Larp, Roleplay 101

How to Get Involved in Story at LARP

Let’s face it, it can be very difficult to get involved in the story going on at a LARP, especially if you are a new player. There can be many hurdles and obstacles in your way.

Whether it’s due to other players, the plot team or personal social hang-ups, finding your place in a story is challenging.

As Head of Story for a large LARP (Twin Mask), I see people struggle all the time to get involved. The good news is that it is not as hard as you think━you just need to know how.

From personal plot to epic arcs, with the tips below you’ll be able to break into what’s happening in no time.

Character Do’s and Dont’s

Your character is how you interface with the game world. It forms the foundation of how you’ll play in the game and interact with the other players.

How you build your character will have a large influence on the types of story you’ll be able to get involved with, and how difficult it is to become a part of those stories.

1. Lone Wolves Will Always be Lonely

If you make a “loner” character, you’ll have a hard time getting involved. It will be difficult for people to connect with them. As a result, they will be less likely to take them along on quests and bring them into their personal stories.

2. Leave a Lasting Impression

Have a schtick. Something quirky, odd, or interesting about your character. Something to attract people and make them ask questions.

The key is to not to choose a quirk that is too annoying, otherwise, it will drive people away. Let this form a backbone of your character’s style, attitude or demeanor.

This should be something you can do on your own, without needing another player. Something that lets you stand out, be interesting or otherwise noteworthy.

Examples include:

  • Playing a musical instrument during downtime
  • Mixing creative potions or drinks
  • Practicing weapon styles
  • Sketching other players
  • Researching interesting things
  • Drinking and carousing
  • Playing cards, period games and the like

As long as it stands out as something your character does, drawing attention and giving people reasons to roleplay with you, you’ll be set. Instead of waiting around for something to happen, this gives you something interesting to do that will generate story.

3. Match the Style of the Game

Make a character that has goals, philosophies, themes, and styles appropriate to the setting and the other players.

If you make a character that is too far away from the core design and the player base you may find yourself on the outside looking in.

4. Don’t Try to “One-Up” Everyone Else

The Tragic Backstory — Everyone has one. Everyone. It’s a rare character that does not.

When you make yours, don’t try to “one-up” everyone else. It’s an arms race of suffering that no one can win and very few people enjoy.

You don’t need to be the character with the saddest backstory; instead, try to be the character with an interesting one.

The Special Snowflake — Much like the tragic backstory, everyone is one. You are, they are, every player character is. But if you try to be the most special of snowflakes, you run the risk of annoying people. You can be interesting and useful without making it all about you.

5. Perfection is Boring

Don’t be perfect. Perfect characters are boring. Boring characters don’t get involved in story. Have flaws, develop internal conflicts and struggles, and exhibit weaknesses the other players need to help you with.

6. Enhance the Group

Start out useful. Try to make a character that brings in skills, lores, and talents that other players need.

If you work with plot as you make your character, they’ll most likely be able to nudge you in directions that’ll help get you involved.

Ask the other players and design a character to be beneficial to the group. The fastest way to get involved in story is to be needed; but remember, don’t be annoying about it. A lot of the time players would rather do without than work with a bothersome character.

7. Remember That All People Change Over Time

Have a unique viewpoint but not one that is unchangeable.

Is magic dangerous? Is killing wrong? Do you believe that all elves are conspiring with demons and that’s where they get their ageless good looks?

A unique viewpoint can drive the way you’re involved in story, but make sure it can change and evolve. If it stays static, it will only perturb other players and grow stale after a while, stunting character growth.

If you’re confronted with direct proof that the secret to elven beauty is good hair care products and not demonic corruption, be willing to change your stance, grow, and evolve.

8. Make a Character, Not a Caricature

This one is an entire article in and of itself (maybe more), but simply put, when you make your character, remember to make them a person.

They aren’t a collection of skills and stats. They have hopes, dreams, desires, fears, and reasons for doing what they do.

