Design document

The setting

We are in Idaho in 1889, in the small town of Whistle Creek. The town was founded 32 years ago by David Whistle, Oliver Gryck and Charles Bells and has not changed significantly since then, except for a certain replacement in residents. Whistle Creek just gained enough residents to achieve city status, so the election will be rather special this year, especially in that we will be changing from marshall to sheriff. Idaho will soon become its own state, and that will also affect the political landscape.

Most people are probably concerned with the ever-advancing civilization of the West. Particularly with regard to how it will affect their own lives. Besides this, the days are spent maneuvering impending changes in daily life while still maintaining a certain status quo. And of course making the most of the opportunities you have for rest and enjoyment. This will look different from person to person.

We are in the Victorian era, the golden age of the gentleman, but society is less rigid than in Europe. In the small towns of the West, the divisions between class and gender, while definitely present, are not as prominent. People are more concerned with making ends meet, than with maintaining etiquette. Things will still be more formal than we are used to in 2023. They usually didn’t socialize with the opposite sex, or people from completely different walks of life. Wet Whistle is usually the domain of the men, but this is no ordinary weekend. The saloon is hosting the election and the poker tournament, and thus is open to all. Guests come from all walks of life.

Game style

We want to experience a normal, dynamic Victorian community. We have designed a diverse gallery of characters, where everyone has good and bad sides, and relate to different people in different ways. 

The character document will describe the character’s personality and attitudes. The relationships are part of this description, and says something about who the character already knows and spends time with. That does not mean you are restricted to these relations, we strongly encourage establishing new relationships during the game.

The organizers will not instigate large dramatic events. There will be ample time to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. However, you are free to create dramatic moments for both yourself and others. We encourage you to try and spread these scenes throughout the game. In our experience, a lot happens in the last few hours of a larp, and we want y’all to get your scenes. Your character’s stories are yours to play. We have no endgame. It’s not possible to destroy anything or lose the larp.

We also encourage everyone to be open to the initiatives that are shown, and to the fact that the game can take a different direction than one might have imagined at the start. Do what creates the most and best game for yourself and others.

Play to lift. Every character will have a reason to be present, meaningful relations and skills to show for. Let each other shine, and this larp will be brilliant.


The citizens of Whistle Creek don’t give much thought to the small differences in status and class in their everyday life. Everyone has their function in society, based on abilities, desires, and maybe fate to some extent. They take care of each other and get along without pointing out the marginal differences. However, respect is shown for the fact that some people have more authority than others based on age, title, profession or position.

Gender roles 

We will play on traditional, stereotypical gender roles, and all characters will be male or female. You can choose what gender you want to play, though.

However, “traditional gender roles” does not mean that all the women will sit silently in a corner and crochet, while the men make all the decisions and have all the fun. The community was a lot more complex than that, and all the characters will be complex, and have interesting relations and goals, regardless of gender.

In the Victorian era, there were distinct differences between the sexes. People usually didn’t interact much with the opposite sex outside of the family. It was a patriarchal society, and women were considered the weaker sex. This was also the age of the gentleman, and it was the responsibility of every decent man to ensure that the women around him were as comfortable as possible. There were still many nuances.

History is more nuanced than we see in period dramas on TV, and it wasn’t unheard of that single women had jobs as bankiers and shop assistants. In the rural United States, it was probably more likely that a woman had to work to support herself. There are no laws against women working, or even owning businesses, but this is 1889 after all, so it’s still unusual and not necessarily appreciated by everyone. The working women are not supposed to be catalysts for a feminist wave. Women didn’t necessarily have a more positive attitude about this than men, gender roles still applied and working women weren’t considered role models by most, the ideal is to get married and settled with kids.There are still a number of laws that regulate women’s rights, including on authority. There will be a few female characters who have “men’s jobs”. These characters are meant to have the challenges of having untraditional positions. Some characters will have a negative attitude towards them, while most will treat them as a normal part of the community.

Saloon girls

The saloon girls will be the only characters who are allowed to solicit sex. There will be safety mechanisms and meta-techniques for playing this out, which will be workshopped with everyone on site. There will be no sexual violence at this larp. There will still be stereotypical, historically based attitudes toward these women and their work, and there might be play on coercion, perversion and degradation.

