Big World Same as Small World – Four Life-Learnings from LARPing

Hullo, gentle readers. I hope you’re all enjoying your holiday season as much as I am. As I mentioned before, the main reason for my hiatus was because I was deeply involved in running my Lovecraft Legacies LARP. At various times during the running of this LARP, I reflecting on how my LARPing style has been affected by my real life work, and how my real life has been affected by things I’ve learned during my LARPing.

Here, then, are five things that have grown from my LARPing to inform my real life. They are useful skills that have stood me in good stead, and I hope they’re useful to you as well.

Get Personal

Even with 50 players, I went through their character backgrounds and tried to find a personal element for each of them. These ranged from small pieces (an NPC who recognized the PC because she knew his late uncle), to medium pieces (people hunting down a war criminal with intent to kill him got to meet an NPC who was that war-criminal), to major pieces (PCs who were members of rival government agencies, all trying to get their hands on the same artifact).

These personal pieces gave my weekend more bulk, as plot I had not originally intended made its way into the weekend. More importantly, however, they told the players that the staff of the LARP cared. We had read their character backgrounds, and we reacted. If a player told us that they were there seeking a criminal, and we’d given them no chance to meet and apprehend or kill that criminal, it would’ve told them that we didn’t care about the motivations they’d given themselves. We wanted them to play our game, and their input into the story wasn’t important. RPGs in general are a collaborative storytelling effort, and it’s good to remember that when you’re running a game.

Real life is similar. If you know someone loves The Beatles, and you buy them a Rolling Stones album because you figure that’s close enough, then you’ve sort of missed the point. On the other hand, if you buy them the album and tell them, “I know I like the Beatles, and the Beatles wrote some songs for these guys,” then you’re on the right track.

Stay Organized

A LARP is like chaos, ready to explode. There are a huge number of variables that could all go wrong. Special effects can fail. NPCs can get a part wrong. The players can do something so unexpected that it requires falling back and regrouping to consider what this means for your storyline.

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of chaos, it is possible to minimize it. Strong organization is key to running a successful LARP. I show up for my LARPs with a timetable, which goes up on the wall in Monster Camp (where the staff and NPCs gather and relax…kind of a green room, to use an acting term.) I have all my props organized by event, module, or NPC, along with the various tags that give the players information. By doing it this way, I can make sure that someone – either myself, the Monster Master who assigns rolls, or an NPC I’ve put in charge of an encounter, has a minimum of work to do to set things up. It makes their life easy and helps things run smoothly.

Being organized in Real Life is just as important. I’ve become quite the list maker, and I keep calendars of important info. Making sure things are organized and ready to roll is a sure way to minimize potential chaos.

Share the Responsibility

This one is always difficult for me. I’m something of a control freak, and letting go and relying on others comes with some effort to me. But I know that LARPs work best when run by a plot committee, and that I can’t do everything. My good friend Jeff is excellent at setting up and running modules, as is Laura. Lee (who is Laura’s husband) is invaluable as a Monster Master. And Rourkie is great at running incredible special effects.

This one is obvious when it comes to real life. I’m great at some things, but I lack in others. If I need help with a project, I turn to a friend who knows something about it. No man is an island, as they say. I’m happy to make dinner for friends, but if I run a pot-luck, I make myself less crazy, and I get to enjoy the meal more, too.

Put It All Out There

When you run a LARP, you need to paint in broad strokes, or players can miss details. Similarly, an NPC with an outgoing personality is more likely to be memorable to your players. It’s unlikely that your players will go home saying, “Wow…the person who played that NPC…what a freak!”

An outgoing nature can be one of the best tools in your toolbox for professional growth. In Real Life, people are more likely to be impressed (or at least remember) someone with a strong personality. My husband will be the first to tell you that he’s become a stronger person for having played outgoing characters at The Isles. As the infamous quote goes, “Well, hey, I didn’t spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage.” It’s used as a joke in the X-Files, but it’s kind of true.

In Closing

LARPing may be a weird, goofy hobby, but it’s a weird, goofy hobby that can actually bring out a lot of positive qualities in a person. By having a safe outlet to learn to express themselves, people with introverted personalities or poor organizational skills can experiment in improving what they want to change in themselves.

Your Turn

Is there something from your RPG or LARPing experiences that has moved into real life and changed you for the better? Do you think you’ve become more outgoing, better organized, or more personable? Let us all know.

About GGG

Andy/GGG is a gay geek guy for sure. He's been playing D&D since he was 10, and he equates reading Tolkien with religion to some degree. He's a writer/developer for a Live Action RPG called The Isles, and he writes a comic called Circles, a gay, furry slice-of-life piece that comes out way too infrequently.

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