This article was written after a very long discussion with Baptiste Cazes and Pascal Meunier about this genre and its definition. Many thanks to them.
When I speak about french larps to international larpers, it’s difficult to put words on something really specific of my country. I could speak about the castles we can rent to have amazing scenery, but it’s not really something about the larp itself (and there are amazing places in other countries).
There are many kinds of larps in France. You can play action larps, experimental larps, diplomatic larps, investigation larps, and so on (probably like everywhere). For all that, these different kinds of larps don’t always create communities who claim to adhere to a specific sort of larp or another. Some organizations do it locally, but that’s all.
Ça va jazzer à Chicago by “Rôle”
Picture: Joram Epis
Chicago during the 20’s, these two people are probably hiding something.
However, a few scenes emerge. The experimental scene, for example, which transcends the organizations, the community around the game « Vampire », or the community around scenarized airsoft games. There is also a scene which seems specific to France (but maybe I’m wrong), around a particular kind of game, and whom I want to speak about in this article : The frenchstyle romanesque larp.
Hauts-de-forme, Crinolines et Hiéroglyphes by “RAJR”
Does this man guide her to her fate during this particular night?
Romanesque means that the events or the characters are wonderful as in a novel, especially novels with incredible stories, wonders and adventures, like the novels of Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson or Walter Scott. It often means also that there are romantic stories between the characters.
Un souper au Fouquet’s by “Les Amis de Miss Rachel”
The three musketeers are ready to face the villains, who probably killed their family a long time ago.
When you look at this kind of larp, you can see some specific features and some trends :
1/ The character sheets are written in the style of a novel. The trend is to write more and more long sheets (sometimes more than thirty pages for the backstory of a character). In the first romanesque larps, more than ten years ago, the character sheets were not so long, but the will of writing in a literary style was already here.
Les Noces de cendre (Ash wedding) by “Rôle”
Picture: Joram Epis
Argentina, 1945. These two lovers will probably discuss many things of their troubled past while they are dancing Tango.
2/ In this kind of larps, the characters are overtaken by their past, and they will discover during the larp a new side of their own story, when speaking with other characters or going through events. There are often a lot of dramatic revelations.
Spirits of Hannington Wicks by “Les Amis de Miss Rachel”
The walk under the trees is a necessary scene to tell to a daughter that she was adopted, or anything else…
3/ The organizers and players of the larps are looking for a strong immersion in the character. The organizers provide a lot of details about the story of the character and his/her psychology in the character sheet, and the players try to become the character and feel like him/her. Players in this community often speak about this aspect of the larps, for example when they cried because of the dramatic intensity of a game.
Fraülein Rackel by “Les Amis de Miss Rachel”
Picture: Joram Epis
She would like not to be here, but curiosity is too strong.
4/ The romanesque larps try to create emotions through the revelations of the backstory of the characters. There are many ways to create emotions for players. You can put them into stressful situations, allow them to live strong events, play with their environment, … In romanesque larps, the best way is to evoke the past of the characters, to tell their dramatic stories.
Jedi Knight 2 by “Wargs”
In this StarWars larp, it is easier to kill some aliens with your gun, than telling to your man that you’re not the girl he thinks you are…
Of course a romanesque larp might have other features than the four above, but these ones are really specific to the genre. Most of the romanesque larps take place between the 17th and the 20th century, but for a few years, we can see new trends, for example medieval larps which follow the rules of the genre (like Truso). There are also often high requirements for costumes and scenery.
Truso by “Sarcasmes et mauvais esprits”
Will this romantic story succeed in the cruel world of these two peasants?
It’s difficult to say how these larps will evolve. Many new games of different communities adopt some features of the romanesque larps, and some of the romanesque larps try to mix this style with others (for example, « Au Bonheur des dames » tries to introduce nordic larp techniques into a classic frenchstyle romanesque larp).
I can’t really say that it is a majority larp scene in France, but the community around this kind of larp is strong enough to mention it and introduce it to the international larp community, as a specific scene with its own features. And if you think that you might like this kind of larp, you have now the keys to do it on your own.