I've been crewing as part of a particular LARP system for a while now. The roles I play are almost invariably handed to me. I'll frequently have a short brief and 5 minutes of prep before it's showtime and I need to go out and actually play this character, delivering some plot to the players and giving them another part of our universe to interact with.

We've a modestly-sized pool of crew to draw from, given our number of players. We get people who have never LARPed before joining all the time. Sometimes, though, the players ask a character a question, and the crew member just clams up. The referee who's running the encounter - usually a more confident and experienced LARPer - has to "fish" them, feeding lines into their ear and letting the character deliver them. This kind of sucks for both the players and the crew. I understand why it happens, I've needed fishing before, too, but I feel far more confident now and I've no idea what changed to make this happen.

Now that I am a more confident and experienced LARPer myself, I'm expected to take out groups of fresh LARPers, brief them, and be their referee. At this point, it's my responsibility to make their characters as easy and natural to play as possible.

What can do I do make this easy for them?

Should I aim to flesh out their characters for them, or let them pick details they feel comfortable with?

Should I steer them away from certain roles? What kind?

Does being thrown in the deep end help, or should I be easing people in slowly?

I expect that the right answer to this is "it depends on the person", but when dealing with someone I've only just met and who may well already be a bit nervous, what sorts of questions are constructive to ask them, and what can generally help people feel more comfortable?


1 Answer 1


I ran a high-fantasy boffer LARP for about 5 years, and experienced many of the same issues with my NPC's that you seem to be having. A lack of confidence made them eager to lean on more experienced or more responsible members of the NPC/narration team for answers to questions. I found a trio of things that helped to get NPC's past that reliance.

1) Set up opportunities to mentor the new NPC One of the very best techniques I had for getting NPC's into shape to role play more complicated roles was using myself as an example. Any time one of my more complicated/in depth roles could justifiably have a minion or tag-along, I invited the newer players to fill the spot and led by example. After the plot or scene, I'd take some time discussing the choices I made and things I said, giving them a foundation in how to think on their feet.

2) Let them write things down Many characters, across genres, have an excuse to take notes about the situation they're in. Get some quality, in-game looking notebooks and encourage your NPC's to carry them. Not only are written reminders a great way to make sure the information they're giving out is accurate, but "Let me check my notes" also gives a flustered NPC a moment to compose themselves.

3) Make it clear you will roll with their answer After discussions with several of my NPC's, I found that one of the biggest factors that led to pauses and 'fishing' was a worry that the answer they would give was going to screw something up, plot-wise. Let your NPC's know that you will run with whatever answer/plot development they creat -and then visibly do so, if the opportunity arises- and that fear of screwing something up will be one block they don't need to worry about.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding your third point, I definitely remember having the same sort of worry when I started out, so establishing that we will gladly roll with their improv is something I think will help. If an NPC accidentally says something that makes the world more interesting for the players, then they've definitely not made a mistake. That said, we have had a really small number of encounters where an NPC has gone rogue. Civvie suddenly deciding they're the son of a demon prince type of thing. I think your third suggestion is great, but needs a bit of temperance to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – ymbirtt
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 6:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ymbirtt Unless there's some REAL pressing issue as to why it doesn't work, I'd still run with it. I still wouldn't allow cheating (the stat card you get is all you get), but with enough work, you can make just about any ridiculous claim into solid plot. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 16:32

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