19 Truths about Harassment, Missing Stairs, and Safety in Larp Communities

19 Truths about Harassment, Missing Stairs, and Safety in Larp Communities

This article presents a Series of Truths about harassment, missing stairs, and community safety that exist in larp communities around the world. Following each statement and explanation is a “Take Action” section, which provides a pledge of encouraged behavior that larpers can make to help stop harassment, abuse, and tolerating missing stairs in their communities.

To begin, let’s start with the definitions of the three concepts under discussion: harassment, missing stairs (aka broken stairs), and community safety.

Harassment: systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands based on racial prejudice, sexual objectification, advances or obscene remarks, or personal malice as an attempt to force someone to do something, to grant sexual favors, gain power, or cause someone to feel fearful or anxious. May be done in person, online, via text or email, or by proxy (by others).

In the case of larp or role-play, off-game feelings may bleed into the game, and a player may use their character, the game’s mechanics, or their friendship with the organizer or plot team to further off-game harassment in in-game situations. Example: player A is interested in player B off-game, and chooses to have player A’s character stalk, corner, and make rude advances to player B’s character during the game without player B’s consent or despite player B’s wishes.

Missing Stair (Broken Stair): A term coined in 2012 by Cliff Pervocracy that is used to describe a sexual predator who many people know cannot be trusted, but rather than shunning, they respond by trying to quietly warn others. Communities respond to a “missing stair” by worry, warning, watching, and working around, rather than taking action to “fix the stair” by removing the person from the community or scene. The term can also be used to talk about harassment and abuse in addition to predator behavior.

In the case of larp communities, a missing stair could be someone who uses their in-game or off-game power or social capital to coerce other players, especially new ones, to provide sexual favors in exchange for in- or off-game gain (similar to the concept of the Hollywood Casting Couch, whereby someone obtains a better role, plot, or esteem if they agree to give sexual favors to a person in charge). It may also be those players who troll for “new blood” on the scene, and experienced members of the scene attempt to warn those new players about the person(s) who see them as a conquest. The missing stair problem compounds as the larp scene internationalizes, is that missing stairs can move from one community to another, where no one in the new community is aware of their predatory, harassing, or abusive behavior, until someone gets hurt.

Community Safety: An umbrella term that means not only the physical safety of participants, but especially the sense of trust in fellow members of the community to behave responsibly, ethically, and consensually toward other community members. Community Safety is designed and created through community norms, conduct policies, workshops, mentoring systems, and other strategies to welcome participants, help them understand what behaviors are prohibited, tolerated, and encouraged in the community, and to regulate participant behavior when the norms or expected behaviors are breached. Community Safety is an ongoing and dynamic process among community members, organizers, and outsiders.

An example from a larp community is the creation of a Code of Conduct which explicitly bans harassment, abuse and predatory behavior, and requires mutual consent between two adults before a player-to-player interaction can occur. A player sexually assaults another player, and then is defensive when confronted about it, claiming the victim is exaggerating, or that it was an in-character interaction that wasn’t intended to be to the player. Unapologetic and unrepentant, the player is removed from the game for violating the community norms against sexual assault, obtaining consent, and learning from one’s mistakes. This action is taken to keep the community of trust for all participants and to remove the person who violates the social contract for play established in the community.

With those background definitions and examples established, here are the 19 Inconvenient and Uncomfortable Truths about Harassment, Missing Stairs, and Community Safety in our larp communities.

1. Off-game Norms Seep into Our Games

Many people don’t want to think about this radical truth. People want to believe that games are fictional realms that exist separately from the cultures that exists in society. However, games are products of culture, and are played by people who bring their beliefs and norms into them. Unless we very consciously and actively design our games and our communities against these norms, they will be a significant part of our games and communities. Even with design and community norming, the effects of outside cultural norms are still felt. In international larps, we also have people from significantly different cultures meeting and playing together in intimate spaces. We must consider these inevitabilities in our design and do more than merely accept them. Games and gaming communities need to establish their own norms, and communicate, model, and enforce them.

