Prepare for your first weekend larp - Roleplaying

[size=150]Prepare for your first weekend larp - Roleplaying[/size]

[b]Written & Edited by Hannah Jackson, from writings published by Diatribe Contributors, Teonn GM Team, Ryan Paddy & Jacqueline Brasfield[/b]

There are differences between playing a pre-written character for three hours to playing your own character from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. This article addresses some of those differences and provide advice from those who have done it before.

This article assumes the reader is familiar with how the mechanics of a larp works, and uses terminology that is explained at the what-is-larp website. There may be terms here that apply specifically to medieval-fantasy style larps such as Teonn, however generally the advice still applies to other genre larps. Weekend larp conventions, such as Chimera and Hydra, which have multiple games running in different sessions are a series of one-off larps and this article does not really apply to them.

[ul] [li] How it works
[/li][li] What to do
[/li][li] Character death
[/li][li] Crew considerations
[/li][li] Live combat
[/li][li] Larpover
[/li][li] The GM team

[size=120]How it works[/size]
The GMs have created a world and are trying to tell a story in that world. The players create characters that operate inside that world. The crew provide the variety of prewritten characters and personas that drive the plot and fill in the blanks of the world.

Weekend games are complex. With so many people all interacting for so long, there cannot just be one “big story” that keeps everyone entertained. Instead there are usually many narrative threads created by the players, the GMs and the crew, with results that no-one could foresee. Whether you are a player or crew member, you’ll have the opportunity to affect how the game turns out through your actions. Acknowledge that you won’t be able to be a part of all of the plot, all of the time. If you try, you run the risk of doing things that your character actually wouldn’t do and can end up feeling rushed off your feet.

The GMs and crew will throw a certain amount of activity at the players, often in the form of NPCs. Some of this material will have been planned in advance, but it seldom amounts to a “scenario” that will unfold whatever the players do, as that would reduce the impact the players can have on the world. The GMs will also improvise material based on what the players do, creating or re-briefing NPCs to make the game a more reactive environment. If you’ve written something interesting in your character’s background, then the GMs may choose to play with it. For example introducing a background character liked a spurned lover, into the game as an NPC, seeking their revenge upon you.

Players also introduce a lot of material to the game and player actions and reactions drive events. At most weekend games there is no way that material coming from the GMs could entertain all the players for a whole weekend. So as a player, you shouldn’t be afraid to give your character strong opinions and take bold actions that make things interesting for the other characters. You are not limited to passively responding to events that the NPCs or other characters throw at you. Giving your character strong relationships with other characters will provide you with lots of material to drive events with.

[size=120]What to do[/size]
So, you’ve arrived at the venue, gotten into costume had your briefing from the GMs. Now they’re sending you into the game, in character. What to do?

The simple answer is: do what your character would. Your character might be new in town, and need to be introduced to the guards or political leader. They may be entering a conflict situation that they have to deal with immediately, like being attacked by bandits on the way into town. You may have plans for what your character wants to achieve, or who they want to interact with, and you can start with those as soon as you want. Don’t wait for things to come to you, get involved, attach yourself to interesting events and become part of them. Volunteer to be part of the group that goes to deal with the enemy, step up to help defend the undefended.

It may be overwhelming at first being in an exciting new environment with lots of other excited, loud people looking fabulous. Its okay to take your time to absorb all the newness in the first hour – there is the rest of the weekend to play with, so you don’t have to be on the go the whole time. Weekend larps are roller-coaster rides. There are slow periods when the tension builds up, and exhilarating explosive moments when situations comes to a head.

If you find yourself in a slow patch and want something to do, it helps to have a good network of relations with other characters. They can give you a lot of subtle social interactions to play with, that can build depth for your characters and potentially develop into significant events. Slow periods are also a good time to make new connections with characters. That doesn’t necessarily mean making friends - developing a solid enemy or a conflicted relationship can really pay off.

You don’t have to be loud to be a good roleplayer. Know that there’s as much (if not more) fun to be had in the small, intense, intimate scenes as the big battles. Player generated/personal plot and in-character interactions are rich and intensely rewarding and are often where you feel the most “in character”.

Give other people their time in the spotlight and make them look good. This can be as simple as asking someone to tell you where they’ve come from - allowing them to spill their backstory that they’ve worked so hard to create. It’s a way to find connections with other PCs, hear some great stories and enrich the game.

If another player gives you a lead or needs your help, run with it. Also, ask for help occasionally. It might mean telling your secret to someone else and there is a risk involved, but that’s what creates interesting roleplay. Share – larping is an interactive experience.

Take care of yourself and others - if you’re confused, anxious or not having fun ask a GM or fellow player for advice. If you notice someone who seems upset or unhappy make sure they’re okay as a player. Many larpers enjoy their characters being miserable and upset and usually take any queries of this nature as a compliment to their roleplaying skills. But conversely if a player is upset in real life, whether anyone notices or not can have a huge impact on their view of larping and life in general.

