Live in Ygg

From: Erik Sieurin (BV9521@utb.hb.se)
Date: Thu 09 May 1996 - 20:39:26 EEST


I have taken part of the debate concerning LARP contra TTRP, and,
though the dust has settled (ie, Nick hasn't had the time to reply
yet (-:), I'd like to step in with a few comments - and questions.

You see, as I live in a small country in Northern Europe, I have a
somewhat hazy view of the Anglo-American LARP scene, achieved through
homepages, reprts in gaming magazines, and suchlike.
The view I get is that is markedly different from here in Scandinavia.

The two forms of LARP I see that you have "over there" is A, the
"Home of the Bold" type and B, the "Rubber Sword Crew" as Nick
tacfully dubs them.
In the first, you have something of a large-scale freeform TTRP.
There are rules to handle "physical" things, as well as the more
esotherical ones that cannot easily be simulated in any way. (Summon
the Crimson Bat, anyone?) These rules are simple, as stated. They
usually takes the form of "cards".
In the second, you have people playing with more complex rules, often
with one "adventurer party" and a lot of "NPC's". Combat is "live",
but heavily influenced by the complex rules - both the rulesset I've
read means you note the damage taken in combat in some complex way,
either by shouting it out, or by having a "GM" following the party
the whole time (not existing in the real world).
In both cases, time is not always "real time" - sometimes a night
passes in seconds, at other times years (that's the impression I got
from some of the RMMC LARP descriptions I've read, for instance).

I see nothing of the kind of LARP I'm used to over here. It surprises
me, since I'm used to having all popular culture being imported from
the States, and it may well be that I'm totally mistaken. Please
inform me then, since I'm very curious about this.
You see, LARP (known as "Levande Rollspel", in Sweden,
unlinguistically acronymed to "Live" or "lajv" - the culture crew
call it "interaktiv teater") is humongously big in Sweden. I think
they are many more LARPers than TTRPplayers, and the former certainly
has more recruits - especially women.
"Live" is essentially a mix between the two forms I read about
occuring in the States and in Britain. The exception is the
Masquerade, which is slowly growing bigger at the moment - the city I
live in, Boras, has a large campaign being played by the local gaming
society.

First of all, the current trend, and it has been the trend for years,
could be called "maximum visual realism". It means, for starters,

that a GM that is not a person existing in the gaming world is
impossible. Time is ALWAYS real-time (most Lives go on for a week-
end, and there are half a dozen a year which continues for a week or
so). Unless you at least tries to wear some kind of costume, you'd be
tossed of the area. (I know a girl who has a larger Live-wardrobe than
"mundane" one). The only way to get to wear armor is to get _real_
armor - and as a result I suddenly have a lot of friends ho have the
Craft:Armoring skill, despite being neither museum curators nor SCA-
ists. Weapons, though, are latex or foam - and foam, as well as
anything else that isn't replica-quality, is seen as the sure mark of
a munchkin. Yes, as you'd guess from the three last comments there is
a large debate regarding "how good=expensive equipment must one
have?", but none of the sides would accept the at most marginal
disguises seen in the Home of the Bold-style LARP's I've seen
described.
Rules are usually a page, consisting to 50% of "play it safe"
instructions. Combat? Well, it is generally of the "You can take 3
hits. If you are hit three times, you're unconscious. If anyone acts
out cutting your throat, stabbing you in the heart etc while you're
unconcscious, you're dead" variety. You never go "off-Live" in combat
unless someone is hurt. Yes, that demands that people play fair.
Magic? Well, THAT is usually summarized for non-mages as "If someone
acts like he is casting a spell and gives you an order, obey". Mages
has to know a short limit to the amount of magic they can use, that's
all - except roleplaying props. Sometimes a mage will go off-Live a
short moment and shout out the effect of what he is doing, but many
rules nowadays are "the spell formula will describe the effects, so
anyone hearing what the mage says knows how to act".
"Let's pretend" is absolutely minimised. When I began, you could
simulate a city wall with a rope - that's no way Jose these days.
Yes, people build portable houses to carry with them, and the
organizers either use existing cottages etc as much as possible
(hiding modern equipment as much as possible as well) or build up a
few buildings.
And most important: Everyone is a PC. The orcs gotta have a plotline
too.

