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Spencer works in technology, and has been a LARPer in every aspect of the term since 1998. He likes the community most of all, but also really enjoys designing encounters and discussing LARP theory and mechanics. It is his goal to see the hobby grow and get better with every passing year. He lives in Marietta, GA.

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  1. Bob January 23, 2016 4:14 PM

    As pertains to #4: NPC’s running around in tabards…

    Our local Larp, Nero Hartford, is making a concerted effort right now to change this. We have people making realistic looking quick change armor, as well as costuming.

    It can be done. It just takes some planning to do it. Unfortunately, many larps have the “quick change” mindset for NPC’s. We’ve proven that we can get NPC’s changed from one role to another, with completely new costuming, in 30 seconds to 1 minute.

  2. Rich Croteau January 23, 2016 4:46 PM

    Um, yea, What he said. 😉

    That goes double for me! 😀

  3. Aaron January 23, 2016 5:43 PM

    I believe the word you want is “tenets,” not “tenants.”

  4. Mark January 23, 2016 6:40 PM

    Just about everything said in the article is valid, I personally have watched the hobby in the UK evolve over the last 26 years, and have been involved in setting up and running events for 23 of them, and 15 years as a ‘professional Costume Maker.
    As I see it the US hobby is in the place that the EU hobby was @15 years ago when the UK was the place to go for the big fest events. Since then the EU and especially the German events (Drackenfest and Mythodia) have taken a harder line on the buisness models and produced very high quality events.
    The Uk still leads the field for detailed game worlds, eg the Gathering (Lorian Trust aka Merlinroute est 1990) has 25 years of game history to draw on. Curious Pastimes is close behind with @23 years of game world history and no big rule resets, relying entirely on an evolving game rule set that is both ‘live tested’ and in many cases the concepts developed by the players then incorporated into the game.
    Profound Decisions can not be left out with their Empire Game, a massively detailed game world with a huge reliance on honesty and roleplay from the players, Treating the players like the adults they are.

  5. david cardamone January 23, 2016 6:40 PM

    what a well-written article and informative. I have been LARPing since 1989. I have seen Larps go up and down in attendance, disappear, and reappear. “The growing pains of America LARP” is quite a honest and true title. My theory on this ‘growing pain’ raises a question: What makes the American LARP have struggles and conflict, in contrast to the so coveted European LARP? Does it mimic the American social-political crises, the economy, the changes in NERD culture from RPG to Tabletop, the drop in literacy, ‘the dumbing down of America” etc etc. America, is a great country, and I do believe it becomes the greatest country in the world when we strive to overcome our struggles. My experience with the American Larp, in Oklahoma, is one thing: Lots of Drama. Nerd-Rage. Too much Drama, in fact. the Oklahoma emphasis in LARP are usually on Medieval over fantasy and stick-jock over roleplay. … While a big battlefield of pure honest, honorable battle is just beyond incredible, I feel the need to bring to life ‘dungeons and dragons’ out on the battlefield a reality that would be so sweet.

  6. Fred Hirsch January 23, 2016 11:21 PM

    The reference to “The Highlander” is most likely referring to Connor MacLeod from the movie, “The Highlander”, starring Christopher Lambert.

  7. Catherine Griffin January 25, 2016 6:05 AM

    This seems to be more of a “How to LARP” article rather than a growing pains article, despite its claims. Yes, these are things that we can see in some American LARPs today. However, it’s okay that we see these things.

    To put a finer point on it, my main disagreement of this article is the fact that it seems to be pointing out what’s “wrong” with American LARPs. The thing is that there is nothing wrong with American LARPs. It just depends if you like the game or not. If a group of people want to play checkers, then let them play checkers. Don’t try to say that Monopoly is better and try to change checkers to Monopoly. A rules system as opposed to free form is a different game altogether and, largely, attracts different types of players.

    I will go on to say that by that same token, there’s nothing wrong with your suggestions. A LARP that instead focuses on emotion and acting is a bit like walking into a living world. If that’s what you’re aiming for, that’s great. However, LARPs that don’t follow this model and are being profitable shouldn’t necessarily change to be this model if their organizers are happy with the result.

