Saturday, May 18, 2013

Walking the Walk: Attitude in LARP

Last week, I did a class for New York Jedi. The class was about doing quick solo performances that display your character (Shameless Plug Here). In the end, it wasn't what I expected. Everyone did sword demos and movements, but there was something missing for quite a few of them.

A few years back at New York Comic Con, my friend Rob watched us perform. Also a performer, Rob mentioned that the fight choreography was mechanically sound, but it was clear that it was stage and choreographed. It was missing character. Showing off the videos from the class, I realized that this was the same thing. Characters have ticks, small little things that make them their own. This can be as simple as a repeated flourish of a saber, or the bark of laughter to punctuate a strike, or the snarl of a fierce competitor. Without those beats, those little nuances, what is the difference between your character and you?

The reason for my belief comes from he fact that we as performers have the task of making the audience, that nebulous clutch of people for whom we don't exist, complete the circuit to lift of the veil of disbelief. They've come to see and to try, we have to give them the boost. In Jedi, our audiences are usually fan boys at conventions or passersby on the street. They've seen it before or they don't know what they're seeing or expecting. So we as performers need to give them as much of a boost as possible. We need to give them the illusion that this is a fight and not just a staged fight. There's a difference. The difference is Attitude.

But wait, this is a LARP blog.

The same principle extends to LARPing, how does your character comport themselves when interacting? What are their ticks, their reactions? I've seen players come in and just portray themselves cranked to eleven. While this is all well and good, it gets boring if it's the same character all the time in and out of game. So what makes your character distinct from the other characters and yourself?

Let me take a look back at my past PCs and some of the future ones.

Vincenzo Taglia: The phrase "drink to forget" didn't apply to uber-eidetic vampire, but like hell if he didn't try. The need for a drink was strong in Tag. His major character moment came when in his first game the Ordo Dracul went out on a mission to rescue a missing Dragon. They returned and the wine had been drunk. Taglia went on a five minute rant in broken Engilish/Italian (another tick, he would slip into his native Italian when upset) to the rescued Dragon about the wine being gone. Wine/Lacrima became something of his tic. To the point where when three other Mekhet came up to him with plot, they asked if he was ready to listen. "No," he said. He drained his glass of wine and filled up the next one. "Now, I'm ready."

Rhys: The stereotypical New Yorker. Nothing shocked him, he saw it all, he'd seen it all. Even if he hadn't. It didn't help that Rhys was tethered to the will of New York City. He'd walk, in, see the situation, sigh and then go off. The phrase "I'll ask"/"I asked" became his thing, as he went off to get information from the City. His identity as a New Yorker in a game trapped in a train station helped set him a part from the other Mages. This character and his attitude will be coming back to the Accord venue.

Now, the problem comes in the development of the next characters. How do they carry themselves?

Jin: My West Court Lost, is the designated Common Sense in the room. While I tend to play things frustrated, Jin is more stoic and direct. He follows the attitude of the knife, the answers are simple once you cut away all of the rubbish. So his tone is direct, his motions sure. He doesn't do anything that isn't being fully committed on.

Owen: Owen lives in the world of Greys. He's neither actively evil nor openly good. His tone is usually ambiguous, and his mannerisms passively flippant. A lot of Littlefinger and Alan Rickman, the shrug of death to morally questionable things. "What is his talking about?" /Shrug "No Idea".

Jacob Rude: Oh dear sweet, half rotted off Jacob Rude. Acerbic, speciest, pragmatic and with a survival track a mile wide. Jacob's main trick is always being mindful of the exits. He's not a coward, but he's not stupid. He's not a fighter, he's a fixer. He knows when it's time to cut and run. If he's in a room with multiple exits, be sure he'll try and stay in the center. If he's in a room with only one exit, his back will never be turned to it.

So with these in mind, how does one go about having attitude?

It's simple: just do it. Don't make a show of it, don't explain to people what you're doing or be obnoxious about it. It sucks to beat your audience (in LARPing, your fellow players are the audience) over the head with what you're doing. Just do it, it's natural to your characters, make it natural to you. If Rude is going to check for all of the exits, then I'm going to do a cursory scan, maybe calmly peek into a a room. Someone calls me out on it or brings it up, you answer. It's not a big thing to him, it's natural. That's what attitude is about, you don't broadcast it, it just is. It won't be perfect at first, it never is, but you work through the kinks and you make it more natural until you can get it. I do recommend preparing and post-game. But more on that in another post.

Later,

If you want me to go into this more, or wish to add to it, please comment. This blog is me trying to put my thoughts in order, and having another voice always helps - C