No matter how grand and powerful and scary the plotline you create, everyone is going to have a different level of investment in the outcome. And that level of investment can be 0.
NEW FLASH: Not everyone does.
This can occur in any kind of roleplaying game but it’s more common in larger games like LARPs where you can have dozens, even hundreds, of people all playing alongside and against one another. No matter how grand and powerful and scary the plotline you create, everyone is going to have a different level of investment in the outcome. And that level of investment can be 0.
So how can you keep an eye on the investment factor?
In larger games, you’re probably going to have to do a survey or some such because it’s really hard to get an accurate read on things when you’ve barely met all the players and don’t know their character arcs. You’ll probably have to look at each faction’s investment in the plot and work from them. In smaller games of 30 or less you can get somewhat of a gauge by sitting down and thinking it through.
Has the person never encountered an NPC related to the plot line, have no personal ties to the plot line and is their character unlikely to be able to interact on a meaningful level with the plot line? Probably not heaps invested then unless they, as a player, find the plot line super interesting and in that case you should probably throw them a hook so they can get involved.
Of course, even if you can tick YES to those boxes it doesn’t mean they care. Practically everyone can remember a tabletop game when a plotline came up that they just weren’t that into. This could be that they, as a player, just aren’t particularly hooked by it or it could be that the execution hasn’t been that great or it could just be that they need more time.
The thing about investment is that it is a slow and gentle process. Rush it, or worse – demand it, and you’ll actually lose it. Give them reasons to care but accept that it’s a valid response to either not care or to care for unexpected reasons (such as wanting their country to fail rather than succeed). Or it could simply be that there are too many people involved in that plot thread already so it would be difficult to have a meaningful contribution without pulling it away from someone else.
This is why it’s important to have several plot threads, especially in larger games, so that everyone can be involved in something even if they can’t be involved in all things.
There are a lot of LARPs where the responsibility for creating a character falls entirely, or at least mostly, on the player. This can be a lot of fun. You might get a basic role (i.e. cantankerous businessman), a basic setting guide or a full rule book with skills to select. Every LARP is different! But there are a few general rules of thumb that’ll make your character way more interesting.
- Leave space to introduce new elements into your character’s history. Leave space for new character ties, plot connections and opinions. Oftentimes you’re better off with a series of dot points, especially on the history documents you send to your Game Masters. While you can still send your backstory as a short story, attaching dot points to that will help the GMs pick out the elements that are most important to you, and can be really helpful when they need to find a name. Also be aware that not every Game Master has the time or inclination to read fiction, or lengthy backstories, but some will.
- See your initial creation as a draft character. Your character might need to change and develop over the course of the first few sessions, possibly retrospectively if it’s not disruptive, in order to better fit the game. If it’s not core to your character, if the change wouldn’t defeat the purpose of the character, consider making it. Maybe you really love the idea of the science puzzles or you had no idea that combat would be such a big part of the game, maybe see if you can swap a skill around or change your character’s opinion on fighting. If they were a pacifist beforehand, and you’ve pretty heavily established that, consider talking to other players or the Game Masters on ways to convince your character to go against that so you can get engaged in the parts of the game that you find the most fun.
- Character Ties Matter. Seriously, a game can be made twice as fun by having a single strong character tie as it gives you ready-made plot (what happens to that character matters to you) and someone who shares an interest in your character’s history. Complex relationships (not necessarily romantic ones) can pull you into different plotlines and give you plenty to do in lull periods. Always aim for at least one, but three is deal.
- Character Generators are an option. So long as you modify it to suit the game, remove anything that’s too silly and flesh it out, you can get some interesting combinations of traits and inspiration from a generator. Sometimes random rolls can inspire more complex characters or new ways of doing things. While occasionally you have to put the Hard No on the “Cheese Lover” tag, sometimes it’s the perfect thing to add flavour to your orc barbarian.
- Core concepts and several tag lines can help you define your character. Sometimes it can help you roleplay another personality, or think about things to do, if you have a summary concept and a few tag words attached to them. Things like “overly trusting, collector, wants gems rather than gold,” can all give you some inspiration on how to act and what to do in a game.
