How can we explain the nature of LARP (Live Action Role Playing) to someone who never approached it? Moreover, how many sources should be read — and of what kind — in order to be able to enjoy a specific live role-playing event?
What follows here below, is our attempt to provide an answer to these questions. Since a video is worth a thousand words, if you're completely new to this reality, we recommend you watch “What is a Larp” produced by the Czech group Court of Moravia.In a few minutes, it sums up nicely what happens over the course of a short larp event.
How to play
Part-taking in Larp events is to experience a particular way of having fun: pretending to be someone else. After all, children play games like this all the time: «Let’s pretend we are…». In Keystone, all we do is remove the social taboo that prevents adults from pretending, lying, interpreting different roles. On this newfound freedom, we lay the foundations for a large, unpredictable collective story.
Keystone is this: an exciting game for grown-ups, a sumptuous interactive drama.
You and the character you have chosen to play are at the center of this game. You don’t need to be an actor, nor is any acting experience required. As long as you remain in character and react to what is going on around you as if it were real, you can’t go wrong. The only rule we go by is “what you see is what you get”. All elements existing in the imaginary world in which the game is set will be physically present in the real world. Every action that your character will take, will have to be performed as well. Mimicking a gun with one’s fingers or describing aloud an action that you would like to accomplished is forbidden.
Talk and act like a late nineteenth-century citizen, and be careful to refrain yourself from using modern expressions which would be inappropriate for the setting.
In Keystone, you will step in the shoes of a member of the European society in the late nineteenth century. Our staff of authors will provide you with a description of the character you chose.
This material includes a brief introduction to their past life, relationships established with other characters, personal ambitions, and some insights and prompts to start your game with.
The Character Sheet is but a starting point. While it defines the social ties, vices, virtues, and inclinations of your character at the beginning of the game, it is not a script to be followed meticulously! The unfolding of the plot and the choices you will make might lead you on unexpected paths.
You will be able to choose the character from a public list of descriptions (also known as Teasers), which will be accessible to all; then you will receive in private all reserved information. A brief example of a character teaser might look like this:
"Jack Layman, the humble doctor. Jack has abandoned his artistic ambitions to follow his parents' wishes and pursue a career in a medical environment… but the demon of poetry lives on in his mind. He’s hopelessly in love with Dora Palmer, the actress, and admires his mentor Lord Dorian Balmington, though the man strikes a chord of awe and uneasiness in him."
The most wondrous thing about Larp events is that nobody is left alone. The united efforts of all players create a fantastic collective experience, the only real purpose of the game. For this reason, everyone must do their best to help each other out and contribute to this great atmosphere.
Each and every one of us has their own preferred style of role-playing, and many players enjoy mixing different approaches as the event unfolds. If you have never played before or don’t favor a style over another, allow yourself to be carried away by the rush of the moment. Let yourself be drawn by what you enjoy, what catches your interest or attracts you. There are many ways to tackle the game, without any of them being right or wrong.
In some occasions, you will simply fancy the feeling of breathing the atmosphere of another world, surrendering yourself to your own imagination. Lift the veil of reality and lose yourself to the other side. Try to experience the romantic scenery of a Victorian picnic. Listen to the sweet Debussy melody rising from the studio floor. Watch over the servants as they lay a banquet…
At other times, you might prefer to act. Take a firm hold of the reins of destiny. Design a murder, plot the theft of the century, or perhaps go and seduce that intriguing nobleman over there!
A nice way to have fun is to consider the event as an evolving show, in which to create intense, dramatic scenes for everyone. Have fun in surprising yourself and your playmates: you needn’t be under the spotlight at all time, in order to enjoy the adrenaline of the moment.
Try to imagine what your character really wants, and take steps to achieve that wish. Your goals could be written explicitly on the character sheet, but this doesn’t prevent you from finding new ones! Betray your cause in exchange for a promise of power, lose yourself to the ecstasy of debauchery and climb the social ladder.
As stated before, the main rule of Keystone is what you see is what you get, that is: everything is as you see it. Everything existing in-game is all physically present in reality, and in the same way, every action of your character must be physically interpreted, whether it’s a confrontation or a moment of tenderness, possessed seizures or the laughter of a madman.
This is a game for adults: we expect you will not be bothered by furious quarrels, uncovered body parts, cruel jokes, and gruesome scenes. After all, this is a late-Victorian drama about power. You should be prepared to witness strange things during your stay at the villa.