    As far as the No-Counter idea goes, you need a lot of NPCs to pull that off–a lot. You are currently talking about an entertainment-style of LARP for players–which means that players want to be entertained. To use easy numbers, say you have 10 NPCs to entertain about 50 players (1 NPC for every 5 players). This means if you send 5 of those NPCs out in the woods to just hang out as orcs and see if anyone stumbles onto them for about an hour, you only have 5 NPCs left to work with to entertain 50 players (1 NPC for every 10 players). If the encounter isn’t found out in the woods, then that means you have far fewer resources to work with to entertain the players.

    With that said, your idea about “hooks” is valid–and something that I see changing in LARP. Disguising a hook as something else is perfect. A random attack on the town with one of the main creatures having a letter on it to points to something else is a good example.

    You mention that European LARPs outnumber American LARPs–and that’s true. But I will argue that this is a financial issue rather than a popularity issue. More specifically, running a LARP in Europe is cheaper than in America. Campsites can cost a few grand (American dollars) per weekend (Friday night through Sunday midday) in America. Contrast that against renting a castle for a week in Europe (it’s sadly almost the same price). This means that far less can be spent on props, makeup, etc. if you’re running a LARP in America. Add that into the fact that you need to factor in insurance costs and the lack of backing by the government (LARP does not receive any extra funding or cuts in America), and it’s simply a more expensive endeavor in the U.S. Most people want to be entertained–which is why the entertainment-style of LARP reigns in America. You need to attract players to help break even, let alone be profitable.

    All in all, great suggestions for running a more theatrical-style LARP. I also agree with all of the character suggestions at the beginning of the article–especially those pertaining to the separation of the character from the person.

  8. spencer January 25, 2016 8:07 AM

    Thanks for all the great feedback and comments, all. I was hoping to start a conversation just like the one you all seem to be having. Since writing this, so many other topics of possible discussion have blossomed and have given me cause to expound upon some of the subtopics discussed. In short, I’ll no doubt be releasing more articles similar to “The Growing Pains…” and hope to cover many of the points you all have raised in your responses to my article.

  9. Leon Bruce January 27, 2016 7:09 AM

    Spencer – Please consider a trip late April to Maryland for Darkon’s 5th annual Bellum Aeternus

    We are a full contact battle game LARP – This even goes from April 28th -May 1st and will have large battles (hundreds of combatants) as well as larp adventures, merchants, vendors (OOCL and IC).

    I look forward to seeing you there.

    Order of the Raven
    Thane of The Northern Kingdoms

  10. Austin January 27, 2016 11:16 AM

    Utter tripe.

    You setup here:
    B. Having to vocalize damage calls as a means by which to execute a combat skill or any mechanic for that matter, takes a player out of their game for the duration of the combat or at least during the time in which they need to invest head-space in calculating mechanics. In this way, the essence and ‘fun’ of combat and/or the game is lost to the stress of worrying about mechanics and not the act itself, as it should be. Start with zero calls and only add as necessary in rules development, instead of indulgently.
    … but completely punt on proposing any solution that provides the degree of incremental build that American LARPers expect in a campaign game.
    Does a call-less system work great for a festival (extended one-shot) format wherein your character’s stats do not develop? Sure. Does it provide long-term playability and the desire to keep coming to keep building your character? No, not at all.
    C. Strive for a system where special abilities are executed in some other way than by vocalization. The goal of this article isn’t to outline every possible option, but to foster thought, creativity and feedback on the issue. Point of fact, I would love to hear about some ways in which to execute mechanics without calls or some other action that removes players from their game.

