All Quiet on the Safety Front: About the Invisibility of Safety Work

All Quiet on the Safety Front: About the Invisibility of Safety Work

There has been said a lot regarding safety mechanics, tools and the safety mindset on over the last ten to fifteen years: Design discussions have taken place, talks and workshops have been held at Knutepunkt/Solmukohta, publications in the respective books have been published, and discussions between people who are volunteering — meaning working — in safety, have raised awareness about the need for safety at larps.

One topic that has not been talked or written about much is the work and visibility of a Larp Safety person. 

Articles from 2017 give very good insight into the work. Problems and techniques of working as a Safety person have been addressed, such as giving players the space to express their feelings without being judged, when overwhelmed or anxious, offering them empathy, and validating their experiences and emotions. We have discussed how it fits into the community work as a whole, such as advising organizers on safety concerns and designing workshops or debriefs. 

One thing that remains ironically obscure for many players is the invisibility of the person and their investment itself. With this invisibility also comes missing appreciation and the risk of creating a lack of people willing to engage in this important community work. 

It seems the requirements to work as a Safety person are not widely known. Also, most players and even some organizers might not know what a Safety person actually does and what the experiences before, during and after a larp are like for them. We often know about the strains and stresses of organizer’s work, know about burnout risks and talk about what players struggle with, but what about the people in Safety teams? 

What I experienced at an international larp I was doing Safety for, was players asking me after the game if I had a good time, or how my game was. I was a bit baffled to be honest. Of course, they meant well and maybe intended it as a conversation opener. But then a realization hit me: while the Safety people are often recognized in their role, their actual work and the individuals behind the role stay mostly invisible. Players rarely ask themselves if this job is easy or not, enjoyable or not? 

Why Is Safety Hard?

As a Safety person, you’re skipping out on a perfectly fantastic larp you’re not actually participating in. You actively invest your time, vacation days, sometimes travel costs and energy to care for others. For this, you put other people’s needs first, making their well-being your priority. 

People usually don’t come to the safety person when the larp runs “well” for them and they are happy, proud of something, or want to talk about how great everything is. Players usually also don’t interact with the Safety person if they do not have a specific safety need. Thus, the Safety person might be invisible to those who didn’t need them, during the game or even at the after-larp party. 

To make sure everybody is emotionally safe, Safety people use various techniques, including: validating people’s experiences, being compassionate, being empathic, and offering space to the players who might need exactly that — a safe space to feel and deal with their emotions without being shamed, judged, or left alone. 

Effective Safety people try actively not to give in to very human impulses like the need to “fix things” for other people that have a problem before they are ready. Often the “fixing” comes only after a player feels heard and having their concerns taken seriously before looking forward and being able to focus on getting their game or larp experience back on track. They also try not to quickly get out of an uncomfortable situation, even if it would be easier for them. 

Another aspect of Safety that might pose difficulties is that you often have to keep things said or experienced anonymous and/or confidential — depending on what the person affected wants — as much as you might like to vent or share your “burden” afterwards. A player with a safety issue needs to trust the Safety working in their best interest as well as they are not seen as a “problem player” afterwards. This means you have to be as careful with what you communicate – similar to a lawyer or priest, just without the vows and training. Sometimes it is not possible to maintain confidentiality even if the person wants that, for example if a crime has been committed, or other kinds of situations. Anonymity yes, but confidentiality, not always. Similarly, a safety person should make the main organizers aware if there is a problematic person in the group. Also with the wrong information going out you and /or the affected player might face retaliation from other players or the community.

One strenuous factor is the “on-call” or “standby” situation that Safety people are in most of the time. People who have ever experienced on-call service or standby duty in work life know that this can be exhausting, creating internal tension as one can always expect to be called to action.

An important ability to have is self-regulation skills, because sometimes, even a Safety person can’t help with a problem. This means having to endure the helplessness of not being able to “do” something about a problem. Or there are situations where their own insecurities or past traumas are triggered, they become emotional themselves and they still have to try and focus to not get distracted with their own thoughts or bodily reactions – which is a strong argument for having a Safety person instead of loading that responsibility onto the shoulders of a single person. This, and the work that comes before (designing Safety mechanics and workshops, being involved in the flagging process if there is one, holding workshops) and after (doing debriefs, taking care of issues that might come up, after the actual event is over) takes a lot of energy out of many Safety people I have seen working on larps.

Additionally, people frequently underestimate the role of Safety. Sometimes, organizers, writers, and designers also do the Safety job — and in most cases they are usually pretty much detached from the larp (which is sometimes their own!) As an organizer or writer, they suddenly stop sharing player’s or even organizer’s overall experiences, seeing and hearing mostly the negative experiences that people had with content, scenes, other players, or even themselves. 

The Gender Factor?

One factor weighing into the invisibility is that many people acting as safety people — in my experience — are socialized as women. Care work, putting the emotional wellbeing of others into the center of their work, being empathetic and trustworthy – these jobs are often taken on by people with female socialization and are mostly also silent and invisible. Women organizers can struggle with invisibility. And maybe this care work often done by people socialized as women is taken for granted as well. People socialized as men might be afraid of being called out themselves, which might make them behave in ways that are dismissive and even hostile to safety people (especially in public conversations, but also in defense of their friends, critiquing safety culture, etc.). Furthermore some participants may not feel comfortable talking about safety problems with a man Safety member — particularly if the problem is a gendered one, as they often can be.

At one larp event in the past, two other people and me, who were doing Safety on top of other tasks like writing and designing the larp — all socialized as women — experienced complete invisibility, not even being invited to team meetings or being credited after the game by the main organizers.

