Historical reenactment is losing to Larping. NOT A GOOD THING

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by Jmock, Nov 6, 2015.

  1. Jmock

    Jmock We are owed nothing

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    I've been a die hard historical reenactor for several years and a competitive swordsman for most of my life. While I write in the fantasy genre, I read a great deal of historical fiction as well and one of my favorite series of books is Bernard Cornwall's Warlord Chronicles. His descriptions of what it's like to be in a shield wall during a push is spot on. While larping looks like a great deal of fun, it doesn't capture what its like to meet steel on steel in a full contact fight. It's a wonderful thing to draw from in terms of writing. I'd like to know ow other people might feel about this subject.
     
  2. hopewrites

    hopewrites Believe in your youness

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    Looking at it from an acting, or character pov, they could be seen in the same light. However, my personal prejudices lead me to believe there is more room for interpretation in larping than in hr.

    To my mind, no two battles can be the same. Hr battles would therefore be conducted as though fixed. Since all the reinactors know who is to winand who is to loose. This foreknowledge will change their fighting styles. The original historical combatants didn't know who was going to win, or roughly how long the conflict would last. So it would seem to me that larpers test their skills while hr's test their memories and research habits.
     
  3. Jmock

    Jmock We are owed nothing

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    A good point for battle reenactment but not for what we call re-fights. In the Viking society and many other melee combat societies we fight with a point system i.e. a strike anywhere on the body with the steel blade, a spear point, axe-head, or an arrow point is considered a kill. Re-fights are done for the audience after the historical display to show them who the better combatants really are. You are right that the scripted battle doesn't really demonstrate skill as a commander/shield wall combatant, and I must admit that my heart is rarely in those fights, as I'm just waiting until we can duke it out in earnest.

    I've tried larping, but from the standpoint of someone who's been fencing, historical reenacting and HEMA-ing (Is that a word? Could it be?) for most of his life, I feel that the research aspect of reenactment i.e. longsword manuscripts, the research into historical strategy and then playing it out, makes it a better source for the real thing. The last and most important thing for me is the use of steel blades, which gives the whole thing a greater sense of danger. I fell this is what would change the fighting style most of all as when I was larping, it was with foam swords and people just went charging in with no concern for breaking fingers or chipping teeth....which I have done....sadly.
     
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  4. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Firstly, welcome to the chronicles forum! And this is an interesting topic indeed. :)

    I once did a LARP event in the 1990's, and it was certainly educational - watching a knife-fighting tournament, taking part in a shield wall, and watching a mass combat event involving about 150 people. But it certainly didn't teach anything about the military discipline or styles of fighting of professional soldiers.

    I have done some (very limited) performance combat training under the RSC and Clanranald, but they were all about appearances for a stage or screen audience (and safety), rather than the authentic martial experience.

    I've wanted to get involved in HEMA, but unfortunately I'm now out in the wilds - the nearest training school is about 2 hours away, which isn't feasible for me. I do have a few fighting manuals, but I've not found anyone around here who'd be serious about training through any of them. From a writer's perspective, I'm limited to historical accounts, and good fiction.
     
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  5. Jmock

    Jmock We are owed nothing

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    Ah, that's a damn shame, Brian. I've had the same problem in the past but it was after I had been part of a large fighting society for some time and it was certainly something I missed. If it is something you're interested in, I strongly recommend taking the time to heading south next October for Mega Hastings. It will be the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and there will be hundreds (probably thousands) of historical reenactors, competitive fighters and archers coming from all over the world to take part. It would be a great experience.

    ...sorry if it seems like I'm coming across as a recruiter, I just get excited about battles! :)
     
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  6. hopewrites

    hopewrites Believe in your youness

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    One should get excited about battles! So much of who we are today has been built out of the results of battles. Even our current standards of beauty still reflect the desire to have a battle ready mate.

    The larpers I had the opportunity to get involved with used blunted blades or wood, not foam rubber. So safety was on the minds of those involved. Their focus was character development and story arcs.

    I think it all depends on the group you get involved with. (Another group of larpers only wanted an excuse to have lots of sex. I passed on that group as it was not my focus.)

    As a research tool I would assume nothing could beat hr for really getting the real for what those who have gone before us went through in their lives. To step into those roles one would have to think out before hand (and therefore study before hand) how those people thought and how those thoughts drove their actions, thus getting a true feel for how history came about the way it did.
     
  7. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    It sounds interesting - but for me it's a bit too far from the Highlands of Scotland. :)
     
  8. Ray McCarthy

    Ray McCarthy Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.

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    I'd have thought it depends on the Larping group?
     
  9. Davidjb

    Davidjb Well-Known Member

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    I have also been at Hastings on many occasions. How many people can say they've actually stood in front of a cavalry charge!! You are right -- it is awesome.
     
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  10. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 20 Warlord!

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    The 2 things are totally different to each other though, they aren't in competition.

