21
April 2018

Articles

From the moment I received my Armistice Arcane character blurb, I knew I’d put the pressure on myself to inhabit this character deeply. Her name is Moira O’Connor, a woman devoted to Cernunnos, the Horned God. Originally from Ireland, Moira emigrated to Pennsylvania (United States) after a supernaturally long life and a complicated relationship with magic, monster hunters, and her god.

Born in the early 1700s, Moira experienced the tragic history of her people. She carried the resounding grief and anger of personal and cultural losses in a lengthy way that she felt only her god could understand – until she determined he didn’t.

Playing Moira, I explored many themes that touched not only on my own culture as an Irish American, but also many sensitive themes.

I am writing this less than a day after the conclusion of this dramatic, Penny Dreadful-inspired live action role play experience, and I find the nature of the bleed (emotional spillover between player and character) I experience is significantly different from any I’ve had before.

Content Warning: This post includes discussion of food-related issues, suicide, extreme grief, patriarchal oppression, and infertility.

Additionally, while I enjoy ‘chasing bleed’ and heavy immersion as a LARPer, that’s not the only way I enjoy this LARP or LARPs in general, nor is it the only means by which we should generally measure the success or enjoyment of live action experiences.

armistice arcane larpHow Was This Character Close?

I played this character close to the heart, as we say in LARP, purposefully exploring my sense of self and my heritage through the portrayal of this character. While I’ve been growing used to empowering myself by playing through arcs that provide my characters with agency, no experience has been quite as personal as this one.

In real life, my superficial similarities don’t stop with heritage. My Irish ancestors came to the United States through the port city of Philadelphia (a central point for the Irish American characters in the game), which is where I live today. As of late, this community has been largely coopted by white supremacy and “Irish pride” has become an unfortunate synonym for “white pride.”

I have a fair amount of stories of my ancestors, though Irish oppression is a careful topic to approach when it’s often used as a tool to justify white supremacy and defend racism in a modern context. However, it’s still very much part of the immigrant experience and who we are today.

I’m left with an exiled pride for my heritage very much reflected in this character’s journey, and I went full force with my immersive capabilities in this game to enjoy and explore what it means to be of Irish descent – without worry of this journey being coopted by white supremacists.

I did my best to be sensitive but fearless in my approach to play an oppressed individual, and felt that it was permissible to do so as I was exploring the richness of my own heritage, and examining stereotypes through the lens of a historically pertinent pain that permeates culture, songs, and other practices.

Moira and I have many things in common. Here’s what I’ve been dealing with since the game.

Players and characters bond at Armistice Arcane. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

Religion and Fertility

I don’t speak terribly often about faith in my life, but I was never baptized as a Christian. In my twenties, I took a neopagan spiritual path, and find myself connected to the goddesses Epona and Athena.

My Armistice Arcane character began the game as a devotee of Cernunnos, or the Horned God, who (as a general ‘hunter god’) also has a place on my real-life altar at home, though not a central one.

Like Cernunnos, Epona is a deity of fertility. She often appears in dreams for me, and I’ve a complicated relationship with this aspect of the goddess. Life likely isn’t going to work out for me in a way that I’ll be a mother, even though I wish I could have been. I’ve had a sad past with relationships, and on top of that, I have multiple chronic illness issues. It’s a regret that people don’t like to hear about; one you’re not supposed to discuss. Instead, I’m expected to be an independent and empowered woman completely satisfied with life. Anything else upsets people close to me and is counterintuitive to what I’m supposed to represent in various communities.

Grieving the inability to have children is not a privilege often granted to women, especially divorced ones.

I’ve come to accept Epona’s fertility in the form of creativity. I am grateful for such gifts, but the grief of having no children still persists.

Moira and fertility worked a bit differently, but her issues and grief were nevertheless the same as mine. After watching her own parents fall at the hands of the Sentinels (a group that tracks down those they deem magical miscreants) and nearly dying herself, Moira made a choice to kill instead of be killed. This set her on a constant cycle of revenge with the Sentinels, and a power that gave her youthfulness through a cycle of sex, fertility, and death.