    • spencer January 28, 2016 5:44 AM

      Hi Austin,
      Thanks for your constructive feedback. To address what you refer to as “Utter Tripe,” I believe I was pretty clear on my position in regards to how address vocalized combat mechanics. While I still stand by my original position of using called mechanics sparingly, I’ll agree that I perhaps could have offered some alternatives to this element of rules design. However, to generalize as “Utter Tripe,” is a bit hasty, if not simply inappropriate. Too often vocalized effects delivery systems are band aids for a lack of any real physical skill, ingenuity, or effort on part of the player. Sure, American LARPers expect incremental build systems as some sort of method to measure progress and with which to purchase additional ‘skills’, but what I’m saying, perhaps ineffectively, is that I want to get out of the head-space that this is the way it has to be. As I quoted from the other blog in the beginning (paraphrasing here), it goes on to say that you are not your skills, or even your gear for that matter. So while the general consensus still seems to be that skill-buy systems are the way to go, I am simply proposing a reexamination of this model in an effort to enlighten and inform future LARP rules design and implementation. What you’re suggesting is that one of the main motivations for returning to a game is the promise that your character will be able to get more stuff, whether it’s skills or items. Again, I’m saying that I’d like to refocus the attention from an attitude of winning to one of simply playing. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  11. Nicole February 10, 2016 11:32 AM

    You’ve stomped on a pet peeve of mine here. I study HEMA (historical European martial arts), and swords are not heavy. They aren’t. My historically accurate 52″ two-handed German longsword weighs three pounds. My one-handed arming sword weighs a little less than that. Warhammers *do* weigh a decent amount, but for the most part weapons aren’t and can’t be heavy. Conan swings are ridiculous, and anyone RPing one because they have a two-handed weapon is going to make me point and laugh at them. Longswords are *fast* weapons — they use your whole body as a fulcrum, and proper body mechanics means that the tip of the 3 lb bar of steel is moving very very quickly.

    I love LARPing, and have been playing in them since 1995, but you lose me when you start asking for realism in LARP combat. My HEMA skills and my LARP skills just have no crossover, and it’s better to keep it that way. In HEMA I am trained to strike preferentially for the head, with the torso only as a secondary target. I do most of my work out of the bind, using thrusts to chest and face if I can, or taking off in order to strike to the head if I can’t. This is *not* a safe way to play unless you and your opponents are wearing proper protective gear, and even then it’s not safe, it’s just less dangerous. Also, asking LARPers to study a martial art just to go out in the woods and pretend to be someone else for the weekend sounds like a good way to shrink the LARP population, not grow it. Limit the number of swings before someone has to step back and ‘reset’ to deal with machine-gunning, don’t ask people to pretend that their sword weighs twenty pounds.

  12. Francesco Pregliasco February 11, 2016 1:48 PM

    I am an Italian larper and I found the article very interesting because of its “alien” perspective. Reading the US point of view about those issue helped me to understand a different mentality about larp.
    Just one thing: there is no such thing as “Euro-LARP philosophy”. Europe is waaaaay more diverse than the US, since, you know, it’s not a country 🙂
    The overwhelming majority of larpers in Europe would not identify as “euro-larpers” but rather as French larpers, German larpers, Spanish larpers and so on. Most of them wouldn’t even know that larp in the US is “different” nor that European larp (supposedly) have some common characteristics.

    Basically, whenever you say “Euro-larp” in the article, what you actually mean is “not-US larp”.

  13. Carol Hayden February 18, 2016 8:04 AM

    I’ve been researching LARP to start participating in the US, and the European Larp Rules are repeated, verbatim, everywhere. Please, stop. Rule 5 is phrased as hatefully as possible and inappropriate to American society. I know Americans like to pretend Europe is a utopia but not everything needs importing. Specifically, classism and conformity. The phrasing for the rule reeks of “Don’t be different or we’ll shun or stone you.” In game, yeah, we should dress to fit in. Outside of game? Most schools have dress codes, Americans especially have horrid uniforms we have to wear while working, which takes up most of our lives. My gym prohibits the exposure of bra straps. In our free time, going dancing? I dress how I like. I’m 44 years old and no one has ever accepted or liked me because I dressed how it pleased them. Don’t tell us how to live our lives outside the game.

