How to create a LARP character
Creating a new LARP character can feel overwhelming for novices going into the hobby, and even veteran players can sometimes encounter challenges when changing character after a long period of time staying in the same role. This article provides tips for the most important steps in character creation, allowing you to ask yourself the right questions to guide your process and help you create a fully developed and functional character to play in your next event.
LARP Character Creation 101 : Constraints
Obviously, there is some limitation to the array of characters that are playable in any given LARP. You, as a player, are responsible to design your character so they can fit in the context of the LARP, in respect with its setting, its lore, and its game system.
1 - Races and ancestries
Who wouldn't want to play a dragon? Dragons are amazing aren't they? Some can even shapechange and appear human. This is perfect! Well, before going wild with your dragon character concept, you might want to go read the playable races and species for your LARP. It's likely that your event will limit the options given to players, and that such a flamboyant character idea might be very ill suited for the setting, or group play in general.
Assuming a LARP will have classic fantasy races like elves, dwarves, and orcs is also a mistake. If many events take inspiration from these typical fantasy tropes, some have their own twists on the species, or fully original ancestries created for their setting. Even if these fantasy races exist, they might also be restricted or unplayable. All the information concerning the playable species should be available on your LARP's website, or could quickly be provided by one of the storyteller in advance. With the right information, you will be able to make a choice and move forward with creating your character.
2 - Universe and lore
Closely related to your choice of ancestry is how your character fits in the lore of the universe in which the LARP occurs. Beyond your race, you need to pick an origin among the various nations, cultures, and factions of this world. These choices need to be well thought of, because these factions may come with roleplay aspects, cultural quirks, enmities, and rivalries that will affect your play, including who you are expected to ally with in game. Some nations may also be hostiles to some ancestries, so you may have to choose between your favorite race and the faction played by your LARP group. In any case, understanding the basic lore will help you create your character, and might even inspire you with new ideas you wouldn't have considered otherwise.
Religion is another major aspect in many fantasy events, and is particularly important if you want to play a devout character or to pick a character class related to faith. As with the rest of the lore, you will need to read and ask questions to make an enlightened choice among the gods and pantheons of your LARP.
3 - Class and rule system
The last major aspect of character creation is to decide what is it that your character does in game, a gameplay type often summed up under the idea of a character class. Fighters, rogues, wizards, clerics, alchemists, and druids are examples of common character classes found in many LARP.
A character class often comes with access to particular skills and unlocks specific types of play related to its archetype. For instance, it may be impossible for a rogue to heal fallen comrades, while this is something a cleric can easily do. Some LARP don't use rigid classes or allow more flexibility, but it remains very important to read the rule system surrounding classes and skills before going further into character creation.
While not intrinsically limiting your actions in play, your character's specialties can have a lot of influence on what you will actually be doing during your LARP event, and will help you define a niche where you can perform well, feel useful, and maybe carve a reputation for yourself.
The class can also put constraints on the type of weapons and armors you are allowed to use, so be sure to pick a class that fits your needs and preferences. If you just bought a nice full plate armor you want to try out, maybe playing a ranger isn't the best choice. Likewise, some LARP may lock particular background elements behind classes or skills, like being part of the nobility or having access to wealth and influence.
How to choose a name for your LARP character
A good LARP name is unfamiliar enough to feel like it could belong to another time and place, but is also easy to remember by yourself and the other players. Sometimes, your name can also give a hint about your character's backstory or their origin, evoking nobility, strength, a mystical nature, or some cultural origin.
A common trope in fantasy is to use composing names like Stonemill, Duskwind, Ironborn, Shieldbreaker, etc. You can also find great inspiration by using name generator sites, such as https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/. These sites are useful to find fantasy names associated with a particular fictional race, or names inspired by other cultures from your gaming community.
How to develop a LARP character
✫ Background story
No character comes from nowhere, and the first step to developing your LARP character is to figure out some sort of backstory that explains how your character came to be as they are. Childhood, family life, training, majors events, trauma, previous achievements, old friendships, and various adventures can be used to flesh out a character's backstory. Be sure to keep your background grounded and logical with what your character is capable of achieving in play. No one is going to take your story seriously if it's too over the top, especially if your newly created character is nowhere as impressive.
