Nordic Nations: A Magic Larp Kingdom

For anyone who’s seriously into larping (and can, of course, speak a Scandinavian language), a trip to the Nordic countries is an absolute must. While larping is growing in popularity in the USA and Canada, European Northerners have taken the art form, adopted it as their own, and added a dash of high culture. Prepare for the best larp of your life.

Denmark, long considered as the epicenter of all things larp-oriented, has a population smaller than that of Indiana (approximately $5.5-million). Yet the Nordic nation has a larp community about 100,000 people strong, or about two percent of the total population. Other Nordic countries are close on Denmark’s heels following the larping trend—and with the establishment of cultural festivals and artistic funding grants, it looks like larp will be there to stay.

For anyone considering visiting, a larp festival takes place in the Nordic countries annually. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland take turns hosting Knutepunkt, a live-action avant-garde larp convention. Expect to see out-of-this-world costumes, complex plot outlines for future games, and of course a lot of play. Norway hosts Knutepunkt for 2013, from April 18 to the 21.

If you can’t make Knutepunkt and are still set on larping in a foreign land, Denmark is still a great destination year-round. Danish larp magazine ROLLE|SPIL, launched in 2010, has lists of events happening around the country. And in a country that publishes not only one larp magazine, but multiple ones, you can be sure to meet with some interesting faces who are down to go gaming.

This part of Europe has nurtured their larping communities and developed a distinct style that differs from North American larp. Expect the Nordic games to be more emotional, darker, and more physical—read: more intense. For any larper who’s looking to take their play to the next level, a trip across the Atlantic might be in order. The Scandinavian countries have turned this hobby into a unique and powerful form of human expression that should be experienced by any fan of the genre.

Advertisements

There’s a War in the Schoolyard: Role Playing Games and Education

How’s this for school spirit? Students at Østerskov Efterskole participate in a history class.

How’s this for school spirit? Students at Østerskov Efterskole participate in a history class.

Just try telling a student at Danish boarding school Østerskov Efterskole that imagination and play aren’t meant for the classroom. The school, founded by role-playing veterans Mads Lunau and Malik Hyltoft, teaches traditional school subjects through Live Action Role Play scenarios. Østerskov Efterskole opened in 2009.

ØE boards students from ages 14-16—equivalent to Canada’s grades nine and ten. According to the school’s website, they teach traditional high school subjects and hold the same final exams as other Danish schools.

The unorthodox teaching method sets the school apart. Østerkov takes an interdisciplinary approach to learning that is marketed as both fun and informative. Elaborate scenarios are constructed to keep students engaged, following larping form. The only difference is that learning is the objective.

The school offers examples on their website of how they approach learning. When studying World War II, for example, half the class will be assigned the task of locating German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Using a compass and geometry, they are able to find the submarine’s exact position.

At the other end of the class, a group must decode radio signals and transmit them to the next group, who will then translate from German to English. Since this particular class is taught in English, students are learning geometry, English and history at the same time.

The school’s vision is to teach students the lifelong skill of play through the interdisciplinary educational approach. This philosophy seems to be ringing true with some Danes, as enrollment has jumped the last two years. Denmark is the international hotspot for LARPing with a community of 100,000 people strong. If this educational model will take off anywhere, it will first happen here.

Imagination and play are undoubtedly a foundation of a child’s development, and the innovative way these educators have combined fun and learning in the classroom could perhaps serve as a model for future North American educational institutions.

The school's official crest, replete with Unicorn.

The school’s official crest, replete with Unicorn.

Gaston, a student at the school, shows off a costume on Visitor's Day.

Gaston, a student at the school, shows off a costume on Visitor’s Day.

Lizzie Stark Knows How to Larp

Leaving Mundania, an insider's perspective to the world of LARPing.

Leaving Mundania, an insider’s perspective to the world of LARPing.

Lizzie Stark would rather be in a live action role-play than sit on the couch playing video games. And really, who can blame her? Stark’s recently published book Leaivng Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role Playing Games dives deep into the culture of larping and exposes this cultural phenomenon as deeply rooted in history, as socially intriguing, and as a whole lot of fun.

Stark sheds light on the historical influences on larping, revealing that even Queen Elizabeth I was known to dress up and impersonate characters. She explores the elaborate ceremonies of Tudor England and the current role-playing tactics of American military training, showing how these practices have influenced the games we see today. By examining role-playing from multiple angles, Stark demystifies the subculture for the curious reader.

The author takes an admirable participatory approach to her research. Stark initially began her reporting as an observer, but quickly became a player herself.”The true genius of larp is that it requires a first person audience”, Stark said in a feature with the BBC. (See the video here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17914502)

Author LIzzie Stark

Author LIzzie Stark

Over an 18-month period, Stark traveled to and engaged in different larping communities to conduct her research. She was not at all shy about donning costumes or makeup, and created her own characters to fully engage with her subject matter. Readers can follow her as she explores this gaming subculture.

