A letter to parents
First things first
The Dragonbane team understands that many parents are curious about what their children are doing at live action role-play events, and we appreciate that you care. This letter is written specifically for those of you who are uncertain, in any way, whether it is safe and sound to let your child participate in Dragonbane. We also want to invite you to bring up any further questions or concerns about Dragonbane and about live role-play at large. Remember that the Dragonbane website (http://www.dragonbane.org/) is a good source of further information with regards to the practical arrangements, and for more information on the theme and story of Dragonbane. For further documentation on our hobby consult the listing of independent reports and books on the subjects of role-playing and live role-playing, provided at the end of this document. Some will be available for download while others must be purchased or checked out at a library.
What is Dragonbane and live role-play?
Live role-play is an internationally wide-spread hobby that is distinguished by the spirit of comradeship, respect for one another and progressive visions about meaningful pastime activities. The first thing to know about live role-play is that it is a form of participatory entertainment that is done for fun and amusement. Live action role-play, or LARP as it is commonly abbreviated, can be likened to improvisational theatre but where there is no audience, only actors. The participants (the actors, or players), take on roles in this theatre and through acting them out creates a performance and a story. Many LARP events base their game worlds on medieval standards when it comes to the look & feel of the game world. Others may use futuristic themes but it is also common that modern times stand as model for the LARP. In Dragonbane we use the 13th century as our guide but because it is also a fantasy world it will be a very exotic and magical place as well. So LARP is not only about a story, but of life-styles that are long forgotten or that never existed outside of imagination.
To be part of a story: The purpose of most live role-playing games, including Dragonbane, is to create a story, often one that is set in a fantasy world. Dragonbane is based on a book written by Mike Pohjola. The book describes the fantasy world of Valenor where a village named Cinderhill is located. It is in Cinderhill where Dragonbane will take place. The inhabitants of this world are a mix of fantasy characters and creatures, and will include adventurers, a dragon, warriors, magicians, villagers – all of which will come together to collaboratively create a fantastic experience for life and the kind of story one tells grandchildren. Dragonbane provides the framework and background material and participants act on and interact to create and experience the rest of the story. The book and all related background material are being translated into several European languages and will be available for downloading at the Dragonbane website. We invite all interested parents to review this material to gain a deeper insight into the theme and story of Dragonbane.
To act: Live action role-playing is not a passive experience, like going to a theatre would be, but an active and collaborative participation form that allows participants to improvise and perform a part in a fantastic play they themselves are part of writing. Think about it – there are costumes, the roles, a stage of sorts, and the other players that interact with you – it is a challenge and something of an art form. Also, because it is part of a collaborative and shared activity it is a positive, rewarding and creative experience.
Apart from reality: Live role-play is an experience of the imagination – and as such it is not reality. In fact, one of the most appealing qualities of live role-play is considered its capability to immerse the participants into a world apart from reality. When that happens we are what we refer to as “ingame” or “in character”. However, as soon as the week of Dragonbane is over, the reality of the real world takes over. That frame of mind is referred to as “offgame” or “out of character”. As live role-players we strive to spend as much as, if not all, of our time “in character” under the duration of the game. The transition back to reality is firmly emphasized by a proper de-briefing, which is a commonly used method in many activities in which imagination is explored. For example, you will have been de-briefed if you have ever been to a staged attraction at a theme-park, been hypnotized by a psychologist, or woken up from a bad dream. During the de-briefing we compliment each other on our performances and reflect over the played-out events. People participate in live role-play events to have a good time, and like all games Dragonbane is designed to be a fun opportunity to experience an amazing story.
The educational aspects of live role-play: Several independent studies confirm the educational aspects of gaming in general but also of role-playing games in particular. Role-playing games, the argument goes, contribute to developing a strong sense of self through a constructive exploration of identity and community that is fun, friendly, and most of all safe.
Not only will Dragonbane provide a drug- and alcohol free environment where physical safety and well-being is one of the ruling guidelines, but it will also engage every participant – young and old – in an activity that teaches cooperation & team-work, problem-solving, empathy and comradeship. In addition, Dragonbane provides a multi-cultural and international environment and as such offers extraordinary opportunities to learn new communications skills, offers a great networking environment, and reinforces cultural understanding and tolerance.