It’s not a glamorous job, or one with a promising future, but in Whistle Creek the saloon girls are treated nicely, the saloon owner would not accept anything else, and outside the saloon they are treated as relatively ordinary citizens, contributing to the economy and making the town look pretty.

The players of these characters will therefore be hand picked and to go through a more thorough screening process in order to make sure you will be safe in playing this kind of character.

We will need to communicate a lot with this group before and during the larp in order to calibrate mechanics and play.

Larp democracy

It’s 1889, and some things just aren’t fair in the eyes of a human living in 2023. There are a lot of possibilities for intrigue, drama and challenge, but we want it to happen in a way that would be plausible for Victorians, and not in a way that makes that world more comfortable for modern people.

The town treaty and other town rules are what they are. There are characters who aren’t pleased with it, and this will be expressed, but we don’t want people to try and make sense of things for 2023 eyes.


People are Christians. It’s just a fact of life, not a great topic of conversation. Whistle Creek’s only church and its Reverend are Baptist, and the town charter outlaws Catholicism, for some reason. This will not raise any big issues, though. We do not plan on having religious conflicts as part of the larp. There will likely be a Baptist service at some point, though, since the location has a genuine church. Even if all the characters would have attended service, players will not be forced to participate.


The word that sends chills down the spine for anyone who isn’t Kristine.

Breathe. Etiquette really just means “the rules that apply in the various social situations”.

The etiquette will not be very strict at this larp, there won’t be too many sets of cutlery and no one will assess your bow tie. Every event at Wet Whistle is “an informal gathering”. Still, casual doesn’t mean the same thing in 1889 as it does in 2023. The Victorians were still very proper, even in the developing West.

Social justice and ones standing with the community carries a lot of weight. Behavior that gets you kicked out of the saloon will give you a very poor reputation.

Rule of thumb: What’s considered rude today was rude back then.

If you are unsure, look to those who seem to master the art and mimic them.

Members of the lower class didn’t necessarily have worse etiquette, everyone knew what was appropriate and not, but in some settings it just wasn’t something they focused on.

Breaking the norms if it fits the character and the situation can create a lot of play. Just remember: less is more. If everyone acts like trash, showing poor etiquette will have no effect. It works best if everyone acts appropriately until the larp is well in play and the proper behavior has been established. Then, doing a few things that very clearly break the established accepted behavior will cause a dramatic effect.

There are topics that are not appropriate for mixed company. Everything concerning bodies and health is addressed in private.

Men will not point out faults in outfits. Women help each other, and the men, discreetly! You do not fix your outfit in public.

Non topics:

Bodily functions, body sounds, body fluids. You never talk about what you are wearing (or not) under your visible outfit. One wasn’t sure if there even was a body under all that clothing. Unless, of course, your body is your job.

Sexuality, your sex life, and what happens in the bedroom. (This will of course be nuanced by the presence of saloon girls).

Things you just don’t do (and therefore this is not a challenge, but a clear message that this is unacceptable behavior):

Body sounds, swearing, legs on the table, spitting, going barefoot, things like that. This is very rude, and not funny.

Sex jokes are unavoidable, but there is a very clear line between funny and vulgar, where the latter is not entertaining for the clientele of Wet Whistle.

Bad table manners is a way to show poor etiquette, but to a certain degree. We want the meals to be pleasant for the players as well as the characters.

There will be no fights during meals.

No body sounds, playing with food or behavior that is unappetizing.

Do not use leaving the table as a dramatic effect, it is very disruptive for the players.

Ways of showing bad table manners are:

Not holding the cutlery correctly, adjusting clothes, being restless, reaching for stuff, etc.

The Victorian had a very different view on physical contact. Public displays of affection were not common, no matter how happily married you were. Kissing is done in the bedroom. Unmarried couples (also engaged) had to be chaperoned at all times and were not allowed to touch each other, except to walk arm in arm if they were walking (not holding hands).

Sex belonged in the marriage, and there would be a high threshold, even for married people, for having sex when staying in a guest house. There are a lot of other ways to play out intimacy that can be just as exciting.

Saloon girls under contract are the only ones who are allowed to solicit sex. This will of course make sex an option and a topic. We don’t want it to be farcical, though. Use sex and the saloon girl’s time to play the character, not as a pastime.

There will be meta-techniques and rules for sex.