Even before I finished this original article I’d realised two things. It was only scratching the surface of the topic and realistically I needed to learn more from the larp community to make something worthwhile.
To that end I posted in UK LRP and Larpers BFF; both on Facebook. My aim was to canvas a wider ranger of views What i got back was so useful, and well thought through that it became important not to lose those thoughts. I’ve already collated the responses from UK LRP in a digest. You can find that here.
What follows are the responses from Larpers BFF.
Some of the points raised here especially from Tom Boeckx and Anders Wänn will need some more thought and quite likely another article.
From Larpers BFF
I am just a bit curious what do you mean by safety consultant in this context “What you think safety is and what a health and safety consultant things safety is could well be two entirely different things.” or safety professional in this one “Don’t forget to a safety professional ”
Do you mean simply a dedicated person to have an eye on this, or does this have a specific meaning in your environment?
Reply:Robert Davies: I do mean having someone to keep an impartial eye on safety. I’ve been to some games where this is a thing and it seems to help. Especially with checking the play area
Sebastian Utbult Here’s what we did for a larp designed with heavy physical larping in mind, and I’d say it’s based on generally the same principles found at many larps here in scandinavia: Workshop (ie training) physical contact beforehand. Especially how to start “lo…See more
Reply: Robert Davies: Thanks Sebastian that’s a really considered approach to the problem.
Reply:Sebastian Utbult: Btw, our larp used “anything you could find that can be used as a weapon”, ie real stuff and no boffer weapons. Forgot to mention that another rule was you couldn’t have physical conflict while someone was armed – you had to find a way of resolving the conflict then and there (and also, remember “biggest weapon controls the situation”), either by yielding, or disengaging or leaving etc. That absolutely doesn’t work for all larps, but I found it worked really well in that specific setting and playerbase, and the rawness of violence/threats made with nailboards or real knives really added a layer of grit.
Reply: Robert Davies: I bet would be a really solid emotional reaction. Very immersive
I’ve found these types of played (physical) conflict work best within a clearly defined rule set, and less so with relying only on trust.
One way of having implemented it in a system-light larp, included having a strength-stat (or toughness, or brawn, or whatnot) that has a rating of let’s say 1 to 3.
All unarmed physical conflict was regulated by a simple rule:
If you initiate a conflict, you put your hand on different parts of their body to show your level of “strength”:
– Wrist = 1
– Elbow = 2
– Shoulder = 3
The opponent responds in kind by placing his/her hand on your wrist/elbow/shoulder to indicate their lvl of strength.
All the rest is logic itself: If you trump your opponent, both parties clearly know who the winner is and act out a mock combat, clearly knowing who is supposed to come out on top. If the difference is more than one, the guidelines/rules encouraged you to exaggerate in taking the beating. In case of a draw, you could mock combat to your heart’s desire, but no one could emerge as a “victor”.
Mass combat simply required you to add 1 to your own level for each combattant on your side.
This still calls for common sense and a good eye for spotting unsafe situations/obstacles, etc… but this is a responsibility all participants at our events have learned admirably.
Reply: Tom Boeckx Just realized this is more of a rules thing, and you weren’t really looking for that I suppose
Reply: Robert Davies I wasn’t looking for rules but this is a really interesting technique – that adds a guide as to how the roleplay should turn out. I’ll have to remember this
I think of boffers/foam-swords as a very widely spread (meta-)technique for playing violence one step away from direct touching played violence. So I read your article as if it was about boffer violence, and it made a lot of sense that way too.
Most of these points are things that I have seen the boffer larp community painfully learn over the decades. And it makes a big difference, boffer fights used to be much more dangerous than they are now. That implies that your points are sound!
(Related: Much of this applies to airsoft weapons in larps as well. Even if I think of their role as usually more simulationist and less meta than boffers. But I suspect it is because I have done some proper historical swordfighting so I notice the huge difference compared to boffers. And I assume that someone with comparable levels of expertise in proper firefights would consider the way airsoft weapons are used in larp as a meta-technique.)
Enough with the boffers and on to more serious stuff: I am missing a very important segment from your article. There are a number of factors that are much more important than rules or the actual physical prowess of other players, when it comes to how safe I feel to partake in/encourage a larp with a lot of aggressive/violent contact and themese:
– Play to win mentality
– Rape culture
(I’m pretty sure this list is longer, these were simply top of my head)
The less there are of those attitudes among the participants, the more confident I am that all is going to go well. Because those are so present in our off culture they will bleed strongly into the larp if left unchecked and unaddressed by organisers.
When I feel safe among the players, when I believe that they truly strive for my enjoyment at least as much as their own, then it is much easier to let down my guard (figuratively and practically) and get seriously involved in receiving a decorative enjoyable beating.
PS: I do not mean that it is within the scope of an article like this to write a guide on how to fix rape culture and sexism in larps. But those are certainly subjects that should be mentioned in a guide about safety and physical violence.
PPS: “teach people to trust” should probably be changed to “teach people to behave in a way that merits trust”. (NB: I’m probably missing some cultural difference regarding “the NPC or Monster crew…”. When I larp I expect the vast majority of my interactions, including violence, to be with other players, not with NPCs.)
“Don’t Expect People to Read the Rules” is my least-favorite thing ever: pre-game meetings going over things I already know are extremely boring and frustrating and I hates them. I don’t know a great solution, though community-wide norms help a lot.
Reply:Robert Davies I hate boring meetings, but have also seen a lot of people turn up with no rules experience. The trick must be not to bore the regulars but make sure the new comers are ok?
“As in the NPC or Monster crew would not be trying to do something they cannot do – after all they have the information on what all the characters are capable of. So go with it.” is entirely inapplicable to New England sports larps: the staff will be expecting the player to decide whether or not to resist, and the combat systems are designed for competition. That norm will depend a lot on what norms staff have created in the game.
Reply: Sebastian Utbult What’s a “sport larp”? I take it it’s not an actual larp about sports, right? 😀
Reply: Beth A-b Right! It is what people have been calling a particular group of larps. They are called “sports” larps because they include competitive physical combat under defined rules sets.
They tend to have narrative arcs over repeating weekends, sometimes for years, use boffers and/or bird seed packets and/or airsoft weapons to play out physical combat, have divided staff/players with primary narrative being players vs. NPCs rather than player vs. player or player with player, and have player characters created by the players rather than pre-written characters.