Most people are not pushed to the extremes of parody, they are somewhere in the middle, filled with internal conflict and personal struggles.

Try not to build a character around a single concept or ideal, but a combination. These ideals can even be in conflict with one another, mirroring our own inner struggles.

Making the Most of the Game

Once you’ve made your character and are at your first game, there are many things you can do to get involved. Keep an eye out for ways to help, people to talk to and friends to make. You’re responsible for finding your own fun.

1. Do Your Homework

Know what to expect. Know the setting and style of the game. If you go into it as a powerful political figure but the game takes place in the middle of a lost forest fighting monsters, you may have difficulty getting entrenched.

Know what the game is about and what types of play to expect.

2. Identify Focused Objectives

Find something you want to do, whether it’s questing, crafting, politicking, or something else. Set a goal, something to achieve, and then work towards it. If you don’t know what you want to do, you’ll do nothing.

3. Take the Initiative

Don’t wait for story to come to you. If you sit in the tavern waiting for plot to show up and grab you, you’ll be sitting there a long time. Look for the story. Find other players, and try to help them with their stories. Get involved.

4. Add to the Immersion

Your character should contribute to the believability of the world. If you bring or set up an in character space that catches attention, people will come to you. Often, the plot team will as well━we love interesting in character areas as they help us tell stories.

Interacting With Other Players and Their Characters

The game is full of people just like you. People with interesting characters who want to have fun and role play.

The other players and NPCs (non-player characters) are the source of a great deal of the story. Even if they aren’t generating it themselves, they are involved in it. Interacting with them is the backbone of the game.

1. Let Them Share Their Character with You

Everyone has a character that they’ve invested a lot of time into and they would love to tell you about them.

If you approach them in-game and want to learn about them, there is a good chance they’ll talk your ear off. Listen, try to relate, and make friends. Friends bring friends into story.

2. Enable Others by Asking for Help

Do you want to get involved with the heroic fighter? Ask them if you can be their squire (and then help them). Do you want to play with the group of oddball mages? Ask them to teach you their ways.

If you give other people opportunities to play their characters, they’ll take them and appreciate you for it.

Bonus tip: If your character is hurt, play up the injury. Describe it. Yell in pain. Roleplay the pain and hurt as they set your bones and sew you up. Stare in awe and shock as they use magic to erase your injury. The healers, who are often unappreciated, will love you for making them look good and feel needed.

3. Don’t Try to Solve Every Problem

Some problems are there for a reason. Do they have a horrendous scar? Don’t try to fix it, it’s most likely there for story reasons. Ask about it instead.

Some people have problems they don’t want fixed. These are cornerstones of their character and fixing them will actually make things worse.

Instead, try to learn about the issue, show sympathy and interest, and they’ll most likely drag you into the story.

4. Give People Their Space

Know when to back off. People need space and are often too polite to say so. If you’re constantly in their business or following them around, they’ll take actions to avoid you.

Watch for the signs and don’t try to insert yourself into every single thing they do.

5. Let Others Have Their Moment in the Spotlight

Don’t interrupt. You are excited! The game is great and you’re having fun. Contain your excitement. Let other people finish what they are doing/saying. Give them a chance to play and don’t interrupt them during heroic or important moments.

One of the best ways to make someone not want to play with you is to steal the spotlight from them once they’ve got it. Let them have their moment and they’ll let you have yours.

6. Expect Nothing but Create Opportunities

Don’t expect people to play with you. They don’t have to. Don’t expect them to come to you and involve you. Instead, give them reasons to. Make them want to interact with you.

7. Bring a Friend Along for the Ride

One of the best ways to ensure you have someone to interact with and play with is to bring a friend.

A good friend with a character aligned to yours not only has a built-in story but makes for a powerful team the other players will want to work with.

8. Don’t Stand in the Way

This is a hard one. Especially since there may be in character reasons for it. But try not to make a character (or play a character) focused on preventing other players from playing their characters.

