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January 2017
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As any LARPer will tell you, the best thing about joining a LARP is you get to be the hero in your own movie.

What they often fail to mention is that everyone else wants to be the hero too. No sidekicks, no servants. Unless someone is willing to play a secondary character it’s a bunch of heroes fighting to have the most epic moments.

Don’t believe it? Just stand with any group of Larpers and ask them what is the most epic thing they’ve ever done at a LARP. I Guarantee that conversation will last longer than 4 bottles of Mead. Some LARP’s account for this by providing cookie cutter role-play. You turn up with enemies already there, people who already know you and want to defeat you, or stop you achieving your goal and generally be bad guys, or provide some other kind of role-play.

However there are many European-style Larps that take things a little differently. (Such as Bicolline in Canada which you can learn more about via The Voyage North.) Instead of providing you with quests and role-play they encourage you to find your own. So whether you’re looking to play a more memorable character in your own Larp, or want to learn how to get the best Role-play experience out of a European style LARP. Here’s a simple breakdown of 5 ways you can easily increase the amount of Role-play you get in a LARP.

1) Have a code and stick to it

This is almost too easy, by simply having a very strict code that you follow, such as always accept a challenge, or always defend someone in need etc. You will always be self generating Role-play. Suddenly, whenever the correct situation arises you get the chance to “activate” your code and begin a new encounter. Naturally this works best for characters like Monks however the truth is you can adapt it for any character. Some examples would include:

  • A wizard who follows a set code to appease their elders
  • A Knight with a Vow of Poverty and Chivalry
  • An Amazon who will never allow a man to best her in combat
  • An Orphaned prince who refuses to let the code of the old lands die

The key is being strict about following your code. The more people see you follow it, the more role-play you will find. (Just don’t bore people with it in every conversation, a casual mention once in a while to people you meet should be more than enough)

2) Argue with a friend

Everyone starts a new game with their friends as.. well … friends. Which makes sense. However it also encourages you to keep to your own people. Some of my greatest Role-play experiences have come from starting a game with a close friend of mine with a huge argument in the centre of camp. All of the players gather around to get involved and break it up at which point they find the two of us stick like glue and defend each other. By having conflict within the group it enables others to get involved while still encouraging you to stick together. Suggestions for arguments could be:

  • You got us lost and now we’re here
  • I didn’t even want to join the army
  • I thought you said the rampaging goblins were a music group!
  • Magic Doesn’t exist

3) Ridiculous viewpoints

The final suggestion in the point above brings up one of my favorite ways to Role-play with a new group, and thats simply to not believe in Magic. Just being point blank ignorant to the fact it exists.This is amazing because it will encourage everybody to attempt to prove you wrong. No matter what you see however, simply justify it away as just the wind, or smoke and mirrors. Once again this is the kind of character people love to hate and if everyone else is having fun, you won’t be able to help yourself but enjoy being the character. However ridiculous viewpoints don’t have to stick to disbelief in magic. Others include:

  • Swords are dangerous
  • The gods aren’t real
  • Elves are bad luck
  • I’m allergic to Money

Just be sure to remember not to flood every conversation with your thoughts, save it for the occasional point of witty banter to encourage a fun interaction and to flesh out your character.

4) Go on a Quest

Most RPG video games nowadays are made up from a central quest wth a bunch of side quests. The side quest make up a significantly larger part of the time in the game. Your LARP experience can be exactly the same. Just treat the other players as the NPC’s who hand out quests. Simply talking to people and finding out what they’re currently trying to do is an easy way to work out what you’re going to do. You’re going to help them. By being the aiding character in their quest, you’re increasing your role-play. You could do any of the following:

  • Vow to stand by their side until you have repaid your life debt
  • Help them find a missing person
  • Help them meet someone they want to meet
  • Avenge them for a death on the battlefield

Letting another player guide you is an easy way to make friends, and to give yourself plenty of Role-play opportunities.

5) Have a weakness

This is probably the easiest way to build some role-play around your character, yet it’s the thing very few people are willing to do. After all aren’t we all perfect heroes? The truth is Even Superman has Kryptonite. Without a weakness your character is unbelievable, and this makes it hard for people to relate to them. One of the most memorable characters in the old games I used to play was a coward, who hid from every battle. People loved protecting him and being his Hero. Another character only had one arm, a HUGE disadvantage in combat, and yet never was more noble an ally appreciated in battle.

Find a disadvantage and add it to your character and not only will you find more role-play, you’ll probably find that character grows to be one of your most favorite to play.

If you’ve never played in a European style LARP before, and Love the idea of playing with 3000 people in an open world complete with over 300 purpose built medieval buildings then check out The Voyage North.

Its an experience like no other.

Click here to join The Voyage North!

Want to join a European Larp in North America?

If you have ideas for simple ways to find more role-play in your LARP games then please feel free to post them in the comments below.

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Adam Lyons

Adam Lyons has been an avid LARPer for over 20 years, helped develop many of the techniques to develop the original Latex weapons in the UK and now spends his time fighting as Captain of the Ordo Cervi when he isn’t looking after his 2 children.

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6 Comments

  1. Justine April 9, 2016 7:57 AM

    Great article!!!!

    Reply
  2. Nathan Hook April 12, 2016 1:38 PM

    This is very ‘heroic fantasy’ larp -centric. Most larps here are abot being people, not heroes.

    This also sound dependent on roleplaying with others and overlooks the introspectve styles of roleplay. eg.the Turku school.

