You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘documentation’ category.

The award-winning, sold-out Nordic Larp is now available as a free digital edition. Up until now, the book, edited by game researchers and life-long role-players Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola, has been a difficult to find treasure for role-play enthusiasts, researchers, and artists.

Live action role-playing has developed into a unique and powerful form of expression in the Nordic countries. Nordic style larps range from entertaining flights of fancy to the exploration of the intimate, the collective, and the political. This unique tradition combines influences from theatre and performance art with gamer cultures, in order to push the boundaries of role-playing.

Recently the Nordic larp tradition has gained attention internationally. This book presents a cross-section of this vibrant culture through 30 outstanding larps, through stories told by designers, players and researchers, with over 250 photographs. In addition the book contains essays explaining the history and rhetorics of Nordic larp, and contextualizing it in relation to theatre, art and games.

The book has been hailed as “mandatory reading” (Aaron Vanek), “a remarkable tome” (Mike Tice), and a “major cultural service to game, culture and art studies” (Frans Mäyrä). According to Lizzie Stark “Anyone interested in the future of larp and its possibilities as a medium should read this book.” In 2012 Nordic Larp received the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.

The digital edition of Nordic Larp is available from the University of Tampere:

Edit: Don’t be intimidated by the Finnish on the site. The site translates into English from the upper right hand corner.



Knutepunkt 2013 too place last week. That means that the latest Knutebooks are now available. This year there were four(!), three of which are available online. The fourth one is a book of images, and is only available as a physical copy.

Two interesting events on the horizon, both targeting professionals working in larp and experience design, both taking place in late fall of 2013. Keep an eye out for Alibis for Interaction and ProLarp.

By the way, our Nordic Larp book is almost sold out. At the time of writing you can still order it from a German online shop. We are looking into a second printing or even a second edition.

Finally, at Nordic Larp Talks, I attempted to answer the question: “What is Nordic Larp“?

Photo by Johannes Axner.

The players before the "Prayers on the Porcelain Altar" larp at Digra 2011.

The biannual DiGRA conference on game studies was held for the fifth time last week. I presented a paper The Making of Nordic Larp, which is basically an academic appendix to Nordic Larp. The article opens the process behind the book and addresses challenges relating to documenting larps. Hopefully the article enables researchers to make better use of the book.

At the conference there was quite a lot of interest in Nordic larps. As a taste I ran J. Tuomas Harviainen’s short scenario Prayers on a Porcelain Altar (check also his commentary of it), or actually two simulateneous sessions of it, something I had never done before. However, quite a few people asked me how one finds out about upcoming intereting Nordic style larps.

The easy answer to that question is that you should come to Solmukohta 2012 in the spring. But few people are willing to go to a weird event just to find about something else. Also, we have not made finding even the annual convention that is the centre of the this scene easy, as the names changes every year (Knu(te/t/de)punkt) depending on who hosts the event and we do not have a central site.

Indeed, we are crap at having any kind of central sites online, period. As the community is very loose and uncommercial, no one has (taken) the responsibility to create a shared resource. There have been attempts: The Nordic Scene worked for a while, and there have been attempts on Facebook (this one is the best one at the moment, but of course there is no editorial oversight there). Also, the quarterly magazine Playground does have a section on upcoming intereting stuff. Then of course there are the national lists of larps in different countries, but these usually are not looking for an international playerbase. So the truth is that there isn’t really an established place where you can find out about interesting upcoming larps.

Photo stolen from Digra 2011 Think Design Play Facebook page.

ROLLE|SPIL is a new Danish larp magazine for kids. To someone who doesn’t read Danish, it looks like any larp magazine to begin with, with contents ranging from costuming guides to flashy fighting, with one story from Østerskov Efterskole and so forth. I think their target group is the younger larper generations; they even have a story on a project for grooming a new generation of larp organizers.

What really strikes, however, is this: They printed 5.000 copies of the first issue. There are 5.5 million people in Denmark. And they plan to go bigger in the future.

ROLLE|SPIL is run by Claus Raasted, the main man of Danish children’s larp. With his team, he organizes tens of thousands person days of larping to Danish kids every year.

Available as a pdf, for free.

Mike Pohjola recalls: It was published a day before, and I was selling them at a convention. When I gave Mika Loponen a copy, he burned it at the ash tray. Everyone was watching and cheering. ”Get them while they’re hot,” I yelled.

I am in stuck in Turku at the moment since the winter is wrecking havoc with the train schedules. It is very fitting, since today ten years have passed to the day since the publication of The Manifesto of the Turku School.

The Turku Manifesto is perhaps the most influential Nordic text on role-playing games. It did not start the theory boom in the Nordic (that was done by Dogme 99, panclou, Knutepunkt and others), but it did sell the idea better than most. And boy has a lot changed in a decade!

Author Mike Pohjola has some notes on the anniversary on his blog.

Let’s raise a toast to Turku. Kippis!

We have again spent a whole day, some twelve plus hours, editing stuff for the Nordic Larp book. It is all a blur at this point. More than half of the texts are now near the finishing line. In addition there are numerous promises that tomorrow we will have more to work on. As before, we are flabbergasted by the strength of these texts. They run the gamut from insightful dissections of projects to pieces of cultural analysis and from deeply personal reflections on experiences to mad (or brilliant) recollection of brilliant (or mad) events.