  14. Julien Chevalley February 23, 2016 7:59 AM

    Francesco Pregliasco  February 11, 2016 1:48 PM

    I am a larper from Switzerland and I found this article very interesting too. It’s great to see a “different mentality” about larp. As Francesco said, I don’t think there is a “Euro-LARP philosophy”. I can see that when I go to France or Germany: different ways to play. But there is one thing in common : costume quality. In Europa we’ve a lot of webshops for LARP, with some very interesting things. And it’s easier to improve your costume with that… So I think this help a lot for the “dumping” (not sure about this word… The “realism”?) in a LARP event : great costumes, it’s easier to be “in the right mood”.
    Second thing, in the small world of the LARP in Switzerland, we’ve a philosophy : don’t play for you, play for others. There isn’t any winner in a LARP, just a great and common adventure.
    (Oh and for the price… LARPing in Europa can be expensive too… For a good one it’s between 50-150$, just for the player’s ticket (for Conquest of Mythodea, with the travel, food, ticket etc. I count between 500-800$)

  15. Maria March 9, 2016 2:02 PM

    @ Spencer: The picture of the two oriental warriors is actually from Drachenfest 2011, the photographer’s pseudonym is Ariann.
    @ Catherine Griffin: Your argument lacks context. “Larps in Europe are cheaper than in the US” – umm, which country are you looking at?
    Sure, some Russian larps may have zero costs because they are just playing in the woods and in I know for a fact that German campsites are cheaper and probably easier to come by than American scout camps. But: Your other assumptions don’t hold true for “all of Europe”. There are only some countries where it is normal to receive government support for larping (Nordic larp countries like Denmark, Sweden, Finnland – and only for educational, socio-critical or experimental projects), German castles cannot be rented for “a few grands” per week – a castle for 100 people for 4 days can net 15000€ and upwards, and we have to pay for insurance as well. When I played at SOLAR (Georgia) in 2008 the event price was about the same as a German weekend larp.
    What I would claim is that European larp has one advantage over the US that makes it easier to organize events (explaining why there are more): a wider player base. There are simply more larpers who can come to an event (everything is closer, population density etc).
    @ Carol Hayden: I also do not agree with the “never wear anything from your larp wardrobe to a club” part. But let me try to explain the background: Around the millenium larpers in the UK (that’s where the rules came from originally) had to battle being seen as freaks by the general public. So they put down larpers who went around flaunting their hobby as “I am so different from you normal mortals and do not care for norms” – by wearing full kit, armour, swords and all to clubs (which imho, is really kind of stupid and attention-seeking). There is a historical context here that does not translate well to other countries, neither Croatia nor the US…
    But the second part of the rule is central for good games: clothes that look out-of-game should stay out of game. The point is: If you can wear your garb to a club without people staring at you, then your kit is not “un-modern” or “fantastical” or “medieval” or “postapocalyptic” (or whatever style your game requires) ENOUGH for the game. And the argument works in reverse as well: Do not buy “garb” from Goth outfitters, becauses pieces like a polyester corset, stretch velvet dresses, black cotton jabot shirts etc. look too much like modern clubwear. Of course you can go all out and be totally different and you can dress in an unconventional way in and out of the game – but keep it appropriate to the look of the game.
    @ Austin: Quote “Does it provide long-term playability and the desire to keep coming to keep building your character? No, not at all.” –
    Objection, because that is a really narrow perspective on why people keep coming back to a campaign – a preference fo a gamist style with “leveling up” and “immediate rewards” such as additional skills, fame etc. However, other game styles that do not rely on “character building” might have different lures for longterm players, e.g. storytelling – your character is involved in different stories/plots/politics and actively influences the story – the appeal is to see how that story unfolds.
    And why would you even need “long-term playability” if your larp model is rather experimental with a great variety of different one-shots or shorter series of events that have a climax/defined ending? I have been larping for 17 years now and I have never felt the urge to play only one character and developing her “stats”. I enjoy playing a variety of characters in the same campaign setting instead and I enjoy starting from scratch – to keep things new and fresh. If your character keeps powering up, the game world has to keep finding way to challenge you – sort of like an arms race. That was one thing that totally bugged me about the SOLAR events I went to. Some of the NPCs were so over-powered that it felt bizarre – and you had no chance to do anything as a newbie.
    In short: The American model of “keep your players coming back and paying by promising them that their character will have build points” is not the only possible one…

    • spencer March 9, 2016 2:09 PM

      Thanks for the context regarding the ‘wearing your LARP kit in public’ rule from the Croatian LARPer blog. I was wondering about that one a bit myself. And I also appreciate your constructive feedback to the other comments Maria.

