The skills of a larper

To follow up my angry statement (and to get away from the bleed-bashing) here’s a starting list of skills I think it’s worth persuing as a larper. Some of them might seem like common sense social skills, but not everyone starts off with those and even if you have some, you can always improve on them.


Being aware of the other players, what they are experiencing and where they are going.

It’s both a matter of reading the subtler clues while ingame, but also having the courage to ask up front. And vice versa being comfortable speaking your mind.

It is a must-train skill for us socially awkward nerds.


The ability to show emotions in a nuanced and clear way. Society usually wants us to hide them away, but they are essential to good larp. There’s a wide range of emotions to try out and many ways to show them.

Dramatic sense

Knowing how to structure the flow of play. Both in regards to the overall structure of the game and matching it to those around you for great synergy.

When to start with a bang and when to do a slow build. When to let others shine and when to throw yourself onto the spotlight.

Over and under-acting

Being able to portray emotions and knowing dramatic flow also important in regards to the “volume” of play. The ability to reach melodramatic heights and to subtly show the nuances.


The ability to bring the traits of other characters actively into play. Knowing how to adjust your own status so that others feel their own more clearly, reacting to what they are playing rather than who they are.


Knowing how to come up with new stuff on the fly, but also knowing what is appropriate to make up and what not to do, in a accordance with the game style and setting.

The art of conflict

Learning how to fight for your goals in a non destructive way. It’s never good enough just to be a passive party, learn how to bring about a conflict that makes sense and fun for everyone.

Winning and losing

The ability to both win and lose with panache and having it improve the game. Winning and still leaving your opposition with opportunities to play on, losing and giving them the satisfaction of having beat you.

Knowing yourself

Getting a feel for your own strengths and limitations, as well as your own play preferences and how those work with others’. Knowing your borders and how to safely cross them. How to work with changing your offgame persona into another for the game.

Setting expectations

Getting to understand what is expected of you in a game and being able to communicate what you want out of a game. It’s a matter of knowing your own limitations and being able to understand what others are trying to tell you.

Focusing play

Playing towards the themes and subjects of a game. Adjusting your actions and choices to the ideas behind the game. Realizing you have a choice in what the game is about.

Directing play

Being able to take charge of a play situation, to lead it forward. Not merely imposing your own will or playing onwards, but to feel when others need you to make a move.

Reading characters

Knowing how to read a character is about both taking it literally, but also being able to read between the lines. Finding which parts are fixed and which are flexible, what you need to know and what is merely colour.

Creating characters

When faced with making up your own character, knowing what parts are going to be important to you and what parts are important to communicate to others. How to make that role fit into the vision of the game.

Getting into and out of character

Cultivating strong and safe entry and exit methods for the game. Getting quickly into character to start the game and landing back in yourself afterwards. Being able to step outside the game while it is going on and still make it back fully immersed afterwards.

I’ll do follow up post exploring each in turn, but the list is far from complete and there’s things hiding between the elements.

So, what’s missing? What else do we do that we don’t think about? What is the most basic thing you can think of as an element of roleplaying?

4 thoughts on “The skills of a larper

  1. What I think is interesting is that you haven’t included any crafting skills in regards to costumes, foam weapons, making the backdrop and setting, props, etc.

    Is that deliberate? I assume it is, but I was just wondering 🙂

  2. Crafting is all second order skills that are useful but not necessary, you can larp naked in the dark if you want. In fact most my best larping experiences have been in clothing I pulled out of my closet or happened to be wearing at a convention.

    The idea here is focusing on the basic interpersonal skills we all use, but hardly ever talk about. There’s plenty of geeks out there talking about how to make the perfect elf outfit or orkish choppas out of household appliances.

  3. I think Oliver’s focus is totally legit. Craft skills, organizing skills, fighting skills, camping/bushcraft skills are all good skills that I respect alot (an posses quite a few of) for some larps and some larpers, but it has nothing to do with ROLE PLAYING. To play a role – that is the core of larp. Else we are looking at reenactment or simulations etc.

    Here is what I wrote 4 years ago on the subject. I am glad that I am not the only one propagating for this!

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