Play Boldly – Let Yourself Be Vulnerable

Play Boldly – Let Yourself Be Vulnerable

Challenge yourself. Go beyond your comfort zone. Decide to do something you are not sure you can actually pull off. Try something new. Let your character be made a fool, or be seduced by the enemy.

Play boldly. Let yourself be vulnerable. 

It’s about you, your wants, and your fears. By challenging yourself and going beyond your comfort zone, you learn and grow as a larper. It’s about doing what you want even if it’s scary. About trying something new or letting someone else make your story take an unexpected turn.

Playing boldly and letting yourself be vulnerable isn’t about what you do, but why you do it.

Playing boldly

Being bold is about doing things that feel scary but that you really want to do. It’s about making new choices. Getting your character in trouble, instead of avoiding it. Going ahead with a cool idea, even if you don’t know how to pull it off. Playing a new type of character even if you are not sure about how to do it.

Playing boldly is not about the character. It’s about you. Be bold. 

If a certain subject feels scary but you want to do it, approach it anyway. Play the romantic scene even if you are blushing. Do the thing you want to do, even if you worry that someone might think it’s silly. Dare to deal with serious subjects. 

Playing boldly doesn’t come naturally. You need to push yourself to play boldly, to go beyond your comfort zone. To find the point where you hesitate, say “fuck it”, and do it anyway.

As players it’s natural to want to feel safe. To stay away from things that scare us. No matter if it’s about physical harm or social shame, or worry of hurting others. Some caution is natural and healthy, but too much caution can harm your larp experience. 

Too much caution can make you:

  • Pick a “safe” character concept, rather than the character you want to play or the concept that would challenge you in a fun way. 
  • Censor yourself and stay passive in order to not say or do anything wrong.
  • Distant and unengaged, because caring too much might get you hurt.
  • Block everyone else’s initiatives because you are scared of losing control.
  • Not take the initiative, because it feels safer to wait until someone else does it.
  • Focus on pleasing everyone else, while not enjoying yourself.
  • Be too focused on yourself, and see everyone else as a threat to your experience.
  • Repetitive, always playing the same type of characters and making the same sort of choices larp after larp.

If you focus too much on staying safe, then nothing really happens, good or bad, because you don’t take any risks. Despite playing it safe you might still spend your time worrying about those risks or being bored and disengaged because you run on autopilot. Being overprotective can ruin your own larp and it also makes you a much less fun and creative co-player.

So how do you play boldly? Begin by figuring out what you want to try even if it scares you.

What we want differs, and so do our fears. What you find scary might be different from what scares me. If someone is used to fast paced action, then low-key emotional play might be challenging. For someone used to playing family drama, a boffer fight might be completely out of their comfort zone.  For someone who usually plays extroverted characters that drive the story, then picking a more introverted character and responding to events rather than driving them might be a bold move.

You can always find some way to challenge yourself. Perhaps you want to try a different type of character, perhaps you want to play a scary scene with a friend you trust, or perhaps you want to wear a costume that shows more skin than you are used to. It doesn’t have to be something huge.  

Letting yourself be vulnerable

At knifepoint. Photo taken during play. På Gott och Ont - Illmarig (2023) Photo by Linn Vikman

At knifepoint. Photo taken during play. På Gott och Ont – Illmarig (2023) Photo by Linn Vikman

Doing scary stuff is hard, but letting yourself be vulnerable can be even scarier. Because letting yourself be vulnerable is about not being in control. 

Letting yourself be vulnerable is the other side of playing boldly. It’s about trusting and opening up your play to others. Vulnerability can mean letting someone else’s actions take the story in an unexpected direction, or letting their actions affect your character. It can mean letting someone successfully kidnap your character even if it’s scary and takes the story in an unexpected direction. It can mean letting your character be really hurt by the insult someone hurled at them, even if playing on humiliation makes you feel nervous. Vulnerability can also be letting your character fall madly in love when someone else’s character flirts with them.

When you let yourself be vulnerable you can still set boundaries for how far you want to take it. For example, allowing your character to be kidnapped but whispering to the other players that you are okay with being taken prisoner but not with brutality.

