Lorediving for Larpers

I’m a huge learning geek – especially when the knowledge is “how-to” or, khm, theoretical. Nah, I’ll just say it  – I love learning about things I might want to know something about in the future. No matter when the future comes.

So diving into a familiar setting’s lore is more like a challenge than a curse to me, even when the lore is vast, complicated and/or totally unrelated to me (hint: the Elder Scrolls larp I’m going to on – shit, it’s tomorrow already!).

Since I’ve found myself recently in both roles – the student and the teacher (for a larp the co-alpha and I might run next year, more about that later) – I thought it might be fun to share a few observations and hints for lorediving – exploring lore while you’re getting ready for a larp in an already existing setting.

Random note – Whenever possible, lorediving should start with participating in the fictional universe by consuming the original product – be it a game, a movie/tv show, or a book. Sure, it ain’t always possible or adequate – e. g., I’m really not one for videogames – but it’s definitely the easiest, when you can spare the time. I did it once – for my first outdoor fantasy larp based on a Croatian literary universe – and loved it. There are little details in familiar settings – atmosphere, style etc. – which cannot be explored in any other way – not to mention that sometimes it’s faster to read a book than explore a wiki site. Don’t sweat it if you can’t do it – but do consider it. After all, you’ll pay credit to the author(s) of the original material if you do it – and that’s always a nice thing.

#1 Determine how deep you need to go. There are larps and larps, and, more importantly, GMs and GMs. The project we’re slowly starting to work on will probably include a simple entry quiz; none of the fanlarps I’ve participated in so far had anything of the sort.

#2 Find something in a lore – a detail of any kind – which you really like at first glance. In the TES lore, for me it was the Redguard race (blame it on GG Kay’s Lions of Al-Rassan). It really doesn’t matter what it is – it doesn’t even need to be relevant in the universe as a whole. It can be a piece of weapon or a song or a legend or really anything – it just has to be enough to lead you into the setting. To me it was unimaginable I’d ever larp in a videogame universe – nooo way… It lasted roughly until the moment I discovered the great Frandar Hunding. People are more than capable of separating settings and their origins – and, after all, people really take different things from the same settings. You just need to find that little something that’ll work for you.

#3 Explore the detail you chose as much as you like. Find out where it came from, how it’s created, how it’s used in the universe etc. Find out what it means to different characters. Take it with you to a coffee place and get to know each other. (I’m kidding over this one – although reading bits and pieces of TES lore printed out over a coffee or two has been known to happen, at least to me.) Put the detail in context in the setting. Everything is connected to everything else – races to deities, deities to religious wars and infinite history lessons – and that net of intertwined details can really help you get familiar with a universe.

#4 Follow the white rabbit! Really good settings – those which people usually choose for their larps, as well as those which have a huge fanbase – are commonly worth exploring.  Get familiar with the setting as much as you like – and nevermind if the things which make you smile or intrigue you are details other people would never even notice. To use the TES example once more – there are tons of poems and even songs in the lore. I once spent the better part of a fortnight writing music for random TES poems – which are part of a videogame lore, one I usually wouldn’t poke even if I had a very long stick. I enjoyed every second of it.  Fun can come in really weird places – and really strange universes.

Bonus quick tips – Find your own candy – something that you like, not somethign others think you might like. Take as much time as you need – and cut it as short as possible if you simply don’t have time for lorediving. Go for enjoying over perfecting – it’s always, always supposed to be fun. Sure, sometimes you’ll have to learn about stuff that, at least at the first glance, doesn’t really resonate with you, but you’ll never know unless you try. And, whatever you do, make sure to pick your own approach. I ended up writing lyrics for the music as well – and I needed to learn about details of Redguard history to write the songs. And since I was writing a song, you know, it didn’t really feel like learning. I guess lorediving can really help a setting grow on you – you just need to let it surprise you.

I hope it all works out the next time you need to undertake lorediving for a larp you’re going to. And wish me luck – although there will be no Yokudan history quizzes this weekend. See you next Monday with a rather personal story. That is, of course, if my character survives the Elder Scrolls larp. It’s been six months since we’ve started getting ready for it – so you can say, in a way, that it has already become one of the most anticipated larps I’ve ever participated in. So… let’s see what happens, eh?

And if the tiny posting gap which happened this week surprised you, let’s just say I’m currently getting over a lovely eye inflammation. If ever I wanted to take a month offline… well, bad timing, thank you very much.

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