We Share This Body: Tools to Fight Appearance-Based Prejudice at Larps

We Share This Body: Tools to Fight Appearance-Based Prejudice at Larps

[This article is also available in Spanish, at: http://vivologia.es/compartimos-este-cuerpo-herramientas-para-combatir-los-prejuicios-basados-en-la-apariencia-en-el-rol-en-vivo/
Thank you to Vivologia for translating it!]

Disclaimer: In this text, the word “relationship” never purely alludes to romance. It could be any connection between characters: from co-workers to soldiers and commanding officers to siblings or bitter enemies. This article compiles discussions with dozens of people spanning hundreds of hours in total. It is very possible that I quote something verbatim and not even remember that you gave me that idea. No harm is intended in any way.

I was at a beautiful international larp. A big, raucous party was in full swing. People were flirting, drinking and fighting. And somehow, no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a way into the play. My attempts at provocation were brushed off, and my attempts at flirting fared even worse. My character was supposed to be powerful, but I certainly did not manage to evoke that feeling.

After a while, I noticed that several other people were also drinking wine in chairs in the corner, all by themselves. Most of them seemed, like me, otherwise outgoing participants who had seen most of their relations fall flat. The one thing I had in common with my fellow wallflowers was that all of us were either older, overweight, or both. It is possible this was a coincidence. It did not feel like it.

Later, at the 2017 Knutepunkt, I was dragged into a large conversation about casting and in-game status, and how those things are often determined by the way the participants look, either consciously or subconsciously. This discussion resonated with me, and, during that event, I asked many people about their personal experiences with their real life appearance influencing how they were treated at larps.

The year after that, I hosted a programme item about appearance-based prejudice with a very diverse panel. This panel received a lot more attention than I had expected, and I kept getting approached about it during that Knutepunkt and long after. There were tears and powerless anger, loss of faith in co-participants and in the community, and so many stories. Once the stories started coming out, they never stopped. And I realized that discrimination based on physical appearance was even more commonplace than I thought. I also realised that we do not speak about it often enough.

Larp usually strives to create settings, situations and relations, often involving total strangers, that feel completely real on an emotional level from the moment the larp starts. Most people will tap heavily into lived experiences and emotions to achieve this. That also means that unless the participant is very good at keeping themselves separate from their character, bleed[1]Sarah Lynne Bowman, “Bleed: The Spillover Between Player and Character,” Nordiclarp.org, March 2, 2015. will happen and those same instincts, preconceptions and frameworks that we use for fast immersion are also applied to our co-participants and our perceptions of them.

In itself, this is not a problem, but it can turn ugly very fast when those perceptions are built on negative biases. Gender, ethnicity, age, able-bodiedness, body type and many more aspects of our co-participants influence how we interact with them at larps. Most people are hardly, if at all, aware of these biases, as they are often unconscious.[2]Much has been written about this, but Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald’s “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” (2013) is an accessible read. You can test your own implicit biases at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html For example, we may associate middle-aged people with being less active, overweight people with being less smart, or people with mobility issues with being frail, and adjust our interactions based on that. The good news is that once we are aware of our biases, we can train ourselves to actively work against them.

This piece is mainly written to put a spotlight on a problem that many of us are only too familiar with from personal experience, so that it becomes something we can keep addressing as a community. I have mainly spoken to people who have experienced fatphobia, ageism, and rejection based on perceived attractiveness, and have personally experienced the same. Most of my examples will thus be based in those types of prejudice.

Of course, many other biases exist. PoC and queer writers have been writing about appearance-based discrimination for years, for example in last year’s KP-book with Jonaya Kemper’s excellent “Wyrding the Self” and Kemper, Saitta, and Koljonen’s “Steering for Survival” in the same volume.

What Forms Does Appearance-Based Prejudice Take?

The people I have spoken to over the years mainly report the following behaviors of other participants based on their out-of-game looks:

  1. (Aspects of) their characters not being taken seriously, reactions being different from how the character should be treated, for example when playing leaders, soldiers or famous people.
  2. Rejection from in-game relationships, especially romantic ones.
  3. Not being involved in the plot or other aspects of the larp. This is for example often the case with older or less able-bodied participants when the plot involves action.

