyone to follow them in a dance, or tell someone their secrets, or maybe they just want a few minutes alone with their crush.
This process continues until all the Jams have been played, at which point the characters vote on who should be the Dance Monarch who enacts a powerful, lasting ritual (and, perhaps more importantly, gets to pick the last song).
(*Playing Fuck, Marry, Kill. -Ed.)
Text PDF: The text PDF will include a version of the rules and materials needed for play laid out for ease of printing. It won't include any of the zine artwork or anything like that. After this campaign, we plan to offer the text-only PDF at a pay-what-you-want rate for maximum accessibility.
Zine PDF: The zine PDF is a scanned copy of the physical zine. This will include all the rules needed for play as well as the awesome cover and interior illustrations by Lawrence Gullo, as well as any additional art we can afford. You can print it out and put together your own zine if you want, or just open it and marvel at how cool it is! Whatever you want. We will be offering the zine PDF for sale after the kickstarter for a set price. Probably $5 or so. Who knows what price the invisible hand of the market will lead us to?
Physical Zine: The zine* will contain all the rules needed for play, as well as some cool art and stuff. It'll be printed risograph by The Circadian Press here in Brooklyn. All backer levels that include the physical zine include the PDFs as well. We're only offering the physical zine as part of this Kickstarter campaign!!! It's like a collector's item!!! Look at this awesome cover:
Care package: A box of keepsakes, mementos, letters, and other assorted stuff curated by Teenage Jeff and/or Teenage Eric. Each will be unique, and will contain a frankly embarrassing amount of stuff, some of which will be rad. Also the zine and PDFs.
(*A zine is an independently published booklet, usually laid out manually by literally copying and pasting the text and images, then preparing them via scanning or just copying them via photocopier and binding it with staples. In this case we'll probably be doing a mix of digital and physical layout, scanning them in, then sending them to Circadian for riso printing and binding. -Ed.)
My Jam is a larp but lots of people want to play games on a "table top" these days, so at $10,000 Jeff & Eric will include tabletop rules in the My Jam zine! In the interest of full transparency, here are the tabletop rules in their entirety:
For a tabletop My Jam experience, play a game of Monsterhearts 2 by Avery Alder set at a high school dance with the following addition: every character should choose a few songs that are their Jams. They should be added to a playlist along with a bunch of other songs. Then the MC should shuffle the playlist. When a character's Jam is playing, they may spend strings as if they have an infinite number of strings on all characters at the dance.
Also, any extra money we make over the $1,200 will go to commissioning extra interior art or improving the overall production values of the zine or maybe throwing a big party.
"Music is magic, and gaming is magic, and My Jam sticks the two together in the most charming and elegant way. Even Seth Bingo would approve. Dibbs on Be My Baby as my song if I ever play." - Kieron Gillen, creator of Phonogram and The Wicked and The Divine
"My Jam is a game that feels like it was written to delight me personally. It strikes a chord that is both deeply intimate and timelessly epic. The music-based rules system is intuitive and easy to pick up and get started. This is a great game for both new and experienced larpers." - Liz Stong, game designer & playtester
"Visceral, intense, and surprisingly sensual, My Jam left a lasting impression on me. Would play again, especially if it instigates another hookup." - Jacqueline Bryk, game designer & larpwright
“I played My Jam, and it made me feel lots of feelings. Like... in a good way.” - David Leaman, game designer and playtester
"My Jam was one of the best LARP experiences I have ever had. It was like reliving a highschool dance, but only this time it was awesome, and didn't totally suck." - Whitney Delaglio, game designer & playtester
"We all create soundtracks for characters in our heads, but My Jam takes this this usually solitary exercise and makes it part of play, inviting others to DJ alongside us. Not only do you walk away with some great stories but also a whole mix tape to remember it by." - Kristine Rosette, playtester
"My Jam is smart and fun and deceptively poignant in the best way. Best of all, using music is a clever trick to make the years fall away and take us back to what it felt like when all we needed was the right song to feel like the world was ours for the taking. I love this game." - Pete Woodworth, larp designer, game runner, and former Mind's Eye Theatre developer
"No roleplaying experience I have ever tried has so effectively captured the feeling of being a teenager at a dance. The rapid moodswings of the music (and the magic) perfectly echo the emotional rollercoaster of adolescence. I've played this larp three times (so far!), and each time I get entirely new things out of the experience. When we bring our own songs to the playlist, we also add in all the memories, power, and magic that music carries with it. This is a game for anyone who has ever loved a song to the point of it hurting, or been hurt to the point of loving a song, or just been a teenager and danced, or been a teenager who wished they were dancing, or really just anyone at all. Play this larp. You might regret it, but it'll be a really rewarding, emotionally-charged kind of regret, the kind that you'll flash back to every time you hear that one song from that larp." - Ben “Books” Schwartz, larpwright & playtester
Co-designer Jeff Dieterle is an award-winning larpwright & game designer. His games range from apocalyptic radio call-in shows to grief-ridden family dinners in an attempt to expose his esoteric whims to ever-smaller audiences. My Jam is a con by him to get you to make and send him playlists. The larp community is waiting for his inevitable heel turn. You can follow him on Twitter.
Co-designer Eric Mersmann is an award-eligible larpwright & game designer. His work focuses on collaborative & experience-first design, with a focus on short test, learn, adapt iterative cycles. Also werewolves. He has completed & fulfilled two successful letterpress Kickstarter projects. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Cover & Interior Artist Lawrence Gullo has a degree in illustration from Central Saint Martins College, London. He advocates and sensitivity reads for trans inclusion in rpg settings and mythology, and co-writes the comic Bash Back, a story of the queer mafia. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Risks and challenges
The rules to the game are complete, and have undergone extensive in-house and blind playtesting. We are confident in the quality of the core product, and while we may tweak scripts, the game itself is complete and playable.
We are also dedicated to providing a product we are excited about in the most affordable and scalable way possible. We have been in contact with dedicated zine printers who we trust, but even if that falls through, we can print and staple this ourselves.
The only significant outstanding items are interior art and layout. Once again, we’ve reached out to trusted colleagues, but are capable of performing the work ourselves if required.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (27 days)