Cernunnos was a voice and a presence in her life, encouraging these actions.

Eventually she grew tired of running and hiding. She fell in love, married, and became pregnant. But after her husband died as the result of a curse, her son was born, and she gave him up. She left him on the doorstep of wealthy folk decades before the game takes place, and had to mourn the chances that she’d never have with him. This grief was her strongest, and one I connected to and internalized.

Moira spent decades wondering about what happened to her son. She’d often dream of him, and I found that during the event, I would wake up with a dream and a worry. “Is my son okay?” was a more intrinsic thought than any power or practice Moira otherwise had.

Moira eventually found her son Aldous (this happened during the event, early in the game). It was the strongest relationship I played in the game, but it was also personally so very painful to me since I may never come to know this type of maternal love.

In real life, I’ve lost loves, just like Moira. But Moira was reunited with this most pleasant reminder of her deceased husband, and her care for her son was rather pure. The worry over him was constant, mutual, and comforting.

This made her feel a joy so occasional in her life, but one so strong she didn’t even know how to identify it or express it.

In preparation for the game, I’d asked parents, particularly mothers, to describe their bonds to their children. I received many powerful stories and expressions of emotion. When I was fully immersed as the character, though, with Moira protecting and being protected by her son, all of those feelings were quite natural. His different interests (scientific) opened her mind to viewing magic in a different way. Her trust of him was immediate. And in the purity of that relationship, it didn’t backfire.

I am about to get on a plane to return to an empty room. Every time I nap, I still wake up wondering that: Is my son okay? And it’s heartbreaking that I don’t have anyone or anything to really worry over. Even my dog passed away in October. And according to all those magazine articles, there’s totally something wrong with me if I don’t feel like my life is complete without the burden of a child and a husband.

But that’s just not true. I feel how I feel, and it’s not simply a matter of being conditioned by the patriarchy. It’s not a weakness to want to lay your head down next to someone, and that’s where I am, and that’s what I don’t have.

As the positive interactions increased between Moira and her son, I knew that I would have to face my own difficulties: desperately experiencing and internalizing a selfless love I’ll never give or receive. That alone furthered the tears and the protectiveness the character demonstrated towards Aldous.

In addition to these concerns is another matter of spirituality: tarot.

I’ve always deemed it inappropriate to use my real life tarot deck (I use Wildwood Tarot) at a LARP event. The call to use this deck this time around was very strong. I did use it; it felt natural and lighter than it does when I use it for real-life purposes, and it also felt easier to read in-game. As I portrayed a character who embodied intuition, I learned a great deal from her spiritual confidence.

Spirituality, Sex, and the Hunt: Cernunnos and Moira

I’m still humbled by a particular scene at Armistice Arcane. About halfway through the event, Moira was summoned to the main room – because her god was present. This powerful scene resulted in the most interesting reflection and post-game bleed, primarily due to the decisions made.

Half of the power in the scene resulted from the fact that Cernunnos didn’t give a flying fig leaf about who else in the room heard what (which made for a great scene, too). What just a few characters had previously known was then revealed to many: that Moira’s dealings with Cernunnos had a rather intimate component, and that she had done a great deal of hunting for him.

In a previous LARP years ago, I had been called ‘a cougar’ in game (though the slight was most obviously meant out of game), even though I wasn’t interested in anyone at the game, and my In a previous LARP years ago, I had been called ‘a cougar’ in game (though the slight was most obviously meant out of game), even though I wasn’t interested in anyone at the game, and my character was intensely interested in just one specific character. Most of the players at the game were five to ten years younger than me, and the stinging comment has held me back in pursuing various relationships, platonic or romantic in nature, in and out of game at many LARPs since.

It makes me feel like I have to hold back a part of who I am, or only discuss sex in very specific circumstances, while younger women are permitted to embrace their sexuality as part of a more open feminism from which I feel excluded. I should be hitting my stride when it comes to sex; instead I’m still ashamed, mostly due to age and relationship status and that shaming comment that still hangs in my head even though I should know better.

