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LARP in Denmark - interview with Claus Raasted

Petra Sabljar, who runs LARP Hrvatska blog, did an awesome interview with Claus Raasted, a high profile Danish LARPer. As you might or might not be aware of, Denmark pretty much equals paradise if you're a LARPer, as it's the only country in the world where LARP not only comes close to football in popularity, but actually beats it, with the number of active LARPers being somewhere in the six-figure range. (!!!)

While the interview published on LARP Hrvatska blog is in Croatian, with Petra's kind permission (thanks again!) I'm re-posting her interview here, but this time in English - unedited, and in the form it was originally conducted in (which is a good thing, as my knowledge of Danish is limited to several years of unsuccessfuly trying to properly pronounce "rødgrød med fløde" - if you don't know what I'm talking about just youtube it). Anyway, apart from the nice coverage of Danish LARP, the observant among you might glimpse some stuff about Croatian LARP in the way questions are formed :). So, here goes the interview, along with Petra's original intro text.

The interview

Denmark is the smallest Scandinavian country, a little smaller than Croatia, a little bigger by population and the happiest country in the World by Galloup. It is also a Kingdom, a birth land of Hans Christian Andersen and home of larpers which not only play but also live from LARP (a paradise on Earth for us, you must agree!). One such larper, a 32 years old Claus Raasted, author of many books and articles about LARP, and editor of LARP magazine Rolle|Spil took a little time to tell as a story of LARP in Denmark.
1. Larp Hrvatska: Thank you for your time, Claus! All the great stories start with "Once uppon a time", so could you tell us a bit about history of LARP in Denmark, when was the first event held and how did LARP developed over the years?

Once upon a time in the mid-1980's, some Danish roleplayers went to Treasure Trap (an early larp) in England. Around the same time, other Danish tabletop roleplayers took their characters out into the forest using huge boffer weapons, bad costumes and a lot of imagination. So it's hard to point at "the first Danish larp", but there are several places where it sprang up more or less simultaneously. For many years, it was a slowly-growing nerd hobby dominated by 15-20 year old geeky boys and a few girls as well. After the LOTR movies hit the world in 2001-2003, all that changed. Larp went from underground to mainstream and today larp is known to almost all Danes. Around 90-95% of the Danish larp scene is children's fantasy larp, though, so to most non-larpers larp IS kids with swords. But it's gaining acceptance in more "serious" circles as well - places like museums, churches, companies and workers' unions are starting to use larp as a tool also.

2. LH: How many larpers are in Denmark? And what is the biggest number of players that gather on events?

The number of larpers in Denmark is 100.000+ (hence the title of "100.000 swords"), but they are VERY scattered. Every year, the Danish larp organisations which are run almost entirely by volunteers hold close to 1000 larps, and on top of those there are all the larps held by youth school, after-school-clubs, scout organisations, etc. So the biggest larps aren't actually that big - the biggest one in 2011 was "Elementernes Kamp 2" (Battle of the Elements 2), which gathered 720 people.

3. LH: Which types of LARP can be played in Denmark? ( postapocalyptic, fantasy/medieval...)

Almost all the larps done in Denmark are fantasy larps. Sure, there's a newly started postapocalyptic campaign in the far north of Jutland, there's some Vampire in Copenhagen and you can play Mythic Medieval someplace in Fyn, but mostly it's fantasy, fantasy and fantasy. There are other larps to be found, of course, but they are few and far between. Of the 1000+ larps held in Denmark by organisations, I'd say that less than 50 are non-fantasy.

4. LH: In Croatia, for fantasy/medieval LARP events we use Amtgard rules, and there is a small stream from this year that supports ConQuest rueles. Which rules do you use for such events?

Every Danish organisation has its own rules - more or less, at least. Some rules are used by many organisations, though - things like "Don't hit in the head", "A hand over your head means you're not ingame", etc. Generally, rules are very simple compared to Amtgard and Conquest, though some organisations have complex rules.

