LARP in Norway

Style

Most (but not all) Norwegian LARPs tend to follow these characteristics:

A significant exception is White Wolf (vampire) larping which is similar to vampire LARPs everywhere, though often played with home-made rules in stead of the “official” system.

Norwegian LARP is very similar to Swedish LARP, and has a few things in common with Finnish and Danish LARP.

Genre

Norwegian nature, ranging from white-tipped mountains to deep blue fjords, from arctic wastelands to the warm south coast, lends itself particularly well to fantasy larping. So it is no surprise that fantasy is the dominant genre, but perhaps more unusual that as many as 50% of the larps during a given year may be non-fantasy larps.

Historical LARPs (anything from Ancient Rome to World War II) are a particularly popular alternative to fantasy. 20s-40s larps with crime themes are quite common, as are present-day satirical larps (an 80s soap opera, a Hollywood movie set). Norway is known for it’s socially aware (or “political”) larps, such as AmerikA? or Europa, though these are infrequently held. Still, there’s quite often a socially aware aspect to Norwegian fantasy larps where cultural and political themes may be hidden in metaphor.

The fantasy larps, come in a large variety; amongst them D&D’ish “forestcrawls” (usually held as simple introductions for new larpers), high fantasy (with plenty of magic and mystery), low fantasy (where peasants plow their fields and dance the summer equinox), battlefields, tribal socities etc. etc.

“City LARPing”, where players use the town as their playground and play anything from Cthulhu-ish conspiracy to the Corleone Family, has become less popular in recent years - perhaps due to frequent encounters with off-game police unable to distinguish between a toy gun and a real one.

There are few “campaigns” in the traditional sense. Many troupes have a standard world where at least one larp every year is played, but the larps may often be set to wildly different places and times in the campaign world - making it impossible to play the same character over several larps. In this sense, most Norwegian larps - even the ones announced as campaigns - tend to be one-shots. The Soria Moria campaign in Trondheim, the country’s oldest, is a notable exception.

The idea of permanent character groups (a group of orcs, a knights order) that play in several larps has never really caught on in Norway, though there is a legion of Roman soldiers based in Oslo and some knights and live steel re-enactors who are loosely associated with the LARP scene.

Demographics

There are somewhere between 1000-3000 active “LARPers” in Norway, meaning people who attend at least one LARP per year and intend to continue doing so.

Age limits are commonly 16 or 18 years, as they have been for a decade. The “median LARPer” is in her mid-20s, though people from the ages of 0 to 90 participate in Norwegian LARPs.

The division is about 50-50 (or perhaps 40-60) between women and men, though some larps and some scenes have a significant overweight of one gender. The Norwegian scene has been noted by our neighbours (especially the Swedes) as a pioneer in gender equality - since many prominent larpwrights and organizers are women. If this is really so, and why, remains a point of discussion.

Regional scenes

The larger cities - Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger, have the oldest Norwegian LARP scenes with the greatest continuity. Regional scenes outside the university cities have had a tendency to appear, disappear and reappear during the last decade. At the moment (2004), there is a fairly active scene in Southern Norway, focused in Kristiansand, and several smaller scenes in the eastern part of the country.

History

LARP in Norway dates back to 1989, when unrelated groups in Oslo and Trondheim organised their first LARPs. During the “formative years” of Norwegian LARP there was a conscious attempt of Norwegian organisers, especially in Oslo, to distance themselves from the anglo-american role-playing tradition in language, method and content. Still, international LARP has had a strong influence on Norwegian LARP. The Trondheim scene visited UK larps before they began organising their own, and the Swedish larp styles have had a strong influence on both the early Oslo and Trondheim scenes. Especially the organisation “Ravn” in Oslo and the organisation “1030” and the troupe “Soria Moria” in Trondheim played important roles in defining, for the gaming subcultures and for the general public, what LARP is.

1994 was an important year. This was the year of “Trenne Byar”, “the Woodstock of Swedish LARP” - many Norwegians went there and came back inspired to do their own LARPs. In Oslo, the launch of the independent Nosferatu chronicle (a fantasy game), solidified the decline of the Oslo club “Ravn” which to begin with had been synonymous with “LARP” - especially to the media.

Vampire larping was viewed with horror by the established scenes when it first arrived, around 1995, but has gradually become accepted, though not necessairly respected, as part of the mainstream larping.

The Bergen scene appeared in 1996, with Stavanger coming along a couple of years later, though these are today nearly as active as the Oslo and Trondheim scenes.

Norwegians organised the first Knutepunkt, probably the worlds first international LARP convention, in 1997. This was also the year when the LARPs “et Vintereventyr” (“a Winter Fairy Tale”) and “Kybergenesis” broke new ground by showing that non-fantasy LARPs could be organised on a large scale. Since 1997, Norwegian larping has been getting increasingly eclectic and diverse.

Another notable year is 2000, when two huge Norwegian LARP projects - AmerikA? and 1942 - caught the attention of many larpers and of the media. AmerikA? was an enourmous trash art village/castle in the centre of Oslo, 1942 an extremely accurate re-creation of life at a West Coast hamlet during the occupation years. The manifesto “Dogma 99 - a programme for the liberation of LARP” was written by a group of Norwegians, most of them well-known larp organisers and activists, though the manifesto remains as controversial in Norway as it is elsewhere.

Organisation

Membership organisations are increasingly rare. In most places, players are not members of any LARP organisations but are often regular participants in larps organized by a specific troupe (or group of organizers). Contact between players is usually maintained through the internet, or institutions like the “larper beer on wednesdays”.

Support groups are playing an increasing role in larp organising, especially in Oslo. Support groups are teams that specialize in one aspect of larp organising (such as logistics or special effects), and cooperate with organizers they like or wish to support.

Norwegian larps receive some government funding through the “Frifond” fund for theatre, which encourages larp troupes to apply, through the national council of amateur theatre, and through support from regional or local councils.

There is no national “federation” of Norwegian larpers. In a recent online poll at http://www.laiv.org, the online meeting place of Norwegian LARPers, the vote was about evenly split on whether a national federation would be a good idea or not. The web portal http://www.laiv.org serves as a central platform for news and communication between Norwegian larpers.

In fact, the dominant trend amongst Norwegian larpers is to be sceptical towards hierarchy and organisation in the larp scene. There are few “LARP celebrities” and no-one who will admit to the existence of “an elite” or “elitist” larpers as in Sweden, Finland or Denmark (this may be denial, but at least it’s a positive kind of denial). The lack of hierarchical organisations means it’s difficult, but not impossible, to identify “leaders” amongst the Norwegian larpers.

In short - if you wish to get in touch with a “representative” of Norwegian larpers, the best thing to do is to post a message at the forum of http://www.laiv.org - http://laivforum.net - where anyone can read and reply to it.

well-known troupes and groups

Trondheim: Soria Moria and Skyggenes Dal organise mostly fantasy. Decadance works in other genres. Arcadia works in both fantasy and alternative genres.

Oslo: Veiskille, Elysium and Amaranth are well-known troupes. The first two organise fantasy LARPs, while Amaranth explores various historical epochs through the lens of the Amaranth clan of nobles. Weltschmerz, a network, organises socially aware LARPs. Ravn, a membership organisation, supports organiser groups through economy and equipment.

Bergen: BFIT, a former membership organisation, is today more of a network and a “brand” of fantasy LARPs. Storm, a troupe, has held a campaign of high fantasy larps.

Stavanger: SLIK, a membership organisation, organises most of Stavanger’s LARPers.

Sandefjord: FĂ«anturi,a memebership organitation, organises larps in Vestforld since 1998.