Confessions of an Orphaned, Revenge-Driven, Healer Girlfriend – Or, My Struggles with Character Shaming in LARP

So I will start this post by saying this was not supposed to be the topic of my first blog post on here, and it is by far more opinionated that I will probably ever be again.  I WAS supposed to post a make-up tutorial (which I still have every intent of posting); however, this subject came up via various posts that I’ve noticed in other LARP communities and Facebook pages, as well as a comment posted by a friend of mine, regarding her character at a mutual game that we play.  Also, please note, that I am not trying to specifically point out any one person in any of these comments, and they are, by and large, my own personal opinions, so try not to take offense.  BUT, if you are taking offense to any of these comments, perhaps it might also be of use to think about why you’re taking offense to them, and maybe look deeper into some of your own actions, ideas, and prejudices regarding what you want to get out of gaming.  That being said- on with my post.

Many of us start LARPing for different reasons- all of us continue LARPing for the same reason (there is something about it that is fun to all of us).  We come to the game with various backgrounds.  Some of us have been table-topping for years, can recite lines from our favorite fantasy novels by heart, or have pictures of fairies and dragons inked on our walls and our bodies.  Some of us though, may not even be able to tell a Hobbit from a Hobgoblin.  Either way, that’s okay.  Some of us come to game with completely fleshed out ideas of who our character is, detailed backgrounds including family trees that span six generations, and details about our personalities down to the types of music they would listen to, their favorite color, flower, book, etc.  Some of us, have nothing.  Maybe it’s because we are brand new to the world of gaming, have no idea what the environment of our particular game might be, or our decisions to come play were made at the last minute.  Once again, all of these are okay.

There has been a recent trend popping up throughout the various LARP boards and pages that I scroll through on a daily basis, and I have to say, it bothers me on a deep and profound level.  It seems to once again, have become all the rage to shame people about the types of character that they play, or to slyly talk badly about the types of characters, or tropes that people tend to fall into when building their character.  This, is not okay.  Let me repeat to be perfectly clear, THIS IS NOT OKAY.  We may all get a giggle out of joking that every other adventurer in our town is an orphan, or that you occasionally run into the forgotten or displaced prince/princess or son/daughter of such, but publicly shaming any person who does play a character like this, is ridiculous.

Yes, sometimes it may become exhausting to see the same types of characters repeated.  It’s going to happen.  But that gives you no right, as a player or game runner to accuse other players of either playing their class/race/strain/etc. wrong, to call them lazy in their character creation or to give them unwanted advice on how you want them to play their character better.  Unless this person is blatantly cheating or going directly against what any rulebook would say (without an explanation), they are playing their character completely correctly, because it’s THEIR character.   By persistently pointing out to other players how you think they are “doing it wrong” without getting to know these players as individuals, or discussing different character concepts with them, you’re not really helping your game.  What you are getting perilously close to doing though is becoming a bully.  Keep in mind that several people who may lack completely robust characters, or who may fall into a lot of these stereotype characters are new to either your specific game or new to gaming in general.  They may not be familiar with fantasy, post-apocalyptic, or steam-punk settings at all.  They may not have friends who already play the game who are able to give them helpful information about the game setting or types of characters who already exist.  Teasing these players or directly confronting them about their characters, will, most likely, drive them further away from wanting to join your game or community- and will definitely not leave your personality smelling like roses in their memory.

If you feel like you’ve been the target of being shamed because of the character that you choose to play; please, please, ask questions.  Don’t just quit the game or hobby all together.  I’ve seen a couple people do this, and honestly considered it in my past.  But, not only are you not doing yourself any favors by skipping out on something that you might have enjoyed, but you’re not doing any favors to the future players who may follow you and be subjected to the same treatment.  If you are brave enough, ask the person who is griefing you directly, for their suggestions.  If they can’t offer you anything more than changing every aspect of your character, then your best bet might just be to ignore them for the bully that they are.  Even if they do offer you helpful suggestions, remember, that they are only suggestions, and it is up to you if you WANT to take these into consideration into your character concept.  Ask your ST’s or staff for suggestions on how to improve your make your character more robust- I have rarely encountered a staff person at any LARP who isn’t willing to help out new, or experienced players, in developing concepts for their character.  Finally, trust your own instinct.  This is the character that YOU are going to be playing, not anyone else.  Play what you will enjoy playing.  Don’t let people manipulate your character to the point that you wouldn’t recognize it any longer.

