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.

Players Planning for Success

Okay, so let’s say your character has a really big goal that can’t be managed through a full frontal assault. You either need to politically tear down your enemy, gather the evidence required to indict them or set yourself up to have some sort of strategic or tactical battle to come. Let’s take a Vampire: the Requiem example and say you want to erode the head of Clan Ventrue’s power base and humiliate him until the entire clan refuses to have any dealings with him.

No easy task. If you start by hurling baseless accusations around, or take a step wrong, you’ll likely end up being the one humiliated … or even murdered. So what do you do? How do you take control in this situation?

Firstly you need to keep accurate notes on your enemies.  Find out their motivations, likes and dislikes, allies, enemies, assets and other resources.  Find out the same information on those allies and enemies.  Get the best perspective on the situation that you can and record it because if you don’t than you will forget it.

Then brainstorm some options with your own allies, jotting down (OOC at least) each and every idea for both short-term and long-term plans.  It’s easy to just toss around thoughts verbally without writing it down, but if you don’t, you’re likely to forget half of your best ideas and get distracted by a less-than-ideal option that seemed easiest at the moment.  If they’re all written down, you can also go back to other ideas once you’ve fully nutted out whichever idea seemed the most valid in the moment.

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Why Players Need to Read the Books

There are plenty of experienced players who find it hard to remember all of the rules and setting details peculiar to their game. That’s pretty normal. Some players aren’t keen readers, either, and would much prefer to learn through listening rather than going over the books. Some systems have dozens and dozens of different rule books and setting guides which is a lot to go through. Due to all of these reasons, there are plenty of players who don’t know the rules in the games they are playing and there are even a few players who boast about never having read the rule book.

The problem is that it’s important to try to learn the rules, even if you can’t remember them all.

It’s important because when a player doesn’t know the rules, they need to ask someone else to do it for them.

They are, in effect, adding extra work for other players or the game master to guide them through character generation / levelling up their character or get someone else to do it for them.  They are requiring other players or the game master to remind them about the things they can do which means that player or game master are also partially controlling two character sheets.  Sure, you decide whether you do the thing or not, but you’re not really getting to choose from all of your options — only those options that appeal to others or are so quintessentially your character.

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Creating Compelling Player Characters

Compelling characters make for a compelling story. Just think of the difference between the games run by a Storyteller whose characters can make you laugh, make you cry, make you fear for them … and the ones who would make a piece of cardboard look deep and interesting in comparison. The same can be said for the protagonists themselves — your player characters! After all, the PCs are what the game is about and they, by definition, have more screen time than anyone else. So if they’re boring then it’s not going to do the game any favours.

I’m not saying that every player character should be a work of art nor does a character need to be realistic to be interesting. Some of the most compelling characters ever made were larger-than-life characters.  And, obviously, different game genres and player / game master preferences are going to have an impact on the game’s needs for PC complexity so you don’t need to have layers of detail to make that character compelling.

So what makes a character compelling?

Motivation is a big one.  Your character needs to *want* something, ideally something related to the main arc of the story.  This motivation needs to runs deeper than a simple list of goals. This is what your character is searching for and it colours everything about them as the game gains in tension.  It can change over the course of the game, and you may need to change it pretty early on in reaction to early plot points.  A strong motivation often pulls from a powerful internal core such as an ideology or a base need for safety, companionship, trust, recognition or power.  While this central motivation won’t be the only thing that motivates your character, it should inform the other goals.

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