Notes on the Local Larp Manifesto

This post was written by the authors of the Local Larp Manifesto. You can read the manifesto here, and the authors’ tips on starting a local larp community here.

Here is where we address the parts of this manifesto that have probably enraged you.

Resolved:

1. Local larp communities should be just that–local.
This doesn’t preclude you from reaching out, embracing visitors, doing player exchanges, or participating in far-flung events when it suits you.

2. Small communities are hotbeds of innovation.
So many cool games come out of small communities.

3. Local larp is environmentally friendly.
Or friendlier, at least. Hopefully this is not controversial.

4. Small, short, affordable events make larp accessible to a wider range of people.
Big, long, expensive, less-accessible events are not the enemy; this is just a logistical truth. The whole larp ecosystem supports each itself: Someone who starts with small games might decide to invest more time and money in the hobby, and someone who wishes they could be a witchard more often can play small games.

5. New players, designers, and organizers are the lifeblood of any community.
Old, haggard, battle-scarred players, designers and organizers are, of course, necessary, awesome, and welcome. Just, you know, don’t let your cred get in the way of knowing when to graciously step aside to let some new kid run her bonkers game.

6. The shared values of small communities make them easier to manage.
Not a value judgement, this again reflects reality. With a small group you can be crystal clear about what is important. With larger, more disparate groups this is a key challenge, and a worthy one for big communities to tackle.

7. There is no One True Way; we encourage exchange with other styles, events, and groups.
Local larp scenes–including local boffer larp scenes–thrive in an ecosystem that includes many larp communities producing different sorts of events. We all have a lot to learn from one another, and a lot of fun to have with one another.

We will strive:

1. To give instructions in a first language of the region where they are played.
…which isn’t to say we need to be monolingual! But language and privilege can be closely tied, so keeping it locally intelligible means keeping it accessible–as well as embedded in your own culture. Also note that giving instructions in a first language does not necessarily mean giving them in the predominant language of the country where the larp is played.

2. To market our larps locally, not globally.
…which only makes sense.

3. To draw our participants from local populations, with a special eye to including players from groups underrepresented in gaming, including people of different economic means, sexual orientations, genders, racial backgrounds, physical abilities, and, of course, parents.
Hopefully this is becoming a universal goal, but the kinds of communities this manifesto promotes are uniquely positioned to make this central to what they do.

4. To prioritize running designs by members of our own communities, and to encourage local larp designers to popularize their larps with scripts.
Small, feisty and local groups are perfect incubators for small, feisty, local games.

5. To select larp sites near mass transit and/or offer the opportunity for participants to carpool with each other.
Are you seriously enraged about this? I can imagine it being impractical, but not undesirable.

6. To reduce the carbon footprint of food served at larp events by using local ingredients/going light on the meat.
Again, this seems like good general advice.

7. To cut costs at every corner, and run games on a nonprofit basis (to cover costs only). If this means scenography must suffer, so be it.
Keeping ticket prices affordable is key to making larp accessible to participants from many different economic strata. It’s better to have enthusiastic players than to have the perfect (and often perfectly expensive) set and props. Running events cheaply also helps reduce the barrier to running larps, and helps ensure better variety of organizers.

8. To run larps that do not require elaborate costumes, or help players find clothing items on the cheap through organized trips to thrift stores or lending programs.
Elaborate costumes cost money, and assembling them can be daunting for some players. Thrift trips and clothings swaps help reduce anxiety, build community, and lower the cost. Larps that don’t require costumes at all mean players can just show up, though of course, then it’s not possible to anticipate the event by planning an outfit.

9. To run larps that do not require people with full-time regular employment to take time off of work and to run at least some events that last hours, not days.
If you live in a place where this is a non-issue, be very glad.

10. To require no commitment outside of the event a person signs up for.
This makes it easier for people to drop in and out of the community.

11. To explicitly, intentionally welcome new designers and organizers, providing them mentorship, support, and collaborators when possible.
Healthy communities have many people taking leadership roles, which helps prevent organizer burnout. People need to feel supported in order to take on leadership roles–leaders are made, not born.

12. To publicly post the standard someone needs to meet in order to run a larp.
Some people want to be mentored, and some people just need to be shown where the door is. Public standards help demystify the process of being an organizer and allow participants equal opportunity to step into the organizer shoes. Plus, more organizers means more larp!

13. To treat newcomers like precious gifts; dare to learn and be surprised by them.
Newcomers provide injections of new ideas, fresh energy, and unique perspectives; they help keep local scenes healthy and vibrant.

14. To have patience with new players and explain jargon to them in simple language.
Talking down to someone or treating them like an inconvenience is an easy way to drive them away. Larp has a lot of specialized language that can feel impenetrable to newcomers. It’s up to us to invite them in and catch them up on the conversation.

15. To systematically work to prevent harassment and to deal with it when it happens, for example, to have and use a harassment policy.
The good of the community demands that organizers deal with harassment. That job can gut-wrenching, but it is necessary. Tolerating harassment drives away those who have been harmed as well as bystanders. Dealing with harassment clearly and accessibly is an essential duty for any small community. Harassment policies are one clear way to do that, but depending on your community and on the local culture, there may be others too.

16. To ask if participants need accommodation about disabilities and be honest about what we can and can’t accommodate.
People with disabilities are an important part of our culture and our larp communities. Events should strive to be accessible toward all of their members, as well as potential new ones. If you can’t accommodate a particular need, it’s better to be direct and upfront about that before the event. And if something isn’t possible at one event, strive to make it possible for the next one.

17. To incentivize self-care within the community.
Exhausted, uncomfortable, unhappy people make poor community members and poor community stewards. It’s as true over the course of a single event as it is over months or years of larp. Make it easy for everyone–from organizers to participants–to take breaks and opt-out of situations they’re not enjoying.

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5 thoughts on “Notes on the Local Larp Manifesto

  1. 12. To publicly post the standard someone needs to meet in order to run a larp.

    I don’t understand what this means. What standard must someone meet before they are allowed to run a larp?

    • The standards for organizing will vary depending on the local larp community. Maybe you have to show up to two board meetings and make a pitch. Maybe all you have to do is make a plan and the local community will send a blast to their email list. Maybe you need to help two other organizers with props or set for every game you organize.

      The point here is really that organizing shouldn’t be a secret club that is mysterious to join. The process for how to become an organizer should be clear and transparent so everyone has the opportunity to try out organizing if they want to. This will also help current organizers support new ones. When there is more larp, everyone wins!

      • The only parts of your explanation that resonate with my experience are, “Maybe all you have to do is make a plan and the local community will send a blast to their email list…When there is more larp, everyone wins!”

        I must come from less formal larp communities, because I think of the “process for becoming a larp organizer” as being the same as the process for becoming a birthday party organizer or a road trip organizer. For a small event, you pick a day and invite people. For larger events, you find collaborators and plan further ahead. Even the gaming conventions I attend practically beg for people to run more games, and the “standard” is mostly that you sign up on their website by the deadline.

        I think I didn’t understand #12 because I’ve never experienced the need for it. I’ve more often become a larp organizer when I DIDN’T want to than failed to become a larp organizer when I DID want to!

        • I’m in the same boat. The idea that you’d ever need _permission_ to run a larp is just boggling. Yes, I’m part of a formal larp organisation which provides pre-funding and gear, but even then our “standard” for accessing those resources is “you want to run a game and your budget seems credible”. And at the end of the day, people don’t have to work through us, and many don’t.

          • I hear you, but I still think there is value in making it explicitly transparent how larp-running happens. Making power structures transparent makes them accessible to folks, particularly those from traditionally underrepresented groups.

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