So, as someone who has played the stereotype before- and been bullied because of it- please stop.  Stop trying to be the nerd who out-nerds all the other nerds.  At the end of the day, we all are playing a game.  Do what you can to make it better, but character shaming, just isn’t the way.


2 thoughts on “Confessions of an Orphaned, Revenge-Driven, Healer Girlfriend – Or, My Struggles with Character Shaming in LARP

  1. SandraRegina says:

    I’ve not encountered this in a LARP, but in tabletop. I agree with you 100%. Its just as annoying. I’m playing my character the way I want to play her. I didn’t ask for advice. It is not welcome, or appreciated, and its incredibly demeaning and insulting. My choices may not be ‘optimal’, but they are MY choices. And I’m a seasoned role-player. People don’t just ‘shame’ or snark about newbie character ‘mistakes’ but also choices made by seasoned players, just because they’re not the ones they would make.

    I’m all for helping people flesh out a character, give them ties, help pick a faction (I tend to lean towards the faction with the least representation, everything else being equal), help them with background or costuming ideas or even names (some people find naming characters really hard, I think of it as a fun mental exercise). But I’m not going to give out any advice unless I’m asked, and I promise I won’t be annoyed, upset, or complain if you take only some, or even none, of that (solicited) advice. Because its not my character.

    I want people to have fun and enjoy the game. So yeah, unless its rule breaking or incredibly anti-immersive, I’m all for keeping quiet and letting other people play their characters the way they want to play their characters.

    Good post.


  2. Kalisandra of the Sword says:

    While I’ve not encountered this type of behavior in table-top or larping (which I haven’t had a chance to try yet) I did encounter it while participating in a now defunct forum where a number of us used a thread for impromptu/improvisational roleplaying. The culprit presumed to know exactly how my character “should” be played and threw a diva-worthy hissy fit whenever I deviated from her “program.” I wasn’t the only one she did this to and she managed to alienate everyone on the thread but she refused to leave the main plot until she finally went off on her storyline and let the rest of us play in peace for the most part.

    The thing is, in a medieval or post-apocalyptic setting, there are lots of ways for a character to be orphaned: disease/epidemic, natural disaster (flood, wildfire, hurricane, blizzard,), crop failure resulting in famine and everyone’s favorite — war. And if a character is an adult chances are they have outlived their parents who died of more or less “natural causes”. Also in medieval times, it wasn’t unusual for the nobility to “farm out” their excess children. The first son and maybe the second were groomed to inherit the title. After that the choices for sons were the religious life or military service. Some boys were pledged to the Church while still toddlers and were sent to the Church whether they had a vocation or not. Excess daughters who couldn’t be married off for whatever reason ended up in convents — if one would take them without a substantial dowry. So it isn’t that much of a stretch for a younger son or daughter of the nobility to take up the adventurer’s life. As for the “misplaced” prince/princess the same sort of thing applies. An excess of heirs can be dangerous for the stability of the country. One way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to knock off the “excess” heirs when the old ruler dies so the designated heir doesn’t have to worry about a sibling’s knife in the back. Escaping from an assassination attempt and taking up an assumed name and profession as an “adventurer” would be a logical course of action under those circumstances. The child of a “politically unsuitable” relationship could also find themselves living the life of an adventurer, perhaps even in the employ of their blue-blooded parent.

    The point of all this is that in a setting where there is a lot of social upheaval (war, famine, demon invasion, etc.) there are going to be a lot of orphans. In a setting that has an aristocracy, there will be mavericks and misfits who for whatever reason do not go into the “family business.” So if the character concept fits the setting and the “origin story” holds together, there’s no justification for giving someone grief about their character on those grounds alone. NONE. Anyone who does should be called on it and rightfully so. A BULLY by any other name is still a BULLY no matter how “helpful” they want people to believe they are.


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