25
June 2017
Nordic Larp

From the larp KoiKoi, taken by Xin Li

You’ve probably heard the buzz recently about ‘Nordic larp’, and you might be wondering what’s so special about it? – how’s it different from US or UK larp?

Different countries and part of the world have different larp cultures, that reflect the people who live there and the kinds of societies they’re based in. Nordic larps… well, they’re something rather remarkable.

Over the last 20 years or so, the Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – have evolved a shared larp vibe which is quite distinct from the rest of the world, and which is now being increasingly sought out and imitated. These countries all have strong social and cooperative politics, and a popular tradition of reflection, questioning, and discussion. And this carries right through into their larping.

Nordic or not so Nordic?

To start with, there’s been a lot of argument over what “Nordic larp” actually means. It looks like a geographical term, but it’s more often used to refer to a particular tradition of larp. Not all larp played in the Nordic countries is necessarily considered “Nordic larp”; while larp from elsewhere that shares the same spirit might be considered “Nordic-style”. And then each of the four countries has its differences, and much of their larp is outdoor broadly-fantasy-medieval campaigns, like everywhere else. These differ from US and UK larps mostly in being more immersive and having a lot less rules, but they’d be recognizable.

No, the term “Nordic larp” is generally taken to mean a particular tradition of progressive arthouse larps that’s emerged from the Nordic countries over the last few years. These wildly creative and experimental one-shot larps have captured the imagination like nothing else.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The larps range from a few hours to several days long: some take place in specialized venues and involve elaborate costume, others are run in nondescript convention rooms in ordinary dress. Typically they have a preparatory ‘workshop’ to help players get into their characters and into the game, but these vary considerably in length as well.

Just a few from many hundreds of examples:

  • The White Road – players as drunken hobos go on a real road trip that ends with them casting their dead friend’s ashes into the sea.
  • Soulstrip – a short larp for just three players, who spend the entirety of it naked and shut inside a wardrobe. They represent different personality aspects of a character in danger of being caught in adultery.
  • Fade to Grey – an experiment in reversing the usual larp dynamic. Characters become progressively less interested in each other, and in the plots, as the game goes on, until at the end they’re all bland and grey.
  • Delirium – a larp about love and madness, which essentially induced insanity in its players over a continuous 42 hours of play. (Preceded by five days of intensive workshops.) http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/Delirium and there’s a video documentary about it here
  • Luminescence – about cancer patients undergoing music therapy. Played out near-naked in a room full of flour; with no story of any kind, just physical interaction.
  • KoiKoi – nomadic tribes rejoin for ceremonies of rites of passage: children become adults, couples become married, the old prepare for death. With much drumming and dancing.
The Hour of the Rant.

From Knutpunkt 2014, taken by Johannes Axner

Rules and regulations

The first big difference you’d notice when moving from a US-based or UK-based larp to a Nordic equivalent – whether it’s an arthouse one-off like the above, or a traditional fantasy campaign – would be the massive de-emphasis of rules and system. In Nordic games, having even a few pages of rules is considered heavy, and many have no written rules at all. Damage from combat and other results are usually assessed and judged by players themselves. Magical effects and the like are described, and their outcomes agreed mutually according to what makes for a good story. There’s an underlying shared assumption that you don’t do anything that would detract from someone else’s game: ‘Don’t Be an Ass’ is pretty much the only rule required.

Larp for losers

This is all possible because Nordic larps don’t usually take in the notion of character progress in strength, abilities, etc. There’s no sense in which players are trying to achieve things so as to make their characters become more powerful. Instead, the shape of a character’s story is what’s important – and this can go down as well as up. ‘Playing to lose’ is a vital concept in Nordic larp. If it makes for a good story for your character to do badly, and other players will get enjoyment out of playing along with that, then that’s entirely fun and engaging: players will have their characters crash and burn without a qualm.

Get immersed

Torture workshop.

