This is a post about finding the right place for you at a big fest event. I’ll try to keep the boring personal bits fairly brief.
No plot will be discussed here, before anyone panics.
My first ever LARP Event was the very first Empire event. For those who’ve never LARPed in the freezing cold and snow, where your zippers freeze on your tent, it is an experience that is not to be missed. My wife and I were utterly unprepared, in a small pop up tent with less blankets than we’d have at home, we were utterly uncomfortable.
But the camaraderie, the sense of joint misery, sharing pain with a group of strangers and acquaintances, it was amazing. We were hooked.
But then I started to struggle. Slowly at first, then more and more as event followed event and I realised, I couldn’t step to the other players around me. I was Ben, play acting as my character, and I never lost that feeling of pretending. I couldn’t think in my character’s mind, I was just trying to bounce off of others, and when they weren’t around, I was paralysed with the immensity of trying to be someone who I knew I wasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, my friends were great, when they were around I found bits of game and did things with them, but they had their own things and I have too much pride to just puppy around after others all event.
I started attending a few other, smaller events on the advice of a couple of long term LARPers, and those were easier. Things happened faster and more naturally, but I still found myself unable to connect to a character for long. Then I started crewing a small local event called Arkfall.
Something clicked and I realised that my problem wasn’t LARP, my problem was having too much choice and not enough direction. I LOVED NPCing. I was handed something and told to present it to the players, I was told how I felt, I was told what my goals were. Even in the most open ended role I was given, I was able to work these things out for myself.
So I contacted PD about joining the NPC crew. The NPC leader, Katie, welcomed me quickly and sorted me out. I signed up for one event, feeling cautious and worried about stepping from a 50 player game to a game where over a thousand people could be affected by my presence. But there was absolutely nothing to worry about. People who walk through the monster tent on their way to help with the battle probably see a chaos of outfits and props and other things, but when I helped set up I saw the planning and the prep and how much work the behind the scenes guys put in. That means that when it is time to send plot out, you just follow the simple instructions of each group and you’re quickly outfitted, made up and thoroughly drilled with what you need to know. For bigger roles, they have computers to allow you to research your own background and any events you need to know about. It’s still chaotic, but there is order in the chaos, and you can ask as many stupid questions as you like, because the other NPCs are just excited for you to be there and learning.
I jumped into as many plots as I could, Urizeni, Boggart, Orc. I didn’t feel like fighting, so I stuck to the main field, enjoying the interactions as players hungrily grabbed at the plot we held in our greasy mitts.
Best of all, I got to be in a Past Life Vision (True Liao) and see how they work. The ritual and the careful planning behind each one was inspiring.
There are some fairly strict rules when it comes to NPCing. Stick to the brief. Don’t make anything up as you go along, because it makes plot writers sad. When the plots run out, you can take your R&R character out for a spin, but avoid major plot and don’t break the law (the avoid major plot part is more implied than a rule, but it seems fair, because your character won’t be around enough and you’re possibly taking plot that others could do more with).
After the event I got home and relaxed for a couple of days, then I signed up to NPC for the rest of the year. Crewing an event is tiring, but no more so than being a PC. But for me, as someone who struggled with the basics of LARPing, it has been an amazing way for me to be in the field and feel connected to the mass of players who churn around the field.
I hope this was interesting to a few and helpful to someone who maybe is where I was a year ago. I can’t recommend NPCing enough. Try it out sometime!