LARP FAQ — How can I make my favorite LARP better?
I love this LARP thing, how can I make the games better?
The best thing you can do is to not be a PC, and volunteer in some fashion. That’s the answer you probably did not want to hear. Figure out what you are good at, and contribute that to the game you love the most:
- Fighting as an NPC
- Roleplaying as an NPC
- Performing Plot/ST duties
- Making costumes
- Making props
- Making weapons
- Cooking meals
- Providing physical labor (setup, takedown and cleanup)
All of these things must be done, and contributing more than your mandatory NPC shift is a rewarding way to give back to the people you love.
How can I make games better and still participate as a PC?
You can make the games better by improving the experience of your fellow PCs. There’s two ways to do that, both of which attack elements that reduce the experience for your fellow PCs.
#1 Reduce OOC chat
When you see another player talking OOC, there’s a great way to indicate this, and not break character. Approach them and tell them “You look thirsty, you should drink some water”.*
This is an IC way to curb OOC talk. You will likely need to explain the signal with OOC talk the first few times, but hopefully it catches in your group quickly. Suggest it to your plot team to include in their “listen up” or other documents.
Variant: You can say to the OOC offender “I heard somebody talking about you in <the place that is not here, but is close>.” This is a cue for them to go to that place, and role-play with people there. That person can use the “Build Story” gesture when they get there (see below) for lack of anything else to do when they arrive.
#2 Reduce Downtime
Downtime is the bane of fun. If you google “downtime in LARP” you’ll see a bunch of pages that tell you to bring a game to play to pass the time. That’s straight up bullshit. Nobody drives 2 hours into the woods and spends $500 on a costume to play Viking Tiddlywinks. Those games remove you and the other players from role-playing and/or action. Those games also suck. We have better games, like Pac-man, naked Twister, and um.. LARP. Here’s much better options, from worst to best.
- Volunteer for an extra shift as an NPC.
- Fight / practice with other PCs. Very few games have mechanics for “practice” weapons. Who cares? Make that shit up with “Forsooth, I have procured safe practice weapons and enchanted them with bouncy magic.”
- Make up your own plot between you and another player. I posted something similar for a pre-game ritual, but this is a process that would occur during the flow of a game. Among the common calls such as “Clarify” and hand signals, such as “hand on head”, I think something should be added that can only add to games. I call it “Build Story”.
The “Build Story” gesture
This gesture is presenting an open palm, face up, and saying something like
“I heard a rumor you were talking about me.”
“I cannot help but notice you looking at me strangely.”
“Haven’t we met before?”
The meaning of this gesture/overture is “I would like to create a pretense to role-play with you.”
Both participants can then work it out. The participants should probably take an OOC sidebar, especially if they don’t know each other characters well enough to just start rolling with it. This is fine, just do it discreetly without disrupting anybody else’s IC mojo.
The two of you decide collaboratively about something either in the past or the future of your characters.
One player describes an event that occurred between the two characters. This event becomes canon if the other person agrees, but they are welcome to veto it, with a “no, but”. In other words, this is a collaborative experience, and both players need to be on board. Once there is agreement, the event becomes canon.
First Player <Raggorn>: Raggorn met Thornus on the road, and flirted with him. It didn’t turn out well.
Second Player <Thornus>: Hrmm… I think Thornus would have flirted with Raggorn first, but it was lost in translation. Perhaps they both are into each other, but the culture shock is in the way? And when I say culture shock, they are too busy trying to one-up each other.
First Player <Raggorn>: Awesome! That totally happened!
The first player describes an interaction they would like to happen in this game. This has the same rules as the “past” above, requiring consensus from both players.
First Player <Raggorn>: That last game we never got around to resolving our attraction. I would like us to start flirting this game, but nothing more.
Second Player <Thornus>: Yep, shy flirting with threats of violence sounds perfect.
In both cases, the players then can leave the OOC sidebar, and use your new canon to roleplay that downtime into oblivion.
This blog post has some ideas for character story/relationships.
Obviously, this gesture won’t catch on unless you make it work for your LARP. Until then, you’ll have to be more overt and ask people to step aside OOC, and make your proposal.
*Full Disclosure, the “You should drink some water” cue is not my idea. I read it in one of the hundreds of larp rule sets I’ve devoured. Unfortunately, I cannot recall which LARP that was, otherwise I would give credit where it was due.