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I have been a participant but mostly organiser of a LARP in Switzerland for a number of years. This year I have for the first time participated in a large organised LARP in Germany (Conquest of Mythodea, some 9000 people).

  • While there, one of our friends hooked up with an other participant at said LARP - actually one of the NPCs. This happened during some pre-event party while people where not yet in character, i.e. pretty normal stuff that could happen at any music festival.

  • Later on, while taking part in the actual LARP story there was a sort of quest handed out where the goal was essentially to sweet talk / flirt with any other player. Regardless of the specifics of this quest (and how it could be regarded as completed or not) this got me thinking...

Is there a social contract / established practice for how the LARP community handles flirting or similar romantic advances?

Of course LARP should be a fun experience for everybody. You'd absolutely want to avoid creating situations where players are made to feel uncomfortable (or worse) by some uncalled-for advances. And while breaking character is of course always an option to tell somebody to stop, I wonder if there isn't some danger of people feeling 'pressured' while in a certain role or scene. Also breaking character is rather frowned-upon in certain circles, and would probably be regarded to be a measure-of-last-resort...

I am looking for answers from LARPers who have personal experience with this topic and/or established social contracts. Bonus points if the experience is from the European / German LARP scene.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kyyshak Please don't answer in comments. If you can support this with the LARP experience OP requested, please submit an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 20 at 14:50
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While I'm not such a purist that I would avoid breaking character in a LARP to note that I want something to stop, I've met some people who play at that level in the Madrid scene. This is a method they frequently bring up when asked about the topic.

Safewords.

Safewords are a way of noting there's something you don't like in roleplay without directly addressing it. You just slip the word casually (or not so casually) into your dialogue. You can repeat the word with a more incisive toning if it slips by the player you want to address. Usual safewords include the colors of the traffic lights where green is used to say "go ahead, be more intense", Yellow means "This is ok, but don't go further" and red says "I don't like this, stop".

Safety first.

In any case, at LARPS safety should come first always. All contact must be safe and consensual, and everyone must have the freedom to step out of situations or places that make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. This needs to be clearly stated.

Also, if someone by using their non-verbal comunication is clearly showing discomfort to a level where it seems they aren't acting, the polite thing to do is either back off, or check out of character if you're oversteping their boundaries. Giving priority to the scene before the comfort of the participants is an open invitation for abusers, and that's the kind of people you don't want in your LARP.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer! Just to make sure I understood this correctly: they are actually using the words "green", "yellow", "red" in in-character conversation as safe words? \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin reinstate Monica Aug 21 at 12:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes like "what you're doing is making me blush red!" or "Is your shirt green? I mean, sorry I lost focus for a moment there". The use is not 100% natural, you want the other person to notice you're using a safeword, but it doesn't stand out as much. \$\endgroup\$ – NameDisplay Aug 21 at 12:09
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Disclaimer

My experience comes from LARPing in Russian Federation only. I have never LARPed in another country.

LARP doesn't change much about touching

Usually, unless the rules clearly permit this, just as in any other situation, you should probably refrain from touching another player unless they explicitly agree, verbally or non-verbally. For example, hitting somebody from behind to slay their character (in accordance with the combat rules) is okay, groping them from behind (unless the rules specifically say that it's allowed) is not OK. LARP or not LARP, this does not change.

Words

As soon as you only use words, everything is generally OK. If the other person is not okay with what you are trying to do, they can stop it in-character. They can refuse verbally, they can call the guards if it's in a town, they can use in-game physical violence.

Watch the other player's reactions

If they are really not comfortable with what you are doing, it's often a good idea to stop. For example, this summer I played a constantly drunk wizard apprentice who tried to (unsuccessfully) flirt with everybody female he could see. When someone clearly wasn't OK with this kind of role-play (e.g. didn't respond to it, showed a disgusted face, stepped away quickly), my character (me) disengaged. In-character, it meant some more alcohol kicking in and my character falling unconscious. OOC, I was completely sober and just letting the other person escape the situation.

Anyway, in my area, unless you cross some boundaries like physically assaulting the player, if the other player is not comfortable with your role-play, it's considered their problem. Especially if you are doing something directly permitted by the rules.

Your mileage concerning long-term consequences may vary

An interesting remark: different players may have different expectations about the real-life consequences of such role-play. Most (myself included) presume that once the game stops, all relationships between characters vanish. Others think that if they started an in-game romance, it ought to continue in real life.

If something is really hurting you in the role-play, disengage

If any scene is really uncomfortable for you, it's better to slightly discomfort everyone around you and break character than to create a psychological trauma for yourself. If they don't stop, disengage, contact a game master and state that you are leaving the play. Your character is likely to be announced dead, but you will avoid a far less pleasant experience.

Again, my answer is only based on my experience, and only in Russia

If you are joining a new community, it's better to ask some of its members on the subject: as you might have noticed in my wall of text, even in the same country you can see very different approaches to the subject. Also, notice the plural form: ask more than one person, preferably way more than one. Their opinions may vary greatly.

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