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No Good

All Players Will Be Beaten

by Juhana Pettersson
Mar 04,2003

 

All Players Will Be Beaten

- Juhana Pettersson

I'm walking past a group-hug of young fantasy larpers. I overhear a guy breathe in the ear of the girl next to him, - Do you know what's "I love you" in Quenya?

That's right. I'm at a roleplaying convention, but not just any old get- together. This is the annual pan-Nordic live roleplaying event Knudepunkt, held in Copenhagen, Denmark from Thursday the 13th to Sunday the 16th of February, 2003. Its purpose is to be a forum for the development of the art/hobby, especially as it's understood in the Nordic context. It is held on a rotating basis in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

The bills are still paid by the anonymous horde of teenage fantasy larpers.

It was nice to see that the event is getting more international than ever. There were people from all the Nordic countries, Russia, France, Italy, U.S.A., U.K., Canada and so on.

There are immense differences in larp cultures around the world, so an event like Knudepunkt succeeds in its goal of development often simply by letting people from different countries talk and learn from each other. Roleplaying convention cultures differ too. In a Nordic larp convention the program consists of lectures, workshops and panel discussions about larps and rpgs in general, spiced with things like larp costume fashion shows and the Saturday night gala dinner.

For me the convention was at the end of a longer trip. When you travel from Finland on a budget, it's best to do everything on the same trip. Finland is so out of the way that it takes effort and money to get from Helsinki to western Europe. The cheapest option after hitchhiking, if you want to move around, is probably the InterRail card which allows unlimited train travel for a month in Europe for 400 euros. Unfortunately, it means that Helsinki - Paris takes something like 36 hours. The fact that France has the coolest and fastest trains in the Western World helped a bit. Only Japan can beat them.

After three weeks on the road and the travails of visiting Britain, a society on the verge of infrastructural collapse, civilized Denmark and a couple of days of larp discussions was a good last stop before home. Besides, the Copenhagen metro tunnels are lit with yellow halogen lights set widely apart and the trains have large plexiglass windows on both ends so you can see straight ahead as the train hurtles through the underground corridors. Who needs a rollercoaster after this?

Flesh

One of this year's new ideas was the Week in Denmark. The idea was that international guests could arrive at the start of the Knudepunkt week and participate in larps, see the sights in Copenhagen and so on before the actual event on the weekend. They were housed in the homes of Danish volunteers. By all accounts, it looks like a concept that's going to stick.

One of the features I didn't much care for was the concept of the "intimacy groups". The idea was to divide people randomly as they registered into roughly 20 groups. Each got a symbol. I had a question mark. Others were a snowflake, a NATO sign (!), and a heart. Familiar stuff for Windows users. In the opening ceremony, people were instructed to go to their intimacy group leaders, who had banners. The small groups would then engage in name-learning games and an improvisational larp organising game.

Me and a friend boycotted the concept and got a stern talking to from one of the organizers. It was a confusing experience.

The name of this column comes from the improvised larp of one of the intimacy groups. You can find all the larp presentation spreads, such as they are, from the website. This one reads, in its entirety, as follows (translated from Finnish):

The Helsinki Club
(The Finnish HC larp)
Rules:
(All Players Will Be Beaten)
1. Nobody knows where Helsinki is?
2. Nobody knows where Helsinki is!
- The Manifesto
The Grand Master
The Game of Death

Knudepunkt published a book distributed to all attendees. It collects all the important classics of Nordic larp theory as well as a load of new material, in English. This is the first time such classics as Mike Pohjola's the Manifesto of the Turku School or the Meilahti School: Thoughts on Roleplaying, by Henri Hakkarainen & Jaakko Stenros have been collected in book form.

It's called As Larp Grows Up - Theory and Methods in Larp, edited by Morten Gade, Line Thorup and Mikkel Sander.

The new stuff is interesting as well. In "Play is Political" Johan Sderberg talks about the political dimensions inherent in larp. He notes that one of the reasons larp is in the cultural sidelines is that there's no real money in it. It's not commercial, and therefore not interesting. He doesn't have any comments on games that nevertheless are commercial.

In "Essentials of Project Management" Mikkel Sander goes through the basic principles of making a cooperative project like a larp succeed.

