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Tabletop and LARP

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Dec. 19th, 2005 | 04:15 pm

I know little or nothing about LARPs, but the Nordic LARP community is pretty vibrant and exciting. How do things change analytically if we talk about one or the other form of gaming, or try to talk about all of it at once?

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Comments {17}

James

(no subject)

from: jholloway
date: Dec. 19th, 2005 11:03 pm (UTC)
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I've done an awful lot of LARPing in a number of different formats. In broad strokes, I'd say that things don't change too much when we throw LARPing into the mix; the restrictions of the format (and the format varies very widely from group to group) are probably no stricter than many tabletop groups impose on themselves.

However, I do think there are a lot of interesting questions relating to how we analyze LARPs (and define them, of course -- we had a few "what exactly is LARP anyway" go-rounds on the Forge); there's just so much that it's hard to know where to start. Did you have a specific issue you were thinking about?

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clehrich

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from: clehrich
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 12:05 am (UTC)
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No specific issue, no. It's just that Jiituomas and other Nordic larpers periodically (and rightly) jump on me about making assumptions about RPGs based solely on tabletop issues. Most of my theoretical thinking in RPGs has happened in relation to tabletops as well, in part because the Forge is largely tabletop-oriented. So it seems to me that if RPG theory is going to rethink itself, which is sort of what I have in mind for this blog/list, we need to step well back and ask fundamental questions.

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jhkimrpg

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from: jhkimrpg
date: Dec. 19th, 2005 11:25 pm (UTC)
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Many larps manifestly break the traditional narrative analysis of games -- mainly because there isn't a singular text. In a larp, you have a lot of simultaneous action where an individual player only sees a fraction of what's going on, and thus events occur without everyone involved having input on them.

In contrast, many Forge games (and pre-Forge games like Theatrix and others) are based on emulating static media where there is only a single line of action. A fair amount of theory is also often centered on this -- for example, the idea of a singular Shared Imaginary Space which requires everyone's consensus.

At the same time, I consider it very worthwhile to mix discussion of different gaming formats -- because the different fields often have a lot of input upon each other. If you discuss only tabletop without considering larp, I think there is a danger of becoming dominated by assumptions from linear narrative which aren't actually necessary for roleplaying.

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clehrich

(no subject)

from: clehrich
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 12:10 am (UTC)
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Do you think the SIS concept (shared imaginary space) is nevertheless useful, if the singularity is discarded? I'm sort of thinking of old questions about how cultures "think", the point being that there is very often a notional "common ground" of assumption and agreement (often more contested than is obvious to the participants) that is usually perceived as singular despite the fact that it quite clearly isn't so.

Sorry. Let me try that again.

One of the old questions about cultures (and indeed, one of the founding points about the "culture" concept) is the way in which some kind of imagined agreement and common-ground is formulated and maintained. A great deal of this material gets so deeply absorbed into the fabric of thought that it becomes "naturalized": we take these things to be true because that's just obviously how nature is (but an outside observer may well see that quite a lot of this obviously is cultural and not natural).

Your remarks about larps make me wonder whether we should be thinking about SIS as in some sense analogous, though obviously everyone recognizes from the beginning that SIS is constructed. That kind of approach would obviously discard the notion of linear narrative, as well. But I wonder whether you think SIS is a conception that should be understood as a limiting or even defining quality of a type of RPG play.

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(no subject)

from: my_tallest
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 01:00 am (UTC)
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Just as a side note, in LARP regular play, the singularity of SIS is somewhat lost, but more in that it becomes a fuzzy set. One interesting piece of info about LARPs is the discussion afterwords of what happened among the various groups. In more one-time LARPs, like say, a typical single-LARP con, the SIS may actually fracture into separate spaces where overlap only exists in minor ways, or in the original intent of the organizers. But in extended LARPs, or at something like Intercon, where participants will remeet in other LARPs over the weekend, the shared imaginary space goes through a process of recreating common ground, through that old saw, the No-Shit story.

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clehrich

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from: clehrich
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 01:52 am (UTC)
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Pretend for a minute that I don't know the old saw. What is the No-Shit story?

