Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ars Armandi experimentation

This Saturday I and some of the regulars (now including Fredrik von Post, back from China) experimented a bit with the Ars Armandi method (the actual description start at the bottom of page three). In short it is a way of simulating sexual contact in larps, that have been used on several Swedish art larps. You are only allowed to touch the the arms and the area from above the armpits to the earlobes. I have personally not attended any larps using it but Fredrik wanted to further develop what he had seen when participating in Moira.

We ended up doing both theoretical and more "hands on" experimentation, mostly on Ars Armandi as a non-diegetic method. Some of our concussions in short:

- The upper parts of the neck feels to erogenous for us to be included as a permitted body part. We quickly removed it and didn't have any problems. There are still enough areas to touch.

- When used non-diegetic, there is a need to correlate Ars Armandi touching to real world sexual activities. There are several ways to do this depending on how detailed you want to be, but having four different areas seemed to be appropriate. One hand up to the elbow is light caressing and kissing and the same with both hands is making out heavily. Touching up to the shoulders is more or less naked full body caressing. Finally, the lower neck and collar bone is penetrative sex, including oral sex. The point is not to have each caress mean a specific action but to know how far the session have gone on the "sexual scale". This way there will be less misunderstandings.

- We had some discussion on the risk of mistaking non-sexual touching for an Ars Armandi invitation, but in large agreed that you just have to take some care not touching in a way that could be misinterpreted.

- We talked about on how to combine a "real life" start of a seduction with Ars Armandi sex. In many cases it would be weird to not allow any kind of even just sexual suggestive touching. In these cases, when and how do you switch?

- We tried out different sexual situations, including domination. None of them turned out to be much of a problem.

- There could be a problem if your own sexuality is awakened during a Ars Armandi session and interfering with that of your characters. As the method is so different from ordinary sex but still very intense you could be drawn out of character by the physical responses of you body. I guess we have to see how much of a problem this is.

Hmmm.... I have probably forgotten something important but this is everything I remember right now. We did some video recordings but decided not to publish them as taken out of context they would look really weird. All in all it was both interesting and fun. More touching to the people, or at least the larpers!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I am 100% Method Actor!

I found the link to this quiz on gaming styles over at A moment of clarity. As expected it is very simplistic but more fun than getting to know which character in movie X you are most like.

My results:

You scored as Method Actor. You think that gaming is a form of creative expression. You may view rules as, at best, a necessary evil, preferring sessions where the dice never come out of the bag. You enjoy situations that test or deepen your character’s personality traits.

Method Actor - 100%
Storyteller - 67%
Tactician - 67%
Power Gamer - 50%
Specialist - 50%
Butt-Kicker - 17%
Casual Gamer - 0%

I also got to play Dogs in the Vineyard for the first time today. Interesting experience but as we did not get very far into the game I want to play more before doing any serious commenting. I hope I get the chance before the GM (Jonas Karlsson) goes back home.

I nearly forgot! The biggest news of today is that my friend Fredrik have beat me on all levels when it comes to archetypal Swedish art larping. During Moira he was at one point sitting in the naked lap of the renowned larper Martin Eriksson. Fredik was playing a man with the mind of a young boy and Martin was of course playing a pedophile fairy. No Swedish larp is complete without a pedophile. Try experiencing something like that in a Forge game :)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The power of a word

I have often contemplated how the English word roleplaying differs from the Swedish translation rollspel. I think this difference have an impact on what "laymen" think about the hobby and what they expect when you try to introduce it to them.

Rollspel seems to be a pretty straightforward translation. Roll means role and spel means game. That makes it something like role-game. But what about the play part? The thing is that spel could mean both game, play and acting, so play is already covered. Simple. Or maybe not?

Rollspel can mean role-game, roleplay, role-acting, or roleplaying game, depending on how you choose to interpret it. These three meanings do have different feels to them, different implications on what to expect. Due to how the word is used in other situation the game part is usually not what people get in their mind when hearing someone say rollspel. What we have left is roleplay or role-acting, with game not being an important part of the word.

The effect is that roleplaying is not seen as necessarily being a game at all. People expect a role and they expect to act or play it. The game is entirely optional. I do think this fact may have had an impact on the general rules light nature of Swedish roleplaying, and the existence of the so called Nordic Scene. The name can have a big influence on the type of people a hobby attracts, and the expectations of these people will in turn shape the hobby into something resembling that word.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On Immersion

Immersion is the single most important thing in roleplaying! Yes, I do make this claim but before you get upset (some of you may just agree, of course) let me clarify a bit. The way I see it there are several levels of immersion and depending on taste one may prefer to focus on one of them or mix and match. They are not really set levels but more of a sliding scale from outside observer to total identification.

Setting Immersion
This is the most basic level of immersion, as it happens every time something is engaging enough that the outside world is shut out. When reading a good book, watching an exiting movie or listening to a skillfully told story you immerse. The imagined world becomes real to you. You are an invisible observer but the characters and events feels real, in the sense that they matter to you. Sometimes the events themselves are real but you still identifies more with them than their objective significance to your life would mandate. A good example on this would be watching sports.

As you see this definition of immersion makes it something to always strive for. As soon as you do something involving your fantasy, immersion is a good thing. I bet almost everyone enjoying a roleplaying game immerse to some extent.

Character Immersion
When we go from being an outside observer to experiencing the fantasy through the senses of one of the protagonists we get character immersion. For most people we are now firmly in the domain of dreams, daydreams or roleplaying. You act thru your character, sees what he sees and put the words in his mouth. You feel with your character as she experiences good and bad. Most roleplayers get to this level of immersion to some extent, regardless of the amount of rules or if you play one or several characters.

Deep Immersion
Now things get deep. There is no longer a difference between you and your character. There is no separation between his and your thoughts. When she experiences something it is you who experiences as there is nothing else. There cannot be a game in this type of roleplaying as little as there is a game in real life. You can roll dice as little as you do it in real life. There is no other way of resolving an action than just doing it. There is nothing forcing a conclusion to a conflict.

This kind of immersion is probably only possible in certain types of lajv (larp) and even then it is a fragile thing. It takes a long time to enter and it can be very hard to keep. The face of a real life friend or an association from a certain smell can be enough to come crashing back into reality. Combining deep immersion with rules of the game (like no violence) can be very hard and take practice. Most of the time you slide gently in and out of it. How deep can immersion be? I do not know and as it is something very personal it is hard to compare. Some people claim to have stayed completely in character for a week, some claim they have a hard time returning to their real self.

I see deep immersion as the highest form of immersion and something to strive for, but only because I enjoy it most in the same time as I seldom get to experience it. It takes a lot of work and you have to sacrifice other parts of a game, parts that are also part of the fun. Deep immersion is certainly not the only enjoyment you can get from roleplaying. What I personally try to do is getting as much immersion as possible from the game I play. In a game focused on rules heavy combat you could probably not get close to deep immersion during the battles, but maybe when playing out the conversations around the campfire.

My best (and not very original) advice is immersing to the level of still being fun. The taste differs and you cannot have it all at the same time.