Physicaility of larp manifesto

In which I argue that without physicality a role playing event is not a larp.

Background to the manifesto: I have come across larpers who design games and then call them larps, because this is the gaming culture they grew up in and learned their trade. Calling it a larp they might get acknowledgement from their peers and also makes it easier to make other larpers try their game. I find this lacks a connection with gaming and role playing history as we rename and rebrand other games or forms of role play as larp. We don’t need to call a game or a role playing event a larp to make it valid. Other forms of role play is valid and entertaining and can tell a variety of stories. But they are not larps and don’t need to be larps.

Intro to the manifesto: Not all good things are larps, larps are not inherently good things. People can larp their way through things that are not larps, or even role playing games. A Role playing experience does not need to be a larp to be valid. Not every role playing experience a larper creates is a larp.

Larp will not save the world.

The Manifesto

A larp is an live action role play event that uses physicality as a way to tell a story and/or give the participants a physical experience. Physical experiences can teach on multiple levels, beyond the cerebral stimulation of an intellectual exercise.

Just as cooking a meal for the first time teaches us things about the recipe using more channels than reading the recipe or talking to a chef or a friend about cooking the meal.

To larp something is to use physicality and role play as a way to enact something.

A larp does not have to involve more than one person, but it needs to involve at least one person, who uses physicality to explore and experience.

“Internal play” might happen at larps, but is not an essential part of larping. Internal play lacks the physicality I argue is an essential part of larping. Without external expression of internal play there is no physicality.


What is physicality?

Physicality is experiencing things first and foremost with your body and senses and not only with your mind. Physical interaction between human beings also takes more than mere communicating information through speech or written information.

The physicality of a larp will not be and on/off switch but a sliding scale. I am arguing a larp needs have enough physicality for it to even be a larp, but I am not saying it needs to have everything listed below.

I will now give examples of physicality.

Physicality of the senses, sensuality.

Looking at many different things and people, not merely pictures or representations of these things or people. Perceiving them with your eyes.
Touching objects and people, perceiving them with touch. Being touched by objects and people, perceiving them as pressure, heat, cold, movement, vibration, texture, pain.
Tasting things and people, perceiving them with taste buds.
Hearing sounds made by objects or by other people or animals, perceiving them with your ears. Acceleration and falling might also fall into this category due to the workings of the inner ear.

Physicality of physical expression:

Relating information about in game events and facts through speech that is formed by what kind of character you are playing. Speaking as your character and not as yourself. Using a body language designed for the character that is not your own.

Physicality of bodily functions:

Eating in game food fitting the setting and the character you play when your character is hungry or choosing to stay hungry because it connects you more with your character. Eating food that fits the larp event. If the participants cook their own food it can be an exercise in physicality to cook the food using fitting methods and utensils.

Going to your characters in game bed when they are tired or postponing going to bed due to the characters having duties. Bathing and showering as your character in a bathroom that is in game or choosing to stay dirty because this is what the character would do.

Physicality of the expression of emotions.
Crying with fluid leaving the eye. Laughing audibly. Showing emotions with your face, relating feelings your character is having or is trying to make other character believe they are having. Showing that your character is experiencing a stomach ache or shaking hands of excitement or anxiety. Having cold sweats or simulating these with other liquids. Being drunk or simulating drunkedness.

Physicality of the body.

Either playing your body type or using physical representations that other players are is sensually able to experience. Such as using pads or prosthetics or a binder to change the gender expression, perceived weight or mimicking a pregnancy of a certain stage. Also simulating a menstrual cycle or tending to a real menstrual cycle using “in game methods” could fall under this.

Physicality of intimacy: Playing on attraction and desire for a character that fit your character sexuality, their sexdrive and their social standing. Seeking physical closeness with the person they desire and striving to enact (out of game consensual) intimate acts using the systems in place for doing so (these might however be void of physicality).

What is not the physicality of larp?

Any meta technique that removes the physical element of an interaction. (this can still be a part of the larp but not the physicality of it) such as resolving conflict through rolling dice or exchanging battle values or playing out intimacy between characters using a non touch technique.

Eating food that is not a part of the larp event, such as power bars at a dark ages fantasy larp.

Finding your out of game partner and being intimate with them when your characters are not intimate.


The grey areas of physicality.

Being dressed as your character if the clothes are something you would normally wear.

Being dressed as your character in clothes so comfortable you forget about wearing them.

Saying things your character would say, but without emoting them differently than you yourself would.

Any visible disability that you might have that you choose to not incorporate into the character. It will affect your own experience of the physicality of a larp while others will attempt to see it as an out of game circumstance.

Addendum:

Larping outside of larp

To larp something is to use the physicality of the body in a physical space and use role play as a way to enact something as someone other than yourself. You can larp your way through menial tasks of your everyday life, imagining you are a maid in another age and adopting the physical characteristics of the character.

You can also larp your way through some board games, although parts will still be representative and not larped.

Non larp role playing events might contain parts that are “larping” without that making the whole event into a larp.Larping can be an ingredient that does not turn the whole event into a larp.

There is also the larping happening outside of larps that is done at so called pervasive games. A larp can also have a possibility for the larpers to leave the larp event and go out into a non larping area for some pervasive gaming. This happens at city based larps such as Vampire where a venue might be fully in game but you can take your character out on the town and play with a smaller group of larpers.

Also there is Alternate Reality Gaming in which might fall under this or under the next title.

Being at a larp without larping

I argue that if a person is merely looking at other people larping, even while dressed in character clothing (clothes donned for the event that are not a part of your everyday clothing) then they are not larping. This is because this lacks the element of role playing. Internal play does not count, as it is merely Shrödingers larper.

At games where certain bodily needs are cared for out of game, I argue that a person seeing to that need, is at a larp but is not currently larping, because of the agreement that such bodily needs are managed out of game.

At Alternative Reality Games, you are usually not donning a character, and is not role playing and I would say not larping. But you might commit to doing physical actions that you would not do outside of the missions of the ARG , making the game have the element of physicality, if not role play.

Larping is something that some participants do during the whole larp event and that some participants start and stop, even if they are not removing themselves to an out of game area. I think this is the reason why some people have a need for out of game spaces while others find them less needful even if they might be practical for other reasons.

A brain in a jar has no physicality in its experiences.
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