We were invited at the last Blincom in Saint- Petersbourg to speak about Southern Way – New Italian Larp manifesto and Chaos League’s last works. We found a very well organised convention and we met a lot of interesting people. Our talk raised a lot of question and a very animated debate, it was very cool!
The day after, after having a chat with some of the organisers, we decided to do this interview to give you a glimpse into the Russian larp scene. Thank you guys and see you soon!
Leonid ‘Leo’ Tsarev, 31 years old. Larp club: Bastilia.Ru.
We are making small larps under “Bastilia” brand and big larps under “St. Petersbug format” brand. When I’m not a lead organizer for larp, I’m usually work on larp rules or IT part of things.
Role at blincom: one of triumvirate (main organizers). I mainly focus on helping content sections, especially larp; complaining a lot about things I don’t like, resolving conflicts (and starting anothers) and working with outside partners. Actually, I am least useful of three, but Vlad and Yusia still need me for some unknown reason.
Also, I organizing a small “organizers-only” side event (Master Blin, which takes place in October).
Yulia “Yusya” Salnikova, 29 year old, QA in “real life”.
I’m not a member of any larp club, but I’m a lead of a small event-techsupport team (we do techsupport on Blincom for several years, and usually we find new members for our team at Blincom as well, also we do techsupport on larps too). Saying “techsupport” I mean managing all that stuff like creating and building necessary constructions for larp or event, making electricity on larp, buying necessary stuff, designing, IT support and so on.
Also I make medium larps (for 60-100 gamers) every couple of years, I made five of them at all and now I’m planning to make sixth one.
Role at Blincom: I’m one of triumvirate (three main arrangers) – I manage lots of services (IT, registration, housekeeping, information points etc…) and small part of content sections (helped with boardgames, market, quizzes, tabletop games). I’m the very person who keeps a lot of spreadsheets with a lot of information in order and up to date.
1) Can you present Blincom? What is? When how and why it started?
Leo: Blincom is 17-years old St. Petersburg convention for larpers and other hobbies. We rent some location in city in December, and gather and talk about LARPs of prev. and next year. Also, traditionally Blincom is not only about LARPs and not only for larpers. We see Blincom as opportunity to talk outside of our LARP community and reach other communities (board gamers, airsoft players, board gamers, table roleplayers, dancers, cosplayers, Tolkien fans etc). We even like to reach to “normal” people (codenamed “civil” in russian LARPers slang). That’s why we have a lot of other activities, and some of them not LARP related. You could listen to good concert at Blincom or play a board game or buy something interesting or learn how to make something interesting. But, of course, you could learn about next year’s LARP, you could meet organizers at person, you could discuss how to make LARP, and you could play a LARP, of course.
Blincom was founded at 2000 by St. Petersburg LARPers Anton ‘Antonii’ Novoselov and Igor ‘Garry’ Sazonov. They declared mission of Blincom as “To drink a beer and to talk about LARP”. We still believe in this mission deeply ☺ Except Yulia Salnikova because she is not beer person.
Yulia: I really like Leo’s answer and I have almost nothing to add. Blincom happens annualy since the year 2000 on second weekend of December and lasts for two days. It is actually about drinking beer (also I prefer something stronger), meeting friends and talking about larps. But for me it is really important that this convention is not only for larp itself but for many relevant activities (concerts, dances, boardgames, tabletop roleplaying games, tournaments, and recently added airsoft and cosplay perfomances). Talking about “The Lord of the Rings” and Tolkien was always important for Blincom, so we have separate tolkienistic section. Special East section (discussing larps about Japan, China etc. and culture of these countries) is also very popular. But LARP theory and practice takes the main part on convention and it is Blincom’s heart of course.
Blincom is not commercial event and is organized by enthusiastic volunteers.
2) Tell us about this year edition. What was difficult? What was the best acheivement?
Leo: This year we want to reboot and expand our entarntaiment program. For example, we added really good concerts (fantasy musical about Dragonlance, two good rock bands and top one of our LARP singers). That’s really step up from prev. years. Also, cosplay and airsoft sections was greatly expanded. And we did a really good job to spread a word about Blincom this time.
Key challenge for me personally was to make sure that while we expand our “entartaining” part this time, we still have good LARP section, and we still a LARP convent in our DNA (not a bad copy of ComicCon).
Also, we are still struggling to be financially sustainable, and expanding our concerts didn’t help.
