Defining Nordic Larp

Defining Nordic Larp

This article is related to a presentation that the authors gave at Solmukohta 2024. Here is a link to the slides. It is a companion piece to The Descriptor Model.

Over the last few months we have both been in many discussions about if ‘Nordic larp’ means anything anymore. Points that have been raised are if it has simply become a regional description, i.e. a larp from the Nordics, as well as if it has any connotations at all or if it is now too broad to have meaning. Another talking point has been what using the term ‘Nordic’ means to players, and how a larp becomes specifically Nordic, rather than using some other clearer terms.

These discussions led to the basis of this talk, and the definition of a model that has become its own article: The Descriptor Model.

A Brief History

The history of Nordic Larp and its definitions is a long and tangled one. Lizzie Stark wrote about it in 2013’s Leaving Mundania, with a resulting discussion where the stylistic elements of Nordic Larp were brought up by multiple people commenting: Immersion, communal storytelling, 360 degrees ideals, or simply that Nordic larp was nothing but nordic larp – larp made in and by the Nordic countries.

Soon thereafter, Jaakko Stenros attempted to define the term in his keynote from 2013: “A larp that is influenced by the Nordic Larp tradition or contributes to the ongoing Nordic larp discourse.”

It was at that time also defined as a term that contained some expectations of the playstyle and content, though these aspects were not necessarily unique to Nordic larp. Jaakko Stenros again:

“A tradition that views larp as a valid form of expression, worthy of debate, analysis and continuous experimentation, which emerged around the Knutepunkt convention. It typically values thematic coherence, continuous illusion, action and immersion, while keeping the larp co-creative and its production uncommercial. Workshops and debriefs are common.”

In 2016, Steve Deutsch went through the various definitions but found them all lacking to some degree, while concluding that no-one knows what Nordic Larp is, and yet we recognize it when we see it.

In 2017, Jaakko Stenros again discussed the concept, where he stated that the label was no longer as useful as it had been. Just as movements in art fluidly ended, Nordic Larp was no longer the exciting thing. He brought up some newly spawned traditions as well as some other regional terms such as “Castle larps”, “Ninaform”, “Southern Way”

He stated: “I’m not ready to declare Nordic larp dead. But as a label it is not particularly useful when thinking about the present, and certainly not when designing the future. However, as a term referring to a historical moment, one that has all but passed, it is practical.”

In 2018 Shoshana Kessock wrote the article “Your larp is not a Nordic larp, and that’s okay”. In it she points out the increased market value of ‘Nordic Larp’ or ‘Nordic-inspired’ in international markets, and cites cases of how it is used in the US to distinguish itself from local larp traditions.

She writes: “‘Nordic-inspired’ games are the fusion food of the larp world, considered pretty trendy, attention-grabbing and fun. Fusion is sexy, it’s mysterious: what can this combination create, bringing together the best of both worlds for something we’ve never seen before.”

The post discusses a rift between the US larp scene and the Nordic label, and warns about the dangers of devaluing local scenes and traditions.

Halfdan Keller Justesen also published a video titled “What even is Nordic larp” in 2024, discussing the term Nordic Larp and its value. The points raised in the video are, among others: a focus on the styles common in Nordic larp, and the fact that Nordic larp can be used as a definition to attract people who like Nordic larp.

Of course many others have theorized about the subject, but this is a quick overview of some of the discussions of the last years’ discourse.

A photo by Karin Källström from the larp Love and Duty by Atropos and Lu Larpová. A larp about generational trauma, social realism, and societal expectations.

A photo by Karin Källström from the larp Love and Duty by Atropos and Lu Larpová. A larp about generational trauma, social realism, and societal expectations.

Why Do We Want to Talk about Nordic Larp?

So with this brief history in the back of our minds, why do we specifically want to talk about Nordic Larp? Well, this is in part due to a number of people claiming that the term no longer has any meaning. And we do agree that the meaning is hard to pinpoint and that the concept of Nordic Larp has become diluted over time, and especially with an increased knowledge of other traditions and playstyles. However, that does not mean that the concept of Nordic Larp is irrelevant.

Continuing with this article we need to first establish why we think the term still is relevant, and after talking it through it has boiled down to this. It is relevant:

  • Because it is used
  • Because it still has meaning
  • Because those who belong to the Nordic larp tradition see meaning in discussing it

This made us start looking at different websites to see if what we believed was actually true. Was the term still being used, and did it have meaning?


By looking through some larp websites we were able to see how ‘Nordic larp’ and affiliated terms were used today. The first thing we saw was that a number of websites actually use the term ‘Nordic Larp’ to describe their larps. Some examples of this are: The Circle, Midwinter Revisited, The Future is Straight, Love and Duty, Sunkissed Affairs, Spoils of War, Mad about the Boy, and many more.