Don’t go overboard

Whatever boldness and vulnerability might mean to you, there is no need to take it too far. It should be like taking a roller coaster ride. Scary, but fun. Scary, but safe. (Not like jumping off a cliff and being smashed against the rocks, okay?)

You shouldn’t challenge your every fear at any single larp. That is just reckless. Take care of yourself.

Playing boldly and letting yourself be vulnerable isn’t a perfectly smooth ride either. Trying new things and letting others take the story in unexpected directions means that you are taking a risk. Sometimes that risk will pay off spectacularly, giving you an amazing larp, sometimes it will be just okay, and sometimes things don’t work out. You might be disappointed or hurt.

But by playing boldly and letting yourself be vulnerable you will evolve as a player. You will learn from the experience, no matter if the result is good, bad or average. This will lead to more awesome larps in the future, even if this particular thing didn’t work out.

I also want to say that there is time and place for everything. Sometimes you just want comfort food and a cozy blanket, not boldness and vulnerability. That is okay. Larps can be a place to relax and recover. Not challenging yourself is just as valid a way of larping.

Playing with others

So far this article has focused on your own play, but larp is about interaction with other players. 

When we play boldly, we must keep in mind that while we challenge our own comfort zones we must also respect the comfort zones of others.

Let’s say Amira want to try something that is out of her comfort zone, like a violent torture scene (or an intimate love scene for that matter) with her fellow player Maggie. If Amira knows that she is going to be super uncomfortable during that scene, she should give Maggie a heads-up and check out if Maggie feels okay with Amira challenging her boundaries together with her too.

“Psst. Out of character. I haven’t played this type of scene before. I want to give it a try, but it’s a bit  out of my comfort zone, so I am nervous and uncomfortable and might have to de-escalate the scene. Would you be okay with that, or should we take play in some other direction?”

Because Maggie might not feel up for playing that type of intense scene with someone who is hesitant. Challenge your own boundaries but respect the boundaries of others.

You can also invite others to play boldly and to let themselves be vulnerable, but you should never push them. 

Remember the roller coaster ride? Inviting others to play boldly should be like asking “Hey, wanna come ride the roller coaster with me? ” and letting the other player gracefully decline if they don’t feel like it. It should never be like pushing someone into a roller coaster cart against their will! Consent is central.

An invitation to play boldly can be an out of character discussion before or during the larp, but it can also happen in character. You just give the other player an opportunity to challenge themselves. If you know that Maggie has never been in a boffer fight, you can give her character a chance to join the war raid, but also give her a chance to gracefully decline if she doesn’t feel like it. “We could use a pair of extra hands during the raid. Are you up for it or are you needed elsewhere?”

Playing boldly and letting yourself be vulnerable can be an infectious playstyle. If you play boldly by trying new things, then others may feel braver and also step up to play more boldly. If you let yourself be vulnerable by letting others take your story in unexpected directions, others will trust you to do the same. If you are bold enough to show vulnerability then others might also do that.

It promotes trust, lets people try new things, and makes the larp more interesting and more fun. You lead by example.


Armed. På Gott och Ont, photoshoot 2017. Photo by Emmet Nordström

Armed. På Gott och Ont, photoshoot 2017. Photo by Emmet Nordström

Play boldly. Let yourself be vulnerable. But there is no need to go overboard with it. A little boldness and vulnerability goes a long way.

Sometimes the results will be amazing, sometimes things might not give you the results you wanted, but it will make things more interesting, and it will help you grow as a larper.

Challenge your own comfort zones, but respect others’. Communicate. Lead by example, and others will dare to play a bit more boldly and be a bit more vulnerable.

Play boldly.

Further reading

There are other articles on great ways to play. We can play to lift, play to lose, and play unsafe. All of those ways to play are great approaches on how to create a better larp experience. You can combine all those with playing boldly and letting yourself be vulnerable however you want. Another link to check out can be this article on Brave Spaces in larp.

Cover image: An intense gaze. Photo taken during play. På Gott och Ont – Illmarig (2023) Photo by Linn Vikman

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Elin Dalstål (b. 1986) has been a larper and organizer since 2002, based in northern Sweden. She has organized larps and convententions and been on the board of several larp organisations.