Best acheivement was 50% increase of participants from last year. We feel that Blincom 2016 was big step up and above, and that’s change for declining trend to ascending trend.
Yulia: This year we tried to keep all the best of Blincom (larp content first of all) and add more relevant activities. We invited to participate in convention not only larpers but also young people of St Petersburg that are interested in any kind of games and activities related to games. Coming to international larp scene is new and exciting for us as well.
It was great challenge for all of us, and for me and my team especially because more events and more guests require more services and more volunteers to make it work.
Leo is mistaken about percents, we increase the number of participants twice (600 people last year and about 1500 this year, including nearly 100 persons in organization last year and over 200 this year)
3) We are curious about Russian larp scene. Can you present it to us? What are the styles and the peculiarities? What need to be improved and what Russia can bring to the world larp scene?
Leo: Russian larp scene is really fragmented, I think. We have a range of LARP from big fight-oriented gamistic events like Warhammer (http://vk.com/warhammerlarp) to small conceptual narrative experimental larps.
I don’t know much about your larps, so that’s hard to me to say what’s most different from you larps ☺ I try to say some random things and see if some of them intersting.
- I think that what makes our larps unique that we have a lot of organizer teams that have ambition to make big larps (like 500;1000) which are, actually, still larps with 100% in-character-time, has some kind of “idea” or “message” inside, offer players some opportunity to explore some philosophic question etc. So its like a ambition to make Hollywood blockbuster on Lars von Trier scenario. ☺ I like to name following teams: Stairway to Heaven, Conquest of Paradize (or just Lora Bocharova), Second/First/Third Age Tolkien game series. In St. Petersburg that’s our team (St. Petersbug Format / Bastilia). If you ever come to Russia to visit a larp, I really suggest one of those. In 2017, aim for Deus Ex (better if you couldn’t speak russian) or Third Age.
- Also, we still have (however declining, I think) larp with “hardcore” level of rules for medieval/fantasy fights with hard and heavy plastic models of swords and other wearnonry, and steel armor. If we declare that “Battle of Nations” is 100% percent hardcore, it could be 75%. That’s really beatiful and realistic thing to watch, and exciting, but somewhat dangerous thing to take part of, if you have combatant role.
- In Russia, big larp = you have to camp and live in your own tent.
- Last intersting point: in Russia, we don’t have many commercial larps (aside of educational projects). It still considered not common and even somewhat dishonorable to make profit our of larp organizing. Personally, I never participated in such sin. However, it makes me free of Babylon! My players are not my customers, and I do what I like to, and they could participate in that or go away ☺
Yulia: Unfortunately I know very little about world’s larp scene so I’ll simply tell a couple of words about larp in Russia.
Russia is a very big country and larp in Russia is very different and fragmented too. They differ from little “cabinet” larps for small number of gamers (2-20) to great events up to 2700 participants (“Wiedzmin” by “Stairs to heaven”-club in 2005 (if I’m not mistaken)).
The level of roleplay is different too, from “drinking alcohol in costumes” to really hard level of studying culture and habits of larps’s setting and playing non-stop.
Also modelling level differs: we have larps with almost no any rules and fightings on larp weapon or harder version of it, and we have events with rules as complicated as good boardgames have.
And laprs are made differently at different parts of Russia, we have Siberian style, Ural style, Moscow style, a lots of other styles and St. Petersburg style – the best of all of course! 😉
Larps are usually not commercial, being held in camps in the forest or fields.
In our region are polular larps for 80-100 persons, with rather complicated plot, a lot of connections between characters (created by gamemaster) and with a lot of modelling and a lot of emotions the same time
4) Do you have any idea or project about next year edition of Blincom?
Leo: First of all, I have idea to find another fool instead of me to carry on this and focus on my big upcoming unannounced larp for 2018. This idea is still pending approval from Vlad and Yusia ☹
Second. We need to find way to cut costs while keeping high bar on entertainment and continue to expand convention.
Third. We also need to find way to close gap between larper and non-larpers at Blincom, and make Blincom is perfect place to try larping for first time.
Fourth. I have idea of making Blincom good place to find volunteer or volunteering opportunites. Not limiting to larp volunteering, but also ecological, educational and other kind of volunteerring.
It is hard to answer right now. I’m trying to analyze this year experience – it was really hard work and I also hope that you like the result 😉