Words of Advice from an Old Witch to Aging Larpers

Words of Advice from an Old Witch to Aging Larpers

I started larping late in life. In the last eight years I have played with larpers of all ages, some of whom are now facing the passage of time. I hear them lament the fact that they can no longer play as they used to do. Something has changed.

I am old. As I have grown older, I hide behind layers upon layers of knowledge and experience. Like a carapace it hides me from prying eyes and hurting remarks. It will happen to all of us. Like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa we will suddenly wake up one morning as a monstrous vermin. Or at least that is what we think will happen as we grow old. But is it true? Do we have to end up as a petrified version of our younger self?

The answer is no – but if you want to change you will need to recognize that your current self is a construct born of social circumstances and the expectations of family and society. There is a certain power to this construct. You are allowed to say and do things that younger people will not get away with, but to do so you must stay inside the boundaries expected from someone of your age and gender. And your body has betrayed you – your hurting knees, sagging boobs, and wrinkled skin. You cannot be young again, but larp is make-believe. If you play a young character nobody expects you to actually be young, but to act young.

Tattooed woman on the beach

Image of the author. Photo by Thursarn.

When you play a character, the knowledge you have gained during a long life will help to create a deeper understanding. Often you will be surprised by what is useful for character building, no matter what age the character is. The character may be a person interested in poetry, and suddenly your old interest in romantic poets is useful, as happened to me in Forbidden History: Paradise Lost (Poland 2023). Perhaps the character is a cult member, and suddenly your tarot cards, bought when you were twenty, come into use like in Lord of Lies (Sweden, 2021). Your knowledge of how a prison panopticon constructs your mind according to the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1987, see also Foucault & Rabinow 1991) can be surprisingly useful when you create your character for a prison larp such as The Quota (United Kingdom 2018). It may all sound banal, but as you grow older your repertoire grows bigger.

When you age, you will have had more firsthand personal experiences than a young person. You may have had a child and seen them grow up with all the joys and worries that entails; lost close personal friends; had good or bad work experiences. This is part of what makes you into a real person, even though some of these experiences may be painful. Using your personal doubts, fears, and failings when you play a mother lost in a dysfunctional family – such as the one in A Nice Evening With the Family (Sweden 2018) – can be a powerful and transformative experience. It is part of what makes you human – and being human is what makes us able to play. I may no longer remember what it is to be young, years of experience has taken that from me. But I know how to create the illusion of being young because I know the consequences of my good and bad choices. It brings depth to a character, even when the person you portray is much younger than you.

Tattooed woman on the beach

Image of the author. Photo by Thursarn.

Larping is a collaborative experience where all the players must interact to create magic. In the best games all are equal. Old players may think that it is their responsibility to create possibilities for play for younger players. It is not. The most demanding thing to do as an old larper is to let go of the power that age gives you – including the power that helping others gives you. But that is what you must do if you want to play. You must be vulnerable; you must shed the layers that you have built around the person you are deep down. You must be human.

So, what does that mean? We are all human – right? Yes, and as humans, old or young, we are at the same time powerful and impotent, depending on circumstances and choices. This is even more true in a larp. Anni Tolvanen and James Lórien MacDonald (2020) talk about ensemble play and how important it is. But they are also aware of social bias in larps, and age is certainly part of it. No matter what you do you will meet players biased about your age. It cannot be avoided. Just like a lack of chemistry between players or bad weather, it is a part of life. But most of the time your co-players will be generous and kind, always remember that.

Woman on the beach holding a staff

Image of the author. Photo by Thursarn.

So, when you play, remember this:

  • Be selfish – after all it is your own story in the larp that you are here to play.
  • Be kind – kindness is always important, repay the generosity of your fellow players.
  • Be curious – you think you know everything, have seen everything – but there is always something new to learn, new experiences to be had.

And as a much wiser old witch informed a young friend of hers:

If you want to amount to anything as a witch, Magrat Garlick, you got to learn three things. What’s real, what’s not real, and what’s the difference.[1]The quote is from Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad (Discworld 12) (Unfortunately I am closer to Nanny Ogg than Granny Weatherwax).

Tattooed woman on the beach

Image of the author. Photo by Thursarn.


Michel Foucault (1987): Øvervakning och straff. Lund.

Michel Foucault and Paul Rabinow (ed.) (1991): The Foucault Reader. Penguin Books.

Anni Tolvanen and James Lórien MacDonald (2020): Ensemble Play. In What Do We Do When We Play, edited by Eleanor Saitta & al. Solmukohta 2020.

Terry Pratchett (1991): Witches Abroad.


Forbidden History: Paradise Lost (2023): Poland. Atropos.

Lord of Lies (2021): Sweden. Atropos.

The Quota (2018): United Kingdom. Avalon Larp Studio.

A Nice Evening with the Family (2018): Sweden. Anna Westerling, Anders Hultman, Tobias Wrigstad, Anna-Karin Linder, Elsa Helin and Patrik Balint.

This article has been reprinted with permission from the Solmukohta 2024 book. Please cite as:

Petersen, Inge-Mette. 2024. “Words of Advice from an Old Witch to Aging Larpers.” In Liminal Encounters: Evolving Discourse in Nordic and Nordic Inspired Larp, edited by Kaisa Kangas, Jonne Arjoranta, and Ruska Kevätkoski. Helsinki, Finland: Ropecon ry.

Cover photo: by Jakub Zeman from Pixabay.

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1The quote is from Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad (Discworld 12) (Unfortunately I am closer to Nanny Ogg than Granny Weatherwax).


Inge-Mette Petersen was born in 1958. She is a trained teacher with a degree in pedagogy and has worked as an education officer at the Danish Open Air Museum since 1998. Inge-Mette has been larping since November 2016. She almost solely plays international larps and has played all over Europe.