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A brief introduction to larp

Hwæt newcomer, welcome to Avalon.

We appreciate that you might have come this far without knowing how to play a larp, or even knowing what it is for that matter. So I am going to do my best to explain it shortly. My name is Halfdan, and I have been larping as long as I can remember.


In its essence, larp is when a group of players come together and interact while pretending to be someone else; it is a structured form of ‘playing pretend’.


Photo by Emma Öhrström Wedberg: Halfdan at Tale of the North Wind, May 2019

In a larp event, you as a participant will portray a (fictional) character doing what we call role-play. Basically, you will receive a character description (or be asked to make one yourself) and based on your interpretation hereof; you decide everything the characters says and does. There are no lines to learn or hard scripts to follow. In most larps the organisers will provide narrative elements for the characters to interact with, these are called plot. When you and all the other characters come together and play, you do what we at Avalon Larp Studio (and others) call story-making.


When we are engaging in this pretend reality, we all agree to play by a set of rules. They will dictate how we should interact with each other and how we represent things that aren't real. That is right, in larp, we bend reality. When we all buy-in to the dude in a big foam troll suit and pretend they are a troll, they become one. We call this the magic circle, a place where normal rules don’t apply.


Within the magic circle, we can do all kinds of things. If our characters can do things that are inhumanly possible, we can represent those through mechanics. So when I chant the words “ice-crystals ice-crystals - FREEZE!” and you then stand entirely still for 2 min, it is as if I have cast a paralysing spell on you, and just like that we have a spellcasting mechanic. Some mechanics allow player-to-player communication without breaking character play; these meta-techniques are used to enable real-time calibration, determining where the play can go and where it most definitely shouldn’t. If used correctly, they help us create a safe environment and a healthy culture of play.


Larps can be powerful; they can move, change and transform you. They can be a catalyst of a self-discovery and tool to explore sides of yourself. You only had a vague idea were there. However, tread carefully, the life inside a magic circle can also yield a negative impact. Make sure you feel secure in the topics you are exploring. Most high intensity larps have safety measures in place, don’t be afraid to use them.


To me, larp is something I do for myself; it is empathy with my character, which leads to portrayal, then embodiment, and on occasion immersion: when I feel what the character feels and we seamlessly become one. Expression of the self through the character, and exploration of the same by taking part in stories I would never experience in real life.


For now, I hope that clarifies what larp is to me and maybe how to do it? If you want to learn more about larp, I suggest you get your hands on ‘Larp Design - Creating role-play experiences’ or jump on to the website.


Whoever dies with the most stories, wins!

Halfdan Justsen
Avalon Larp Studio.

Photograph by Nadina Dobrowolska, Horseradish Studio

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