5. LH: What kind of weapons do you use? Buffer or latex or calimacil? Do you have specialised shops for LARP?

Latex and Calimacil, plus a little boffer. There are specialised shops for larp, but not that many (about 10 "real" larp shops in the country).

6. LH: Which are the biggest events in Denmark? For how long do they usually last?

The biggest events in Denmark at the moment are Elementernes Kamp (mentioned earlier) and Krigslive. Elementernes Kamp is a one-day event gathering as many players as possible from all over the country to fight in six big armies (each from one of six elements: water, fire, earth, air, life, death). The first one (in 2010) had 540 players, the second one had 720. The third one is in 2012.
Krigslive is a series of weekend-long larps held by different organising groups. It's a larp about two armies and about camp life - usually in the Warhammer  universe, but this time (number 8) in a mythical historical setting with vikings against Christians in 1176. Where Elementernes Kamp is for everyone, Krigslive (which usually has 300-400 players) is for adults only... and it a great showcase for gear, costumes and weapons.
Some pictures from the last one:

7. LH: We all heard of Knudepunkt, and Larp Symposium (some of us even attended them), but we don't have convention for LARP only, usually it is played in form of small events on SF/F conventions. How is that going on in Denmark?

Larp in Denmark has only two conventions (Hyggecon and Forum), and then a lot of tabletop/boardgame conventions have larps going on on a small scale.

8. LH: What about going to other countries on LARP events? To which countries Denmarks usually go?

The Danes travel mostly to Mythodea. And of course, those of us who are active in the Nordic scene also travel to Norway, Finland, Sweden and other interesting countries... but mostly, it's big trips to Mythodea at the moment.

9. LH: You are running LARP events for children, you also wrote "1000 swords and a couple of boys - bringing larp for kids to the world". Could you tell us how popular are those events among children? Was there ever a possibility to get money from the local authorities to support something like that?

There isn't just a possibility to get money from local authorities to make larps for children in Denmark - it's been going on for years. The events are VERY popular, get quite a bit of funding from the government (The Roleplaying Factory gets around 70.000 € a year) and are praised by cultural officials. And that can be done too in other countries - it's just a matter of time and willpower. After all, every single country funds theatre, sports and culture - and we can do stuff they don't even dream of.

10. LH: Concerning off game scene, how is LARP organised in Denmark? Do you have organisations and non-profit organisations? Do they collaborate good? Do you have joint projects?

We have almost only non-profit organisations, but also a few larp companies, that do larps professionally (like my company, the Roleplaying Academy - not the Factory, which is non-profit). But usually these companies don't make larps for larpers, but larps for non-larpers. So there's not a lot of cooperation, but it exists. The Roleplaying Factory (my non-profit organisation) and the Roleplaying Academy (my company) of course have a lot of cooperation, but that's not standard practice.

11. LH: How is LARP accepted among people who don't LARP? Which are the ways you use to promote LARP events and LARP itself?

It is widely accepted as a very good and healthy hobby for children. More and more people are realising that it's also non-fantasy sometimes and can also be for adults, but usually it's child fantasy. Very well-respected, but as a children's hobby. And the way we promote is simply by doing interesting things and slowly spreading the word. It's a word-of-mouth revolution, but it is happening.

12. LH: You are an editor of Denmark LARP magazine: RolleISpiel. How popular is it and which are the topics that can be found in it?

The magazine sadly isn't read by more than a few of the active larpers - say 5.000 of them, but it is quite well-read among "the larp community". Whether it's popular or not I'm not really able to say, but people read it and talk about it, and that's what's important for us. Generally, it has some standard stuff every time - "Make-up tips", "How to play XXX" and a campaign guide, but also articles on stuff we find that's interesting. The last issue had a big article on larp in the USA, an interview with a player from the prison larp KAPO who'd had his life changed by the game and a small article on how to create characters better. So it's a lot of different stuff.


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