Naked at Nordic Larp

Naked at Nordic Larp

Disclaimer: We understand and respect that nudity is not for everyone, and it is certainly not for every larp. There are several reasons to not feel comfortable being naked, or being around naked people, and that is perfectly alright. However, in this article we will focus mainly on our positive experiences of nudity in larps.

This article is written from the perspective of two people with fairly similar experiences and relations to nudity: we are both Swedish, and in our cultural context there are situations (sauna, public changing rooms and the occasional skinny dipping in secluded natural lakes) where naked bodies are completely ordinary, undramatic and usually not sexualised. While we both exist somewhere on the genderqueer spectrum, we are perceived by the outside world as women, and politically identify as women. Since societal beauty standards often contribute to how people feel about showing their naked bodies, it is relevant to mention that we are both able-bodied, and fairly average-looking. Karin is fat, whereas Julia is pear-shaped and of average weight.  Whereas it would be interesting and helpful with more diverse perspectives, they would not fit within the scope of this article.  In any case, it is our firm belief that all bodies are suited to being naked in larps, no matter how close or far they are to living up to societal beauty standards. We hope to include more diverse voices and opinions in this discussion in the future. We  would like to see more people writing from different perspectives about their own experiences with nakedness in Nordic larp.

Why be naked at larps?

Nakedness in larps is usually not sexual. If we want to be sexy or sexual at larps, we will usually go for a costume that is sexy. In none of the situations where we have been naked at larps, or witnessed others’ nudity, has it been particularly sexy. Instead,  nudity has made us feel other things, including, but not limited to: vulnerable, powerful, fearful, otherworldly, small, confident, helpless, innocent and natural. Provided it makes narrative and dramatic sense, we have  found that being naked or witnessing nudity can make a scene much more intense and immersive, and result in a more impactful experience. 

In  The Forbidden History Julia played a scene involving a ritual with her character’s friend group. The beginning of the ritual was emotionally taxing. The characters tore into each other and pointed out and criticized each others’ weaknesses and insecurities. After this, the characters were each, in turn, undressed and gently bathed and washed by the others. The stark contrast between the sting of the cruel words and the tenderness of being washed gently, was made all the more palpable by having barely any clothes on. Being undressed and physically exposed, after being emotionally exposed by the cruel words, complemented and enhanced the emotional impact of the scene. This offers a clear example of how nudity can deepen immersion and imbue a feeling of vulnerability

In, off or if?

For many of us larpers, costume is an integral part of how we embody our characters. Through costuming we can  modify our appearance and make ourselves look prettier, uglier, more athletic, majestic or however else we want our character to look. We may do this to distance our own identity from that of our character, or to adapt our appearance to fit a character physicality different from our own. Costuming provides cues for ourselves and other players on how our characters should be perceived and reacted to, and aids in immersion for ourselves and the players around us. Without the camouflage of costume, our nude body offers little separation between our own appearance and that of our characters, and few prompts for how our characters should be understood. One could argue that our bodies, once in costume, are ‘in-game’ and that being out of costume signifies we are ‘off-game’.

We find this argument limiting. In the same way that being out of costume could signify we are ‘off-game’, when naked, there is nothing to signify that we are anyone other than the characters we are embodying. Most characters are also in possession of a naked body beneath their clothes, and this body can be represented by our own naked bodies just as easily as their attire can be represented by our costumes. Clothing or costume is not the only way in which we embody characters. Elements such as make-up, accessories or mannerisms can be just as effective in portraying elements of our characters, and their effect is even more profound when adorning an otherwise naked body. 

Karin first came to this realization when re-running The Witches of Ästad Farm (Sweden 2016). She describes the scene, in which nudity at first appeared to be just a solution to a practical problem, but ended up being an important part of the experience: 

A character summoned the mythical Morrigan (a figure from Irish mythology, appearing as a crow, and often portrayed as a trio of sisters). We as crew wanted to do the scene, but did not have fitting costumes available. After some consideration I exclaimed that ‘being naked is always in-game’. We decided The Morrigan would arrive with two of their aspects as ravens who would shapeshift into human form. As ravens naturally do not wear clothes, neither would we. We used grease paint to create black wings on our backs and adopted weird, otherworldly and bird-like behavior as we ‘landed’ alongside Morrigan at a midnight ritual on that chilly autumn night. The only prop used was an apple, which we tossed between us and then to the other players

In some situations, nakedness in larps is for practical reasons, and has no strong part in play. A typical example of this is in Swedish fantasy larps, where it is not uncommon for people to cool off by skinny-dipping in a creek or lake. In these situations, the naked bodies are viewed as neutral, undramatic, and these situations sometimes have an air of “if” (the liminal space between in-game and off-game). Important scenes rarely happen in these situations, and players usually do not feel deep immersion and emotions. 

