Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nordic lajv part II - The others

This is the second and final part of my article about Nordic larping (lajv).

I'm not even sure if Ben Lehman have even read the first part, but I will try to finish this article anyway. If you haven't done so already, go read part I first.

First a note about the Nordic lajv in general, as pointed out by a reader. We have a high ratio of female participants in the games, one estimate being 30-40%. From what I know this is not true for American larps.

When Vampire: The Masquerade and the Minds Eye Theatre became hugely popular in the US we had the same situation over here. Vampire was the game to play and if you were a vampire lajv player, you was coolest of the cool. Nowadays there games are not as common but there are still lots of them going on. I do not claim to know how the game is played in the US but here it differs quite much from what is written in the book (remember that I'm generalizing here):

- I have never seen or even heard about equipment cards being used. If you got a weapon you need some sort of passable replica or prop. It is not uncommon to have people bring very real knives and other melee weapons to games. They are of course just for show.

- The amount of rules used varies. Almost all games have lots of modifications. In most cases the goal is to never need a narrator for resolving character to character conflicts. The most common attitude is that the rules should only be used when a situation cannot be resolved by social interaction. Combat is more or less rare.

- No minors and no alcohol? This depends on the game in particular, but there is not general consensus that either of them is necessarily bad, but maybe not combined...

In total the Swedish vampire larps take on the characteristics of Swedish larps in general. Less placeholder props, less rules and less combat. The game part isn't as important as the acting part.

Ever since airsoft guns got license free in Sweden the hobby have been growing. Some of the player just see it as a simpler and cheaper alternative to paintball, but there is a large community that wants more.

This type of game is called MilSim, after Military Simulation. Instead of a simple eliminate all or capture the flag game, this variant tries to simulate an actual military operation by having a more complex mission, realistic gear and true to life chain of command. In its pure form there isn't very much of roleplaying a character, the focus is on the action.

This is starting to change. Influenced by the larping scene more and more game incorporates roleplaying as an important part of the game. One method of bringing out these aspects is incorporating non combatants that the soldiers have to interact with in another way than just shooting them. The focus is still on action but many of the more recent MilSim games I have heard about (I have never attended one myself) is to be considered a lajv in the usual sense of the word.

Art lajv
This is a very difficult group to describe, even thou it is the only type I regularly attend. Maybe this is why I have a hard time making generalizations, as I see each game as a unique experience instead of having them described to me in general wordings. I will try anyway.

The average Swedish art lajv:

- Is played during one day or evening.

- Have much more focus on character and theme than equipment.

- Have participants of a minimum of 18 years old. This is seldom a rule but more of the way it happens to be.

- Is played indoors and seldom in a classic fantasy world. All other genres are represented, but mostly historical (1900+) and contemporary settings.

- Is played with no other mechanical rules than signs for slowing down or breaking the game in uncomfortable situations.

- Have a theme that the organizers try to focus on. It is expected of all participants to respect and contribute to this theme.

I realize this do very little do describe how a lajv like this is actually played. To get a better understanding you can read my post on the lajv Mellanrummet.

Ok. That is it. If you have questions or do not agree with me please feel free to post a comment. This is not the definite truth about Nordic larps, but the best I can do.


Blogger Sven Holmström said...

Nice article, I think. But I definitely don't like the word "Art lajv". Of course I don't know what you should use instead. Since we go to the same larps we both know what we are talking about and the terminology has always been a problem.

You have already heard most of what I'm about to say here, but it's good to for me to put it in one place.

About Art.

First, I personally don't like labelling some part of the any practice 'art' in contrast to other parts of the practice. This since it's hard for me to understand the difference. You should always try to do better things and you can tell this to people by saying "We think this is better, because [whatever]." That's honest, I think.

About larps that Jonas and Sven fancies.

Since you say "This is a very difficult group to describe, even thou it is the only type I regularly attend." I get a quite good picture of which larps you refer to.There are certain Swedish and Norwegian larps that are very ambitious - often we even call them pretentious ourselves - and even is has 'being art' as an outspoken goal.

I would claim that these games only make up for a small part of larps that you "regurlarly attend". Games like "Finkelboda nästa" and "In i evigheten" doesn't strive for being art more than ordinary fantasy larps (of course they should all be regarded as art, but that's a minor point). They certainly strive for something else, but they are not pretentious in any ordinary meaning of the word.


I know very well that your goal here was to describe a genre (a very wide genre though; in Sweden the smallest common denominator seems to be that the players are mainly the same crowd all the time) and not ot discuss the name! This makes that this comment doesn't directly answer you post; it's about a related subject.

When I want to to talk about these art games I often use the term "Nordic scene". That is also a terrible term, since it denotate a very small part of the Nordic rpg scene.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Jonas Barkå said...

I do not like the term either, but I actually got the use of it from you!

In this particular case it would be especially bad talking about the Nordic Scene as the article in total tries to decribe what could easily be called the Nordic Scene.

I'm all for finding a better name, one that do not gives the impression of superiority.

(I do not agree on "In i eveigheten" not striving to be art.)

9:21 AM  
Blogger Sven Holmström said...

" I do not like the term either, but I actually got the use of it from you!"

Shut up! (But I guess you are right here.)

BTW I thought about another thing in your text: "- Is played during one day or evening."

If you look at the big, famous games of this kind in Sweden and Norway they usually last at least a couple of days. This is probably because of fantasy heritage.

The Wikiepdia post on Live action role-playing game has the following wording: "A typical Swedish or Norwegian game lasts 2-5 days and has anywhere from fifty to hundreds of participants. A typical Danish or Finnish game lasts between four hours and a full day."

About Danish larp I don't know much more than the one I have attended. What is said about the other three countries i think is mainly correct.

There are more texts on this issue. There is a good text on Norwegian larps on

An old post on by Eirik Fatland on Nordic 'arthauslarp' is also interesting.

"(I do not agree on "In i eveigheten" not striving to be art.)"

It's art of course, as all larps are. But I really found In i evigheten (Into eternity) to be very unpretentious, a no-bullshit larp. That's what I liked about it!

But of course they didn't use an old formula. They actually made up techniques that would fit this very game instead of using old, habitual ones. That might be seen as 'arty'. I call it good. (But, 'good' isn't very functional as a genre-name ;-)

1:31 PM  

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