Engines of Desire

Buy the book at the store!

Where do you find beauty in larp?

How to create larp in the intersection of politics and emergent play?

How to design for player desires and make larp while avoiding burnout?

Engines of Desire is a collection of 31 articles and essays about larp by Juhana Pettersson. Many of the texts have been published before and there are nine new articles as well as a foreword by the game researcher Dr. Jaakko Stenros. The book’s essays span twenty years of Nordic larp. The perspective is that of a larp designer, a player, a member of the Nordic community of play.

Larp is an ephemeral artform by its very nature, making the historical record formed by articles and photos especially important. Pettersson’s over twenty years of experience with Nordic larp spans an intensely creative time of change and growth in the community, mapped through the essays as they grapple with different subjects.

Thanks to the books published each year along with the Knutepunkt conference, the Nordic community of larp design has documented its own ideas for over two decades. Pettersson has written for most of these books and these essays form the backbone of this collection as well.

The writing in Engines of Desire is always grounded in concrete play or organizing experience. The essays grapple with issues arising from things that happen in play, the problems of real larpmaking, and the essential emergent nature of the medium. They’re written from the position of participating in the community of Nordic larp and also touch upon issues such as the personal sacrifices of making larp in terms of mental health.

What People Are Saying

Engines of Desire reads like a summation of the first part of a remarkable career in participatory art. Every page vibrates with new ideas, lessons learned, and painful experience. It is absolutely packed with gems for the artist, enthusiast, and voyeur. Highly recommended!

– The roleplaying game designer Jason Morningstar (FiascoNight Witches)

The timely publication of Pettersson’s Engines of Desire is a gift to help in the greater understanding of the many facets of roleplaying both within gaming communities and also as a way to think about our mediated experiences and our roles in the creation of narrative in our daily lives. From Q-anon to deep-fakes, we are becoming all too aware that fact is supplanted by our desire to make our imagination real by giving it form and mass untethered to neither facts nor reality. 

– Matthew Day Jackson, Artist

The Author

Juhana Pettersson (born in 1980) is a Finnish larp designer, novelist and game writer. Larps he has created or worked on include LuminescenceHalat hisarEnd of the LineParliament of Shadows and Enlightenment in Blood.

He has worked with Goethe-Institut and Serlachius Museums and has received support from The Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Kone Foundation and The Arts Promotion Centre Finland. His work has been featured in Helsingin Sanomat, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Libération and many other media.

He has written or edited twelve books and made larp in nine countries, including the U.S. and Russia. He has also worked as a journalist and a television producer.


The book’s essays are divided into the following subsections: Art, Politics, Design, Aesthetics and Beyond Larp. Each essay looks at their subjects from different angles, often mirroring developments in Nordic larp discourse. Many were written in response to a specific discourse or the experience of organizing a larp with unique, new characteristics. The goal is always to make personal larp experience understandable and usable to a reader who doesn’t share the same experiences.

Essays include:

ART: The Art of Experience, arguing that immediate experience is at the core essence of larp.

POLITICS: Larp for Change, about larp as a tool for political change.

DESIGN: Basics of Efficient Larp Production, laying out a model for getting the best larp with the minimum amount of organizer stress.

AESTHETICS: The Joy of Kidnapping, about why kidnapping is so much fun.

BEYOND LARP: Torturing Androids in Westworld, about the participation design of the titular theme park of the tv show.


There are four different editions of the book available. All are identical in actual content.

The digital edition. This is the PDF version of the book.

The standard print edition. This is the print edition of the book, hardcover.

The signature edition. This is the print edition of the book with a white cover.

The clothbound edition. This is a clothbound print edition of the book.


Writing and design: Juhana Pettersson

Graphic design: Anne Serup Grove

Proofreading: Jukka Särkijärvi

Engines of Desire has been created with the support of The Committee For Public Information.


Publisher: Pohjoismaisen roolipelaamisen seura ry

Date of Publication: 31.7.2021

460 pages

Full color and fully illustrated


ISBN: 978-952-68777-4-7 (print), 978-952-68777-5-4 (PDF)



Loki – 5.10.2021 – Arvostelu: Engines of Desire


Lamiradadegorgona – 15.9.2021 – Engines of Desire, la reseña