Bleed in LARP

Nath

Registered User
Validated User
#21
I have no interest in "bleed" in any larp I play, and I suspect if I were to encounter it it would make me very uncomfortable.

I larp for escapist fantasy. I want to be the hero doing heroic things and vanquishing evil. I don't want to be out of play (or really in play) sad, or upset or any other negative emotion. Those aren't fun. If I were playing a larp and I found out one of its goals was to cause me to feel some kind of negative emotion on a consistent basis, I think I would probably stop playing. I want to play a game designed to empower its players and make them feel awesome.
How do you feel about conventional horror larp such as call of cthulhu?
 

Ryan Paddy

big picturist
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#22
The article is very much "this is the kind of larp I'd like to play, and here's why, and here's why I think games like this aren't being run in my area."

I don't necessarily agree with all the reasoning in the article, but I'm also kinda failing to see what's so annoying to some folks here about that.

While it doesn't pay to generalise too broadly, it's true that different parts of the world tend towards different styles of larp. I don't know how accurate the writer's guesses are regarding a perceived lower interest in "bleed" in North America, but I don't see the harm in them speculating... we all speculate about these kind of things. The author even says there may be games in NA that focus more on "bleed" that they're not familiar with ("at least all the games I have been to or heard of...").

Who among us hasn't (even if only implicitly) criticised some approach to larp that doesn't appeal to us, and wished there was more of our preferred larp style available? No permanent death you say... where's the believability and the consequences for dangerous decisions? Horribly complicated systems... that isn't appropriate to the larp format where we have to store everything in our heads. Flying abilities in a larp? There's a reason young kids don't put on Peter Pan. And so on. We all have our preferences, and our reasons for them, and our theories for why others are doing it "wrong". This is that same thing, on a different topic. This article doesn't even say the other way is "wrong" as such, it just guesses at why people are doing it in a way that gets some people's backs up ("I ain't afraid!").

Personally, I want more larps that feel like perfect interactive simulations of a fictional setting with a physical and psychological sense of immersion. They're kind of thin on the ground. I wouldn't be embarrassed to write at length about my reason for why I think such larp would be great, and why I think they're vanishingly rare, and what doesn't appeal to me about some other styles. Part of that would involve my theories on people's motivations for larping and running larps, much like the article we're discussing... in fact some of my reasoning might be the same, as a believable simulation won't always let you feel "heroic" and I agree with the writer that's many larpers want. I think we've all got preferences like this, and I don't think that article does a bad job of expressing the author's thoughts on their preferences and reasoning.

I don't think the article is a statement of tribal identity either. It sounds more like someone seeking for like-minded people to play a particular type of game, and it's trying to convince people who may be new to that kind of game that it's worth a try. That seems like a practical and reasonable thing to do.
 

Shalabi

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Validated User
#23
How do you feel about conventional horror larp such as call of cthulhu?
They don't really do it for me. My wife has successfully run several Cthulhu larps actually. Never played in a single one. I don't understand horror larps. I know its all fake, all the players know its all fake. How does it inspire "fear?" I have the same problem with haunted houses. I mean, I can see playing a Cthulhu larp for the investigation aspects of the game, and I can certain RP being afraid, but after a while that would get old and I would want to actually stop running and do something. The running itself doesn't trigger any sense of satisfaction in me.
 

Enrod

Retired User
#24
Bleed is not for all. There is no larp that can be enjoyed by all players, and that's the reason any "goals" in a larp should be explained properly before.

Communication is key, and moreso for larp writers and organizers.

They don't really do it for me. My wife has successfully run several Cthulhu larps actually. Never played in a single one. I don't understand horror larps. I know its all fake, all the players know its all fake. How does it inspire "fear?" I have the same problem with haunted houses. I mean, I can see playing a Cthulhu larp for the investigation aspects of the game, and I can certain RP being afraid, but after a while that would get old and I would want to actually stop running and do something. The running itself doesn't trigger any sense of satisfaction in me.
Well, I guess that is because you don't want to "bleed". I think that in horror you have to let yourself to "bleed" or the impact is lessened so much that it can only enjoyed as an investigative larp.
 

Shalabi

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#25
Well, when it comes to horror, it doesn't even seem possible for me to experience that "bleed." I can't stop knowing that these are just people in masks, or spooky sounds coming from an MP3 player. I can't make myself feel fear. I can make myself look like I am experiencing fear, but I have no way of actually causing that emotion to occur, and I'm not sure how anyone else can do so either.
 

Ryan Paddy

big picturist
Validated User
#26
Well, when it comes to horror, it doesn't even seem possible for me to experience that "bleed." I can't stop knowing that these are just people in masks, or spooky sounds coming from an MP3 player. I can't make myself feel fear. I can make myself look like I am experiencing fear, but I have no way of actually causing that emotion to occur, and I'm not sure how anyone else can do so either.
Some people scare easier than others.

We're maybe on a tangent now, but what about horror movies? Are you surprised they scare some people too, given the viewer knows it's all fake?

I think most people who enjoy horror media like feeling scared by the "perceived risk" of it while knowing it's not real. The visuals, sounds, physicality and for that matter horrific concepts of a horror larp get many people in a "scared mood" the same way that horror movies do, but at the same time they enjoy knowing that they're not actually in danger. A bit like the exhilaration of extreme sports such as sky diving (which does come with some actual risk, but it's largely mitigated by safety procedures). People who are highly sensitive and therefore genuinely terrified by horror are less likely to be "horror" fans, or prefer the less scary varieties (a lot of "horror" is just the trappings without the scary stuff, especially the stuff aimed at kids). People like that are at the opposite end of the spectrum to you - they avoid horror not because it's not scary, but because it's too scary.

