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Author Topic: Defining the Nordic Style  (Read 3894 times)
matthijs
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Posts: 462


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« on: February 10, 2005, 02:14:31 AM »

In Limits of acceptable "Theory", Eero Tuovinen mentions some differences between role-playing cultures. In particular, there's mention of the elusive Nordic style.

I'm interested in definitions of this style. I'm probably a Nordic style game designer, but how can I know for sure? I didn't coin the term, and haven't found too many definitions.

It seems that a Nordic style RPG has the following traits:

Has as a main goal to support immersionist play
Sees rules mechanics as a hindrance
Has artistic aspirations

What Nordic style RPGs exist? Myrskyn Aika, probably...? Others?
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
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Posts: 127


« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2005, 03:06:52 AM »

Quote from: matthijs
It seems that a Nordic style RPG has the following traits:

Has as a main goal to support immersionist play
Sees rules mechanics as a hindrance
Has artistic aspirations


I'll of course have do deny all those claims. :) A more accurate formulation of those three key concepts would be:

Has as its main goal the creation of experiences outside the mundane norm.
Sees all rules as an ancillary tool that may be modified or even ignored in the service of providing the desired experiences.
Has artistic and/or media aspirations.

Quote
What Nordic style RPGs exist? Myrskyn Aika, probably...? Others?


Myrskyn Aika wouldn't in my book qualify as a "Nordic" game, even though it supports the potential for playing that way, and is designed by one of the prominent Nordic-rpg-theory figures. It's important to see that a lot of what is called "Nordic" rpg theory is very larp-oriented or larp-derivative, and thus doesn't easily support the creation of tabletop rpg systems.

-Jiituomas
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Eetu
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2005, 04:28:24 AM »

[note: this was cross-posted with Tuomas]

The Nordic style as Eero mentions can probably best be explained as the preferred roleplaying style of the Nordic tradition of roleplaying theorists.

The tradition itself has risen from the yearly Nodal Point conferences, started as gettogethers for live action roleplayers from the Nordic countries. Being still primarily larp gatherings, the vast majority of texts about the Nordic style talk about larping. There is however a significant, growing minority in the Nordic community that thinks live action roleplaying and tabletop roleplaying are fundamentally two forms of the same activity, just utilizing different methods.

In the following, I'll first discuss the general trends in Nordic roleplaying, which I think apply to tabletop as well as larps. Almost all the texts cited are of larps, though, because that's what's available. I'll try to find a balance, though.

The traits I would most link to the Nordic roleplaying style would be:
Immersion as a phenomenon (both as a goal in itself and as a method for achieving something else) is interesting.

You should gain an experience from participating. The game should emotionally connect with the player. This can be through artistic expression or the game content giving you food for thought. The game is a media for the transmission of meaning.

Experimental methods and focused rules with clear goals are interesting and worth trying. (this is a rising trend that is countering the old thinking that rules are always a hindrance)


Below this level, there is a variety of different substyles and schools, which are documented in various manifestoes and dogmas.

Here are some links to further reading on the subjects:

Autonomous Identities by Mike Pohjola from Beyond Role and Play is a good introduction to Immersion as a distinct phenomenon and a separate focus for study.

All the articles in Beyong Role and Play's Games section are good descriptions of larps in the Nordic tradition, but I especially like Temporary Utopias by Tova Gerge on the larp "Mellan Himmel och Hav", which sought meaning for example through the construction of new gender roles and contained experimental methods for intimacy, discussed by Emma Wieslander in Rules of Engagement. It's particularly nice because Emma Wieslander even explicitly gives her agena for the game in the article Positive Power Drama, in the same book.

The article by Joc Koljonen on a larp based on Hamlet, "I Could a Tale Unfold Whose Lightest Word Would Harrow up Thy Soul" is also good, and discusses some of the methods devised for that game.

For some more direct formulations of various substyles of Nordic roleplaying, we can look at the manifestoes and dogmas. The Turku School in As Larp Grows Up in my opinion beautifully distills one substyle of the Nordic tradition, in which the gamemaster has a vision that he wants the participants to experience, and in which immersion is seen as the ultimate method for attaining this experience.

The Dogma 99 Manifesto in the same book focuses more on the art aspect and breaking out of old habits and forcing yourself to develop new methods by constraining yourself, following closely in the footsteps of the original Dogme'95 film manifesto of Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.

The Storyteller's Manifesto in Beyond Role and Play is interesting in that it eschews immersion and is a proponent of somewhat prewritten plots (could probably count as Illusionism here). Still, it sees larp as a media for transmitting something meaningful.

Okay, on Nordic tradition tabletop games. As I said, there are unfortunately very few written accounts of such. Fortunately, there is one good one: No Good:Turbo-Folk and the Church of Elvis, a column on rpg.net by Juhana Petterson discusses a table-top game that I think really well expresses the table-top side of the progressive Nordic style.

Finally, returning to the question of what Nordic style RPGs exist, I think the examples I provided say volumes: The Nordic people are way into experimental methods and designing by themselves, for themselves. I'm hoping some of these methods will end up collected as rulesets, but we're not really there yet. And, in all fairness, there is also an old guard in the Nordic tradition that's stuck in its ways, thinks that any rules are bad and is stuck on immersion as the holy grail without seeing potential in other forms of attaining the same experience or meaning from a game. There is still considerable inertia to be overcome before the existence and worth of game mechanics will become accepted facts hereabouts.

The holy grail of immersion itself has also proved a bitch to develop supporting methods for, mostly I think due to confusion as to what it actually is. At present, I'm hopeful that we've reached a good enough basic understanding of the phenomenon itself, and can both start using it as a means to an end, and figure out ways to support it. I'm looking eagerly forward to a coming tide of articles on immersion-supporting methods, both in tabletop and live action roleplaying. The articles on the methods used in "Mellan Himmel och Hav" are a start, and I just know there's more good stuff just around the corner.

 - Eetu
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2005, 05:46:08 AM »

eetu explained the parameters quite well. Just a few more clarifications:

Quote from: humis
The Nordic style as Eero mentions can probably best be explained as the preferred roleplaying style of the Nordic tradition of roleplaying theorists.


This is very important to note. The great majority of games - larp or tabletop - in the Nordic region aren't anything like the "Nordic" style discussed here.

Quote
There is however a significant, growing minority in the Nordic community that thinks live action roleplaying and tabletop roleplaying are fundamentally two forms of the same activity, just utilizing different methods.


Or, more correctly, are refusing to categorize them as "same" or "different", and just stick to smaller points of comparison and dissonance.

One last thing to add to the list of typical "Nordic style" traits: intimacy. The games are (if my sources can be trusted) much more personal than those outside the Nordic paradigms, with elements of the game coming much closer to the player. In the case of larp, this often means not only a connection between players' reality concepts and game events, but also that physical situations are played much further than elsewhere. (This doesn't mean players having intercourse when their characters  have sex, but it often means there's a close physical element to how the situation is simulated. For a better look at the subject, see the Wieslander articles linked above.) To the Nordic  style, a rule like MET's "no touching" seems utterly absurd. Again, the key here is that proximity creates intensity, which in turn leads to a stronger experience.

-Jiituomas
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