On top of this, many larps outside of the Nordic countries use either affiliated terms like ‘in the Nordic tradition’ or ‘Nordic inspired’, or the term ‘Nordic Larp’. Some examples of this are Shattered Sanctuary (UK), Blankspace (Germany), Together at Last (UK, taking place in the Netherlands), Ultimate Football League (France), Fracture (US), The Last Supper (UK).

There were however a number of larps that could be considered Nordic Larps, that did not use the term on their websites, such as: Daemon, Gothic, Forbidden History, and Dollars & Nobles. They all shared the following traits: Predominantly Nordic designers, sharing the most common stylistic elements associated with Nordic Larp, and by people who have been active and visible on the Nordic Larp scene (through the KP/SK tradition and/or through other larps that have used the term).

Finally, we saw quite a few examples of larps instead using the terms blockbuster or “international larp” to describe the larp on their websites. Examples of this: Charmed Plume Productions (Meeting of Monarchs, Dawn at Kaer Seren, Heirs of the Dragon), College of Wizardry, Poltergeist Larps, and more. Very few of these had predominantly Nordic designers, if any, and many of them had their roots in multiple non-Nordic countries.

So, just from these observations it seems that the term is deliberately used on some websites, and deliberately not used in other cases, which brings us to the question: When do you actually want to use the term ‘Nordic Larp’?

When Do You Use the Term?

We tried to think of a few times when using the term ‘Nordic Larp’ makes sense while promoting your larp, and actually changes the view of the larp based on this term. Some of the things we came up with were:

  • If your larp is NOT implicitly placed in the Nordic Larp tradition by association. For example, there is a difference between a Nordic fantasy larp and a fantasy larp, and a Nordic vampire larp compared to a regular one.
  • If you are seeking to make a different kind of larp from the ones you might normally be associated with. Perhaps you usually make rules-heavy larps and want to signal that this will be different.
  • If you think that the people who’d find your larp would understand it better if it was described as Nordic-inspired or even Nordic.
  • If you are trying to establish yourselves as Nordic Larp designers and approach the Nordic Larp crowd.

Of course, you can also use it out of habit, either because you are from the Nordic countries or because you mainly make what you would classify as Nordic larps.

Is Nordic Larp an Ad?

The idea of Nordic Larp as an ad, a commercial for the larp using the term, is something akin to what Jaakko Stenros said in his keynote speech in 2013, and what dozens have said after that as well. It’s simply a label you put on in order to market your larp. A commercial. It is used to tell your prospective participants some things about your larp, and hopefully attract people, and the right people to the larp.

But is it really an ad?

We would argue not.

Nordic larp is too wide a term to easily define, and contains a lot of different assumptions. Some examples of this could be: Few rules, that there will be pre-larp workshops, few mechanics, and some cultural connotations when it comes to playstyle and a play-to-lose/play-to-lift mentality.

But those things are often shared by other traditions, larp cultures, and even larp styles. They are not unique to Nordic Larp. They might be accurate, but you could replace ‘Nordic Larp’ with many different international styles and the same would apply.

Is Nordic Larp an AD?

Instead we want to make the case for Nordic larp being an A.D., an audience descriptor, which is one of the bases in our Descriptor Model.

An audience descriptor targets the intended audience and participants of a larp. In this case it can be used to:

  • Target a specific audience (People who like Nordic larp).
  • Tell prospective participants what kind of co-participants they can expect (People who go to other Nordic larps or are interested in them).
  • Give people an idea of the styles and preferences that the others at this larp will be familiar with or prefer, or what the organizers expect of them.
  • Place oneself in the Nordic tradition and discourse.

In this, we use audience in the traditional meaning of “target audience” for marketing or promoting your larp, not in the theatrical meaning where the audience would be onlookers or passive enjoyers of the larp itself.

A photo by Carl Nordblom from Club Inferno by Atropos. The Androids larps are in part about the feeling of eating noodles in the rain.

A photo by Carl Nordblom from Club Inferno by Atropos. The Androids larps are in part about the feeling of eating noodles in the rain.

So, What Else is Nordic Larp?

‘Nordic Larp’ can also be used to describe the style of larping. One thing to remember here is that multiple styles can have the same associations to them. So while ‘Nordic Larp’ does say something about the expected playstyle of the larp, it does not do so in ways that are unique and not shared by other traditions. Many styles of larping include workshops for example, as well as meta techniques, collaborative larping, and a play-to-lose/play-to-lift mentality. But the term ‘Nordic Larp’ does come with a lot of these cultural connotations, and can therefore be used to signal this, just like some other traditions might have similar connotations.

