Playing it dangerous
In her article for the Empire LRP page about how to “get plot”, Kat mentioned that many of her plots require commitment and result in consequences that mean that the participants in them can not afford to be “too attached to their characters”. This phrase jumped out of the page at me in the context, and so I thought that I’d do a little mental unpacking, and share some thoughts.
There is a natural tendency among larpers to form a bond with their characters. I think that this is common to all roleplayers, but that the physicality of larp means that the separation between character and player is less noticeable and thus the connective bond is stronger. When we portray that character during the most fundamental and basic moments of our existence, like when eating, when connecting emotionally with others and even when sleeping (yes, God Rest Ye Merry. I’m looking at you); then we find that the OOC/IC divide is thin. A narrow gap between character and player leads naturally to a deep connection between the two, one that is hard to unpick.
But, we play these games to seek new experience, to explore new feelings or situations, or to challenge ourselves. Safety and security of character is the enemy of action. If you don’t take risks, you find no new experiences. Not all risks are related to character injury or death; in fact I would venture that the majority are of an emotional or ideological nature. We often risk our character changing, or being affected emotionally, as much as we risk fatality. It is still a risk that can alter our play, sometimes so fundamentally that we reach the point where it is no longer serving the purpose of entertaining us.
For me, at least, the point of playing a character (and indeed therefore the point of larp) is to experience situations that are interesting, and it is in these places that I find my character’s development and evolve their personality. Thus a static character, one whose existence, relationships and motivations remain constant, is of little interest. I engage with the process of change, of having my invented personality challenged and altered. The moments of deepest immersion for me are when my character reacts viscerally and without pause in a way that I would not have expected. When the character changes; the direction of my game changes; and I am no longer a person in a field pretending.
Sometimes that change is final. Sometimes a character will reach a point where their story is done. Sometimes they’ll be cut off in mid-story, by a death. Sometimes the risk I’ve taken fails to pay off in enjoyment or character longevity. But this is the point of playing, for me. I’m not telling a story, I’m participating in one. The game is not about my character, even though my game is. I could stay static, risk nothing, and be sure that my character will endure.
I am not attracted to risk itself, but to the situations that cannot come without risk, and the whole raison d’etre for my character is to enable that risk taking and thus those scenes. To return to Kat’s original suggestion, the commitment and consequences of risk are the very thing that makes me attached to my character. I play (and enjoy) her plot to become attached to my character, rather than despite an attachment to it.