A Trip Down Memory Lane

My 15 years in larp.

For a long time, I’ve been telling people that I started larping in 1997, but according to the infallible memory of the Norwegian Larp calendar, I’ve only been involved in the hobby since ’98. 😉

Wonder what larp is? Me, Eirik and Even have written an article about that (in Norwegian): Erstatningskaffe og alveører

My debut came as a priest of the elemental church in the weird fantasy setting of Skumringstid where there were cell phones and other technological miracles amongst some of the groups, as I recall. I remember being a little confused, and maybe ill-prepared. I was 17 at the time. Maybe I hadn’t read the compendium thoroughly enough. Maybe people didn’t play up to my status. Maybe I was just a n00b. Anyway, I wasn’t too enthralled. Larping seemed to take too much time and effort compared with what I got out of it, so it took me four years until I tried it again, but I sure am glad I did.

Some Romans enjoying themselves at Amaranth III. (Photo: Lise Hamre).

My larp epiphany came at Amaranth III in 2001, where I played a slave in the antiquities. It was all immersion and bleed and whatever we call it these days. It really opened my eyes to what larp can be like: such an amazing hobby, where people come together to share and create an illusion, and immerse themselves in the lives of someone, someplace else. The larp had many, many slave characters, and focused on this aspect of Roman society. I don’t know how “historically correct” it was, and there were some fantasy elements. The Amaranth larps followed the family saga of the cursed Amaranth family, who had some kind of pact-with-a-demon-thing going on.

Then, the same year, having been bitten by this strange affliction, I attended the artsy larp inside:outside, which was kind of a prisoner’s dilemma thing. All the characters had different ideological leanings/viewpoints, and were held prisoner for some reason they didn’t know. I mostly remember having to pee, that the white plastic prisoner’s suits were quite uncomfortable, and that being brought out for “interrogation” came as a relief.

The Amaranth IV larp site, in Skåne, Sweden (Photo: Hanne Jakobsen)

In 2003, I played two very different, but both very cool larps. Amaranth IV continued the saga of the cursed Amaranths, and this time I wasn’t slave but master. Or so I thought… My character got royally shafted in the end, by the testament of his wicked father (the larp was centered around the nightly readings of this testament, there were also nasty occult rites and stuff, of course). Here’s my review of the larp, in Norwegian

Me as baron von Lövenfeldt sometime during the 18th century. And a castrato singer whose name I can’t recall (Angelica, one of the organizers). Photo: Helene Johnsen.

Then there was PanoptiCorp, which was recently reprised in Denmark. It was a satire of PR companies and the way they “rule the world”, with a strongly critical perspective of that industry. I guess this was the larp that “proved” to me that larps can be used for critique of phenomena in our own societies (not that I’d doubted it). My review (in Norwegian).

Also that year was Den store Kyrthanim-laiven (wow, I larped a lot that summer), which took place in the fantasy setting Veiskille and centered on a nomadic group of people. Yes, a gypsy-like group of nomadic people… The larp itself wasn’t all that interesting to me personally, but I chilled out a lot and got a girlfriend. My review (in Norwegian)

Kjærlighet uten strømper (2004) was an example of a genre that has come to be termed a “costume drama” (or “stockings larp” ;). It was set in Denmark-Norway during the 1770s, and featured an old, but relatively broke, established family of nobles who wanted to marry their son away to a nouveau riche bourgeoisie family (who wanted titles etc). I had so much fun as the baron of the old, wealthy family. He was a total dick. You can see him pictured to the right, here. My review, in Norwegian

The local blacksmith working in “Gibson” in the old West (Once Upon a Time). Photo: Anne Isene.

Once Upon a Time (2005) was a western larp, where the scenography was pretty great. There are some people who own their own “cowboy village” out in Akershus county, and in addition to this a lot of tents were set up, a “main street” was built etc. I think other players probably had more fun than me, but the visuals of this thing were impressive. My review, in Norwegian

Norges Dæmring (Norway-Sweden in the early 19th century). Photo: Veronica Sæther.