Playing out this scene was exceptionally transformative. Generally, the player age at Armistice Arcane was a bit higher than I am used to, so at 36, my age was about average, and I felt less awkward about playing a character who worships a fertility god. In fact, Moira was honest with some younger folks about such matters in a very no-nonsense way.

The scene itself wasn’t inherently sexual in what was performed, but the elements of power exchange and possession were on display for all to see, laced with knowing language and interactions. The scene and Cernunnos’ intentions towards Moira cast my character as a sexually powerful and desirable person; an embodiment of the Ireland she represented, starved but wanting. And although it was a god who wished to take her away – possibly as a permanent sacrifice combining deaths both petite and eternal – she still had the power of the choice.

Cernunnos and Moira at Armistice Arcane

Cernunnos claims Moira. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

I can only guess at what the other characters and players were thinking during that particular scene. The language between the locked gaze of Cernunnos and Moira spoke louder than anything either of them said. She trembled in reverence more than fear; she stood up to him; she gave in. Whatever the others were thinking, I don’t think it was ‘ew, I can’t see Tara or her character in that way, she’s disgusting,’ which is what I had been previously conditioned to believe. I know there are individuals who feel that I’m attractive (or at least not disgusting and/or nonsexual), but that’s never been an assumption I’ve had of a crowd before.

My scene partner as well as the other characters who had a part in that scene played true to character. Nolan, a character charged with protecting Moira, sacrificed himself, offering his heart to Cernunnos so that Moira would not have to go with him. (She has mixed feelings on that, though is primarily appreciative since she wanted to stay around to get to know her son better.)

Armistice Arcane scene

Nolan sacrifices himself to the horned god.| Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

As a pagan, I feel that we permissively crossed a spiritual line with that scene: like some greater power was amused and appeased. I felt like I was LARPing and not necessarily being inhabited by a higher spiritual force, but near to that, I was playing a part in a way that deeply married spirituality and drama. On top of that, New Orleans has the feeling of permanent Samhain for me, as though the veil between worlds is always lowered.

It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that my tarot readings, in game, were effortless and ridiculously accurate.

I’m sure this may make various individuals and practitioners uneasy, but it felt more like a pagan passion play that we were spiritually permitted to perform. While I haven’t spoken with them about this yet, I know that there are others of a pagan path who participated in the scene. I look forward to getting their read on it, as the line between spiritual and fictional felt comfortably blurred to me. Of course, to me it is all about the sacred duty of storytelling.

To portray Moira, I had to embrace the fact that “the Hunt” in all ways was not good or evil, but about balance, and I did a great deal of work on myself to get to that point of empowerment. It was instrumental in me being able to have Moira play her part during this scene.

Not a shred of clothing was removed, but I stood there naked, and it felt powerful.

Relationship to Food

Like many Irish Americans, I have a complicated relationship with food. I’ve had lean times, when there isn’t always enough nutritious food to eat, and I’ve experienced binge eating when there is. Throw in the anxiety and unpredictability of a new environment (like a LARP), and the availability of food is often a concern that breaks immersion for me. If you’ve ever been at a LARP event in the middle of the woods with just $3 in your pocket when they run out of food, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

At Armistice Arcane, the availability of food wasn’t a problem. We had goody bags with snacks on top of the regularly scheduled meals and snack buffets, and the hotel had a peanut butter and jelly hour nightly, per La Pavillon’s tradition (it was a rather agreeable venue).

While I’m not suggesting any of my experiences are remotely comparable to those of a person who experienced hunger and watched others starve (as my ancestors and my character did), I found it necessary to examine my own relationship to food before taking on this role.

