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Steampunk LARP - Sven Nemet interview

On February 18th and 19th, Sven Nemet is running a Steampunk LARP by the name of "Steam makes the world go round", in Eko Selo Žumberak.
Front page of the rulebook

As it's going to be the first standalone Steampunk LARP in Croatia, I conducted an interview with the game organizer, Sven Nemet, translated here into English for our readers.

You can find the event on Facebook here, and its discussion group here.

Anyway, here it goes:

Crolarper: For those who might not know the exact meaning of the term steampunk, what exactly does it mean?

Sven: It's a subgenre of SF, Fantasy and it's often connected to alternate history. It's tied to the period of the industrial revolution. To get acquainted with steampunk, I recommend Jules Verne and Philip Pullman books, The Prestige and Hugo movies, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics, and Steamboy cartoon.

Crolarper: Where did you get the idea for a steampunk LARP?

Sven: I love steampunk. And people were interested in playing it.

Crolarper: Why did you decide to run it?

Sven: I was running RPGs for some 11 years when I discovered LARP (I've been on 7 LARPs so far), and I'd like to have some fun by running something new. I hope that more people will run it if steampunk LARP succeeds.

Crolarper: Can you tell us something about the setting in which the game will run?

Sven: The year is 1900, and the history is mostly the same as in real world, with several exceptions - Balkan wars are finished, Bosnia and Herzegovina got annexed by the Austria-Hungary, and several more slight differences. Bigger changes in the history should be decided by players themselves during gameplay. The technology is steam style, of course more advanced than it was in 1900 as it is in steampunk, and secret societies take a great part in world's events. The game will run in Zagreb or its surroundings, and it's a developed and innovative industrial city with a population of 150.000. Except for humans, there are two other races: Ihini and Branguri. In this steampunk, there will also be elements of magic and fantasy.

Crolarper: What kind of costumes are we going to need in steampunk LARP?

Sven: Considering the story happens (starts) in 1900, everything you have at home which is stylistically between 1860 and 1930 will be great, just add a few screws, cogs and there you go. Clearly, these are the things that most people don't have because they include top hats, bowler hats, tailcoats, corsets, monocles etc. but you can easily get by, and for the people who really can't put together anything there are two in-game races partially designed around that problem because they wear a different style of clothing - they have medieval look, which most LARPers already have clothes for.

Crolarper: Which weapons are allowed?

Sven: Swords, sabers, spears, flintlock handguns, axes, knives, so everything except weapons for mass killing like bombs or gatling guns. If you're asking if latex weapons or boffers, both are allowed. Of course, I believe latex weapons are far better for steampunk. Armors are allowed too, but either you have it or you don't. So if you have a helmet on your head, you have it, otherwise you don't.

Crolarper: Did the rules already exist, or did you design them yourself?

Sven: I designed them.

Crolarper: Which key things in the rules are significantly different from Amtgard rules which we're most familiar with?

Sven: Huh. In truth, I don't know that much about Amtgard rules to make an accurate comparison (despite the fact I played by them).

Crolarper: Except the setting itself, what will make steampunk LARP different from the kind of fantasy LARPs which are currently played in Croatia?

Sven: I think I'll rather talk about this after the first game. But the main difference is that this LARP will take shape by itself.

Crolarper: The first event is the feast in February. Are there any plans for the future? If yes, are there going to be other styles of events, or are you planning to do only feasts?

Sven: The idea is to play some 2-3 times a year, but it all depends on the players. Perhaps it all goes down after the first game. I plan to do only feasts, but if someone does another game style, great.

Crolarper: How much action (combat etc) can we expect on steampunk LARPs?

Sven: There should be much fewer of them than in fantasy LARP. Simply, murder should be taken as in the real world. And when you kill someone in front of the witnesses you will be held responsible for that (if you're the attacker), and sometimes gendarmes will cost you your head. But I won't exclude the possibility of mass combat and slaughter happening on the feast :)

Crolarper: What will a typical combat look like?

Sven: Hm? How about this:

  • Joža: When are you going to give me back my money?
  • Dragec: Never!
  • Joža: Well, then I'm gonna kill you!
  • Joža pulls out his knife and cuts into Dragec's arm (he missed his belly). Dragec pulls out his steampunk gun and hits Joža in his head (while wanting to hit him in the torso, so Joža is cursing him off-game), and another hit hits him in the torso so Joža dies.
  • A gendarme comes, and kindly asks Dragec to put down his gun: You disgusting pig, put your gun down NOW or I'll put a hole in you!
  • Dragec hesitated for too long, so gendarme fired. Joža blocks the bullet with his arm, but it counts as if he was hit, so he dies.
  • Gendarme wins.
Political map of the world for the first game

Crolarper: Can you tell us something about the diplomacy system?

Sven: Diplomacy will be performed only by the certain characters in game. It will be influenced by diplomats, and to a smaller degree rich merchants, other rich people and generals. The system is such that players will try to win allies on ther side by any means necessary - money, threats, deals about who'll split which territory once it is conquered (only diplomats can make those deals). At the end of the event, players will tell me about their arrangements and relations, and alliances and relations will be adjusted according to that on the table with scores from 1 to 10, in which 1 marks countries at war and 10 marks countries in perfect harmonious relationship. Diplomats will get some instructions from their rulers (emperors, queens...) as well. One part of the "diplomacy" will be using gifts (only diplomats, judges etc. can do that). Rulers can be gifted a valuable object, which will in some small measure improve relations between countries. But there are things about diplomacy which characters will find out in a secret manner too.

Crolarper: Can you tell us something about the monetary system in game?

Sven: Every player has some funds according to his profession, but there are other sources as well. Money used is paper money (each player prints his own money, which can be downloaded from Google Docs and printed). Only one currency is used - Crowns. Money is used to buy services and objects. There's even a royal cheque, but that one is received only by certain characters for specific purposes.

Crolarper: Would you like to add anything else?

Sven: This LARP is not completely formed on purpose. The goal is for players to upgrade it and form it themselves. Each game will add something new. The idea is for rules to be like a living organism. For example, there will be secret societies - I wrote very little about them (basics), the rest bill be formed by future members of those societies - the initiation process, how to get out from the society, how the new members are recruited, who their allies are... It's the same with other details, like the player who'd like to play an alchemist can imagine what the effects of his potions will be, this will give the first players who play those characters more advantages as they'll get to define more stuff in game but it can be handled with branching of possibilities. That's about it, we'll see how it goes, perhaps it will be awful perhaps it will be great.

Thank you for the interview, Sven!


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