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a larp by any other name would smell just as sweet

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Dec. 31st, 2016 | 01:41 am

Lately there been another discussion on whether high profile larps should be called larps (promoting and adding value to that term) or another term, perhaps situated it as a type of theatre. Some people prefer to apply to the term 'larp' broadly to rasie it's value, but that is also eroding it's meaning (if they succeed, it will become a largely meainingless buzz word, like 'immersive').

Coming at this from a slightly different angle, I've been in discussions on this topic earlier this year in which people referred to such high profile event as 'College of Wizardy' as not-larps; shorthand for 'on the spectrum of cosplay to larp, they are closer ot the cosplay end than other events'

The crucial point is that role-play (tabletop and live) refers to playing characters in a shared diegetic space, with (some attempt at) causality and coherence. Events with the playstyle such as CoW (or indeed Inside Hamlet) explicitly do not even attempt to achieve causality and coherence (and actively violate it). For this reason, formally they are not actual role play events. (which does not mean they are 'bad' or 'not fun'). In Tolkien's terms, they are not exercising the power of sub-creation.

Causality : cause and effect appropiate to the setting applies.

Coherent : logical and consistent.

On a related note, to my mind this is why adult roleplay is of a fundemental different quality to child's pretend play - (young/most) children lack the power of sub-creation, the ability to imagine internally consistent coherent worlds. In pretend play, the setting is constantly in flux, in a way it is not with adult character role-play. For this reason, these are different things, not the same thing of different sizes.

Larp as a medium has a natural predisposition to support this, because it makes use of physicality and 'distributed processing'. For example, court intrigue is extremely different to simulate in tabletop (the GM has to track every character's knowledge, beliefs, goals, etc. and their off-screen interactions with each other) but much easier to do in larp (each player just plays their character, and events unfold naturally).  Design that disregards causality is actually working against the strength of the form.

(Note: I'm dealing with definations here, not how you should advertise or explain your event).

For that reason, I think it's correct to not refer such events that purposely disregard casuality and coherence as larps, and instead using some other term. 'Interactive theatre' would be good, but now has other meanings attached to it. I might suggest 'first person theatre' or 'live action pretend play'.

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Comments {2}

Fair Escape ✨

Causality and Consistency

from: FairEscape
date: Jan. 1st, 2017 10:22 pm (UTC)

I haven't actually played CoW, but I have played New World Magischola, and if I understand it correctly, I believe they have very similar premises, mechanics, style of RP, etc. and I can't recall either CoW or NWM explicitly advertising themselves as lacking coherence or causality, nor did I feel like either was violated during play. Can you explain a bit more about what you mean by this? I also cosplay a little bit, and I felt like NWM was very much LARP and not at all like cosplay.

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Re: Causality and Consistency

from: larp_musing
date: Jan. 1st, 2017 10:45 pm (UTC)

I'm using this review as a source:

"That any player can generate “truth” is ok, as far as it goes. And everyone is encouraged to leave this stuff as open ended as possible, to allow others to play with it. Generally, the style of play, co-operative and collaborative, meant that this worked ok. But with a massive diversity of play styles from a global player base, there are always going to be fudges and compromises. “A wizard did it” is fine; but after a little while it would be nice to have the odd objective truth lying around. "

Focusing on causality, suppose someone does something. In a simulationist larp, the principles of causality would apply - the outcome would be what would be 'accurate'/'realistic' to the fiction. In a narrativist/dramatist larp such as CoW, the outcome is decided by what (subjectively) some players (not characters) feel would make the best story/drama.

Note I'm not saying there are 'like cosplay' just 'closer to cosplay than some other events.'

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