Aftercare is methods to take care of the participants of a larp after it is over and maybe even during play in act breaks.
The idea behind aftercare is to help players move from the mindset of the character back into real life in a safe way that helps them process game experiences constructively.
Intense games can often push players to new mindsets, it is therefore important to have a safe space to find the way back to real life. De-roleing is often a very delicate process, as a too rapid exit can be traumatic.
One of the main issues arising after games is bleed-out, where the player retains emotional aspects of the game experience after returning to real life. With proper aftercare it's possible to encourage positive carry-over and diminish the negative, as well as make players aware of the nature of these feelings and how to cope with them.
In particular, bleed around relationships with other characters can carry over after the game. The personality of characters often contrasts with that of the actual person who played the character and thus the situation needs to be handled carefully by the involved parties and organizers.
The experiences of a larp will be very individual and confusing during and immediately after the game. Aftercare can be used by the organizers to impart a specific message about the game on the players or make them think about the experience in a certain way. This can be about the issues faced in the game, the social dynamics or personal lessons from the individual character.
Even without an intentional message on the game, it is often good for players to reflect on the experiences of the game and what they have learned.
Character traits can often linger for quite a while, especially if players remain in costume or in the game setting. It is therefore advisable to have them put on their own clothes and have the aftercare in a different location from that of the play and make
It is also good to meet the other players as themselves rather than as the characters, since it is not uncommon that players will not have met before they do so ingame. It will help to build a relationship based in real life rather than a fictional setting, which can cause problems later on.
A way of framing and containing the experience is for a player to craft a coherent narrative or other creative expression out of it. This often helps to get the thoughts settled after a game and makes sharing easier.
It's often good for players to be able to share their experiences after the game, with both fellow participants and with people outside the game. This often takes the form of retelling bits of story or specific encounters, which is often called "warstories." Retelling the experience to other participants will help players feels more comfortable with their personal experiences and see other sides of the game, while explaining them to outsiders will help frame and explain the experience and put some perspective and context on it.
Many games also feature a party shortly after the game, where players can get to know each other and share experiences. Alcohol will often make players open up more, for good and bad. It is advisable to take care of any serious aftercare before a party, as unresolved issues can easily pop up in such a setting.
The timing of the aftercare is important as players are more malleable immediately after a game, but it's often good to first give them a bit of time to look each other in the eyes, recover on their own and calm down for the aftercare. The longer players wait before facing the experience the more it settles, possibly in a negative fashion.
Getting normalized after a game can be a long process, not just confined to the immediate aftermath. With strong bleed it can take weeks or even months to get back to normal. Good aftercare also includes tools for the players to use themselves following the planned elements. The debrief buddy system is a way to make sure players will do follow up reflection on the experience.
Aftercare during act breaks
Elements of aftercare introduced in act breaks will help players see the game from an outside perspective rather than fully immersed and be able to work as themselves rather than character in workshop elements. It is also good for creating trust between the players, allowing more intense future play.