Since I last updated this page Shifting Forest Storyworks has released all of their larps as freeware pdfs and then later their webpage seems to have lapsed and been taken over by someone unrelated. If you want copies of the 10 games that were released, archive.org still has them.
Back in 2005 a company called Shifting Forest Storyworks had a booth at GenCon. They were selling something that they called "Parlor LARPs", ie. small LARPs which could be run in one or two rooms without too much fuss. I stopped at their booth, but was feeling poor that year and so only bought two of their games. I have since played in several of their games and deeply regretted not buying everything they sold.
Unfortunately, some time in 2006 the Shifting Forest Storyworks web page vanished from the net. The folks who created the company (J Li and GD Crowley) become nearly unreachable. There was very little information available about their games on the web.
Well, fortunately there was some. Using Alan De Smet's web catalogue of GenCon games from 2005 as well as some other web stalking I managed to create this page about the Shifting Forest Storyworks games.
I now own physical copies of all of the published Parlor LARPs listed below. The games' descriptions below have been updated with the information that J provided as well as pictures.
In 2010 SFS released their 10 published larps as freeware pdfs. Since then their webpage seems to have lapsed and been taken over by someone unrelated. If you want copies of the 10 games that were released, archive.org still has them.
As far as I could figure out, this is a complete list of the games which SFS physically published as well as some that didn't make it quite that far. I've included notes to identify the games that have not make it into publication quite yet.
- Snow White
- Queen of Spades
- Eridanus Rising
- Garden Station 4
- The Mirror Room
- All Saints' Eve
- The First of December
- A Little Magic
- The Cabin on White Lake Trail
- Etchings: The Death of Christopher Westin
- Winter's Heart
Most of these descriptions are pulled from the text that J provided to me. I believe this roughly corresponds to the text on the back of the bound editions of the books. For unpublished games, descriptions were pulled from Alan De Smet's web catalogue of GenCon games from 2005.
Classification: Relationships, Atmosphere. Dark 3. NPC 1. DIR 2. NC.
This adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet is set the day after Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius. Hamlet is about to be sent away to England in a few hours, and will not have another chance to kill Claudius perhaps for years. The majority of the court, Ophelia included, has been told that Polonius accidentally fell down the stairs.
At the queen's insistence a small gathering is held to send Hamlet off. In the middle of it all, Laertes returns unexpectedly, demanding to see his father.
Very basic familiarity with the plot and characters is required for players. The Director should have read the play.
Adaptation: Adaptation of an existing story. 6-8 players, gender specific characters.
Classification: Atmosphere, Relationships, Morality. Dark 5. NPC 3. DIR 2. DC.
Of all traditional fairy tales that were adapted and censored for children in modern renditions, Snow White has perhaps undergone the most change. Today's bedtime story of an innocent princess, seven happy little men and true love forgets the original undertones of desperation, passion, poverty, and sexuality. One cannot tell the true story of Snow White without going back to a time in which men were valued only for their size and stamina, and women only for their beauty and ability to bear children; a time in which glass was so rare that a polished mirror was truly a frightening thing of magic.
Most of the original characters and a few new ones are present in this adaptation of the older, darker, and more vivid story of Snow White. It is set in the hours before the execution of the Queen and subsequent wedding of the Prince and Princess. A time of last chances and new beginnings.
Adaptation: Adaptation of an existing story. 6-8 players, gender specific characters.
Classification: Discovery, Relationships. Dark 2. NPC 5. DIR 1. NC.
Marissa Islington is a powerful and ruthless woman with almost as many enemies as criminal connections. A group of these enemies wake to find themselves trapped on a boat in the middle of nowhere with each other, a suspicious letter, and Marissa herself. Nobody knows how they got there or what will become of them when morning comes.
As the night goes on, murder will be committed and secrets revealed. Everybody has a motive and a past they thought they'd left behind.
Classification: Discovery, Atmosphere. Dark 3. NPC 4. DIR 1. AC.
Genre: Modern Fantasy and Mythology
The fantastically wealthy and eccentric Henry Delacroix is throwing his sixtieth birthday party in his vacation home in Antarctica, inviting the handful of associates who can actually stand to be around him. The party proceeds at the expected level of awkwardness until a seemingly trivial event forces the host to reassess his priorities and rapidly changes everything.
That night, old crimes will resurface and fallen souls will rise in rebellion. Guests suddenly trapped in an isolated parlor must untangle the old man's life and his disturbing theology in order to take sides in a cosmic battle. Their successes and failures will decide the fate of the gods and the future of the world.
Classification: Strategy, Morality. Dark 2. NPC 0. DIR 4. NC.
