Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tips for New Players

As I've been playing around with the Dystopia Rising folks, I've come across the path of Peter B Woodworth. Some of you may recognize the name, he's written for a lot of the Classic World of Darkness for years. A lot of the sources and information the current cWoD games are based on his words. Well, he's still up to his tricks, this time writing for the Zombie Apocalypse. He's been doing a lot of LARPing tip posts for the DR folks, and I wanted to share. I want to thank Peter for allowing me to copy and post his notes for broadcast. Thanks man!

This list is designed for incoming and new players to a LARP. As I read it, sometimes I think it becomes more appropriate for a lot of veteran players to remember. I'll write my commentary on the bottom. Enjoy. 

10) Don’t try to make a “perfect” character. Those are boring! Make a character you’d want to watch in a movie or read about in a book – someone you want to learn more about.
                                                                                                                                             9) Don’t worry about having a huge backstory. Try one paragraph to start. You don’t need to know everything about your character right off – otherwise how can they grow during game?
                                                                                                                                                 8) For a quick way to get a handle on playing your character, come up with two positive personality traits (“kind, patient”) and one negative one (“overly trusting”), and use them as guides.
                                                                                                                                             7) “Making an effort” is the most important part of making your first costume. Don’t worry if it’s “perfect” or if it’s a little basic – like characters, costumes also evolve over time.
                                                                                                                                             6) Don’t be afraid to ask questions, in or out of character. It’s better to find out than work on bad assumptions, and pursuing a mystery is often an adventure in itself.
                                                                                                                                             5) Try to come up with at least one short term goal for each game session, like introducing yourself to five new people, or learning a new skill. If you meet it, make another!
                                                                                                                                             4) Talk to people! Larp is a social activity. Remember, everyone was a new character once, and making friends (and enemies) will help you develop your character too.*
                                                                                                                                             3) When in doubt, diving in is better than standing back, and risk is better than caution. Very few great stories involve hanging back in a safe place avoiding risk. Get involved!
                                                                                                                                                   2) Try to stay in character. Larp is a skill that gets easier with practice. If you need to take breaks, though, do so! Just do it away from the action so you don’t break game for others.
                                                                                                                                              1) It’s not about winning or losing, living or dying, it’s about having fun and telling a good story together. Don’t worry about how it ends – just enjoy the ride!
                                                                                                                                        *Follow up: Get to know people out of game as well – go to the diner with folks after a session, talk to people on forums and Facebook, etc. If someone’s play really blows you away, let them know! Most people are happy to talk about their process and give advice to new folks.
I read this list and I wish I had this before I had jumped into Requiem two years ago. I was so nervous and god damned clueless. Oh, I read the books. The mechanics made my nosebleed, but I got the gist from it all what I wanted to do. Two years in and I still feel like I'm playing catch up with people.

Out of this list, the ones that I resonate with the most is 10, 6, 3, 2, and 1. I've met very few who try to have a "perfect" character that can do everything, say everything, have a corner on one specific section of the game while also enjoying the notion that they are somehow untouchable. Know what happens to them?

Nothing.

The other players don't want to play with them. The Storytellers don't want to give them plot. The reason for that is because the characters are Boring. Where is the drama? Where is the Challenge? These are characters that are thrown into a room with other characters. When two elements combine, change happens. The same as it is with people. There are no perfect people in a room full of people with separate agendas. Not possible, never going to happen. At best they'll be seen as pompous or pretentious, at worst they'll be ignored.

6) God, if I couldn't ask questions, I think I'd be dead by now. One of the better parts of having a curious Mekhet is that when I get confused, he can ask questions. I think that's why Taglia really did become my first character and the way he handles things. He constantly needs more information to deal with a situation effectively. It's actually scary for me next chronicle since all of my characters are supposed to know what the hell they're doing. So definitely please, ask questions.

3) When I wrote about my first time I played Dystopia Rising, I added that I kept very much to the main building for the most of the game. I realized that I should have gone out more and risked a little bit. Considering that my character is being rewritten into another Nationality/Class, I figure that I should have. I don't feel like I got the full experience, and that's on my head and not anyone else. So please, if you want to get a feel for the experience, an meet new players and characters, jump into whatever plot you can.

Of course, there are some games where that is easier said than done. One of my critiques about Requiem is the Social "Glass Ceiling" that is quickly erected. Unless you're of use, you tend to get put into the Courtier's Corner. It was originally called the "Kiddie's Corner" but they started growing up. I spent a lot of time in that corner when I first started, and only through association did I ever get out of there. So if you see an opportunity for your character, take it.

2) Oh, for the love of GOD, do I agree with this one. Part of LARPing is that it is one part gaming, two or three parts acting and make believe. If someone has questions, that's one thing, but dropping out of character really does kill the mood of a game. If you have to excuse yourself from the scene due to emergency, squemishness to subject matter or whatever pertinent information, then jump out of character. But if you go out of character due to ennui or to share little bits of information that really isn't relevant to the scene, guess what? Save that shit for afters. This is a major nit for me, we're all guilty of it but it really is a problem that annoys me alot.

1) I think a lot of people need to read this one. Both veterans and New Players. I know that these are games. We get HP and MP in various forms and flavors, items and experience points for reading. A lot of people focus on these aspects, and while they are well and good, I don't even think this covers a third of what a LARP is. It's a ride. If you're so worried about Winning, Losing, Dying, or getting "punished" in the game, then you aren't there for the right reasons.

Aspects of points 1 and 2 I think will be getting posts of their own.

I want to thank Peter Woodworth for permission to use his list. Also, if you're interested in the Zombie Apocalypse, read Peter's Runner, the first book in the Dead Heroes series. The book is set in the ruins of New York in the Dystopia Rising Universe. Even if you don't play DR, it's a good page turner.

Later.