Sometimes I am asked what it is about LARP that I enjoy – which is usually followed by an outpouring rush about costumes and kit and the society and the stories. But it’s the stories, usually embellished with a few tales of past characters or a particular event that stands out in memory. Rather than a simple “he said, she said” retelling, the tale becomes more like a blog write up and I get a thrill from the reaction of some of our newer players when I tell them of things other characters have done. But this has got me thinking – what is it about LARP that I enjoy? The role-play or the rewards? In this blog I hope to try and summarise my answer to that question.
What do I mean by role-play and reward?
First of all I feel I should probably give a rough definition for the two sides of the argument. For me role-play is the interaction with individuals and their characters; be it face-to-face in the field or in downtime, via digital letters and private messages on the boards, or via physical letters sent through the post. Reward for me is the recognition for working towards the plot in the form of magical items, potions or trinkets or getting swanky titles for my character.
Reward over role-play
There is a part of me that must admit that I enjoy the outcome of undertaking a LARP adventure – be it a single day game or a weekend event. I like completing a story, finding out the ending or what happens next – tying up the loose ends so that the tale can be told in its entirety. This was something I enjoyed before writing the blog, but knowing that I will be sharing our adventurers online sometimes forces me to search out the outcomes of certain threads. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
I enjoy being recognised for getting involved in plot – I have to admit this even though when it happens I am usually shocked or humbled by the decisions of the referees. How can I not be grateful for the opportunities that have come my way over the past 7 years of LARP? Especially when most of them have led to fantastic character development working around the benefits and constraints of the rewards!
Having all the shinies, or the collection of things, or the stack of lammies, or the strange and convoluted rules that guide your character can be very satisfying – especially if it causes your character to be decked out in aura ribbons that make people go “what does that do?” And being able to pull interesting solutions to things from out of a pocket or a wand can sometimes be the thing that make or breaks a dangerous mission. However I find that this can be a hollow form of game play for me – to be constantly chasing after the next shiny thing, rather than pursing what I believe is the reason we do this hobby – the story.
Role-play over reward
There is a part of me that relishes the completion of a story for finishing the story, for generating things to resolve or matters to discuss, or a chance to simply take in a deep breath and feel like you’ve achieved something. Our heroes are social creatures and enjoy sitting back after a campaign and spinning a yarn or two over a drink on an evening. What I like best though is that the game world exists between the big summer campaigns, with all the local events going on in their own rhyme and rhythm. There are larger problems that we can reach out to others to help solve, and smaller problems that are for us to look to those close at hand. Either way, when we next meet up with our friends in the field we will have stories to tell! Excuses for letters or threads of future quests to pull because of a chance conversation. Sometimes its just nice to sit and interact with NPCs that have had detailed briefs and listen to them talk about the world that they inhabit as part of the plot – even interacting with the NPCs that my character wants to beat until bloody and crush beneath their boot heel. Oh yes, even those.
Part of developing my character is thinking about the background where they have come from, which helps guide the interactions they have with other characters – particularly when I have a chance to talk about stories from her past from before adventuring. Some of my fondest moments at LARP involve talking to people – quite simply telling stories.
So for me, when looking back at what I enjoy in LARP, the things that stick out to me are the stories and the role-play. Reward plays an important part in the game – it encourages people to get involved and recognises the input they have had into the game, and gives people something to work towards. But it is only through role-play that plot can move on, that characters can develop and friendships can blossom – and that for me is the only reward I really want to have when LARPing.