As the last step before a squire's ordeal to earn their shield as a knight, they must cleanse themselves with a ritual bath, and be instructed in the code that they must soon swear to uphold. It is said that in this time of contemplation, the boundary between tomorrows and yesterdays is made thin, and knights-to-be can see visions of what their lives may be. It is also said that the count of those who are rejected for failing their ordeal is less than those who reject the shield and choose to walk away before the ordeal even begins.
In Before the Ordeal, players will be a tight-knit cohort of squires proceeding together through their ritual baths in turn (wearing swimsuits or similar bathing attire), and experiencing visions of possible futures (played out as short freeform or blackbox scenes, in which players may briefly take on other roles), as they prepare to swear themselves to knighthood (or not). Character core motivations and conflicts will be provided, but relationships and some character and setting details will be established by players collectively answering pre-written prompts immediately prior to play (the first hour or so of the game slot being reserved for this purpose).
The setting and scenario draw heavily on Tamora Pierce's Tortall novels (in particular the Song of the Lioness and the Protector of the Small series), though the specific strictures required of knights are rather more demanding than those of Tortall. The game structure draws heavily on Susanne Vejdemo and Anna-Karin Linder's larp, Athena's Chosen.
Themes include sacrifice of autonomy, institutional norms of violent and stoic masculinity (though characters may be of any gender), duty, class, and exceptionalism.
Content may include proscribed marriage and reproduction (possibly at odds with character sexuality, gender, and/or reproductive wishes) and institutional violence and abuses.