Multi-day larps inevitably require a great deal of commitment in time, money and effort. A few hours’ preparation, in good time, can make a huge difference to your experience at the event.
Here are some broad suggestions on how you can prepare for a larp.
Read the Material, Settings and Character Sheet
Read your character sheet, the design document, the casting lists, and other documents sent by the organisers. Make notes and calendar reminders of key deadlines such as payment and responses to casting questionnaires. This keeps track of everything but also helps the game organisers, who do not need to chase you. Join any Facebook group the organisers recommend and watch for announcements.
If the larp provides long and detailed pre-written characters, they can be difficult to remember. Write down some notes in an in-character notebook you can use in game. This is a better alternative to refer to in game than a non-diegetic character sheet.
Finally, some players like to read or watch movies about the setting or relevant subject, for example in a historical game or in a game about a real life situation. The knowledge or emotions from those sources can be brought into the game naturally, through the lens of your character, if appropriate.
Book travel and accommodation. Doing this early can save you money. Make sure you have the relevant visas, travel insurance and anything else you would need to travel to the relevant country for the larp. Check in advance any travel from the station or airport to the venue. Sometimes the organisers will provide a coach — be sure to sign up to this in time. If not, reach out of the Facebook group to carpool. Bring comfort snacks, any personal medicines, a hot water bottle, anything that you need to be physically comfortable.
Make Pre-game Connections
If the game relies on you making connections, then engage with the relevant Facebook groups pre-game. First, reach out to the players of specific characters mentioned on your character sheet. Four or five connections are more than enough to get you started. Think of two axes: positive to negative and static vs. dynamic. A static relationship is something that may evolve but is relatively settled. A dynamic relationship is one that is expected to change dramatically during the game. For example, a positive static friendship is a long-lasting friendship. These elements are fluid and can change unexpectedly in game time, but these axes provide a good starting point.
If you are worried you may not have enough relationships but at the same time do not want to stretch yourself too thin and overpromise, you can also make some simple connections for example: we are friends because I help them with their homework. If the two players have chemistry, it can become something more, but if there is not much time or inclination, it can stay as a casual connection.
Some players love to pre-play scenes by play by text or over Facebook. Other players like to write stories about their backgrounds and events that have happened in the past. These can all be useful in finding the emotional connection to the character. However, they can also be quite time-consuming, so it is possible that not every player will be able to engage in this way.
“Finding” the Character
Think of the personality and emotional state of your character. Choose a signature song, archetype or story arc. Consider how the character would react to a certain situation, their belief system, and feelings.
Work on the physicality of your character, their posture, accent, any mannerisms that are distinct from yours. Adopting a few characteristics for your character that are distinct from you as a player can be very interesting and effective in portraying different personas.
Costuming and Props
With costuming, start with the advice given by the designers. It’s easier and less stressful to buy, rent, or create your costumes in advance. Don’t underestimate the power of your friendly fellow larpers — they’ll often be able to provide obscure items, or point you at a place you can get them. Make a costume list which will also help with packing.
Prepare any props. Gather some keepsakes or tools of the trade that identify your character and ground you emotionally. Letters, photographs of your loved ones, a locket, or a wedding ring can all be very emotive props both for you and for others who interact with your character’s personal story.
If you arrive the night before, perhaps participate in a dinner or drinks with other players. It is always nice to get to meet people out of character and it helps with the pre-game nerves.
Don’t Overdo It
There is such a thing as too much preparation. If you have invested too much time in preparation and preplay you may not meet the expectations that you yourself have placed on the game. Similarly, a game has a finite amount of time and overcommitting to plots and connections may leave you stretched.
Preparing for a larp can be great fun, especially if you do it in good time. It can help get you in the mood, extend the enjoyment of the larp and prepare you for a great experience!