Still getting ready for the outdoor season… is it ever gonna start? Today I wish to address my newbie friends and potential future larp newbies with a couple of quick tips for those just about to embark on their first (or first longer lasting) larp event. Some things I mention here I’ll say again and again (hint: #1) – just because I find, again and again, that people seem to have the wrong idea about how to start larping. I hope at least some of the tips help fledgling larpers with this allegedly daunting hobby. (Really, larpers don’t bite. Not even furry ones.)
#1 Don’t strive for perfection – in anything – the first time you try larping. No one’s gonna look sideways at you if you roleplay your character illogically for a second or something similar which probably only you will notice at all. If you make a mistake in a scene or with a costume or in a spellcasting, there’s really no need to fret about it – everyone was a beginner once (or even multiple times, if trying out different styles of play). You don’t have to have the perfect (or perfectly expensive) costume or gear. You just need to make an effort! If you like the experience, there will be plenty of time to learn stuff later.
#2 Start small. Similar to #1, I’d suggest you try a short larp scenario first, if possible – like a chamber larp at a sci-fi convention or something. Many of the larpers I usually play with started that way, and even my first larp lasted four hours tops. If you can’t seem to find a shorter larp in your immediate vicinity, ask a GM you know (or ask someone to direct you at a GM) about whether they would consider running a shorter scenario for you and a couple of others (your friends of theirs, it really doesn’t matter). People are usually really thrilled about potential new co-players – larpers tend to like to share the hobby love. If even that isn’t possible, try taking on a smaller role in a longer-lasting event. The key is to observe whether you like this “live roleplaying” thing. Some people transition from tabletop RPGs to larp quite easily, some don’t. Your only obligation when you’re starting out is to find out wheter you like it.
#3 Ask around. Google stuff. Have no idea what a chamber larp is? Google it! (Or follow the yellow brick road.) Not sure what the difference is between several styles of play you see mentioned online or in a live larp discussion? Ask someone who’s been involved in the hobby for some time or – as always – try your friendly search engine… The same goes with larps you think of joining, not only in terms of visiting their websites and devouring the rulesets, but also asking aroung about people’s experiences with the GM, or the setting, or whatever. I’d suggest you try Facebook groups – at least that’s where Croatian larpers seem to hang out offgame the most. Word of mouth (be it live or in typing) is still the most valuable way to find new information – especially since lots of online information, especially about smaller larps, is either unreachable or obsolete. Larpers usually form lively, welcoming communities, and the best you can do to get ready for a larp is to talk to an existing larper. And yeah – even seemingly stupid questions get answered more often than not. (The sole existance of “stupid” questions is highly arguable. The quest for knowledge is a most respectable one.)
#4 Spend the least possible amount of money first time in. I can’t stress this enough. I don’t care what people with good paying jobs and/or smaller families say – larping really doesn’t need to be expensive, especially when you’re just starting out. If the larp you’re going to for your first experience has special costume and/or gear regulations – ones you cannot meet (uncommon, but not unheard of) – borrow stuff from your friendly (future) co-players. I’ve seen gear swaps happening in FB groups before an event even among players from different countries! And a few of the best games I’ve attended so far were held in someone’s classroom or apartment. The same goes for larping as for any imaginable hobby – never spend money on something you’re not sure you’ll like. Try first, pay (as much as you like) later. There’s always time to grow your costume collection or go to longer lasting larps in faraway regions. Hell, when you ask politely enough, I’ve even seen people lend others their tents for weekend events. If that’s not enough to convince you…
#5 A good GM is always there to help. Similar to #3, but in a different manner – this time you ask information directly from the source. Not sure about what a “dramatic death” mentioned in a ruleset means? Drop a note to your GM – they will be more than happy to explain. Afraid your glasses might be a problem at a fantasy event? Your GM might be bespectacled too – which you’ll never know if you don’t ask. (Eg. I wear glasses – and still occasionally fight, which gets… interesting, to say the least. It all depends on the level of the players’ physical involvement at a specific game – and the best way to find that out is to ask the GM directly.) There are two rules of thumb – firstly, there are no stupid questions (and I’m serious about this), and secondly, it’s always better to ask one question too many beforehand than having to bother the GM in the middle of the show. If a GM seems unapproachable, consult #3, above – maybe they’re actually generally considered problematic game runners and are not a good choice for your very first larp experience.
#6 Don’t take anything too seriously. It may seem to you, especially at first, that you’re not enough “into the game”, or that other people know the ruleset by heart or whatever – trust me, it’s probably not true. The only important thing is to make an effort and to respect other players. If you stick to that, you’ll probably be well enough off. It’s a hobby – and, above all, one which is supposed to be a game. If you’re not having fun (or taking some other form of fulfilment out of it) – you’re definitely doing it wrong. Adjust everything and anything which you can’t connect with about a game – just take care to understand, respect and use (if necessary) the meta/brake/cut rules as suggested by the ruleset.
#7 If larping with player-generated characters, create a character which fits the setting – it’s way easier that way. And don’t worry – even more experienced players (khmme) get this one wrong occasionally. If the GM gave clear hints in the ruleset/setting document, play by the hints and don’t go against the “feel” of the larp. If the GM didn’t give clear enough hints as to which types of characters will fit the larp the best, ask them! It’ll be a lot easier, on your first larp, to play a character which fits the setting than one who came out of nowhere (or a parallel dimension – unless that is the setting of the larp).
#8 Bring a packmember along for your first game if you feel like it. (It doesn’t really have to be a member of your family – the way I usually use the word – a friend will do, too. Although I have larped with other people’s families. On occasion.) It’s always easier to try something new when you have someone familiar by your side, and larping’s no different. The packmember will help with stage fright, confusion and potential boredom, too. (Although boredom is not something I’ve seen happen too often at larps.) You will have someone to share exciting new observations with after the event or during an offgame break, and it’ll be someone who knows the way you usually react to things, not someone you’ve just met – and who might be a little taken back with your over-the-top excitement. Although larpers don’t bite (really!), it can be easier to relax and have fun when not surrounded with dozens of complete strangers.
#9 Experienced larpers get stage fright, too. You don’t want me to tell you about that time at that steampunk larp… It’s hard joining a new game – any game – so don’t try to take it all in at once. Ease into play, ease into your character, and most of all, ease into the atmosphere. You really don’t even need to talk for the first couple of minutes of an event – unless the GM throw you in deep water the minute you go ingame. Take it easy – and remember #6.
#10 Above all – have fun! It’s really not worth it if you don’t. Larping isn’t for everyone – and there’s nothing wrong with you if you dislike it the first time you try it. Ask around, try a different game – you never know what it was that conflicted with your personality at the first one. If you dislike it the second time, too, it may just not be your cup of tea. There’s enough geeky hobbies to go around – and some people just can’t connect with roleplaying. But if you do have fun – well…
Bonus tip: Have someone take a picture of you before your first game – it’ll probably be something you’ll wish to have documented, later. Years ago, I joined this random steampunk larp thimg at my university… well, I haven’t been the same since. I really like that I have at least a bit of my character documented even years later (and I really like to compare costumes. If what I wore the first time – last pic, totally nondescript bespectacled brunnette peeking over the top hat on the left – can even be considered a “costume”. Start small, remember?)