The Campaign Trail: Bratislava

The wonderful thing about the recurring larp conference, Knudepunkt, is the opportunity to meet roleplayers from almost all of the world. A couple of years ago, I housed a small group of Czechs and last year they returned the favor. I was invited to talk about jeepform and play some games with them in Brno. It was a blast.

Bratislava by Jeep

Fast forward a year. In Brno I met a small group of Slovaks as the Slovak and Czech gaming scene is somewhat connected, and at knutepunkt in Norway, where the Czech and Slovaks together held the best party of the year (and also blew votre minds when presenting the prehistory of Czechoslovak larping), we discussed the possibility of a visit to fair Bratislava.
This time I brought Tobias Wrigstad. Tobias and I have a prehistory of going to strange countries to discover the local flavor of roleplaying. Here the main attraction was of course to see what the slovak roleplaying scene was up to, but most importantly to meet the local roleplayers. Tomaš and Dominika did a great job at being hosts and showered us in information about Slovakia, Bratislava and roleplaying in particular. Both Tobias and I cheered the first beers were set on the table. Beer is an integrated part of the Slovak lifestyle, and in the end we ended up becoming very assimilated.

Gangs of Pressburg

The main attraction was a big water gun larp called Gangy Prešporku or Gangs of Pressburg in a more familiar language. This game is a recurring affair and plays out in the streets of Bratislava (Pressburg is the old name for Bratislava). Armed with a water gun, sombreros and an ill-fitting mustache, Caldo (Tobias) and Freddo (me) battled the forces of a biker gang and some heavily armed hip-hoppers. Every time you got hosed down (which happened a lot), you had to get back to your faction leader, in our case El Presidente, to receive a well delivered pep talk and a new life. In the end, after successfully defending the whore house and taking over the ice cream shop, the Mexicans (our group) won the game and got to eat the cake. It was a very fun game, perhaps a bit too long. Tobias Wrigstad, who usually is hard to impress, was totally immersed, and repeatedly went out in a blaze of water.

15 games in an evening

Also we had a session of gaming where we playtested some beeer induced ideas from the day before: The Chefs of Time, some kind of Mirror Game and Strangers on a Bus. The ideas were not all ready for prime time, but everyone had a lot of fun, and we very honestly delighted to try something else than Lady and Otto or The Upgrade. But wait, you can check out some of the ideas yourself here:

The Slovak Scene

Looking at the Slovak roleplaying scene, it is very clear that they have a lot of good things going for them. Of the people we met and talked to, they have a lot of good energy and willingness to do (new) stuff. It seems as if the Slovak community is moving forward very fast, perhaps even faster than the Czech scene, which I was told was more conservative (but still evolving fast). The Slovak scene seems concentrated around Bratislava and a smaller city called Nitra.

They certainly have a player base that can handle most of what you throw at them, both technically as well as content-wise. As they are relatively young compared to us, they can potentially take roleplaying very far. As they are first-generation roleplayers, they have the unique possiblity of skipping a lot of steps in the evolution of larping and roleplaying. There honestly is no need to learn how to play DnD to become a freeformer. Oh, and they speak an excellent english and have no problems playing in that language.

We discovered one thing that we hope to remedy. On a question of how the typical female role was like, Dominika sarcastically replied, mothers and prostitutes. We laughed a bit, but here is a thing that is easy to pick up: Make better (or more diverse) female characters. I mean, mothers and prostitutes are hardly representative of the professions of the fairer sex. Si kočka.

…And the Czech

Also, as a couple of Czechs was there, it was natural to follow up on what happened since a year ago. A key topic for them was the professionalization of roleplaying and the consequences for their hobby. They were naturally looking to the scandinavian countries for inspiration, an we coined in with our experiences. By going professional, you’ll end up making compromises between making what you want to do (make art) and what you need to do (make money)–and you’ll typically end up earning a very low hourly wage. We gave them our best advice, pitched a couple of ideas and promised them all the help they would need. Still, going professional is an intoxicating idea, and we both wished them all the luck.
Also they are preparing a big international convention, Larpvíkend (or Larpweekend) 6-8 of November. Here you’ll have the opportunity to meet Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian larpers and try out some cool new things. The webpage is still in the making, but you can read about it here: Larpvíkend (via google translate)

I hope that they pick up on what we left there and continue to produce quality games. I think that is great potential within the two former Czechoslovakian countries and it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Remember, Bratislava is closer than ever before. I know I’ll be coming when they call.

If you need contacts or more information, please send me an email at, and I’ll set you right up.