Tuesday Tales: Guest Series, Part I

The Three Do’s and Don’ts of Character Creation
By Derek H.

You hear about a LARP that you want to try out and eagerly create a character to go and play.  Your ability to enjoy a LARP often depends on the character you’ve created.  Sometimes your character gels with you and the community… other times it doesn’t.  Here’s a brief list of do’s and don’ts that will hopefully help you out in creating a LARP character that will make it easy to enjoy your LARP.

DO:  Make a character that will interact with other characters.  The only thing that separates us from a bunch of recreationists with plumbing supplies in our hands is our mutual belief in the world we’re creating.  Therefore, create a character that will perpetuate that world by interacting with other people.  You don’t have to get along, or be friendly, but you ought to be able to interact with other characters in some capacity.  Scowling at others and threatening to cut them in two is a form of interaction, so go for it if that is what you want to do.  Even antagonists need a place to call home.  Just remember that mysterious people in the corner often drink alone and get bored.

DO: Make a character that fits within the world your GMs have created.  Without the hundreds upon hundreds of extras to create a fully fleshed-out world, we few players and cast are all we have to create the setting of our world.  Try to create a character that fits within that setting, rather than create a character that is so completely out-of-genre that it sticks out like a sore thumb.  Some examples include fairy princesses in a world without fae, or steampunk tinkers in a magic-heavy fantasy world.  Everyone wants their character to be unique.  There are just ways to do this that respect the world your GMs have painstakingly put together.

DO: Make a character whose story is just beginning.  A character history is a starting point for your character’s adventure.  After all, you are at a game in order to explore their true adventure, one would suppose.  Be mindful that the history you’ve created allows for that to happen.  It is easy to get caught up in writing your character’s story and have their adventure already told before they even took their first breath of life.  Leave openings in your history for future adventure and change.  After all, watching your character evolve through living in the world is what it’s all about.

DON’T:  Play a character that is smarter than you.  We want our characters to be everything we feel we can’t be, and that is fine.  Know your limits.  Don’t play a character that’s clever if you can’t think on your feet, or someone who is a charmer if you get tongue-tied at the thought of talking to other people.  Those being said, definitely explore those areas that challenge you by creating a character who aspires to be good in those roles.  That way, you can become a charmer or a fast-thinker, rather than disappoint yourself time and time again by not being able to live up to the character you’ve created in your mind.

DON’T:  Make your character the center of the universe.  It is very tempting to want to create an epic story for your character, which is often achieved by creating an epic crisis that revolves around them.  You are one of many characters in the game world and you have to share the story with them.  It isn’t fair to expect your character to garner the attention of the world over that of everyone else.  That is not to mean that you should not have your moments to shine.  After all, those are the moments that make a game memorable.  Just remember that everyone feels the same way and wants their chance as well.

DON’T:  Make a character based on another piece of fiction.  No matter how obscure you think it is, I promise you that someone has read the book or seen the movie on which you based your character.  Not only do you do a disservice to your own creativity by stealing a character from another piece of fiction, but the moment others recognize your source material, it forces them to think about it and pulls them out of game.  After all, would you be able to stay in character when dealing with Gimli the dwarf or Ender Wiggin the fighter at the local tavern?  Yes, I’ve actually had this happen to me.

I hope you find these guidelines helpful when creating a character.  Being involved in a LARP means being involved in a community of very creative, enthusiastic people who want to help bring a story world to life.  Creating a character that supports that will engender the bonds that make a LARP experience special.  Good luck!