Larper: The Pretense

Larper: The Pretense

The larper character sheet is a playful tool for evaluating your strengths and weaknesses as a larper. In the spirit of the Storyteller system, you get to allocate 10 points to your Attributes and 33 points to your Skills. As this is a tool for self-evaluation, you should allocate the same amount of points regardless of your larp experience. In our imperfect world, the amount of points in Advantages greatly depends on your background.


Perception is your ability to understand the larp, listen to other players, and to be aware of what is going on around you. If you have a low Perception, you have a hard time understanding the big picture.

Intelligence is the capacity to make correct decisions based on perceived information. When you notice that everyone is having a terrible time, intelligence helps you understand how to improve the situation. If your Intelligence is low, you tend to make wrong calls.

Strength is your power to effect change in larp after you decide what to do. It is often about charisma, assertiveness, and leadership. If your Strength is low, you cannot improve a larp even when you know what is wrong and how to solve it.

Perception Skills

Calibration, following is your ability to notice safewords and calibration gestures, and to understand the nuance of how much the other player wants to adjust intensity.

Empathy is the ability to understand others’ feelings. Also useful between larps.

Ensemble adaptation is reading the crowd and adapting to the collectively emerging style. Playing together requires you to do this throughout the larp.

Larp mapping is the ability to understand the larp around you. How social relations work, where are the play affordances, where the plot trains stop.

Metareflection is the skill to take a deep breath between spurts of immersion and understand how the larp relates to ordinary reality.

Metatechnique initiative is the skill to detect openings for using metatechniques. Quick wit, good memory, and workshop practice are all helpful.

Plot spotting is noticing plotlines in the social fabric of the larp. After spotting a plot you can decide whether to jump in or dodge it.

Reading affordances is a skill to notice what is possible, feasible, and sensible to do in a larp. What actions will generate interesting play, which ones will be followed by the ensemble?

Self-awareness is about knowing whether you are in the comfort zone, approaching triggers, or genuinely terrified. Are you angry, hungry or horny? Makes a big difference.

Intelligence Skills

Character interpretation is the skill of turning a page of text into a fleshed-out personality with a rich and plausible inner life.

Consequence analysis comes with experience; it’s about thinking three steps ahead. If we improvise a general strike early in the larp, what will happen four hours later?

Cultural sensitivity is knowing how other players will react to female-presenting nipples or realistic stalker portrayals in their larp.

Eye for beauty in larp is finding beauty in the chaotic mess that is larp. Can you enjoy the beautiful boredom, sense the potential for a delicious failed romance?

Plot pacing often has a very high failure rate. Should I escalate or de-escalate a plot? When exactly should I break a heart? It takes two or more to tango.

Runtime larp design is helpful in making a broken larp work. As a player you have more information than the larpwright, allowing you to improve design on the fly.

Supportive play plotting is about lifting others with your play, allowing them to shine. A critical skill for players of the so-called non-player characters.

Vision alignment is the skill of internalising a creative vision and becoming a runtime instrument of the larpwright.

Winging diegetic facts requires quick creativity while staying within the established fiction. How spontaneously can you describe what your character did last week?

Strength Skills

Bravery is often overlooked, but in order to lead from the front, you have to take creative and social risks. Lead the way in being vulnerable, despicable, strong or decadent.

Calibration, leading is the counterpart of following. Knowing how to invite more intensity, and how to play around a rejected invitation.

Intensity escalation is the larp equivalent of filling up an empty dance floor with your crazy moves. Can you turn an argument into a fight, a bad mood into tragedy?

Intent telegraphing is the skill of wordlessly conveying your intent to the other player before you do a thing, in order to improve dramatic effect, agency, consent, and safety.

Nuance projection is the undervalued skill of doing less, not more; playing frustration instead of rage; pushing instead of punching; threatening with a break-up instead of breaking up.

Off-game negotiation is the art of having the awkward discussions that allow you to play difficult content. Can you assert your desires and limits while adapting to those of your partner?

Plot hogging/dodging is about getting on and off plot trains. Hogging a stray plot is a great way to salvage a larp experience.

Safewording usually happens a bit too late — when we get hurt, not before we get hurt. But even worse, we often fail to safeword at all when necessary.

Steering is the act of guiding your play based on off-character concerns. A skilled player can steer hard while portraying her character with complete consistency.

Other Fields

In Backgrounds, you can evaluate your personal history and how it impacts your larping. If you know everyone and have larped here before, things are often easier for you.

Checking one’s Privilege is important in understanding your relationship to other players. In addition to gender, race, sex and ability, you should also consider social class and cultural and linguistic privilege. Age and (conventional) beauty are also axes of privilege in larp.

Virtues are about performing to the first-person audience; how you, as a person, impact your own internal larp performance. Authenticity, for instance, is a virtue of newbies, untainted by cultural mannerisms. Openness to magic is the beautiful, naive immersion allowing adults to pretend to be Harry and Hermione.

Heittäytyminen is one’s capacity to daringly plunge into the depths of immersion.

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Markus Montola (b. 1978) is a Helsinki-based game designer, scholar, and entrepreneur, and a long-time contributor to the Nordic larp theory discussion.