Put on your all-blacks and buckle up. Whether you agree with this opinion or not, I feel like it needs to be said. Larps are gearing back up now that the weather and State Parks are accommodating, which means there are a lot of first-timers and a lot of seasoned veterans donning their costumes and gearing up to kill some monsters.
Who plays the monsters, though? The hardest thing I have to explain about larping to my coworkers (I work in the medical field) isn’t the fact that I wear full plate armor in the middle of Summer with fake weapons and hot costume. It’s the fact that we fight ‘monsters’ that are really just people dressed up. “They volunteer to get their asses kicked all weekend? WHY?” Why indeed?
NPC’s (Non-Player Characters) are a super important part of ANY larp. They help the story move along, fill in gaps by playing the important characters of note, and are the monsters that play against the PC’s (Player Characters). Plot staff that run the larp fill in as important figures that may drop hints/clues for the story, may help personal timelines along, or just play big baddies that you have to bring down. There are also people that NPC for full-time that may not actually be a plot member. It could be because incentives are given such as currency for the game, cookies/buttons/etc to spend on different aspects of the game behind the scenes (this varies from larp to larp: some have it, some don’t) or just because they enjoy it!
Which brings me to the title of our post. If you didn’t start NPC-ing for larp like I did, I definitely think you should do it at least once before you dive deep into your larp career. Starting as an NPC is a great way to dip your toes into larp without spending a lump sum of money (most larps have PC’s pay to play) on tickets to play, costumes, accessories, weapons, etc. Plus, you get to interact with the PC’s on multiple levels. Sure, you can be the trash monster and just go in wave after wave. You can also be a non-combat NPC and play characters for the plot. You may have hints to drop, specific people to talk to or interact with, or just adding to ambiance during meals. There is variety.
Specifically, the NPC’s lose.
95% of the time, NPC’s lose.
And they’re supposed to that 95% of the time.
Yes, larping first as an NPC can help you learn the rules but it can also teach you the sportsmanship of the game. There will be fights where you might just be playing a wolf. A plain ‘ol wolf. Maybe a few hitpoints, possibly a special attack to hit for 2 damage instead of one. You’re not supposed to live super long and you will have to take all of your hits. If you don’t, there will be 15,000 more hits to come behind the one you are ignoring. You will die, and that’s okay. That’s your job, and you did it well.
There will be fights where you play a big baddie. Tons of health, you hit like a truck, and you’re supposed to give the players a run for their money. You’ll have defenses, big attacks, possibly a cool costume and cool weapons. There will be 15,000 attacks barraging you and no matter how hard you fight, or how difficult of a baddie you are, you will (95%) still lose. Because that’s the point of the game. I’ve only encountered 2 or 3 fights where we were SUPPOSED to lose. The random few that we lost to throw-away NPC’s didn’t seem to mess with the story. (I got the snot beat out of me on what we thought was a simple escort. The other tank had only one piece of armor on because we were apparently in a hurry, so I just got dominated because they were expecting 2 tanks instead of just little ‘ol me. I’ve been informed that this will not be the only encounter with them, so i’m gearing up for revenge.)
You come to appreciate the NPC’s and plot members that NPC after you’ve had monster time, or NPC’d for a full 3 day event. Welts and bruises, blisters and sore feet… I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum so i’ve felt someone swinging a weapon too hard. It’s helped me be conscious of how hard i’m hitting. I’ve been the PC that sits in the back and doesn’t really speak much because they’re shy. NPC-ing absolutely helped me step out of my shell. While the PC’s may be the hero of the story, NPC’s are the unsung heroes in the background. They are the entire reason your character is as strong as they are. Without NPC’s, we have no game. I believe everyone should experience the NPC life at least once in order to learn the rules, learn to take hits, learn the sportsmanship, and learn how to appreciate. We as PC’s get the glory but give your NPC’s some love. They definitely deserve it.
If it is your first time doing monster time, or as a full-time NPC, I want to direct you to this fantastic article by Brandes Stoddard on ‘How to be a Great NPC’. You should probably just read it anyway, it’s really good.