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Short history of Croatian LARP

If we look at the history of Croatian LARP and how it developed, we could divide it into several distinct time periods, eras, ages, or however you want to call it. This is not an "official" division or anything - I will explain the criteria which I used to divide the periods further below.

The First Age (1997 - 2001)

The first age was about one larp only - Summer Session (also known as Kutina LARP), a fantasy LARP organized in Katoličke Čaire near Kutina. It was organized once a year, and it was the game which unified pretty much all Croatian LARPers - a game which was basically synonymous with Croatian LARP, and pretty much defined what mainstream LARP looks like in Croatia now. LARP was spreading around and getting more popular, and events were getting better and better. Summer Session 2001 had a population of 60-ish players.

The Second Age (2002 - 2006)

I put the start of the second age in 2002, the year first non-Summer Session LARP (Motovun LARP) appeared in Croatia. After Motovun, new LARP projects emerged as well: Krvomedje in Zagreb, and Rajski Vrhovi (or LARP Žumberak) by the same group. A LARP near Osijek - first in Kneževi Vinogradi, then in Ivanovac where it's today known as Utvrda Svjetlosti. These were all small LARPs at the time, Motovun was biggest of those with populations of 20+ players and it influenced others at the time. Also, somewhere around that time, first World of Darkness larps started with several Camarilla groups appearing in Croatia.

Despite all these new LARPs springing up, Summer Session was still considered the main event of the year, and with reason. It had players all around Croatia attending, and it had at least 5-6 times more people than any other larp. Its population was over 100, and the maximum it reached was 150-ish around 2004-2005, making it the largest Croatian LARP in history.

Yet many problems appeared in that time. Terrain owner of Summer Session started turning it into a huge festival with plenty of non-LARP content as well (concerts, boy scouts, paintball, etc), in attempt to monetize it as much as possible, which was off-putting to some players. There were large arguments and fights inside the larp community, with differing opinions about what to do with larp. In the end, the larp community was split. Due to many factors (including some external ones), it was a very ugly breakup, and it ended in many people quitting the game. Motovun LARP also failed, though that one was due to some terrain issues, not player abandonment.

This period saw the first Croatian LARP association (Regnum Phantasiae) in 2005 which didn't work out, and also forming of the second LARP association (Ognjeni Mač) in 2006, which is still active to the day. It also saw the first internet efforts - with several websites appearing. A popular communication channel was Tomislav Simat's zglarp mailing list, which was very active for a time. It was replaced by zglarp forum (created by me in 2005), but that one too got abandoned during the breakup.

Rajski Vrhovi and Utvrda Svjetlosti LARP are the only still-ongoing LARP events from that era, without any interruption.

The Third Age (2007 - 2010)

In this period, LARPs were shrunk a lot due to previous player arguments. Summer Sessions died in the beginning of that period. Last one was (I think) in 2008, featuring only 7 players who attended. After that, there was no longer any LARP there. Without a main larp of the year, it was a period with a lot of isolation between various (or to be precise: surviving) LARP groups in Croatia. Ognjeni Mač started doing short fantasy LARPs in Maksimir park (Maksimir LARP), and started organizing big LARPs - first one in the scout camp Koretići in 2006, and from 2008 in Gornja Kupčina near Jaska (known as Jaska LARP). Despite the size of LARPs shrinking, by number there were more LARPs in this period than ever before, and every group further developed their own playstyle.

Big events during the most of that period were Jaska, Rajski Vrhovi and Utvrda Svjetlosti. Single-day events were Krvomeđe and Maksimir. Krvomeđe stopped, due to lack of population (though Rajski Vrhovi kept on - Krvomeđe has since restarted), and Vampire LARP has also seemingly stopped (though I can't confirm that one with certainty, I haven't heard anything from them in years), so Croatian scene was back to fantasy LARP only. There was some interaction between LARPers and LARP groups, but it was minor and mostly limited to some Rajski Vrhovi and Utvrda Svjetlosti players.

There were positive changes nearing the end of the period. LARP Majčin Gaj (or Lubena) started in 2009, in attempt to bring some new and experimental elements to LARP, and it has remained popular since. Utvrda Svjetlosti 2010 had over 40 players, making it a largest LARP since old Summer Sessions.

The Fourth Age (2011 - ongoing)

Larp development in Croatia - which has for so long been slow and resistant to change - is on the fast track now. I placed the beginning of the fourth age in 2011 since several significant things started happening then:

- introduction of new forms of larp. Freeform, non-fantasy larp made its debut on Istrakon 2011 convention with "Love is blue", a modern horror larp GMed by Ana & Božo. Afterwards, they organized SRP (Society for Role-Playing) and did several more one-shot larps and reruns of Love is Blue
- opening up of the various larp groups, visiting and enjoying other events did a great job in reunifying the scene
- international visitors on most games, increasing both Croatian exposure to international scene and vice versa
- Terra Nova preparations started
- this blog opened :P
- Krvomeđe restarted

In 2012, we already have had lots of new stuff. Chronologically:
- first Green Banner Croatia event - introducing a more military style of LARPs
- two "Para pokreće svijet" steampunk LARPs by Sven Nemet
- two Terra Nova events - first non-Amtgard fantasy LARP ever ran in Croatia

And plenty of new stuff awaits us. From what is currently known (or what I am allowed to say):
- Crolarp (in two weeks)
- Fallout larp (rumored to finally start this year)
- more steampunk goodies
- freeform fantasy larp by Lateralus, a new larp association which has been founded this year

Since last year we have many more new stuff than we got in 10 years before that. Croatian LARP scene is getting very rich and exciting - woken up from slumber and moving onwards quickly.

While there are plenty of players moving towards new and experimental, desiring new experiences whether by improving current larps or by trying out new forms, there's also a classic LARP community desiring some of that magical feeling they had the first time they started playing.

And in Croatia, the most old-style you can get is Rajski Vrhovi. And I'm not saying old-style as being something bad. It's traditional, it's fully Amtgard, it's got players who never go anywhere else, and it's got its own system of values, which were widespread once across the Croatian LARP scene but now exist only there. Whenever one of the newer players asked me how old Summer Sessions were like, I invite them to Rajski Vrhovi. It's Croatia's classic larp.

Anyway, Rajski Vrhovi are today. The event starts in a few hours, and I'll be there... helping to make the game happen since I'm in the quest team. Be there if you can.

Crolarp, in two weeks, is attempting something different. It's an attempt at cooperative creation of a new national mainstream LARP event, it's an attempt to recreate something that has for a long time been a central focus of a Croatian LARP, but in different manner.

Other larps, those not directly involved with Crolarp, work on their own public and their own values. Whichever path of LARP we travel, the future awaits us, and I'm pretty sure it's gonna be interesting.


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