Norges Dæmring (2006). Another costume drama, by the same organizers as “Kjærlighet uten strømper”. I had lots of fun and high passion as the nationalistic poet at some union friendly burghers’ fancy estate. Norway-Sweden, early 19th century. My review, in Norwegian

Blodige Baltazars skatt (2006) was a silly, one evening pirate larp. Yarrr. My “review”, in Norwegian.

The Bohemian crowd at «Kristianiabohemen» (2007). Photo: Marianne Gunderson.

New Voices in Art (2007) was the first «chamber larp» I attended. The concept of a chamber larp, as far as I’ve understood, is to have sort of a script, so that the piece can be run again. They’re also relatively short. New Voices is about a group of aspiring artists at a party in the gallery the day before the big vernissage. It was my first encounter with so-called “meta-techniques” in larp: you could tap the glass of fellow players in order to hear what their characters were really thinking. Here you can download the PDF for the game. Me and Even’s reviews at the beginning of this thread

Agabadan (2007): now this was some weird, experimental goodness that I quasi-attended from Chile. The game itself took place in Norway and online and in people’s heads. It wasn’t really a larp, more some sort of experiment. I didn’t get to participate much, but there’s a thread about the “larp” over at the forum.

Kristianiabohemen (2007). A larp played out over two consecutive evenings, about the Bohemian crowd in Oslo (Christiania) in the late 19th century. A fun, unpretentious thing. Here’s a capsule review of the larp, and here’s some reflections about the meta techniques employed (which were new to me at the time). (both in the Norwegian)

From the musical larp Marcello’s Kjeller. Photo: Li Xin.

Then, starting in 2009, there was an explosion of shorter larps on the local scene here in Norway. At the annual larp conference Knutepunkt that year, I attended When Our Destinies Meet, Walkabout, the Larp Factory started up in Oslo, with the goal of organizing monthly (!) shortlarp events. There was The Upgrade! which was sort of about reality shows and their contestants, Kjærlighet i fornedringens tid, about lovers and love affairs, Oasen, a fantasy scenario set in a 1001 Nights type setting, Marcellos Kjeller, sort of a musical larp based on the music of Kaizer’s Orchestra, Didrik + Tina 4Ever (a fun soap opera type larp about a marriage ceremony), Fade to Grey and several others. Scripts for many of the short larps played under the Larp Factory banner have been collected in the excellent volume Larps from the Factory.

I didn’t attend a longer larp event again until 2011, when I played in a Harry Potter larp called 1958, set in the year 1958. I had a lot of fun as the American ambassador of magical somethings, talking with a silly accent, magicking my obtrusive wife and stuff. My review, in Norwegian.

I must’ve gotten a taste for the longer format again, because the same year I attended Rød Oktober, a larp about the Norwegian maoist movement of the 70s, AKP-ml. A very interesting experience, and one of the best “historical larps” I’ve attended. I’ve written about the larp here on the blog previously.

In 2012, the Larp Factory was still running, and I attended Klassefesten (Play the Cards), Playing with intent, and (the highly experimental dating-as-performance-as-larp) The Lover’s Matchmaking Agency. I also attended the second run of Norges Dæmring (the trend of reprising longer larps is also an interesting feature of the last few years in Norwegian larping). I attended my first Call of Cthulhu larp, Festung Norwegen. It was set in 1945. My review, in Norwegian.

This year, there was the fantasy-mafia larp Cosa Nostra, but otherwise I’ve been focusing mostly on shorter larps and freeform stuff at different festivals.

I sort of skimmed over the shorter larps, chamber larps, freeforms or whatever one wishes to call them, not because they’re not interesting, but because there are just so many of them! 🙂 I think this is where the cutting-edge experimental stuff seems to be going on, but I could be wrong. Anyway, 15 years on: I think I’ll keep on larping.

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