Dancing and fine fare at Armistice Arcane. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

I thought considerably about what it would be like for someone like Moira to experience the constant availability of food at the hotel. During the gala dinner, I took two plates, including two of the mini desserts, and made a comment about how guilty I’d feel over wasting a bite. Internalizing the magnitude of the suffering this character had experienced during the Great Hunger was specific; due to her age and being foreign, it was also something she felt very alone in. The Irish Americans knew about the event, but there was no way they could internalize the experience as she had. It was one of many aspects of grief that Moira buried.

Immigration and Restarting

Moira’s been around for a long time, and due to the difficulties in her country and her complications with the Sentinels, she’s moved around a lot – from Ireland to England to the U.S. Each time she hoped to find something fulfilling, but her chance at happiness was either taken away or simply not present.

This was one of the difficulties of preparing for this character, for it applies to me as well. I’ve moved for many jobs and relationships that haven’t worked out, and I often find that a search for a ‘new start in a new place’ is an attempt to fill a hunger, which is not unlike that of a literal hunger. That emptiness is something Moira attempted to learn to live with.

Knowing she had a son provided her with an opportunity to take a new start – she even ended up changing societies to join him and to enjoy a respite. However, the emptiness remained for her.

Departed Family and Suicide

On top of the serious and traumatic losses Moira experienced (and caused), she had so much loss, which piled up over her long life. The saving grace was the son that arrived in her life again. When it came time to possibly go with Cernunnos, to make that sacrifice, she was ready to go. And if she hadn’t an earthly reason to stay, she would have gone with him as an additional sacrifice.

The uncomfortable truth is one that hits home hard: Moira isn’t really living for herself, she’s living for others. She knows their world would be more difficult without her. She knows it’s otherwise her time to go, but that people benefit from her existence and don’t want her to leave.

I remember about a week before my dog died; it was clear the little guy was just miserable, and starting to have real problems with his pain. I looked at him and said, “I love you, Odin. It’s okay if you need to go. I love you and I understand.” And a week later, he did. Sometimes, when my chronic pain and related struggles are at their worst, I wish people would say that to me; sometimes I’m glad they never have. As for Moira, she sought a reprieve.

By the end of the game, Moira’s Order of Cernunnos had reorganized and scattered based upon their reactions to the god himself. Prior to the god’s appearance, Moira had confessed matters of her past (that she had killed, and even without intending, had pretty much done blood magic in their god’s name). She had been told she’d go on trial within the order, and at that moment, she reached out to Aldous to seek protection within the Esoteric Institute, where he had a leadership role.

Cernunnos prepares to take Moira away. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

Following the presence of Cernunnos, it was obvious that she should stay this course. While Moira will be active at the institute, both in being a subject of study and in researching a scientifically combined way to stop any occurrence of potato blight in the future, she sees it as a sanctuary from the intense loneliness she’s felt for decades. In this way, at least one person’s death has meaning – since Nolan sacrificed himself to Cernunnos, Moira feels that she must live life with a purpose to honor him.

On Questioning Grief

One thing I can’t stand about real life is the way in which I’m constantly questioned for having an occasionally negative outlook. People need to understand that sometimes things aren’t okay, and sometimes attitudes need to temporarily shift accordingly. I’m not going to smile while I drown.

Moira, however, has been so much. All she had to do was simply allude to what the English had done to her people, and others would stop criticizing the depth or intensity of her grief. Some even opted to experience it to a slight degree. Generally, especially within the Order, she did not need a justification for sadness. The cultural association was more than enough for anyone to question her.

I found that grief was much easier to process when given the space to do so.

Heritage, Feminism, and Armistice Arcane

One of the greatest challenges of any historical LARP involves the treatment of people who were historically marginalized. I noticed that there were several players of color who received characters reflective of what was likely their own heritage and origin.

In real life, my Irish American heritage is extremely important to me. I took my research and portrayal of an Irish character very seriously, particularly when it came to the Great Hunger and to drinking, as those events and customs are so tied up in stereotypes. My goal was for Moira to embody Ireland; to exist regardless of what happened; to give of herself to better the world no matter how much it hurt her. Thinking of the character as Ireland herself was especially empowering, specifically during the scene with Cernunnos. Out of game, it functioned to provide a bit of distance between myself and Moira without losing immersion, and allowed me some control over how much I internalized her grief and anger at any given time.

