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Bleed in LARP


What Are You Afraid Of?
Validated User
I came across this excellent article/essay on bleed in LARP:


I want my larp experiences to make me bleed.
‘Bleed’ is a term used in Nordic larp. It is the idea of dissolving the boundaries between player and character, so the things that effect the character in-game, have an emotional impact on the player out-of-game and the issues dealt with by the characters in-game speak to the biases or emotions of the player. It is about nurturing that connection, exploring the interplay between character and player and allowing for crossover between in-game and out-of-game ideas and feelings. To bring out-of-game emotions into game is referred to as ‘bleeding in’ and to bring in-game emotions out-of-game is ‘bleeding out’. In Nordic larp they use this phenomena to their advantage, using techniques to maximize bleed, thereby enhancing the emotional experience created by the game. In games with specific emotional goals it seems it is not uncommon that there will be a workshop before hand, to develop trust and build characters and a debrief after the game to discuss concepts and emotions explored, so that everyone (ideally) walks away feeling as though they learned something significant about themselves through the game. Not everyone makes use of the technique in Nordic larping as far as I can tell, but the fact that it is defined and sometimes integrated into the experiences is, in my opinion, a huge advantage to the style of play that the larpers there are involved in.
Read more at the link above...

My personal experiences with "bleed" are rather varied. Some have gone over quite well, where a scene or character arc has had a powerful emotional impact on me and I learned a little something about who I am as a person (or had such an awesome time that it stays with me as a powerful memory). Other times I've encountered players that take bleed in a negative way and get mad at other players out-of-game (i.e. not being able to separate character vs. player emotions).

What about you? Thoughts on the article? Your experiences?



Registered User
Validated User
Well meaning, but clumsy.

I feel it's like being told someone has invented this exciting new idea of LitFeeling, whereby what you've experienced in your life effects how you engage with a text and what you engage with in a text subsequently effects your life. Furthermore, they have a whole programme based on amplifying LitFeeling and supporting it through the reading process with scented pages and embossed book covers. LitFeelers feel that their method of reading texts puts them at odds AirplaneBookreaders who just want to read to get them through a boring flight, ideally something written by Dan Brown and/or with tits and light-BDSM - and are inclined to assume that everyone who seems reluctant to embrace their approach must be an AirplaneBookreader who probably wouldn't understand their complex programme or difficult words like hermeneutics.

I think it's awesome if people enjoy a larp (or a text) and feel like they got something from it. However, my (long!) experience of larp is that different people get wildly different things from it - which works fine ... so long as there's no need for a workshop/bonus set of tools/debrief that we all have to synchronise over. It's *exactly* like watching a Fellini film ... and then we all have to get up at the end and decide what the meaning was. It's fine if you want to do that, but I would personally find that unconstructive bordering on spoiling the experience.

I guess my feeling is that individual players *already* do all these things, in the manner and to the degree that they feel is appropriate for them. The Nordic approach encourages a certain manner of doing that - but at a group level which would make it hard (/disruptive) to differ.



Retired User
Marios- agreed, well said.

A few things about this post and the responses caused me to raise an eyebrow.

-The word "afraid" in the title. Just because people aren't doing what you want to see done doesn't mean they're afraid or over-sensitive. Lack of interest isn't the same as fear. Neither is an active preference for something else.

-Phrases like " ...that is not enough for me" and "I am looking to take it a step further" both imply that Nordic-style LARPing is somehow greater than North American style LARPing, whereas I see neither as inherently more than the other, just different.

-"Without the actual intention of philosophically exploring the emotions and metaphors and the real world revelations they can provide, I find it difficult to differentiate larp from other forms of entertainment that evoke emotional responses" - my experience is utterly different- I don't think purposefully cultivating bleed is necessarily going to produce the best bleeding. Admittedly, I have limited experience with Nordic style LARPing, but I find some of the strongest bleed happens when the GMs and/or writers aren't necessarily trying to force it. This probably differs from LARPer to LARPer, but it's worth acknowledging that bleed is achieved different ways for different people, and the purposeful methods of Nordic LARPing aren't going to work best for everyone.

-"Stories in North American larp tend to unfold without question, they just happen and when all is said and done the discussions around the stories aren’t involved with feelings, revelations or philosophy, they are generally about singular actions and petty drama." This isn't my experience in North American LARPing at all. Part of the point of LARPing is that stories don't unfold without question, because how they unfold is in the hands of multiple people all at the same time, none of whom are among those who originally put the story into motion. They don't involve feelings, revelations, or philosophy? I think that claim does a disservice to North American LARPing, as does calling them "petty drama".

- My experience in the New England LARPing community is that even though there's not that much Nordic-style LARPing going on yet, there's an active interest in it. The Nordic LARP Mad About the Boy recently ran in New England, and has been causing a lot of chatter in our community. There was recently a day of Nordic style LARPing hosted by MIT that, as far as I can tell, had no trouble getting players. Would have gone myself if it hadn't run against a Western weekend long LARP. Intercon, our annual LARPing convention, has several Nordic/Jeep style LARPs on the schedule and a workshop on a Nordic LARPing romance mechanic (Ars Armandi) on our Pre-Con schedule. (One Jeep-inspired LARP has already filled to capacity.) Just reading over the game descriptions shows several that aren't described as Nordic or Jeep, but are focused on emotions, revelations, and philosophy.
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Registered User
Validated User
I guess what puts my back is the idea that you aren't *really engaging* with the feelings/revelations/philosophy brought up by your IC experience unless it's organiser sanctioned. To me, this seems just as backward as thinking that you aren't *really interacting* in a game unless you're interacting with plot written by an organiser.