  16. Mireille April 6, 2016 3:32 PM

    First of all ….I’m shocked.
    I knew that the situation over the pond was dire in regards to LARP (I heard stories…) but I never knew it was to this extend.

    I must agree with Maria in regards to the prices of LARPS in Europe…at least here in Germany. Castles ARE expensive…and we have a wider player base.
    You have a whole different mindset in the US …a player with a “looks at me and I how awesome I am” mentality wouldn’t survive
    very long in a German LARP…and don’t forget that he probably can’t hold the sword right.
    HEMA-training is standard here…at least in our region …and I must say it can be translated to the LARP rules. It just needs effort (takes about a year for basics..even if your not sporty…) and training or the prober mindset for the fight, which means that you fight not to injure but to let it look cool. There isn’t much differernce in hitting the shoulder instead of the head.
    Also I think over here we have a more pragmatic mindset while playing. Which means you could play an elkf with 200lbs and 5 feet if you have a prober explanation for it….it happens. Though those are the exeption from the rule…and you risk being the butt of the joke.

  17. Eleazar April 22, 2016 9:43 AM

    Coming from an American point of view,
    I’ve been LARPing for a relatively short time: four years of sparring with my brothers and only about two years in an actual system and I do agree with the some of the points about rewarding your players with a character build up. It takes away some of the fun for those who prefer an rp-stylized LARP but it does keep our numbers from dwindling into extinction. In the years I spent sparring my brothers, I constantly tried to organize LARP groups and events (which as pointed out already, is quite expensive) but very few people came to the next event or the next meet because they didn’t see much opportunity for character advancement. I do believe this stems from a culture of “I’m going to get the best for myself because I deserve it, I want it, I don’t want others to have it, etc.” People don’t particularly enjoy playing a character who isn’t going to, at one point, mop the floor with the other players. The ruleset I currently play by try to keep class abilities balanced and diverse with a heavy emphasis(but no real reward for) rp. This makes it so that ultimately, those who excel are those who can think and swing faster, which isn’t a bad way of going about things, but it’s not really the best way either.

    Personally, I’d prefer to go to rp events: a character, his equipment, his friends, and adventures, NOT debating wording of combat rules or wanting to advance a characters stats. It really takes away from the fun and attracts some rather selfish players.

  18. Mark Mensch October 25, 2016 9:05 PM

    I want to state one major issue when comparing a lot of European LARPs to those of the US. The level of fantasy. I have attended both Conquest of Mythodea as well as Drachenfest and both of them, despite having such things as Dragons and other powerful characters, I would categorize as “Low Fantasy”. Magic, although there, is very ‘weak’ in comparison to what most magic is depicted as in novels or other entertainment media. All of your opponents are basically other humans or human hybrids which are basically as powerful as the standard player. Anything else, such as Dragon Avatars, are so above the player’s ability that it is useless to fight them. A group of 16 NPC’s invade a camp at Mythodea and a force of 450 warriors marching by declined to help because “There was no point to fight them, they’re untouchable.”

    US Larps tend to try and be more high fantasy, with not only having Dragons in the game but also having players able to defeat the dragons. As such, some form of power leveling is needed. And more robust spells are required which require more incants and verbal cues so people know what is coming their way. The idea of such things as Lord of the Rings or Willow, where a lone warrior is able to cut through dozens if not hundreds of orcs is something people want to experience but would be impossible to do at most European games. This is why various things are attempted to be replicated in a LARP – to get that experience. It would be very hard to play a Star Stars game without some mechanics for the various force powers. Can you make a Sci-fi game without space ships, blasters, transporters and so on? Sure. But at some point you can look around and say “Other than saying you’re in the future, what is futuristic about this game?” So you can write the game without having troublesome mechanics involved (it’s why most fantasy games don’t have an ‘invisibility’ spell) but you lose flavor when you over simplify it.

