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.
Kid’s larp in Denmark is apparently a big thing. How big? Well, in Morten Gade’s paper “Danish Larp by the Numbers” in Dissecting Larp (2005), he cites a 2004 Gallup poll, which found that about 8 percent of Danish children age 10-14 (about 27,000 kids) said that they’d gone larping in nature during the last month.
Today Danish larp organizers Claus Raasted and Nynne Søs Rasmussen answer a couple questions about the Danish children’s scene.
Tell me a bit about the kid’s larp scene you’re involved in.
Claus Raasted: I do several kinds of kid’s larps.
- Volunteer larps for the Roleplaying Factory. I run a fantasy campaign (100-150 players), do WWII larps for kids and the occasional weird project
- The annual summer camp, which features 5-8 small larps (30-50 kids, 5-10 adults, 2-3 hours) in different genres
- The professional work. Children’s birthdays, edu-larps for schools, teaching Christianity using larp, and other sorts of stuff.
But mainly I organise a campaign that runs 20 times a year (featured in a Nordic Larp article), the WWII games, the summer camp and the pro stuff.
Nynne Søs Rasmussen: I’m most involved in the arty larp scene, but I used to do kid’s larp as well. And once a year I participate in Krigslive, which is a big one-shot war larp set in the Warhammer fantasy world and played with boffer weapons.
One great thing about the Danish larp scene is that you don’t have to choose; each scene is so small and so intertwined, that you can be an artsy larper and still fight with boffer weapons or but on you elven ears occasionally –and no one will find it weird.
Why should kids larp?
Nynne: Because they learn! They use their imagination and have fun, but they will also become more empathic as they try to imagine how it must be like to be someone else or how it was to live in different histocial period. And some fresh air and running around beating up your friend for fun is good for everyone!
Do kids really get the concept of “playing a character”? What types of characters do they typically build?
Nynne: Most kids play very stereotypical characters; they love to play either good or evil. The typical background story for their character is something along the lines “my parents were killed by orcs…and now all orcs must die”. Everything is black and white in that way. When they get a little older (around the age of 12) they usually start to build more layers and nuance into their characters.
Claus: Yes and no. Usually it’s a five-step process (I’d send you the five-step model except it’s in Danish). But simply.
Step 1 – Rules: The kid understands the rules of the larp and navigates in it from a rules standpoint (“How many HP do you have?”, “The red team is the enemy”)
Step 2 – Story: The kid immerses in the story (“We killed the dragon today”, “The priest made a ritual”)
Step 3 – Group: The kid sees herself as part of a group (“I’m an elf”, “We’re demons”)
Step 4 – Individual. The kid thinks like an individual (“I’m an elf scout”, “I’m a demon with a bad temper”)
Step 5 – Perspective. The kid sees new possibilities (“I could just as well play an elf as a demon”) Step 5 is where it really kicks in, but at 4 too… and quite a few kids age 9-10 are comfortable with step 5. Some aren’t, though.
How is organizing games for children different and/or the same as organizing games for adults?
Claus: Kids are easier. The don’t lie as much to themselves about what they want (though of course it happens). They also don’t try to correct wrongs. They don’t try to fix the system – they try to hack it. They want fun, action and humor. Mainly. They break more easily, though. :o)
Is it possible to earn a living from running larps for children?
Nynne: Yes, a few people do that (Not me).
Aren’t you worried about kids hurting themselves? If not, why not? What do you do to prevent injuries?
Claus: We use latex weapons and let common sense do the rest. In almost 8 years of Rude Skov we’ve had ONE single serious accident. And that was an adult who tripped while running. In my pro career I’ve had ZERO serious accident. And I’ve done larps for a 5-digit number of kids.
Nynne: I used to be very worried about that. But doing kids larp I learned that most kids enjoy not being treated like they are made of glass. Larp creates a space for them, where it’s all right to be wild and loud and that’s a nice such a healthy thing for kids. We don’t do something extraordinary to prevent injuries, but there are a set of ground rules: don’t hit the head or the crotch and don’t hit too hard and we check that their boffer weapons are constructed in a safe way.
Has the Danish kids’ larp scene spread to any other countries?
Nynne: Yes, it has. Germany and Norway are among those countries.
How has children’s larp impacted the adult larp scene in Denmark?
Nynne: It made larping mainstream in Denmark to point where you could buy boffer weapons in grocery stores. It made everybody know about larp, which is great –but in some ways it also added further social stigma to be an adult larper. If I tell people I work or study with about larp, they will go like “Isn’t that something only kid do?” and give me a weird look. So as an adult danish larper, you will often have some explaining do about what larp also can be…but that’s all right most of the time.
Claus Raasted (32) claims to be the world’s leading expert on children’s larps, and so far nobody has challenged that claim in earnest. He’s the author of six books on larp, is the editor-in-chief of Denmark’s roleplaying magazine ROLLE|SPIL and has been a professional larper for nearly a decade. He also has a past in reality TV. But these days, who hasn’t?
Nynne Søs Rasmussen, 25, is an organizer and player who has been larping since 2003. She’s currently pursuing a masters in sociology, and enjoys many styles of games.