Relating that idea back to bleed, I wonder if some people are disinterested in experiencing difficult emotions in larp because it doesn't "work" for them (the knowledge that it's fiction is so strong that they don't get real feelings from it), while some others are disinterested because it's too emotional for them and they want a safer feeling in play? Some might also just not want first-person emotional play, preferring to get other things from larp, or preferring to act emotionally but not particularly experience it (like method acting vs. sorts that are more about displaying emotions without feeling them). Of course there are many other possible reasons, and also people who like bleed but don't want to call it that, and people who like bleed but don't want to do it "the Nordic way" where it's heavily designed in and debriefed etc.

It's not especially my thing personally, although I can't put my finger on why. Maybe I'm scared? ;) I've played emotional larps, and been emotional in them, and found them affecting, and enjoyed it. Some larps I've written have been a bit bleedy too, and they went off pretty well. But it's not something I especially want to focus on or seek out. I think it's just one aspect of the wider experience of larp for me, and I'm less interested in larps that focus on it to the exclusion of other aspects of larp that also appeal to me. I find that one of the coolest things about larps, they can offer so many different experiences in a single package. On the other hand, I'm in the lucky position of being somewhere where people are experimenting with lots of approaches to larp, and merging them, so I have options.
 

Shalabi

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Validated User
#27
I am not surprised by the fact that people get scared. Its just not something that works for me. I may get startled, or nauseated, but never actual fear. Its the same way with roller coasters and high locations. Being very high does nothing for me because I know there are safety precautions. No matter how high the roller coaster goes, I know I am perfectly safe. Now if I'm on a ledge at the edge of a mountain with no railing, that's a totally different story.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the different spectrums of "working" for people.

My wife and I were at a larp we both play about a year ago when the following scenario occurred. A bunch of mind controlling monsters came out and charmed the males into kidnapping as many women as they could. Once kidnapped they then impregnated them with there monster babies in a very rapey way. (several of the players got upset with this aspect, but its only tangential to the story.) About 9 months later, two of the impregnated women still had not "cut the baby out" and so they ran a "give birth" module. They had a baby doll painted red (the monsters were red) and fake blood everywhere, and one of the women gave birth to a monster baby while half the town was trying to kill the newborn. For my wife (who had just given birth maybe months earlier) this was too much. She had to leave the module due to the emotional bleed. She was literally sick to her stomach from just thinking about the scenario. From then on, whenever these particular creatures came out she would have to leave, and was completely unable to interact with the plotline at all. From my point of view I found it distasteful, but it didn't cause any kind of emotional reaction in me other than mild disgust that the plotline was being run at all.
 
#28
...Wow. That pregnancy plot story is crazy. The kind of thing that serves as a perfect demonstration of a LARP that would seriously require trigger warnings.

Oddly, there's a part of me that is grimacing and backing away and thinking "I would never, ever agree to roleplay those scenarios." And a part of me that's saying "that is pushing so very hard on my boundaries- completely outrageous but tied enough into real life horrors, that given the opportunity I would kind of have to try it." It's kind of like the time I was skiing and spotted the scariest double black diamond slope I'd ever seen and even though I'm a barely a mediocre skiier, I went down it just because I... had to.
 

Ryan Paddy

big picturist
Validated User
#29
I think bleed is often conflated with "hardcore" experiences. The term "bleed" sounds misleadingly dangerous and messy. But bleed can be positive, and subtle. For example, a warm feeling of trust towards a person who plays a friend of your character is bleed. If a larp makes you feel empowered, smart, accomplished or heroic as a player, that's bleed too.

Bleed is any transfer of ideas or feelings from player to character, or vice versa, that you either bring into the game or take out of it (i.e. not just transitory feelings or thoughts during play that have no more lasting impact). At least, that's my preferred definition. Bleed is quite ubiquitous in larp, it's mostly the form and any OOC measures to manage it that vary.

That pregnancy story sounds like GMs trying to introduce "hardcore" elements, or just being ignorant of how triggering their "monstrous involuntary impregnation" content was, or perhaps just being douches. Hard to tell without more context about what they say they were trying to achieve, whether they gave any warning, etc. But given your wife's response, it's clear there was an undesirable disconnect between the arrangers and the players, and insufficient communication of the content.

That strikes me as an example of the exact opposite handling of bleed to what most Nordic types seem to advocate these days. Nordic bleed advocates appear to specifically call for any "hardcore" bleed to be managed, consensual, and debriefed, more like what Marios seems to object to above as a kind of socialised mollycoddling.
 
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Shalabi

Registered User
Validated User
#30
Yeah, the runners (and many of the players) consider it to be a "Hardcore Horror Larp."

Also, That bleed transfer is undesirable to me for another reason that you brought up. I am frequently entertained by my character failing. I have been known to purposely fail a module or encounter because I think its something that would be more fun for me to roleplay out. Sure my character hates failing, but I the player thinks it leads to a more enjoyable story. In this case the emotions felt by the player and the emotions "felt" by the character are completely different. Bleed would be counter productive to those types of encounters, and a game that encouraged bleed would make it harder for those encounters to occur.
 
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