    Now there are ways to try and cut this back as far as verbalizing things that take a player out of game. For example, screaming “Die” when you swing at someone could indicate that the weapon is doing a special attack or simply striking for 2 points instead of one. The way a person holds their hand can differentiate between a force choke or a force push for Star Wars. Or even ‘gloating’ about what you’re going to do before you do it can be used “I’m going to break both your shield and your arm with this hammer!” It’s not a perfect system when you want to go beyond bandits and begin dealing with gryphons but it does worn. Plus, there are people looking at creating systems that can go beyond that with 21st century technology. Ford Ivey (original creator of NERO) has a Legacy System that will take care of all of these pesky things of how much damage you do, how much you take, how well you’re healed, etc. and all you have to worry about is fighting.

    You mention Mike Ventrella of Alliance LARP (which would be nice if you included a link to his game along side the others you mention shortly after rule 9) quoted that the early rules were heavily based off of Dungeons and Dragons – and where this is true, especially since it was such a popular game and one people could easily identify with, the rule set for Alliance LARP has changed over the years and is currently undergoing a major renovation. But it will still have elements of this and MMO’s in order to help new players understand and involve themselves in the games.

    NPC’s in Tabards – It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen any of these specifically – the only time being when there are multiple NPC’s who are all part of a singular creature. In fact, I feel that after being to the two German events, that the US is not that far, and in some places even exceed, what is offered in Europe. I’m looking at a photo in this article of an incredible set of white armor a woman is wearing, along with her detailed white shield. But then I notice in the background a guy just wearing a pair of pants. And over her opponent’s shoulder seems to be a couple of people just wearing… yup, plain green tabards. The thing about Conquest of Mythodea is that they have professional photographers and out of the literal tens of thousands of photos they take, only about 20% of them are ever seen. These are the photos that they want you to see. With US larps, players post random photos they snap of things they like and aren’t worried about the quality of the costume the people are wearing.

    As for “The hook is king” – the reason this is done is due to the shortcomings of available staff. The small number of staff members (inluding NPC’s) need to be briefed on the encounter, their characters and their abilities, costumed up and then head off and set up the encounter area. As most NPC numbers are way under that of those of the players, having people to spare for the “No Counter” is next to impossible. However, some games (such as Alliance) have things such as ‘lair cards’ where people who do go out, wandering, looking for spell components and other issues will come across a card saying something like “You find a cave entrance and hear some reptilian hissing coming from within, if you wish to investigate, bring this card to NPC Headquarters” – this way, you can reward players who go out searching for adventure without committing the human resources required elsewhere at the time.

    Playing in both CoM and DF – I found that there was a lot of waiting around until the call to arms was made – just like it is in the US larps. Some people did go out and try their own way of getting into trouble – where I spent two hours trailing two women whom were trying to flush out someone who was kidnapping women – only to come up with nothing. I did have find spending hours building a puzzle box on my own but I think I may be in the low majority of finding that entertaining. You could go out and look at items, see places, etc. But there was never anything I, and hundreds of others, were able to glean from it – even when asking their referees. It took the better part of a day to find out what a mark a major NPC put on one of my friends did, and all that did was being to upset the players and those who were with him as we could not move forward as we had no idea what this mark did. Neither did any mages nor did most of the story tellers. It was something the NPC made up on the spot and informed him of what it did IG but not OOG what else it did or how to get rid of it.

    And the reason that numbers at games are so low is that there is often a difference in the frequency that games take place. People work all year to get ready to attend CoM and DF – both of which take place but once a year. And in a lot of cases, these are the only games available (yearly games) in countries which are smaller than some US states. You can make plans to have your vacation, make your way out there and enjoy yourself. And it is a big event. With the ‘typical’ US larp, it is episodic, happening as often as once a month so that you can build the story and watch it, and your character grow. As such, funds that could be saved up to be applied to kit, etc. Whereas that money goes towards the monthly fees for camp rental, insurance and other things the LARP needs to fund. And quite often they cannot make every game so numbers dwindle. Although such events as the Pennsic War for the SCA has attendances in the thousands and, now that I think about it, both CoM and DF are much more like Pennsic War than they are as the Hybrid larps of the US. A lot of socializing, some political intrigue and then calls to massive battles to then come back and drink and socialize some more. They just use heavier armor and weapons.

