Random topic that came up recently. Someone asked about techniques used in LARPs to make a setting feel more real. The obvious answers, like higher quality costuming and props, or stricter rules against non-period objects (like food in modern wrappers, or sneakers with obvious logos) came up a few times, and a few people mentioned things like lighting or ambient music.

I tried to approach the question from a different angle — what kind of measures can one take when crafting a new culture to make it feel complete and present? Or, alternatively, when creating a game set in a real historical culture, what aspects of it might people not know but benefit from learning about so it might be incorporated into a LARP?

And that made me think about greetings. Incredibly simple, and yet pervasive — it’s something players will experience many times over the course of an event, bookending every encounter they have with one another or NPCs.

Greetings can speak volumes about a culture and the individuals making use of them. The way people greet one another — whether it’s shaking hands, bumping fists, bowing, curtseying, saluting, rising from our seats, removing our hats or just tipping them, nodding our heads… can reflect or indicate relative social status, or shared elements between people, like a common religion or background in the military. We have complex rules, many that we’re not even consciously aware of, about who usually greets whom first and in what order we introduce people to one another, that may depend on age, gender, marital status, position, social class, etc. And they can change to reflect in-game events or holidays.

We tend to default to either modern greetings or some vague notion of period greetings in LARP, I find. If “nice to meet you” and shaking hands doesn’t seem to fit, we have a few stand-bys that get used for a wide swath of historical eras and fantasy settings — the head bow for men, the curtsey for women, and sometimes the hand kiss for men greeting women. But LARPers quickly get tangled up if we don’t actually know the rules of etiquette we’re trying to mimic. (I’m often not sure how or if to curtsey if I’m not wearing a skirt, for example.)

For historical settings, (or fantasy games inspired by particular periods) I often find a brief primer on appropriate greetings to be a really useful inclusion to cultural blue sheets, when included. Particularly for coming up with appropriate titles for historical positions — when does one use “Your Grace” or “Your Eminence” for various clergy members and/or nobility? That always trips me up. Or to make a fantasy setting feel unique but real, LARP writers might come up with their own system of traditions for how people greet one another.

I used to think a military salute was universal, but they vary by country. As I’m playing a LARP where all of the PCs have a military background, maybe I can convince my warband to come up with our own salute.

Which reminds me… Seasons Greetings and Happy Chanukah, everyone!

Festival of Lights


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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3 Responses to Salutations

  1. Pickle says:

    I love it when modes of address are woven into LARPs, but I feel I’m one of few. I’ve NPCed a lot of runs of Dance and the Dawn and its sequel, which *does* have notes on what modes of address to use for which characters, and there’s usually only a few players in each run who get them consistently right. Apparently The Tale and the Twilight has this problem to a much greater degree, because the noble traditions being emulated (Muslim golden age) are not contiguous with Western culture.

    It’s hard to figure out an elegant way to solve this.

  2. Jake says:

    Ideas like this are really good for making a setting feel a little bit more real. I think the main reason most people don’t do accents or affect a very different way of speaking is because it’s difficult to do without training, and its more likely to be awkward and jostle people out of the immersion. But small turns of phrase, like salutations, are relatively easier to pick up and use effectively.

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