Dogma 99, Part 4

I’m going to run through three today, in the hope of limiting this set of posts to just five…

6. Superficial action is forbidden.

Another one I would be very interested to try as a device, just not right now.  What they mean by “superficial action” is, basically, violence, or the threat of violence.  They’ve quite accurately homed in the the fact that the metaphor for interpersonal conflict in LARP is, well, actual conflict.  When two characters cannot agree to disagree, their methods for settling their squabble, nine times out of ten, are some form of violence, be it physical or supernatural. I can bang on for a bit about why this is, but it basically comes down to “blah blah, root of hobby, power fantasy, blah blah”.

The point here is that it seems to be pretty much the one and only device for building tension – the threat of violence.  Even when the tension is not about violence itself, in that moment, it’s about something happening that might lead to violence at some future point.  And that’s kinda bad.  There are far more LARPs where the key feature is violence, rather than love or sex, and that’s a whole can of worms in itself, that I’ll save for a future post – this is a topic I’d like to come back to.

I’ve (more or less) done this one, pretty much by accident as it happens, in Testament, a game where the only violence that ever occurred was NPC-on-NPC.  That said, I’m not sure it worked, but I think there were a lot of things going on with that game…

Actually, now I think of it, while I wouldn’t claim to have done it in Restitution, it’s notable that absolutely none of the NPCs had an agenda that revolved around wanting to hurt or do violence to anyone.  Some of them did wind up forced into it, but none of them wanted it.  I suspect that will continue to do for my purposes – I tend to think an NPC whose agenda is actually to do violence is somewhere between stupid and dull.  But overall, I’m not ready to remove “superficial action” from the toolbox just yet, particularly as the current front-runner idea for the setting for the next game is the aftermath of a war.  It would feel thematically inconsistent to remove that kind of threat from this one.

But I think I’d quite like to run a short game at some point where violence is specifically off the table as a device.

7. LARP inspired by tabletop role-playing games are not accepted.

Yeah, look, just no.  I like pulpy supernatural games.  I may not be running a game entirely as per any published tabletop rulebooks, but I like them, and it would be disingenuous to claim I’m not inspired by them.  I get why the rule is on the manifesto – it’s about breaking the form out of it’s constraints, but honestly I think 15 years on those constraints have been well broken, and I’m OK with running what I like.

8. No object shall be used to represent another object.

This is a lot easier to do if you’re running one offs, with no violence or supernatural elements.  That said: the players in my games do pretty well for creating props, and I love them for it.  But as I keep saying, “doesn’t suit the kind of games I run”.  While many characters are unarmed, some of my players like to arm their characters (and as I said above, I don’t think I’ll be banning it), and I’m not having real weapons in my time in, thanks.  I’ll take foam representations, thanks.  That said, I m usually pretty strict on the idea that the representative object must solidly resemble the item it’s representing, unless that’s totally physically impossible.

Key ideas to consider for the next game:

  • Er, not a lot, I don’t think.  It feels a bit like these posts are starting to degenerate into me justifying why I can’t run a Dogma 99 LARP, which wasn’t the plan, but there we are.  This set, though, do make me interested in running some one-offs with some or all of these rules, particularly the absolute prohibition on violence or threat of as a dramatic device.  I really do think that’s strong.  Just not for the next game.

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