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James

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from: jholloway
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 10:36 am (UTC)
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A description of in-game events, traditionally prefixed by the phrase "no shit, there I was." In the weekly or twice-monthly LARPs I've played in over the years, what happens is that, absolutely, you get fragmentation into many different mini-games, with only a few players really interacting with everybody. After the game they get together over breakfast and shoot the shit about it. And yes, it makes a lot of sense to consider this as a means of negotiating these different experiences of play into perception of "the LARP" as a single entity.

The other notable thing about LARPs, of course, is that the creaiton of the SIS is usually more or less constrained by the existence of a shared actual space. It's that "more or less" that makes LARP-to-tabletop a continuum rather than a neat divide.

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(no subject)

from: my_tallest
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 02:57 pm (UTC)
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No shit, there I was, and John and Bob were trying to convince me to kill the Grand Master...

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fang_langford

Who Coined the Term Shared Imaginary Space?

from: fang_langford
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 04:57 am (UTC)
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After only a handful of LARP experiences I drew the obvious comparison. The first thing I noticed trying to continue developing Scattershot so that it could be used for LARP as well as tabletop, was that the whole premise of narrative was almost absent. Admittedly, each players has their own narrative, but it was so internalized as to not matter for the purposes of design.

While Lumpley was originating his principle and much Forge discussion began looking at issues of credibility, I was struggling with the fact that LARPs didn't have a narrative to fight over. That's why I adopted the idea of Shared Imaginary Space. Here was something that input went into and in some cases, system designated the results, most of the time though what happened was a result of shared expectation of the source material. And you're right in a LARP, this is very like a miniature - if somewhat artificial - culture. (Is it any wonder that there was something of a one-to-one matchup with the goth-punk subculture?)

I began calling this a Genre Expectation. It was more and more specific than a 'genre,' but seemed as though it had to exist simultaneously in all participants' minds. In the work I was doing, I had to systematize Genre Expectations so they could be communicated as product. I am very interested in pursuing the idea of Genre Expectation as communication of mini-culture.

At some point, I began to think that linearity was an addition to what was fundamentally at the center of RPGing. My progress was interrupted at that point, however.

To be honest, I've hungered for a discussion about the minimum defining elements of RPGs. I even resurrected this <a href="http://www.livejournal.com/community/rpg_theory/>Over at John Kim's rpg_theory LJ</a>. And yes, I believe that SIS is one of the defining qualities of RPG play, if not the defining element. You might expect me to be the crusader of it, but I'm not that way anymore. Fang

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(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 06:32 am (UTC)
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I personally have been arguing that what sets the three main types/platforms (tabletop, including chat and pbem; larp; digital) of role-playing apart is the constructing of the play-space. It's completely imaginary (SIS) in the first, a version of Winnicott's "potential space", made by combining reversed eidetic reduction and constant semiotic re-signification in the second, and a "shared observable environment" (roughly "a representation of a shared virtual space the players interpret as representing a real space") in the third.

For a theory perspective, this is important because what follows is that the mental processes in forming each of them are quite different, leading to the question of whether the mental state of players within them remain similar or not.

Can't say much more at the moment, though. (Core Hermeneutics... will contain a much more thorough version of this, when it eventually comes out.)

Side note: Despite being critical of Chris' tabletop favoritism, I just did a highly successful liminoid-state larp using "Ritual Discourse" as one of its main design tools. So the platforms do overlap in practice, even when theories do not cover the trait differences enough to count as completely accurate beyond their native paradigm or platform.

-Jiituomas

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(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 22nd, 2005 08:27 am (UTC)
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For a theory perspective, this is important because what follows is that the mental processes in forming each of them are quite different, leading to the question of whether the mental state of players within them remain similar or not.

I pretty much agree with JiiTuomas on this one, even though I'm not completely following his examples on the types of play-spaces. In practise, I've observed that the approaches commonly used (in some circles of) Nordic LARP's has very much affected they way we think about and do tabletop roleplaying.

Some notes here:

http://merten.kapsi.fi/rpg/?p=63

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jhkimrpg

(no subject)

from: jhkimrpg
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 06:50 pm (UTC)
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Do you think the SIS concept (shared imaginary space) is nevertheless useful, if the singularity is discarded?

Well, if you discard the singularity, then that brings into doubt the "shared" part. It's certainly a useful concept. This is what the Nordics use the term "diegesis" for -- which is a term from film theory. Alternately, I think it may be helpful to think of Shared Text plus Individual Texts to form Individual Imaginary Spaces.

