Oslo Winterlarps

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Winterlarps in Scout Cabins had a strong impact on nordic larps

Oslo Winterlarps was a concept of quasihistoric larps that would involve reliving the daily life of a certain historic period as central aspect of the frame of the larp. The storylines was often partly mythological marking them as a transitional genrè between the realism of 1942 and Europa and the fantasyfiction of the Oslo Summerlarps of the organisation Ravn and the Nosferatu larps.
Number of participants would range from 50 up to 100 participants.
The average playing time of such larps would be 3 days and 4 nights.
From 1992 to 2002 these would be almost yearly larpevents for the larpers of Oslo.


Early concepts, techniques and perceptions of playingstyles in Norway is deeply rooted from the everyday situations that arise when playing non-stop for days in a forest, living in cabins heated with firewood, making and taking food together as a large family, tribe, clan or ætt.

Pertaining to genderissues in the playergroup, the winterlarps moved the action away from running in the woods into classic home and family situations of negotiating between groups about marriages, resources or religion. Girls were often more clever and conspicious than the young male participants in improvising and driving the interaction between the characters in such situations. These games were a crucial factor for the relative genderbalanced participantgroups of Oslo, and also recruited a majority of the first female organisers of Norway.

Ultimately the traditions among both organisers and participants of the Winterlarps in Oslo made the foundations for iconic larps like the 2nd World War game 1942 to be possible. This is also the case for the westerngames Wanted and Once upon a time.
1942 and Once upon a time are included in the Nordic Larp Book.

Playing style

Being 360 degrees larps these concepts avoided off-game time by for example making it a part of the game to also be in character when in your underwear requiring people to provide seemingly period underwear, nightcaps and the like. Non-diegetic items not belonging to the characters environment was banned from the location. This would include watches, flashlights, cameras, walk-mans and after some years beepers and cellphones. Participant would be in character also when sleeping, when eating, when visiting toilets. This made almost every location an active part of the game. People were at least trying to be in characer when in the toilets, in their sleeping quarters and so forth. Since the cabins would be relativily crowded with people it was viewed as limiting to the game that any indoor location should not be a part of the diegesis. It might not have been a conscious choice of the organisers, but the relatively young playergroup would get so agitated anyway, that it was at this moment in time difficult to upheld a rule of not allowing participants to sneak around other people sleeping, or kidnap people when they went to the traditional outdoor toilets in the dark.

(See the building in this photo to imagine a typical outdoor toilet and gaming location nighttime at these larps: http://www.maion.com/media/b2c56340-3668-11df-9d3e-19590d98061b-outdoor-toilets)


On-site preparations

The evening before the start of the larp participants would decorate their living quarters, get into costumes, make food and be only partly playing their characters. They might do last minute practice of names of related characters. Individually people would be testing the way of talking in-character, and often practice common songs related to the diegesis or the the overall genrè of the larp. More importantly participants would discuss routines like when to wake up, dishwashing, fetching water, maintaining the fire, foodmaking and establish time and reponsibility for common meals and other practical matters. An organiser would oversee this and balance it with the Scheduling and the Storyarc of the larp.


The reason for these historic larps to be held in wintertime was to be able to provide another form of larps that was suited to do in the off-season period of the winter holidays. In contrast to their predecessors, the fantasybased summerlarps cabins needed to be rented in order to be able to handle the cold weather. The summerlarps use of tents or pineshelters was inadequate due to the temperature and the snow. Cabins where rented through active larpers that had connection with the organisations of the Norwegian Scoutmovement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scouting).
Changing the climate and the physical environment from tents and grass, to snow and cabins affected the content and pace of these games.
Many of these larps was played during the Easter Holidays. Traditionally norwegian families go into the mountains and visit old familyowned cabins or farms during the Easter holidays. The cabins often have poor sanitation fascilities, no electricity and is heated with firewood.
These are holidays where the family spends a lot of time outdoor during daytime, and gather around a long table to share common meals evening time. Singing and playing cardgames is often also a part of this holiday. The winterlarps can be viewed as the larpers of Oslos mimicking these traditions into their larptradition.
(Wikipedia article on Nordic Easter Traditions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_customs#Nordic_countries)

Flying Start

  • A Winterlarp usually had a typical element of a flying start. Participants would go to bed out of character with the instructions that the larp will start when they wake up. Often the organisers would stage a scene early morning when everybody were asleep that would wake people up and kickstart the story. This would allow the characters a reason to feel alarmed, and also allowing the players excuses within the diegesis for their character to be confused or insecure about how to react believable in character for the first hours of the larp.

List of Games


Photo here: http://www.laivgalleriet.no/gallery2/v/laiver/ravn/ravn94/album02/vinter_1994_drekka_mer.jpg.html

Tv-report made by the Youthdepartment of the National Broadcasting of Norway (NRK) in 1992 from the first Oslo Winterlarp

Slideshow of photos from The Black Death larp in 1995 -