After playing in five LARPs this weekend — three of which were not games in which I had a pre-existing character — I got to thinking about what makes certain games or scenarios work for me. What “handles” on the character or situation am I looking for that help me have fun? I came up with a short, almost assuredly incomplete, list.
- Connections: LARPs are social games, an order of magnitude more so than tabletop RPGs are. A LARP should first and foremost connect me to other players. Coming in the door, who do I have my first interactions with? Where do I go when I need help? Where is the friction going to be? I want to have at least one group I feel a part of, one person I can trust, and one person who I am at odds with.
- Goals: My character is here, now, for a reason. Why do I care about what’s happening, and how does it affect me? What it is important that I accomplish right now? And why do other characters care about that?
- Reasons to Change: Those things that I came here to accomplish? What would cause me to not just give up on them, but to pursue their opposite? Those secrets that I need to keep? What would make me reveal them? (I think this is a highly-overlooked aspect of pre-gen character design.)
- Knowledge/Power/Secrets to Reveal: It’s important that what’s going on matters to me. It’s just as important that I matter to what’s going on. What do I know about the current situation? What do I have that makes other characters care about me? What does my presence make easier or harder?
- High Concept/Schtick: When my character talks to someone, within the first three sentences they should know that it’s not Paul they’re talking to. How do I get a picture of who this person is so can I drop into character in two minutes or less?
That’s in roughly descending order of importance to me. I’ve played in games where I had unachievable goals, no built-in connections to other characters, and no real connection to plot — and still enjoyed myself because I invented connections to players I knew and played my schtick hard. But I’m happiest when the system and the scenario give me those — or the tools to create them — from the starting gate.