The UK has a wide and varied LRP scene. There are a wide range of small games of different styles that happen across the country. Most of them I will never hear of.
The UK LARP Awards run annually (along with the sister event, the UK LRP Awards which runs in the same location at the same time but with more accurate spelling). They’re fun. It’s a chance for a host of LRPers to get together, chat, and heckle each other. They’re also biased towards certain groups of LRPers. They only represent the people that get involved with them. A lot of UK LRPers won’t really have heard of them and it probably won’t occur to them to attend. When you get to small systems, if only 30 play a system and none of those are people involved with the judging at the LRP awards then they will struggle to decide which system wins (especially if they only have a locked Facebook group and no webpage, which is pretty much standard for the very small systems).
We’re lucky to have a variety of fairly large games in the UK. Curious Pastimes was my first fest game, and it’s changed a huge amount in the time I’ve been playing it. We also have a vast range of small systems. Personally I prefer small systems. I’m a quiet, reserved person and get lost in the crowd if there are too many others. The play style also works better for me and it suits the horror events I enjoy playing. They’re also the hardest to find. I often hear of events that I’d have liked to attend when I see the photos. I find out about a lot of events after they’ve happened.
This is a problem. There are events that aren’t running due to lack of players. With Mandala we’re aware that we ran with fewer players for ZapFest than we wanted. It meant we had vastly less budget than we’d planned for. We had to adjust the game to suit. There are a lot of people who, since the game, have said they’d have liked to play. We advertise to people we know. These are mostly people who play CP or PD games. There’s a small overlap with some LT players. They’re people we’ve met since we started playing SlenderLarp, which was recommended by a mutual friend.
There are websites (such as LARP.Guide) that offer calendars of events and articles discussing LRP. A lot of LRPers want to talk across the community to find out what’s going on, what resources people have and to build bridges between communities. This isn’t for everyone. There will always be some groups that choose to remain isolated.
There’s also a mixing of cultures when different groups come together. Mandala send out an email that outlines the ethos of our games to players after they’ve booked. We get a few people who conclude it’s not for them. However, every game thinks what they’re doing is the best in some way. People don’t choose to run a game they think is bad. Each game is run with limits that are based on those of the organisers and these can be utterly different.
There is tendency to assume that the way things are done in one system will mirror the way things are done in other LRP games. This is natural, but blatantly untrue. We use terms such as Fest LRP and Parlour LRP, Nordic LRP, Battle Games, Campaign LRP and Freeform LRP. We don’t have common definitions for any of these. I’m currently looking at running two modern day horror games. In one of them the players will be typical civilians. They will have some common factor uniting them, but for the most part they will just be ordinary people such as you’d find in a typical supermarket. For the other game the players will be specialists (military and scientists). We’ll be identifying likely people to be sent to complete a task and the overall feel of the game will be utterly different. We’ll get this across in the background information to the game. We’ll tell you which branch of modern day horror it is.
I would love to play a game that I don’t know is a horror game until the horror starts happening. I suspect it’s unlikely to happen. People need to know that the game they are being sold is the game they want to play. If they don’t handle horror well then turning up to an action game and discovering that it is horror part way through won’t be the best game for that player. There’s not an easy way to warn people without giving the game away. This does lead to small ‘invite only’ games where people know they can get away with things because they know the audience. They know how far they can push those people with much greater accuracy than if they recruit from a more generic pool of LRPers.
We ran into a description problem with SlenderLRP. We initially started playing because it was billed as an investigative horror and ended up playing an action game. We had people with us initially who haven’t gone back. The game is now much closer to the game we were expecting (the organisers changed and the game followed suit) and those people who haven’t gone back are far more likely to enjoy it. However, as they feel they’ve been let down once they’re reluctant to retry.
There’s not a single, coherent LRP community in the UK. Events such as the LRP awards and new fest games attended by different groups of players add definition to the scattered population, and there will always be people who play one small system with friends and nothing else. The boundaries of LRP blur into airsoft, nerf combat and reenactment as well as theatre and there are plenty of people who take part in several of these activities - blurring the boundaries still further and creating more detailed subsets.
I want a way to find those games I’m missing before they happen. I want a way to be able to advertise my games to people beyond my immediate social circles, so that when I’m trying something new I can find the people who’re interested in what I’m doing. I also like being able to talk to people with a range of views about how games are run and what would be interesting to try. It leads to a whole range of new ideas and systems being tried and LRP being more expansive and varied.