Take action: I pledge to be aware of how off-game norms affect my design and play, and to actively steer against off-game norms that replicate oppression.

2. Harassment Is a Problem in Geek Culture. Harassment Is a Problem in Larp Communities

We may not like to admit it, especially if we were bullied or harassed for being geeks or nerds, but inside geek culture there exists ongoing harassment. We often excuse harassing behavior as being socially awkward, and we have empathy for those who appear to simply not know how to behave toward others, particularly those they may feel attracted to. Sometimes it is a case of education. Other times the disbelief and shock and saying they are unaware is part of a strategy to continue doing harm.

In addition, people are vulnerable at larps. Strong emotions, close proximity, the presence of alcohol, and the potential lack of authoritative oversight are factors that can increase harassment.

Take Action: I pledge to not harass others, to report harassment whenever I see it, and to stand up for those who have been harassed.

3. We Live in a Culture of Toxic Masculinity, Toxic Masculinity and Female Socialization Makes This More Difficult

Men are typically socialized in ways that make it difficult for them to understand that their own behavior may be problematic to others. Toxic masculinity requires that they defend themselves and not appear weak. It may also make it more difficult for them to speak up on behalf of women or victims of abusers, because of fear of losing credibility with their peers, who are also performing masculinity. Many men are taught that displays of dominance, aggression, and overt sexuality are appropriate displays of their virility, maleness, and desirability.

Asking men to examine or change those behaviors can be difficult and painful, particularly since doing so may play directly into a toxic narrative that they are no longer displaying strong, heroic, autonomous male-defined behavior. For many of us who are not prisoners of toxic masculinity, the call to speak up or to adjust behavior seems simple, but we need to recognize that these decisions are fraught within the performance of masculinity and that making these changes requires courage and comes at a cost. Until the masculine code itself is changed or thrown off, applauding the efforts of men who make changes and speak up will help them gain credibility that they may lose among male peers as well as encourage them to support calls to change behavior.

Women are also often socialized not to show sexual desire, or are slutshamed if they do. Therefore, they may be taught to say no, which encourages men to read no’s as yes’s. At the same time, a woman is also typically conditioned not to say no outright, because of pressure to let men down easy or not reject them harshly. This confusing language sends mixed signals and contributes to miscommunication as well as harassment and assault. Clear communication about consent helps break down this system, but that must be taught, modeled, expected, and enforced in communities.

I pledge to be aware of how men and women are socialized, and how these performances of gender can contribute to harassment and abuse. I pledge to resist toxic culture whenever I can.

4. Organizers Are Sometimes Complicit in the Harassment, Either Overtly or Covertly

Some organizers simply do not have the time nor the training to deal with the issues of harassment complaints. Many do not want to get in the middle of player disputes, and many feel both overwhelmed and ineffectual in dealing with the situations. Rather than getting embroiled in “drama” or trying to arbitrate a “he said/she said” dispute, many organizers simply fall back on involving the law as the only option. If a player feels they were wronged, then they are told to go to the police for recourse. However, going to the police can be incredibly difficult to do and may reinforce the trauma and contribute to victim blaming. Not only is going to the police the wrong option for many, it also is a convenient abdication for the organizers.

Larps are private functions and the organizers of those functions have not only the right but the duty to “police” their own function by setting the norms and expecting their guests to follow them. Many behaviors that are wrong, uncomfortable, and harassing may not rise to the level of criminal harassment, nor should an organizer attempt to make the hard choice of going through a formal criminal complaint for someone else. Furthermore, we only contribute to an overly legalistic and litigious society if the only recourse is to involve the police.

Take Action: As an organizer, I pledge my commitment against harassment and abuse in my communities, to learn how to deal with it effectively, and to actively implement policies to prevent it and address it.

