Magic Items

Magic Items

Magic items are (often small everyday) items used by the player to help them animate a character during play and to evoke the character afterwards. Through this article we want to help players understand the power a magic item can have during gameplay, and how to choose and prepare a magic item for their character, as well as how to distinguish everyday use from in-character use. Note that when we talk here of “magic items”, we mean a technique for using a prop in any genre of larp, not an in-character magic item in a fantasy larp.

We will also touch upon the possibilities for using a magic item during or after debriefing either to consciously distance themselves from their character or to invoke in-game feelings after the larp is over.

Choosing and Preparing Your Item

Most larps use props and costumes to some extent, but magic items are ones you as a player choose to imbue with special significance and connection to your character. The best choice is usually a personally distinct item that you can carry with you while playing, so you can access it as needed. It could be part of the costume, a tool, or a personal memento. What really matters is that you can find a way to make it a symbolic part of the character’s history or everyday life: a particular piece of jewelry, a letter from a loved one, or a sonic screwdriver would all be good choices.

Sometimes it happens naturally, during play, that an otherwise insignificant prop becomes magical through repeated interactions, but you can also consciously make one as preparation for the larp. It works well in concert with finding the costume and physical mannerisms for the character. When you try out costumes, a certain accessory might really nail the character as you see it or a prop lets you do a certain thing that is perfect for what you want to express. When you start feeling the bond between item and character, include the item in various preparations for your character. Wear the item when trying out body language, hold it when pondering the dilemmas the character will be facing, or just daydreaming your way into the role. You’ll soon find the object beginning to be inextricably intertwined with the character.

Using Your Item During Play

The magic in the item can be used in several ways during play. It always functions as a passive reminder of your character that can help you maintain immersion. It works wonderfully as a catalyst to push you deeper into your character when you’re having a hard time immersing.

It is also a great tool to give physical expression to the inner life of your character. Playing with your wedding ring when you have marriage trouble or scrunching up your hat when nervous can be great examples of communicating your feelings while focused on your inner life. It doesn’t even have to be a specific situation, a magic item could be the thing your character always takes out when there’s nothing going on. Re-reading the letter, winding up the pocket watch, or whittling with the pocket knife can make beautiful in-character moments when nothing else is going on.

After the Larp

Putting down or taking off a magic item can be an excellent way to sharpen the divide between being in your character and returning to yourself. If the item is always with the character, then not having it makes it easier to be yourself instead.

When you are completely done playing the character, the magic item can serve as the focus of a ritual to leave the character behind. Depending on your relationship to the character, this can be a more or less destructive endeavour. Destroying the item that symbolizes the character can ward off some negative bleed effects, while other characters need a more tender approach in order to lay them to rest.

If instead, you want to retain the connection to the character, a magical item can serve as a reminder of how it felt to be that person, long after playing the larp. Us humans have an uncanny ability to recall feelings, given the right sensory input. That can be tapped into and used to bring back a character for a new larp or a nostalgic moment, or possibly to evoke positive traits from the character, useful for specific situations, e.g. courage to handle an everyday conflict or confidence to meet a new person on a date.

Building a character, bringing the persona to life, and taking control of any emotional residue isn’t necessarily hard, but with a tool as a magic item, it can be easier to keep a mindful process.

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Ida Mia Thylstrup (b. 1990) is an enthusiastic larper who plays to experience different parts of society and different social structures. She is currently working as a pedagogue with children in vulnerable positions.
Oliver Nøglebæk (b. 1982) is a Danish larper and organizer in a wide variety of formats and genres. He is especially passionate about workshop facilitation, steering, and player safety.
Susan Mutsaers (b. 1990) is a Dutch larp designer and has been larping since 2008. She works in special education and focuses on larp for all abilities. Her designs often explore isolated communities.