Monday, July 8, 2013


Something I was told repeatedly during my Counseling training: you and your client(s) are in a relationship. The Counselor is there to be there for the client and the client is there to seek a guide in the Counselor. This isn't, however, a given thing. It has to be built up, it has to be cultivated. The first few sessions are used to build up rapport and understanding of both the mechanical aspects as well as making it a place where both are comfortable. Ultimately, this is leads to one major component in therapy: Trust.

You can't effectively work in therapy without trusting someone. If the patient doesn't trust the counselor, there is no transition. If the counselor doesn't trust the patient, there is no transition. Trust is a key factor, without it, you're just two people sitting there wasting time.

This, unsurprisingly, brings me to LARPing.

I think it's safe to say at this point that I value Role Play as a tool to explore, hypothesize and otherwise mess with emotions. What can I say? I liked Gestalt in undergrad. This is my core as being a Storyteller, to explore the emotions behind these characters, to challenge them as much as the players who portray them. I've made my stance very clear to my players and, well, everyone within earshot of this blog. I also take my role as storyteller in the same vein as being a counselor, I am there for players the same way I am for clients which brings me back to my point.

There needs to be trust.

I've run in to players, both as a storyteller and as a player, whose styles clash with my own and the people I tend to work with. This often isn't a problem, it happens. It does tend to cause a problem when those styles lead to a conflict of methodology. Mostly I do tend to break it down from the Game/Narrative/Simulation Model. My Narrativist leanings clashing from those trying to represent the genre better or trying to win. This is fine, as long as there is trust.

But what if there isn't?

What happens when players don't trust each other isn't pretty. Their character's dramas take on subtext, which leads to acts of metagaming, using your knowledge of the other players behavior instead of your characters knowledge of their characters. Our last Requiem Chronicle died at the end because People. Did Not. Trust Each Other.  And it died, and people left, and in many ways we're still feeling the wake  of it nearly six months later. This spins the other way around. I've seen Storytellers clamp down on all approvals and on all of their players actions because they just didn't trust them or were afraid of losing control of their venue. Those games, quite frankly, sucked.

To be perfectly honest, I have trust issues. I was never good in those group exercises when you've fallen backwards to let someone catch you. I've had far too many experiences where people didn't just to have a laugh. I try, very hard, to trust people, or at the very least put faith that my players are there for the same reasons I am. At the very least, I would wish to meet people half way.

But trust is a two way street. So, what do we do when parties don't or can't make the best of it? It's a difficult choice when you're in a Larp Club where the Storytellers have year-to-two year-runs and there is no real recourse. I've personally stopped going to games where I've just not trusted the Storyteller to do right by me or the venue. I've seen players leave my games because they don't trust me to support their needs.

So what can be done?

So here are my top suggestions for creating a better LARPing experience through trust:

BE HONEST . Don't worry about what other people want to hear, be honest to those around you and those you're working with what you want in a gaming experience. I'd rather have an honest asshole munchkining about than someone who is telling me one thing and doing the exact opposite. Don't tell me something if you're worried I'm going to judge you or punish you in game.We're all having fun pretendy times with invisible people, the point of judgment and the need to be popular died very quickly. So be honest with what you want out of the process.

BE OPEN. In short, we are not alone in this thing. I play games that range from dozens to hundreds of players. I've honestly seen people treat this game as their private playground with everyone else there visiting. We're all in this together and this is much, in everyway, a group experience. Understand that your ways are not others and accept them, possibly integrating and bridging your styles together to get the best bang for your buck. Which leads me to...

COMPROMISES HAPPEN. There is a wish fulfillment aspect to LARPing, but one that is based on rules and governed. Again, this comes from the fact that there are other people coming into this game with different goals, both as players and storytellers. A lot of people feel that some of their storytellers are geared to say no. I'm geared to say no only if I really don't think it's appropriate for this time, but I tend to err on the "if you want to go for this Merit/Power/Spec/Whatever, we can build up to it." Usually, it works, sometimes it doesn't.

TALK. No one can know anything if nothing is said. I've seen people (and been people) who have stewed over something and let it fester but not once voice an opinion. This is problematic and stupid. Talking is also paradoxical in it's approach. You need to communicate to build trust, but you also need to trust that your communications will be heard. I've been in situations like that too, and ultimately my major suggestion to build that is to say this: if it's something you feel NEEDS addressing, it SHOULD be addressed. Even if you're not the one usually to initiate discourse, someone has got to start it somewhere.

KNOW WHEN IT'S JUST NOT WORKING OUT. Honestly, sometimes it does not work out and someone has got to back out of the relationship. Unfortunately for the staff, they are there until their terms are up, making it more or less a consideration "easier" for the players. Of course, I've also come across votes of No Confidence and otherwise disregarding of the Storyteller by players. In the end, it screws the game. Be the better man, terms come and go. If you're a Storyteller who feels that their stepping down is the appropriate action, do so promptly, honestly and help the person replacing you to transition into the position.

To close off, I'm going to tell an anecdote. This past weekend (July 5th-9th 2013) was DexCon. During that, my friends at Dystopia Rising did a module. That module was inspired primarily by the Stanford Prison Experiment. I'm not going to go into the details, Google It. I will say that this: I wish I could have gone. Not just because I wanted to see how they'd do it, but because I know the game runners. I trust them to take me to the dark places but to also respect my rights as a player and a person.

If that isn't trust, I don't know what is.



  1. You and I really, really should talk.

    I've been looking for a gamer with a counseling or psychology background to collaborate on a book with. The topic is alchemical gaming: how to use role-playing games for personal transformation (of whatever type the person finds compelling). I have a skeleton, but it needs to be filled in with clinically sound information.

    1. sure thing, you've got my facebook info and my gmail contact from here

  2. Jason: contact Sarah Lynn Bowman. She's a LARPer..and her dissertation was "The Functions of Role-playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems, and Explore Identity."

    1. Sarah really is the go-to person on this subject. And she's also made of awesome