Take Action: As a player, I will hold larp organizers responsible for dealing with issues of harassment and abuse in their communities.

5. The Composition of an Organizer Team Matters

Who is on the organizer team of your larp always matters, but the team composition has particular relevance in matters of community safety. If an organizer is known to have crossed boundaries before, used their position of power to gain sexual attention or favors, or harbored or turned a blind eye when players or friends have displayed abusive or harassing behaviors, then a member of your community will not feel able to come forward to the organizers on these matters. If your organizing team is composed entirely of men, people of all genders may not feel comfortable reporting abuse and assault. This sad fact isn’t a personal impression of specific men, but relates to social norms, gender performance, and toxic masculinity.

At the same time, women should not be responsible for handling all “emotional” or “safety” issues that arise. The responsibility for safety should be shared among all organizers and community members. We should not delegate safety to one person, least of all a woman who can then be “thrown under the bus” for speaking out about safety while the men gather and state that “those women” have to be placated, so simply do this for now, and then let’s continue as before. Ideally, an organizer team and/or safety committee will have a cross-section of different genders, sexualities, races, religions, classes, etc. Special attention should be paid to how these intersectionalities affect both the incidences of reporting and the responses.

Take Action: As an organizer, I pledge to be sensitive to the composition of the organizer team, and to strive for diversity among the leaders of the larp community. I pledge to hold other members of the organizer team accountable for their behavior. I pledge not to collaborate with organizers who use their power to harass or abuse others, or who continue to tolerate abusers and harassers in their communities.

Take Action: As a player, I pledge to hold organizer teams accountable for a lack of diversity and for a lack of designated safety policies, mechanics, and committees.

6. Some Games Lead Themselves to Harassment More Easily, by Design

Games with mechanics like seduction, presence, or power can incentivize harassing behaviors that may cross the line from consent by the character to unwanted advances by the player. Games without Codes of Conduct, safety mechanics, or that have a culture of hard core (in which speaking up about feelings, harassment, or individual needs can be frowned upon) can also be more accessible to predatory or harassing behavior. Furthermore, larps that allow alcohol during the event or after-party have increased risks. Many studies have shown a correlation between the presence of alcohol and increased sexual harassment and assault for both psychological and pharmacological reasons. Organizers or players in games like these should be aware of the greater risk and consider taking steps to mitigate it.

Take Action: I pledge to be more aware and considerate of how a game’s design may encourage harassment and abuse and to steer away from those behaviors even if they are incentivized in the game.

7. Predators Use the Alibi of Roleplay to Do Harm

The alibi of roleplay separates a player from a character, and sets up a social contract whereby two or more characters may interact consensually through acting or roleplay. It is understood that the feelings, behaviors, vocal accent, affectations, etc. are not “real” but are being portrayed as character performance. Predators, however, see alibi as a legitimized way to push and breech boundaries, being able to claim afterward that it was simply in the course of roleplay. Whether roleplaying or not, if a person does something repeatedly and nonconsensually that makes another person uncomfortable or in danger, that is harassment or assault. When someone approached about their behavior uses the alibi of roleplay as an alibi for their behavior, it is cause for concern. People who are not trying to harm others tend to be reflective, upset, and apologetic if they are confronted about having done something that another person disliked enough to report. These same traits are seldom demonstrated by those who either have intentional motives, or who realize they have been caught. These people tend to deflect, defend, re-accuse the victim, split hairs, display shock and outrage at having been suspected, and to fall back on the alibi of roleplay: “that wasn’t me, that was my character.”

Take Action: I pledge not to use my character to cause another player to feel off-game uncomfortable.

8. False Reports Are Very Very Rare

Several studies of false accusations to reporting agencies have shown the percentage of false accusations to be 7% or less. Think about that for a moment: 93% or more of accusations are in fact founded. Not only does the law require giving the benefit of the doubt to the accuser in each case, but the evidence backs up the fact that the vast majority of people do not make false allegations.

