I hit it with my axe – Approaches to LARP

There are three forms of LARP, traditionally. Or three approaches. They are:

Narrativist: I hit it with my axe because for generations before me, my ancestors have hit things with axes. This axe itself is that of my grandfather’s greatest grandmother, reforged at the time of choosing by the mighty H’obbes in a final act of master smithery before he tragically was murdered by the Cal’vin tribe who I have sworn to destroy.

Gamist: I hit it with my axe because then I can take its stuff.

Simulationist: This is a battlefield. I am a solider in this war, and therefore i shall hit it with my axe.

(My role in larp, almost invariably, is “Your axe rebounds and now has a small notch in it. The goblin you attempted to hit grins quietly. The notch begins to talk about minecraft).

The approaches to “fixing” this are many-fold  but almost always can be reduced to: “We will create a TRUE UNIFIED LARP, with BLACKJACK and HOOKERS, and it will be UNIFIED. We will do this by building it on a solid platform of MY PREFERRED APPROACH and then we shall allow the other approaches to GO FUCK THEMSELVES WITH A RUSTY MONUMENT.”

As approaches to the unification of the hobby go, it is mildly more successful to either build a system that rewards all three types and doesn’t really care why you are applying your axe, but will reward the different approaches appropriately; and then to let your players get into massive, long, and above all out-of-character arguments of the best way to have fun. But it’s also useful to read the various MANIFESTOS of the different divided approaches, and for them to have their own games, because the only way you can really make a game for everyone is empathy.

There’s no real point or conclusion to this, I’m just getting it out of my head.

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Empire One, Weather Nil

So that was our show. Or, rather, this was:

Orcs vs Humans

(Photos in this post by Tom Garnett, reproduced under a CC-A licence, more available on Facebook)

I’m told that was the coldest Easter for 50 years. Celestial Gala (a previous Maelstrom event) was worse, but that had both the cold and the wind chill and the wind and more of the wind. But:

So I went down on Wednesday, two days before the start, to see if I could be of any use. I was, a bit, but not enough for the extra night in the absolutely sodding freezing weather to be worth it 🙂

Setup was hell frozen over. Everything took longer, everything broke more easily. As I said to a number of people this event, Printers don’t like it if you repeatedly freeze and thaw them, Servers don’t like it if you repeatedly freeze and thaw them, and Crew don’t like it very much either. Between that and a first event where the exact on-field processes for everything weren’t yet a well-oiled machine, we stripped a few gears on take-off, but not enough to crash the flight.

I ended up in GameOps. My official position at Empire’s on the Plot & IT teams, but after the event started it was clear we needed a few more customer-facing people, so I stayed there. I don’t regret it, but next Empire I’ll find somewhere else to be, I think. I can do it – I actively like doing it, in fact – but doing it for Empire and Odyssey will strip that from me quite quickly.

I got out on the field once, to play my NPC Civil Servant, and it was amazing. The photos do it as much justice as they can, but there was something about the field with it’s woodchip-lined roads, children playing between the tents, and not a single sight – tent, person, prop or sight – that looked out of place. The camps were colourful and active, the bustle real and exciting, and the incredible buildings – actual, wooden, multistory buildings – were just – and I mean this in the literal sense – awesome.

I didn’t get to see the battles – 1000 players fighting in the woods – but from the enthusiasm of the players I spoke to, they went well. The characters were tested to (and sometimes beyond) their limits, their strategies probed and reacted to, and the monsters briefed carefully as to behavior and plans. One of the keywords PD used in the development of the style and look of the game was Aspiration. Shortly before we started, I posted this:

Aspirational means we get better. It means we look up. It means we accept that this is the best we can do for now, but we aim for it to be better, we want it to be better. We strive for perfection, while we accept reality.

We do not look down on people doing the best they can, we look up to how we can help as many people as we can do better, and we ask that you aspire to improve on where you are, and accept that everyone else is aspiring too.

But above all, we aspire to prance around in cold fields in the snow, because its fun.

And it was fun. And now there’s the next one.

7 weeks, 69 hours, 39 minutes remaining.