B. Descriptions of Various Role-Playing Subcultures Using the Process Model

In this chapter, an attempt is made at describing various schools of role-playing around the world using Process Model terminology. This is done primarily in an effort to demonstrate the expressiveness of the model, and its usefulness in formulating styles clearly and firmly. We recognize that such characterizations of gaming cultures both intimately familiar and distant are very likely to cause severe arguments about the rightness of the characterizations. Thus, we posit these descriptions as propositions to be developed, and ask for some leeway in the interest of proving the actual points.

B..1 The Nordic Live-Action Role-Playing Community

Centered around yearly international conferences, the Nordic live-action role-playing community is also an active producer of theories concerning role-playing. While live-action role-playing forms in the various countries do differ quite much, through such conference publications as As Larp Grows Up[10] and Beyond Role and Play[11] and such larps as Mellan Himmel och Hav[12,13], a very clear message is seen. Larp and role-playing are seen as a media like any other, and at its best, a media for art and/or questioning.

This, translated to the Process Model, means that the Nordic larp community puts a clear focus on Meaning as the sought-after Benefit of role-playing. The publications also speak of a willingness to try and experiment with a wide variety of Methods and play styles in the pursuit of this goal, though there is a general wariness of introducing many actual resolution rule mechanics. This wariness in turn can be traced to a strong desire for Maintaining Believability, in the Process Model and probably also in the Nordic community seen itself as a Method for maintaining Immersion, a Process often seen as very desirable. In addition to the de facto base Process of Immersion, most highly acclaimed larps such as the already mentioned Mellan Himmel och Hav have also introduced the element of Exploring a Concept through the SIS into larping.

B..2 The Turku School of Larping

The Turku School of Larping[14,15] is a Finnish manifesto, nowadays mostly historic but still describing a distinct style of live action play. It also beautifully distills one facet of the more general Nordic larping mode. Art, ie. Meaning is up front stated to be the highest goal sought after in role-playing. It is posited that the potential for this Meaning has been carefully crafted into the starting setting of a game by its writer, and the players task is to bring this Meaning to the fore and experience it as deeply as possible. It is then strongly and directly posited that the Process of Immersion be the single best means of experiencing Meaning, due to the strong and direct nature of the experiences gained in that state. Methods like Use of Only In-Character Knowledge and Strict Adherence to In-SIS Causality and Considerations are proscribed in turn as the means to support Immersion.

B..3 The Old School of Tabletop Role-Playing

The traditional Finnish way of playing tabletop role-playing games is based on the Benefit of Entertainment, with a sideline of Meaning. Actual play in turn usually consists of multiple simultaneously running processes, with individual players taking interest and operating according to only one of them. Some Methods are very entrenched. Use of Only In-Character Knowledge, In-SIS Causality and Realism are all standard, with final authority over the SIS resting firmly in the hands of the gamemaster. While these Methods are primarily Immersion and Entity Exploration supportive, one should not assume these Processes to dominate. While they may be more prevalent, the whole range of Processes is encountered, with for example Competition and Tension being supported by the prevalent Method of Character Balance.

B..4 The Vampire Live-Action Gaming Community

The Vampire live-action gaming community, with its Mind's Eye Theatre -rule-set[16] has never had the aversion for rules its Nordic counterpart triumphs in. The Method of Using Resolution Rules in these games, added to the socially adversarial nature of the setting, often leads to strong Processes of Competition and Tension, the means of choice for Entertainment. On the other hand, the basic premise of humanity inherent in the setting is clearly a Concept to be Explored, resulting mostly in Meaning. The two Processes usually both exist in a given game, but the players who engage in each try to remain separate from each other as much as possible. According to interviews[17], the forthcoming new edition of Mind's Eye Theatre rules acknowledges this disparity, allowing gamemasters to select between a simple (neutral, unobtrusive) and a complex (Competition- and Tension-supportive) resolution system.

B..5 The Forge Narrativist Tabletop Community

The Forge's narrativist community is self-providing in the sense that they play many games designed for themselves, by themselves. Examples of such are Sorcerer[7], My Life with Master[8], Dust Devils[18] and Dogs in the Vineyard[19]. In the Forge lingo, narrativism is defined as putting the characters in situations of choice whose consequences are meaningful to the player. This alludes to a strong desire for the Benefit of Meaning, but in actuality it seems that easy going Entertainment is at least as important.

Immersion is not usually a popular Process among the narrativists, and neither are Competition, Challenge or Tension. Exploration of an Entity appears, but the Exploration of a Concept seems to be the Process of choice.

Methods used in the narrativist games are often wildly avant-garde, with a clear de-emphasis on In-SIS Causality and Use of Only In-Character Knowledge. In contrast, a Method known as Observing a Director Stance towards the SIS is often employed, and Authority over the SIS is frequently Distributed. While these Method choices are common, the Methods truly best supporting narrativism seem to be Consequence Rules, found in almost all the successful narrativist games.

Eetu Mäkelä 2005-03-02