PLAYING A LARP
Playing in a Live-Action Role playing game (LARP)
You have never or very little experience with life-action role-playing games (commonly called « LARP »?
Here are some initial answers to your questions.
Consulting the Ultimate Western Player’s Guide and the FAQ’s will provide you with much more information to complete this first overview.
And, of course, the entire Ultimate Western team is at your disposal to explain or clarify all this for you!
An adventure in which you are both the actor and the spectator!
From the outside, LARP may look like a historical reenactment, some period costume show or a giant play. But in fact LARP is not an event open to the public because it is not meant to be watched by spectators: it is a « live » game in which you – and all the other players – will be playing the characters of a story in a real way.
Unlike actors in a play or movie, players in a LARP do not know the ending of the story they are about to experience (it will depend on their actions during the game), nor do they know the personal stories of the other characters. They don’t have a script to learn: they improvise what their character will say and do during the game, depending on the events he or she will face. All players, including you, are both actors and spectators in a story created by the organizers and the scenario in which your character will evolve. The story will be built in real time, based on the interaction between the players and their reactions to the intrigues, plots, actions.
The goal of the game? To play the game together!
A LARP is a collaborative adventure game to be experienced for real. But unlike a classic « game », the goal of a LARP player is not to win, to be the strongest, to play better than the others. Playing a LARP is about living an experience: playing as one of the characters in an adventure, interacting with other players, in incredible settings, just to have fun and make unforgettable memories.
About the character you will play
To begin with, you will receive (well before the start of the game) your Character Sheet: you will discover the story of your character’s life. It’s a summary of his personal history before the game begins: his childhood, the town he comes from, his job… But you’ll also discover the important events he has lived through, who his allies or enemies are, what his objectives are (e.g. following the trail of a missing friend, getting his hands on a gold lode he has heard about…). Your Character Sheet summarizes everything that makes « your character really exist », that he has things to do, to say, to find but also maybe to hide…
Everything that is written in your character sheet (his past history) is secret and must be known only to you first. You will be free to decide during the adventure if you want (or if you have to…) to reveal certain « secrets » of your history. But beware: it is also possible that other characters you will meet have known, in their personal history, things that concern you… (and vice versa)
You don’t need to learn everything in your Character Sheet. Just try to pick out and remember the major facts and names of important people or places that are mentioned in it. We recommend that you take a notebook with you during the game in which you have noted down these key points, and that you use it to take further notes. During the game you can keep your character sheet hidden in a pocket of your costume or in your bag to be able to consult it discreetly and secretly if needed.
To help you "step into" your role:
Read your Character Sheet carefully to understand your character’s past history and to get a good idea of your character’s motivations: what is your character’s personality, what are your character’s intentions at the beginning of the game, what kind of relationships will your character have with the other characters he/she will meet, etc.?
Imagine how your character « talks ». Your character probably doesn’t speak the way you speak every day! Your character is a cowboy, a lady, a gold digger, a banker, a future sheriff… Imagine yourself in the American West in the last century (if you need to, watch some good old westerns) and imagine how your character might speak and what turns of phrase or expressions might correspond to him.
Your costume will be one of your best allies! As you will see, putting on a costume and its accessories will help you get into the skin of your character and make sure you are playing someone else. It is also an essential element to promote immersion for all the other participants who will play with you: « This woman is wearing elegant clothes, she is certainly a lady who knows people in high places in this city… »
That’s why the costume you wear during the game must be consistent with the role you will play. It should also be consistent with the universe / the Old West period of the adventure. For this, try for example to avoid anachronisms: prefer metal glasses frames rather than plastic ones (or even favour contact lenses if you can wear them), choose comfortable leather boots or booties and as little modern as possible, don’t wear « country » style elements or leather boots or hats which are not at all in the spirit of the period, take a pocket watch if you have one or think of hiding your too modern watch, etc…
Before the game starts
Once you arrive at the studios and just before the game starts, you will attend the briefings of the organizers: they will introduce you, in addition to a reminder of the rules, the people who make up the team (and many of whom will play characters that you will meet during your adventure).
This will also be an opportunity for you to meet the other players with whom your character will interact. Don’t be afraid to say you’re a beginner: the role-playing game regulars were also novices and they will be happy to advise you and accompany you in this first experience. You will see that it will take you only a short time to feel totally at ease in this new playful adventure! If you need more time, take it. And if you’re looking for a little help or advice, the Ultimate Western organizing team is here for you.
When the game starts
This is it! The organizers are kicking off the game: it’s up to you to navigate the plot in which you will play for several days!
At the beginning of a game, players (including you) don’t know what to expect. But you can trust the organizers to get you into the action very quickly! And things will happen very naturally after that. Just let it happen and live your character. Do what you think your character would do in your place. Make the decisions that you imagine your character would make, in his or her best interest and according to his or her goals. There is no one choice that is better than another, no one action that should be performed over another: there are only your choices.
And above all: have fun playing!