One of the things we have been obsessing about is the original names of games. We want to refer to all games by the names that were used when they were played in the original language. The problem is that in English in titles all relevant words are capitalized (The White Road, Once Upon a Time) whereas is Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish only the first word is capitalized (Silmäpuoli merirosvo, En stilla middag med familjen). But, of course, there are games where the rules are toyed with (such as inside:outside, PanoptiCorp, PehmoYdin, Föreningen Visionära Vetenskapsmäns Årliga Kongress). I don’t actually think that anyone notices or cares about this, but we are completely obsessed by it. (Markus has actually blogged about this name once before.) Anyhoo, it seems that in the main headers we will capitalize all words (since this is a book in English), but in body text we shall leave the names as they appear in original languages. Unless the game organizers toyed with capitalization.

The problem we now face is Nemesis divina, a game that is referred to once. The problem is that upper and lower cases weren’t introduced until the Middle Ages — which means that we don’t know what is the correct form in Latin. (Spelling it completely without capitalization seems wrong, though perhaps historically accurate – and the same goes for all caps.) Since it is a Swedish game, we are leaning towards a lower case d, but somehow haven’t settled on it yet. Perhaps this is because we somehow associate Latin with English, I don’t know.

Now it is time for port, ice cream and sauna. In some order. We shall continue tomorrow.

We are pleased to announce that Playground Worlds: Creating and Evaluating Experiences of Role-Playing Games, published last year in Solmukohta, is avalaible as a free download. It took us a little bit longer to get it online then we would have hoped for, but better late than never.

We are still insanely proud of the book. It has 25 articles divided into three sections: Journalism & Community, Art & Design, Research & Theory. No matter what level of interest you have in regards to larp, there is something in the book for you. This is what some reviewers have said about the book:

This book is a gem! A collection of diverse and quite useful articles on roleplaying, with a strong emphasis on live action play. (Jason Morningstar)

If the idea of scholarly discussion of larp comes as a surprise to you, this book may deliver quite a shock. There are some contributors that are full-time widely-published game theorists, who specialise in larp theory. They’re writing about envelope-pushing larp, but the analysis is often generalisable to more garden-variety larp. If you’re not familiar with the Nordic larp scene, expect to read some articles while thinking “what the hell?” Read with an open mind, and ideas that seem crazy or outlandish at first may grow on you. […]
A thought-provoking collection of works on roleplay, and innovative larp in particular. Well presented, dense with content, and definitely worth the purchase price to get it in hardcopy. (Ryan Paddy)

I’m dying to recommend some pieces in the book, but can’t really pick favourites. What do you find most intereting or useful?

Oh, and if you are one of those old farts who enjoys reading stuff on paper, the paperback version is still available for a very affordable price.

Already in the process of putting the book together we have run into stuff we though was lost forever. The ad for Ground Zero replay (1998).

Already in the process of putting the book together we have run into stuff we though was lost forever. The ad for Ground Zero replay (1998).

What a difference a week makes! The situation now is this. We have 16 abstracts and 12 promises of abstracts. The list is starting to look quite good — except for Denmark, which is sorely underrepresented. The deadline is tomorrow.

Received abstracts:
The Executive Game
Silmäpuoli merirosvo
Föreningen visionära vetenskapsmäns årliga kongress
Det Sista Kapitlet
Mellan himmel och hav
Trenne byar
Carolus Rex
Once Upon a Time
System Danmarc

Clothes test for mellan himmel och hav.

Clothes test for mellan himmel och hav.

Promised submissions:

Helsingin Camarilla

A game by The Harmaasudet
Ground Zero
En stilla middag med familjen
Thirteen at the Table

A Danish Children’s larp

There is still time to put together an abstract. We need to know that there are a sufficient amount of protos from the game and we need to see a few of these as an example. The text of the abstract need not be long, an email is enough. It should contain a short list of what the article would cover (production, events, players, way it was produced, props, organization management, what?) and some context (for example what it relates to, how the players approached, did it have an impact, was it inspired by something, does it have a connection to theory/fine art/comics/film/urban exploration) and an angle (why this game is especially interesting).

The point of the abstract is to show that there are photos, that the person who is interested in covering the game has thought the case through once and is committed.

I recently read Aaron Vanek’s Cooler than You Think: Understanding Live Action Role Playing. It is a short essay on larp, mostly from an American point-of-view. I found the text not only interesting but valuable; there are few descriptions of North American larping out there. The text is aimed at a laymen and novices, but also at experienced larpers who might not be aware of the cornucopia of different types of larp available in the world.


I found the text very accessible. Vanek is good at communicating even complex ideas. I especially liked Vanek’s definition of larp. He has three defining criteria (“pillars”), basically the rule of first person audience, the rule of performative or representative action, and the rule of constant iterative definition of the diegesis. The definition is not analytically sound (for example rituals and formal dinner parties are larps according to it), but it has communicative power. Also, the more definitions there are out there, the more apparent it will be that after a certain point arguing about a definition becomes a matter of aesthetic preference.

Read the rest of this entry »

In the Nordic countries, live action role-playing has developed into a unique and powerful form of expression. Nordic larps range from entertaining flights of fancy to the exploration of the intimate, the collective and the political. This incredible tradition combines influences from theatre and performance art with gamer cultures, in order to push the boundaries of role-playing.