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History of Croatian LARP: Clans and guilds

It is interesting to note that today's mainstream fantasy LARP in Croatia has very different social dynamics on the event than what it had before. Today, most games run with relatively small numbers. Players which consider one LARP their "home LARP" usually camp together when visiting another organizer's game.

But until half a decade ago it was not about the organizers... It was about the clans, and things were running differently. Clans were most prominent in what I called Second Age in my recent Croatian LARP history article. They performed several vital functions which are usually missing from today's Croatian LARPs. While breaking and factionalizing the game, they were also enriching and diversifying it. They recruited players not for the larp, but for the clan - they had their own RP and agenda, visual identity (colors, flags, livery etc), camp organization etc, and - storylines of that time usually being weaker compared to what they are now - clan relationships and actions provided a great deal of content on a LARP. Which is understandable, as it's harder to give 100 people as tight an experience as to 20 people.

Clans got powerful, and organizers soon started to negotiate with them. Clan representatives were even sometimes called for to decide the direction LARP is going to take in the future. When a new larp would start, clans were the ones to talk to if you wanted to get people to attend, because majority of people were members of one clan or another. Actually, by that time most people were recruited by the clan, into the clan - it was certainly one of the reasons for the big LARP population boom of that time.

Guilds were all members of a certain character class noted in rules. It was more of an off-game mechanic, as guildmasters were basically assisting organizers and clans in making sure certain player learned how to play and that they followed the rules correctly. Guilds also commonly gave their members some in-character stuff, such as fighters organizing practices for their members, or spellcasters fixing prices of their spells... And sometimes even more than that. It added to a certain level of complexity, despite their commonly misunderstood in-game/off-game status.

Both went down with Summer Sessions. Clans because the number of players dropped, and as they did clans lost their power. Guilds were simply never reused in that form again. Plenty of clans still exist though, but they are far more integrated into the general population on a larp. The only group that is nowadays organized in a similar manner to the clans of old is our local branch of Green Banner.

Also, both provided interesting social dynamics on Croatian LARP and both became relevant once Croatian LARPs went over 50 players and as they approached 100. The only Croatian LARP in years to go over 50 players was last year's Jaska 8 - and this year Crolarp is the most likely candidate for being the high-number LARP with even more expected players. A decade ago it was the breaking point into the clan and population explosion - we'll see if social structures we once had will start again in some form...


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