Regarding the treatment of women, there were some comments, in game, about equality and rights and sex that left me with mixed feelings. These things probably wouldn’t have been said were the game in a modern context. That said, I felt that my character had an interesting means of agency, being one of three women of spiritual importance to her community, and being important enough to be one of the people assigned hired gun-style protection. Within my character’s group, she was certainly powerful and respected as such, though she appropriately deferred to the spiritual and political leaders.

armistice arcane characters

Raquel portrays an icy character. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

I played with the idea that both Moira and her mother had been hunted for worshipping as they did, and that at least in her mother’s time, it was possibly a way to subdue the power of women – particularly the power to heal the island and its people. This was my way of pointing out the patriarchal nature of England’s oppression of Ireland in terms that my character might have used. All of this, Moira had to reconcile with her worship of a male god, running immediately to her male child for protection, and choosing her (male) date to the ball with particular calculation regarding her own safety. (He still attended the ball with her, for the record, even after a fertility god claimed her as his own.)

An interesting point that came up within our Order group was written versus oral agreements and laws. Our group strongly respected the importance of agreements in the tradition of Brehon (early Irish) law, and on an out of game context, this stirred an unexpected amount of pride resulting from a respect of this tradition. It felt wonderful to experience this without having to second guess whether the intentions of the others in my group were geared towards focusing Irish American nationalism towards a white supremacist agenda, as in real life, that is so often the case now.

RP Armistice Arcane

Intense role play at Armistice Arcane. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

Tools for Bleed and Immersion at Armistice Arcane

I carefully entered this experience knowing about these similarities between myself and the character, and realizing that these topics would come up. So much of the process was solo, unlike my experiences at other games, which rely heavily on character connections. (There is not a major difference in game design; rather, depth of character.) I used the following methods to prepare:

  • A full day in character, alone, not interacting with anyone else, reflecting only on how to embody Ireland and her grief and hunger. This was meditative as much as it was method.
  • The Irish History Podcast by Fin Dwyer, which helped me refresh my knowledge of Irish history and adapt the accent as I paused to repeat certain phrases.
  • An eight-page character sheet provided by Peculiar Crossroads Productions, and weeks to prepare.
  • Whiskey, imbibed before and during the event, not just as a cultural convention for Moira but as a coping mechanism for the character. For reasons of health and emotional and physical safety, I remained responsibly ‘buzzed’ almost the entire time, but I was not inebriated before or during the event. I found that the alcohol added a sepia overtone to the entire affair, and using it, I could control the amount it dulled or exposed the rawness of Moira’s emotions and experiences. (Note: While I’ve gone through periods in the past where I might have consumed alcohol more often than was wise, I do not have a drinking problem and would not advise this method for anyone who might. It isn’t something I would have done if the event was any longer, either.) When I imbibed after the event, it felt important to switch to rum to further separate myself from the character, even though I typically drink whiskey myself.
  • Two major revelations in the game – seeing the strand of fate between Moira and Aldous, and the interaction with the Horned God – were both surprises. The lack of planning increased immersion. I feel that I could have performed better in both scenes with more planning, but would not prefer a do-over because the level of immersion was so raw in both instances.
  • Victorian Conventions (and violating them) – the formality of introductions and interactions served as a baseline for violating norms. It was easy to accomplish a small offbeat goal due to the formality of the occasion.
  • Our embedded GM played a character who was our driver, Pat. He was in and out of game there to help us. I spoke with him briefly about furthering certain plots, but most of the time I utilized him in game by asking him to find someone for me. In one instance, I requested a pen and paper to write a note which he then delivered, which allowed me to focus on role play and to make an important scene come about quicker. Even though I played a mentor role in the group, I didn’t feel responsible for every other player or character’s emotional wellbeing or activity, since the GM was there to step in.
  • Costuming was a challenge for this game, but it was also a helpful tool. I dressed ‘old school Irish’ but also Victorian, and wanted to avoid looking typical medieval fantasy. The one piece of clothing I wore with almost every outfit was a black high-collar blouse. The slight tightness of the collar was a constant reminder of the era and the restrictions my character faced. Once the game was through, it was the first thing I unbuttoned to help separate myself from Moira. The petticoat isn’t something I usually wear in general or at LARPs, so it was also very specific to the era and to Moira.
  • Available counseling wasn’t something I used, but I went as intense and immersive as I felt comfortable doing, pushing boundaries only because I knew that help was available to me if I needed it.

