- Pick a LARP inspired by a Genre you love.
Whether Sci-fi or fantasy, the genre deeply affects how a LARP system is built – Science Fiction might involve guns and Aliens, whereas fantasy could be swords and Goblins. Dress styles, technology and rules will differ depending on which Genre you jump into. If you go for a sub-section that you enjoy, you are more likely to get quickly immersed in your new world and your imagination will take over more readily. If you are unsure, or are only interested in a particular aspect of LARP, whether it’s the action side or the roleplay, there will be a system out there for you. Vampire: the masquerade is a LARP played by thousands of people around the world which has no physical fighting, and concentrates largely on politics and character development. In contrast, many military LARPs are high on fighting, tactics and contact, whereas low on the role-play element. Whatever you’re into – Steampunk, Zombie-flicks, Horror, Cyberpunk, Faerie Fayre’s, or even Survival, there will be a system out there for you. Though I’ve only shown high-fantasy images on this post, there are so many LARPs to choose from!
- Do your Research
Almost every LARP will have a website, group page or at least a rulebook, where you can find out exactly what type of world you’re getting yourself into. Even if you’re not a great reader, make sure you familiarize yourself with the basics, like the referee system, fighting and safety calls. This way when someone yells “MAN DOWN,” you’ll know exactly what to do. Remember that the people at your LARP are your biggest resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions In Character (IC) about things in this world you don’t know about, or if you have a question more firmly rooted in reality, quietly take a more experienced player to one side to ask an out of character (OoC) question. Lastly, don’t worry about memorizing the entire rulebook. This is usually impossible for even the most experienced LARPers – as long as you know the general structure of the game you can get by pretty well. It’s perfectly easy to turn up to most LARPs on the day, ask advice on things like character creation, and then generate your character on the spot. Quite a few LARPs will even have clothing/weapons vendors, so if you’re stuck coming up with something, go to the shops for some inspiration. Asking questions and talking to the other players also helps you forge relationships both in-character and out, and will make the learning process so much easier.
- Bring some friends
LARP can be a tricky world to navigate alone, so it always helps to have someone who already knows what they’re doing, or failing that, take a friend, or a group of friends along with you so you can work through the unexplored territory together. At it’s core, LARP is about immersive storytelling and escapism, and that happens most when a person is happy to step out their comfort zone, which will be more achievable when you have your BFFs backing you up. Starting in a group also gives you the chance to interweave your character’s backstories and make it a little bit easier to belong in the new world. Things like transport, food and tent sharing are also made easier, and you and your friends will be bought closer together upon valiantly entering into a new hobby.
- Feel at Ease
No LARP expects you to be in character all the time – if you need time out of the game, most LARPs will have designated In-character and Out-of-Character areas, and escaping your LARP persona and situation is sometimes as easy as moving a few feet! Most every LARP has scheduled periods, designated “in character”, so it’s easy to break your day down into manageable chunks if you need to.
- Emphasize functionality over looks and character.
For your first few LARPs, try to keep your costume comfortable and relatively low-maintenance. You’re just learning a new system and it is better to have a comfortable costume that won’t ruin your immersion whilst playing, and isn’t likely to fall apart. Also remember that quite a few LARPs are done in public spaces, campsites or in community halls. It’s important that you know how to remove your kit yourself, and that if it needs to, it can survive harsh weather, mud and of course, other players. I have found that often a mask is a great way to immerse yourself quickly and find your character. Whether it’s a goblin face or a sci-fi helmet, hiding your identity will help you to slip into someone else’s. Remember that this is your first time, and therefore it might be easier to choose a character that is close to your own personality. Backstory for a character is useful but not necessary, and is sometimes better to be decided upon once you’ve figured more out about your new world. This will give you the wiggle room you need to learn the system and also the scope for character development should you choose to continue with LARP.
- Keep your costs low
Going in guns blazing (no pun intended) with the most amazing kit you can find is all well and good, but this is your first character and you’re not exactly sure yet how it will fit into the world you are entering. You might quickly find that you want to play a different type of character, by which point you’ll have spent too much money on your chain-mail hauberk, or your custom turret automatic NERF gun. Remember that you’re learning and take your time to enjoy the experience. Try to buy versatile kit that can suit a number of different characters in case you change your mind or your character meets an untimely death at your first event (which, whilst rare, can still be known to happen). What I do suggest investing money in, however, is kit such as tents and sleeping bags if you’re attending camping LARP’s for example. Make sure to stay warm, and dry over the event, as nothing can dampen your mood quicker than soggy kit with nothing dry to change into.
- Stay Healthy
It’s easy to forget to take on water when surrounded by otherworldly beings and alien forces, but remember that if you fall ill your character also does. Make sure that you have enough food, water and any medication to stay healthy throughout your LARP excursion. When camping, make sure you have a comfortable surface to sleep on, as those not used to the bed they’re sleeping on will generally end up with very stiff muscles. Make sure you take a change of clothes and try to look into where the LARP is being held – if it’s on a scout camp, see if the scout camp has toilets and showers, kitchen facilities or even a nice fancy tumble dryer for your damp kit! Some LARPs also have an emergency phone number or safety call. Make sure you know the protocols and who to contact for first aid. It’s incredibly unlikely you will need it, but the more people that know the process, the safer everyone stays. Most all site-based LARPs will ask you for an emergency contact. Do NOT give the details of another person who is already LARPing with you as phones are often left in tents or misplaced throughout the event. If you are playing a full-contact LARP, try to refrain from alcohol if there’s a chance of you needing to fight, and if at any point you don’t feel safe or well enough to do so, don’t try it! Take yourself to the Out of Character area for a cheeky biscuit and a sit-down. No true LARPer would begrudge you for prioritising everyone’s safety, and during your first LARP it’s sometimes easy to get overwhelmed, so feel free to take your time.
- Enjoy every moment.
Beyond the idea that you’re a bunch of very well outfitted nerds speaking in funny accents, LARP is an uplifting, unifying and deeply fulfilling experience. It is difficult to describe LARP to someone who has not truly tried it before, but the result of trying is often addictive and fun. If you enjoy LARP and end up doing it regularly, you will likely find that you will make friends that last you a lifetime, and memories that you wouldn’t make anywhere else. Be inclusive, try not to take your character too seriously, and above all, enjoy yourself.
All photos taken at Beyond the Wards: Steppe Alliance Faction Event 2017, © Dando Starkey, 2017.
The Organiser of this event is The Steppe Alliance, the overall LARP System is Curious Pastimes. Find them here at: http://curiouspastimes.co.uk/, and http://www.steppealliance.co.uk/