Another important concept is the idea of the "Shared Space of Imagining" from the Process Model of Role-playing. That acknowledges that there are many things kept in mind about the game which are not themselves part of the fictional reality (i.e. imaginary space or diegesis). The games' rules, for example.

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Jonathan Walton

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from: foreign_devilry
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 01:12 am (UTC)
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Also, chat and e-mail play are rather different beasts as well, as different as LARP is from tabletop. And since there are very few published games designed specifically for chat or e-mail play, everybody figures out how to do it on their own, adapting from published games or just making stuff up.

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Jonathan Walton

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from: foreign_devilry
date: Dec. 20th, 2005 09:15 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that entire community is a piece of perfect ugly beauty. Thanks for sharing, Claire.

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clehrich

(no subject)

from: clehrich
date: Dec. 21st, 2005 12:25 am (UTC)
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Huh. That website is really very odd. I read it, and I can sort of kind of put together what they're talking about, but it all seems deeply alien to me.

I notice a fascination with identifying bad players on the basis of their typing, in particular a constant fury about such contractions as "b4" and "4 u r gr8" and so on. Considering the ordinary level of prose on the site, as well as on the internet in general, I find this peculiar.

I also notice a lot of assumptions about IC/OOC self-presentation. on a related note, it appears that the greatest sin is "god-moding," but I find this somewhat difficult to interpret as "mod" appears to mean both "moderator" and "mode." So I don't know whether the objection is to acting like a moderator or to acting in the mode/manner of a god. But it does appear to mean something like making any kind of assertion about another player's character.

Finally, I was very struck by an angry rant -- much supported by the comments -- about someone who staged a brief combat with another PC. It wasn't exactly clear to me why this had to be staged, but apparently in order to fight someone you have to ask the player's permission first. Having done this and received permission, the PC had the fight... but then, horror of horrors, pulled a switchblade and stabbed the other PC in the leg. This was apparently the ultimate sin, but I cannot figure out why.

Some of the objectors were horrified that the player in question had not done enough anatomical research to know that a switchblade in the leg could potentially have fatal results. The original poster seemed bothered because the stabbed PC was scheduled for a pay-per-view (??) shortly thereafter. Apparently all the mods (moderators, I think?) piled in here, because obviously this was a gross violation and needed a great deal of careful handling.

Anyone able to translate? Since the player whose PC did the stabbing was apologetic, couldn't one simply announce that the stab wound was merely a graze?

Oh -- the link is right here.

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Jonathan Walton

(no subject)

from: foreign_devilry
date: Dec. 21st, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
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Huh. Well, I can't say that I totally get it, but it could be the case (as is common in online free-form play) that only a character's player is allowed to narrate real injury and harm to their character. So Char A could whip out the knife and try to attack Char B, but Char B's player would have to narrate the knife getting plunged into the leg, if at all. Still, their concern doesn't seem to be about overstepping the boundaries of narrative power, but that Char A pulled out the knife in the first place. Or assumed it was okay to just stab another Char in a fight. I don't really get it. The complaints about arteries and looking stuff up just seem silly to me.

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James

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from: jholloway
date: Dec. 21st, 2005 01:38 am (UTC)
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It's "god-moding," that is, playing in "god mode." In video games, this has a particular meaning; here, it appears to mean taking on prohibited director stance.

A quick google informs me that the game with the switchblade is a wrestling game, centered around an imaginary wrestling federation (an "e-fed"). The pay-per-view is therefore an in-game event, scheduled ahead of time, in which being stabbed would make the character unable to participate. A fight in a BtS ("Behind the Scenes") scene, and even a defeat, are both perfectly acceptable, but apparently it is a rule of the social contract that you can't use such an incident to remove a character from an already-planned future scene.

Since the point of the game is the simulation of a "sport," presumably the physical condition of a character is very important, and since (as I think) it is played by post and editing may be difficult, a high value is placed on perfect accuracy and consistency in physical descriptions.

All of which, of course, are subsumed in the attitude that that player SHOULD HAVE KNOWN and is RUINING THE GAME because OUR WAY IS THE RIGHT WAY.

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