I didn’t expect to use some of these tools to control the volume or intensity of the emotions I experienced during the game, but they definitely helped me play very deeply without entirely losing myself.

My resulting emotions remain as I described them in game: an ocean of grief, stretching from the old world to the new. I feel honored to have been able to explore these feelings in such a different way.

Photography by: Alicia Nicole Trisciuzzi

If you've read this far, you have to join us for the 2019 event!

January 4–6, 2019 | New Orleans

Jan 28, 2018

We often discuss LARP drop, or the feelings of sadness and loneliness you might experience following an event when you’re alone for the first time in a while. But there’s also LARP hype, which happens on the early end of LARP planning.

We mostly associate LARP hype with excitement and positivity, but the rush of LARP hype, your interactions with other players and their expectations, and the time crunch at the end can produce some valid feelings of anxiety.

If you’re new to LARPing, here’s a look at what you might expect. If you’ve LARPed before, enjoy the gifs and know you’re not alone.

Image: https://gph.is/1lfXF3c

 

1. Sign Up Social Hype

Whether you’ve signed up for a new blockbuster LARP or the same monthly campaign game you’ve attended for years, hype begins when you click the RSVP and payment buttons. It only escalates once you share your attendance in your game group or on your Facebook wall. LARP attendance is usually a substantial commitment of time and funds, and it can represent the majority of your entertainment budget.

What better way to experience entertainment than with your friends?

 

Are you not entertained?

Image: https://gph.is/146ahJd

 

2. Character Adoration

The anticipation of that character sheet only adds to the hype. It’s definitely one of the most intense points of hype between the sign-up and the LARP itself. If it’s a new character, there’s some anxiety about what you might get…

 

OMG

Image: https://media.giphy.com/media/prhumXOHcR5tK/giphy.gif

 

…as well as hopes about the potentials for costuming if you get cast in the group or faction of your choice.

Peculiar Crossroads Productions, creators of Armistice Arcane, sent out short character blurbs (complete with faction affiliation) prior to the full sheets to allow players adequate time for costuming preparations. It was enough to start prep, but it also fueled the hype.

For campaign LARPers, this can mean updating your character materials and selecting new skills. Now’s the time to think about what you’ll do and how you’ll accomplish it.

3. Perfect Planning and Character Connections

Once the LARP is closer to approaching and you have your new character (or your character upgrades), it comes time to plan for the event with your players. While some of the best moments of your story may happen by chance, now is the time to define and refine character relationships and potential interactions. It’s also an ideal time to begin conversations about consent, especially concerning intense interactions like fighting, arguing, or romance.

Of all the things that hype me up the most about any LARP event, it’s the process of connecting with other players and developing intense character relationships (especially the antagonistic ones).

4. Purchases and Creation

For many LARPers, the creative phase of character preparation is the most rewarding. During this time, you can purchase, customize or create the many elements that make your character unique.

While everyone is familiar with the need to acquire or make the right costuming and props, the details go far beyond that. Many LARPers memorize rules, learn songs or poems, make playlists, and practice accents in preparation for taking on their character’s role. The process of creating and assembling props and costume pieces can feel like you’re putting a bit of yourself into the character, and that only enhances the hype.

 

Making some LARP crafts

Image: https://media.giphy.com/media/1463o17ejELYqs/giphy.gif

It’s also genuinely exciting to finish a project, and LARPs naturally allow you to break tasks down into smaller ones (the process of “chunking”).

