This week is Danish larp week over at my digital domicile. Enjoy a taste of Scandinavia all week long, as we explore the Danish scene in three installments: kid’s larp on Monday, arty larp on Wednesday, and fantasy larp on Friday.
Today we tackle the big Danish fantasy games with larpers Thomas Aagaard and Jesper Kristiansen.
What local scene are you involved in, and what is your role within it?
Jesper: I am, among other things, involved in the traditional Danish fantasy larp scene, and have been for almost all the time I’ve been larping (17 years). I’ve been both a player and an organizer during my years of larping, and since I began larping quite early (and early in the Danish larp community’s history as well) I have been organizing almost as long as I’ve been playing, both campaigns and summer larps (and other things than fantasy, but mostly mainstream stuff).
Thomas: I organized Summer larps from 2001-2004, the Khypris series. (Summer larp = a city based weekend larp.) All of them used the Warhammer setting. In 2002 I was involved in starting a monthly campaign with the club TRoA where we play on the last Sunday of each month (but not in December). It is still running. It can be called “kids larp” but its not really correct since there are both teenagers and lots af adult playing. In 2006 I made Krigslive 1 with 200 players, and in 2009 I made Krigslive 5, with 450 players. The 8th will be in April 2012.
At the moment, I am making “Khypris – year one” it’s basically a “remake” of the old Khypris larps, made as a cooperation between the club TRoA and Einherjerne, just like Krigslive 5 was.
What sort of people do fantasy larp?
Jesper: The bounderies between kid’s larp and fantasy larp are a little blurry, since most of the kids’ larps are traditional fantasy larps as well. So most Danish larpers start out with fantasy larp, and a lot of Danish larpers are more or less “stuck” there. Fantasy larpers in Denmark come in all shapes and ages, but most tend to be young people, from whenever you want to set the boundary between kids and “regular.” Fantasy players and to somewhere in the middle of their twenties… I estimate that around 75% are boys/men. The average Danish fantasy campaigns have between 100 and 300 monthly participants.
Jesper: I’m a sucker for fantasy/adventure stories, and I’m addicted to making new stories and concepts. I’ve been in the game long enough to recognize when I need a break, and by having a break now and then, I make sure that I don’t “burn out” (even though it has been close a few times).
Thomas: I am studying medieval archaeology, so thats part of it. I also do American Civil War reenactment. But whenever I am doing that, I miss the roleplay, the conflicts and intrigue.
What types of plots do Danish fantasy larpers play?
Thomas: No idea, since there is no standard. Some surely have big plots with gods and “save the world plots.” Personally, I don’t like larps like that… they usually are very rules-heavy.
Khypris is a “culture based conflict roleplay.” We have a number of cultures with very different norms. They are trying to live together in a new small town. So the only “plots” are questions on how to organize the town, law, order, defense.
Jesper: Traditional Tolkienish plots are the most dominant (something/one poses a threat, find item(s) or people that can eliminate the threat, beat up the bad guy/destroy ring in mountain/assemble Crown of Ultimate Awesomeness), but in a form (or at least, trying to reach a form) where it is team-based, rather than individually-based. However, more often than not, a lot of plots end up only concerning a few active players on the teams, and this sometimes makes the rest of the group isolated from the story. Also, a lot of focus lies on character development, ranging from getting more experience points and powers or wealth and prestige, to personality development.
Is there a lot of player versus player combat (PvP)? Does it cause out of game conflict?
Jesper: Most fantasy larps are based on PvP action (combat and/or intrigue) with a few NPC’s to provide the main bad guys/quest-givers. This is usually not the cause of bad feelings and out-of-game conflict, [rather] the inability to interact with the players behind the opposing role [causes them]. For example, when the people playing the elves and the people playing the orcs actually meet up and talk friendly between games, there is seldom a problem. The problem is mostly there when the players don’t want to meet their “opposites.” This, I think, tells us more about the people in question, than about the PvP-form.
