Nordic Style Larp in the UK

Nordic Style Larp in the UK

The UK has a large and thriving larp industry, going back to the early 1980s and with an estimated 100,000+ current active participants. But awareness of larp traditions in other countries, and in the Nordic scene in particular, has been minimal until very recently.

In particular, the few months since Knutpunkt 2014 have seen a flurry of Nordic-related activity. Twelve people attended the conference from the UK (and a few from Ireland), and several threads of action have spun off subsequently.

SarcophagusAdam James has organized a series of short larps in London. From the Norwegian Larps from the Factory book, he first ran at two-weekly intervals The Hirelings, Limbo, A Mothers Heart and Sarcophagus. Next was The Checkerboard Crew, a game Adam himself wrote together with Nina Runa Essendrop, on 22 June 2014, which I blogged about; and the series concluded with ‘Fallen Stars’, again from Larps from the Factory, on 13 July 2014.

Cat Tobin (who is Irish but currently based in the UK) has set up a group called The Game Kitchen (Facebook group here) – whose purpose is to “talk about the design of Nordic larp, freeform games (UK and American) and story games, and then – using what we learn from each other, and from what other people have done before us – we’ll create some games. We’ll then share those games, and our conversations about the process, online so that others can learn from what we’re doing.” So far The Game Kitchen has had three monthly meetings, in London: and Cat ran a Larp from the Factory, ‘What Happened in Lanzarote’, which I blogged about.

(Cat was also responsible for writing and running The Outsiders, together with me, which I believe was the first Nordic-style larp to have been written and run in the UK.)

Mothers HeartRichard Williams is prominent in both the above projects, and has also established a Meetup group to help coordinate activity. His hope is that this Meetup will be the one-stop shop to hear about everything Nordic-related that happens in the UK and in Ireland.

Both Cat and Richard appeared on the story-gaming podcast The Twitching Curtain to talk about their experiences at Knutpunkt 2014, and the impact they expect it to have on the UK larp scene.

Kevin Burns has started a blog about Nordic larp and related topics – its purpose is “to explore Nordic larp. Partly, I’m doing that from the point of view of a psychotherapist who wonders about how it could be used in therapy, and partly because I find the whole thing tremendously exciting and I want to PLAY.”

LimboNathan Hook is planning a run of the weekend-long larp Pan, written by Linda Udby and Bjarke Pedersen, on 28–30 November 2014together with Kielo Maria Blomqvist.

Finally, an excursion to neighbour country Ireland – where Carla Burns is organizing Nina Runa Essendrop’s and Simon Steen Hansen’s White Death (Hvid død) on 8–9 August 2014 in Limerick, and has already run the Larp from the Factory ‘Before and After Silence’.

As you can see, Larps from the Factory has been a really powerful tool in helping us get Nordic larp off the ground here. We are very grateful to the authors, editors and publisher!

(There’s bound to be other stuff that I don’t know about, too. Please get in touch and let me know what you’ve been up to and what you’ve got planned!)

My own hope is that we will over time develop a strand of Nordic-style larps with a UK flavour. For that reason I’m particularly interested in what The Game Kitchen is doing, reaching out to other UK gaming styles and sharing with and learning from them: and in Adam James’s work with creative people from outside gaming. It’s a powerful brew!

Photos provided by Adam James.

Authors

Mo Holkar
Mo Holkar has designed and organized upwards of 50 larps in the UK. He is on the admin team of the annual national larp convention Consequences; is an organizer of The Smoke: London’s International Larp Festival; and is a member of design collective The Game Kitchen.
  • Nathan Hook

    In terms of original scenarios coming out from the UK, Knutepunkt ths year included the launch of Green Book Vol. 3, with 3 new scenarios:
    – Sweet Nectar (about addiction), Bitter Tears (about grief) and Turning Wheel (the passage of time, and a cat).