"Role-Playing as Interactive Construction of Subjective Diegeses" is Markus Montola's reply to the Stenros & Hakkarainen model.

The great thing about this book is that you, the reader, can buy it. Email Morten Gade at mcg@ruc.dk.

Decent and Sober

Saturday night found me wandering around the con area, where the bar had effectively spread to cover everything, trying to capture the essentials of the con on film for a friend who couldn't make it. I was sorely disappointed because I missed one of the most iconic images you can have from a con. The image of the shuddering sausage of flesh that is exposed when a slightly plump girl is wearing a corset that's too small. The excess flesh spills out from both ends. The optimal shot would be from behind, of the space between the skirt and the corset.

My friend just has to live without it.

If you want to know the sound of Knudepunkt, go find Pornopolka, by Hedningarna. Some of us are a bit weary of it at this point. For a lot of people, an integral part of Nordic larp cooperation is dancing to Pornopolka, on repeat, for hours on end. At least Kazaa gave me a hit, so it shouldn't be hard.

Among other highlights was a Saturday morning discussion at a cafe in downtown Copenhagen. A lot of people had gone from the con to participate in the Copenhagen demonstration against the war in Iraq. In Denmark, it is illegal to cover your face if you're participating in a demonstration. Breaking the law is rarely this simple. Tired as we were, me and Mike amused ourselves with the legal-illegal-legal-illegal -game (you only need a scarf!) as the Danish-language speeches went on and on.

Some of us continued to the cafe to have breakfast. The discussion soon turned to the ramifications of the helicopter workshop, a men-only Knudepunkt tradition which involves people getting naked in the showers and swirling their limp dicks around like the propeller of a helicopter.

The North American fellow raised the point that, from his perspective, this sounded rather "gay". A couple of old-school helicopter people explained that it's only gay if there's two guys. If there's more than two naked guys in the showers playing with their dicks, it's perfectly straight. In any case, an erection would greatly hamper a good helicopter, althought bit of blood in the erectile tissues does give it a good "bounce".

I had promised to introduce you, the audience, to the tradition of "rpttelyraportti", a convention report in which I'd have focused on the essentials, i.e. sex, alcohol and other drugs. Sadly, this year the event was so pleasant and the alcohol policies so relaxed that people, myself included, ended up behaving in a very civilized manner.

For some reason, when the booze is verboten like last year in Stockholm, we're provoked into elaborate schemes to get drunk and high, end up puking our guts out at six Sunday morning and leave 19 empty Finlandia vodka bottles for the cleaning crew after we leave the con area.

When there's a bar open at all times, as the case was this year, you just pick up a beer now and then and that's it. It was easier for me to get up ridiculously early Sunday morning to take the train to Stockholm to catch the ferry to Helsinki than it had been last year for me to manage the trip from a suburb of Stockholm to the ferry, even though I had a ride.

In a way, it was almost pleasant to get up before anybody else. As is usually the case in Nordic larp conventions, the sleeping arrangements were designed to be as cheap as possible. The con was held in a school in a suburb of Copenhagen, and the people were sleeping on the floors of the two large gym class halls. This year we even had the amazing luxury of actual mattresses provided by the con. There's been some talk of holding the conventions in hotels in the future, especially since people are getting more sophisticated with arranging state, EU and sponsorship funding.

Anyway, it's Sunday morning and I wake up to the sound of muffled, insistent Gollum-like whimpering. Since I have to get up anyway, I rise. Sleeping people are sprawled everywhere, so thick it's difficult to move around. The whimpering sounds come from a couple fucking on the other side of the hallway. The girl is trying to keep quiet. The air reeks of sweat and stale alcohol, but it doesn't bother me. People look happy.

The 2004 event will be held in Finland. It's called Solmukohta, which is Knudepunkt in Finnish.

The official Knudepunkt Denmark site http://www.nordiclarp.org/knudepunkt/

Guess which one is Mike Pohjola, the author of the Turku Manifesto: http://www.nordiclarp.org/knudepunkt/pics/kp03/kp03_day1_016-01.jpg

Zombie, a week in Denmark larp - http://www.fys.ku.dk/~jbruun/KP03/zombie/index.php. Be sure to check out the trailer.

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