Safety at Dragonbane
Just as in sports and other recreational activities, accidents can occur in LARP even if they are rare. The important thing is to be prepared for an unlikely event and Dragonbane organizers will take several preventative approaches to ensure the physical safety of participants. This means that rules regarding for example combat situations, the use of special effects, alcohol and drugs will be strictly enforced. Further, theft, harassment and abuse in any way will not be tolerated. There will also be people responsible for the coordination of first aid, and any medical conditions that the organizers need to be aware of will be taken very seriously from our part. Rest assured that the Dragonbane team is made up of experienced and responsible LARP organizers that take safety very seriously.
It should be stressed that the LARP community is in general very safety-aware and participants tend to be much attuned to the well-being of their fellow players. Safety issues, in fact, very rarely present problems. In addition, live role-play is a completely voluntary thing and it is perfectly OK to step out of the game at any time.
The practical arrangements
What Dragonbane provides
Because Dragonbane is directed at an international player community, we as organizers are committed to making the practical arrangements for participants as smooth as possible. Dragonbane is a non-profit event, and the participation fee will partly go towards covering a number of expenses that otherwise would have fallen on each participant individually. It is therefore a great service to those who must travel far and otherwise would have to pack potentially enormous amounts of equipment. Providing this service also allows us a certain level of control over the experience it will give people and part of the participation fee will go towards covering the costs of props and set-design.
First of all, sleeping arrangements will be provided for every participant, which will be either in a weatherproof tent or in a permanent housing facility. Because living arrangements are part of the story world Dragonbane creates, the type of accommodation is dependent on the particular role a participant plays. Regardless, everyone will be warm, dry and as comfortable as we can make it.
Secondly, the communal efforts of preparing and cooking food are important aspects of the culture in which Dragonbane is set. In other words, eating and cooking is as much part of the game as is other activities. Therefore, cooking facilities and kitchenware and all ingredients to prepare all meals during the entire game will be provided. Everyone will help in this task and the meals will be warm hearty meals such as stews and vegetables but also fruit, bread and cheese and so on. If a participant has special diets or allergies, appropriate arrangements will be made.
Thirdly, to make it easy for everyone to get to and from Älvdalen safely and timely, the Dragonbane team will coordinate traveling arrangements between the game area and suitable locations in Sweden. This is especially useful for those who are arriving to Sweden from other countries, but a service all participants are invited to use.
The participation fee not only guarantees that all players are sleeping comfortably and fed properly; it is also a way to distribute costs fairly and save everyone a great deal of money and hassle. There will be a 30 day money-back guarantee should a participant decide not to attend.
What to bring and how to participate
Everyone who attends Dragonbane will be required to make and bring costume for their character. These must follow the costume guidelines which cover things like materials, models, accessories, and so on. The costume guidelines are different for different character roles and can be found in the costume section of this website. Expect workshops on character and costume creation to be held locally. In addition, everyone needs to bring a blanket or two, of natural materials such as wool or fur only. For detailed information on what to bring, see the what to bring page.
LARP is a fun and creative hobby that engages people of all ages, and as a parent you are encouraged by us to get involved. There will be opportunities to participate in local activities around the preparation of the event itself. For example, there may be locally held workshops to build props or make costumes and if you have a special interest or talent you would want to put to use in areas like that, you are more than welcome to help out. Or why not join in on the game? It is in fact very common that whole families have been introduced to the hobby through their children.
Ungdomsstyrelsen compiled in 1997 a report on the nature of the role-playing hobby, which includes live role-playing games. Written in Swedish, it gives a positive view of the hobby, the cultural movement that it is, and its positive effects on youths’ acquisition of complex competencies such as creativity and imagination. An English version of the report, "Role playing as a leisure activity" is now available at Ungdomsstyrelsen's website.
Each year, in either Finland, Sweden, Norway or Denmark, a large LARP festival is held under the name “Solmukohta”, “Knutpunkt”, “Knutepunkt” and “Knudepunkt” respectively. Various aspects of role-play are discussed in lectures and workshops, and a book is published. In 2004, Solmukohta was organized by the Finnish association Ropecon RY, and the book Beyond Role & Play was published. In 2005, Knutepunkt goes to Norway!
Rollespillets Forskningsforum is a Danish interest group for multi-disciplinary role-play research. Their website, http://rolfo.dk/ is a large repository texts and reports, most of which are in Danish but some are in English. They also have a good FAQ that is very informative and an impressive collection of links to related websites.
Studies about Fantasy Role-Playing Games lists over 150 articles in varying languages on role-play studies and theories.