When you create a character at a campaign LARP, you put a lot of time into that persona. You get the appropriate costuming, you create a personality and history for that character, and you form relationships and goals with that character. So what happens when that character’s story is at an end? What happens when your character dies?
Many people experience “bleed” when their character dies. Bleed is when you feel the same things your character does—or vice versa. Needless to say, the death of a character can cause all sorts of emotional responses. You may feel angry that your character died. Or perhaps you feel upset that this persona will “lose” their ties.
The thing is that your character will die. Either the campaign will eventually end, or your character’s story will end. The fact is that this persona will, eventually, no longer exist. And coming to terms with that fact is important. There are a few things to keep in mind when your character dies, so take a look and the next time you lose a character remember that it’s not the end.
You are not your character.
First of all, you are not your character. Your character may share many aspects in common with you. Your character may even dress like you, but ultimately you are not this alternate persona. This character has formed relationships with other fictional people, can (often) do things you can’t do (or can’t do things you can), and is not who you are in the real world. (I definitely can’t stitch someone back together when they’re near death, as an example).
By that same token, a character death is not something that happens to you. It’s something that happens to your character (in a possibly bloody, horrible way that makes for a great story after. I still tell “death stories” from when my characters have died). Yes, it may affect you emotionally, but remember that this is a shared gaming experience. While this may be the end of your character’s story, it’s not the end of yours.
Give yourself time to decompress.
Your character dying can be an emotional scene—not just for the character, but also for you. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking a quiet moment to yourself after your character dies. Step out of character, allow yourself to cool down a bit, sort through what you’re thinking, and only then enter play again with a new character.
Now listen to this next part. It’s very important: If you’re upset about your character loss, don’t drag other players away from game (or away from NPCing) to listen. Voicing a story that you’re upset about to many people at once (who may or may not know you) to “unload” on them is inconsiderate (not to mention that dragging NPCs away from what they’re doing can delay modules). The players you’re “unloading on” are also there to play the game—and have a good time. Instead, take a moment to yourself to sort through the emotions you may be feeling, and if you want to talk to one person about it, first ask them (Note the fact that “one” is in bold letters. You don’t need ten.). If the person gives you a definitive “yes,” then go to a location where you will be given some privacy. If you definitely feel like you will need someone to talk to, talk to one of your friends before game about coming to the out of game area in the incidence that your character dies. But always, always take time to yourself first.
Give yourself closure.
Sometimes, it may seem like a character’s story feels “unfinished.” You may feel like there’s more that you want to do as that character. But each character’s story, in some ways, ends when it’s supposed to. Sometimes they fade away, slowly forgotten as they finish a quiet character arc. Sometimes they die at their peak as a hero, covered in blood and screaming for one last breath. And sometimes they’re stabbed in the back—the result of revenge or violence. No matter how the character dies, reconciling how they died with their story can be important.
In this case, there are a few ways to give yourself closure. Make sure your character’s “last words” are found—whether it’s in the form of a diary or a scrap of paper. Ask for a specific final scene from the storyteller (if the game lends itself to it—such as Dystopia Rising’s Grave Mind scenes). Or write out your character’s final moments after game. And if you feel your character’s story is at an end, work with your storyteller to choose your character’s death before they die by chance. Any of these techniques can help give you a bit more closure.
Never seek “revenge.”
If your character dies due to an incident of character-versus-character (CvC), then don’t seek revenge afterward. These are all character interactions, so remember to play by the rules. Don’t try to encourage others to seek vengeance out of game, and don’t create a new character just to “go after” those who have killed your other character. It’s unsporting to look for revenge afterward, and is likely to lead to bad feelings out of game. Instead, create a fresh start.
Make your next character even better.
The best thing about LARP is that you can continue playing. Always have a secondary character in mind, and begin to develop it early before your first character has died. Invest in costuming, create a backstory, and think about what your new character can bring to the table.
Second characters are usually even better than original characters because players know the game world a bit better than when they first started. In addition, playing a new character will not only give you a new story to work with, but also allow you to see a side of game that you haven’t already.
You still have the same community.
Your character has died—not you. This means that you, as a player, have not lost the social connections and bonds that you’ve formed with other players. You’re are suddenly exiled from the community. You’re not some sort of social pariah. You still have the same friends. You still have the same ability to continue playing (albeit with a different character). And you can still have fun with your friends in this imaginary world that you’ve brought to life.
It’s more than that, too. If your character dies, reach out to the people you connected with out of character after the game. Go hang out at a bar. Check out a movie together, or do any number of activities with your group. If your character dies, you’ll interact less with the group of friends you once did in character. But there’s no reason you need to stop interacting with them after game. After all (and this is going to start giving people cavities but…), that’s how friendships form.