Do you find that it’s sometimes difficult to stay ‘in game’ at a LARP (live action role playing game)? While some games and game styles are more tolerant of ‘out of game’ moments and behavior than others, most LARPers will agree that too many out of character moments will ruin the immersive nature of the environment.
In my experience, I observe out of game moments more frequently:
· During down time (when staff is not actively running something)
· Late at night
· Early in the morning
· Following a major module or in-game event
While I am guilty of experiencing and participating in out of game moments, I try to remain cognizant of any slips. Here are some ways I’ve learned to stay in character more frequently.
Arrive early to socialize. Like many LARPers, I’m friends with my ‘LARP friends’ out of game. Sometimes we don’t get to see each other between events and want to catch up or greet each other with a friendly hug (even if our characters might not).
Sometimes work prevents me from being at my favorite game (an American LARP that runs throughout a weekend) on Friday nights. When I show up on Saturday and everyone else is LARPing, I notice it’s a bit of a distraction because people want to break out of character to greet me. When I arrive before the game begins on Friday, I have plenty of time to socialize out of game prior to the beginning of the game.
Deal with your character. If you’re not comfortable playing your character or you need to make adjustments, do so. I find that I tend to go out of game when I get super nervous, but that it’s easier to stay in game when I’m confident in my character.
Prepare stories and mannerisms. Being well-prepared is also essential. I play a bard and practice my songs out of game. Additionally, I am horrible at memorizing things in real life…yet I play a witch who needs to learn some spells. To reduce out of game-ness, I just ask questions in character. This also kills downtime and most characters are interested in practicing things (whether it’s spell casting, archery or art).
Having specific habits and mannerisms also helps. My character Ceara, for example, is a former fey. She really likes shiny objects. If she doesn’t need to say or do something at the given time (or if there is an awkward pause in conversation), she’ll just find a shiny object and stare at it – she gets kind of fixated. It could be a coin from her purse, a warrior’s armor or a star in the sky. It’s also a great way for her to initiate interaction with others.
Bring a treasured object. This tip comes from my friend Tina, who once suggested I carry an object or piece of jewelry that meant something significant to my character. In real life, most of our clothing and accoutrements have stories behind them, so it makes sense that a character’s would, too. Plus, it gives the character something to talk about or reflect upon – much better than going unnecessarily out of game.
Offer food, games and entertainment. People love to be entertained during downtime. When things are getting slow, I try to offer food (usually cookies) and song. This gives everyone a central place to congregate in character. You can also gamble and play some games. Ideas include:
· Medieval games
· Tarot card reading (cross-genre)
· Target practice (cross-genre – archery, guns, spell casting)
· Family friendly party games (multi-genre)
· Drinking games (warning: site contains adult language)*
· Single die gambling game
· Pirates liar’s dice (see video)
Find new people. I always find that it’s actually easier to slip out of character with people I know well since we have lots to talk about out of game. New people know nothing about you or your character and they might have a lot of questions about the setting of the game. If your character would greet new people, doing so can help you stay in game.
Create goals and undertake quests. Does your character have a personal goal? If you’re truly immersed, you’ll spend some time thinking about this as your character. Larp Girl discussed true immersion in her recent video. While we disagree on some ideas, I think she’s completely accurate about this point – when you’re immersed, you’re not thinking “what would my character do at this point?” It’s more like you’re just thinking and acting as that character.
In real life, we take time to think about our short and long-term goals. In character, ask yourself: What do I want to do tomorrow? What do I want to do today? If your character is the adventuring type, go on an adventure; if she’s bookish, pick up a book.
Process emotions in and out of character. Deep stuff can happen at a LARP. A particularly innovative or challenging experience or interaction produces emotional responses. Sometimes, those responses affect me both in and out of character, regardless of my level of immersion. When I think back about what part of my true self my character represents, I learn more about myself and I feel like that is one way LARP brings value to my life.
When major stuff happens, sometimes an out of character reaction is unavoidable. When that does happen, try to step aside or head to an out of game area to deal with it.
Have distinct in and out of game areas. If you’re running a game, it’s important to have designated in and out of game areas. This is essential for safety. Even if your staff, NPCs and players are wonderful about staying in character, issues may still arise and everyone should have a safe, comfortable place to discuss things out of character.
Additionally, some games have out of game areas for people to talk, smoke cigarettes (if allowed) or hang out without breaking others’ immersion.
*Many LARPs do not allow alcohol but offer non-alcoholic beverages as simulated drinks.
Do you have other tips, tricks or suggestions for staying in game? Please post them in the comments below.
Want to learn about LARPs in your area and receive the latest news about LARPing as well as general tips? Follow the LARP Examiner: Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Website | Geek Blog | Subscribe
Note: The opinions presented here are solely representative of the LARP Examiner and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or ideals of any games or organizations in which she is a member or participant.