OK, we’re nearly there. You’re probably just as tired reading this as I am writing this, but I need to get all those impressions down in writing. We all need closure, right?


Breaking the ice: the author and the theory

America, fuck yeah!

I was very happily surprised to see a whole bunch of americans at Solmukohta. Not only because it’s nice to know they will spread euro-goodness on their way back, but also because I get to say « see ? I didn’t make this shit up ! » to the european larpers I terrified with anecdotes about my larping years in the US. They all seemed like nice peeps, if a bit too apologetic either verbally or in body language, conveying messages like « we know this game may sound lame to you» or « I know I’m using GNS theory and for you it’s obsolete but please bear with me ». As someone who grew up in Paris, i.e. surrounded every summer by loud American tourists, and who works on a daily basis with overconfident Americans, it was pretty intriguing to see them so meek. Rest assured that French larpers played to their national stereotype of speaking French loudly in public and being opinionated just like regular French tourists.


Don’t Touch or I’ll Sue: American Larp as National Metaphor by Lizzie Stark. If US boffer larps are the way they are, i.e. with a heavy focus on being a hero, gaining xp and thick rulebooks, it’s because this enables players to experience of a lot of the American ideals around capitalism, litigeousness etc. It’s aways funny to see european larpers asking questions about US larp, and from a personal point of view to hear more about fantasy boffers in general. I didn’t try those when I was in the US because visually they looked like shit, but I was glad to get a more in-depth look at them. Unfortunately, my biggest fears after watching Monster Camp and Darkon were confirmed by Lizzie’s talk. But as she had both a very good understanding of the hobby and a very smart way to choose angles, I can’t wait to read her book Leaving Mundania.


Social Conflict and Bleed in Role-playing Communities version 2.0, by Sarah Lynne Bowman. Presentation of data from a research paper on conflict in roleplaying communities, its sources, effects and its interplay with bleed. This talk was a warm and fuzzy flashback to my years playing Ravachol, a French Brujah Harpy in the One World by Night Vampire larp network. This game was my larp methadone and provided me with some great moments, but Sarah did a fantastic job at capturing the bitter in- and out-of-game infighting, the hatred, the jealousy, the relationship breakups that happen to the players, not only to the characters. Even her slides looked very World of Darknessy, and I loved the tangent on the Mind’s Eye Theatre combat system. It seems I wasn’t the only one who, after going through one of those of excruciatingly slow games of live chess, decided to drop the whole combat thing and went for social roleplay. While people mentioned that such player conflicts also occur in larp scenes playing one-shot games, I was glad to hear Sarah’s conclusions that yes, long-running Vampire campaigns do encourage certains kinds of conflictual behaviors and foster their bleed in and out of the game. I really need to find the audio file for my «one-shot manifesto » and send it to her.


Beyond the GM by, Emily Care Boss. This talk by the author of Breaking the ice and Shooting the moon, was an overview of the various ways tabletop RPGs are played without a GM, as well as a review of key concepts and vocabulary around the story games scene. Attending this talk was a guilty pleasure as a tabletop roleplayer, because narrativist games have been a hot topic in France and Switzerand for several years. A Swiss forum sort of became the francophone Forge and such games are often covered in French RPG podcasts like La Cellule or, less often, Radio Rôliste. «Narrativist» has actually become a tongue-in-cheek insult whenever someone challenges the traditional way of doing RPGs. So I got my curious fanboy moment to see Emily Care Boss and Jason Morningstar for real, and they seemed like very nice people (I missed Epidiah Ravachol due to the plague, but bought his awesome game Time and Temp a while ago). After the talk, we all played little demos of various games mentioned. Evan Torner explained Fiasco, a game to play Cohen-brothers-style failures, and just the character creation was lots of fun. It is dice- and table-based and consists mainly in building connections between the characters. These are represented physically by writing the results on index cards placed on the table between players, thus creating networked «character sheets». This is a fantastic way to create a group and could definitely be used for more larpy things. To make the whole program item truly Knudepunktian, one of the demoers what Raffaele Manzo, who was loudly setting up his table of Polaris wearing some sort of japanese pyjamas while Emily was talking. I want that Groucho picture Raffu !


Some more Nordic stuff

Breaking the ice: the finnish practice

The Great Player Safety Controversy Panel, facilitated by Johanna Koljonen, with Bjarke Pedersen, Jaakko Stenros and I forgot names. A discussion about what we know, what we don’t know, what works and what doesn’t about player psychological safety in hardcore nordic larps. I hope someone took photos of those flip-charts, as I’ll just put some things I remembered/interpreted. « Cut » and « brake » as safe words don’t work that well, as they may be not used at all or too late. They can even induce more hardcore behaviors, as « it’s ok to go far since the players can always say cut or brake ». But this puts the pressure on the receiver to say “stop”. Don’t we need to put the pressure on the sender to say « is this OK ? Can I go harder ? ». We may have to look to psychodrama who should have the answers for player safety. New word to me was « morkkis », moral hangover, something I definitely experienced after playing Fat Man Down. As a complete side note, this panel added one « victory condition » to my list of « winning larps ». While we say there are no winners in larp, it is funny see what actually gets considered as winning depending on the larp culture. « Winning » a US larp may mean your character beat up the most monsters or became prince of city and survived.  « Winning » a French larp may mean both achieving the largest numbers of pre-generated goals on your organizer-written character sheet (from getting married in-game to solving the murder mystery) and at the same time being considered the best actor by the other players. « Winning » a nordic larp may be being recognized as the player who was the most hardcore, played closest to home, was most affected or even broken by the experience. Different strokes…


Five Things We Lie About in Larp, by Bjarke Pedersen. A nice companion to the previous pannel, again I’ll try to summarize.

  • We have a contract that what happens at the larp stays at the larp. Actually, larps always influence our future.
  • We own immersion. Actually videogames do that just as well, and what about tabletop rpgs, religious ceremonies, or even witness protection programs ?
  • We can larp anything. Actually players cannot play anything, or with anyone. I loved the discussion about 2m-tall people playing hobbits and Juhanna Petersson’s very lucid comment on how he can play about two characters. I think after 16 years of larping I’m in about the same situation.
  • We know safety. How can we say this when « cut » and «brake » are against the first rule of larp which is « never break game » ? Actually, where I play the first rule of larp would be rather « have fun », but I fully agree with that one. I once tried to explain on RPG.net that because of this, larp had in theory a higher potential for sexual abuse than other hobbies but people didn’t really agree with me at the time.
  • We are progressive. But we need a lot of iterations, to know the history, move forward and to contribute.


OK, this whole thing is too long, so I’m afraid there will be a part 4.

Next : all the actual, practical stuff for larp, WTF moments and resolutions for next year !

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9 Responses to Solmukohta 2012 – A subjective recap – Part 3

  1. Baptiste says:

    merci, c’est du bonheur de lire les comptes rendus pour moi.

  2. […] Thomas B’s  Solmukohta recap, he called out Americans for being excessively apologetic about our country and its way of gaming. […]

  3. […] B: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 Evan Torner Annika Waern Rafael Bienia Mike Pohjola Oliver Twinners Story Games Forum The […]

  4. […] several years, independent journalist Lizzie Stark (of Nordic larp talks and Solmukohta fame to the readers of this blog) immersed herself in the US larp culture, from joining a fantasy […]

  5. […] And the world is starting to listen: American larp scholars, journalists and game designers have been taking the road to Damascus. […]

  6. […] of the Solmukohta 2012 talk, triggering the same bittersweet nostalgia of my Vampire larp years in the USA, while still […]

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