If You’re Bored, You’re Boring: A Guide for Live-Action Roleplay
It’s happened to me, and it could happen to you: you’re at a convention and you’re accosted by some extremely friendly individuals in costume. Suddenly people are menacing you with foam-covered plumbing supplies, talking about vampire princes or what happens if you look Cthulhu in the eyes. (Hopefully not at the same time!)
Don’t fear, dear conventioneer. These people are not rogue plumbers, blood-gurgling parasites or cultists: they’re Live-Action Role Players, or LARPers. LARP is often treated with disdain even by geeks, but look past the movie Role Models and stupid YouTube videos and you’ll find a hobby that can combine acting, craftsmanship, storytelling and athleticism.
There’s something for everyone, and you can have a good time at a game even if you’re new to the story, the game mechanics, and interactive entertainment as a whole. The goal of roleplaying games is not just to achieve an objective within the story, but to keep everyone entertained while doing so. Just follow the Three Laws of Not Being “That Guy.”
We’ve all met “That Guy.” You’re having a good time solving the mystery and he’s loudly talking about the last movie he saw. She’s complaining about how unrealistic it is. He’s guessed the intrigue plot and is spoiling it at the top of his lungs. In a fantasy game, That Guy might wear jeans and a t-shirt with a visible logo. In a vampire game, That Guy might be talking about Twilight. He or she might not be malicious, but that person isn’t fun to be around.
1. Never No, always “Yes, and…”
One rule of improv is that you never contradict what has already been established. If the person running the show says you’re in a swamp, don’t say “This swamp has carpet. And air-conditioning.” Instead, mention in-character the foul stench of the area, your fear of mosquitoes, your desire to avoid getting your dress muddy.
All LARP requires suspension of disbelief. If you’re contradicting the storyteller, it makes it more difficult for everyone to do so. Cast and Non-Player Characters’ (NPC) words should be taken as given.
2. Be Discrete
As a rule of thumb, the more people are around, the more you should stay in-character. If you have a rules question, keep that question quiet and do your best to phrase it within the context of the game. In other words:
Bad: “Hey, Mark, what’s that NPC in the mask supposed to be?”
Good: “You’re a seasoned traveler, what is that creature?”
See the difference? And if you’re a seasoned player, don’t loudly point out new player mistakes, but correct them quietly and as in-character as possible.
If you’ve been lassoed into a new game at a convention, you’ll have questions about the rules. Any game worth playing can accommodate your questions without disrupting the action. Just be polite and discrete and everyone can have a good time.
3. If You’re Bored, You’re Doing it Wrong
Depending upon the game you’re playing, there may be lulls in the action. If you’re at a convention, the cast may be rearranging set pieces between scenes or changing costumes. At a full weekend game, the cast may be spread thin. This is usually when people break character out of boredom.
There’s no reason to be bored. If the game’s new to you, ask other characters where they’re from, what they do, why they’re participating in whatever has brought everyone there. If you’re a veteran player, bring things to do. Depending on the game musical instruments, playing cards, dice or crafts may be appropriate.
Your character should be a person with goals and passions. Where do they live? What do they do when not adventuring? You should always have something to talk about. If you’re complaining loudly about how boring everything is, you’re not just taking away from the moment, you’re killing people’s enthusiasm for the next scene.
Bonus Round: Costume
This is the least important of them all, but clothes are a language. Wear the most appropriate costuming you can manage. At a convention no one’s going to judge you for wearing street clothes, but take advantage of loaner costumes and rummage through your suitcase. A pair of black sweatpants, an unprinted t-shirt and a belt over that make a decent generic fantasy set. Black pants and a button-down shirt aren’t just for job interviews, they’ll fit in most genres.
If you look the part, or at least don’t visually stand out, it’s easier to believe you’re part of the setting. Costume lends itself to character: a thief wears functional clothing for their job, a diplomat dresses to impress. A person moves differently in a courtly gown than in work clothing, and you’ll buy into the setting more if your clothes feel out of the ordinary. So if you have the chance, get dressed up.
There are plenty of other little rules: don’t name your character after something or someone famous, even if it’s a literary reference. Use deodorant. Pay attention to other people’s boundaries. Usually these things are self-explanatory!
It really just comes down to one rule: have fun. Take responsibility for your own good time. Enthusiasm is contagious!
Photo: Courtesy of Alexa O’Neill and mysticrealms.com