LARP Tales: Ivan the Croatian Larper

larp croatia
Ivan looking epic.

Today’s post is a continuation of an older series titled Larp Tales in which we highlight the story of a persons journey into Live Action Role Playing. Today’s post comes to us from Ivan who runs a blog on Croatian Larping. We’re very glad to have him guest blogging and hope he will keep us updated on the status of larp in Croatia for a long time.

My name is Ivan Žalac, I’m from Croatia, and I’ve been LARPing since 2001. I was 16 then, I played AD&D at that time, and a school friend of mine told me about this thing called LARP. At that time, there was only one LARP in Croatia, which was held only once a year. I created a nice barbarian character, got myself an outfit, and the rest is history.

Nowadays I’m a member of the Croatian LARP association Ognjeni Mač (I’m one of the people leading it actually), and I’m running an English-language blog called Diary of a Croatian LARPer. I’ve run LARPs of over 30 people, which is considered big in the Croatian LARP community – I’ve also given public speeches and presentations, connected to the various LARPers internationally, and even appeared on the Croatian national TV talking about LARP. This year I’m starting my series of fantasy LARPs called Terra Nova. When I look back at it all, it’s certainly a complex story which could have taken a different turn anywhere.

Croatian LARP scene is surprisingly homogeneous. Basically, it’s almost all fantasy LARPs consisting mostly of Amtgard groups. That first LARP I attended was Amtgard, and most other Croatian LARPs have in some way evolved from it – while there’s one officially active Amtgard chapter (Shire of Krvomedje), plenty other groups use Amtgard rules. However, from
initial contact (which was in 1997 when the first Croatian LARP happened), Croatian LARP developed mostly independently – keeping the Amtgard ruleset, but commonly interpreting it in a very different way. It developed into a rather freeform LARP resembling most European LARPs, falling back on Amtgard ruleset for combat only – and heavily house-ruled in other areas.

In the end, standard Croatian fantasy LARP is its own creation. Recognizable to both Amtgarders and most European LARPers, yet distinct from both in its style. While there are differences between various Croatian organizers – which most Croatian LARPers feel to be quite large – to most outsiders they would be rather similar, and the entire LARP scene in Croatia shows a similar playstyle and event style.

It’s even spread across our borders, influencing Serbian LARP. In fact, there’s an unofficial shared world between the mainstream Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and Bulgarian LARPs – a common map is planned to be drawn.

Apart from Amtgard-style fantasy LARP, there have been other LARPs and other systems. Vampire LARP was running for a few years, with several active Camarilla groups, but it’s no longer active. A Battlestar
Galactica LARP also happened, but it didn’t go on for long. Steampunk LARP recently started, and currently seems to be going well. There’s a group called SRP which runs short Nordic-style LARPs every once in a
while. And in June I’m running a new fantasy LARP, Terra Nova, which will be done in style of German LARPs instead of Amtgard – I’ll be reporting how it went once the first game is finished, but so far it has attracted plenty of player interest.

The journey to get to where we are was quite a bumpy ride for most of us involved. Yet even now, 15 years after LARP was introduced to Croatia, there’s plenty of innovation, and plenty of LARP enthusiasm and activity – with LARP population that’s barely in triple digits in the entire country, there’s a game running somewhere almost every weekend from March to October. There’s been plenty of continuous improvement and the future is looking even better.

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