  19. Johannes Axner October 26, 2016 1:26 AM

    Interesting read, thank you! I’m a Swedish larper and while I haven’t attended any fantasy larps in the US I have many US larper friends and I have attended the Living Games Conference and met many US larpers there and at events in Europe. I’m thankful for all opportunities to learn about larp around the world and how different it is.

    First I must agree with other European commenters here that there are huge differences between countries. I can only answer for Sweden here, and even in my country there’s a vast spread of different larp scenes and cultures. I’ll try to mention some differences that I feel are implied by your text, but not explicitly stated. Please remember that this is from my experience and about Sweden, I can’t promise this holds true even for the other Nordic countries:

    *) There are no stats, skills or levels in most larps here. Different characters/classes/races might have abilities covered by rules, but your level of power, status, etc is based on your character, nothing else. A new player can be the queen and a veteran a beggar. It all depends on who they want to play (or how they are cast, depending on game). People sometimes play the same character year after year, some play different ones every time and some do both.

    *) Campaigns are played over years, most commonly with one main event every year or every two years. Some larger campaigns like Krigshjärta (Heart of War) will have a main event every two years or so and then a couple of smaller events in between. The outlier here is Vampire/World of Darkness games that usually are run more often (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or so). There is usually progression in the main story between games based on what happened in the last one, but not always. Sometimes different events just have different themes or locations.

    *) There are no NPCs, at least not in the American style. All characters in play are players. Heroes, monsters, queens, etc. There might a very small number of NPCs for some event at a game, but that’s an exception. Conflict is between player groups and characters, not against outside monsters provided by the crew.

    *) There are no marshalls and the crew is small. Organizers create the game, write the setting, provide logistics, help players put together characters and groups, etc. After this they might influence the running game a bit, but mostly they sit back and let the players unfold the story.

    This is in what I would call pretty combat heavy fantasy/genre weekend larps, which make up the vast majority of larps in Sweden. These are not very heavy on the role-play, even if that’s an important element. In my experience the most important thing is how it looks and feels, having the atmosphere of being in a movie or novel. Anything that amplifies that is encouraged (costuming, role-playing, generous play, collaboration) and things that detract from it are frowned upon (complex rules, off-game talk, play to win). This is of course a generalization but I think these things are pretty key to understanding the cultural differences and practical differences between larp cultures. Other European and Nordic larpers will have to add to this to gauge the differences between their and our larp cultures.

    • Johannes Axner October 26, 2016 1:33 AM

      Also important: Rules are very much based on trust. You can argue for heavy or light rules, but the main difference I see between American and Swedish larps rules in general is that US rules seem to be more about saying what is permitted or not, while Swedish rules are more about describing how things work. The mindset here is more about having a framework for play than rules in a sports sense. You can be gamist in such a setting, no wrong with wanting to win, as long as you play in the spirit of the game and rules. We trust each other to not want to destroy for others.

  20. Sebastian Utbult October 26, 2016 2:09 AM

    Another Swede here, thanks for an interesting read!

    About NPCing, I’d just like to mention a technique used at some larps here, where players can take a break from playing their own characters and head out to the “monster camp” and switch over to an NPC role for a while (usually for specific pre-determined timeslots. Last larp I was at used this, and could amass around fifty NPCs for raids etc (larp had around 500 players total). Is that used in the US as well?

    Also, I would like to point out, as I see it mentioned quite often: Most Euro-larps do *not* receive funding, government or other. At all. Most of the larps are completely funded by participant fees. Funding was more common in the 90s – and then it came in two broad categories: a) activity funding for active non-profit youth associations (not big bucks, more like maybe $500 a year and b) specific funding (either from “government” sources or standalone, private foundations/trusts for very specific projects or aspects of larping, often rather avant-gardish stuff or experimentation and even then rarely covering the entire cost of a larp production.


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