Thursday, June 23, 2005

Prague in a hurry!

Lincon was good. For some reson I'm currently in Prague and have about six minutes of internet time left to use. One again I'll have to direct you to Sven's Polyfem Transformed for a full account of what we played...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Nordic lajv part I - Fantasy

I have never really understood American larps. Ben Lehman has promised to explain the different types over at his This Is My Blog. He also made a request to have the basics of Scandinavian larps explaned. This is my shot at doing it. I have tried out most types of Scandinavian larps but in recent years I have focused my attention on a rather specific subscene, and got the more recent info about other types as second hand information. If you feel I’m wrong about something, please tell me.

This writeup won’t use much of and established language for theory, as very little of that is used in our discussion on larps. I’m also not sure enough about G/N/S and related stuff to use it accurately.

I have labeled this article “Scandinavian larps” as the types of games described are much the same in all of Scandinavia. Of course some details differ from Sweden, but there are more similarities than differences.

The Swedish term for larp is lajv. It comes from the english word “live”, is pronounciated the same way, and was originally spelled like that. The spelling was changed to reduce the chance of mixing it up with live music performances and the like.

Lajv is big in Sweden. I got no numbers, but I’m pretty sure we got the most active players in the world, compared to the size of our population. These days lajv get lots of media coverage and mainly in a positive way. It is generally considered cool to participate in lajv games. It has gone as far as if you say “roleplaying game” the man on the street immediatly associates to lajv and not tabletop games. Or more accurately, he associates to fantasy-lajv.

A huge majority of the Swedish lajv are fantasylajv. Most of the larpers (lajvare) never attend anything else than fantasy games, maybe with the exception for the odd post apocalyptic game. One of the reasons fantasylajv have become so big is that they not only attract people interested in roleplaying and acting, but also many whose primary goal lies in the crafts surrounding the games. The standard Swedish fantasylajv plays out as follows:

- The game lasts for three days, from Friday to Sunday. Some are shorter and we usually got one or two one week games each summer.

- The most typical number of players are a bit difficult for me to estimate, but I think most got at least 100 players, and the largest got 500 or even as many as a thousead participants.

- There are no game masters active during the event itself. They either play influential roles, and direct the story that way, or keep out of it by playing more administratively important roles like an innkeeper.

- The players are supposed to stay in character at all times during the game. There is always an off-lajv area where you can store your real life stuff and this can be visied during the game if you really need to.

- The plot is mainly designed around the “group” unit. This group has usually been preparing for the lajv together, and know each other at least somewhat. It is very common for the same group to visit several lajv together, playing more or less the same roles. The reason for this is mainly the time and money required to make the equiment, but I guess the social aspect is important too. (This “same role” stuff is one of my biggest gripes with our fantasy larps.)

- The standard of the equipment is very high. You are usually allowed to have rubber soles on your shoes, and use a sewing machine for your clothes, but some groups frown on that. If soft weapons are used they are normally required to be cut foam coated with latex and painted. Some rare games allow weapons made of tape covered camping ground sheets. The former are called “latex” and the later “boffer”.

- The gaming area is usually centered around a large clearing in the woods or a secluded field. This either got a large camp of pavillions or a village of simple wooden stuctures. One of the recents trends have been building a quite large fort and centering the lajv on some sort of siege.

The system
The Scandinavian lajv is usually very light on mechanical rules. In most cases only two areas of the game are covered, combat and magic. Combat is nomally handled using padded weapons and simple rules like one hit to a limb and it is useless, one hit to the torso and you are down. To kill another player you have to make one final death blow to the downed warrior. Armor adds to the number of hits you can take. A small part of the games uses real weapons, and an abstract system for combat.

Magic is handled in an even simpler way. When a magican casts a spell, he calls out a special word. Everyone hearing it must stop and listen as he describes the effect. Many lajv use rules for poison where a heavy taste of for example salt mean a specific effect. In recent years it has become more poular with specific rules for sex, where rubbing someones shoulders in private could substitute for intercourse. The point is not having to breask the mood more than necessary while both participants still know is the have had sex or not.

There are of course lots of other rules on how you are supposed to behave. You have to follow the Swedish law. You are usually not allowed to intently destroy other peoples equipment. In many cases it can be hard to know how roughly you can handle someone. One player thinks it is wonderful to be captured and tied up for ten hours while it ruins the game for another. The solution is having a word that signifies that you talk out of character. That way you can expect to be told if you are about to cross another players line. One thing that has been heavily debated is in-game sexual harassment and simulated rape. Some lajv totally forbids this while other expects the players to handle it like any other situation with the recieving player having the option to call the situation off if it feels threatening.

That is enough for now. I have most certainly forgotten to cover a lot of stuff, probably mostly because they feel obvious to me. That do not mean that I believe they should be obvious to you. Feel free to ask about anything. I will make my best to anwer your questions.

In the next part I will probably tak about Vampire and Airsoft larps.

Edit: You can find part two here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Roleplaying made me do it!

This was dug up by Google News:

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- The crime was shocking by any standard -- a family of three bound, drugged and shot in the head at close range in their beds. Then, a twist: The killers said it was all a game, and the penalty for losing was death.