A fear of false allegations is perpetuated by those who want to keep decision makers so worried about making the mistake of sanctioning an innocent person that they take no action at all when facts may be disputed. In addition, the rhetoric behind false accusations is a classic blame-shifting technique, to garner empathy for the accused and to distract the focus of an investigation or conversation. Furthermore, the accused may also attempt to create solidarity with a false “what if” scenario? It goes like this: “Hey, you’re a person who is like me. You’re (tall, white, handsome, charismatic, a good roleplayer, etc.). This situation of a false accusation and being treated poorly by the organizers can just as easily happen to you. This community is unsafe for people like us.” Once again, this is a tactic to distract from the issue at hand: that the community is unsafe for others who have come forward with accusations, and to make the “real” or “true” victim those who have been falsely accused and have been aggrieved by the organizers’ actions to remedy it. Because the fear of false accusations can be very real, especially the more it is repeated, a predator can tend to garner some measure of support from others by using this tactic.

Take Action: I pledge to believe people who come forward with stories of being harassed or abused. I pledge to give the benefit of the doubt to the victim and to act in good faith on their report.

9. Fear of Reporting and Fear of Reprisal Are Real

women on a staircase

Stairs by Seniju on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

It is very difficult to report harassment or assault. There is tremendous social pressure not to do so, especially in insular communities such as larp groups, or even geek culture as a whole. Many vulnerable players do not want to “rock the boat” or “cause problems.” Some blame themselves when they have been victimized. Some are afraid of being made fun of for appearing weak, or not able to handle it themselves. Many fear that they will be the target of gossip, or be ostracized by the organizers or other members of the community. In some cases, especially if the person they are accusing is someone with a great deal of social capital, they are afraid of blowback or further harassment. Studies have shown that the way people react to someone who comes forward with reports of abuse or harassment has an impact on their recovery from the trauma.

Some people with a history of harassment are also known to retaliate against those who speak up against them or those who support the person or people who came forward. That retaliation can be during the game, on social media, in off-game social interactions, or a combination. Some game organizers or storytellers have been known to actively punish people they dislike by keeping plot from them, sending negative plot after them, or adjudicating against their character, sometimes even to the point of killing a character. It is difficult to speak up. Believe and support those who do and have empathy for those who have not because they made a calculation that it was not worth the likely hits to their safety, sanity, or social circles.

Take Action: I pledge to support those who wish to report abuse or harassment, and to actively resist those who would attempt to retaliate against them.

10. Your Experience Is Not Everyone’s Experience

If your only interactions with the accused have been positive, or at least not-problematic, learning of an accusation or action taken against that person will cause you to experience cognitive dissonance. Your own experience doesn’t match up to the reports of another person’s experience. You may feel incredulous, in shock, or even betrayed. You may find it especially difficult to process or believe that:

  1. Your opinion of the accused could be wrong or in need of revision;
  2. The accused could be multi-faceted and display one type of behavior to one person and a different type to another;
  3. That you could have misjudged the accused’s character, or
  4. That you could have been, or continue to be in danger.

People tend to defend their own experience, and to want to believe any plausible explanation other than that they may be wrong. It is somehow far easier to believe that until-now reasonable organizers have suddenly become overzealous and discriminatory than to believe that they made a necessary decision based on credible information. Steadfastly holding to your own preconception and blaming the organizers or the victims relieves the cognitive dissonance but does not require reflection, examination, or trust. Accepting that you may have made an error of judgment is not only difficult, but requires further action to relieve the feeling of betrayal and hurt. It is far easier for someone to believe your personal experience than the experience of another, and far easier for you to dismiss experiences that do not negatively affect you, especially if that gives you a net positive gain from the accused or from the community.

When you hold your own experience as more “true” or “real” than those who have come forward with reports, it continues to harm those who were already harmed. By insisting that your experience is the only possible one, you discount or negate the victim’s experience, and contribute to their fears of reprisal and the exaggerations of false allegations.