    In terms of the first nordic-style scenario to be both ‘written and run’ in the UK:
    – The earliest I know of was the nordic-style freeform larp ‘And not to to yield’ ran at Grand Tribunal back in August 2008 (I think). It later ran at Stabcon, Fastaval and has been run by the teachers at the Danish larp school. It was actualy written as an artistic comment on the Nordic larp scene, using ‘being trapped in Faerie’ directly as a metaphor for it.
    – ‘Against the Night’ was also written in the Nordic-style and ran at Consequences in 2008.
    – A weekend of scenarios run in Bristol in July 2013 included Black Dog (Green Book 1) and Crossed Roads (Green Book 2); It also included The Curse (by Lizzie Stark).
    – A special version of Black Dog adapted to the Ars Magica Setting was run in August 2013 at the Grand Tribunal convention.

    Previous nordic-style larps run (but not written) in the UK include Level 5 in Liverpool a few years ago, and multiple runs of ‘Serpent of Ash’ at various conventions and by student societies.

  • Nathan Hook

    I’m not sure I’d agree with the ‘100,000+ current active participants.’ Do you have a source for this?

    Even if you add up all the players of all the major fest larps (and assume no double counting from people doing more than one) that still comes to well under 8,000 player. Attendees doing larps at all conventions (again, assuming no double counting) adds (I’m estimating) less than 3,000. Add in the smaller ‘systems,’ vampire larpers, F&H, student societies is probably less than 4,000.

    I’d regard 15,000 has an optimistic estimate, and put the figure closer to 10,000.

    Also depends how you define ‘currently active’ (once a year?) and define larp (Jeepers say jeepform is not larp, and Danes often regard ‘semi-live’ fastaval scenarios are not larp for example).

  • Mo Holkar

    Nathan Hook has made a couple of comments which for technical reasons aren’t appearing here. Copying them in now!

    First one:
    In terms of original scenarios coming out from the UK, Knutepunkt ths year included the launch of Green Book Vol. 3, with 3 new scenarios:

    – Sweet Nectar (about addiction), Bitter Tears (about grief) and Turning Wheel (the passage of time, and a cat).

    In terms of the first nordic-style scenario to be both ‘written and run’ in the UK:

    – The earliest I know of was the nordic-style freeform larp ‘And not to to yield’ ran at Grand Tribunal back in August 2008 (I think). It later ran at Stabcon, Fastaval and has been run by the teachers at the Danish larp school. It was actualy written as an artistic comment on the Nordic larp scene, using ‘being trapped in Faerie’ directly as a metaphor for it.

    – ‘Against the Night’ was also written in the Nordic-style and ran at Consequences in 2008.

    – A weekend of scenarios run in Bristol in July 2013 included Black Dog (Green Book 1) and Crossed Roads (Green Book 2); It also included The Curse (by Lizzie Stark).

    – A special version of Black Dog adapted to the Ars Magica Setting was run in August 2013 at the Grand Tribunal convention.

    Previous nordic-style larps run (but not written) in the UK include Level 5 in Liverpool a few years ago, and multiple runs of ‘Serpent of Ash’ at various conventions and by student societies.

    • Mo Holkar

      Thanks for the info Nathan! I must admit I was thinking of the Green Book games etc as freeforms rather than larps — The Outsiders is a ‘larp proper’ — but it’s probably not worth getting into a discussion about what the distinctions might be. Certainly good to have the previous history of ‘Nordic[-style] games’, if we can use that as a general term, outlined.

  • Mo Holkar

    And Nathan Hook again:

    I’m not sure I’d agree with the ‘100,000+ current active participants.’ Do you have a source for this?

    Even if you add up all the players of all the major fest larps (and assume no double counting from people doing more than one) that still comes to well under 8,000 player. Attendees doing larps at all conventions (again, assuming no double counting) adds (I’m estimating) less than 3,000. Add in the smaller ‘systems,’ vampire larpers, F&H, student societies is probably less than 4,000.

    I’d regard 15,000 has an optimistic estimate, and put the figure closer to 10,000.

    Also depends how you define ‘currently active’ (once a year?) and define larp (Jeepers say jeepform is not larp, and Danes often regard ‘semi-live’ fastaval scenarios are not larp for example).

    • Mo Holkar

      The figure came from a friend’s research, gathered by basically talking to a sample of organizers and applying some fudge factors.

      I’m sure there will be some double-counting (and some exaggerating maybe), but the total doesn’t sound too outrageous to me as a rough estimate. The hobby seems to have been growing quite excitably in the last few years; with the existing fest events expanding, new ones appearing, and a load of smaller local groups springing up and thickening out the long tail.

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