The author had no shortage of personal adventure while experiencing larp for the first time. Her book description outlines the excitement she went through over those 18 months.  “Along the way, I duel foes with foam-padded weapons, let the demon Cthulhu destroy my parents’ beach house, and survive an existential awakening brought on by Scandinavia’s avant-garde larp scene.” (Book Description, http://lizziestark.com/leaving-mundania/)

For an insider perspective on the different kinds of larp and to read about Lizzie’s experience, take a look through Leaving Mundania. It can be purchased at Amazon.com, or you can read more about her book and download a free chapter at www.lizziestark.com.

New to the Larp scene? Where to Start for a Character Costume

Elf ears, facepaint, and recycled fur complete this outfit. Try using a fur stole from a vintage store.

Elf ears, facepaint, and recycled fur complete this outfit. Try using a fur stole from a vintage store.

While most people start out their first Larping experiences in old jeans and sneakers, the value of a good costume can’t be overestimated. Costumes are powerful additions to the gaming experience—they help you get more immersed in the mentality of your character. Since the best games spring from solid improvisational skills and a great storyline, a good outfit can make the difference between your character’s believability and, well, being the knight in the Nikes.

Wardrobing a character is a lot like dressing yourself. Think about functionality first. You wouldn’t wear a prom dress hiking or yoga shorts to the theatre. Every piece of clothing, whether it’s for daily wear or for larping, has a specific function. Work on your character concept before going shopping. The purchase needs to suit its purpose.

Secondly, reflect on what kinds of larps you participate in. (For a short list, see posting below). Are you into Vampire games, where you lounge around on couches in black leather? Is it an active larp, with live combat and action? A period drama? Whatever your taste, make sure your clothes fit in with the game and can also stand up to the action required of your character.

Accessories, too, can enhance your experience. Particularly in historical larps that center around live combat, a handmade weapon, or boffer, will add to your costume. These are usually padded, or made from plastic or latex. Most players make their weapons and shields by hand.

If you’re in a medieval LARP, a simple long dress accented with a leather corset belt is an easy starting costume.

If you’re in a medieval LARP, a simple long dress accented with a leather corset belt is an easy starting costume.

Though it might be tempting to jump right in, don’t build your costume all at once. Like your character, costumes need time to develop over time to come into their own. Good sources for clothing and accessories are thrift stores and costume shops. Vintage belts, peasant tops,  jewelry, and fur pieces can really add punch to your character’s look without breaking the bank.

If you’re artsy and feeling industrious, however, crafting your own costume is often the most rewarding way to create your character’s look. Gamers with a flair for fashion can make their own clothes. Look for a book of theatrical patterns of costume, ranging anywhere from Greek/Roman to the 1900s. Tunics and basic tops can be easily sewn.

Take a look below to find some costume inspiration. Whether you’re making your outfit by hand or scrounging through vintage stores for your perfect piece, remember that in larp, the costume makes the character.

There is a LARP for Everyone

http://cityofbyroncity.com/tag/hilarious/

What most people think of when they think of LARP.

To the uninitiated, Live Action Role Playing (LARP) looks like some sort of glorified Comic Con dress-up session, replete with knights in homemade tunics and Styrofoam swords. While this may not sound like everyone’s ideal form of entertainment, it might come as a surprise that most people have, in a loose sense of the word, actually larped before. What’s more, they probably enjoyed it.

Remember playing Cops and Robbers as a kid? Did you ever attend a murder mystery party? What about seeing a battle re-enacted? These are all good examples of a collaborative game of pretend within a set of rules. What these games have in common with larping is that they all operate on the same principle: players physically act out their characters’ actions.

Whether in a childhood game or an epic adult larp battle, participants don’t just play their characters, they become them. Players create their own characters’ names, back stories, and costumes to most effectively embody their characters at game time. Consider it the ultimate improvisational challenge.

Larping operates on a strong sense of community and collaboration. The goal of a good larp is to provide a great space for characters to create a storyline and participate together. Like any team activity or sport, larps strive to be entertaining and engaging for everyone involved.

This community spirit carries over into the kind of larp being created, as like-minded people gather together to create their own games. Events can last from a few hours to whole weekends. Though most larps tend to be combat-style, there are many other genres to choose from. Games range in style from horror to fantasy to adventure to historical period drama. Whatever your interest, there’s a larp for that.

Check out the gallery below for some inspiration.

Note: While LARP is an acronym, for Live Action Role Play, it has entered sufficiently into the common vernacular to be treated as it’s own proper word. While researching blogs and articles regarding larp, it is most often spelled as it’s own word, in lower case.