LARP at Play: Doing Your Homework, Part 3

I’d like to apologize for the tardiness of this article. I recently suffered a hard drive failure and have been restoring everything from back-ups and that means redoing lost work and that is what has happened here.

This is the last article in a three part series on doing your homework. The first article article focused on what creators and designers should consider and the second article focused on what organizers and staff should explore. This last article explores what players should consider.

Don’t think you’re off the hook just because you’re a player. Even you have a few things you should look into before you get decked out in your costume or garb, grab your character sheet and LARP away.

What does your homework entail? Looking into the details of the game you want to play and making sure that it really is something that you have the time and desire to get involved with and it fits what you’re looking for in a game. Granted this is more important for a campaign style game, however even if you’re looking to play in a one-shot game a bit of homework done beforehand can save you hours of disappointment later on.

A player should ask them self:

  • How much time and effort do you have to devote to the game? If you only have the time or effort needed to attend the game itself, you’ll likely be very disappointed when the game asks for more time or effort than just that from its participants. Be aware of what the game asks from you and if it’s not clear, as the organizers.
  • What kind of game culture are you comfortable with? This one ties in with the question above, however I feel it’s important enough to be a separate question. Consider what game taboos, level of out-of-character player interaction and unspoken community rules you feel are important. This point was well covered in a comment to the Setting Game/Player Expectations article.
  • What style of game do you want to do? I don’t just mean live-combat or theater style, even though you should consider that too. I’m talking about something full of puzzles vs. something that’s very political vs. a game that includes a lot of combat. Do you prefer a game that requires a low suspension of disbelief by utilizing copious amounts of good props or are you fine with having to have a high suspension of disbelief by pretending that 3×5 card really is a dagger?

Once you find a potential candidate you should ask yourself some questions regarding the game you’re looking to play in. Having an idea of what you want in a game will help you as you find a game to play in.

A player should consider the following when looking at a game:

  • How much effort will the game require from you? Can you just show up to the game or are there other game related activities that you’ll be asked to do?
  • What is the culture surrounding the game and is it one that you’re comfortable with? This one can be a bit more difficult to sort out, but can be easier if you know people in the game. This is a good one for checking the health of the LARP group. A LARP group that retains that community feel often also runs successful games, while a group that is rather dysfunctional will have significant problems.
  • What kind of game is being run? Again, knowing if it’s live-combat or theater is a big help since some people prefer a particular style, but also what the game includes. Is the focus on puzzle solving or combat or political maneuvering? Does it do a good job of helping you suspend your disbelief by utilizing a lot of props or does it just use a copious amount of 3×5 cards and expect you to pretend that it’s something else.

The takeaway for players: Know what you want in your game and then make sure that the LARP you’re looking to play in will fit you and you’ll fit it. If information is hard to find or isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to contact them with your questions or concerns. Most LARP organizers I know really respect a player who throughly investigates their game before they show up to play, even if that player does not stick around. And its okay to leave a game or not return to one you’ve tried. Not every game out there will fit what you’re looking for and if that happens to you just be polite about your departure.

The final takeaway for everyone regardless of where you may fall in the LARP spectrum: Communicate. In nearly every point brought up it requires you to politely communicate your thoughts, ideas, decision or some manner of information. How that is communicated will depend on the nature of what needs sharing and with who. Just as you can’t design in a vacuum, you can’t run or play a LARP in one either. It’s a better idea to politely over-communicate a thought, idea, decision or some manner of information than to under-communicate it and potentially leave people hanging, lost or confused.

The next article will be from a guest columnist, Mr. Mike Young, on Young’s Law. As always I love to hear feedback and suggestions for further articles. Feel free to leave a comment here at the Mortalis Games site, write Amber at webmaster [at] mortalisrpg [dot] com or once this goes live on, visit the article’s forum thread (there should be a link below the article to it) to see what else has been shared or to leave a comment there.

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