‘Nordic Larp’ can also be a Gateway. If people in your community have heard about Nordic Larp as a concept and want to try it, then you can attract a broad group of people to your larp simply by labeling it as Nordic. This could for example be what has happened when the concept has been exported to other countries and continents, including the USA.

Our Personal Reasoning

As designers for Atropos we have made a lot of larps and consider ourselves to be Nordic Larp designers. However, it has often been a conscious choice to include the term ‘Nordic Larp’ on some of our websites. Perhaps this could help illustrate what we mean.

Love and Duty is a grimdark, realistic regency larp. It is played in Germany and includes the term ‘Nordic Larp’ to describe it. The reasoning behind this is that many regency larps are lighter in mood and center on Austenesque romance. Using the term ‘Nordic’ signals that there will be more of a focus on realism and consequences, rather than a rosy romance story. Since the larp is also played in Germany, we wanted to signal both that parts of the organizing team would be from the Nordics and that it was distinct from the German larp traditions. In this, we primarily use it as an audience descriptor and secondarily for its style associations.

It was a deliberate wording in order to better set the expectations of the larp.

The Forbidden History is a dark academia larp set at an elite college in 1986. It is about friendship, discovery, and the search for the sublime. The website does not use the term ‘Nordic Larp’ to describe it, even though we would absolutely consider it a Nordic larp. The reasoning behind this is that using the term ‘Nordic’ does not actually change the meaning of anything on the website. We already describe the playstyle, and what players can expect, and with our pictures, testimonials, and words we already set the tone. It was not a conscious design choice but rather an act of omission, illustrating how firmly entrenched it is in our own reading of it as a Nordic Larp. Even so, we see no reason to change it – using ‘Nordic Larp’ would not distinguish it further. Unlike Love & Duty, there is no established style for this kind of larp, nor is there a geographical association. Thus, we do not need to contrast it against anything, which is one of our primary uses for the term ‘Nordic Larp’.


‘Nordic Larp’ as a term has not only survived since the debates of the early 10s but has also remained useful and frequently used. It remains useful for many outside, where the implicit assumption is that larps are not Nordic. There, it is used to both communicate what their larps are, and what they are not, often using ‘Nordic inspired’ rather than ‘Nordic’.

In the Nordics, it is used to get away from genre assumptions (compare “A high fantasy larp” with “A Nordic fantasy larp” and the associations you get), it is used to signal a commitment to being part of the Nordic tradition, or to set you aside from the other local scenes (particularly when the larps are played in the local language).

‘Nordic Larp’ can be used as an audience descriptor, a style descriptor, and a way to tie your larp to cultural and geographical larp traditions or contrast with them.

As such, ‘Nordic Larp’ has a function. It still signals something to the public. These things might not be unique, or they might have other equivalents within other traditions, but to participants it still says something. Many associations with ‘Nordic Larp’ can help to define it more concretely, but local communities might disagree on if those things are actually universally Nordic.

Since different national styles tie into the Nordic term, there might be contradictions within it. For example, is Nordic larp highly transparent? The Finnish larp community might not agree with this. Is it light on mechanics? Well, not if you ask the people who include a lot of meta techniques. Does being from the Nordics make you a Nordic larp designer? Well, the people who organize fantasy larps, vampire larps, and rule-based scenarios would not necessarily feel at home in that definition.

Perhaps the solution to using the term ‘Nordic Larp’ in regards to your own creation is to also define what that means for you, and to communicate that to your public. Otherwise you risk people having very different ideas of what it entails, which can cause unnecessary misunderstandings. But that doesn’t mean that the term doesn’t have any meaning, just that it might include contradictory meanings at the same time, just like many art and literary movements. Defining what ‘Nordic Larp’ means to you as a designer might also help create a broader definition in the future, as some scholar could use a birds-eye view and find the similarities and differences in people’s different takes on the term.

Cover image: Photo by Carl Nordblom from Lord of Lies, by Atropos. Lord of Lies is a larp about trying and failing to be a satanic sex cult in 1950s America.

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Petra Lindve has been organizing larps since 2017, writing for larps since 2016, and larping since 2014. She is a member of Atropos and has organized, among others, the Androids larps, Love and Duty, and The Forbidden History. Outside of the larp world she works as a print editor, and values clear communication and defined expectations.
Simon Lindman Svensson (born 1984) is a Swedish larper, larp designer and writer. He has a background in history and religion studies and holds a great interest in systems and social dynamics. He is one of the founding members of Atropos.