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Who Has A Stake In This Plot?

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 have a stake in the plot.

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?

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Getting the Most Out of Making Your Own Character

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.
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Getting The Most Out of LARP Pre-Gen Characters

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

13 LARP Body Language Tips for 13 Personalities

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.

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A Player’s Urge To Murder

Caught your attention, didn’t I? One of the most commonly discussed issues GM’s often have is regarding the idea of “murderhobos”. Characters who kill with great abandon and who litter their campaigns with corpses. Now the term “murderhobo”, while technically correct, isn’t particularly fair because few players actually want to roleplay murdering someone.

They don’t want their targets to have pre-existing lives they’ve been plucked from, don’t want to see family members on the news making pleas for anyone who knows something to please come forward, and if their “victim” has a dog who will soon be sent to the pound, you can bet your bottom dollar that dog is getting adopted and looked after with every kindness.  Or more rarely shot dead by players who are finding this play on their heart strings irksome and wish to discourage it.

Also be mindful that wanting to play trigger happy characters or even fully-fledged serial killers aren’t bad things.  Hell, most games actively encourage it by linking loot and experience points directly to your kill count and by golly can it be hard to run a game where your PCs are trying to arrest everybody or give CPR to your Big Bad.

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RULE NO. 1: Don’t Diminish The PCs! 

This rule is the most important but the hardest to follow through considering the limited resources available to a Game Master. It’s also tricky because the players are often moving through a complex world and there’s always going to be entities, groups and even individuals who are far more powerful than them.

Encourage interactivity.  Always.  If you can find a way to make something dependent on player actions, go for it.

Share the spotlight.  This is where skill variety, character ties or factional connections can really shine.  Find a way to keep everyone involved and connected in the story.

Even when NPCs are talking to each other, player involvement should matter.  If two NPCs are going to have at each other, keep it short and snappy and let PC interactions dominate the discussion.  If they throw out a few comments here and there, make those comments matter.

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Plot Barriers Part 2

When players feel they don’t have enough plot, what they normally mean is there are serious issues preventing them from getting much out of the plot they do have. There are often a number of reasons why they can feel this way and there’s a bunch of things that can be done to change it. Here are some reasons why you might be feeling disconnected to plot:

Someone might be trying to protect the plot for emotional reasons or just might not realise your relevance to it.  This might even involve higher ups within your character’s team actively removing your character from the plot line.  This issue can come up when the GM weaves people into the same plot from different directions.  Someone wants to protect their loved one but that loved one is the only witness, and possible culprit, of a situation you want to investigate.  Naturally the other character wants to protect them but you really need answers….

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Plot Barriers Part 1

Most often when I hear complaints that a player doesn’t have enough plot, what they normally mean is there are serious issues preventing them from getting much out of the plot they do have. In some cases I’ve been able to show entire laundry lists of plot connections that a particular character has, but the player will sincerely feel that they don’t have any plot worth a damn. Often this boils down to one of several issues:

The player can’t do much with their plot hooks because other characters aren’t paying any attention to it for whatever reason.  Interactivity in LARP is key so without other players buying into it, it can’t become part of the focus.  This often boils down to other characters not realising the relevance of the plot you have to their character’s situation.  Folks are often bombarded with stuff to do at most LARPs and during the quiet times they are busy trying to *find* stuff to do.  This means that they won’t always pick up on the ramifications of what you’ve just said. 

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Getting Your Hands On Plot

One of the most common complaints in any LARP is how to get your hands on more plot. Plot being defined as compelling connections to the greater world or the overarching themes or wider narratives of the game. It involves being able to make a meaningful connection to how the game plays out. Being involved in plot is a two-way dance between GM creations and player actions and if you want to become more tied within the weave you can take some of the following steps.

First check if you have any plot.  You don’t have any plot?  Are you sure?  Sometimes it’s worth checking with the GM if you think you have no plot as you may be surprised at the large plot hooks that your character may have which you may have forgotten about or overlooked.  Significant chunks of time between sessions can often leave key facts by the wayside.  Seriously I’ve seen players overlook massive game-changing information and connections they had because time had obscured its relevance.

If you really don’t have any plot, contact the GMs (ideally between sessions) and ask them if there’s anything your character could be connected to or even suggest certain plotlines you’d like to be tied into.  Your best bet is to be relatively vague about this because GMs will be trying to find ways to connect you to existing plot even if in an unexpected fashion rather than create something entirely new.  If they create brand new plot for you, great!, but they might not be able to do so in a way that is immediately relevant.

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Saturday Godegian

Once my Cregan was dead, I went to dress up as a Godegian alongside the person who had played the wannabe defector. We decided to be sisters, and to be the cousins of Jack, who had thus far spent much of the game being beaten down and tortured. We then entered the game by sneaking around the back of the buildings, trying to get to chapel where we thought we would be safe. I made it up there without being spotted but she was seen, and two of the Cregans came up to fetch us. I had a little dagger but it was easily knocked from my hands.

We were forced to kneel and then sent into the restaurant with the others.  We then had an Out-of-Character break where we could eat dinner and chat for awhile with plans to re-establish our character ties and then set the game one week later.

My character ended up the pet of the new Cregan pyromancer.  She continued to act skittish and insane and utterly broken, hoping to use that to survive.  I also forged a lasting tie with another character who was my best friend in youth.  We were both thugs in youth though mine preferred to distract with magic tricks while she did the coshing.

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