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The Fairgame Archive

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2007-10-13: Why jeep does not equal larp
by Emily

Every so often I will slip and lump jeep in with larp.  Tobias usually corrects me when I do this, and in the past I could see the difference, but I was focusing on the obvious: no costumes, symbolic props (eg a marker for a knife etc.) in jeep form.  I've corrected others myself, but I still didn't really get why Tobias said that jeep was usually grouped with table top games. I mean, how could they be the same? You don't get up and wave your arms around* in table top.

Then, the other night as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about the live form version of Under my Skin, and it hit me full force: jeep is completely more like table top. LARP is a different animal altogether.

So why?  Scene framing is one big tip off.

When you larp, play happens in a decentralized way, experienced in the main by small groups of the players. The story occurs in a piece meal fashion except at moments of high importance when (perhaps) all participants are drawn together for a major event.  E.g. combat, scripted events, etc. Contrast this with table top, where scenes are (commonly) witnessed by all players. Scenes may be framed by the gm, but they are intentionally framed and thus are accessible to all involved, whereas taking part in a scene in larp is limited by player awareness of events transpiring. Similarly in jeep, the story is a joint collaboration by all players, and a usual stricture is to avoid "split party play", which in this context refers to having players in separate spaces. Keeping everyone where they can witness eachother's play allows everyone to work together to craft what is happening.

This has major impacts on play and design.

The role of gm, or is very different. Even in larps with high gm involvement, the role of a faciliator is to 1) provide starting situation, 2) help resolve conflict and 3) introduce scripted events, perhaps 4) help players connect with plot.  But the gms wander through the events made to occur by the players, watching for ways to help and manage. Or, as in the case of Finnish larps, to hand off the information and leave the players to do as they will.

In table top and jeep form, the role of the gm or of the players through guidelines and rules is more central in framing the story.  There are even deeper similarities between jeep form and narrativist (Forge or Story) games. Aggressive scene framing, a hallmark of narrativist games, is also characteristic of jeep form. In both it is common to frame a scene to the middle of action, as well as cutting quickly when a conflict is resolved and moving on to another scene for follow-up or further development.

Another major difference is in the flow of the events or story of the game. Due to the decentralized nature of happenings, the story in a larp happens in many small, discrete points which can be occuring in parallel with one another, which then join together for large events.  Like many small streams flowing into one large river, and then diverging again to be many small narrative streams once more. Or, perhaps more accurately events would resemble a network, with information passing between players through conversations, leading to transactions or events with other characters. Making many small micro events with few connections to one another, finally converging with massive connections to macro events.

In contrast table top, events form a linear line. One event following another, witnessed by all. There may be parallel stories but since each is experienced in turn, the narrative formed is much more like that experienced with reading a book. The scenes can each build one upon the other since information about what has transpired is (generally) available to all. Jeep form often uses more sophisticated scene framing structures, illustrating how these games occupy a linear narrative line even when events do not take place in linear or chronological time. Take the Upgrade, for example. The story of the Upgrade is follows the structure of a reality tv game show, so it it shot full of flashbacks, flash-forwards and confessionals which create an unfolding story about the relationships between the characters, their betrayals, trials and indiscretions.

However, Immersion is, I think, a red herring. I immersed as much as I ever have while playing various characters in Doubt, including a bar-tender whom I played during one scene for perhaps 5 minutes total. My play group was accused of being "Finnish immersive stonewallers", I'm proud to say. :) But likely that is due to the fact that immersion for me does not require uninterrupted character experience—but is supported by strength of my understanding of the purpose of a character, and how it fits into overall story. But that's an argument for another time.

*Vincent's characterization of live form games. Bless him.


2007-10-14 09:17:46 Merten

Exactly so, with the possible exception of Vincen't characterization. Though one has to note that "Finnish immersive stonewallers" become less so when playing in a game which does not support being an immersive stonewaller. When it comes to that, I'd argue that JeepForm games are, if not as different as narrative tabletop games, almost as different from yer olde immersive games.


2007-10-14 16:11:32 Ron Edwards

Thank you. I needed to learn this.

Best, Ron


2007-10-14 17:04:26 Tobias Wrigstad

> You don't get up and wave your arms around in table top.

Why? What's stopping you? If dices and tables are part of the answer then all the more reason that these things need to go!

> You don't get up and wave your arms around in table top.

I do. There is nothing in most rule books that tell you to sit down.

