Badass Larp Talk #8: Ten Tiny Tips to Keep Old Larpers Young!

There’s a term that a good friend of mine uses – “larp fatigue.” It’s the feeling that can set in when you’ve been playing the same game for years, whether it’s a weekend boffer game or a parlor larp at a friend’s place. Those veterans in the audience know what I’m talking about – it’s the point when you realize you don’t know half the characters around you (and aren’t as interested in finding out about them as you used to be), when you see dread enemies lay waste to scores of people and think “well, that’s going to be a mess on the forums later”, when you start grouching about how things used to be in the good old days of the game, etc. A lot of the time it passes on its own if you just rally a bit and immerse yourself back in the game, but sometimes you might need a bit more of a push to chase away the dark clouds.

So with that in mind, here are a few tips for veterans who want to fight off “larp fatigue” and stay invested in the game. As always, of course, nothing about these rules is set in stone, especially if your character has a particular IC reason to be a certain way. (For example, #7 might not be as relevant if for some reason your character is not prone to big displays of emotion for IC reasons.) But in general, hopefully these  tips will help inspire you veterans to fight off fatigue and apathy and come to fall in love with your games all over again. Because good games really are worth the effort. Here goes:

10) Don’t cut corners. New players often learn their bad habits by watching older players who slack off. If you don’t care, neither will they. If you want the game to stay strong, help lead by example.

9) Learn people’s names. It’s a little thing to you, but it can be huge for a new player when a veteran knows who they are. When you stop bothering to learn names, it’s often a big sign of fatigue.

8) Characters often organize into IC cliques. There’s nothing wrong with gaming with your friends – that’s why many of us do it! – but make sure you socialize outside your crew sometimes too.

7) Energy is contagious. Make sure you communicate fear and joy, pride and loss, as much as possible. Other people pick up on it … and it is also a big middle finger to game fatigue.

6) Take breaks now and then, whether it means playing an alt, volunteering to NPC for a bit, or even taking a game or two off. This is especially true if playing starts to feel like a chore.

5) Resist cynicism and mockery if the game seems to be changing OOC in ways you don’t like. Try to be constructive instead – volunteer, offer to help, give advice to new players, etc.

4) Get to know people outside of game, even if it’s just a diner trip after a session or the occasional forum post. Larps are communities, and knowing everyone helps keep you invested.

3) Set three goals – a short term goal for each session, a long term goal for a season or so, and a challenge goal that will be very difficult to achieve. Goals keep things fresh and characters busy.

2) Keep the old stories alive. Tales of battles won, friends lost and challenges overcome give a game history and depth, and make people really feel they’re part of an ongoing story.

1) Forget the “game” and embrace the story. It can be hard to see your 100th fight is as scary and intense as your first, but when you give up even trying, none of them ever will be again.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep my sweets.
And there are always new paths to find.

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Badass LARP Talk is a semi-regular advice series for gamers who enjoy being other people as a hobby. Like what you read? Click on the BLT or Badass LARP Talk tag on this entry to find others in the series, follow me on Twitter @WriterPete, or subscribe to the blog for future updates! 

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13 responses

  1. Amen! I feel this is especially important around five, seven, and ten-year marks. Usually (but not always) if a person has been LARPing for over a decade, they’ve done and seen it all. This is a great set of tips to help “older adventurers” out and yet can be applied to the modern games, too. Thank you for writing this. 🙂

    April 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    • It was my pleasure. I was talking with some friends about how some people seem to get tired of games while others don’t, and after swapping some stories back and forth it got to the point of “hey, shouldn’t someone write this down” and voila!

      April 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm

  2. John M

    great advice, whenever I come back from a break in game or join a new group, I always as the ST what clan they are short in. sometimes it is something I have not played before or in a long time. This helps the Game and keeps ideas fresh. Also an idea I have been doing for the last 15 years of LARP, pick a clan and make a twist. things done, an honest Ventrue, a Bruha who rants about all the stupid rants his clan makes, A human rights activist Assimite, A Doctor Who fanatic Rav. the list goes on.

    April 16, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    • Yeah, I’m a big favorite of waiting until my game or my group is nearly full and seeing what the group still needs, and going with that. It’s also a way to keep my raging alt-itis under control, as otherwise I tend to create thirty concepts and have trouble deciding. 🙂

      April 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm

  3. Scotty N

    That was very helpful – I’m just going back to a LARP after a two year hiatus. After playing for over 2 decades, fatigue has definitely set in. I particularly like #3 and I’m going to put it to good use.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:49 am

    • I know how you feel. After I left the first boffer larp I ever played, I didn’t do another boffer larp for two years, and coming to the new game I had to keep reminding myself not to bring over my habits and prejudices from the old game, to try to treat it as something entirely new. It was definitely a test!

      April 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm

  4. Great tips, Peter. I specially like number 2 and use it very often on Vampire LARP. Making your story while you’re playing is just great, because you get to relate with other characters and so the story told is like a web, where everyone gets to relate with each other because of those stories and interactions.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    • Thanks! I do enjoy leaving large spaces in my backstory, because it inevitably comes in handy when events happen in game and I want to have a more personal connection.

      April 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm

  5. For the longest time I’ve been calling Larp Fatigue “Cammui”, because you see the old school highly invested players burn out and just get tired of shit by the end of it. I’ve also seen players cut corners and set bad examples to other players, killing the mood of the overall game and very nearly the game itself.

    Sweet post, Pete!

    April 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    • I know what you mean – games often snowball that way, as older players are annoyed by the habits of newer players, so they start slacking off/cutting corners, which causes the newer players to think that’s acceptable, which in turn leads to more cynicism and “I remember when this game was cool” thinking, until the game is really straining under all the negativity. Also, I have to say, “Cammui” is one of the best words I’ve heard in a long time. Consider that stolen. 😉

      April 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm

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  8. Andrea Vasilescu

    I think that I ought to keep some of these in mind for when I finally get the opportunity to return to game. Life’s been getting in the way in a more practical manner, but denying the role fatigue and anxiety play would be rather silly. I’ve been struggling with LARP fatigue for a while, and I know a lot of that reinforces itself (have trouble mustering the energy to connect –> appear standoffish –> connect less frequently or less deeply –> feel more fatigued –> have more trouble mustering the energy to connect). The more fatigued I’ve felt, the more isolated and directionless Dusty’s felt. Thanks for a concrete suggestion or two that I hadn’t considered yet to fix the hell out of that 🙂

    July 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

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