There are some things you can do that will especially help out your Game Master in running a fun game, maintaining a good relationship with their venue and keeping the players around you happy and involved. You can find the first list over here.
Don’t litter. Pick your spell balls and arrows up off the ground and put your trash in the bin. If you see someone else’s equipment on the ground and they’re not around, pick it up and bring it back to the base. They might have missed it in the undergrowth. Leaving the location in a better state than we found it helps everyone have a better experience and assists us in future venue hires.
If you already know the answer of a puzzle or riddle from an outside source (i.e. you have encountered the riddle before in a videogame), let the others have a chance to try to solve it before you just walk up and solve it. If no one else seems interested, or can determine the answer, than you can go along and solve it.
Help us set up and pack down the event. Most people do this, which is fantastic, but the more the merrier. The less time we spend in set up and pack down, the more motivated we will be to bring extra props and decorations.
Spoiler Warning! Some players don’t want to know until their characters know. Give them the chance to discover things in-game and avoid boasting of your epic feats out-of-game unless they’ve told you they’re happy to hear it.
Accept preferred gender pronouns — whether in-game only or in the real world. If you use the wrong pronouns, simply apologise and try better next time. Please don’t get defensive or spend a long time apologising. Mistakes happen. Acknowledge it and move on.
Maintain personal hygiene. It’s hard to ignore strong odours so please bathe and wear deodorant before you attend an event. If this is a weekend camping trip that doesn’t possess a shower than we kindly request that you bring wet wipes to ensure you stay fresh.
Take care of your health. Remember to put on sunscreen, stay hydrated and rest when you need to. Remember to eat before the session so that you’re not running on fumes.
If someone hits you hard, assume they didn’t mean to do it and let them know that it has occurred — preferably after the combat unless it’s a particularly hard hit or there’s been more than one. If someone tells you that you have been hitting hard, thank them for being honest with you and be more conscientious of your technique. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment so don’t take it personally — just change the behaviour and maybe take a rest if you’re hitting hard because of adrenaline.
If you really must discuss the latest television show or your weekend’s activities you should take such discussion away from other players and return to in character talk when other players approach you. Where possible try to keep anecdotes and jokes to things your character might think to reference.
If you would like to discuss the special effects, please wait until after the session is over. Nothing sucks the energy out of the game more than pointing out those mirrors or referring to the smoke machine.
Stay legal. Don’t steal from other players, provide alcohol to children (i.e. under-18s), or use illegal substances. Don’t drink alcohol at an event unless we have otherwise given permission. Some venues don’t allow alcohol and the game might be banned from that location if people drink alcohol there.
Never bring a real weapon into the game. Ever.
When playing a boffer LARP where mock battles are conducted, please enjoy your battles outdoors, not inside. Many games decorate indoor areas with far more detail (and fragile objects) than anywhere else which means there’s far more opportunities to break something. Therefore you shouldn’t fight indoors unless cleared to do so by the Game Organisers during the opening speeches. If you are cleared to do so, pay especial attention to any expectations — perhaps you may only do so in duels in a specific area or perhaps you still can’t run about or dodge hits.
It’s always good to find out the best ways to get involved and help everyone have a fun time. Please read below for some handy tips on building a better community by being a better player.
If you have an intense roleplaying session with someone, you should approach them after game to talk it over. Even a brief “That was intense! Thanks for roleplaying with me. I hope you didn’t mind how yell-y my character got. I actually really enjoyed it!” can help ensure people know when an issue is IC or OOC.
Encourage other players and their choices. While your character might not like gargoyles or merchants, it’s important to be fair and impartial when discussing them out-of-character and to avoid using derogative nicknames that might make a person feel judged and belittled. If a player’s choices are a problem for the game setting or genre, then only a real discussion will help with that.
Never insult someone based on a real world trait such as gender, real world race, sexuality or physical appearance (not including makeup and prosthetics). If you do, you are actually insulting them whether you (the player) mean to or not and that’s just not fun for them.
When discussing events that have occurred at the game as a player, always refer to character interactions using the third person and that character’s name. Only use a player’s name and the words “you” and “I” when you are talking about real world feelings and people. This is the best way to help ensure a distinction between in-game and real world feelings and reactions.
Remember that each character has their own thoughts, desires and experiences and that what might seem silly to you could make a lot of sense to them. Since a character’s choices also typically reflects a player’s thoughts on what would be clever, tactical and enjoyable, it’s important to keep any insults based on character choices to in-game comments. No one enjoys hearing how stupid their character is outside of game.
Be mindful of the nicknames you apply to other characters out-of-game. They can stick and what could be quite funny the first few times can quickly undermine their confidence and desire to play that character in the future. When in doubt, ask the player if that nickname or playful insult is wearing thin and listen to what the person tells you.
Don’t boast about the terrible things you’re going to do to another character while out-of-game. No one wants to helplessly listen to someone joyfully describing some cruel fate for their character while knowing they can do nothing about it without cheating through meta-gaming. Leave such boasts to the in-game arenas so that the story can flow naturally.
Ask out-of-game if a player is happy to be the target of your character’s romantic attentions. If you are playing a character who flirts with everyone, still ask out-of-game permission from all of those involved and have a handy list of reasons for why they might make an exception for a character that belongs to a player who wouldn’t like it.
It means a lot to the other players when their character’s deaths are mourned, even if only briefly. Pausing a moment to raise a toast to a deceased ally, or even an important rival or defeated nemesis, can be really appreciated. Be respectful on an OOC level when discussing a now deceased character, even and especially if your own PC was their nemesis, as it’s very easy to accidentally hurt someone when you cut down their artistic endeavours (i.e. their character) shortly after their loss.
Don’t gossip about people you think might be cheating or meta-gaming. They might have good reason to have ignored that hit or know that secret that you just don’t know about. False accusations just damage people’s reputation and encourage a negative atmosphere. If you have a concern, approach them directly or ideally speak with a Game Master who would have a broader understanding of the game and would know one way or another.
Give people the personal space they need. Everyone has their own personal space bubble which is affected by a range of circumstances and experiences. If someone keeps backing away from you in an otherwise friendly conversation, you are probably standing too close. It’s always a good idea to check if you an uncertain.
Establish a personal’s personal boundaries before touching them. You might do this by briefly dropping out-of-game or by pre-establishing those boundaries before the game begins. Please note that just because someone is happy for one person to touch them on the shoulder, doesn’t mean they’re happy for someone else to do. You need to gain consent for yourself. If they are happy for you to touch them on the shoulder, that doesn’t mean they have granted permission for you to hold their hands. You don’t need to ask someone for permission when offering or accepting a hand shake (since them reaching out is nonverbal permission) but do accept if someone drops out-of-game to tell you that their character would shake hands but they would prefer not to.
If another player makes a concession to you to help you enjoy the game, it’s important you don’t use that as an excuse to make things harder for their character. In other words, if no one is inviting your character on adventures because they’re a known traitor or a thief, and you ask some players to help you out because you are bored, you shouldn’t then betray or steal from them. They have made an out-of-character concession to keep you involved (inviting you along when their characters wouldn’t) so you should make an out-of-character concession to keep things plausible and fair (sharing the loot equally). Therefore you should always keep all OOC deals and concessions separate from in-game deals and concessions so that players know where they stand.
Stay tuned for the next article on the subject: 10 MORE Tips on Being A Better LARP Player.
Bleed is a LARP term defining emotional crossover between a player and their character. It’s not a bad thing. The rush of excitement on finding an important gadget and the satisfaction of an in-game job well done are also bleed. Bleed can also occur when our experiences affect our character’s behaviour such as when a player’s exhaustion leads to their typically free-wheeling character becoming quiet and withdrawn.
Other emotions such as fear, guilt and sorrow can also be entertaining experiences in a LARP that help us feel immersed. There are plenty of players who will specifically attend a LARP that is designed to invoke an emotion that we may typically avoid in real life. How many people attend horror LARPs for the possibility of feeling, just for a moment, a whiff of actual fear?
The problem arises when these emotions overwhelm us or when they persist over time. It is one thing to feel sad during a character’s funeral and it’s another thing altogether to be crying over a fictional death a few weeks later. Yet just as events in a television show can affect us long after we have stopped watching, so can a LARP continue to affect our emotions well after the scene ends.
In fact, LARPs have a greater ability to emotionally affect us because we are literally there, moving as our characters, and because our decisions often play a role in creating the outcome that affects us. Thus our characters, and therefore ourselves, could be somewhat responsible (or feel that way) for the death of a fictional friend. Bleed can even be addictive as our general day-to-day lives often lack the highs and lows of a character’s life. After all we move toward comfort in our daily lives, not hair-raising adventure.
The following information will give you an idea of things that can increase the chance of bleed, things we can do to contain the bleed to the session and things we can do to actively decrease bleed as it happens. Bleed can add zest and interest in a game and should be embraced within healthy limits. If bleed is affecting your out-of-game relationships or your day-to-day life than it’s very important that you find some way to reduce the bleed — perhaps by taking a break from the game for awhile.
So what are some game design elements that can increase bleed:
Permanent character death introduces themes of grief and loss.
Inclusion of romantic entanglements and the possibility of in-game breakups and infidelity.
Political settings that encourage competitive play through humiliating or discrediting characters.
Horror settings that encourage emotions of fear and anxiety.
Tragic settings where your character will inevitably fail or suffer some misfortune.
Lengthy sessions and weekend games.
Frequency of events (i.e. weekly games rather than monthly).
Opportunities for downtime betrayal (increases anxiety between sessions that something terrible will happen to your character that can only be prevented through between-game vigilance).
In-game forum use where you post as your character.
Frequency has a big impact here. Daily posting affects you more than weekly posting.
Political or otherwise emotive discussions on forums can create persistent anxiety as you wait for people to post and prevents the use of tone and body language to mitigate upset.
Forum use can also create a persistent in-play environment which prevents a player from having adequate breaks to emotionally re-settle after the game.
What are some game design elements and player choices that can help contain bleed:
Clear, defined procedures for stopping and starting a session.
Pre-game discussion occurs in a separate room and then people enter in-character.
Playing a particular theme song before a game.
Ringing a bell or some other auditory cue for Session Over.
Players encouraged to discuss emotions raised during gameplay in safe spaces or with key staff.
Key staff available during game for such discussions.
Some degree of cooperative play allows characters to resolve some emotional scenarios through discussion with other characters before the session ends which allows the player closure.
Individual player rituals that mark the start and end of each game
Listening to suitable music on the way in, unsuitable music on the way out (that doesn’t fit the character).
Putting costume and makeup on and then taking it off, perhaps with a long shower.
Standing around in a circle and discussing your favourite part of the game which provides a chance to air your experiences and remind yourself of what is within the game and outside of the game.
Time after the game to debrief about what happened during it and unwind.
Bleed is a LARP term defining emotional crossover between a player and their character. Whenever you (as a player) feel an emotion due to the in-game reality or your character is impacted by your real world feelings, you are experiencing bleed.
Bleed includes the rush of excitement on finding an important gadget, the satisfaction of a job well-down and the sorrow of seeing a character die. It also includes when your character refuses to go out on a mission because you (the player) are tired and need a nap. In other words, it’s a natural part of the game and refers to the highs and lows that often inspire people to come along and get involved. After all, you can feel sad when you see a character die on a movie or a play, why not in a LARP?
Though most instances of bleed really add to the game and a player’s experience, it is important to have healthy and effective strategies for managing those emotions so that they don’t spill over into our day-to-day lives. Here are a few tips on how to help manage bleed within desirable limits:
Accept that anyone can experience intense bleed. Even if you never have in the past, you may in the future. This helps you look at healthy strategies of managing those emotions by accepting them as a natural outgrowth of the in-game experience rather than looking for out-of-game causes and blaming volunteers and other players.
Always refer to the characters by their names when discussing a situation out-of-game. This differentiates between a player’s feelings / actions and a character’s feelings / actions. This is especially important when you are talking about things you don’t like about the character as it can genuinely hurt a player’s feelings when they’re not sure if you find them annoying … or just their character.
It’s a great idea to approach other players after an emotional scene and thanking them for their involvement. Reassuring them that you enjoyed their roleplay ensures they know, definitively, that you weren’t actually angry with them as a player. You can always do this after the session if you don’t feel that it would be appropriate (due to the style of game or the timing) to approach them briefly during the session.
Since it can be difficult to tell when visible distress is due to in-game acting or out-of-game feelings, we have a set of gestures which allow people to quickly check in with you during the game without having to drop out-of-game to ask. We call it the “Okay” check-in method where you flash an OK hand gesture at them (typically held over a flat hand like a tea cup) and they give either a Thumbs Up (I’m fine), Thumbs Down (I’m not all right) or a Maybe Hand Gesture (I’m mostly not all right). This will give you the chance to react accordingly to help them through the situation.
Use the “Time Out Gesture” if you’re finding a situation is far too intense and you need to take a break and/or switch to narrative description of events.
Use the “Reduce Intensity” gesture when you’re becoming overwhelmed by the scene but are happy to continue it so long as, say, the character interacting with you lowers the intensity by, say, giving you more personal space or lowering their volume from a loud shout to a quieter yell. Continue using the gesture until the scene settles into a more comfortable situation.
Use the “Lookdown” method (looking down and shading your eyes) when passing a situation that you are not emotionally or physically capable of participating in. You might use this because the scene appears too intense and disturbing for you at the moment or when you are feeling sick, tired, sore or really need food / water and are returning to the base. You must pretend your character hasn’t noticed the scene and should not speak about it in-game. Those players involved in that scene should pretend they were distracted and didn’t see you go by.
Remember that consequences are still a part of the game. While you are always welcome to discuss with other players if a situation has ceased to be fun for you, if the consequences are due to your character’s actions (especially if they are PvP actions, i.e. where two player characters are working against each other) than you will need to be willing to compromise and offer concessions. If those consequences are due to in-game cruelties or treachery, such a compromise might not be possible. Be mindful of this when creating your character.
It can help to use an individual player ritual that marks the start and end of each game (such as listening to thematic music while putting on your costume and unsuitable music when taking it off).
Make a point to attend social events that can remind you that the players who surround you are different to their characters. If you only see someone when they’re being mean, it can be hard to know that is a character rather than a player trait.
We’ve touched a fair bit on how to be a great player in a LARP game but there’s also a group of people who can really make or break a LARP. A group of people who don roles created by the LARP writers and game masters to people the wider world, providing extra conflict and excitement during a session. These are the quest givers and the witnesses, the police who investigate the character’s crimes and the monsters that lurk in the forests. They add a lot to the game world but with the power to shape so many players’ experiences comes a great responsibility to do so well.
Play to WIN the hearts and minds of the players. Too often people get caught up in the idea that they must win the conflict (physical or otherwise) or be sure to lose it when truly the goal is to entertain those around you and help the players write their narrative.
Read your NPC bios and ask any questions you may have. You’ll be a much better NPC if you’re briefed on the scenario, likely choices and situations in the local area. That way you won’t be surrendering when you’re meant to be fearless or talking about cheese in a world without milk.
Congratulate the players on their skilful manoeuvres after the session. Odds are you saw more of their manipulations than the other PCs did. Certainly never pay them out for their poor decisions. We all make them. Mistakes are part of playing one’s character and lacking a wider understanding of the game. They should be embraced — don’t ridicule someone for making them.
Read about body language tricks so that you can better depict your character and help differentiate them from others.
Eat something for breakfast, or bring something with you if you can’t stomach food so early. That way you don’t get grumpy and fatigued as the day wears on. And definitely drink water — or cordial if you just don’t like the taste of water.
Be gentle with new players, in particular. Work with them and help make their hopes and dreams a reality! This may be through targeting their character for a kidnapping,
Remember that your NPC is most likely not omnipotent or omniscient. If it would be appropriate, assume your NPC doesn’t notice if the players try genre appropriate behaviours like sneaking up on your camp, eavesdropping from behind a tree or pocketing a key from a table. Bonus points if you don’t tell them you saw them afterwards!
Bring your own costuming, if you have it, and learn how to apply makeup or face paint if it would be appropriate for your game and you have the capacity to do so.
Understand how much wiggle room for improvisation you actually have. If you’re not told, than ask. Some games allow their NPCs far more free will than others. Your GM’s response will depend on how events are scheduled, how cohesive the vision must be and whether your own gameplay desires are likely to mesh with the setting, player expectations and overall theme and style of the game.
React to hits in a combat LARP. Nothing makes a person feel more special than when they land a blow and their enemy grunts in pain, shrieks in terror or otherwise responds as though they had been hit. Heck, if your LARP involves dice-based combat you can respond to the player’s dice rolls as well!