By: Kathaleen Amende, Mark Hill, Corey Lowenberg, Danielle Lauzon, Tara M. Clapper
So, you’ve decided to try out a Nordic larp! That’s fantastic and exciting, and we hope you’re going to have an amazing time! But for some of you, it’s going to be a brand new kind of larp. It isn’t that Nordic larp itself is new – it’s been around for a while. But there’s no doubt that it’s different from traditional American style campaign larps. With no boffers, no or very light mechanics, and a high expectation of immersion, Nordic larps can be kind of intimidating for a newcomer. So we’ve put together a few suggestions for how to get the most out of your first foray into the Nordic scene.
Before we get to the suggestions though, we recommend you take some time and look through a few articles on the Nordic larp scene (the links are below the article). The field has grown strong in the European, especially the Scandinavian, countries, but it’s slowly making its way across the pond, so don’t be surprised to be hearing even more about them as time goes on.
Now, onto the actual suggestions for ways that you can embrace your first Nordic character and really get into the world that the designers have created for you.
"Besides, what’s the point of having juicy secrets if they don’t get found out at some point?"
Much, if not all, of the conflict encountered in a Nordic larp is mediated, and this system requires at least one of the parties to “lose” in any contest. It is a good idea to reframe the way you think about such things – instead of considering it “winning and losing,” simply consider setbacks and defeats as meaningful avenues for advancing a story. Outside of straight-up death, every conflict and consequence is part of enriching not only your story, but the game at large, and since Nordic storytelling is about collaboration, these moments are important. Besides, what’s the point of having juicy secrets if they don’t get found out at some point? Drama with other people is more fun than the “victory” of keeping all of your secrets.
It is easy to find ways to refuse the call to action, in the Campbellian sense. An adherence to a rigid, inflexible character identity will result in missing out in a variety of possible encounters. Instead of refusing to do something because you believe that your character wouldn’t do it, find reasons why your character would do something. Maybe you’re physically delicate socialite is too timid to face danger head on, but what if he was a gossip who wanted to be first with the dirt? Or what if your sullen detective needed to learn to dance in order to go under cover? Don’t wallflower with your character unless you really enjoy just sitting back and watching others dive in.
Find Your Spotlight...but also be a Generous Player
Don’t be afraid to make a dramatic move and take center stage when it’s appropriate. Larps in this style thrive on these moments. While you’ll want to allow others space for their own spotlights in the collaborative story, don’t shy away from taking yours when the time is right. If you’ve discovered that the lord of the manor is secretly worshipping demons, definitely announce it when you’ve got a good audience! And, likewise, always be on the lookout to help others shine. If you know that someone has the information to answer a pressing question, make sure they step up there and take that spotlight. Maybe even draw attention to them. Remember, you are the main character in your own story, but all those other characters are the protagonists of their stories. A Generous Player proactively looks for ways to highlight other characters and involve other players in scenes for the betterment of the story and experience as a whole. This requires a certain level of faith between players to trust that their peers will reciprocate, but when everyone buys in, this practice leads to a truly cooperative experience.
At many Nordic larps, you have the potential to experience a fantastic amount of character development over a short amount of time. Your character won’t be the same person they were when they started, and it may even feel as though you’ve lived a whole lifetime in a few short days or hours. If you’re open to committing to intense emotions, you may find that you have changed, too. Decide for yourself if this is appropriate, and know how to embrace it if you choose. You may hear about something called “bleed,” and you may have even experienced it yourself. There are, of course, both positive and negative ways to respond to bleed (when there is crossover between what your character is feeling and what you are feeling), but it is not, in itself, a bad thing. To learn more about bleed, see the links below.
There are a ton of play styles out there, and you will probably encounter more than one of them while you are at the game. The best way to get what you want from a story is to communicate your ideas and to listen to others when they tell you the same. Most Nordic larps are based on consent and will have consent-based mechanics which are designed to give you the opportunity to leave a scene, to slow a scene down, or even to increase the intensity of the scene. Learn these mechanics well (usually they have a workshop – always try to attend these), and don’t be afraid to use them. Talking with and negotiating scenes with your fellow players will not only help everyone feel safer, but it will give you the opportunity to really explore things you might not feel safe exploring in other larps. If you have concerns, you should definitely take advantage of the presence of your GMs and larp runners to talk about what should be expected at the game.
Whatever you do, though, remember that even the most experienced of Nordic larpers can feel nervous and get stage fright. While all larps benefit from trust, honesty, and openness, in most American style campaign larps, there is often a benefit to keeping your secrets and keeping an eye on the eventual prize. Ultimately, in Nordic style larps, you are putting on a different person not to see what that person can achieve, but to see what it’s like to be that person. In other words, most American style larps are about what your character can do. Nordic style larps are about what your character can be. So feel free to experience everything you can, and to enjoy it all – even if your character might not.
For More Information….
On Nordic Larps
On Consent Based Play and Consent Mechanics