Content Larp Manifesto

Content Larp Manifesto

The Content Larp Manifesto was originally presented on the Content Larp Manifesto website. We have re-printed it with their permission without editing the language.

In this text, we, the undersigned, would like to present the current position of content larp; the key rules of its design; and its characteristic features.

The term was coined in the Czech Republic to describe a specific type of larps in the Czech scene, which is typical by focusing primarily on pre-written content provided by the organizers. However, we do not want to limit the term to one national scene and we think it can be used for any game that fits the description, regardless of what scene it comes from. We see content larp as an independent and specific style of larping, both within the Czech larping scene and in a wider international context.

While the larps that fall within this category are quite diverse, they are linked by several basic features, which distinctly distinguish them from other Czech and international larps. In our opinion, this difference makes it necessary to create at least a rough outline of content larp and to present it as an independent style of larping.

Roots

We see content larp as a historically separate and relatively coherent movement. The individual works that belong in this category are primarily inspired by other, preceding content larps and only secondarily by other impulses. Content larp has originated from the Czech larping tradition and we see it as a strong part of the Czech larp culture.

While the final form of individual content larps can resemble that of some works of the Nordic scene, the design principles used to achieve that form are based on a different ideological and cultural framework. We therefore do not want to be seen as a part of the Nordic larp[1]Not even when taken according to the broader definition formulated by Stenros. [Stenros, Jaakko. 2014 “What Does ‘Nordic Larp’ Mean?.” Pp. 147-156 in: Back, John (ed.). The Cutting Edge of Nordic Larp. Knutpunkt.] movement, although we fully respect it and see it as an interesting form and a valid source of inspiration.

We think that we are only one of many streams of diverse national larping traditions, which were mostly passed down only orally or documented in their respective national languages, which limited the possibilities for international reflection. We hope that this manifesto will be a step that might contribute to a change: to an emergence of an international theoretical discourse, in which content larp will only be one of many design approaches.

Specific Features of Content Larp

  1. A larp is prepared primarily by the organisation team. Apart from practical aspects of organization, the team is also responsible for creating a robust game design and complex characters for the players, which have enough content (plots, relationships, goals) for the whole time of the game. That means that the player’s role is not to co-create content before the larp, but to develop and interpret the pre-written content.
  2. Until the larp itself, the character is fully separate from the player. The player does not participate on creating their role (they do not prepare their own plots, relationships, etc.) and no role is designed by the organizers for a specific participant. In principle, that means that a role in content larp is quite close to a role in a theatre play: The participant can identify with the character and interpret it, but its purpose in the story and the boundaries that limit it do not change. That means that in case of a rerun, any other player can play the character just as well.
  3. Every character can be interpreted as the leading one. Every character has its indispensable place in the story and enough game content to place it in the centre of a specific segment of plotlines[2]We are aware of the issues that games, which work with many dramatic arches and plotlines, necessarily face; such as a superfluous amount of storylines or a lack of thematic unity. However, we think that the advantages of this approach outweigh the problems.. The goal of content larp is to give every player in any role the same richness of experience.
  4. In key moments, the players’ freedom of decision is limited, in order to make it possible to achieve dramatically strong moments. The participant is not robbed of the opportunity to make important decisions, but the designer limits the range of their choices to those that have an interesting effect on the story and other players’ characters[3]There is naturally also some limit on situations where the decision of one player could significantly and unproductively disturb the play of others: for example by a drastic change of the story’s development or by removing another character from play prematurely. For these cases, larps generally employ some set of corrective measures; be they diegetic (e.g. the characters respect the decisions of a leader, who can step in, in character, in case there is a danger of an undesirable development) or meta-game (e.g. a rule stating that character’s injury can only cause death in the last part of the game).. Because of that, the larp design can use a pre-planned structure of difficult choices and meaningful consequences, which support a dramatic and emotionally strong story.
  5. A content larp offers a prepared, dramatically strong story. Both the larp’s overarching story and the individual characters’ stories have pre-scripted arches, twists and key themes in a content larp. The form prefers this pre-designed and interconnected structure to open improvisation or a pure simulation of a life in a different reality.
  6. One of the goals of content larp is to be seen as a form of art. We believe, that the designer’s intent is embodied in the larp’s content and design, but we are also aware that, as is the case with many other performative activities, the final work of art can only appear with the players’ participations. We therefore see players as respected partners in creation.

We want to make our games accessible to players from outside of the Czech scene; we want to play international larps and we want to be inspired by other larp traditions. We do not wish to become isolated and we do not see content larp as a more valuable form than any other larp styles in the Czech Republic and in the international scene. However, we do see it as an independent category both in the Czech and in the international scene, which is what we want to express by this manifesto.

Signed:

  • Filip “Drirr” Appl
  • Kamil Buchtík
  • Martin “Pirosh” Buchtík
  • Pavel Gotthard
  • Michal Havelka
  • Petr Kuběnský
  • Jindřich “Estanor” Mašek
  • Jakub Míšek
  • Tereza Staňková
  • Jiří Rosol
  • Iva Vávrová
  • David František Wagner

References   [ + ]

1. Not even when taken according to the broader definition formulated by Stenros. [Stenros, Jaakko. 2014 “What Does ‘Nordic Larp’ Mean?.” Pp. 147-156 in: Back, John (ed.). The Cutting Edge of Nordic Larp. Knutpunkt.]
2. We are aware of the issues that games, which work with many dramatic arches and plotlines, necessarily face; such as a superfluous amount of storylines or a lack of thematic unity. However, we think that the advantages of this approach outweigh the problems.
3. There is naturally also some limit on situations where the decision of one player could significantly and unproductively disturb the play of others: for example by a drastic change of the story’s development or by removing another character from play prematurely. For these cases, larps generally employ some set of corrective measures; be they diegetic (e.g. the characters respect the decisions of a leader, who can step in, in character, in case there is a danger of an undesirable development) or meta-game (e.g. a rule stating that character’s injury can only cause death in the last part of the game).

Authors

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