These behaviours allow us to discern several forms of rejection.

Rejection Surrounding Desirability

This mainly happens with romantic relationships, but can also pertain to certain types of characters, for example being the ingenue at a party that everyone wants to be around according to the game material.

Rejection Surrounding Status and Fame

This mainly happens with people portraying celebrities, heroes or people of importance to a setting, when they are not treated as such by their co-players.

Rejection Surrounding Authority and Power

Shorter participants for example are often not taken seriously in commanding positions and have to work harder to be listened to, as do younger and/or female-presenting participants.

Rejection Surrounding Expertise

Skills that are not taken seriously, for example with older participants portraying hackers.

Rejection Surrounding Athleticism

Less able bodied or heavier participants may be given a hard time when portraying athletes or soldiers.

Of course, we can never know why certain play did not happen for a certain participant. Maybe there was something else going on: it is always best to assume that people do not operate from bad faith. But for quite a lot of participants, the problems they encounter are too systemic to dismiss as bad luck.

As said before, most people are simply unaware of the many cognitive biases they have. So when we engage with complex and stressful social situations like larp, it only makes sense that those biases partially take over. But not being deliberate does not make discrimination any less of a problem.

Why This is Everyone’s Problem

Lifting the characters in a larp is a collective responsibility, because the quality of the larp depends on it. Lifting the participants should also be a collective responsibility, because the quality of our communities depends on it.

People who larp are vulnerable. We open up to other participants in many ways, and we have expectations of the experience that are often directly tied to aspects of our out-of-game personality.

This close connection can make in-game rejection, mockery, or being left out of parts of the larp very hurtful, even more when the rejections are based on aspects of the participant’s appearance that are also a struggle or sometimes even a source of trauma in real life. This can create very bad bleed situations or triggers that may cause people to drop out of a larp (or even out of the community altogether) and perceive it in a very negative light afterwards.

The loss of confidence can be long-term. For example, it took me years to regain the confidence to play a severely underprivileged character again after being mocked for “certainly not looking hungry” over and over again during a larp.

This downward spiral will lead those rejected participants to be skeptical towards others attempting to engage with them, and to approach any new in-game relationship very warily. Consequently, they can come across as closed-off, resulting in even more rejection from the other participants for seeming passive. Internalised oppression is powerful, and negative feedback loops are easily entered. Many people I have encountered see themselves as a “lost cause” for certain types of play, for example playing on romance or leadership, and they will self-cast themselves away from it, even when they would find it interesting. It will take conscious effort and support from the community to undo that.

Apart from the personal pain, basing in-game reactions to certain characters on the way the participant looks, as opposed to what would make sense for the character, will often hurt the larp as a whole.

This has to do with the responsibility to play to lift.[3]Susanne Vejdemo, “Play to Lift, Not Just to Lose.” In Shuffling the Deck, edited by Annika Waern and Johannes Axner, 143–46. Carnegie Mellon University: ETC Press, 2017. When we do not treat our co-participants in a way that makes sense for their characters, we are not lifting. Not only that, but the human tendency to copy social behavior will mean that others may follow suit, and eventually everyone is rolling their eyes as soon as the Duchess gives an order – no matter how competent and powerful she is established as being in the fiction. Sidelining character agency in this way undermines the plot and setting for all participants.

Rejected relationships can be equally damaging to a larp, especially if the relationship is very central to the plot: if nobody wants to marry the king’s eligible bachelorette daughter, a lot of the tension will drop for the whole story, and not just for the participants involved.


A counterpoint that has some merit to it is that you cannot force people to play with certain co-participants. First and foremost: you should of course never have to play with participants who make you uncomfortable, for example romantic play with a significant age gap, or participants you have a bad history with.