Genre: Science Fiction
The Union of Planets and the Cerian Empire stand on the brink of war. Sixteen light years away, two civilian science vessels simultaneously reach a distant unexplored system. There, they discover the first sign of alien intelligence ever found: an eerily terraformed planet with advanced technological structures, but no inhabitants.
Midway through their approach, however, they are shot down by automatic defenses and forced to abandon ship to the nearest space station. Stranded far from home with unfamiliar people and a technology that could change civilization, these scientists must contend with the ethics of patriotism, politics, and war.
Classification: Morality, Atmosphere. Dark 5. NPC 0. DIR 3. DC.
In a moment of disorientation they are transported to a room with no doors, no windows, and mirrors everywhere. The room is stocked with food, water, and other necessities--all indications suggest that they will be there for a long time.
They are complete strangers, ordinary people with little common ground and less understanding of what has happened to them. With the passage of time, tension, and dire imperatives, they will have to sift values and make answers to both each other and the shadows behind the glass.
Classification: Relationships, Atmosphere, Discovery. Dark 5. NPC 0. DIR 3. DC.
Westenbridge, Massachusetts might be both the richest dangerous neighborhood and the most dangerous rich neighborhood in the country. Children disappear every week. High school students in dry-cleaned shirts sell high-quality cocaine in the halls between classes. It's a town that cares everything about appearances, and appearances alone.
This Halloween, old magic is rising. The influential Cunningham family is throwing a late party in their gigantic house. Before it starts, a group of family members and acquaintances are suddenly and inexplicably trapped in a rarely-used side room.
In a group where most people don't believe in magic and everybody hates one another, surviving whatever strange forces are at play seems almost secondary to surviving close quarters with each other. That night, while a party carries on outside, they will discover the secrets they never knew about the people and the town they have known all their lives.
Classification: Atmosphere, Discovery, Strategy, Morality. Dark 4. NPC 4. DIR 3. DC.
The beginning of winter in Washington D.C. is marked by a huge snowstorm that blankets the city, stopping traffic, blurring vision, and turning gray to white. Amid it all, a group of hostages from seemingly unrelated backgrounds are kidnapped out of their daily lives. Their captors affix them with electronic collars and lock them in a room under guard.
During the next few hours, a series of tense and obscure negotiations will take place over the telephone. As urgency rises and fates are decided, the issue of just how much to cooperate gets called sharply into question.
Classification: Relationships, Atmosphere, Strategy. Dark 1. NPC 0. DIR 2. NC.
A simple story about love and dreamers. Brookview is an engaging New England town with a wealthy and aloof leading family, a quaint local college, and a little magic.
On a clear night in late November, a group of college friends all associated with the same enigmatic professor gather in a warm house under a full moon. Romance and magic are in the air when the local heir arrives unexpectedly, and the enchantments that follow will remake events set in motion long before any of them were born.
Classification: Relationships, Morality. Dark 4. NPC 3. DIR 2. AC.
A few days ago, a young hero and the armies of good defeated the great evil sorcerer, Argentin, and saved the world. They fought his forces, stormed his tower, and ultimately killed him high on the battlements.
Set in the aftermath of a classic fantasy epic, this story is not about the heroes, or the kings, but about the evil sorcerer's servants. Lost in the confusion of the battle, taken prisoner afterwards, then held automatically culpable for their master's crimes, this small group served the daily needs of a man who had tried to conquer the world and lost everything when he was defeated. Sitting in a dungeon in what may be the last hours of their lives, they must sort through the meanings of loyalty, identity, and responsibility, to learn to understand a world without Argentin.
A larp for young players. A group of summer camp students are on an overnight camping trip in the woods. That night in the cabin, the only counselor with them dies suddenly just after telling an obscure local ghost story. Faced with strange forces in the cabin and danger in the forest, they must unravel a mystery that no one has solved before in order to hold on to their lives and make their way through the night.
Note: This game was apparently conceived but not actually finished.
Etchings: The Death of Christopher Westin
A story about normal high school students and normal high school issues. In a wealthy private school, the sudden suicide of the mayor's son threatens to disrupt the power balance among the popular students. When the administration calls upon a group of these students to prepare an assembly, they must sort through their obligations to their friends, enemies, careers, and to the dead boy to figure out why it happened and what to say out loud.
Note: This game was apparently written and play tested, but did not make it to publication.
This is apparently a rather polished game that sadly hasn't made it to publication yet. Henry Towsner, who has done technical work on several of the SFS games, described Winter's Heart as "a (not especially dark) horror game about a group of people snowed in at a hotel".