I love a good LARP (live action role play) combat scenario – but I also enjoy intense role play scenarios that may sidestep or lead to combat. Dramatic songs, arguments, and confessions can really enhance character development for all involved.

Intense RP can:

  • Change the way others see your character
  • Give agency to a non-combatant character
  • Communicate something your character is passionate about – without necessarily burning limited-use skills or feats
  • Help you make a firm stand regarding an idea
  • Showcase a character flaw or pain point
  • Encourage disgust or empathy from other characters
  • Show others who your character really is – or who she wants them to think she is
  • Motivate or demoralize a crowd

Know Those Rules

Every game has different rules for how to handle RP interaction. If they aren’t posted, ask! Some games require you to ask permission before you touch another person or engage in intense or intimidating RP. If you’re unsure, go ahead and use the appropriate out of game signifier to gain permission.

Knowing the lore and game world also helps, though that isn’t something everyone can pick up on just by reading about it at most games.

Know Thy Character

It’s hard to have an intense experience if you’re wishy washy about your character. Not all character concepts are solid at the beginning, no matter your level of experience as an RPer. And that’s okay – part of the fun is often having your character discover his identity as you go.

That said, I find it hard to get into intense RP situations when I’m playing a character who isn’t clearly defined. I’ve discovered that I love playing loyal characters (even if they’re not exactly law-abiding), so when I make a new character, I try to pick one cause or person, or even past event that she’s loyal to or considers daily. Sometimes this is a person, but it could also be a kingdom / culture or religion in the game.

Even if you’re playing a paladin (or a demon), look past the good / evil balance that most medieval fantasy games offer. The tapestry is often far more complex, and involving yourself in it when you are sworn to good or evil will make your RP more interesting and intense.

Plan Ahead, Ask Permission, and Steer if Necessary

If you know some intense RP is likely, you can always plan ahead and gain consent from the others involved. You can be as general or as specific as you need to be.

For example, one time another player talked to me out of game about stealing my character’s mask (my character always wears one). We talked about how it would go down and I told them that I was fine with it as long as the mask wasn’t broken and my hair wasn’t pulled. The moment came months later – and by that time I had nearly forgotten about it. This way, it was out of game consensual, shocking for my character, and immersive. The other characters who observed it were shocked.

If you don’t want to go to a scary place, psychologically, but your character may be going there, remember that it’s always possible to implement a bit of steering to ensure you still have a decent experience. (I’ve noticed this term finally become more commonplace among campaign LARPers, but I think many of us still use the term carefully and sparingly as it is often perceived as being related to malignant meta-gaming.)

Communicate with your game staff and your peers about your limits if you see plot going in that direction. While I’m not a fan of liberally steering in the campaign LARP setting, everyone’s safety comes first.

In both role play and theatrical environments, it helps to feel comfortable with people off stage or out of game. I find that the occasional conversation or crafting day really helps.

Additionally, it’s fine to plan ahead. Though I’ve had a few successful moments speaking from the heart, the best songs and battle speeches are ones I’ve prepared. Since my character takes these things seriously, I imagine she spends time in preparing them as well (although it would probably take her significantly less time to write a song or a sonnet).

I’m not the kind of person that can easily remember things word for word, but I’m great with bullet points and just talking through what it is the character will need to say. Of course, this has gotten some strange looks from others during my daily commute. Hopefully they think I’m just having an intense, hands-free phone conversation.

 

Debrief Following the Event

My friends and I often find the need to talk intensely about what happened during the game. I need that time to ‘unpack’ everything that’s happened to my character, especially during intense events and RP. Though not formal, this is certainly a debriefing process.

As long as there’s a definitive separation between player and character, I don’t think bleed is always a negative thing. In fact, I enjoy using LARP as a way to reinforce confidence and leadership skills in real life. Bleed is necessary for that to happen.

Do you like intense and immersive RP? What strategies work best for you? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Author’s Note: My American LARP experience is geographically constrained; I don’t pretend to know the best practices for all American campaign LARPs and styles, which are various. It is my hope that these tips prove helpful in most of these settings. PLEASE add a comment if you have something to say. I want to learn about your experiences and advice!

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