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.
- Aloof: Pay less attention to people except, perhaps, where they stand and typically avoid looking at folks unless you’re in conversation with them. After all, eye contact across a crowded room shows interest and will typically encourage people to come over to talk with you. Find things to do that don’t involve other people such as napping with your hat over your eyes, writing and reading in tomes, or cleaning your sword. NOTE: Aloof characters can quickly become ignored as people politely avoid them so make sure that your character has strong connections to someone who will keep you involved and then stay near them.
- Arrogance: Tilt your head back so you can look down your nose at people. Take up a lot of space and steadfastly ignore if it inconveniences people (i.e. they now need to stand rather than sit). If they outright complain or request that you move for them, show your displeasure such as by tsking or rolling your eyes to indicate that they are being really irritating by deigning to ask you to move. Whether you then move or refuse to do so will depend upon the depths of your arrogance. Speak in a loud voice, talk over people and refuse to look at those who your character considers to be beneath them. If anyone discounts your authority, stare them down or laugh at them. Avoid giving a sincere apology. Instead try to make it the other person’s fault by saying things such as, “I’m sorry you got upset over that.” Accuse other people of getting emotional when they have a valid concern. NOTE: Expect that your character won’t be particularly liked and some people may wonder if you dislike them rather than it being an in-character mannerism. Get to know people.
- Aggressive: Stare at people and (with permission from the player) get into their space bubble so that you’re only standing a foot and a half away. Keep your vocal chords tight. Clench your fists and your jaw muscles. Narrow your eyes slightly. Lean toward them. You can combine some of the Nervous traits in this if you want to show someone who is working themselves up. Use short, clipped sentences. Avoid too much rhetoric. Angry people aren’t normally thinking clearly enough to focus on logic. Some people puff out their chests and lift their arms out from their body somewhat to look more aggressive (like a gorilla) which may not always be actively threatening but certainly shows an aggressive mind-set. NOTE: Some people will specifically avoid aggressive people. Find a group of people whom your character will be kind towards in order to have some people who won’t avoid you.
- Confidence: Ensure you take up a lot of space but do so in a way that doesn’t inconvenience others. In other words, spread out unless someone else needs to sit in the space next to you. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, put your hands on your hips (in an otherwise relaxed pose) and smile often but without showing your teeth. Keep a calm and level tone of voice in even high stress situations. Look at people when you talk to them. Keep your arms loose unless gesturing. Don’t gesture too much but when you do flash the palms of your hands often in open gestures. Take a few deep breaths to ensure that your vocal chords are relaxed and loose. Breathe with the diaphraKeeper to power the voice. Another classic post is to sit with one arm on a chair rest and the other draped along the chair’s back with, perhaps, an ankle crossed over the opposite knee.
- Disciplined: Stand in an “at ease” position with your back straight and feet roughly shoulder-width apart. You might literally keep your hands clasped behind your back when standing still. Ensure your clothes are clean and your equipment is within easy and organised access. Avoid feeling statements and try to stick to the facts. Always recognise hierarchy in terms of both obedience and body language – pay attention to higher status people and encourage others to do the same. Speak little and be direct when speaking.
- Cocksure: Lean or slouch against walls, feel free to cross your arms or your legs, and aim to use half smiles more than full smiles. The aim is to be so confident that you don’t mind looking sloppy or, most likely, that you have your own insecurities that are smothered beneath a layer of feigned confidence. Go from a little loud to confidant and even. Talk over people only when you actually want to annoy them and often give them that half-smile afterward like you know what you did and you don’t care. If actually embarrassed, play it up so people can’t tell if you’re serious or not by hanging your head while giving a half-hearted apology or making a joke out of it. Turning a chair around so that you sit on it facing the wrong way or putting your feet up on the table both shows a cocksure attitude and it’s not only confident but slightly rebellious. Putting your hands in your pockets can also show this complexity as it says both “I’m relaxed” and “Stay away.” If you put your hands in your pockets with the thumbs showing, it becomes all the more cocky.
- Flirtatious: Give your romantic interest your undivided attention. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you ignore everyone else (which could verge into arrogance) but it does mean that you should treat your romantic interest as the more interesting person in the room. Lean in a little while talking, and mirror their body language. Self-grooming habits such as brushing lint off one’s shoulder, and putting hair behind the ear. Gaze often at your love interest (but do blink), which might even be through a number of short sidelong glances when you think they’re not looking. If your character flirts with everyone, combine with Cocksure and simply change the subject of your attentions. NOTE: Please bear in mind that some players really don’t want to be involved in any flirtation at a LARP to the point that they would rather leave the campaign than manage an in-character flirt so you need to clear it with potential players beforehand and check in every once in awhile to make sure you’re not verging into creepy territory. This applies to people of every gender and sexual orientation.
- Friendly: Keep open body language (arms uncrossed with occasional gestures that show the palms of the hands) and lean forward a little toward the speaker. When having an intimate conversation one-on-one ensure you are standing so that your toes point towards them. When you want to allow others to enter the conversation with ease, stand with your body slightly turned away from them with one foot pointing toward them and the other foot pointing somewhat away from them as though awaiting the arrival of someone else. You can gesture as much as you like but aim for open gestures. Tilt your head a little when talking to people, smile and laugh openly.
- Nervous: Avoid sitting down too long. Pace a little. Rearrange things around you. Fidget, tap a pen against a table and look around frequently. Always keep an eye on the exits, even if it’s just a glance. Keep your vocal chords a little tight so that it affects your tone of voice. Speak a little quickly. Remember that nervousness, in this case, means having a lot of nervous tension inside. Sometimes this might mean blurting out information without any tact as you’re too wound up to take time in describing it.
- Playful: Vary your tone of voice, but typically keep it soft and gentle, or give it a teasing quality by saying it with a smile. Use a range of facial expressions, all slightly exaggerated, to clearly signpost your emotions so anger could involve a pout and narrowed eyes while sadness could use a pleading tone of voice and a lot of self-hugging. Don’t be afraid to use slightly unusual body language or sit in odd positions that aren’t quite typical of most people. Smile a lot, laugh frequently and follow your curiosity. You might cover up your actual emotions with exaggeration or you might be very sincere with them. Always revel in your joyous expressions.
- Shy: Always aim to take up as little space as possible by keeping your knees together when sitting and your feet reasonably close together when standing. Frequently cross your arms and legs to take up even less space and to portray a subconsciously defensive posture. Don’t give too much eye contact and sometimes keep your face partially turned away from the speaker even as you look at them. Look down whenever there’s a confrontation, even if it’s just a quick glance. Look down constantly if you want to be particularly submissive. Don’t move around too much. It draws attention. While you don’t need to talk in a whisper, speaking in a lower voice can make you appear quite shy as can fidgeting slowly when not looking at anyone. Create barriers between you and other people by holding onto books, peering out through long hair or keeping your arms crossed. Blink more often.
- Stern: Keep your voice level and slightly firm. Avoid gesturing and leave your hands loose at your sides or clasped at your back (the latter is somewhat more submissive which may be suitable in certain situations). Avoid emotional displays. Use a level gaze, keep your chin up, back straight and your shoulders squared. If you do discuss emotions, you should do so using the same tone of voice you use for facts. Take up only as much space as you actually require to maintain a comfortable position but never slouch or relax into your chair.
- Violent: People who are preparing to fight will often narrow their eyes to protect them from damage, breath more shallowly and quickly, and tense their muscles. Hands curl into fists, and weight shifts to the balls of the feet. Words might be punctuated with sudden, sharp gestures or movements, perhaps entering closer than we normally would and then stepping quickly away to reflect some degree of hesitation as a person works themselves up. Sometimes self-talk will be used to build up the impression of oncoming violence.