5. Packing and Panic

Have you ever stayed up to complete a project the night before the LARP? Have you ever worried you’ve forgotten something – or worse, have you actually forgotten important items? Welcome to the ‘packing and panic’ stage of LARP hype. Here, sleep deprivation contributes to general excitement and a feeling of dread, thanks to the natural deadlines LARP events create.

packing for larp

Image: https://media.giphy.com/media/l0HlGTJmgaz2nVdHW/giphy.gif

 

Is it possible to be nervous and excited at the same time?

Absolutely, and that’s yet another stage of the preparation and hype.

6. Straight Up Anxiety

If you’re used to spending a lot of time alone, the adjustment to being in a large crowd all weekend can also create some anxiety. LARPs present a lot of opportunity for expectations and disappointment, and it’s only natural to internalize some of that.

7. Sleeplessness

You know how it feels as a kid on the night before your birthday or a major holiday? That’s kind of how LARPing is for adults. I never slept the night before Christmas. When you need to fly, drive, or just generally be awake the following day, failure to sleep is not optimal, and in some cases, not safe. At this point, I just embrace the fact that it’s going to happen and plan accordingly.

This is the stage of LARP hype you can find yourself running on even through the first day of a multi-day event – but don’t forget to take care of your body.

You can also try some standard tips for falling asleep when you’re excited.

 

What stages of LARP hype do you find yourself feeling the most? Let us know how you cope with the pre-game excitement in the comments.

Dec 22, 2017

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?"

Embrace Loss

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.

Scifi Larp

Get Involved

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.

Harry Potter Larp
Students gather to share a meal - College of Wizardry Image - John-Paul Bichard

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.

Feel Deeply

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.

Communicate...Communicate...Communicate

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.

Looking for your first Nordic Larp? Look no further!

Armistice Arcane is a Victorian Era Gothic larp this January!

Enter the world of magic, intrigue, and politics this January, 5-7 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Fill out the application and tell them Larping.org sent you!

Nov 10, 2017

For years we’ve been waiting for an augmented reality system to come out and change a lot of larps and how they work. There have been a lot of attempts to put sensors in larp weapons and hook them up to phones that have been lackluster to say the least.

 

Legacy Game Systems and Incognita Limited are looking to change all of that.

 

From the video above you can see they are using a bunch of different weapons with a very seamless augmented reality system to fully engross players in the action, instead of calls and worrying about rules. The latter of which can be a huge deterrent to being immersed in the setting and a turn off for new players that aren’t accustomed to doing maths in their head very quickly.

I very briefly spoke to Matthew Webb, one of the creators behind the new system, to get a few questions out there:

 

What details can you give about the new system and it’s hardware? 

The hardware is a multi-peripheral system – meaning it can use multiple types of devices including weapons, wands, sensors and other instruments – that communicates with a smartphone via Bluetooth. The smartphone serves as the game engine, as well as a data connection for the game for syncing with servers and online components. – Webb

What is Spellslingers? 

Spellslingers is the initial game for the system, and involves combat between wizards using the wand peripheral for the system. It will involve casting spells of defense and offense against each other.

Check out the full press release below and make sure to check out their Youtube channel and throw them a like and subscribe to keep tabs on this project!

 

Augmented LARP just got real: Incognita Limited and the creator of NERO join forces

The leader in live action gaming software, Incognita Limited , announces its new partnership with the augmented reality hardware company Legacy Game Systems . Legacy Game Systems is led by Ford Ivey, the creator of several LARPs including the nationwide NERO

Incognita has signed on to create a new generation of games using Legacy Game Systems’ augmented reality hardware, the Daemon Platform, and will be the first company licensed to produce live action software using the platform. Incognita has been developing other live action and augmented reality projects, and is the first dedicated live action gaming software studio. Earlier this year, they premiered their Larpweaver software suite at World of Darkness Berlin, which was used to manage the immensely successful Enlightenment in Blood pervasive street LARP.

