Here is my attempt to write up my impression of "the Danish Roleplaying Tradition".
It is not easy to define what the Danish Roleplaying Tradition is. Other than the fact that there is a community of people centered around the yearly game convention Fastaval that identify itself as belonging to that tradition. Each year, 15-25 scenarios are developed and presented at the game convention. Designed to be played only by reading the text, usually read in advance by a game master. The classical format is 5 or 6 players, one game master and 4-6 hours.
Other game conventions exist (e.g. Viking-Con), and scenarios are written also for these, but one thing makes Fastaval stand out: The Otto competition. Initiated in the early nineties as a pastiche over the Oscar awards, it rewards the submitted entries in different categories. The categories currently are: Best Scenario, Best Story, Best Mechanics, Best Characters, Best Presentation, The Audience Award, and the Jury Special Price. The Otto committee is composed by 4-6 volunteers from the community, usually previous contributors.
Due to the competition and due to the tradition to have people volunteer to run a game from the written text alone, there is much focus on presentation and communication of how to run the game.
The Danish roleplaying game conventions began in the early eighties. The first Fastaval was in 1986 and the first Viking Con was in 1982.
Phase 1: The age of systems
Up until around 1990, events at the game convention would be called e.g. the AD&D scenario and the Call scenario, being written for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and Call of Cthulhu. Player characters would be defined by filling in the player characters sheets for these games and the scenario would be a mystery in the classic investigation & action genre.
Phase 2: Everything went basic - the coming of characters
At some point, player characters would get a back story and some predetermined relations with the other player characters. The stats for the characters would fade in the background, being stated more for flavor than for function. Scenarios would state at first that the system was “basic roleplaying” (1992), then they would claim to be “systemless” (1993).
Conflicts were roleplayed (i.e. player vs. player discussion) or determined by GM fiat.
Phase 3: Intrigues everywhere
Different genres would then evolve. A very popular one were intrigue games, where some or all of the session is played out with the players moving around in character and talking with each other and secretly with one or more game masters. The first of these appeared around 1994.
Semi-live would show up as an important technique, where scenes are set usually by the game master and acted out in characters by the players, but without costumes, and with a clear defined scene start and scene end. Sometimes symbolic props will be used (swords, guns, etc.).
Storytelling roleplaying (fortællerollespil) was another genre to appear (around 1997). Sometimes without a game master, games of this kind would present detailed characters with a predefined background and provide with a framing story in which the characters would tell stories about the past.
Extras roleplaying (bipersonrollespil) arrived around 2002. The scenario would focus on a tight story where all or all but one of the players would play extras. This works well for comedy with a very strict setup of scenes, and for drama focused on one central character.
The last genre to be mentioned here is the ensemble drama, where each player has multiple characters, playing out a story in the style of Magnolia or Short Cuts.
Phase 4: The rebirth of systems
Around 2003, the indie wave started being noticed in Denmark, gaining followers among e.g. people, who liked that they were allowed to roll dice and play a game again, rather than striving for character immersion and a strong game master to control the story. Up until that point, it was a strong opinion that rules and mechanics got in the way of pure play. You’d never talk about the game during the game – if you had to break out of character, you would break the illusion and ruin the game.
The Forge put focus on the narrative and the drama rather than simulation and physics. But also allowed this to be explicit in the game rather than something that the game master secretly did behind the curtain.
Scenarios were submitted that suddenly used cards and dice for distributing authority over the story differently between the participants.
Also, the jävla avant-garde Swedes would show up and present Jeepform as yet another style of play.