A backstory doesn't have to be shared with everyone though, some part of it may be dark secrets dangerous to spread around. For many players, these personal backgrounds are more useful as a way to build up your character's personality, bias, and motivations. A noble born and bred to rule may be ignorant of the reality of commoners, while a former street urchin may have a more permissive attitude toward thieves and looters. Your story and your roleplay have the potential to be complementary in a way that makes your character that much more believable.
✫ Visual identity
A character's costume, accessories, and physical traits can bring meaning and can be very evocative. An ugly scar can turn a simple warrior into a battle hardened veteran, while a golden pendant may inspire wealth and a good dose of pride.
You should always think about a way to make your characters look not only unique, but also make it convey some hints about their personality and backstory. Accessories can be very useful for this purpose, but even things as basic as your weapon choice may help. A mace wielding knight is certain to feel more brutal than one wielding a fancy sword. Make sure to pick a weapon that fits your role.
✫ Attitude and behaviour
Your character's general attitude is a major aspect of what makes them memorable. First, that includes their voice and how they speak. Is your character talking with an accent of some kind? Is your character using an elevated language, or mumbling their words with a good number of slurs thrown in the mix? Is your character talking loud or more soft spoken? Stuttering, mixing words, using a particular catchphrase, or abusing technical language are all ways to bring personality to your characters as you play them.
Beyond speech, body language is also important. Small details like scratching your chin, twirling your moustache, or always pulling up your skirts before walking over muddy terrain come a long way to make a character unique. A lowly peasant removing their hat or fidgeting each time they talk to someone, or a rowdy barbarian constantly stretching their neck are easier to remember for certain.
Also try to change your attitude when interacting with some individuals that may entice hatred, curiosity, suspicion, or awe from your character. Few things are as memorable as seeing that usually loud and friendly innkeeper suddenly turning silent and cold when an orc enters the tavern.
✫ Strengths and weaknesses
A well fleshed out character has strengths and qualities they can rely upon when placed under pressure or when facing difficult choices, but as much virtues and greatness are fun to portray in LARP, flaws are where a character finds their depth. Stubbornness, naivety, hedonism, a bloated ego, a horrible cough, an exceptionally thin skin, or a very poor sense of etiquette are certain to make your character stand out, and give you ways to react and play that are different from your normal self.
In truth, it's easier to play a flaw than a quality. Playing someone bolder, more eloquent, or more cunning than you usually are is an interesting challenge, but it's certain to be more difficult than undercutting yourself for the sake of roleplay. Sometimes, making the best choices and the best decisions in LARP is simply more boring than taking unnecessary risk or ignoring obvious foreshadowing your character is just too flawed to notice.
Beliefs and values
At the core of any character are a set of ideas that motivate their choices and how they react to the world around them. These beliefs and values, when played consistently, are some of the best way to make a character to feels real and has their own personality and morality. Try to set a list of values for your characters, qualities they respect in others, traits they despise, what kind of things they consider taboo or very important to care for. How far would your character be ready to go to achieve their goals? What are the lines they cannot cross?
How many outfits can a LARP character have?
The number of outfit needed for a given LARP character really depends on a few variables. For longer LARP events, spanning from a few days to a week, hygiene is going to require you to bring at few sets so you can change clothes when they get dirty and wet.
Apart from the minimal requirements created by the LARP duration, you may want to have spare clothes to adapt to the weather, like a warm coat for cold nights, and maybe a lighter, more comfortable set for very hot weather. Rain is also important to consider. Some people don't mind getting a little soaked, but some kind of cloak can save you a lot of discomfort.
Finally, having a different set for battles and fancy banquets is often a must, especially if your prettier outfit is less sturdy and could easily get damaged in a brawl. That's more important in a LARP where the combats are planned in advance or limited to specific areas in the game. In some events, you don't have the luxury to change before a skirmish, so you better run fast if you want to keep that doublet dust free!
To prepare your various LARP sets and get some inspiration, take a look at our clothing choices: Here
Can you change LARP character?
Creating a character is one of the most fulfilling part of participating in LARP, to the point many LARPers are constantly creating new characters even while they are playing their current role. In a way, a character also keeps growing even after entering the play, with many players refining their role and finding new ideas while they are in LARP. We hope this little guide helped you figure out the steps in making a role for your next LARP event, and made you ask the right questions to bring your character to the next level.
For more precise guides on character creation, check out our LARP Inspirations for various characters classes and types : Here