My boyfriend LARP character died by being picked off by a powerful monster when he was alone in his cabin. He was going to put on armor for the evening battles to come and had another PC with him. The PC left our cabin to return to the tavern, and I hadn’t noticed. I was not aware that he was alone at the time he was attacked, and since putting on armor takes a long time I thought nothing of his absence. After we resuscitated him (with 10 seconds to go before he would have become a death module Death) I found that I was very upset with myself, both in-character and out. I should’ve stayed with him or checked on him earlier. My reaction was raw and full of adrenaline: No, my boyfriend was not dying in real life but I was so immersed in the larp that I was worried that Micah Hightower was about to die and there was nothing my character could do about it.

This is an example of allowing yourself to be fully immersed despite the knowledge that you have about larp. Does Samantha Moody, the player of Kuuma Marux, know that people that die can come back? Absolutely. Does Kuuma Marux know that people that die can come back? It requires a lot of magic and knowledge that she doesn’t have. By setting aside my knowledge that I have outside of larp (meta/real life knowledge), I can allow more ‘natural’ character choices.

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Kuuma doing what she loves: Fighting!

Meta knowledge is powerful, but an important factor of larp is knowing how to separate character knowledge and player knowledge. Ryan (my boyfriend) and I talk about character things often, including our cultures. Are these things that Kuuma knows? No, not unless we have these conversations in character. If I guess a plotline correctly, I have to decide whether or not Kuuma would have any inkling of this going on. I go by context clues in writings and by things that I know Kuuma knows. There are many resources given to us by plot, such as world and scouting reports, culture packets, etc. NPC’s drop hints often too. After careful analysis it is then I can decide whether or not Kuuma is privy to the plot line in game.

It becomes a delicate game of balancing between lines. In early text-RP roleplay forums, we called using meta knowledge god-modding and meta-gaming. It took the fun out of interacting with individuals that abused the knowledge of the plot and site. I feel that the same can be translated over to LARP, D&D, and other hobbies. Is there a little meta gaming in LARP in general? Yes. Most larps have a death system that allow PC’s to be revived one way or another. If it is hard to separate the knowledge, make it a character choice. Kuuma is prideful and arrogant at times; her dying in battle would be a wound to her pride so she avoids it. Magic is new to the world of our larp, so it is foreign and something she doesn’t understand. She died once this past game, sacrificing herself in exchange for herbs to break the evil artifact she’d been charged with breaking.

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hi, hello, yes. Can I not end up here?

I personally struggle with these decisions. Meta wise, I had planned on Kuuma to sacrifice herself if the need arose when breaking the same evil artifact later in the game. This was a meta choice, but now I need to sit back and decide if I want to have Kuuma sacrifice herself AGAIN with no guarantee that she can be resurrected. Will she be rezzed? Probably. Can I let that be my only reasoning? Absolutely not. I attack it from the stance of “Kuuma was charged by her deity to break all of the Dragon Seals. She already sacrificed herself once to progress breaking the seal. Will she do it again? Absolutely.” If it was coming from a “Oh, someone needs to die? We got a rez, let’s go” then I start treading dangerously close to the territory I want to avoid. One one hand, Kuuma would have absolutely sacrificed herself knowing someone could bring her back. She took pride in being a bulwark for her friends, and for serving the dragon she worships. On the other hand, was it meta? Now that the experience has passed, i’ve become more introspective to the experience and it has caused me to want to make more decisions based on the character instead of the larp, if that makes sense. I veered dangerously close to the meta aspect, but since it fit with my character and her goals I don’t feel scuzzy about it. You also get close to the tailspin of “Is it a meta decision if you decide NOT to do it because of a reason outside of larp, such as “What if she couldn’t have come back?””

I would be absolutely heartbroken if I could not play Kuuma again from dying too much. While I know that my gaming system is relatively lenient, I don’t want to take any chances. I implore you to think about your character’s looks on mortality and death, and what they’d be willing to sacrifice themselves for. At this point, the list is pretty short for Kuuma. Quetzalcoatl and Micah Hightower are at the top of the list. Who would you take a bullet for? What would you let a Fey constellation drown you to death for? As long as you have your priorities in order, or an open mind to make these decisions on the fly in character, you will be just fine. Kuuma plans on becoming a fantastic, giant dragon NPC or dying in a giant field battle protecting her friends on the last day of the Altera larp. Until then, it’s a constant deep dive into my character in the meantime.

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Saturday morning Kuuma selfie.

2 thoughts on “Separating ‘Meta’ from LARPs

  1. Good article, I like how you drew from your personal experiences. The topic of meta (for good and ill) is an ever-pertinent one in LARP and roleplaying games in general.

    Like

    1. It’s a lot easier when you pull from personal feelings to help convey what you’re trying to convey! It’s important, too. Good for enjoyment and immersion.

      Like

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