However, if you are likely to refuse certain types of play due to out-of-game preferences, it is best to not rank those types of play as high priorities on a casting form – because you’re choosing not to play the pre-scripted relationships may threaten not just the experience of your co-participant but the structure of the whole larp. It doesn’t mean that you have to renounce (for example) playing romances, as it is usually possible to create that type of connection with someone you feel comfortable with during the larp itself, but you will avoid being cast in a huge dramatic romance with someone you will end up ignoring.

That being said: try not to let yourself get away with your biases. As with everything in life, it is important to acknowledge our prejudices in larp and actively try to work against them. We should take a chance on playing with someone we do not immediately feel drawn to every now and then. They usually turn out to be awesome.

Another good point is that chemistry is elusive and cannot be forced. Of course chemistry is real and valid, and a wish to play on that chemistry equally so. But chemistry is a somewhat vague concept, and we often decide too soon that it is absent. I think part of the reason for that is that chemistry is often confused with attraction, especially physical attraction, and players may decide there is none based on that. Chemistry is definitely something that can be built on and created to some extent. A famous example of “artificially” created chemistry are the “36 Questions” that will cause people to fall in love.[4]Arthur Aron, et al., “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (1997): 363-377.

For individual larpers, it can be a delicate task to balance the need to play with somebody with whom they feel chemistry with giving all co-participants a fair chance at the interactions they need to play their character. Like with many things in larp, being conscious of why we play in a certain way is half the battle: when we favour play with someone we know we have chemistry with instead of working to build that chemistry with a newcomer (or someone that we might not feel immediately drawn to), this should be a conscious decision.

Many larpers have told me over the years that it is immersion-breaking for them when people look different from how they would expect their character to look. The key here is, of course, in the word “expectations.” Expectations are learned and cultural, and very much a product of the other stories we consume through media. And because they are learned they can also be unlearned, and adjusted in the fictional worlds we create so that larps can be more inclusive and empowering.

But even in cases where there is an objective physical disconnect between participant and character, such as older participants portraying teenage characters and the other way around: people are always more important than larp. Nobody wants to be limited by their body and only be allowed to play certain characters because of it. It is sometimes telling how the same people who easily accept that someone with green paint on their face is a goblin struggle to treat the 50 year old participant as a young princess.

Another Way of Thinking: Individual Participant Responsibility

I believe that larp is full of unwritten social contracts. As a community, we should keep stressing that in-game relationships are an example of such a contract, whether written by ourselves in pre-play or by the larpwrights.

Doing our best to approach other participants based on their character’s attributes instead of their real life attributes is also a social contract.

People can be very dependent on their co-participants for enabling their play, and we are all at least partially responsible for each other’s larp. If we abandon a relationship during the runtime, or if we ignore the behaviors we should embody towards a character, there will usually be very little opportunity for that person to replace it. In other words, their larp will suffer immensely from our rejection or passivity.

So my opinion is that when we create larps as well as when we play, we should keep in mind that:

  1. You owe it to your fellow participant to at least try to play the relationships as designed, of course barring safety issues.
  2. You owe it to them to communicate clearly and early if you really cannot play on the relationship as designed any further for whatever reason, so they do not waste their precious playtime needlessly pursuing it.
  3. You owe it to them to try to play something with them. If it turns out there is no way to be a loving, caring father-figure to them, is there anything else they could use? Could the relationship turn harsh and bitter? Could you become an ideological advisor in their political career? This way you at least spend some of your play-energy on co-creating their experience, which is part of what the relationship is about.
  4. You owe it to them to take them and their characters seriously.

Managing the way participants interact, and finding solutions when something goes wrong, is a shared responsibility between the individual participant, the co-participants and the organizers. If one of these three does not do their part, the problem will persist.

Of course all these things also apply to lifting others’ play in general and not just to people struggling due to the biases of co-participants. But if we all try to make it cool to play on the character instead of the participant, those biases will get way less of a foothold.

Now that we have outlined the issue, let’s look at what we can actively do to improve our larps and behaviour. The following sections are a compilation of advice and ideas gathered over the years, both for organizers and for participants.