Thomas: That really depends on the larp. There are both. Sure there are problems because of PVP. At Krigslive some groups are better at following the rules than others. I have been thinking about making “Krigslive” invite-only, since I’d rather play with 300 who are fun to play with, than 400 where 50 are idiots.
But it will cause a lot of debate and conflict in the larp community… So I am not sure it’s worth it.
Are the games typically one-shots or campaigns?
Jesper: There is a tendency toward “eternal campaigns” as the dominant form, where organizers and players change over the years, and where keeping the story running and “being ingame” is the dominant focus. This is very impressive, but in my opinion not the best way to play fantasy.
The same forest/fantasycountry can only bear so many epic struggles between god and evil before it gets a little old. The next most used form are the “summer larps” where a couple of hundred participants play for 2-5 days, with roles and stories that are more or less unique each year. Sometimes these summer larps are one in a series, as for example the “A Time of Legends” and “Lakecastle”-summer larps, that have had 7 larps so far (and probably won’t have any more) and some of the old organizations have had their campaign of summer larps for 10 or 15 years.
Thomas: We have both. There are lots of monthly fantasy campaigns
Jesper: Usually the organizers have a network of players they know, and these most often play NPCs. In larps that have a lot of NPC-work, it is sometimes possible to sign up as an NPC, instead of as a player. This is almost always in one-shot larps. Campaigns tend to use their own (sometimes former) players as NPCs.
Thomas: Really depends on the larp.
Is there a high premium on historical accuracy? If so, how does that manifest? And if not, why not?
Thomas: Historical larps are pretty rare. Krigslive is Warhammer, So we are going more for “Warhammer accuracy,” but costumes and equipment can still be made of the right materials. Wool for costumes, steel for armor. Personally, I like the warhammer setting. Its very inspired by the real world, but in many ways more interesting.
And the moment you say “historical” you have the problem of defining what is historical…even the experts don’t always agree.
Jesper: Not in the way that you would normally expect. Of course some players, most often those that participate in reenactment as well as larp, care a great deal if traditional materials are used for clothing or armor and such, but I find that players concern themselves with whether the gamingworld is being played “correctly”, and this is sometimes a source of many troubles in the organizations and campaigns.
For example, most of the Copenhagen-based organizations are using a homemade gaming world called “Niraham.” This world has been evolving and changing almost constantly for the last 20 years. And in this time, a lot of variants have appeared and disappeared, and many people have very strong opinions on what the “proper” edition is. Sometimes (being a student of history of religions, as I am) I can’t help but drawing parallels to a religion, with different branches and adherents arguing over which one is more true.
Tell us a little about the rules for your home game — are there a lot? What types of interactions do they provide for?
Jesper: The fantasy campaign that I currently organize is one of the aforementioned “eternal campaigns” and this is particularly (in)famous for having a lot of rules. They are supposed to make it possible to play a lot of different types of character classes, while keeping each one unique. The result is not always as intended, since this has brought focus onto the many rules and making effective “character builds” and removed it from most other types of interaction. Fortunately, we see a tendency among the most influential players to turn this development around.
Thomas: At Khypris we use “Kan man så kan man” If you can do it, you can do it. So if you can jump over the city walls in full armor, then you can do it. I think the rules are 5 pages, some rules, the rest making sure the players understand, that just because you can steal all the texts from the library and throw them in the lake, that does not mean that you have to.
Thomas Aagaard, 30, lives in Denmark and studies Medieval archeology at Aarhus University. He has been larping since 1999 and organizing almost as long. To date, the biggest larp he’s organized was Krigslive V in 2009, which had 460 players and €26,000 budget. He also participates in American Civil War reenactment and serves as the Danish representative for Calimacil.
Jesper Kristiansen is 29 years old, and has been larping in Denmark for 17 years. He has organized campaigns and singular larps (in different genres but mainly fantasy) for 14 years, and is still an active organizer in the Danish community.
Photos of the latest Krigslive, courtesy of Thomas Aagaard.