I’m amused by LARP slang. I love how each region has its own body of terms and buzz words.

There are two pieces of LARP jargon, however, that I want to vent about briefly. This is a pet peeve, not a big deal, but I want to say it…

The first occurs in the question, “Do you have First Aid?” This peculiar phrasing makes sense to us because of the way we build characters. You “buy” skills like First Aid, and then you either have them or you don’t. But from our character’s point of view, there is no character sheet.  You don’t “have” First Aid, you know it. Whenever somebody asks me, “How many levels of formal magic do you have?” or “How many proficiencies do you have?” I’m tempted to check my pockets.

The second piece of jargon is “physical representation”, often abbreviated to “physrep” or just “rep”. One the surface, it makes sense. The weapon sheathed at your side made of kitespar and tape isn’t really a sword, it represents a sword. It is a “sword rep”. Here, the word rep is referring to a physical object which exists in the real world, an object which signifies a real sword in the world we’re mutually imagining.

The same concepts exists in the theatrical world. It’s called a “prop”. If somebody in a play has a gun in their hand, it’s probably just a prop representing a gun.  But would the actors call it a gun rep? No, they’d either call it a prop, or just call it a gun. And the people in the play’s universe would never call it a prop.

Our usage of the word rep is inappropriate when we use it to refer to things which don’t need a stand-in prop to represent them. For example, the spell circle of power requires that you draw a circle on the ground to mark the border of the spell. In the common vernacular, this real line on the ground is called a circle rep. It often refers to a length of rope or wire which is used as the material component for the spell. You hear players ask, “Can I borrow your circle rep?” or “Which side of the rep are you on?”

In that context, what is the piece of rope representing? It’s representing itself! It’s an indexical prop (see p211) and doesn’t need the clunky “physrep” jargon. It is something that exists in the same form inside and outside of the imaginary universe. Our characters really are carrying around lengths of rope and wire, they are not “reps” for anything.

Like I said, these are little pet peeves, not really a big deal. They bug me because they are out-of-game language which constantly creep into in-game conversations. They draw my attention to the fact that I’m playing a game. To me, it’s sort of like if you’re watching a horror movie, and you’re really in the moment, and the guy next to you leans over and says “Relax, it’s just a movie.” I know that, but I’m trying to ignore it!

  1. #1 by phiend on May 9, 2011 - 5:23 am

    I tend not to be too upset by real world stuff creeping into the game, and this has been my justification for it. And I know a lot of people don’t really agree with me, but anyways, I see it as a translation thing. We simply don’t live in this fantasy world; we don’t wake up every day and interact with it, so we really don’t have an actual reference for it. Our only stories are stories of events; we don’t have stories of what we did last weekend when the town wasn’t under siege. So I don’t really have issues with conversations that slip out of game, I see it as a representation of what our characters were doing, a water cooler conversation that has no impact on the game. When I’m sitting around with my friends and we have exhausted all the conversations we can have about the game, and we slip into real world things, it doesn’t break my immersion because I look at it as we just started shooting the sh*t. I also look at game terms the same way, I see them as language translations, I can accept that my boffer sword is representation of a real sword, and I can also accept that my usage of the words “hit points” is a representation of my character asking about your health. I also realize that not everyone agrees with this, so I usually end up doing both, around people who know my feelings and are ok with it, I do this, with people that don’t like it or I don’t know I do the normal “in-game” stuff. But really when I have to stop and think about how my character would do or say something in the fantasy world, I have made myself realize that I am playing a game just as much as when you describe that these things remind you that you are playing a game. I’m not saying that either of these ways to view the game is correct, just that there are two sides to this coin, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it.

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