Tips for Organizers: How to Limit Physical Discrimination at Your Larps

Design and Casting

  • When designing a larp, think about the form that concepts like being important, being in charge, and being desirable take in your fiction, and how that may be expressed. It is very possible that this form will roughly be the same as in current Western society (youth is beautiful, being loud is being powerful, etc.) but it should not be an automatic choice.

Maybe being quiet is seen as being thoughtful and thus important in your setting. Maybe age is attractive because it shows experience as a lover.

If you have ideals about making the larp empowering for everyone, changing some of these expectations may be a tool to achieve that. It then must become an integral part of the design: if this is not clearly communicated before the larp and in the characters, and the active expressions related to it are not workshopped, participants will probably default to what they know.

  • When casting for a larp, take a chance on certain participants. It is tempting to cast people who seem like a perfect fit appearance-wise, but try to focus on who really wants to play on the character’s attributes. This precaution won’t help the people who have grown too afraid to even ask for certain types of play, but it is a step towards being more inclusive. If you find it hard to keep biases out of the picture, consider enlisting help to blind-cast based purely on participant motivations. When the organizers ignore participant appearance in casting, this will stress that inclusivity is a value of the larp and the participants are more likely to follow suit. Your casting has the power to be hugely empowering for participants, not in the least because it will provide the alibi they may need to take a leap of faith and play a challenging character.
  • The promotional materials should reflect the desired situation. If all photographs from previous runs that are picked for the website only show conventionally attractive participants, the idea that the larp is mainly meant for them will settle in the minds of the participants and make the larp harder for those that do not look like that.
  • Organizers should make it explicit in all aspects of the design that participants are expected to lift each other. Luckily, it is increasingly common to include a clause against discrimination based on out-of-game features, or texts like on the Inside Hamlet (2014-) website:[5]Participation Design Agency, “Is this Larp For Me?” Inside Hamlet, last accessed January 20, 2021. “All genders, sexualities and bodies are invited to act wicked and be beautiful at this larp.”

However, a single written mention is not enough. Consider: are you also bringing attention to this issue in the workshops? Do people know if it is something they can contact the organizers about, and how? In short, how is the ideal “enforced” during the larp itself?

Remember that most of the time, participants’ behavior is way more subtle than outright discrimination, and is often not a conscious decision. As an organiser, you have the power to raise your participant’s awareness by reminding them that the group expects fair, non-discriminatory play, and that they ought to keep an open mind.

  • Keep in mind that certain play cultures can greatly value “realism” in looks. When creating a larp with participants from many different cultures, this may influence their attitude towards other participants right from the beginning of the larp. It then becomes even more crucial to manage expectations and clearly communicate your values, especially when the designers’ own play culture is more aimed at inclusivity, which can lead to unspoken norms.
  • Make sure to also (or mainly) design platonic relationships. If romance and desire are not central to the themes and story of the larp, do not make it the central vector of the relationships you write.
  • Another tool for larpwrights, if workable with the design, is to refrain from defining the relationship too precisely. A way to do this is to stress what the characters do together instead of what they are to each other, and let them fill in the blanks: is the relationship romantic or a different form of closeness and intimacy?

This freedom makes it much easier to make the relationship work. This method has been successfully used at larps like the Androids trilogy.[6]Do Androids Dream? (2017), When Androids Pray (2017), and Where Androids Die (2018) by Atropos Studios.

  • Make sure to write multiple relationships with enough variation in their nature, both so participants have sturdy fallbacks when facing potential rejection, and so that the participants have examples of other types of relationships that do work for them, and that they can possibly turn the one that is not working out towards.
  • Communicate to the participants that playing a type of relationship (romance, for example), can take many forms. Romance doesn’t necessarily mean physically close or overly affectionate, and can always be shaped in a way all participants are comfortable with.

Workshops and Preplay

Good workshops are essential, especially if a larp is strongly based on pre-written relationships. Line-up workshops can help to make participants alert that for example character age does not always match participant age. If your larp involves a lot of authority relationships, practice how to play those. Even if romance is not central to the larp, it is still a good idea to create workshops around romance and, if applicable, touch.

