Play How You Want, Not How Your Character Wants

“My character wouldn’t do that.”

That phrase? That phrase right there? That’s one of my pet peeves in LARP. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a phrase that’s completely fine if you enjoy staying true to the essence of your character. At the same time, though, you shouldn’t sigh theatrically and say it with a sad look in your eyes as you learn about something that’s going on within a game. “Look! We’re going on a water slide!” “That looks like so much fun! But…sigh…but my character would never do that. I’ll sit here instead. Sadly. Alone. By myself.”

It happens to a lot of LARPers. We create a character that we love and play them for a while. Then, we get into role play were not so fond of. Either we don’t like the reactions of the other characters to our character’s actions, or dislike the consequences to our character’s actions. Sometimes, we complain about not being able to go on fun mods that we, as a player, would enjoy (even though our characters wouldn't). 

And you know what? This stuns me; it stuns me because a person doesn’t realize they can guide their character’s actions if they’re not fond of the roleplay they like. After all, we guide our characters--not the other way around.

I'd like to note now that I'm largely speaking about entertainment LARPs when I write this. You can absolutely argue it's necessary to stay true to a character in other types of LARPs due to how they're designed. In this case, though, I'm focusing on one type of LARP that's meant for enjoyment.

Now don’t get me wrong. If a person is committed to a character and enjoys the roleplay of a character to such an extent that they’re fine with missing out on things that the “character wouldn’t do,” then that’s fine. What is an issue is if the player believes that their enjoyment of a game is overshadowed by their need to play their character a specific way. And that’s exactly why you should keep a few things in mind not only when playing, but also when designing your character.

1. Create a character with the roleplay you want in mind. If you want to go on fun adventures, create a character that likes going on fun adventures! If you enjoy combat, create a combat-heavy character. If you enjoy social time with other characters, then create a character that’s friendly and willing to interact across multiple social circles. By that same token, DON’T create a character that will likely get into the opposite roleplay that you desire. If you don’t like combat, don’t create a combat character, etc.

2. Don’t be afraid of changing your character’s personality. It happens, sometimes. You create an awesome character concept that you love, and then something doesn’t click. Maybe you don’t enjoy that aspect of game you wanted to explore. Maybe your character has changed over time. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid of altering your character’s personality. It’s happened to me with my own characters; I didn’t enjoy playing them, so I tweaked their personalities slightly to be more fun for me as the player.

3. Don’t blame your character for why you don’t go on modules. Now don’t get me wrong here. It’s fine if you’re staying true to your character’s concept if you enjoy the roleplay. But if you’re making yourself miserable by staying true to the character, then you may want to re-think the character. If you want to go on modules or do specific things within a game, then make up a reason for your character. Perhaps it’s something they’re doing on a whim. Perhaps they’re guarding another character. You can even discuss things with a friend ahead of time to engineer a situation to “convince” your character to do something that you, the player, would enjoy doing.

4. Don't get offended if people react negatively to your character. You may love your character, but that doesn't mean everyone does. If you create a dark, brooding murderer who distrusts everyone, odds are that characters (and players) won't enjoy interacting with your character as much as they would, say, a friendly, outgoing adventurer who wants to make friends. If you want to play a dark, brooding murderer who distrusts everyone, then be prepared for the roleplay you are about to receive. If you're cool with it, then go for it! If you don't like the roleplay you're receiving, then change up your character a bit.

To sum things up, it’s absolutely fine to change your character’s personality. If you want it to seem more organic, take a break from the character for a few games and then come back to them. At the end of the day, though, you control your character—not the other way around. If you’re having a negative experience due to your character, then don’t hesitate to change things up. After all, your character is a fictional person, and will never be as important as the real person behind them.