A word of warning about meeting new people through roleplaying: Don’t carry in-game dramas outside of the weekend. If your first impression of a person is in a larp, when they are their character and you are yours, it is easy to think of them as their character, or to feel about them as a person the way your character feels about their character. Just try to keep the negative stuff in game - generally the really slimy, hate-able characters are played by really nice people. “Afterlarp” events, which are out-of-character get togethers, are very good for getting to know the person instead of the character to help avoid this pitfall.

[size=120]Character death [/size]
What if your character dies? This does happen. Different games will have different risk levels for the characters, but generally, if there is no risk of death and consequences of your character’s actions, then the game won’t be as exciting or realistic.
[li] Be prepared to play a corpse for a while to let the surrounding players role-play the effect that your death has on them. Get into a comfortable position.[/li]
[li] If you are cut down in a big combat, keep yourself safe by discreetly moving to a position where you won’t inadvertently be stood on or be a hazard for other people. [/li]
[li] If other characters such as healers come over to you, quietly explain you are dead, perhaps describe the wounds or manner of your death.[/li]
[li] If other characters come over and says they are looting your body, graciously hand over your props, or explain what is out of character such as wedding rings. If the prop is valuable you may want to see who takes it, to ensure you get it back afterwards.[/li]
[li] If they choose to move your corpse, do not expect them to carry you in real life, but walk for example in between them with your arms draped over their shoulders.[/li]
[li]After you’ve finished playing your character’s corpse for as long as seems appropriate, go to the crew room and let the GMs know what has happened. [/li]
[li]Usually they’ll give you the option of starting again as a new character. It’s a good idea to run the new character briefly past the GMs, and make some notes about them. [/li]
[li]Some players like to have a second character planned out and maybe bring some extra costuming to visually distinguish it from their dead character. The GMs will also usually be happy to help re-costume you from crew gear. [/li]
[li] You may be able to join the crew for the remainder of the game, although if you are planning on playing a different character later, the GM team may not let you in on the plot secrets.[/li]
[li] You may feel real-life grief for the death of a character, which is common. Acknowledge the feelings and talk about it with other people, or post comments on Diatribe. Larpover (qv) may be more intense, with thoughts of “if only I had done this, then I wouldn’t have died”[/li][/ul]

[size=120]Live combat[/size]
How to fight in larps is a large topic that this article does not attempt to cover. Here are some general pieces of advice:
[ul][li] Know how many hit points your character has. And keep track of them. If you play sport, larp is more like golf than than soccer. People are expected to be honest and keep track of their own hit points. There is no referee keeping everyone honest. [/li]
[li]Everyone makes mistakes, and beginners are always given some leeway (sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how many times you were hit) but a pattern of abuse eventually gets noticed and a reputation as a cheat is hard to shake off. [/li]
[li]If you make a mistake, apologize, check your opponent is alright and move on. [/li]
[li]If someone makes a mistake in combat and hits you too hard or in the head, then take their apology in good grace and move on. [/li]
[li]If you as a player is hurt, take yourself out of the melee and seek help if you need it.[/li]
[li]If you have some special power that makes you immune to something, let your enemy know (just saying something like “Your sword doesn’t seem to be hurting me” is usually enough). [/li]
[li]Don’t drink alcohol and fight. [/li]
[li]Don’t fight angry. [/li]
[li]Once the combat has ended, try to remember to role-play the wounds that you received in a fight. The rules of the larp should spell out the mechanics of hit points and how to recover them.[/li]
[li]Afterwards you might consider the implications of what killing another person means to your character, especially if this is the first time you’ve taken another life. This can led to some interesting philosophical roleplaying with other characters who may feel the same way or take the opposing viewpoint.[/li][/ul]

Depending on the game, the rules may state that there will be no other physical contact in combat other than melee with foam larp weapons. If you make another arrangement with a particular player or NPC, that may be acceptable but ask first. If you see some physical contact between an NPC and PC or between PCs please assume that these people know each other and are comfortable with the contact.

No one should be making any physical contact with you without your permission in a larp. This includes ‘romantic’ overtures, not just combat. People have different levels of what is acceptable to their own personal space and what they feel comfortable with. As outlined in the NZLARPS Code of Conduct : Treat other attendees, both players and crew, with respect, including respecting each other’s privacy and avoiding discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and personal attacks. There is a difference between in-character actions and out-of-character actions. We do not tolerate out-of-character attacks of any kind. If you witness someone else being the victim of such attacks please let a GM or committee member know.

Remember that everyone larps to have fun, and not to get bruised and injured. There are other hobbies for that sort of thing.

[size=120]Crew considerations[/size]
Anyone crewing should expect that they will not know about everything that is going on in the game, especially at a larger game. Obviously as a crew member you’re unlikely to know about inter-player plots going on that never involve crew, but frequently you don’t know about a lot of the player-crew interactions that go on The crew are may be told to just go out and be bandit #9 and have no idea about why they are attacking the players.