> jeep is completely more like table top

Oh yes! I'm very happy that you get why I'm not a larper. And that it is not just scene framing ??? not all games have scenes - but the entire feel and nature of the thing.


2007-10-15 01:05:32 Seth Ben-Ezra

>> You don't get up and wave your arms around in table top.

>I do. There is nothing in most rule books that tell you to sit down.

Me too.


2007-10-15 03:53:43 blankshield

Hunh.

This has crystalized something else for me: I finally ge why the True Dungeon folks are so adamant about TD not being a larp.

This now makes sense to me.

James


2007-10-15 15:02:46 Vincent

Oh man, you should see me at the gaming table. I'm like Irish dancing, with my arms and hands strictly down at my side but my feet going like absolute crazy. My friends are all like, "ow, dammit Vincent, stop kicking me!"

Oh wait, no I'm not. That's all lies.


2007-10-15 15:30:24 Emily

The irish dancing part? It's true, don't let Vincent fool you.

Tobias wrote:

>>You don't get up and wave your arms around in table top.

I do. There is nothing in most rule books that tell you to sit down.

Me too! Well, not often, but when I'm deeply moved by a game I tend to drop into doing somehow, like when I closed my eyes playing the blind girl in our game of Shooting the Moon at Ropecon, Tobias.  Such bliss to feel it that deeply.


2007-10-16 08:11:56 Moreno R.

Hi Emily!

I agree that Jeepform isn't LARP, but it's difficult to call them "tabletop" without a table... I think we need a new name for the role-playing games where everybody follow the same story and don't wander around by him/herself (and I never liked "tabletop" anyway, it say Minietures and rulers to me)

About "doubt" and immersion, I have observed something happen every time I have seen that game played. People start playing immersed in a character, but then, scene by scene, they begin to get MORE immersed but LESS in character. They begin little by little to play themselves. It' like the degree on partecipation in the story blast away the masks from the players.

It happened to me and most other people I saw play (most to the people who play Tom & Julia). It was very evident at the last Modcon play, with very good players very good at "playing a character". At the end of the game I talked to the italian player (who played Tom) and he was unhappy about the quality of his playing, because he felt that he could not stay in character, it was too "close to home"

I know that Tobias is reading this and saying "yes, yes!" (he wanted this, from what he wrote about the game), but I am curious about your experience playing "Doubt" about this, if it happened even to you "group of Finnish immersive stonewallers" ;-)


2007-10-16 14:27:14 Emily

Hi Moreno!

About "doubt" and immersion, I have observed something happen every time I have seen that game played. People start playing immersed in a character, but then, scene by scene, they begin to get MORE immersed but LESS in character. They begin little by little to play themselves.

Oh, yes. That, I would bet, would make T. very happy. :)

I found it to be so, too. In that very scene with the bartender, I had to work hard, hard, hard to stay in character due to one of the gm monologues, yet I still remember is as one of the deep in character moments I had. Odd.

I agree that Jeepform isn't LARP, but it's difficult to call them "tabletop" without a table... I think we need a new name for the role-playing games where everybody follow the same story and don't wander around by him/herself (and I never liked "tabletop" anyway, it say Miniatures and rulers to me)

Oh, excellent! I've got a post about this. It comes next, then.


2007-10-17 08:02:21 anon.

One comment on the last two posts. Playing yourself does not equal being yourself. Or rather, people are playing the roles of themselves. Not themselves. Perhaps subtle, but a crucial difference. People are necessarily reacting the way they would have in real life, but in ways they *could have* or *wished they had*.

(Of course I'm going "Yes! Yes!" over here. Playing the players is one of my specialties as a game wright.)


2007-10-17 05:43:24 Jiituomas

In contrast to what Moreno states above, I've found that the methods of Jeepform immediately remove _all_ immersive elements from my play. Which is very interesting, since I'm very much a dramatist in tabletop, but extremely character-immersive in larps.

What makes this IMO significant is that it's definitely the mechacs that cause this: I immerse fully even in a continual larp that has completely symbolic props, but anything with "legal" system breaks (Jeepforms or "A Nice Evening with the Family" very much fit this) immediately distances me from character. Character goals become abstract, the emotions just aren't there, and so on.

My own Jeepform scenario "A Bitter Aftertaste", designed for character-immersive play, should be complete within a week. I look forward to seeing whether it breaks the mold or not.


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