    Why does the title say losing? If Larpers were not Larping there's a very good chance they would not be joining reenactment groups instead - its fans of Fantasy Fiction taking the tabletop Fantasy RPG's like Dungeons and Dragons, taking it to the next level and acting it out for real in costume. My Brother has been a Larper for 10 years or more, and I did ask him once if he fancied Historical reenactment, as despite the history, I don't think there are any reenactment groups in this area, and I assumed he and his group might "crossdress" if you see what I mean ;) options for everything from a Briton Shield Wall, facing of Saxons, to Peninsular War era Royal Welsh Fusiliers with Muskets. But he said no, he and his friends had no interest, it's all about Elves & Rogue Assassin's and so on for them. The same way that people who are heavily into Tabletop RPG's even ones that use figures like Warhammer etc will often have no interest in Historical miniature wargaming.

    The cost of Larper gear is astounding mind, so I dread to think what something like a Musket or accurate Royal Welsh Fusiliers uniforms from 1812,, say would cost. The thing that has always struck me as the maddest about my Brother is he usually plays as a Wood Elf, which are usually iirc short Elves from woodlands, hence the name, but he is 6 ft 8!! He must have spent thousands over the years on weapons, equipment, clothes, makeup.
     
  11. Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

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    As for the cost of reenactment equipment for the Napoleonic era @Caledfwich, this site might give you an idea.
    Napoleonic
     
  12. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 20 Warlord!

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    Thanks for the Link, Vlad!!! It would appear that the cost of Napoleonic equipment is much cheaper than I thought! :)

    I would love to be in a reenactment group, but as I said, there are not any around here. It's a shame, as I would love to be in a Royal Welsh Fusiliers group, which is the Regiment that traditionally recruited in my area.

    My father was a Territorial Royal Welsh Fusilier when he was a young man, and in the late 80's/early 90's he was an Instructor in the local Army Cadets, and because of his skills, and experience in the TA, he very quickly became a Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor (I assume they are now Warrant Officer Instructors if following regular Army ranks) and would visit Army Cadet Companies, Sea Cadet and Royal Air Force Cadets within the Dyfed & Glamorgan Command, training the Cadets in the use of various weapons like the General Purpose Machine Gun.
    As the Royal Welsh Fusiliers are sadly gone in the various reorganisations, becoming part of the new Royal Welsh Regiment, the various county's in the Dyfed & Glamorgan Command have been attached to other Regiments. the Ceredigion Division (my County) and the local Territorial Army Companies have now become attached to the Welsh Guards. When the first Gulf War was kicking off in 1990/1 my Dad was put on standby for deployment out there - even though he had not been in the TA for a few years, you are always "on the books" until retirement age for emergencies etc, and with his Cadet experience and Rank I imagine he was quite high up on the list, but thankfully did not get called up in the end.

    I would love to be a Rifleman in a Napoleonic 95 Rifles group (or 60th Royal American Rifles) :)
     
  13. Jmock

    Jmock We are owed nothing

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    Firstly @Caledfwlch, love the name as a proud Welshman myself and an avid fan of Berny Cornwall. I call him 'Berny' because we're tight......that's a lie.

    The reason I said 'losing' I suppose is because there are people leaving reenactment societies to join larping societies. Why I think this is bad is because the decades of training and research, the standard for Competitive Full-Contact Combat and all those other great things doesn't quite make it across. They're not strictly in competition with one another, but people tend to think, "Why bother practicing for months or years to learn how to wield a sword when I can just join these guys and swing one." I guess I'm just stuck up about the whole thing, because I've had a few conversations recently where some larpers have been comparing knocking about with foam swords to what we do which requires consistent and rigorous training and study.

    Oh, yeah. The cost of Larping is ridiculous considering there is no need to be authentic, and I think that comes from not knowing the worth of what they're buying. I've had conversations in the past with larpers who have talked about the cost of their kit. A wizard's robe made from some crappy nylon dwarfed my entire hand stitched linen kit, including the leather shoes! But, hey. They didn't have glow-in-the-dark stars on them. Sadly, some people are going to get ripped off in both fields.
     
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  14. gdoc

    gdoc Well-Known Member

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    To an outsider, these two activities sound similar. Can you explain the difference?
     
  15. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    Completely. I've been LARPIng since uni in 1990 and am still going strong. I've done HEMA, jujitsu, competition fencing and was a long term member of Regia Anglorum. I've also done D Day as 101st airborne. I'm a regular airsofter. I've cheated on every genre and period of dressing up. They teach you different things. I don't see that one wins over another.

    LARPING at the Role Models end of things is next to useless as a refer nice point for history. LARP as I've just come back from (Dumnonni Chronicles in Devon) beats reenactment hands down for me. My reasoning is that 1. While its fantasy, it's highly historical fantasy (I've been dressed as a Viking all weekend, not an elf!) and 2. You can really cut lose with rubber weapons and shields with much less risk of injury. Like the crazy Russians and Poles who do the medieval ring fighting :)

    The weapons are lighter in LARPING so things move faster, but the essence of shield wall and skirmish tactics remain the same. I found reenactment battles ponderous and slow. The risk of real injury hampers the dynamic pace I've seen in (some good) LARP. We did a boar snout charge on a shield wall this weekend which was awesome fun, with lots of armour, big foam shields, foam Dane axes. All super safe but we can do it at full speed, hitting the wall at running speed without the worst of taking a steel spear in the teeth.