Players, be nice to the crew. They get hit hundreds of times over the weekend and they appreciate it when you don’t smash them too much. When you’re sitting around telling “No shit, there I was!” stories in the evening and they’re sitting around exhausted, give them some chocolate or a drink or something.

The crew are not omniscient. They probably have not read your back story, they do not know your special power. Do not get angry if they don’t know how your magic works. Remember new larpers are more likely to start crewing at a weekend larp than playing a character. This may be the first time in their life that they’ve held a sword. Be helpful rather than criticising them

Following on from an intense weekend of action, adventure and emotions, the mundane real world can be a bit depressing in contrast. This is like the hangover from a great night out, we have dubbed this feeling the Larpover. It is very, very common. Newcomers have thought that we are just enthusiastic about our roleplaying, and then are a bit surprised when it hits them too. For example:
[ul][li]“Getting to work and feeling naked the whole time because I didn’t have a weapon at my side and no Armour on…”[/li]
[li]“wishing your normal life had Evil Lich-Kings to defeat, excessive drama and moping" [/li]
[li]“Endlessly rehashing the best bits in your mind, saying “oh, why didn’t i think to do xyz” every few hours and clicking refresh on diatribe every five minutes."[/li]
[li]“I feel a bit sad because I’m not going to see the characters from the game for another 6 months.” [/li][/ul]

Along with this may be the physical reaction of your body in the days following the weekend. Some larpers are sedentary in their real life occupation and lifestyle and may not be the fittest people on the block. It is not uncommon to find muscles that ache after hours of walking that you didn’t realise that you had been doing. Scrapes and bruises for fights where the adrenaline had kicked in and you didn’t notice how hard you fell to the ground when you were wounded. Sunburnt after a cloudy weekend, just because you’ve been outside for most of it. Even the weight of aluminium larp armour can be exhausting if worn for all day. This bad stuff soon fades from your memory as the body heals itself.

Some things that will make it easier on you to transition back to the mundane world:
[ul][li] Attend post-LARP drinks/events. You’ll be able to froth to your heart’s content about all your awesome moments in the company of people who understand what you’re talking about.[/li]
[li]Warn your significant others/best friends that you’re going to be frothing about the game upon your return. They may not understand, but at least they’ll know to smile and nod and say ‘Wow, sounds great!’ . [/li]
[li]You may be surprised to find that you want to talk to anyone that will listen to you. You may become frustrated or disappointed that non-larpers get bored listening to it, so go hang out with the larpers online. [/li]
[li]Join in with on-line conversations of the “best moments”. Diatribe is your friend in this way. For the week after the game become a Diatribe junkie. Go for it. Enjoy it. You won’t always be posting 20 times a day, but during the week after the game it may well be your most visited website.[/li]
[li]Write down what you did to get it out of your head to stop thinking about it incessantly. This has the advantage that you can re-read it all before the next game which may be many months away to refresh your memory.[/li]
[li] Get together with other larpers at a later point to talk about the game and future plans for your character is a great thing to look forward to given the length of time till the next one. [/li]
[li] Starting planning your next costume for the next game. People often start thinking about what new kit to make, buy or borrow almost immediately after the game ends. And then most of them still wait until a month before the next game to really get things underway.[/li]
[li]Where possible, consider taking an extra day off work to try and adjust to my normal life again. [/li]
[li]For the GMs, generally they want to hear the buzz about the event they have created, but they are usually mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the game. They don’t want to answer any questions of “next game” or what your character wants to do in between the games. Give them a few weeks or even months before expecting them to start thinking about the next one.[/li][/ul]

Sometimes the situations in a larp can bring up things from their real life past for some people. Emotions that you feel whilst roleplaying your character are still emotions that you have felt. So a larpover should only last a week or so. If it gets worse, then it may be worth considering why and talking to someone you trust or a professional.

[size=120]The GM team[/size]
Weekend games cannot be run by one person as the GM. A team of people work together, sharing the workload, bouncing ideas around, and lightening the load on everyone involved. Some games may have specific roles for different GMs. Maybe a GM in charge of the crew, and different player factions. Different scenes over the weekend written and run by different people. Someone that is out among the players all the time to answer general queries or to be able to gauge what is happening with the players.

Bearing that in mind, people on the GM team do not have a hive mind. They may have walky-talky to communicate amongst themselves, but if one GM knows something about your character action, do not assume that they all know what happened. GM are people too, and they can make mistakes but they try to learn form them, to make improvements to the game, so it is better the next time.
The GM team are the highest authority in a larp. Any disputes need to be referred to them. Losing your temper never helps any situation.

None of the people attending the larp are being paid for this. The society is run by people volunteering their time, efforts and energy to create something that we can all enjoy together.

One of the most important “rules” of larping is to make everyone else look good and have a great time. Do that, and both you and those you roleplay with will have a richer, more rewarding experience. But overall remember, it’s just a game, it’s supposed to be fun. So just try to relax and have a good time.