When they were arrested on May 13, Ronald Ribeiro Rodrigues, a 22-year-old glass worker, and Mayderson Vargas Mendes, an unemployed 21-year-old, confessed to the murder of 21-year-old physics student Tiago Guedes and his parents, Douglas and Heloisa, in Guarapari, a seaside city of 230 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

They said the killings were part of a role-playing game whose rules required the loser to let the winners kill him and his family.

"The suspects are very cool about what they did. They know what they did was wrong and that they will have to pay," said Espirito Santo state police inspector Alexandre Lincoln Capela. "But I believe, from what I have seen, even going to prison is part of the game for them."

The case drew national attention and threw a spotlight on the subculture of role-playing games, which often employ occult imagery. Legislators in Espirito Santo state hastily introduced a bill to ban the games, and priests and pastors across Brazil penned sermons denouncing them.

"We must put the brakes on anything that encourages violence in our state," said Espirito Santo state assemblyman Robson Vaillant.

But some experts on the games have cast doubt on the killers' stories, saying their account doesn't fit with the traditions of such games -- the best-known of which is Dungeons & Dragons -- in which players assume characters and develop stories within the boundaries of elaborately defined fantasy worlds.

Rodrigues' mother told reporters she had never heard of role-playing games and that her son never played them.

And on Web sites and bulletin boards devoted to role-playing games, enthusiasts argue that the crime was a simple robbery and homicide, and the suspects are blaming the game in hopes of escaping punishment.

By claiming the family died as the result of a game, the suspects are entitled to a jury trial in which they are expected to plead temporary insanity. If they had confessed to robbery and homicide, a judge would have sentenced them. Brazil has no death penalty.

The case had parallels to the 2001 slaying of an 18-year-old woman, who was stabbed to death in the colonial city of Ouro Preto. Police claimed she had been playing a game over three days that included a bet that the loser would die. No one has been convicted.

But police said the game that left the Guedes family dead lasted only five hours. Guedes assumed the role of a policeman named Flavio, Mendes played a demon and Rodrigues was the wizard who ran the game.

Police said it wasn't clear how Guedes lost, but when he did, the players went to the bank where Guedes cleaned out his account, withdrawing $1,745.

Guedes then helped the two others to tie up and drug his elderly parents, Douglas and Heloisa, and watched as both were shot in the head. Finally, he was subjected to the same fate.

The suspects stole a computer from his house before leaving, police said.

To enthusiasts of role-playing games, the police version is full of holes. They say games can last for months or years and that there are no winners and losers, and never any betting.

Rodrigues and Mendes were working-class men who had known each other for more than 10 years and met the middle-class Guedes only on the day of the killing. It seemed more than suspicious that Guedes was the loser, and that they were playing at his home with his parents there to watch.

Rodrigues' mother, Lucimara Rodigues Ribeiro, told the local newspaper A Tribuna that she had never heard of role-playing games.

"My son never played them at home," she said. "He's a good boy, and never behaved strangely."

But in an interview with the same newspaper, Rodrigues said he became so caught up in the game that he didn't actually believe the victims would die.

"When you create a character it seems like you're in a real game -- like you're in a forest, in the middle of lots of beasts," he said. "The game's not over. We're going to continue playing."
I hope this is not the start of another wave of "Roleplaying is really dangerous and should be forbidden". The only thing new about roleplaying in this article is that the journalist do not automatically take a stance against roleplaying to get a more sensational article. It is actually very well written.

I will not start ranting about how roleplaying do not make you crazy, as you have probably heard that one several times before. I will instead tell you why roleplaying murders should be expected once in a while.

There are lots of homicides in the world each year. A significant amount of these results from what we could call insanity, for lack of a better word. There are also many roleplayers in the world. We can assume that some portion of the roleplayers are insane, as it would be weird to believe that roleplayers are somehow immune to insanity, or that insane people would never roleplay. Once in a while one of these insane roleplayers are going to murder someone. And when they do stuff from their roleplaying background could become a part of the homicide.

The point is that when a soccer fan murders another soccer fan (because they disagree on soccer) no one believes soccer itself is dangerous. But if a murder is also a roleplayer everyone sees a need to blame the game and have it banned. In this particular article the murderers claim it was because of the game, but I too think it's only the first step of their insanity defense. Satan made med do it, Rock and Roll made me do it, roleplaying made me do it. It is all the same.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Mellanrummet and in defense of immersionism

- I have now experienced Mellanrummet and it was good. Really good. I will get into the plot and "point" of the larp later as it will be played one more time and I do not want to risk ruin the experience for someone else. Either way the best part of this larp was how our group prepared our characters and how it played out. They knew each other intimately and that made the process of building them and their background challenging. Every step of the preparation had to be done in cooperation with the other players. As other people may end up playing the same group I do not want to go into more detail right now but I can tell you that we ended upp playing the full session in dressing gowns!

- I have made several replies to Vincent Baker's rant about immersion. I do not agree with him at all and most of all I find the "You Have Been Doing It Wrong All The Time And I Know The Only True Way" tone of it to be rather disturbing. Thinking you have really good idéas is one thing, beliving them to be a universal truth is another. If you want to read something good written by Vincent, to get rid of the sour taste and get a more balanced view of his idéas, take a look at this post I made some time ago.