Q: What is the purpose of this blog?
A: It’s part brain dump, part research notes. My goal is to gather all if this in a book as soon as possible, but I also understand it might take for ever, and life might get in the way, and in that case it would suck that if this stuff was not gathered anywhere. ALSO, I feel like I owe it to my community, who fundamentally are the source of this information anyway. ALSO, I kind of owe it to myself, my family and my colleagues to have some structure around my games stuff so I don’t burn out, and a blog will help me schedule the work. And might support it too, if you’d like to pledge a dollar on Patreon, in which case thank you!
Q: Who is this blog for?
A: Anyone interested in making live role-playing games better (so probably a larpwright/larpmaker/larp organizer, or a player of larp). It will also be useful to anyone making any kind of participatory art or experience, but this blog is just going to take for granted that you know what larp is. I’ll try to write in a general way that is useful regardless of what larp culture or design tradition you work in. (If I don’t, give me a holler!)
Q: You seem to be starting with fundamentals. I need some practical advice NOW!
A: Check out the Resources page.
Q: Are you describing or dictating good safety design practice? A.k.a, is this blog descriptive or normative? Also, what perspective are you writing from?
A: As for descriptive/normative, a bit of both. I do try to be clear about when I talk about what is common and when I talk about what is good. Most larps are really good at some aspects of this stuff and terrible at others. As for my background, I started larping in Finland in ’94 with fantasy and cyberpunk games and got involved in the then-nascent Nordic Larp community in 1997. I am super engaged in the “Nordic” tradition, which today involves 20+ countries, and passionately curious about every other kind of larp. Professionally, I work with experience design and transmedia (among other things), which also structures my thinking about larp – although to be honest, my thinking about larp structures my thinking about those other things more.
Q: Are you trying to forbid everything that’s fun or exciting?
A: Absolutely not. In fact, my design tradition is (among many other things) very invested in making naturalistic, often physically demanding, high-intensity, low-simulation games about dark topics for adult players. I don’t necessarily want to play those kinds of games myself, but I want them to be able to exist AND to be safe for the players – by “safe” here I mean both “not actively dangerous” and “designed in a way that allows the participants to make active choices about their own experience”.
Also, and this is important, I do want larp organizers to act responsibly, because the way the world works, each and every one of us potentially affects how larp is perceived in the world. Every design choice you make might affect a larper’s employability in the American Midwest, or get another one kicked out of university in Belarus, or threaten somebody’s small business running youth larps in Denmark. This responsibility sucks, but it’s there.
The good news is that good safety and trust design will also make your larps better to play! As I will say many times in these pages, you have to feel safe to act brave. (And since larping involves playing together and trying new things, bravery is totally a requirement).
Q: Who died and made you the arbiter of good larp safety?
A: No-one died, so far, which is good news for the larp community! Basically, what happened is someone asked me a question I couldn’t answer, and the way my brain works I can’t ever let that go. So then I asked maybe a hundred really smart people and read and thought a lot. As for why trust me specifically, you can make up your own mind, and you’re free not to take my advice. 😀
But I do have some larp theory chops and a history of describing and systematizing larp design practice in a way others have found useful. Some of my games writing is here, but you’re better off with the selections in the suggested anthologies under videos and links.
Q: Why do you call this blog safety in larp, when you don’t like the term “larp safety”?
A: It’s an established term. But when I talk about “larp safety”, I mean both actual safety issues (bears, fire, dehydration) and things commonly known as larp safety, which are mostly not about dangers at all, but more about stuff such as playing nice together (“calibration”), dealing with emotional reactions to interesting stories, or not allowing your games club become a toxic social environment outside of the game.
Q: Can I use your stuff for my larp? Will it make my larp safe? Will you guarantee that?
A: Yes, of course you can use it, that’s why it’s here! But just copying tools or practices really won’t make your larp predictably safe, because safety and trust systems are SYSTEMS. This means all the parts – your game design, your larp culture, your briefings, your rules – interact with each other to produce different results. For this reason, I obviously can’t guarantee anything specific (hell, I can’t even reliably predict what will happen in games I’m involved with until we’ve tested each thing a bunch of times).
What I can promise is that thinking about this stuff in a systematic way will help you design better safety and trust systems for your games.
Q: What will you do with your hypothetical money from Patreon?
A: Well, first I’ll pay taxes, because I live in Sweden where our taxes fund free healthcare, free education through to the PhD level, and generous arts funding. Then it’ll contribute to my rent probably. I also dream of buying a stylus for my iPad because the diagram I drew with my finger was not visually super convincing.