However, your integrity and health are fundamental, and you will not be asked to suffer enduring situations that make you uncomfortable. Just as you create the game situations, you decide how deep you want to go. But always know that everyone plays differently.
Choosing your Character
Some players prefer to impersonate characters that are a version of themselves in another time and another place. Others prefer to play as wildly different from themselves. There is no right or wrong way, as both choices can lead to exciting results. You will have an extensive list of characters to pick from: find the one that gives you the most satisfaction, and enjoy it thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to change your approach during the game, and create something completely unpredictable!
Enjoy yourself and let it go
This larp is an immersive event, which is why you must never step out of character. Sometimes, however, you can take a break to relax and enjoy yourself as your alter ego. Set plot and ambitions aside for a while and take some time for yourself. You could spend your larp dancing, laughing and drinking your worries away, but… be careful: keeping away from troubles won’t prevent them from finding you anyway...
Let it go!
Remember: you are not your character! Don’t be afraid to have them perform petty actions, and don’t take their personal misfortunes as a personal offense. Every action you decide to perform, everything that will happen to you will last only in the reality of the game. At the end of the event, we will take off our masks. The betrayed one will hug their traitor. Nobles will laugh along with servants. Victims will congratulate with their murderers, proud of having contributed to a unique performance. During the game, however, let your inhibitions go: we have devised some simple methods to play safely (you can find the Rules of Interaction below). The only limits are the rules of decency, common sense and law.
Play to lose
Winners play to lose! Keystone invites you to interpret a dramatic and incredibly deep story, where you will have the opportunity to give your characters ambitious aspirations and plenty of chances to fail spectacularly. Use them. Playing a truly treacherous character and making them get what they deserve is cathartic and fun. The path of idealism without compromises or nice feelings is poetic and powerful, even if it all ends in tragedy.
You are in control
«The world is the same for all of us and good and evil, sin and innocence, roam about it holding hands.» (Oscar Wilde)
When playing dramatic situations together with other players, it’s good to set a simple list of basic rules to better manage your involvement without embarrassment or annoyance. We want you to be able to clearly communicate your limits, and decide the preferred intensity of the game without interrupting its flow.
In Keystone, we will use the following signals: Safewords
If you find something happening during the game too unpleasant or intrusive, you can (and must!) use the safeword “Lay Off!”. It’s a code that everyone knows, and it declares to the other players that they shouldn’t push the realism much further and that they must, instead, give you some space, lower the tension and take care not to hurt you. There’s nothing wrong with using this safeword. On the contrary, it helps keeping the experience nice and comfortable for everybody. If someone says it to you, that is an order and you have to obey promptly: everyone has their own level of tolerance and you must respect it at all times.
More often, it may happen that a player is too cautious or shy and, not wanting to risk annoying the other person, they might interpret a scene in an overly light, soft and unrealistic way. In such case, you can use the safeword “Is that all?”. This signals to the other player that, if they want, they can go a little heavier, play the scene in a more authentic or more physical way, and increase the tension. No one is forced to obey: this safeword is just a request, an advice, never an order.
No reward will be given to those who resist longer in an unpleasant situation, so remember: there is no shame in using these words!
Please, be always aware of yourself and of the situation. Take care of yourself!
Playing with feelings
Being in difficult situations is the core of every drama. Many players have the most fun while pretending to go crazy, get strangled, even desperately fall in love. Whether we interpret fallen nobles, slimy bourgeois or fearful servants, we can live meaningful experiences in pushing our characters towards powerful emotions. Be present. Be nice. Let yourself go.
THAT'S ALL. YOU’RE ADULTS. USE YOUR BRAIN. ENJOY YOURSELVES!
Freely adapted from "How to play" by Inside Hamlet
If you need any kind of assistance, or if you are just bored and in need of some guidance, feel free to talk to the “HOST”, an organizer who is there for you.
You will always find the HOST on the first floor of the Villa. You can recognise him/her by the yellow rose pinned on the dress.
The Host is not a real character, but a staff member who is there only to support you and help you both with in-game and off-game matters. The HOST is available for any questions, clarifications and explanations, it's the contact person in case of emergency, and for a friendly talk. Also, if you feel like taking some time-out, the HOST will escort you to an off-game zone.
If you need to talk with the Staff during the game, look for the HOST, and talk to him/her discreetly. If you see any other characters already talking with the HOST, don't eavesdrop: they are talking about off-game matters.
Come to the Facebook page of the event or to the Terre Spezzate group and ask all the questions you want! But first, remember to read this website thoroughly, as it contains the answers to (almost) all your questions...