[Editorial note: This article is intended as a parody. Please read it as such].
1. Use your ageing body
So you got some wrinkles now. Some grey hair. A sore back that doesn’t allow you to stand for too long. And a bad knee that doesn’t allow you to run. Instead of weeping over the past glory of your once young body, why not embrace the “war scars” and make them part of your backstory? And no, that does not mean that you are now obliged to play only older characters. What if the wrinkles are part of an ageing spell a witch once cast on you for trying to steal her partner? What if your hair turned prematurely grey overnight when your best friend died trying to save you from an assault? What if the bad knees are not due to age, but an “accident” you had while horse riding when a rival aristocrat sabotaged your stirrups to steal your seat in the council? Punchline: Less make-up on the face, more make-up on the backstory!
2. Revamp older ideas
Parthenogenesis rarely occurs in any form of art, larp included. That means larpers and larp designers often will “borrow” ideas from other forms of fiction, and that’s okay; but when the majority of larp enthusiasts have the same pop culture influences, things can and often will get repetitive. Well, guess what? You can actually bring some “innovation” into the fictional “gene pool”, merely by going further back into the past: Remember that old cartoon you were watching when you were 5, that youngsters these days haven’t even heard of? That series of comic books that are now out of print? That old b-movie that even its protagonist doesn’t remember having made? Dig up all the daguerreotypes and clay tablets from your back yard and borrow ideas from there… And have fun watching younger larpers get excited over how innovative and creative your imagination is!
3. Stranger than fiction
Another invaluable source of inspiration for characters and plots: Your own life. It might be a cliché, but life is stranger than fiction, and you’ve had a bigger share of life than most of the younger larpers (hence the wrinkles and “war scars” mentioned in Tip #1). So, go ahead and honour those wrinkles: Looking for a good villain character inspiration? How about that boss at your summer job when you were 19? Erratic character? How about that veteran hippie barista in the local pub of your old neighbourhood? Cunning character? How about that classmate of yours at university that managed to get a degree without ever opening a book? Epic adventure material? How about that camping weekend in the summer of 1989? Unfulfilled love material? How about that person from high school, remember their name? Yes, yes, of course you remember…
4. Sit down noob, you’re in for a tale
You were there when it all began. When the local larp community was first established in your area. When the first larp was run in the local park, and someone called the police on you. When the first article on larp appeared in the local newspaper and your relatives started making concerned phone calls to your parents after seeing your picture. You were there long before the younger larpers, and the stories you can share with them are wilder than their imagination (and probably funnier). Do share them! It will give them a more profound perspective on their beloved hobby, bond the community around its shared history, and make you look like a respected war veteran in their eyes. So go ahead, put that “I was there, Gandalf…” look on your face and mesmerize them!
5. Back in my day…
…However, beware of the trap of the glorious veteran: Just share the tales. Do not turn them into a lesson. Yes, of course back in your day things were different. Things felt different, sounded different, tasted different, were done differently… And yes, maybe some things were better back then. Maybe times were more innocent, less digitalized, less complicated, or more complicated… But that does not mean things are less meaningful now. Allow evolution to take place. Yes, even in your favourite hobby. Experience its innovation and creativity. And if not, well, then at least let the younger larpers enjoy it without judging them.
6. Take your youth supplement
George Bernard Shaw said that “we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”. Wise words that probably do not scare any larper! Larping is keeping us young, and all larpers probably have a very good relationship with their inner child. However, do you know what else can help keep us young, apart from larp itself? That’s right, hanging out with younger larpers. And not just hanging out to share our epic tales of yore (see Tip#4) or, even worse, tell them how things should be done (see Tip #5). Just hanging out to listen. To learn. To gain a more fresh perspective on things. To understand how the newer generations are thinking. Just hanging out… and absorbing the fresh, revitalizing air of youth. Or the fresh, revitalizing blood of youth, if you’re into vampire larps.
7. Keep up with the lingo
If you follow the advice of Tip #6, you will probably very soon face an unforeseen problem: You may very well not comprehend a substantial part of what they are saying! Depending on the age difference and the general amount of time you spend with young people in your everyday life, the percentage of unknown words may vary between 20% and 70%. Especially if you also communicate with them via texts and chats, you will also be faced with incomprehensible abbreviations that look more like secret codes or commands in some unknown programming language. This point is crucial: Do not get disappointed and do not give up! If you feel comfortable, ask for a translation. If not, Google is your friend. In any case, soon you will be proficient in a whole new world of slang, meta pop-references, memes and cool ways to feel 10 years younger when you’re texting.
8. Don’t be everyone’s parent
Another trap to be aware of if you end up forming close relationships with younger larpers. Do you want to form friendships? Great! But beware… no matter what you do… no matter how much you end up caring for these people… do yourself (and them) the favour of not becoming their parent! It may sound funny at first, but it’s a tricky balance to keep. Because, let’s face it. They don’t have your experience. They probably don’t have your maturity. And they may be vulnerable, still at a phase in their lives where they’re struggling to make sense of themselves and life in general. They can probably use all the care and love you are willing to genuinely give them. But becoming their babysitter will not allow them to grow, and will not allow you to enjoy your hobby. If you ever feel you may have fallen in this trap, consider saving a stray cat or dog instead, or get yourself some house plants.
9. Larpers and larps growing old together
Larp is, by definition, a hobby created by us, for us. As we grow older, more mature, and more experienced, or simply as we evolve and become different people than those we were yesterday, it is up to us to make sure our hobby can keep up with our development. The characters you are used to playing don’t feel meaningful anymore? Time for new character development. The larps you used to enjoy don’t thrill you anymore? Maybe it’s time for exploring new themes. Are you a larp designer, or are you in close contact with one? Contribute to creating new larps that speak to the psyches of the gradually maturing larp community. And if that means adding a little bit more of existential dread, grief and loss, and contemplations on the passing of time in the equation, so be it! We were never here only for the joyous themes, right?
10. Energy management
Approaching the end of this list, a message from your local physician: Take care of your body while larping. That is of course true for younger larpers as well, but, you know, they are still at the phase where they think they are invulnerable. Take care of yourself, so that you can keep enjoying your favourite hobby for many more years to come. Take breaks if you’re in a multiple-day event or festival. Take your vitamins if the gameplay is demanding. Don’t push yourself over your limits, not even the greatest larp of your life is worth you collapsing at the end. And lastly, don’t forget to hydrate!
11. And for the end, the obligatory cliché…
Just be yourself, enjoy larp, and make sure others enjoy it too. It may be a cliché, but it is timeless and ageless, just like you. 😉
Cover photo: Image by stevepb on Pixabay. Photo has been cropped.
This article is published in the companion book Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices and is published here with permission. Please cite this text as:
Diakolambrianou, Elektra. “10 (+1) Tips for Larpers Over 35.” In Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices, edited by Kari Kvittingen Djukastein, Marcus Irgens, Nadja Lipsyc, and Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde. Oslo, Norway: Knutepunkt, 2021.