LARP Insider: Mind the Fourth Wall!

If you read my first article, To LARP or not to LARP? What The Hell Is Larping?, you may have concluded that Live Action Role Playing is a reality-free haven chock full of frothy Dwarven Ale and jovial jousting bouts. Or perhaps you didn’t buy it—no such game can be just innocent fun.

Both perspectives are correct. Truth is, pesky reality often pops its head into our fun fantasy—because, as you can imagine, not everyone plays the same way, or in some cases, fairly, and certain issues you’d think couldn’t ruin “playtime” do.

Here are 7 things you might not know about LARPing from the brochure.

1.) Conflicting Playing Styles: One person could approach their character, “Melvin the Elf,” in a style that is all about storytelling and character development. He learns to speak Tolkien Elvish and focuses more on Melvin’s relationships and life goals, than his “abilities.” Meanwhile, another person’s character, “Kleftjaw the Destroyer,” is a smasher. He just wants to win, to destroy the opponent in the quickest way possible and so spends his experience points on strength bonuses, and weapon skills—ignoring personality or flavor. Can these two players peacefully co-exist?

Bella Swan, the quintessential Mary Sue

Bella Swan, the quintessential Mary Sue

2.) Mary Sues and Gary Stus: “I’m so pretty and my dad gives me everything but I hate him! Also a werewolf and a vampire are fighting over me. My life is an abyss! SIGH!” Bella Swan. Yep, you want to smack that girl. Over-the-top plot twists and attention-seeking qualities = a Mary Sue (or a Gary Stu). If you thought it was bad in fiction, wait till you see what happens when a LARP character goes down this road. A well-balanced, compelling LARP character comes not only from how you portray them, but how you’ve “written” them to begin with—and often from what you didn’t write.

3.) Blurring the Line: Remember when you assassinated me last week? Find someone else to carpool with! When dressing up to physically (and emotionally) portray a character 24/3, it’s easy for players to lose sight of the line between reality and fantasy. commenter AshleyMcGee sums it up thusly to me: “People say LARPers are weird, and that’s because some people get a little too into it.

4.) Power-level Disparity: Eventually in a LARP, especially long ongoing games, the inequality between new players who start at Level 1 and “legacy players” at level umpteenteen can throw off the game’s balance, leaving novices discouraged, frustrated, and bored. Like when a lowly guardsman wandering on his own winds up facing a horde of Death Knights.

5.) Inertia vs Evolution: Every time a beloved work is “revised,” be it the rules, the costume, words in a dictionary, or SFX, the die-hards are bound to cause a ruckus. There are times, however, when change is warranted and can benefit everyone involved (like if they decided to totally delete Jar Jar Binks). For example, if a rule that limits how powerful a character can become were proposed to deal with the disparity problem, the more long term players might want to resist it—however necessary the change.

6.) Favoritism: “Man, this storyline has nothing for me to do!” “I’m a Rogue and all we’re doing is heavy combat! I want to steal something!” “Did you hear that Eric’s character taught Julia’s character the forbidden skill I wanted? They’re dating IRL!!”

7.) Sexism: In a game formerly dominated by men (when I started LARPing in 2009 the ratio was 70/30, now it’s almost 50/50), female LARPers have some extra barriers to break before they get to have equal fun. I demolished that wall fast, making it clear I had shown up to battle, to play, to LARP! So, don’t hit on me, HIT me—with the foam-covered battle axe you’re wielding!

So, yeah, LARP, like sports, and pretty much everything, is not all fun and games!

Michele Reznik is a marauder and messer who solemnly swears she’s up to no good! Graphic/web designer, social media writer/curator (Mediatronica, Kraken Rum, Hangar One Vodka), Public Relations/Event Production Associate (with Jeff Newelt AKA “JahFurry” for comics, film, tech, lit & music clients), Live Action Role Player, and hobbiest costumer. When she isn’t writing, designing, or LARPing, she’s usually catching up on comics and sci fi — one series at a time. You can find her at @DarthReznik on Twitter.


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