    Reenactment teaches you how heavy the kit is and how quickly you tire.

    Armoured up doing HEMA is another matter though, because then you are basically at full weight kit and can wail on your opponent.
     
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  16. Dulahan

    Dulahan Broken Hero

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    I personally believe that LARPing is rather childish and not exactly on par with something like historical re-enactment.

    I live in the United States but know many actors from recent periods (the American Revolution & Civil War for example) These guys are not only showmen but they are historians as I am sure you and your fellows are. They are more than happy to explain to you anything you'd like to know about their gear, the manner it was used, and in what capacity it saw action. In the case of American reenactment, though, its more about the canon and muskets explosions entertaining the crowd while telling a story of some battle or another. A piece of living history that is both fun and educational. LARPing to me is just a game.

    I attended a LARPing event once and, coming from a contact sports and boxing hobbyist background, I was interested to beat and/or be beaten with these sticks until either me or the other guy gave up. I came to find that it was pretty much an abstract point system built around lightly tapping you 'opponent'. It wasn't my cup of tea.

    Battle, up until about the First World War when people started launching gas at each other, was a spectator sport. Folks would picnic on the surrounding hills and watch two adversarial teams fight against one another. We still do that with Boxing and Wrestling, its clearly done with your sport as well. These are the re-creation of something so totally over powers your opponent that it subconsciously says "If this referee/judge wasn't standing here to stop this, the match would very likely end in your death."

    That is sport. LARPing, again, is a game. I am struggling to see how the two are in any way related.
     
  17. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    How is sport not a game?

    There's superficial similarities in that both activities involve dressing up and fighting mock battles.

    The difference is more that LARP is role playing and has a story at both a macro and an individual level. Combat is one part of it as all stories benefit form conflict and the fighting side is fun. But good (in my opinion) LARP engages the players in a story just as a movie or a book does. It's about your experience as your character. LARP tends to be more immersive because there's no public to disrupt the experience. I've been on LARP events that are entirely historical, no magic, no fantasy and even set in the real world using real historical characters. The costume standards can be as rigorous as any reenactment group. But LARP can also be elves and goblins.

    My experience of reenactment is different. You dress up, talk to the public, do a quick fight, then get the beers on after. I've been a Saxon and a Viking in my time and I'm currently part of a 101st Airborne WW2 group. It's a very different experience. It's often scripted as to who will win. There may be a story but it's usually a narrated story so the public can follow it. It's as much for the spectators as the participants.

    Dismissing an entire hobby as childish based on one experience is a bit closed minded and borderline offensive to those of us who enjoy it and get a lot more out of it that childish experiences. I spent a weekend in a bunker two weeks ago on a post apocalypse event being chased by cannibals. I've run and been involved in LARP that dealt with adult themes and reduced players to tears through fear or emotion. Fair enough it's not for you, but consider that US and European LARP is very different. Look up Nordic LARP for instance.
     
  18. Dulahan

    Dulahan Broken Hero

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    @Martin Gill It's only my opinion. I am not trying to offend anyone, I am just critical of it. I know a lot of people enjoy LARPing as recreation, I just don't find it to be any way related to Reenactment. Reenators, as the Jamock observes in his opening post, are far more disciplined and it is a Contest not a leisure activity.

    I have looked into LARPing before and, after posting this last night, did a bit more research. I may be confined to North America and yes, there may be differences between European and North American LARPing -- but in my casual browsing of the Internet I hadn't come across anything. LARPing is Roleplaying and Roleplaying is Acting. You're using your imagination to create a little narrative for yourself where you are doing things you might not other wise be capable. LARPing completely removes the a Realistic element from the performance. Reenactors I are conscious of things like fitiuge and how it relates to their gear or what they bring along with them. These guys dig fighting pits, forage for roots, and build lean-to's to camp under for however long the events lasts. LARP'ers sleep in a hotel room or some less-than-accurate facsimile of a cottage while swinging a cartoonish foam hammer that is so light you'd never get winded.

    I am not trying to discourage anyone from LARPing, I think its a fun little make believe game .. I just don't believe it is in any way related to what a lot of Historical Reenactors do.
     
  19. WaylanderToo

    WaylanderToo Well-Known Member

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  20. Dulahan

    Dulahan Broken Hero

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    The Armored Combat League is a whole other level. I knew a dude who participated in the American Team and I believe the World Contest was held in Germany some where. They are some hardcore dudes. The guy I spoke with took part in team contests which were essentially 5 v 5 or 12 v 12 where the fighters fought to submission or a three point fall. (three points of contact, for instance, 2 knees and a hand) They did have single fighter contests which worked off a point not unlike boxing (clean strikes, knockdowns, deflections, etc)

    It's far and away from fighting with a foam wizard stick.
     
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