This is frustrating, demotivating and creates the opposite of the will to encourage community service, especially if the nature of that work aims to be discreet and low-key to protect the involved players which in turn can lead people who are not involved to assume there weren’t any issues at all. To keep larps safe for all people involved, this problem also reflects our communal societal need for change.

Visibility-Enhancing Checklist for Your Next Larp

Taking over the function as a Safety person is important and meaningful. Many larps need a Safety person to support players especially in conflict-heavy games, but also in games that may be light-hearted on the surface. And to be able to support someone, helping people to feel understood is its own valuable experience. 

The following recommendations and behaviors are meant as tips and ideas, targeted at all parts of the community. They might make it easier for safety people who are spending their time to help us feel more empowered, safer and braver. And maybe they help encourage other people to become active in the community.

Safety People 

  • Prioritize your own well-being, practice setting boundaries, and state your needs bravely. 
  • Talk more about your work! Demand visibility even if your instinct is to be a “silent supporter.”
  • Connect and share knowledge with each other and maybe even with like-minded / interested people.
  • Design workshops / trainings to teach Safety techniques to others and support each other as peers.
  • Find players or people from the organizing team who check up on you regularly.
  • When and where possible, work in a team to support each other, not feel alone and also be able to take sufficient breaks or tap out yourself if need be.
  • Don’t do Safety at your own larp – beside from the potential disconnect with the joy of seeing how your work turned out, players may be reluctant to voice a problem to the safety person, if it’s an issue with the organization or with the design – for fear that it will be seen as criticism.


  • Introduce Safety people as well as how to contact and where to find them thoroughly before the larp. 
  • Inform yourself about what your Safety people are doing. 
  • When possible, make sure your safety people are not responsible for other runtime logistics and especially do not have them play any important role in the game to not confuse their responsibilities / loyalties.
  • Care for your Safety team member as a person with needs and emotions. 
  • Check-in with them every now and then.
  • Involve the Safety people throughout the process as safety is important at all points of design and implementation.
  • Put together an Internal Procedures document (Stavropoulos et al. 2024) to establish clear courses of action in crisis situations.
  • If there are decisions to be made about issuing bans and the like, please separate this from Safety. It should be the main organizers who issue warnings and bans, not the safety people themselves. Safety people can make a recommendation that someone be expelled from the larp, but in the end it is the organizers of the event who have responsibility to take that decision. Also it decreases the risk of being targeted for enacting consequences or for not doing enough.
  • To make them feel included and part of the team, ask if they want to join GM meetings or other team meetings. (It can also be helpful as Safety, to know how the game is running). 
  • Ask if they’re interested in having updates about the game.
  • Credit & thank them after the event (as you would your fellow organizers, kitchen crew, tech support, etc.)


  • Remember the name(s) of the people in the Safety team and show them (especially at the afterparty) that you care for them as individual people.
  • Learn to identify and communicate your needs so that a Safety person knows how and what to offer.
  • Safety people are not in a therapeutic relationship with players. They can provide support in times of overwhelm or crisis, but they should defer to external help, such as ambulances with mental health professionals, if the crisis continues and longer term support is needed. It is also not their job to mediate disputes within the community.
  • Take reflection and self-regulation seriously and practice identifying your emotions and setting boundaries outside of larp.
  • Be mindful of what you are asking for – don’t use the Safety room or the Safety person as entertainment for a couple of hours, just because you don’t want to play or be alone.
  • If you don’t know what to do to make people feel safer but are interested in learning: Read up on those skills (like “validation”) and ask Safety people you know if you have questions. Most are open and happy to help you and share their knowledge and skills.
  • Take responsibility for your well-being, do your own risk- assessment of whether a larp is for you, and plan how to respond beforehand if troubles come up.
  • If you know about your triggers, medicational needs, or even what helps you in moments of emotional flooding or overwhelm: Communicate that to the Safety people before the larp so they can better support you individually.

Let’s make this community even more competent and safe for everyone – including the Safety people who try to make sure everybody feels safe at a larp. Let’s be mindful of how we’re treating them, so that we have more people in the future interested in doing this work. 


The author would like to acknowledge the editorial team at for their comments: Mo Holkar, Elina Gouliou, Kaya Toft Thejls, and Sarah Lynne Bowman.


Bowman, Sarah Lynne, Maury Brown, Brodie Atwater, and Alexis Rowland. 2017. “Larp Counselors – An Additional Safety Net.”, August 7.

Brown, Maury. 2017. “Safety Coordinators for Communities: Why, What & How.”, April 17.

Lindve, Petra, and Rebel Rehbinder. 2023. “We Organized These Larps Too!” Presentation at Knudepunkt, Sweden, May 19.

Kocabaş, Ezgi Özek, and Meltem Üstündağ-Budak. 2017. “Validation Skills in Counselling and Psychotherapy.” International Journal of Scientific Study 5, no. 8: 319-322.

Rather, Jill H., and Alec L. Miller. 2015. DBT Skills Manual for Adolescents. Guilford Press.

Stavropoulos, John, et al. 2018. “Living Games Conference: Internal Procedures.” Google Docs.

Cover Photo: Image by Mariam Antadze on Pexels. Photo has been cropped.

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Anita Berthold holds a degree in Psychology and is a certified Systemic Coach working as Talent Development Manager in a global semiconductor company in Germany. She is a german larp organizer and designer who started organizing in 2016 and becoming passionate about larp safety after volunteering as safety person in 2019 at the German larp “Villa Morgenrot”. Since then, she has worked as a Safety person in several national and international larps and tries to increase safety awareness in her home country as well.