How to play your character
In the Ultime Western, you will play one of the characters in the adventure. But to do this, you don’t have to learn any lines, you don’t have to rehearse, and you don’t have to take acting classes: you just have to « act as if what is happening is real ».
Let’s take an example: you are at a banker, a desperado enters and threatens everyone with his gun. The character you are playing must consider that the Colt is a real gun – even though you know that it is a blank gun and therefore not « really » dangerous. Your character must act accordingly. You will decide what you want to do and you will have to do it « for real ». Let’s say you decide to calm the individual down: your character will address him directly and find the right words to negotiate. If you decide to run away instead: you’ll have to find a way to slip out discreetly without him spotting you. But if you are spotted by the bank robber and he « shoots » you in the leg (with blanks 😉 to prevent you from leaving, you have the right to cry out in pain… which may also allow another doctor character who is passing in front of the bank at that moment to hear you and help you! Etc, etc…
In the same way, you will have to improvise everything that happens to your character but also everything he decides to do… because your character can do anything (as long as it is coherent with his story and his character): lie, betray, charm, negotiate, spy… It is up to you to have fun playing all this… as if it were real!
The only thing that really matters? Playing your character.
In LARP, playing your role and « creating play » with other players by playing it, in the spirit of the adventure world, is called Roleplay.
Not playing your character can really hurt everyone’s game because what other players expect from you is to :
play your character with and for the other characters. Indeed, it is by reacting (improvising) to an action or a word of another player that you will feed the story, give life to exchanges between the characters… and to memorable scenes!
don’t break the immersion of the game by acting/speaking not as your character but as yourself (by looking at your pictures on your phone or telling your last ski vacation for example). So if you are with players who are playing, stay in your role so as not to break their enjoyment of the game or step away to do what you need to do by stepping out of the game for a few moments.
The limits of a game... without limits!
In a life-action role-playing game, your character can do anything (really or via simulation rules). But doing everything does not mean doing anything…
Remember that you must always play :
without taking physical risks for yourself or for others
without behaving in a way that makes other players uncomfortable
with fair play and by following the rules of the game established by the organizers
Again, keep in mind that you are not playing to win, you are playing for the experience.
Furthermore, be careful not to ruin the immersion of all by saying certain irrelevant things (called in LARP « Out-of-Game »), i.e. :
that are outside the scope of the game universe:
« I’m going to look up the Sheriff’s address on the internet… » (ask the salon owner instead ;-),
(ask the owner of the salon ;-), « Anyway, we know that in the history of the United States this president will be assassinated next year » (if you play in 1879, your character does not know what will happen in 1880 or the following years!…)
that are meant to make things seem real that don’t exist in the game or that your character can’t/can’t do:
« In my satchel it looked like I had sticks of dynamite » > no: either your character really has sticks of dynamite in his satchel (fake) that he found during the game, or your character has nothing in his satchel and in that case he is lying to make the other characters believe it…
« Actually my father was a doctor and when I was a kid I saw how he operated so I can treat this guy » > no: either it is actually written in your character sheet that you have a particular skill (Medicine, in this example), or you really don’t know anything about it and in that case your character is lying to the other characters.
This is the kind of thing that spoils a scene and the immersion of the players:
« Ah but it’s fake blood on his head the guy who died! » > yes of course : it’s make-up… and fortunately !-)
Can I stop playing sometimes?
Yes: you are allowed to take a break!
Your adventure will last several days, and you will be « in play » without interruption (except for meal times and when you go to bed). It’s perfectly normal that at some point you may want to take a break, take a shower, talk about something else or even make a phone call. In this case you just need to get out of the game by isolating yourself (in off-Game Zones), so as not to break the immersion of the other players. In LARP this is what we call being « Off-Game ».
When and how does the game end?
The end of the game is scheduled with a final sequence. The organizers will make it clear that the story ends there… for now, because the Ultime Western is an episodic adventure and you will be able to experience the continuation of it in a future season (with the same or another character).
After the end of the game, the organizers will debrief the adventure you have lived. This will also be an opportunity for them to collect your impressions and also your remarks that will allow them to improve the experience of this adventure for the next players who will live it. You will then have the opportunity to exchange with the other players and actors during the Final Fiesta! (…while keeping secret some elements of your character that would not have been revealed during the game and that could well be used again / come out during the next adventures!)
The interaction between players is the basis of the LARP principle. Therefore, your character is autonomous during the game. You will be able to make your character evolve freely during the game while trying to respect the rules of the game and the rules of fair play towards the other players and actors (called « Non-Player Characters » or NPCs).
And never forget that :
The goal in a larp is not to win or lose, but to enjoy the game
In a larp, for physical and emotional safety, any really dangerous act is simulated, using dummy weapons and/or specific rules: don’t take any risk, and don’t hesitate to stop the game if you have to.
You play a character, the other players play a character. You must not take actions or words directed at your character for yourself. If a desperado talks down to you, or a rancher has taken dollars from you by cheating at poker… your character has the right to get angry « in-game » and to interpret it, but it’s not personal: don’t take it personally because, again, it’s all a game.