As players we’re only human. Since we create our characters we tend to do so with a certain consistency. We have a security blanket of habits and values that we wrap ourselves in, and seldom stray out into the scary, unpredictable world of roles that challenge us as actors. Once we come to know our defaults we can strive to take steps to play in new, exhilarating ways.
Understand your fallbacks
The first step in trying to play something new is identifying the kind of characters you typically play. We all have habits as players, and find comfort in representing a certain personality type. Can you name yours? Is your default setting a quiet character? Angry? Boisterous? What is their default ideology? Are they religious? Good in a fight? Brainy?
If the answer doesn’t come easily to you pull out a piece of paper and describe the values of each of your characters. Record if they are progressive vs. conservative, conniving vs. overt or ambitious vs. passive. Write down what they value, their social class and how they approach problem solving. Keep an eye on any trends that dictate standard behaviours and then for your next character look for how you can shake things up.
If you still can’t find your defaults approach your fellow players and storytellers. Chances are they have a far better idea of your “type” of character than you do, or at least I’ve seen these behaviours in other players’ characters all the time, so I have to assume that others see the trends in mine. The tricky part will be getting them to give you constructive feedback.
Once you’ve unlocked your default play style the next step is to take a step away from what you’re comfortable with. Find one aspect that you do by default and shift it one or two steps in the other direction. Perhaps instead of being motivated by greed make a character motivated by fear, or instead of making a Catholic, make a Pentacostal. Even a little variance in choice at this stage of character creation influences the way that you approach obstacles that your character will face in game and will force you to consider new ways to approach your goals.
If tweaking doesn’t sound like enough fun you can always go off the deep end and play something that goes so against your personal mold that it challenges you. Find a characteristic you find revolting and build a character around it. Find a mindset that is totally alien to you and attempt to portray it. Don’t hesitate to play a social antagonist if you’re used to being a team player (or to try a nice person if you’re used to playing jerks). In this case you’re looking at one or two polar opposite positions which will radically alter how your character resolves their conflicts and as a player you will constantly be forced to do things differently.
Let other people challenge you
If you want to go further still approach a friend (or group of friends) and tell them that you want to play a new character that challenges your abilities as a roleplayer, and ask them to come up with 3 traits to incorporate into your new character that they think will be hard for you to portray. This does something important in that it removes your preconceptions somewhat from the character creation process, and while it certainly demands a high degree of trust in your friend it can yield some unpredictable, but often fun, results.
Find different players
Without even realizing it you’re probably routinely playing with the same players that you usually play with. The nature of the relationship may change between chronicles and characters (from confidant to adversary), however we tend to gravitate to the people (not characters) that we’re comfortable. This is human nature, but with knowledge of our liaisons we can take steps to break out of the cycle.
Sit down and map your relationships in a LARP and look at who your character interacts with, then ignore all of them and look at the characters you interact with less frequently. There are two questions you should consider:
- Have you historically roleplayed less with the player of those characters?
- Why might you interact with those characters?
In order to get a different roleplaying experience you are going to need to find the players you don’t interact with as often. Once you’ve found then, find reasons to be around the characters those players play and find ways to elicit roleplaying from them.
Find a different kind of game
Even though I don’t often take my own advice here, try to find a new kind of game. If you’re always playing a White Wolf product seek out something that will give you a radically different play experience than those settings offer. There are many different settings out there that could be run as LARPs, but storytellers are often reluctant to run LARPs with unfamiliar settings. Teaching players a new world, in addition to a new system, is more demanding than just running something that everyone is familiar with and often these systems have to be adapted for LARP, which presents a challenge in itself.
If a storyteller does come to you with a pitch for something off the wall, give it serious consideration. The storyteller is taking a risk by proposing something offbeat, and there’s a good chance you’ll get a different experience from that game. The themes will be different, and the social structures will be foreign, which should be an exhilarating opportunity for you as a player. Embrace it, and through embracing it encourage other storytellers to take a similar risk.
If you take the steps to understand the barriers you have subconsciously created for the roles you play you can take measures to push past them. Once you stray outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with the roles you take on you’ll experience LARP in an exciting way you never would have thought possible. Explore your extremes and take risks, because risk begets entertainment.