From Knutpunkt 2014, taken by Johannes Axner at a torture techniques workshop

Two further key Nordic concepts are the ideals of immersion, and 360-degree illusion. As with all Nordic larp terms, their meanings are hotly debated. But broadly speaking, immersion (which can be into setting, into story, and/or into character) means that you should be thinking and feeling as within the larp all the time; and 360-degree illusion means that the larp is designed and set up in such a way as to facilitate immersion, by making the real environment match the game-world setting as closely as possible. Most larps try for this to some extent, but Nordic larps take it very seriously indeed as a philosophy: often to the extent of not having an out-of-character area, with players eating and sleeping in-character throughout.

It comes back to story again: the better the gameworld illusion, and the deeper the immersion the players experience, the more satisfying will be the story that emerges. The larp Dragonbane , for which the organizers built an entire medieval village and a life-size electro-mechanical dragon that breathed fire, is perhaps an extreme example. Likewise the retired naval warship whose interior was converted into a Battlestar-Galactica-universe starship for the larp The Monitor Celestra.

The expedition to find the missing Dr Klüft.

From the (Cthulhu-themed) larp Terra Incognita, taken by Johannes Axner

In recent years there’s been a trend, particularly among shorter larps, to no longer require a continuously authentic setting illusion, in order to help the development of story between players: using, for example, what are called ‘metatechniques’ – player–player communication techniques that temporarily break character. This all means that there is now wide variation in types and degrees of immersion, and in levels of illusion. But they remain important parts of the basis of the tradition.

The Georgia-based larp campaign Avegost is an interesting example of applying Nordic principles in a USA context. Organizer Joe Landolfi talks here on larping.org about his mission to introduce Nordic-style immersion to the campaign, and the difficulties that some existing players had adjusting to it.

The face of Dr Klüft.

From the (Cthulhu-themed) larp Terra Incognita, taken by Johannes Axner

Knutpunkt

The Nordic larp scene is strongly associated with Knutpunkt (it means ‘the nodal point’), the annual larp conference which rotates around the four Nordic countries. In April 2014 it was held in Gothenburg, Sweden http://knutpunkt.se/ , and the mix of talks, workshops, panels and round-tables included:

  • Sing it out loud! – musical meta-techniques
  • Typology in character creation
  • Edu-larp for socialization: building a bridge to real life
  • Ethics in larp writing
  • Viewpoints – performance techniques for connecting role and player
  • Experience-focused larp design
  • Culture definition through pre-larp workshops
  • Portraying sex-work at larps
  • Creating the connect-with-coplayers toolbox
  • The selfish player
  • Blackboxification

((If that all sounds perhaps a little dry or academic, there were also a load of larps to play, performance events, parties, and a sauna and hot tub.)Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download)

Knutpunkt is also known as Knutepunkt, Knudepunkt or Solmukohta, depending on which of the Nordic countries it’s happening in that particular year. But the books of proceedings that are published to accompany each conference are always called Knutepunkt-books, to commemorate the first Knutepunkt, which was held in Norway: http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/Knutepunkt-books .

Mad about the Boy

One of the pioneers of Nordic larp in the USA is Lizzie Stark, who in 2012 organized a run in Connecticut of the Norwegian-written game Mad about the Boy. This is a weekend one-off set in a near-future society where all men have died – the characters are all women, and the larp examines gender roles, heteronormativity, parenting, democracy and lots of other interesting and potentially troublesome issues. This event really gave a good kick to US awareness of Nordic larp in general, and Lizzie’s blog also contains some fantastically valuable resources – including ‘Nordic larp for noobs’ , which she wrote as an intro for Mad about the Boy players but which is great reading for anyone who wants to learn more. And you can download a writeup of the game here: http://www.rollespilsakademiet.dk/webshop/matbus2012.pdf

Or if you prefer videos, you’ll love this ‘Introduction to Nordic Larp’ talk by the Finnish writer and broadcaster Johanna Koljonen: http://nordiclarptalks.org/post/576668918/introduction-to-nordic-larp

Nordic Larp

From the larp KoiKoi, taken by Xin Li

More, more, more

If you want to find out more about Nordic larp, there’s absolutely stacks of material available. Here are a few places to start with:

  • What does Nordic Larp mean? http://nordiclarptalks.org/post/48230787098/what-does-nordic-larp-mean-jaakko-stenros – Finnish game researcher Jaakko Stenros gave this keynote speech before Knutepunkt in 2013. It’s half an hour long, but it’s really clear and concise, defining the term, ‘brand’ and tradition of Nordic Larp. You can either view the talk itself (see previous link), or go read the transcript (which has some fun slides and illustrations) here http://jaakkostenros.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/keynote-script-what-does-nordic-larp-mean/
  • The Foundation Stone of Nordic Larp http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/The_Foundation_Stone_of_Nordic_Larp – This book, made for Knutpunkt 2014, specifically aims to serve as a primer for people new to the Nordic larp discourse and tradition. It’s available as a free PDF (as are all Knutepunkt books). The book is 300 pages long: it contains some newly-written introductory essays, a presentation of some of the Nordic Larp Talk videos you might want to check out, and a collection of essays that were particular highlights of previous Knutepunkt books. Here’s a review http://imagonem.org/2014/03/31/this-thing-of-ours/ of the book that may give you an initial impression and guide you through the essays.
  • Nordic Larp http://nordiclarp.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/nordic-larp-book-now-available-for-free-online/ – An epic tome that presents a cross-section of this vibrant culture through 30 outstanding larps, by presenting stories told by designers, players and researchers, with over 250 photographs. In addition the book contains essays explaining the history and rhetoric of Nordic larp, and contextualizing it in relation to theatre, art and games. In 2012 the book received the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming. The link leads to a free PDF copy of the book, which is around 300 pages long. (If that seems a bit much, start by looking at the pretty pictures… and work from there following what looks most interesting.)
  • Nordic Larp on TLC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77ACDFVzH_0 – A 14-minute documentary shot in Denmark, focusing on a larp set under a repressive regime.

About the Author:

This article was written by Mo Holkar. Mo has been playing freeforms since some time in the early 90s, and running them almost as long, mostly as part of the Epic Experience. Check out his full list of work here. It’s seriously impressive. продвижение сайтаtopod.indeeo.ruкак взломать webmoney на деньги без программчехол для макбуккредит на малый бизнес с нуля втбfree online casino bonus slot machinesiran girls sexcasino oyun oynabeste-onlinecasinos.comарушафитнес в тц бум

Jordan

Founder and creator of Larping.org. He's the captain of the ship, plotting the course, braving the storm and swabbing the poop decks.

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3 Comments

  1. Abrie Jansen van Vuuren October 21, 2014 12:37 AM

    Hi I really liked what i Read her on this site…

    I am part of the oldest Larping group in South Africa called Medieval Adventures (www.meadsa.co.za) I play a Templar… and I got into larping last year and i haven’t regretted it since. I love it and i like they way I can interact with people that think the same way i do… we follow the NERO rules system and it is great fun. for the last event i got a bunch of old and new friends to join and for the next event their bringing there friends and family with as well.

    but in a nutshell LARPing is FUN and I will never leave it…

    Kind Regards

    Abrie aka Dante Storm’Crow

    PS if you guys ever come to Pretoria in South Africa please feel free to come and join us for a mini event or a Main event.

    Reply
  2. Charles Bo Nielsen October 21, 2014 7:17 AM

    Very well put together article!

    Reply
  3. Paulina Kling March 27, 2015 1:26 AM

    A very interesting article!

    I’ve only been to larps in Sweden and only in one have I carried a weapon, when I played a secret agent.
    There are so many more things a larp can give a player, other an adrenalin rush in a physical fight.
    I’ve played a worried ambassador of a desert tribe, a druid with the fate of the world in her hands, a ghost looking for revenge, a child with a weird relation with her twin sister and several apocalypse survivors, one of whom was tortured and inbetween two larps in a campaign, murdured. New characters give new experiences, and the new experiences is why I play.
    Respect for the player is always in the centre, if someone is not having fun, everyone is doing something wrong.

    Reply

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