“We’re immensely excited to join forces with such a legendary figure in American LARP,” says Matthew Webb, founder of Incognita Limited, “We have been producing some great software products using standard mobile hardware for three years. But to see Legacy’s hardware in action is a real treat, and the entire platform has incredible potential. The Daemon Platform is an incredible piece of hardware. It can handle melee and ranged combat; guns to swords; magic and healing. It really fits our mission of using software to make LARP better than it has ever been before.”

Incognita Limited will be creating several games for the platform, beginning with the highly anticipated Spellslingers game, with other projects coming soon. But there are promises that the platform will be open to even more developers soon.

“We will be developing an open source library for the Unity game engine for using the Daemon Platform, so we can have an accessible and flexible piece of gaming hardware that anyone can use and create games for,” Matthew added.

Incognita Limited and Legacy Games Systems hope to showcase and demo their collaborations by end of this year.

Matthew Webb will be taking part in a panel on live action technology next weekend at San Diego Comic Con , where he will be speaking about the state of LARP technology in general as well as his own projects.

Jul 18, 2017

Head over to the Kickstarter to get your ticket!

Yes! I want to be a Weekend Warrior!

A little bit of confession here: I’ve been drooling over Fell and Faire’s Instagram account for a LONG TIME. I’ve sat around with friends and dreamed about doing an event with them. When I heard about this event I was pumped that they are doing it on the kind of level that they were and everything in the Kickstarter points to this being an epic event you won’t want to miss!

 

I had a chance to get the low down on this epic event from Skip Lipman, legendary larper, and some of the information he graciously spilled is down below.

 

There are just five days left, as of this writing to get your tickets on the Kickstarter and you’re not going to want to miss out!

Who wouldn't want to be in this company of Rangers?

A post shared by Fell & Fair (@fellandfair) on

The Team

Who’s behind this incredible effort? 

A little bit about the Weekend Warrior team, Zan Campbell of Fell and Fair, a growing garb and costume shop with a great Instagram following, Ron Newcomb with The Forge Studios an independent film company that focuses on fantasy and sci-fi, Samantha Swords, internationally known medieval swordsmanship specialistand WETA workshop craftsman, and me, Skip Lipman a documentarian of US LARP with his film Darkon, aspiring actor, and seasoned craftsman. Together they are working to create a next level event here in the US. Weekend Warrior!

Weekend Warrior's Inspiration

What were your inspirations for this event? 

What we want to do is take what is best about European LARP, the realistic and superbly crafted weapons, high level of costuming, roleplay, and story, and combine it with what is best about American LARP, the full contact competitive sport like fighting of Darkon, Dagorhir, Belegarth, and other high speed US based LARPS.

 

One thing that is very different from either Bicoline or Mythodea, that we do take inspiration from, is that we are the first to do this kind of large scale fully immersive event here in the United States.

The World

Tell me a little about the world you’re building. 

he world we are building is based on a cinematic universe that we are growing and will be supporting with narrative episodic videos. We are treating this event itself like a film to help create that immersive experience. Looking at the garb and gear as wardrobe selections that are specific to our realm. Making style choices to reinforce that world building.The idea is to have strong story backbone that will guide and enhance the roleplaying experience. From the moment you step onto the event grounds, you are in “Adrasil”. The story anchors the game play with NPC’s. The participants will create their own personas within this story. The wardrobe is controlled and all high-end – with recognizable factions, and loyalty tho the story and world (it’s going to look great). We currently have three storylines in development or production based on The Rangers concept.

(video below)

Cinematic Experience

You mentioned a cinematic experience, what’s your plan for how that will be used?  

We will be filming the entire event and preparations leading up to it, so participants will have a record of the event highlighting their experience, with eye towards creating a reality show developed for distribution about the event and the players. With our experience in fantasy film and documentaries like, Darkon, we believe that we will be able to produce a highly marketable product that will help promote, elevate, and change the way people think of LARP world wide.

What are you waiting for?

Yes! I want to be a Weekend Warrior!

Jun 16, 2017
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