Take Action: I pledge to accept that my personal experience is not universal, and to understand and accept another’s experience as true and valid, even if it contradicts my own experience.

11. There Is Some Information You Will Never Know

Much to an organizer’s dismay, the information they will have to act on will likely be imperfect. This is the same as in workplace harassment situations, which dictate that in cases of confusion, one must believe the accuser and act upon that information. Organizers should consider the reports they receive, corroborate them with other evidence from other players, from feedback surveys, from facts in the report, from their own conversation with the accused, from their own knowledge of and history with the accuser and accused, and their general experience dealing with these situations. They may consult with others for advice, and rely on policies in place, but the decision is ultimately that of the organizer(s). Unless it is a situation where an organizer witnessed something first-hand, the wish for more information will always be present, since the desire to make the right call is so strong.

Players or potential players of the larp who learn about an action taken against someone, are likely going to want more information than the organizer can or will provide. You will have a strong desire to know for sure, in order to both deal with your own cognitive dissonance but also to make a judgement about the organizers’ actions. Players must accept that they will not likely get the information they seek, due to privacy concerns for the accused, but especially due to confidentiality for those making the reports. Organizers have both a legal and a moral responsibility to maintain confidentiality, since those who made a report can become the target of ostracization or retaliation.

Take Action: I pledge to protect the privacy of those who have come forward with stories of abuse or harassment and not to engage in public speculation that may compromise the victim’s safety or well-being.

12. There Is No Burden of Proof Required

A larp organizer is not a judge or an attorney. Bringing forward a report of harassment, abuse, or assault does not mean that the accusation must be “proven” “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A larp organizer is the host of a private function, and can remove anyone at any time for any reason. In many places, a staff member of a larp is employed or volunteers at-will, meaning they may be fired or removed at the discretion of the organization, who does not have to provide a reason. Victims should not fall into the trap of feeling that since something cannot be proven without a reasonable doubt, they should not bother to come forward. Likewise, organizers should not feel that because something can never be determined with absolute certainty they should take no action at all. The existence of another possible explanation does not make the action taken by the organizers wrong. As an organizer, it is easy to become paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, or the worry about the fallout your action will have on the community.  Abusers and predators will try to call for the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt as a way to deflect the focus from themselves and create the paralyzing or contentious situations that they can exploit.

Take Action: I pledge to accept decisions that are made by organizers and not to contribute to a culture of victim blaming or inaction by demanding irrefutable proof of allegations.

13. Some People Cannot Be Reformed

We all want to believe in the human capacity for change. We all want to believe that someone who does harm would change if they could. It is much easier for us to rationalize harassing and abusive behavior to think that the person simply needed to understand or be given an opportunity to grow and do better. In addition, many of us in the gaming or larping communities were made fun of, ostracized, or bullied in our youth or in our daily lives, and we do not want to do that to another. This creates a Geek Fallacy: that to be inclusive you must include everyone, even those whose behavior is ongoing and harmful. This is patently false.

Inclusivity does not mean harming the community for the sake of including a single person, or a small group. Consider this: we would feel less shame in removing someone who punched another or who stole from the community than we would removing someone who has engaged in stalking, verbal harassment, inappropriate touching, or repeated intimidation. Some of these missing stairs have years, even two decades of reports against them. That confluence of information is important. If these behaviors have lasted this long, and continue to be reported, that is strong evidence of an unwillingness or inability to be reformed. Multiple reports about the same person over time creates a pattern of behavior that is a red flag to be addressed.

Take Action: I pledge to recognize when a person does not want to, or is not able to change their behavior, to set a hard boundary of acceptable behavior, and to take action to remove them from the group when that standard is not met.