This will give people a chance to get to know their co-participants and get comfortable with each other. It is an opportunity to discover chemistry with strangers and to discuss expectations. If people are more relaxed with each other, they are more likely to try to make the larp better for those co-participants.

If you really cannot integrate those types of workshops, at the very least make certain that there is sufficient time before the larp to get to know each other, and encourage your participants to talk to each other about their expectations.

Whether it is an informal conversation or part of a workshop, explicit discussion among co-participants on what they expect and want to play creates confidence and makes it easier to hold each other accountable.

  • Chemistry is definitely something that can be workshopped. There are many workshops in use to build levels of comfort and understanding for larp, though not all of them well-documented. WILT (2019)[7]WILT (2019) by Karete Jacobsen Meland and Mads Jøns Frausig. is a larp with good examples of these workshops and is available online.

If you want to invite your participants to develop physical chemistry, you can workshop around finding beauty in one another: for example to take one thing they find attractive about the other person and focus on that. Including these types of workshops stresses the fact that chemistry and play compatibility are to some extent malleable, and giving the participants ample time to find that connection increases the chance it will work out.

On the Styx,[8]On the Styx (2019-) by Evolution Events. a relationship-heavy larp, is another example of a game with a set of workshop-exercises specifically dedicated to creating chemistry between the participants of characters in intense relationships. They involve a combination of extended eye contact, physical touch, and looking at and appreciating things about the other, and participants have reported a lot of benefit from those.

If you want to invite your participants to develop general chemistry, you can workshop around what makes the characters fond of each other. For instance, as someone taught me, you can create a workshop to develop character relationships based on statements such as “you like/love me because…” (i.e. “You love me because I always remember to buy you a present after a business trip”). This is a technique that I now personally use in my own larps.

I found that it neatly works around the physical because participants are the ones making decisions about their own characters’ desirable traits, which ultimately makes it easier for them to steer the focus away from their looks.

  •  If your larp is more of a sandbox, be aware that your participants are likely to be more nervous to step out of their typecast due to lack of alibi, and that many, if not most, will revert to personal preferences when picking co-participants for relationships and allegiances.

Unfortunately there is no perfect way to create inclusive relations: having pre-written relationships means there is a chance for lack of chemistry or outright rejection that can hurt a lot, and letting participants make relationships during the workshops or preplay will make for more comfortable play but usually favor the well-connected and conventionally attractive participants.

Keep these things in mind when designing and running team- and relationship-building workshops or other pre-larp activities. Try to take steps to mitigate this effect and address it directly, multiple times if needed: ‘it makes sense to write your character with your friends in mind, but please keep an open mind and involve participants you do not yet know as well. Do not underestimate the power of explicitly communicating values such as openness and personal responsibility to your participants.

  • Using badges, ribbons or other markers to opt in or out of play types has become somewhat commonplace over the years.

Consider also using physical signifiers for characters to visibly convey meta-information about for example desirability or fame, so the participants are less likely to fall back on their own opinions instead of those of their character.[9]For example in Dangerous Liaisons (Muriel Algayres, 2019), where a ribbon signified physical attractiveness. For added fairness, the participants were unaware which characters had the physical attractiveness trait when choosing them.

  • Be available to mediate if needed. Participants should know that being ignored by their relationships is something the organizers and/or safety persons are here to help with. Making sure there is a culture of trust on your larp is always important, but because voicing these types of concerns feels incredibly vulnerable, it will be tougher for them to trust you with this. By actively checking in with participants and asking them how it is going and how the relationships are working out, you can make it much easier for them to talk about difficult play rejections.

Try to find a sweet spot between helping people change relationships that do not work for them, and making sure they give it a fair chance.

Tips for Participants: How to Be a Decent Co-participant to Everybody

Once the larp starts, the responsibility mostly switches to the participants. Here are some tips on creating positive and inclusive play.