I guess it comes down to whether you view this sort of from-on-high support comforting - "this is a new thing I'm trying out and I want my hand held" - or clautrophobic - "I'm comfortable doing this on my own, attempts to 'help' me are only going to get in the way".



Retired User
I guess what puts my back is the idea that you aren't *really engaging* with the feelings/revelations/philosophy brought up by your IC experience unless it's organiser sanctioned. To me, this seems just as backward as thinking that you aren't *really interacting* in a game unless you're interacting with plot written by an organiser.
Yes. Thank you. I wish I had articulated this better.

Another thought- It's not necessarily the intensity, for lack of a better word, of the bleed that matters, and therefore trying to cultivate it as much as possible doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to get the most meaningful experience. Quick example- I played in a Jeep-inspired LARP (written by experimenting Americans). There was a fair amount of bleed going on, but that's not the most interesting aspect of the experience for me. The way they structured time and allowed us to examine the repercussions of our choices was the meaningful part of the LARP for me, independent of the bleed. Yes, I felt depressed after that LARP, but I already knew that discussing depressing real life issues (divorce, illness, financial problems, etc.) brought me down. That wasn't a revelation for me.

But in another, more standard US style LARP, the GMs weren't purposefully trying to cultivate bleed, but I ended up experiencing a fair amount, and it lead me to realize how much my real relationships with my family colors my perspective. (In the context of the LARP, I was projecting my relationship with my real father onto my character's father.)

If purposefully cultivating bleed is what works for some writers and some players, that's fine and we should experiment with it. But if some people aren't interested, that doesn't mean their preferences are shallower or they're afraid of anything.

Star Spider

Retired User

So, I wrote this blog post you are discussing and I just found this convo on my google alerts, so I thought I would chime in!

Great discussion!

First and foremost, this wasn't meant to offend in anyway. It was simply made as my observation of the games I have played. And in my observations there are definitely quite a few people who are afraid of the concept of bleed. People have been so unhappy with us talking about it we have even gotten kicked out of a larp for it!

I am very very particular about the kind of way I like to game and I am looking for some very specific effects, but it doesn't mean I think that others are wrong for gaming the way they do, it is simply not quite what I am looking for.

Unfortunately, where I am located there doesn't seem to be many people interested in discussing the philosophy of their gaming experiences, but since posting this blog I have been happy to see that there is a lot going on down in the states. I definitely want to make it out to the conferences and things there to discuss gaming with like-minded individuals!

Anyway, my whole point was really that this was not to offend, but to illustrate a phenomena I have noticed in the places I have been playing. I am definitely happy to know that there is interest in other types of gaming in North America and I love hearing about other people's experiences, even if they aren't quite what I am looking for!



Owlbear Camus

Autothrusters engaged!
Validated User
An (I hope) interesting anecdote/tidbit about the phenomenon.

A friend of mine, Jane, tagged along with me for a few games of the fantasy LARP I play in (see sig).

She chose to play an Ulven, who are the indigenous people of the continent humans and the elf-analogues are colonizing. Basically think Norse/Viking cultural cues + clannishness + Eberron shifters without the shifting (animalistic traits like hair, eyes, fangs).

During a heated verbal exchange (that lead to a heated exchange of arrows and blows), a human NPC was denegrating her Ulven status, taunting her as a dumb animal, those types of things. This got her really keyed up, both in and out of character. She was no-foolin mad.

The thing I found interesting is Jane is a person of the Jewish faith, and I sometimes goof on that in horribly inappropriate but "it's cool, you know me" ways that nevertheless are sort of dickish and the kind of transgressive joking that could easily hit the "whoah, that's not cool" line very quickly. But she initiates that, goofs with me, laughs right along.

She took more umbrage to pretend bigotry against her pretend identity than to "ironic joking" bigotry against her actual identity.

Which I found interesting. I think maybe the physicality of things might play into it. Everyone was thumbing the hilt of their sword, arrows knocked and half drawn, just waiting for the standoff to escalate. Even with latex weapons and padded arrows, that adds a palpable tension.


Registered User
Validated User
I think there are maybe two distinct things to be teased apart:
(1) The generic virtues of thinking about how your real world experienced inform your IC play and vice versa

(2) The specific communitarian approach to this associated with Nordic larps

I don't think (1) is specific to Nordic larp - certainly not in the UK, from over the pond, US larp seems a little franchise-beholden and a little less diverse.

I suspect anglos of various flavours will often be uncomfortable with (2) while being perfectly comfortable with (1) - but sometimes Nordic larp enthusiasts assume that having an issue with (2) really means that you have an issue with (1), that's what I was trying to convey, albeit clumsily.


David Artman

Designer and Producer
Validated User
[Insert requisite link to I Will Not Abandon You Play versus Nobody Gets Hurt Play.]

Many, MANY LARPs--in MANY countries; screw this bulls**t, "Europe is pushing boundaries" lie--engage in IWNAY play, and as such push their own Lines and, as such, achieve "bleed". Just as many, MANY LARPs are escapist, wish-fulfillment activities that in no way would tolerate a push on Lines and, as such, are playing NGH.

I'm pretty damned tired of a tone of superiority being applied to EITHER mode of play. Your Shakespeare is not intrinsically better than their Monty Python. Articles that attempt to qualify (not quantify or describe) either mode of play are simply displaying the author's ignorance, not insight.

Play more; write less.
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