The Rear Guard

Just sent in my PEL for last week’s Endgame event. I keep a mental list of LARPing goals in my head. One of these days, I will put them all down on paper (or rather, type them up and post them here.) My latest addition to the list was “send in PELs on time.”

I described the module where the whole town went on the move in the dark, through fields and down wooded paths, to my list of favorite moments. Though it also had one of my lesser moments- a personal thing. I snapped at someone, and I feel really bad about it.

As the town was moving, various people were on the outskirts of the mob of Temple townsfolk, serving as barriers and defending everyone else. These people tend to be the ones with shields (makes sense) but also the people who have a lot of combat abilities and are skilled with boffers.

Sunshine/I am none of those things- Sunshine has more healing than damage dealing skills, doesn’t carry a shield, and I’m still pretty weak with boffer combat. But I like it. It’s one of the reasons I play boffer campaigns instead of strictly theater. I like being on the front lines, right up in the monsters’ faces.

So at one point during this nighttime excursion, I was standing side by side with one of the heavier hitters with a shield, and we were guarding the rear… or so I thought. I kept hearing a few people calling to me to fall back behind the guy with the shield. But he wasn’t guarding my retreat- I thought we were guarding the town’s retreat together, and I didn’t want to leave him to do it alone, in or out of character.

I know why they wanted me to fall back- I come off, both in and out of character, as one of the people who needs protecting. I know Sunshine has no shield and is probably built out of the least amount of CP of anyone (i.e. is the weakest, stat-wise), and I don’t have the skill to compensate. But I didn’t really care, in or out of character. Sunshine wanted to be there to guard the other townspeople and wasn’t about to abandon her friend to let him do it alone. Maybe she’s slightly delusional about her ability to do it (I suspect the shield guy would have been pretty much just as well off alone.) And out of character, I wanted to fight the monsters and play at being heroic.

So I didn’t fall back- I just stayed at the rear next to the shield.

And people kept calling me to fall back. And I went on ignoring them, until the voices got considerably louder and more insistent, and I got the distinct impression that they were annoyed and frustrated with me both in and out of character.

Which I get. I do. I realize that from a tactical standpoint, it’s just a bad idea to have someone weaker (in character stats and player skill) right in front of the monsters. It costs people their limited abilities to heal others to keep the weaker fighters up and running. Why should they have to use up all of their healing and protection to keep me from getting killed or dragged off, when they could save their magic if I would just get to safety already?

But I didn’t want to fall back, so I snapped and I think I swore at the loudest person to shut the fuck up. And promptly felt intensely guilty, because I’d gotten angry and acted nasty both in and out of character.

Worth noting, the person I snapped at actually apologized to me later. I tried to apologize, too, but I don’t know how well it came across, and after we said we were cool, I thought maybe it was better to let it drop. (Though clearly, the guilt is still eating at me a little bit.)

Thing is, I actually do really like it when people communicate with me in combat- it’s not just monster crunching, it’s a coordinated collective effort, and it takes teamwork to get things accomplished in Endgame. People telling me to fall back indicates that it actually matters, at least somewhat, to them that I not die or get dragged off by monsters into the dark. To me, if a character gets annoyed or angry or worried or frustrated or scared… that’s fun and interesting role-playing. But if a player gets annoyed that I won’t get away from the worst of the battle, then that’s someone who would prefer, out of character, that I not have as much fun as I could be having, which in turn, annoys both Sunshine the character and me the player.

In hind sight, the fact that he apologized afterwards indicates I probably misread the annoyance as being out of character, when it was strictly in character. Or it might not have been annoyance with me for staying in danger, but rather frustration because he thought I just couldn’t hear him or anyone else telling me to get back (as opposed to listening and choosing not to follow the order.)

Either way, I’m debating the merits of picking up a shield for my next LARP. Besides shields tending to be at the front lines, think how much fun it will be to paint. I should look into acquiring a shield for practice, in the meantime.

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About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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2 Responses to The Rear Guard

  1. Jake G says:

    A few weeks late, but I think it’s worth talking about anyway!

    A close friend of mine also experiences this at another LARP. She’s a healer and a non-shield figher, but she also enjoys the fray of front-line combat. From a purely tactical perspective, it makes sense to keep her in a more protected position behind a line of more experienced (and better skill-optimized) fighters to fulfill a support role. Combine that with the fact that she’s not exactly physically imposing and maybe a little bit of White Knight-ism towards female players, and you get a recipe for frustration and a paying PC not getting the amount of boffer combat she wants out of the game.

    I suppose it’s tricky because neither side is “wrong” in their intentions. A PC who isn’t optimized for the front line shouldn’t be prevented from playing the game they want to play, even if that means a less-than-perfect tactical setup. Similarly, a player who enjoys the tactical aspect of boffer combat and/or is vey invested in “winning” the scenario at hand has a legitimate reason to keep the “support” characters in a protected position.

    A little bit of OOG mutual understanding is probably the best way to prevent frustrations. Even the most hardcore tactically-minded PC should be ready to let other players have their fun (and I think the vast majority of players totally get this), and understand that occasionally letting other PCs out of their optimal “role” in boffer combat is in the best interest of everyone’s fun.

    • Fair Escape says:

      Well said! I agree that neither side is “wrong” and that a bit of OOG mutual understanding is best (though it’s an awkward subject to broach in advance, I think.) It’s interesting that you mention a possible White Knight sort of syndrome… I wondered if me being female was part of it (though I left it out of the post because I worried it might come off like I was accusing other LARPers of sexism.) I never heard any girl voices telling me to get back… I wonder how often male LARPers find themselves in my position?

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