LARP acting

Interesting article here

The gist of it is that LARP acting needs to be somewhat hammed up so that people can tell the difference between player-hesitating-before-answering-a-question-because-they’ve-forgotten and character-hesitating-before-answering-a-question-because-they’re-being-deceitful.

So how much ham should people add to their LARP performances?

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You’re asking that like it’s a conscious decision… o.0

To me, LARP is primarily about communication, not about acting. So my gut feeling would be: exactly as much as you need to get your point across and not more.

What does that mean in practice, well… The devil’s in the details, isn’t it.

I’d argue extra emphasis and ‘ham’ can refer to two different things, and it’s important to distinguish them.
Extra emphasis is important for the reasons described in the article.
Ham, to me, is extra emphasis plus either exaggeration, or ‘knowingness’/detachment, both of which break the illusion.
There’s lots of scope to quibble with the choice of terms, but I think separating these aspects out is still useful. I’d encourage everyone to steer the fine course of making their signals more visible when necessary, but keeping them feeling genuine. Let’s not turn an action into pantomime when that’s not the genre, because it breaks the sense of reality - and staying the right side of that line is a real skill.
The cost of breaking someone’s hard-earned feeling that the game is reality is a huge one - often it’s better to risk the plot going astray, or just do the thing again later, rather than hammer it home at the cost of someone’s sense of actually being in the game world.

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I would encourage people to be quite emphatic. One of my least favourite plots to follow as a player is trying to find a Maguffin, trudging around the room asking people if they know anything about X. It’s really hard to tell the difference between them saying no because: a) their character knows nothing, b) their character knows something but the player forgot, or c) the player/character knows lots and is messing with me because Intrigue. It’s not like a novel or a movie where you’re in a close up watching all the subtle inflections of someone’s performance - larp environments are distracting.

For me, it’s also important to design games so that information and objects Want To Be Free. Someone with a secret has a reason to want to tell it to someone, important props need to be carried where they’re visible instead of secreted in a pocket, blackmail-type info starts with someone who wants to sell it to the highest bidder. (I’m more a Joyful Chaos GM than an intriguey Secrets and Powers GM. It probably shows.)


I can see there might be some differences between campaigns and one-shots. In a 1-off information needs to get out within a limited time frame whereas in campaign play you can afford a slower burn (on the other hand there’s probably a higher risk of people forgetting minor details)


I think this plays into the give-and-take that good larping entails.

I love the “Joyful Chaos GM” comment and I’m certainly more aligned with that style myself!

Whether it’s a short form game or a longer campaign, the secrets, maguffins, plots and schemes all need to be revealed. It’s on the person holding that item to reveal it in characterful and cool way. With the shorter one off larps, either those secrets need to be more obvious in nature, or the person holding them needs to broadcast that fact.

Does that mean ham, or emphasis, or other? Depends on the person, the style of larp, the timing of the larp. I have had a great experience in a short form larp where the dropping entirely OOC to check something meant I was able to make plot happen in the right time frame for the whole game to enjoy. Definitely worth loss of immersion.

I think an adage told to me by the larpers I learned from applies: “If you have a larp secret, tell your best friend. And five other friends. Or strangers.”