Vulnerable, yet protected

The experience of being naked, whilst those around you are clothed, can be particularly affecting and enhance the psychological and emotional state of our characters. In Libertines (Denmark 2019)  Julia’s character was forced to undress by her oppressors, admit to humiliating things she was accused of, and then sit down to dinner, still naked. Being completely naked in this situation made the scene extremely immersive – the oppression felt much more threatening, and the small acts of kindness and compassion deeply moving. It was an incredible way to experience vulnerability, to let the larp come up close and personal.

However, in our experience being naked also has a sort of protective effect. When a person is wearing little or no clothing, any kind of physical contact feels more intimate or intrusive. As a result, other players tend to avoid touching you, or at least do so with more forethought and deliberation that they might otherwise do. 

This effect also works in tandem with the ‘underwear rule’ that is used in many larps, especially those that have techniques for sex scenes that are realistic looking (such as theater style sex). The underwear rule says that you must be wearing at least underwear when playing out a sex scene. As a result, we have felt quite safe when being naked at larps, because we know that it will act as a clear signal that other players should not engage in sex scenes with us until we are dressed again. 

Liberating and empowering

So far, we have mainly focused on the short-term effect larp has on the experience of the larp itself. However, it is also relevant to explore the effect it can have on our off-game experiences of our own bodies. Overall, our naked bodies are only relevant in our private lives either as neutral (when we are bathing or changing, etc.), and in intimate situations. We often view them with critical, evaluating eyes, gauging our fitness or attractiveness. We rarely have opportunities for our naked bodies to take up space without being judged or evaluated. In larps, it is possible to create such a space, and to reap the benefits even after the larp is over.

The larp community consists of individuals with all sorts of body types, genders and sexualities. Acceptance of differences, and recognising people as they wish to be recognised, is a behavioral norm amongst most larpers, and an intolerance to any sort of -phobic or body-shaming comments is often written into the rules and policies of larps. This openness has made larp events ideal places to experience the ‘sauna effect’ on how we view our naked bodies. 

The ‘sauna effect’ is said to happen when you regularly go to spaces where people with a diversity of bodies are naked and relaxed, such as saunas or gym changing rooms. Working to become comfortable in these settings, and normalizing nudity in neutral and non-sexualised settings can have a positive effect on our self-image and mental health.  

The ‘sauna effect’ makes us feel that naked bodies are quite normal, that we can relax and be ourselves, that nakedness is not something to take much note about. However, being naked at larps can also have a completely different, but equally empowering, effect on how we view our own bodies. It can offer the opportunity for our naked bodies to take up space in dramatic and impressive ways, allowing us to feel powerful or otherworldly in our nakedness – a feeling that we rarely experience in everyday life. We can tell you from experience, that despite the risk of ending up scratched and bruised, running naked through the woods, screaming and cursing can be a surprisingly raw and healing experience.


The Forbidden History (2018): Poland. Atropos Studios

Libertines (2019, 2020): Denmark. Atropos Studios and Julia Greip

Witches of Ästad Farm/Häxorna på Ästad Gård (2016, 2017, 2018): Sweden. Karin Edman & Alfhild Thörner.

This article has been reprinted with permission from the Solmukohta 2024 book. Please cite as:

Edman, Karin, and Julia Greip. 2024. “Naked at Nordic Larp.” In Liminal Encounters: Evolving Discourse in Nordic and Nordic Inspired Larp, edited by Kaisa Kangas, Jonne Arjoranta, and Ruska Kevätkoski. Helsinki, Finland: Ropecon ry.

Cover photo: From Witches of Ästad Farm.

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Karin Edman works full time with game culture for adults, and thus is one of few Swedish “professional larpers” with the privilege to have organized two of their dark and sapphic larps professionally. She runs a blog about larp theory and is published in several KP/SK books. They focus on queerness, physical experiences, disability, and body acceptance. Edman is a talented project lead and communicator with a master's degree in Library and Information Science. Pronouns are she/they interchangeably. Karin’s blog can be found at
Julia Greip (b. 1992) is a Swedish larper, writer, designer and organizer (best known for Pleasing Women, Stenrike and Libertines). The fine line (or long jump) between social realism and the sensually divine makes her tick. She is passionate about historical undergarments, meaningful eye contact and finding what truly connects people. She has a B.A. in behavioral sciences. She shares reflections on larp and other relevant subjects on the blog Flickers: