Almost every larper I know has experienced event drop in some form or another. Whether it is pure exhaustion, unhelpful character bleed, or feelings of depression or anxiety relating to the events of the game, or coming back to reality. Event drop sucks, and sometimes we are really bad at managing it. We forget, at times that larp is a hobby of purposefully messing with our own brains, and the brains of other people, and that can be damaging if not managed correctly.
This post is split into two parts. What event organisers can do about event drop, and what players can do. I’ll start with organisers.
The main place event organisers can lessen event drop, is in the way they run the end of their game. I personally find that a very abrupt time out causes me to have worse event drop than an event where I can leave the time-in area of my own accord, or time out is well signalled and I am given time to wrap up my plot. When time out is abrupt, players get left without a sense of closure, so characters, and game emotions can linger for longer. not being able to slowly come down from a particularly intense headspace can feel like the emotional equivalent of whiplash.
Another thing event organisers should do, is factor in “froth time” to their planning. Leave a good hour in between time out and packing up time, for players to talk oc, to froth and catch up. That OOC human interaction is really important for lessening event drop. And if you don’t allow for it, your players will doubtless try and do it during pack up, and then pack up will be slow and awful.
If you are running a small-ish event, running a debrief session is really helpful. A combination of explaining the narrative to the players, and allowing them to explain their personal interpretation of events allows players to cement what happened in their heads, and leave the event with a clear structured narrative in their heads, which can be easier to think about and process later.
What about players? There is a long list of things players can do, some of which actually deserves posts of their own, which might happen in the future. However, here is my list.
- Debrief buddies. This is a thing I’ve picked up from Nordic Larp wikis, and I really like it. Pre-arrange some debrief buddies. One or two people who don’t mind hearing you froth, a lot, and who you like frothing to. (Also helpful if you enjoy listening to their froth!) Who know you well enough to tell when you are bleedy and/or tired. Preferably people who at least know the game setting. Meeting up with these people, or talking to them online, can really help with the event drop problems. I accidentally got myself some debrief buddies for my main system and its made the most excellent difference to my post event headspace. These should also be people who won’t mind having to stonewall any exciting secrets you let slip.
- So, I think frothing and war stories deserve their own post, but they still get a mention. Froth helps! Remembering the awesome things you did helps! What helps even more is *other* people telling you that you made their game better, so the smart move is to tell stories about other people more than about yourself, and create a culture of thanks and glorifying others. But I digress. The important thing about froth, is to remember that it has diminishing returns. The first time you tell the cool story from the event, it feels great! Your debrief buddies are like “YEAH THAT WAS AWESOME” and it gives you that brilliant rush. And the next time it’s a little less cool, telling that story, but still feels good. And eventually you are frothing but not feeling the buzz and it actually makes you feel lower (my experience only. Maybe I’m wrong?) So knowing where your limit is with froth and Making Yourself Stop is really important. And a really hard skill. I struggle with this a lot.
- OOC checking in. You destroy someone’s heart this event? Do some CVC? Had an intense scene with someone? Maybe you were OOC late at night, and very tired, and accidentally snapped at somebody? Go talk to that person OOC after the game. Iron out any insecurities you have, make sure you are all cool and OOC friends. It can be as easy as a Facebook message, or it might need a couple of drinks down the pub. Whichever works for you. But do it. It will make you feel better.
- Writing fic and letters! This one is a seriously double edged sword in my opinion (and needs its own post some day…) Ironing out your character’s headspace is really therapeutic, and fic/letters are a great way to do this. It’s also a good way to put closure on any conversations that didn’t happen because of time out, or poor circumstances. However, the danger is that instead of separating out your real life from the game, you end up continuously playing the larp from one event to the next, causing tones of bleed and no real separation, and potentially worsening your event drop. One thing I’m going to try, is setting aside a weekly mini event of “writing fic and letters now” so as to avoid that. Because fic is good, but 24/7 headspace is bad.
- Self care! Most important thing. You need a day off post larp? Take it. Larp is intense, look after yourself afterwards. Sleep. Have Hot baths. Take it easy. Meet your friends for oc catch up. Watch tv unrelated to your character. Do things they would never do, to reduce bleed. Play video games. Listen to your body, and what it needs, and listen to your mind. Allow yourself to explore your own emotions, don’t just go “UGH IT’S JUST EVENT DROP IT WILL PASS”. Listen to your mind. Determine if your feelings are bleed, or insecurity about an aspect of the game, or genuinely just your tired brain throwing up nonsense. And then do what you need to do to lessen those negative emotions, without suppressing or ignoring them. Your feelings are valid, even if they are illogical and strange.
These are all just my opinions. If you have your own thoughts on dealing with event drop, let me know, cause I definitely don’t have all the answers yet!