    Reply
    • Dustin April 13, 2016 7:37 PM

      Not necessarily, mate. I have a character in a larp about people surviving a magical apocalypse. There’s a lot of combat, but not much in the way of heroism.

      1: “I will not craft anything that does not require the best of my abilities.”
      2: A close friend of mine plays a character at ideological odds to mine.
      3: This character is convinced that he will be able to replicate old technologies from the old empire before the cataclysm
      4: As an aspiring merchant, my character ALWAYS treats others as NPCs with a quest for him, because EVERYONE needs something.
      5: My character is NOT a strong combatant or a skilled mage. He’s solely a crafter. He’s also a bit of an asshole, and a bit of a coward.

      Reply
    • Magnus April 25, 2016 5:22 PM

      I disagree. These points can be made about literally ANY LARP if you use your imagination. To point:
      1) Have a Code and Stick With It:
      a) A wizard /(Mafia Member/Cultist/Tribesman[woman]/Secret Agent) who follows a set code to appease their elders (/Elders/Elders/Elders/Superior Officers) — A secret agent that has to make sure things are ‘Done By the Books’ for credibility; A Tribesman who must appease the spirits of his ancestors; a Cultist that must follow the bizarre tenants of her diety; An up-and-coming Mafia member who must prove herself to the Mafia Dons.
      b) A Knight (Monk/Hitman/Samurai/Gambler/Carpenter) with a Vow of Poverty and Chivalry (Seriously — a HITMAN with a vow of poverty, who refuses to kill women or children? How F*****G intense would that be to play!? Intense enough that Troy Duffy made a cult-classic film out of just that premise alone.)
      c) An Amazon (/Chauvanist/Racist/Champion/Arch-Mage/Brawler/Devout) who will never allow a man (/Woman/Elf/Noble/Rival Mage/ANYONE/Heretic) to best her(/him) in combat. SIDE NOTE: Be bold! Characters who are hated (by their team-mates), yet remain useful get TONS of action — just look at Deadpool, or Wolverine, Lobo, The Lone Gunmen (X-Files), Rollo (Vikings). If you’re the only specialist in your field, you can be the biggest a$$4013 in the universe and they’ll still need your help. BANK. ON. THAT.
      d) An Orphaned prince who refuses to let the code of the old lands die — (Last of a: … /Mafia Family/School of Magic/Destroyed Temple/Philosopher’s Student/Diam-yo/Noble Family — to let the code of [Seriously ANYTHING HERE] die).

      And this is just of the top of my head in less than 15 minutes, for just topic number one. USE YOUR IMAGINATION. Stretch outside the box, think outside the norm! Take ANY of these examples, and challenge yourself to use them in a non-fantasy/hero setting. BE A VILLAIN and try this stuff! It still works.

      If you’re too wrapped up in your own character’s head, you deserve to play all by yourself in the corner. LARP isn’t about just YOU or YOUR character, it’s about the entire game. If the best you can come up with is some angst-ridden thing just dripping with ennui, then I have sour news for you: Nobody wants to interact with that — LITERALLY. NOBODY. It’s like LARP repellent! Absolutely no one wants to spend hours trying to pry open whatever shell you’ve constructed to witness the blanched, empty bull-s**t you’ve been hiding inside. The only thing any of that means to anyone is you. So do yourself — and everyone else around you — a favor and just save it for your slash fiction. Literally line 1 from the Turku School “Manifesto”: Role-playing is immersion (“eläytyminen”) to an outside consciousness (“a character”) and interacting with its surroundings. So try subjecting yourself to others, rather than subjecting them to you.

      That being said, having internal dialogue is good for an introspective character, and there are plenty of introspective archetypes to be created. Just don’t sit in the corner sulking because nobody finds your brooding even remotely interesting (because it’s not. No really, it isn’t. Yes, I’m talking about your character.). You have to perform the RP part of LARP, and that ALWAYS requires the ‘A’ part — Action, and the ‘L’ part — Live, and in LIVE, the words Dr. Frankenstein first said to his Creation. Live!

      [/rant]

      Reply
  3. Genevieve April 13, 2016 7:57 AM

    1) I like the one about treating other characters as legit “plot hooks”.
    2) Here’s another way to generate roleplay that I’d super suggest including in this article: Come to game with your OWN hooks that will involve plenty of other players. Put on an event, build an in-game business, hire people to do things, et cetera. This has been my #1 way to generate my own roleplay. Each time without exception, it’s resulted in new and/or stronger relationships, memories, and opportunities for future interactions. It can also just plain be a great way to enhance other people’s level of engagement and immersion with the game you’re sharing with them. (And if I give advance public notice of it, once in a while the staff might even throw some official plot in its direction and make it even more memorable!)

    Reply
  4. Becca April 29, 2016 2:57 AM

    I play in two different LARPs, with very little overlap in player and rules.
    I use these tips in both, so I can say that they can work, but only if you have a good group to start with. For the LARP that it doesn’t work; I think there are three reasons: Half the players I didn’t know before, were already friends and they are EXTREMELY cliquey. The race I chose was gruff and as we all know ‘lone-wolf’ never works well in LARP settings and the LARP is new and having played in a well tested game, I feel limited in rewards and quest options.

    So I’d add a 6th tip to this list – talk to your GMs regulary. Let them know if you are getting bored and they maybe able to create something that can get you more involved in plot and role-play

    Reply

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