Role-playing games can take many shapes and forms beyond the dice-rolling of Dungeons and Dragons. One game designer wrote a live-action role-playing game meant to be played specifically at the chain restaurant Olive Garden, and it’s strangely heartfelt.
Jeff Stormer, a podcaster and game designer living in Philadelphia, told Kotaku over Twitter DMs that his idea for an Olive Garden live action role-playing game started out as a joke.
“A podcaster friend of mine, James Malloy, was messing with another podcasting friend of ours, Meghan Dornbrock, about an Olive Garden gift card he spotted in a photo she took, and he @’d me on Discord asking if I’d write an Olive Garden LARP,” he said. Stormer says he is not one to refuse a joke request, so he finished most of it in the span of an hour, then circled back to complete the rest a few weeks later. “Then, months later, I was out drinking with my wife, and realized I’d never tweeted it to the official Olive Garden Twitter, and, for some reason, felt they needed to see my masterpiece,” he said.
The game is simple. Titled after the restaurant’s tagline, “When You’re Here, You’re Family,” the game asks the members of your party to form a new society as a community. The adventurers order Olive Garden’s classic deal—unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks. As each round of food gets delivered, the characters become a new “family” and, therefore, a new generation of their community. They reflect on how things have changed, for better or for worse, thereby building out the mythology of the generations of “family” they have created. Once several generations have eaten their fill, the players can order a coffee, at which point their characters become a new group of pilgrims discussing why they’ve decided to leave their previous community and embark on a new life. Stormer ends the LARP with a reminder to tip your waiter “extremely well.”
“My favorite moments in the LARP are probably right in the beginning and right at the end—when the players/’Community’ decides where they’re headed and why they have to leave, and then when the cycle repeats itself in the end,” Stormer said. “That, or the way the game subverts the idea of ‘family’ by making every generation kind of embarrassed and frustrated with the generation before. That feels very honest to the conversations I’ve had with people about family histories.”
Stormer said that he hasn’t done the LARP yet, though some of his friends have reached out to him to tell him about Olive Gardens nearby, so it’s a possibility. He is very serious about becoming an Olive Garden-sanctioned LARP designer, though. “I don’t expect that title to come with benefits or pay or anything—just the bragging rights is enough,” he said. “Now, do I expect to actually GET that title? Probably not. But it’s important to have to dreams.”If Olive Garden isn’t impressed, Stormer said he’s got some killer ideas for Red Lobster.