Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Healthy Competition

Olympics are on my brain, so some thoughts about LARP competitions...

In-game competitions are often excellent ways to a) advance a plot, b) entertain PCs, and c) use a conservative number of NPCs to accomplish both a and b. Set in the middle of an event, a contest of some sort, lasting for a few hours, can not only add to the gameworld atmosphere, but also occupy PCs who would otherwise be bored. For this reason, in-game contests are a frequent occurrence in LARPs, especially in games that emphasize a larger landscape outside the central "town." Contests, executed well, can be excellent ways to introduce NPCs, encourage PC bonding, and allow people to demonstrate special talents. However, less successful contests also exist, and we've probably all experience one or two. 

All of this considered, I wanted to pose some questions about IG competitions? Do you like them? How are the best utilized? What format do you prefer? Should there be a boon, prize, or reward? What should be avoided?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Thinking: Staying Cool in the Heat

The summer weather in Japan always reminds me of two things: 1) the Japanese definition of "lightly muggy" is my definition of "the 7th layer of Hell on a breezy day," and 2) water is really important. Moreover, it's also made me realize that the Japanese are 200% better at staying cool in heat than New Englanders are. Beyond the usual "wear light and cool clothes" and "drink water" that most of us know and follow, the Japanese have managed to perfect staying cool in damp, hot, and uncomfortable weather. I think a couple of these, along with the old standbys, transfer well to the LARP setting-- so, some stuff I've seen here, as well as the usual precautions. Karin on LARPohio also wrote a good post on this awhile ago.

1) Wear light clothing that dries easily.
This is basic. Just like in the colder weather, dress in layers that you can change in and out off. Sweat, rain, dew, and drizzle can, in the summer months, quickly turn to mildew, and make your costume uncomfortable and unhygienic. (Thinking back to junior high health class, we all know what warm and damp equals.) Comfortable clothing can easily look period, and most games have a "summer armor/costume" rule for the hotter months. Invest in some garments that not only look good, but are also practical (light linen and cotton all work for me).

2) Drink water. Lots of it.
Another essential part of warmer weather. Drink more water than you normally would-- a lot more. You're not only outside in the hotter weather, you're running around and exerting yourself. Water is absolutely essential: check, before going to a LARP, about how much you need daily, and then how much you would need for, say, a weekend of active camping. Failing to drink water can, of course, equal, fatigue, dehydration, irritability, heat exhaustion, and all that stuff. Have a "drinking buddy" who helps you remember to drink water before and after fights, and regularly throughout the event. Similarly, find an in-game flask of bottle that will encourage you to drink more water.

Edited-to-add an excellent point from commenter jjmarika (included below, but I wanted to emphasize it):

The sad corrollary to this is that sometimes drinking water is not enough. I was at a one-day in the summer and was feeling awful - headache, too hot, sorta sick, all the signs that I was really dehydrated. I kept drinking water, and it did absolutely nothing. Finally a friend whose brain was not entirely fried handed me a gatorade and 15 minutes later I was fine. So yeah. If you are missing electrolytes/nutrients/sugar, sometimes water alone is not enough. Recommend having at least one thing of juice/gatorade/whatever along, too.

3) Use fans.
The Japanese use paper hand-fans all the time. Not only are they elegant, but they're also really quite effective-- a few minutes wafting yourself with a paper or cloth fan looks good, but also dries up sweat, and cools you down. Some people, I've seen, have little battery-operated cooling fans-- I have no idea where to get these, but they seem effective.

4) Eat foods that will give you stamina.
In the hot weather, it's easy to lose your appetite-- especially if you're racing around, waiting for the next module or encounter. In Japan, there is a belief that, in the summer, eating nutrient dense foods, in small amounts, is the best way to stay healthy. At a summer larp, I think this is especially important-- the heat is tiring, and without proper nourishment, you're going to be dead on your feet by 8pm on Saturday. Nutrient dense foods include high protein stuff, complex carbohydrates, and the so-called good fats. Be careful, however, of too much salt.

5) Comfort is everything.
A lot of people, especially warrior-tanks and highborns, forgo comfort in favor of costume. Be careful of this in the summer: heavy boots, ornate corsets, detailed armor, and cloaks may all look beautiful, but can quickly cause heat exhaustion and, at the very least, irritability. Your light-cotton skirt and simple shift may look less than stellar (compared to your autumn costume), but, when the mercury is rising, and you're soaked in sweat, you'll be much more likely to enjoy the game than if you were in full garb. Of course, some will never forgo their full costume-- that's not me, but I can see the motivation behind it.

6) Irritability.
I've mentioned irritability a few times, but it bears clarification: in the hot weather, temperatures and tempers run equally high. People are often uncomfortable, over-tired, and over-heated-- this can make for snappy conversations and unintended nastiness. Be mindful of this. Firstly, if you need to give yourself a time-out, do so. Go sit in your cabin, take a quick shower, or have a snack. Secondly, if people are snappy at you in hot weather, be a little more understanding-- there's no real excuse for incredible rudeness, but, if people are hot and exhausted, just give them some space, and hope they get over it.

What do you do to beat the heat at late spring, summer, and early fall LARPs?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Theory Thursday: Non-Larping Influences

A quick announcement: as many of you know, I'm currently in Okazaki, Japan for the rest of the summer. I'm doing a fairly intensive language program, and, accordingly, won't have much time to update this blog. (Pictures and tales from not-so-old Japan here.) Accordingly, I probably won't have very much time to post new things other than questions for discussion. So, if you've been thinking about submitting something, please do so! Email any ideas to

Onto the question...

What non-LARP "proper" activities have influenced your LARPing style? Consider things like cosplay, theatre, vocal performance, reenactment, creative writing, and that sort of thing. What sort of non-LARP elements do you bring to the game from these activities? How has it positively influenced your game? Have there been any negative "side effects" from using non-LARP things within a LARP?