14. The Right of the Community to Be Unharmed Outweighs the Right of One Person to Play

No one wants to ban someone. No one wants to believe that a person they have known and maybe even trusted is harmful. Everyone wants to give second and third and fourth chances. Everyone hopes that the person has finally learned their lesson. However, we can easily fall into a trap of appeasement, giving more concessions to the predator or abuser in order to keep them from doing more harm. The problem with appeasement, as nations in Europe learned leading to World War II as one example, is that the person (or nation) being appeased gains more and more power, and those appeasing lose theirs. In addition, the longer a behavior goes on, the more normalized it gets, and the harder it is to change.

Ultimately, you have to decide who is more important: the one person whom a lot of people may like, who may be a great role player, who may be an integral part of the group, or those who have been harmed by that one person in the past, along with all those who are at risk for further harm by this person’s continued presence. Removing a person is hard. Letting them stay to harm others continues to enable them, devalues others, and makes you complicit in the future harm.

Take Action: I pledge to value the safety of the community over an individual who has done harm.

15. Lip Service Is Not Enough

Saying you are going to do something is not the same as doing something. Listening to and even hearing the complaints of others is a step, but it leaves the problem in place. Policies which clearly state that this larp community will not tolerate sexual harassment are not enough if the organizers do not enforce those policies. Applying policies variably if someone has more social capital is also a form of lip service. Furthermore, it is far too easy for organizers and community members to excuse problematic behavior as merely a product of culture. Larp communities must state the behavior expected, make it known that participants are responsible for complying, and then act if those expected behaviors are ignored. The excuse that they didn’t understand the local culture needs to stop. The culture needs to be defined, communicated, expected, and regulated.

Take Action: I pledge to set the behavior standard, model and teach it to community members, to hold everyone in the community accountable for meeting the expected behaviors, and to take meaningful action when the standards are violated.

16. Missing Stairs Resist Fixing and Have Supporters

a woman climbing a staircase

Photo by darkday on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

The way someone has become a missing or broken stair is by being very, very good at diverting attention from the need to have the stair fixed (e.g. have action, especially banning, taken against them). When confronted with an allegation or concern, the missing stair often responds by giving something to the community — a prop, scene, volunteer time, or duty. This is a way to distract from the concern you have brought forward, attempt to ostensibly make amends, but it does not actually address the behaviors you raised. It sets up a false equivalence whereby they make themselves even more entrenched and valued in the community, social capital they will call on should you take action regarding allegations or concerns . Missing Stairs not only choose victims, they also choose allies to defend them staunchly when accused. They tend to be polarizing figures whom people either love or hate, depending on what behavior of theirs you have encountered and what role you play in their narrative.

When you remove a broken stair, your community will suffer initially. There will be shock and outrage. There may be some defectors, who find it easier to believe that the organizers have lost their minds than that their friend is in any way culpable. People may form splinter groups, and discuss on backchannels. It is important to the Missing Stair that they appear to have been unfairly attacked, so that they may marshal their armies of defenders.

Take Action: I pledge my strength, solidarity, and support to the organizers and community when an action must be taken against a person who has harassed or abused a community member.

17. By Taking Action, You Will Become a Target

It is critical to the narrative of a missing stair that they are blameless, and the target of persecution. They will almost always state that they would have been happy to have changed their behavior if they had only known. They may try to state that they were never informed of wrongdoing, knowing that the organizers will not be able to give proof as they are protecting the privacy of those who came forward. They will complain that the decisionmakers were too harsh, they will state that the community is actually not safe for cis/het/white/males or some combination. They may call you a feminazi. They may tell others not to go to your games because you are aggressive and overzealous in your harassment policy. They will cite their own awesomeness as proof of your persecution. They will position you as hurting the community and position themselves as defenders of it. They will seek attention for the pain you have caused them. They may make accusations about you personally, or claim that you harassed them with your decision. They may make a public spectacle on social media. They may cost you players, money, and mental health. It is their goal to make this so difficult that you will wish you hadn’t taken the decision and that maybe others would think twice before doing so in the future.

