At an immersive LARP, one of the goals is to keep everyone’s head inside the game. An immersed player treats our imaginary world as she would the real world. Threats, friendships, social caste, money, character concepts… these things become very real when everybody else treats them as real too, even if they’re based on a fiction.
You can tell a player is immersed when she has a real emotional reaction to fictional events. At a LARP you can experience the thrill of battle, the sorrow of losing a companion, fear of death, anger at being betrayed, pride in one’s kingdom, and it all goes away at the end of the weekend like a midsummer night’s dream.
Immersion is not something that you can declare or enforce. It occurs inside a players’ head, something that arises naturally from engagement with the fiction. Immersion is challenged by anything which reminds you that this is a game. The in-game atmosphere is a collaborative effort, requiring participation from all players and NPCs.
Here are some tips to keep the game as immersive as possible.
- Keep in-character all the time. If you must talk about the real world, use in-game language to describe it. For example, if you have to refer to your car, call it a “caravan”. We are not at an “event” we are at a “gathering”. You do not “have” first aid, you know it.
- If someone begins talking about the real-world or using out-of-game language, discourage it through in-game means. React as if you’re offended or are being lied to. Treat the person as insane. Out-of-game talk is considered highly vulgar by people in the game world. Make a point that people shouldn’t be talking like that, but don’t draw too much attention to it!
- When explaining how a module, spell, or effect works, explain it in-game using in-game language. Don’t say “The swinging blades do 10 damage” – instead say “The swinging blades are as dangerous as a lightning bolt.” (which everyone knows deals 10 damage)
- The phrase “Let me clarify…” indicates to players that the next thing you’re going to say is a truthful description of how the game works. For example, the players may be escorting an NPC they don’t trust. He says, “Let me clarify – the blue thing on the ground up ahead is a wither stone. If you touch it, that limb will be withered.” The players may suspect they’re being led into an ambush, but they understand he is accurately describing what happens if they touch the stone. This removes the need for a marshal to break game to describe it.
- Often, people ask questions out-of-game which they could have asked in-game. For example, sometimes you’ll see a player put their weapon on their head to ask where the bathroom is. They could, of course, be asking as their character. Respond in-character anyway.
- NPC acting gives players cues for how to react to things. If an NPC treats something as a big threat, players will too. Set the tone of the game (anxiety, relaxation, anxiousness, etc) through the cast members.
- Keep everyone and everything in costume! Make sure people’s street clothes are covered. Throw a sheet over that map of the USA in the tavern. Have people pour their cans of soda into cups. When you look around, you should see the game world, not the real world (as much as possible).
- Holds and other game-stopping events should take place as little as possible. Holds should never be called to clarify how an effect works or what spells were thrown. If you need clarification, seek it quietly without interrupting those not involved. Keep holds short so players can get back into the action.