During Runtime

  • Keep calibrating and communicating with your co-participants. By expressing that a situation makes you nervous, should it be because you are afraid you will not be cool, smart, or pretty enough to do it justice, you can make people more alert and supportive. Give them a chance to help you.
  •  If you do get rejected, take a step back and get support from your co-participants or organizers. Try to not let the feeling fester, and focus on the fact that the rejection says more about them than about you, even if it often doesn’t feel like it: try to actively bring to mind larps in which a similar relationship went well for you.

Then get help from the organizers to find the play aspects you needed from that person in another participant (for instance respect, someone to bully in-game, someone who admires you, etc.), or go to a trusted friend. If you wait until after the larp, it is too late to turn the experience towards the positive again.

  • Co-participants: be on the lookout for ways to be a fallback for what others drop. I am a big fan of the article “Do You Want To Play Ball” by Josefin Westborg and Carl Nordblom (2017), and even though this framework mostly addresses narrative play propagation, it is applied to characters as well.

When looking for someone to swindle during the soiree it makes sense to immediately go to the charismatic boisterous man in the centre of attention, but is there also someone more in the fringes and does their name tag peg them as a wealthy industrialist? Not immediately going for the easy option is also a skill that can be trained. You can make someone’s larp and who knows, maybe you will discover your new favorite co-participant?

  • If bad chemistry persists, it can be a good choice to just play the relationship as written anyway, of course depending on the larp specifics and how much it will negatively influence your own larp. Sometimes, making a relation more performative and less intimate can work: the relation can be publically played out, which will lift your co-participant without putting you in a setting that might make you uncomfortable. You might be able to trick your mind and discover that, through performing the relation, you can actually develop an emotion or chemistry, even if it is not entirely based on the other person.
  • Remember that it is alright if some things just don’t fully work out, as long as you give everybody a chance to have enough good play. We sometimes put so much stock in building that overwhelming, highly immersive experience, that we forget that it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • What if the participant of, for example, your very important boss, simply can not pull it off? It is important to still give them the appropriate reaction and lift them as far as is needed for their character to work. If you were really looking for a certain type of play from the relation, for example having an authority figure to look up to, you can then seek some of that play with other characters, rather than undermining your predesigned relation by counterplaying. If we are never given a chance to play something, we are never given a chance to grow and learn.
  • Depending on play culture, immersion can be valued over co-creation, or the other way around. And when different play cultures come together, misunderstandings arise. Do not assume that the other character understands you are, for example, ignoring them because your character is depressed and you want to immerse in that. It is better to have an extra out-of-character check-in than to have them wonder if your in-game lack of enthusiasm has to do with one of their perceived out-of-game qualities. This can also be a good moment to check how you can help them find other play, which is in this case even more a shared responsibility.
  • In a panel discussion, one of the participants suggested workshopping a non-intrusive phrase, similar to how we use and workshop safety- or escalation phrases. This phrase should communicate to a co-participant that they seem to be interacting based on the participant’s attributes instead of the character’s, or that they are ignoring an aspect they should lift. Their suggestion was to interject with the sentence “Don’t you know me/them, I am/they are…”, and remind them of the attribute they are ignoring. For example, “Don’t you know me? I am the commanding officer of this unit!” This, or a similar phrase, can be a way to make people aware of their behaviour without interrupting the larp
  • In larps that use a physical messageboard of sorts to request certain types of play, that board can be made explicitly available for asking people to adjust their attitude towards your character.

It is not always easy to differentiate between what people would like (“I would like to have more torture scenes”) and what they need to be able to play their character (“people need to stop disobeying my orders or I can’t play the general”). However, it is essential to train that skill and stress the difference during workshops: the first is a soft offer that can be negated by, for example, the oppressor participants being out of energy, while the second is quite essential to the larp and should not just be dismissed.

After the Larp

Like with many other aspects of the larp, debriefings are important. Talking after successful in-game relationships in terms of what worked for you and why, can change future larp relationships for the better. You can use this information to get valuable insights in how you personally create chemistry with your co-participants and how you can turn the play around when you are struggling. As part of your individual after-larp process, try to reflect on what made it easy or hard to respect certain roles in terms of status and expertise. Be honest with yourself if that was (partially) to do with how the participant looked.