I go to one or two "Lives" a year, and has created two meself (yes,
its hard, but damn' rewarding). This is my experience with LARP, and
its pros and cons are - in the forms above, obs!:
*Pro: You'll get a lot of people who actually WANT to play non-combat
guys. There is a lunatic fringe who INSISTS on playing bakers,
farmwives, etc. For up to a week. And most other people regularely
play such roles, though they throw in someone who may participate in
any fights (if there are any) every other Live.
*Pro: The people playing "adventuresome" roles will have much more
fun. I mean, if you play a snobbish knight there are REAL farmers to
sneer at. And REAL farmers to rise against you if you overdo this. If
you play a heroic woodsman robbing from the rich and giving to the
poor, there are REAL merchants and degenerate noblemen to rob. And
REAL men-at-arms to capture you. Interaction is much more rich and
rewarding, when everyone is not similar to the GM.
*Pro: A lot of things (hit locations, fatigue, detailed initiative,
encumbrance etc) that are lots of fun in a combat system, but requires
clumsy rules, take care of themselves in the LARP. You have to make
REAL tactical decisions and succeed for REAL in every skill you try.
This makes things very much more exciting.
*Pro: The plot becomes less predictable. There are a lot of people out
there deciding on the outcome of the often occuring main plot - the
big political struggles, the catastrophes etc. They'll do things
your GM would never imaging the NPC's doing.
*Con: People often play roles very similar to themselves. It is
simply much easier when you have to act for _up to a week_. And of
course you have the trouble with the mousey guy playing the Storm
Bull. Not only will he look ridiculous, he'll be mincemeat in any
combat - though it CAN be fixed with an attitude.
*Con: Plots are restricted due to the demands on props etc. I have
mostly talked about rural fantasy/historical games with not too much
magic above, but modern day, 1920's CoC and MadMax-style games also
work damned well, within limits.
*Con: Plots are restricted due to things you can safely do. "Bugger
Underling"? "'Ere, drop your pants...."
*Con: Player knowledge REALLY becomes character knowledge. I've no
trouble feigning illiteracy when playing a jock, but I'll have to
know everything that jock knows in advance. That's a trouble with
gameworlds such as Glorantha, where the rich background is the reason
for playing it. If a player does something his character never would
in TTRG's you can as a GM quickly correct him. Sooner or later, the
players will learn the gaming world. In Live, you'll have to cram
this into your head, and since few Live's are part of a campaign (see
below) you have to do this AT ONCE. Many players don't like this -
most LARP-ers I know are roleplayers, not storytellers - and thus
culture, background etc often becomes very schematic compared to TTRG.
*Con: Damn few campaigns. It is hard to do this - it works best when
there is realtime _between_ scenarios, so it really was a year since
you met last. And getting those 100+ people back is a pain in the
ass. If Joe Blow cannot turn up at a TTRG session you can solve it,
but what if half the village cannot come to the next Live?

Some of these pro's and con's, I'm sure, apply as much to the style
of LARP similar to Home of the Bold. That is a style of LARP I would
like to arrange (since it has certain possibilities not present in
the style I'm used to), but when suggesting it and explaining how it
works, I have gotten cold stares from most serious LARPers I know.
They find even the thought of those cards etc reminescent of tabletop
gaming - and though many of them play tabletop games as well, they
think it doesn't mix well. As one of them said: "I like chilli
sausages, and I like strawberry icecream - but not together."
Sigh. I'll guess I'll have to settle for a Swedish style Glorantha-
based game. I'll have to find some way to manage that culture-

cramming, but what the heck....

Erik Sieurin
with apologies for the long posting

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