Every now and then, a LARP-centric meme goes around Facebook. Sometimes they happen in clumps. Most recently, there was a meme where LARPers would start a thread with the instructions:
“Post your character name here and I’ll tell you what my PC in that game thinks of them.” For games where the original poster and the people responding didn’t both PC, people used NPC characters.
I posted names of my characters whenever the person offering it had PCed or NPCed in one of the campaigns I was significantly involved with — mostly Quill, Cricket, and once, my Lost Eidolons PC, Taz. I often feel a little self-conscious engaging with such memes; it feels so self-indulgent to ask people to talk to me about my own characters, even though they’re offering and everyone else is enjoying participating without feeling self-conscious. But I’m also very curious about people’s impressions of my characters, so I couldn’t resist.
I found out some surprising things. I assumed the Lost Eidolons NPC wouldn’t remember Taz, or at least not enough to be specific, but he did, down to details about how she reacted to his death just as the Battle for Tomorrow began. And I’ve been finding Cricket difficult to portray the way I imagine her in my mind; I like to think she has hidden layers, but it’s hard to portray subtlety in LARP — too overt, and it’s all on the surface, too subtle and no one picks up on it. I am sure many LARPers feel this way, feeling as though their character is nuanced and complex, but doubt anyone else will ever think so. The responses to this meme taught me that other characters are, in fact, picking up on the layers to Cricket, and have multi-faceted responses to them. She has also provoked some unexpected reactions from some PCs, which reveals some interesting insight into how people interpret in-game cultures. Quill also provoked some unexpected reactions; others were expected but deeply heart-warming to read. It is really something to know your favorite character is loved by someone who understands the character.
I also read a lot of responses to other people in various threads, even when I wasn’t familiar with the relevant characters or the LARPs they were from. They were often long, thoughtful posts, reflecting complicated, deep relationships. It was really cool and really fascinating to see the varied ways characters related to one another, how they affected one another, how they impacted one another’s perceptions, how they influenced each other to change and grow. People described characters giving one another hope, how they relied one another, inspired one another. They described what the characters taught one another, how they worried about each other, loved one another, hated one another, lusted after one another, scared one another, respected one another, enabled the best and worst in each other, made one another feel inadequate or guilty, had many conflicted feelings about one another, They compared first impressions with later developments, about missing and mourning the characters who had died. The descriptions often reflected something deep and complex and meaningful and beautiful.
And here it’s worth noting that the posts I saw were mostly from boffer/live combat campaign LARPs in the US.
I read a lot of LARP related content online — news pieces, blog posts, discussions, etc., and I have from time to time run across this attitude that boffer campaigns, especially fantasy ones, especially American ones, are shallow, are all about leveling up in power or collecting loot or strictly about combat and players are just looking to hit things, that roleplay is an afterthought or boffer LARPers are “afraid” to bleed, that it can’t lead to introspection or self-improvement or self-discovery, or reflect serious issues. Surely, not as well as some other forms of LARP, right?
I know I slipped into this once or twice while on panels about Theater LARPing Meeting Boffer LARPing, and I regret that.
I often get the impression it’s well-intentioned. Maybe people have limited (or even non-existent) experiences with this format, but somehow developed these impressions, and just want all forms of LARP to learn from one another, to show the boffer LARPers what else is out there.
It’s not always well-intentioned. Sometimes it’s intentionally judgemental and condescending and derisive and dismissive. Luckily, that’s not too often.
But it is all completely untrue. I’ve always known it, but this meme very much reflected what I already knew. Boffer LARPing, even in the US, is capable of amazing depth and I wish people who find themselves thinking otherwise would read the threads I read.
To everyone who participated in that meme: thank you for sharing. I hope I’m able to create characters in the future that inspire the kind of responses I saw.