Take Action: I will support organizers who have taken tough action against predators to keep their communities safe. I will stand up for them against persecution and retaliation.

18. The Charismatic Predators Are the Hardest Ones

They are very, very good at what they do. They are also very good at roleplaying. These things go hand-in-hand. They groom supporters. They make people feel special. They put themselves at the core of many scenes and draw attention to themselves. They show everyone how concerned they are about others. They may even stand up for others in a public demonstration of their graciousness. Then, the choose their targets, those who are vulnerable, or new, or don’t have a strong support system, or lack confidence, or are overly tired, or whom they have given a lot of alcohol. And those people see a different side. A charismatic predator can quickly switch from magnanimous to abrasive, from encouraging to abusive, from safe to unsafe, from protecting boundaries to aggressively crossing them, from being a friend to using their power for their own gain, from building someone up to tearing them down, from friendly to shaming and manipulative, from consensual to coercive. If a person who has been victimized by a charismatic predator’s abusive side then speaks up about it, their story and personal experience will be counter to so many others’ experiences that they will be often be discredited. It’s insidious. And it is very real. Nonetheless, no matter how charismatic, handsome, popular, or great at roleplay a person is, no one has the right to buy themselves access to victims for predatory behavior, abuse, harassment, or assault.

Take Action: I pledge to pay attention to the inconsistent and manipulative behaviors that charismatic predators display, and to recognize that wildly different reports of a person’s behavior among a group is a sign of something wrong.

19. This Isn’t over, It Is a Recurrent Ongoing Problem

I am disheartened that I continue to hear stories from people within geek communities around the world who share these problems. It isn’t one community, it isn’t one type of geek, it isn’t a particular region or country. It’s everywhere. Geek culture is rife with it. It may be because the norms inside of geek culture strive to be inclusive. Acceptable behavior tends to be a wider spectrum, and while that can be liberating, it can also open avenues for predation and abuse.  Whatever the reason for it, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room: harassment, abuse, and missing stairs are a problem in larp communities and the large geek culture.

Take Action: I pledge to continue to work to make our communities safe from predators and abusers, and to support others who are committed to this goal.

This is a real problem. There is no easy solution. There is no single solution. But there are solutions. First we have to acknowledge the problem and commit to working together to fix it. Let’s take that first step, and then talk about solutions. And then not just talk. But do it. The follow-up article to this piece will contain some suggested things to look for and actions to take.

Each larp community is different and will take a localized approach to this problem. This is encouraged! But the baseline that predators should not be given harbor in a larp community must remain if we value the safety and trust of our players, and wish to open our communities to more diverse participants.

a spiral staircase with lights hanging down

Heal’s Spiral Staircase by Matt Brown. CC BY 2.0.


© 2017 by Maury Brown. All rights reserved. Contact author for permission to use or translate. Sharing this post is, of course, permitted.

Cover photo: Layers by Arden on Flickr. Photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.


Maury Brown
Maury Brown is the co-founder of Learn Larp, LLC, a games design and educational consulting company. Brown co-designs the wizard college Nordic larp New World Magischola in the United States.
  • Maille Rabe

    Thank you for this. It is coming at a particularly timely, if difficult, point for me. I can only hope that my community will listen to your advice.

  • I think this is the most salient point of this article;

    “A larp organizer is the host of a private function, and can remove anyone at any time for any reason.”

    They are, in fact, potentially liable in places like the USA for the actions of their guests. It whooped them to implement a code of conduct. What was not addressed, is that this behavior is not limited to gender normative roles and is compounded by the use of alcohol or other drugs. Bottom line, if someone’s behavior in or out of game is objectionable – they must be removed.

  • Mark Wilkin

    Thanks for this, it’s a good solid article and I can think of examples I’ve seen or been told about by people directly affected to back up almost every point you make in the UK scene. Thank you for speaking out.

%d bloggers like this: