Let’s get something straight: this isn’t your game, it’s our game. Even if you’re the storyteller, you’re just one piece of the creative puzzle. All too often, though, I see people taking actions that are principally self-serving and hurt the holistic wholeness of the games they play. If your idea of fun is at the expense of me, or my players I have no patience for you. The game doesn’t owe you anything, nor should it give anything to you unless you’re willing to give back to it.
It’s not about yes
I don’t know when it happened, but sometime in my lifetime there was a paradigm shift. Somewhere along the way it became gauche to say no to people in real life, and especially gauche to say no to people in gaming. This was really highlighted in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but it’s become pervasive in all kinds of roleplaying games, including LARPs. The problem with the yes first and yes only paradigm is that it doesn’t give a storyteller the freedom to construct a game properly. You’ve probably played LARPs where all of the characters feel disparate and strange compared to each other, with no grander sense of belonging in the same world. This is often a product of a storyteller not giving their players adequate guidelines or instruction about what their game is about, but can also happen because a storyteller is unwilling to enforce those same guidelines, and essentially just says yes. As a player you must be prepared to alter your concept to meet the world expectations of your storyteller. Essentially, if the answer isn’t yes, you need to be able to work with your ST to find a yes that works for both of you.
This being said, it’s definitely not about no either. Many storytellers are quick to kibosh anything they view as potentially disruptive to their game, without really spending the time to work out a player’s true intentions or the limits of what something could be. Often a solution can be negotiated, or an alternative can be reached that allows a storyteller to maintain the integrity of their LARP and its themes while allowing a player to play a character that they want to play. If a storyteller gives players an outright no, with little explanation and with no intention for discussion they are denying their players the ability to play something that they are passionate about. Even if a player does end up playing in their game with a different concept they will likely remain at the fringe of the game and contribute, willfully engage less and as a result churn more quickly.
Throughout the course of a chronicle you are going to be given many opportunities to succeed at your character’s goals and overcome plot, but it behooves yourself to analyze why you want to succeed… is it motivated by a desire of the character or the player? The answer is often both, but I believe players frequently enter into scenarios their characters normally wouldn’t for the sole reason that they want to stand next to the story. As a result scenes that could be handled gracefully with a smaller, more motivated group get dragged out into irrelevance by larger, looky-loo groups and as a result there is less fun to be had. A second and more important question to consider is whether it is more entertaining for everyone if you got involved or chose to stick out of it. Ryan Elias, in my interview with him mentioned something that bears repeating:
“Ultimately risks are one of the things that makes plot really interesting and if you exert your considerable authority in trying to prevent interesting things from happening it’s not likely to make the game better for anyone.”
If the actions your character would normally take are going to choke the fun out of a scene you should probably find a more entertaining way to reconcile it. If the actions your character would normally take would result in untoward spotlight hogging or spotlight stealing at the expense of others you might want to reconsider. If the actions your character would take would interrupt the flow of a scene by introducing laborious mechanics for very little gain you might want to forgo the mechanics and allow the flow to continue.
Power and responsibility
The more influential the character, the more you need to adhere to the principles of selflessness. As an influential character you’ll be given more opportunities to interact with plot, since it tends to trickle uphill, and when plot comes to you you have a choice: you can either absorb those plots and restrict the fun to you and a small circle of problem solvers or you can distribute them across a wide an area as possible. Your character may actually be the best choice to fix the problem, but as a responsible character in a position of authority you’ll create a far better group experience and more fun if you find reasons to abstain from the action.
LARP is a communal process. We do it because we like the shared experience. We do it because we like to tell stories to each other. It should never be about one player winning, it should be about the story of loss and victory and the prices that must be paid to achieve it. The question that needs to be asked is how are you contributing to this process? If you are not, you need to look at how you can adjust to be part of a progressive LARP experience. Even if you are, consider how you can contribute even more. The communal success of the LARPs you play depend on it.