For new players, stepping into their first game can be pretty onerous. There are unanswered questions and a lack of knowledge and lots of uncertainties. Here are ten pieces of advice I like to give new players to help them start with their feet on the ground and pointed in a good direction:
1. Be considerate to others
I’ve written extensively about proper etiquette for LARP here. This basically boils down to Wheaton’s Law, so I won’t belabour the point. If you want to LARP please be considerate, or in the words of Bill S. Preston: “Be excellent to each other.”
2. Ask lots of questions
As a new player you likely don’t know a lot about the setting, the mechanics or even what is expected out of you as a player. Other players should be happy to answer your questions; don’t hesitate to ask, and if the question is debatable get differing opinions. When it comes to LARP there is seldom one answer (unless we’re talking rules) so seek out opinions.
3. Make a social character
When creating your character make one that is eager to make new relationships. If you make a character who withdraws from the action or from others then you’re not going to get as much out of the game as you possibly could. Unlike in table top, where the group is small enough that you will get “screen time” no matter how withdrawn your character is, LARP takes effort. Reach out and engage others, and make the game entertaining for yourself and others.
4. Specialize your character
Make your character good at something useful and be very upfront about it. Creating a specialized character is often easier than creating a character with more nuances and gives you an easier access point to the chronicle. If you are an asset to the other characters they will approach you and engage you with their stories.
5. Don’t be a one trick pony
But I just said specialize, so what is this? Some kind of trick? Nope. Don’t be afraid to make your character very good at something, just make sure you round out their personality enough so that it’s not all about the one trick. Real people have hobbies and interests outside of their profession, and so should your character. Draw from your character’s history, and remember that before they became what your character is today they probably had a fairly normal life and fairly normal interests at some point.
6. Be willing to change
The character you envision in your head is seldom the character that you get once you enter play. That’s okay… embrace this and be flexible. As a storyteller I’m always willing to be flexible with new characters since inevitably a player will miss a dot they should have had on their sheet, but even more often realize that the character sheet should be different once they actually get to playing their character. If you play a couple of sessions and realize that the character you have differs from the one you thought you had before entering play don’t sweat it, just accept the differences and if the storyteller permits it change your character sheet to reflect your character’s refined identity.
7. Create achievable goals
In my opinion your character goals are more important than your character’s background. The reason I say this is that goals drive your action once you get in character. Your background will still help define your character’s decision making process, but without goals your character enters play aimless. Break goals down into achievable pieces so that every session you’re walking in with a to-do list and you will be entertained.
8. Say hello afterwards
Meet your fellow players. LARP is a social hobby, so take the time to get to know the people you’re playing with. Attend afters and have a pint with them if you can. I find this step particular important because what someone is like in character and what they are like in real life are often two very different things. Remember, we’re acting, so it’s dangerous to base your opinions of people off of who they are until you truly get to know them.
9. Stay off the wall
When at the sessions don’t be satisfied to stick to the edges of game. Get involved in stories and other characters. Have a nose for story that applies to your character and stick that nose right into it. Seek to establish your character’s reputation by becoming a known and respected entity in the gamespace. Being a wallflower is a choice, though many default to it because they are afraid of what may happen if they do it wrong… the trick is that the consequences of failure in LARP are rather trivial.
10. Have some swagger
In LARP there are very few consequences for accidentally screwing something up, so do not hesitate to come out and swing for the fences. Remember that in a lot of LARPs if you say something with enough conviction it often becomes the truth. Set your eyes on a position of authority in the game and start taking steps immediately to oust the current holder, or win the position. Decide upon an area of focus that you want to your character to be considered an authority in and sell it to the remaining characters.