• The best larp advice I ever heard

    by  • May 6, 2013 • Essays • 2 Comments

    A bunch of years ago I was given the best larp advice I have heard so far. Today I’ll pass it on.

    ”Involve other people. Involve them, involve them, involve them.” – Henrik Thurfjäll

    That’s it. The best larp advice I have to offer. The advice might not look like much, and I wasn’t very impressed with it when I first heard it.

    ”Involve other people? How about “No”? My character has some super secret secrets, and they need to be kept secret. Plus, I’m a great larper, I don’t want to involve other less-great-then-me larpers in what I do. I’m way too cool to involve other people.”

    As you can see, I was a bit immature. Yet, I think some of my initial resistance might ring true on some level. There might be in character reasons why involving others can seem like a bad idea. We also want the best possible play experience, and we might not feel comfortable playing with just anyone or have some fool ruining our game.

    Fear not, I will address those issues and explain why it still is the best larp advice I ever heard.

    Larp is about interaction

    The organizers of a larp might set up a starting point and engineer some of what will happen during a game. But the game itself is about interaction. Interaction between the players, and interaction with the framework the organizers set for the game. What is interaction? Well, this is the dictionary definition.

    Interaction: a mutual or reciprocal action or influence

    Actions that  affect and involve other people. During a larp a lot of things are happening, both inside you and outside you. You might have all sorts of awesome thoughts and feelings about the game, but only how you act influences other people’s game. In return only other people’s actions affect your game, no matter what awesome thoughts other people might be having.

    Your game experience depends on your interactions with other players. So you better make the best of them.

    Active and engaging involvement

    What you want to strive for is to be active and engaged when you interact with other players. Rather than hoping for that random interaction that will turn out good, striving for being active and engaged will make the scenes better. That means involving other in what you do, and involving yourself in what they do. Either by working together with other players, or working at cross purpose. Or finding some other way to involve them in what you are doing.

    You can involve the other players on multiple levels. Involve them on an out of character level in your preparations before the game, involve their characters in what your character is up to, and involve them in the actions you take during the game. Do it in an engaging way, do it with emotional investment and commitment. Both on a player level and a character level. Care about your fellow players, and see that your character gives a fuck, for good or bad, about their characters. You need feelings to play a powerful story.

    Choose actions that involve other people

    Let’s say that your character learns a secret. You know who killed the rebel leader.

    At larps keeping secrets is easy. In real life you might notice if someone you know well is hiding something. In a larp you don’t know the other characters that well. If the players don’t decide to clearly act out that they are hiding something, it can be really hard to figure out. You can without any effort keep the secret if you want to.  By simply doing nothing.

    You will know who killed the rebel leader, no one else will know that you know it, and it wont affect anyone else’s game. It will all be in your head. It will lead to no interaction or involvement whatsoever. You can chose that course of action. But it is not very interesting, for you or anyone else.

    Or, you can have that knowledge affect your actions. Perhaps knowing who killed the rebel leader angers you, or perhaps it delights you. Act out that feeling. Perhaps you can begin to hatch a plot of your own because you know the truth, and manipulate the people around you to unknowingly do your bidding. Perhaps you can use the knowledge for your own gain, or to help someone.

    By acting on the secret things will happen. You don’t have to reveal the secret. Just act upon it in some way. You will have to something to do, and you can interact and involve other people in what you doing. Taking action might risk exposing the secret, but it opens up a lot of interesting opportunities as well. Taking action involving others leads to more fun.

    Share information

    One of the easiest ways to involve other people is sharing information. Important information, trivial information, true information, false information, useless information, things you once heard from your grandma, or personal information. The content doesn’t matter. Just share it.

    There is no sharing too much information at larps, just sharing the wrong information. Even if you have a secretive character, share information like crazy. Sharing useless, trivial, false, or incomplete information can be a great way to be secretive.

    Pass on information, even if you don’t have a clue what it is about. For example, when someone asks you something you can pass on the information that they had been asking about it.  “I had this weird mage asking about a three eyed crow.  I don’t know anything about crows, but it is a weird question isn’t it?” Passing on that the mage has been asking questions will not only engage the listeners in a moment of conversation. It opens up a possibility that both you, the mage, or the listeners will get to know more about the three eyed crow and get involved in that plot.

    You can share simple observations.  Stating that “Tiger looked pissed off earlier” is also a way to involve people and being engaged in other people’s stories. By saying that Tiger look pissed off you show that Tiger matters, but also that the listener matters and you want them to know that Tiger is pissed off for some reason.

    Can involving people screw up my play experience?

    Yes, it can. Five people in a scene can be amazing, but 50 people in the same scene can be cluster fuck. At other times there is this one player that you just don’t get along with and that you don’t want to involve in what you are doing. Occasionally doing something that involves other people can come back and bite you in the tail.

    But usually you can improve your own and everyone’s game experience if your actions involve other people. You just have to do it in smart ways.

    Perhaps there’s an opportunity for five people to sneak into the enemy camp during the night and steal the important artifact. But it would be a cluster fuck if 50 people did it. That’s not a reason you can’t involve more then five people in the theft. You can for example involve others by telling them that you will try to steal it, and tell them to come looking for you if you are not back by the morning. Or perhaps you ask someone to start a brawl at the other end of the game area to draw away the guards or that you have a greater chance of stealing the artifact.

    What about that player, the one you just don’t get along with? Can you involve them? Perhaps you can avoid interacting with them directly but still involve them in your actions?  Send another player who does get along with them to carry a message to them, or to go on a mission with them. That still creates active and engaged involvement  but doesn’t force you to spend time together with someone you don’t want to spend time with.

    Closing words

    Involving your fellow players is great larp advice to take to heart. Adopt a mindset and attitude when you try think about how to actively engage and involve other players in what is happening, or involve yourself in what they are doing, and your larps will become even more awesome.

    Involving your fellow players doesn’t have to be about grand gestures. Just simply involve them in what you are doing.

    Be it sitting down to have a snack, or in slaying a dragon, or playing out the drama of your sister’s betrayal. Involve them. Often, it’s the small gestures that  matter the most in the end. The time you asked someones opinion, or ask them to tag along on some trivial errand, because the small things build the framework that gives the rest of the story meaning.

    ”Involve other people. Involve them, involve them, involve them.” – Henrik Thurfjäll

    That is all I have to say.



    Elin Dalstål is a game designer, larp and convention organizer living in Luleå, Sweden.

    2 Responses to The best larp advice I ever heard

    1. avatar
      Lisa Padol
      May 22, 2013 at 01:43

      I agree completely. Passing on information is very useful, especially if you have no reason to think it will hurt you. If someone asks you about something and does not ask you not to pass it on, ask others (assuming you don’t know the answer).

      I also get a lot of mileage out of ending most first conversations with other players with “And is there anything I can do for you?”

      This means folks will think nicely of me and be more interested in helping me.
      It also means that I can get pulled into their plots and quests and have more to do.
      It also means I have more information to spread around. This means more is likely to happen. More happening is great!

      Now, sharing one’s own secrets is a judgment call. For me, I usually want my character’s secrets to come out, even if my character doesn’t. It’s just a matter of timing it right.

      I’ve got a wiki page where I put advice on larping that I got back in 2000. It’s still pretty good.

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      • avatar
        Elin Dalstål
        May 22, 2013 at 22:43

        I agree. Something I think is important to note is that all of that is true even when you play antagonistic characters, which I often do. Unless you get involved you will not be a successful antagonist. just some sitting in the corner looking evil and mysterious at best.

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