Sit down everyone, it’s story-time with Larpinions! Once upon a time, I watched a film in which there was a loyal lieutenant who was in love with his queen and no-one said anything but everyone knew, and it was tragic and lovely. And I went “I want to play that!” As it happened, I was just about to walk into a game where our group had a Queen, played by an excellent Larper I knew quite well, so it was an easy step to make my silly, flighty, liability character be totally and utterly in love with the queen, in a way that was horribly glaringly obvious. The player of the Queen figured this out pretty quickly and was *awful* and manipulative and a good time was had by all. I loved playing unrequited devotion, it was fantastic.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Due to some personality changes that affected the queen (like, literally having a different personality put on top of hers), our characters got together. Part of me was like “yes this is amazing, cannot go wrong” but another part was like “…. but I am playing unrequited love. That’s what this character is all about, this isn’t the narrative I wanted…”
The other part is not, in my opinion, a good brainspace to take into a LARP. But it’s a really, really easy one to fall into. We create these glorious, complex characters, and we can almost see the story arc stretching in front of us. We make aspects of them, and their stories, unchangeable, this character will *never* betray the party, these characters will *always* be friends, etc, etc. We do it because that’s the way stories are written. But it’s not the way LARP works. LARP is emergent, and especially in long running campaigns, static situations get uninteresting, and things you didn’t think would change will change. So, how do we deal with this headspace when we’re in it, and avoid it in the first place? Here are some idea’s I have used.
- Visualisation. Pretty sure we all occasionally daydream about LARP. Plotting your character’s next move, or going “I wonder how X would react if Y happened”, or whatever. Something I absolutely recommend is getting into the habit of considering what the worst possible thing to happen to your character would be, from your point of view, or the least narrativistically compelling thing, and work out how to make that roleplay fun for you. Getting used to thinking outside the narrative means that you’ll be more prepared, and have more fun, when it inevitably happens IC.
- Character Creation. When making a character, it is good to have absolutes. I.e. My character will never allow herself to be in the same room as an Orc. Or, My Character will always love character Z. It is *not* good to have any absolutes which are dependant on other players, who have agency, and might develop, and change. “My character will always love character Z, who has never even looked at them twice”, is fine. “My character will always love character Z but they will never love him back” is dangerous, because, well, what if they do? (N.B. It is fine for your *character* to believe relationships are unchangeable. As long as you are slightly more aware)
- Be Prepared for Character Development. One of the coolest things about roleplay is when your characters literally take on a life of their own. Once, one of my characters fell in love and it took me 2 events to notice. I didn’t plan it at all. It completely changed all my ideas for how that character would develop and where she was going. Your characters, especially at long games, will develop and change and this is OK.
- Acceptance. This is probably the most important one. Walk into the larp accepting that it isn’t going to go to plan. Don’t try to railroad yourself, the plot, or the other players. You’re going to tell an incredible, interesting, nuanced story. It is definitely not going to be the one you’ve written in your head, and that’s fine. That’s more than fine, it’s the whole point. The bizarre, emergent, stuff that happens at LARP is often the best. My character who eventually got together with the Queen? The Queen later convinced her to blow herself up in a ritual to insert a part of themselves into every single living person, whilst singing “A Whole New World” and it was the best day ever.
Is this something that resonates with you? Is there something you do to avoid this which I haven’t mentioned? Let me know!