GNS Theory for LARP – part 3 – Simulationist
The core goal of simulationist play is for the game to feel “real”. Understandably, very few LARPers in light-combat games view themselves as simulationist. It’s a much more common view in the medium-combat games (Amt/Bel/Dag), and those games address the simulationist view more directly systemically. Nevertheless, there is a simulationist satisfaction provided by the verisimilitude of LARP in contrast to table-top and CRPGs. The senses of accomplishment and immersion are one of the core strengths of all kinds LARP. Much like Gamist and Narrativist, every LARPer wants a bit of simulation in their game, and most will claim they want immersion when they express that.
Immersion is Collective Illusion
Immersion is usually defined as “there’s no shit pulling me out of character.” Most immersion snobs (and you know them) have this correct. It’s hard to be immersed with OOC talk and elements of the modern world in plain sight. However, the snobs only have part of the answer. True immersion happens when everybody buys into the illusion, drinks the Kool-Aid, and loses themselves. It’s a collective effort, and worth making OOC efforts to get people into character. I’ll write more about that in a future post.
If it can be done safely and cheaply, it should be done “live-action” rather than with a call or tag.
The failure to abide by this edict is the biggest pain point I have with LARPs, or the decisions made by LARP designers. I think they are missing the value of simulation in so many cases. The power of an actual phys. rep. instead of a tag is underestimated. The satisfaction of overcoming a physical or fighting challenge is miniscule if you simply use a verbal instead. My best war stories involve “and I ran across the field and did X”. This is primarily why I don’t have a great appeal for “nordic” style larps, and posit that they aren’t very “live-action” as they are missing the “action”. LARP is strongest when it has live-action and role-playing. There’s plenty of other venues that do those activities alone, and do them better.
Have enough verisimilitude to not broach credibility, and not much more
Now, the other aspects simulation can vary within the rules of each LARP. Medium and Heavy combat LARPs are definitely very Simulationist. The light-combat LARPs I prefer tend to be minimally Simulationist. Light-combat LARP needs just enough verisimilitude to not broach credibility, and often they do not want more than that. In order to accomplish the narrative and gamist goals of light-combat LARP, the simulation needs to decline. We want a guy that can throw fireballs, and those fireballs don’t light clothes on fire, but they do kill orcs. We want a gal that can get hit with a spear in the chest twenty times and still keep fighting. We want the blows to be light, the weapons to be light, and the combats to last a long time. These are non-purist Simulationist desires.
The Simulation is decided by rules, not Plot
The amount of simulation, by necessity, is decided on a holistic scale by the rules design, not by the plot/storytellers. Yes, plot can breach the underlying logic of the world, but in general, they do not, and the simulation level stays static. This is an important observation, since it means that as storyteller, you have only two levers to play with on the macro scale, the gamist and narrativist features of your game.