How to Play an Erotic Larp

How to Play an Erotic Larp

His tongue slid slowly up his stepbrother’s neck. “I don’t understand why I’m doing this… It is like there is something wrong with this place.” There was a small pause in his movements and a scared look in his eyes as he stared longingly at his stepbrother’s body. Then he continued almost like something was forcing him…

From the webpage of House of Craving (2019), a larp by Tor Kjetil Edland, Danny Meyer Wilson & Bjarke Pedersen.

Do you also enjoy reading an erotic passage in a novel or watching an erotic scene in a movie? Do you like this tingling sense of excitement? Wouldn’t you find it interesting to feel a bit of it in a larp as well?

Do you also tend to chicken out of possible erotic scenes like many of us used to do? Or do you want to try a larp with erotic elements for the first time but are hesitant about it? We wrote this piece for you.

In Wikipedia eroticism is defined as “a quality that causes sexual feelings as well as a philosophical contemplation concerning the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality, and romantic love.” In this text, we will use erotic larp as a term for larps that include any elements of eroticism (as defined by Wikipedia) in their design, no matter the extent erotic elements are occurring and no matter if these elements are optional and depend on participant agency or if they are an inherent part of the larp.

Playing on eroticism and desire in larps has become more and more popular within the international larp community in recent years. Such larps seem to bear an increased risk of generating larp regrets and of making participants everything from nervous up to really worried about the potential scenes lying ahead, Here’s how you can make an erotic larp work for you — although this doesn’t replace participating in workshops that are part of the larp design:

Feeling Accepted, Attractive and Desired

There is a lot of research on how representation of bodies in media influences people’s selfevaluation. Advertisements, movies and social media dictate their own idea of what a beautiful, erotic body looks like and the proportion of people who are dissatisfied with their body image or even feel inadequate is far from negligible. There are many larpers who are insecure about their body, about their level of attractiveness, about being accepted, and about whether others would want to play an erotic scene with them.

Feeling comfortable with yourself and your co-participants is key and this is definitely something that can be improved before the game.Get clarity in order to stop worrying! Take initiative and tell people if you want to play erotic scenes with them. Ask if they want to play with you and on what level.

You are probably thinking, but what if I get no for an answer? That will not help me feel accepted and more secure about myself. But the possibility of rejection is a necessary factor of reaching out to other people, and we can try to not make it into anything bigger than it is. Knowing is always better than worrying and then you can both let that be no big deal and play some other content together.

Here are a few tips for how you can help yourself feel like a protagonist in an erotic story:

  • Prioritize having a costume you feel beautiful in. Clothes you feel well in help you ease into play.
  • If possible, agree in advance to play a few scenes with someone you feel safe playing erotic content with and who you don’t have anxieties about. This can ease you into play with strangers later in the larp.
  • Seek out play with someone you find attractive at some level but are not obsessing about in order to get the right type of tension.
  • When you sense someone else’s attraction to you try to take it in and let it make you feel beautiful instead of dismissing it or immediately worrying about what responsibility you have for following up.

Knowing and Stating Boundaries

Before arriving at an erotic larp, take your time to think about what you may not feel comfortable with. Imagine what kind of scenes could happen at this larp. Are there activities you do not want to take part in? Is, for example, being naked an issue? Or giving somebody a French kiss?

Once you have identified the things that make you uncomfortable, find out if those are absolutely unacceptable for you and if yes, avoid those in the larp and communicate your boundaries to your co-participants in advance. Also, never hesitate to state your boundaries during a larp. Boundaries might change due to your mood, who you are playing a particular scene with or just by chance.

Everybody playing with you will be thankful if you use safety-mechanics and state boundaries. Something many larpers dread is to be told after the larp that they made someone uncomfortable because they failed to pick up on a boundary.

Often people larp because they want to test or push their boundaries. If that is the case with you, take it slow and try to come-up with a stepby- step approach. If being naked is a boundary you want to push, do not force yourself to immediately undress completely but prepare a costume that can be removed piece by piece. Or maybe you decide to just go with nice underwear which will stay on you and the next larp will be when you jump naked into the pool.

Boundaries can also open during a larp. Chemistry with co-participants can make this process very dynamic and it might be a good idea to reassess your boundaries and wishes during the larp to avoid regrets.

Pacing Your Erotic Play

Sometimes in erotic larps things are rushed. Most erotic larps include simulated sex scenes but if you jump into a sex scene with your erotic relation after two hours into playing, what are you going to do for the rest of the larp?

Compare it to movies and ask yourself — do I want this to be a porn movie or do I want it to be an erotic movie? Sex scenes in erotic movies are deliberately placed within a dramatic arc. They can fuel suspension and contribute to the atmosphere. They can be a tool to make a story complete but they alone do not make a good story.

Furthermore, do not forget that there might be other elements in the larp besides your erotic storyline. Too much eroticism might get boring over time so focusing on a good mix of things keeps the larp interesting.

If you prefer transparency you can talk with your potential erotic-relation-partners about pacing. Otherwise just try to pace the game yourself. It can increase the level of erotic tension in a relation if you break off a scene before it ends in a simulated sex scene. Maybe you do not even need a simulated sex scene at all.

Making Sex Scenes Meaningful

During an erotic larp, you might end up acting out sex-scenes. A good sex scene adds something to the story and contributes to your character development. It might represent change in social relationships and deliver new input to others to play on.

You can play around with the expectations and fantasies of the characters. They might not be realized after all. Characters who had sex can have vastly different experiences and interpretations of what happened.

Eroticism Doesn’t Have to be Physical

Last but not least, playing on eroticism doesn’t necessarily involve any intimate or physically close play. Imagine reading erotic poetry to a secret lover without touching them or eating some strawberries lasciviously while sitting at the opposite ends of a table.

What If It Doesn’t Work?

You are at the larp and the erotic larping you were hoping for doesn’t work. You don’t gel with your co-players, you aren’t able to overcome your own anxieties, someone is stressing you out. What do you do?

  • Have a talk with the organisers or the safety team. It can help to vent and to get suggestions for how to proceed in your play.
  • Focus on other relations than the one not working for you. If you are up to it, talk with the co-player you’re not gelling with. If that seems too stressful you can de-escalate play to a casual level and move to play with other characters.
  • Ask yourself if you are focusing too much on pre-game expectations that are not working out. Consider accepting that those didn’t pan out and go into an explorative mode to see if the larp might have other things in store that are interesting and sensual — If all the eroticism just doesn’t work out, explore the other themes of the larp and start creating additional stories. These stories shouldn’t interrupt the play of others but should add new flavors to the experience you are creating together.
  • Don’t forget to make use of safety mechanics and calibration techniques if something or someone stresses you out. It’s never too late even if you haven’t used them in previous scenes with the same person.

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Olivia Fischer (b. 1981) has been an Austrian larp designer since 2002, and is a researcher and lecturer in education. She gives talks and workshops on edularps at conferences and universities.
Tor Kjetil Edland is a Norwegian larp designer. In addition to writing Oss Imellom together with Jeanita Hatlestrand he has been one of the creators of the larps KoiKoi, Just a Little Lovin', Mad about the Boy and New Voices in Art. He has also been one of the organisers of the last three Knutepunkts in Norway.