- Where did you get them skills? Regardless of whether the game has skill mechanics, or just relies on player skill, your character would have some skills, knowledge and training of their own. A private investigator, police officer, journalist and worried mother would all approach a missing person’s case differently, after all, and it can help you brainstorm ways to use your character’s skills and ways to manage a situation by thinking of what YOUR character would do. Plus it’s a good way of generating anecdotes. Maybe your mother was a locksmith or maybe you keep forgetting your keys so you had to learn how to pick your own lock. Both options are interesting.
- Ask for advice. Not every Game Master is great at providing character generation advice, but if they’re able and willing, listen to them. Odds are if they keep angling you to have a connection to a particular town, or have a particular skill-set, there’s a need for it somewhere in the game. Other players can also be a wellspring of advice, especially in established games where they may have more experience in knowing what works and what doesn’t.
- Character ties. Having ties to other people, or places if you can swing it, helps make your character feel a part of the world, encourages others to involve you on a deeper level, and can inspire events and activities in and of themselves. There’s something to be said for being able to roleplay an engagement or a best friendship or a rival from Session One. The trick is that folks are often shy about suggesting, or accepting, a character tie and there needs to be some negotiation to figure out exactly how it would work. If you have a really tight character tie, you also need to think about whether the character would be playable if the other person left, and make your peace with that. However, when it does work out it brings a depth and richness to the experience that can’t be understated. And when it doesn’t work out, it more often just falls flat rather than causing real problems.
So there you have it. A bunch of ways to build a character and get involved, or stay involved, in the plot with a character you create yourself. Have fun and happy creating!
When you are going to a LARP game, you will either be given a pre-generated character or will be asked to create your own.
When you are going to a LARP game, you will either be given a pre-generated character or will be asked to create your own. A pre-generated character is one built by the Game Master — perhaps with some input from yourself in terms of what skills you will possess or certain details in your character history. We’ll be focusing on how to have the most fun at a LARP when you’re given a pre-generated character.
- Read It Twice. Read it once when you’re first given the character information, mainly to have a basic idea of who you are and what you’re about and to see if you’ll have any issues with it as written. Then read it again closer to the date so that you can refresh certain details.
- Highlighter. Go over the character information with a highlighter or start underlining things with pencils that look important or interesting. Some details might suggest goals, background ties or quirky ways of looking at things that you might overlook on a straight up read through. By taking the time to highlight it, you can also quickly check your sheet for cool stuff to focus on during lulls in the game.
- Reach Out To Other Players. If you have a few characters listed on your sheet and some way to contact those players, it’s a good idea to do so. If there’s a pre-game meet-and-greet, definitely try and go along to it. It’ll allow you to deepen those character ties, come up with some cool anecdotes and really figure out how you feel about each other before you arrive. If they’re a long-lost sibling or arch nemesis, it’s a good idea to try to memorise their face so you can immediately respond to them as soon as you see them in character.
- Personal or Team Goals. Most of these characters will be written with various goals in mind that will often be written out in list form. It’s a good idea to take a close look at them as often other characters will be written with the assumption that you will pursue what’s on your sheet. Be mindful, though, that there are often hidden goals suggested in the rest of the document so it’s worth taking a look at the other sections as well.
- Create gameplay. Players will tend to gravitate to where the action is so you can make a big difference by coming up with interesting plot points yourself. This could involve hosting mini-social-events like tea parties, attempting to sell off items and equipment, or by sharing the information you know and asking lots of questions. Anything that encourages interaction will keep you involved in the game.
While you certainly don’t need to go to the effort of redesigning your own body language, it can be worthwhile for those who wish to have their character give a very different impression than themselves. The following tips are all exaggerations of any particular style so feel free to mix and match to create the right level of tone and consideration. Remember that all people are unique and different and that the following tips are more about how a person is perceived than about what the individual is actually thinking or feeling.
People may also change their style depending on situation so a character who is normally Cocksure might tend toward actual Arrogance when dealing with, say, their students but become Nervous around Citadel and Shy around people they are romantically interested in. Also note that there are cultural distinctions in play here both in the game and in the real world. An arrogant Nixie might look more like slight overconfidence while an arrogant Orc might mainly come across as aggression.
Continue reading “13 LARP Body Language Tips for 13 Personalities”