In Conclusion

Recently, the discourse about larp seems to shift from being very design theory-focused to putting more thought towards participant skills and what happens when we play. I think that is for the better for multiple reasons, not in the least because it stresses that a good larp is a shared responsibility between participants and designers.

To find appropriate tools to approach a complex subject such as participant exclusion, we need to keep talking. We need to keep talking as participants, so that the fear and experience of being excluded can be something that is openly discussed, and so that we can watch out for each other. And we need to keep talking as designers, and make the existence of appearance-based prejudice one of the parameters when making design choices for our larps.

By communicating clearly about desired behavior and values, we can work to truly make our larps as welcoming and empowering as we always hoped they were.


Aron, Arthur, et al. “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (1997): 363-377.

Bowman, Sarah Lynne. “Bleed: The Spillover Between Player and Character.” Nordiclarp.org, March 2, 2015.

Banaji, Mahzarin R., and Anthony G. Greenwald. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. Delacorte Press, 2013.

Kemper, Jonaya. “Wyrding the Self.” In What Do We Do When We Play?, edited by Eleanor Saitta, Jukka Särkijärvi, and Johanna Koljonen. Helsinki, Finland: Solmukohta, 2020.

Kemper, Jonaya, Eleanor Saitta, and Johanna Koljonen. “Steering for Survival.”  In What Do We Do When We Play?, edited by Eleanor Saitta, Jukka Särkijärvi, and Johanna Koljonen. Helsinki, Finland: Solmukohta, 2020.

Meland, Karete Jacobse, and Mads Jøns Frausig. 2019. “WILT.” Google Drive, last accessed April 24, 2021.

Participation Design Agency. “Is this Larp For Me?” Inside Hamlet, last accessed January 20, 2021.

Vejdemo, Susanne. 2017. “Play to Lift, Not Just to Lose.” In Shuffling the Deck, edited by Annika Waern and Johannes Axner, 143–46. Carnegie Mellon University: ETC Press.

Westborg, Josefin, and Carl Nordblom. “Do You Want To Play Ball?” In Once Upon a Nordic Larp, edited by Martine Svanevik, Linn Carin Andreassen, Simon Brind, Elin Nilsen, and Grethe Sofie Bulterud Strand, 130-142. 2017.

Cover photo: Image by johnhain on Pixabay.

This article will be published in the upcoming companion book Book of Magic and is published here with permission. Please cite this text as:

van de Heij, Karijn. “We Share This Body: Tools to Fight Appearance-Based Prejudice at Larps for Participants and Organizers.” In Book of Magic, edited by Kari Kvittingen Djukastein, Marcus Irgens, Nadja Lipsyc, and Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde. Oslo, Norway: Knutepunkt, 2021. (In press).

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1Sarah Lynne Bowman, “Bleed: The Spillover Between Player and Character,” Nordiclarp.org, March 2, 2015.
2Much has been written about this, but Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald’s “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” (2013) is an accessible read. You can test your own implicit biases at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
3Susanne Vejdemo, “Play to Lift, Not Just to Lose.” In Shuffling the Deck, edited by Annika Waern and Johannes Axner, 143–46. Carnegie Mellon University: ETC Press, 2017.
4Arthur Aron, et al., “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (1997): 363-377.
5Participation Design Agency, “Is this Larp For Me?” Inside Hamlet, last accessed January 20, 2021.
6Do Androids Dream? (2017), When Androids Pray (2017), and Where Androids Die (2018) by Atropos Studios.
7WILT (2019) by Karete Jacobsen Meland and Mads Jøns Frausig.
8On the Styx (2019-) by Evolution Events.
9For example in Dangerous Liaisons (Muriel Algayres, 2019), where a ribbon signified physical attractiveness. For added fairness, the participants were unaware which characters had the physical attractiveness trait when choosing them.


Karijn van der Heij (b. 1983) is a Dutch larpwriter and designer, contributing to dozens of larps in the Dutch and international scenes. She loves stories more than anything and is a character design geek.