I know you made a paladin but if you go around trying to beat up all the thieves or stopping the less than upstanding characters from doing their thing, you’re removing someone’s ability to play the game.

If you want to do this, its best to make sure Out of Character that they are alright with the conflict.

Actions and Opportunity

There are many things you can do, big and small, that can generate or attract story.

1. Utilize Busy Work

There will be downtime at game. Between quests and intrigues, mods and plots, there will be idle moments. Bring something for your character to do. Bonus points, if it is something that adds to the setting.

Craft items, play games, read/write books, etc. If you have something to do in these idle times, others will come do it with you, or at least ask you about it.

2. Don’t be Afraid to do the Dumb

Rash actions often lead to story. Conflict and struggle are what it is about. If you never make mistakes or do reckless things, you’ll find it very hard to get into interesting story.

Half the fun is messing up and trying to fix it. Don’t be afraid to do the dumb. Just don’t do the super dumb.

All the Rest

There are tons of other things you can do to get involved and have fun. This list is only a starting point.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own fun but try to get others involved and help them have fun too. If you get into a story or plot, try to bring others along with you. If you do, they’re more likely to reciprocate.

Remember, everyone is at the game to have a good time.


Did you enjoy this? Do you want to hear more? Listen to my interview on the Life.Action.Roleplay! podcast on this very subject.

Life. Action. RolePlay! How to Get Involved with Story (feat. CW Fox)

 

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10 thoughts on “How to Get Involved in Story at LARP”

  1. “Some people have problems they don’t want fixed. These are cornerstones of their character and fixing them will actually make things worse.”

    As a follow-up to this: if you’re making a character in a world with healing magic, and you have something like this, have a *reason* for it, or it will seem stilted.

    ex: I play a woods-witch who has a bum leg and requires a cane (in part because so do I.) In a world of magical healing, why wouldn’t she just have someone heal her? Because she traded physical ability for magical power. Heal the leg, and you cripple her in a different way. It provides a basis for the situation, and builds story at the same time.

    1. That is a great point. It falls under having reasons for things. I’ve seen more than a few characters with interesting traits but no reason for them. The reason is more important than the trait. It’s where the story is at.

      I’ve seen things like ” I never say goodbye” But there was no why. I suggested, “I never say goodbye because my family was lost to [grim thing here] and I never got to say goodbye them, therefore I will not say to others what I can never say to those I loved the most.” A small reason added to a seemingly simple trait adds a lot of meaning and weight to the character.

  2. Very good advice that’s practical and easy to implement. I wish I would have had this guide before my first game but its not too late to implement any of this. I think this is an essential read to anyone new to LARP.

  3. I think the hardest lesson for me to learn was to avoid trying to be a ‘special snowflake’. I was always too worried about playing with skills and lores that others didn’t have or I felt lacked in the game. It took a few years of feeling stuck in a rut and frustratedly sitting on the sidelines because the character I wrote did not have enough connections in game with others in the vain hope I could be one of those important characters that had that one piece of information that no one else had.

    I had to teach myself to trust my gut. Play the character I wrote, not the unique stats she had. And while that might not have lead to being that one focal point of a story, it has been so much more fulfilling as a player for other characters to approach me because they like the character, not because she has something they need.

    1. It’s always a struggle to balance being “unique” with being playable. I’ve found more often than not that if you play true to the character, you’ll end up in story somehow.

      In a game like a LARP where there are so many players, it is almost impossible to have a unique skill set. Trying to get one only distracts from play. Your character is more than just a container for stats and abilities. It is how you breathe life into them and play them that makes them unique, not their mechanics.

      It’s a hard lesson to learn, as the mechanics of a character interacts with “effective” world and those often become the focus of play. But some of the best play ones can have is completely removed from any actionable abilities on the character sheet.

  4. Really helpful advise. Thank you! As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think about what I could change about the way I play my characters to become more involved.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! It’s often fairly subtle changes that make a big impact on overall play and involvement. Simple changes cna have big impacts. It is mostly about being aware and seeing how actions can lead to story.

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