12 simple questions to character design in LARP

Character backgrounds are such an important part of LARP. They help us feel like a living and breathing member of the game world. There are a vast majority of different ways to create a character. Some people focus on hard skills, others focus on soft. Sometimes people sum up their character in a line, while others creating page after page of background. There is, of course, no right or wrong answer. Instead, it solely comes down to how you want to play the game.

There are a great variety of systems out there, with some asking character questions on creation, like fears, goals and so on. While there are also systems out there that do not require any written character background. I’m very much a fan of meeting this in the middle. Finding a balance between a fleshed out character but also leaving enough so you can discover the character in play. Taking this approach we can use an adapted character design system, using a flash card, to create our character. So let us begin,  and delve into 13 simple questions to character design in LARP.

If we take a step back we can look at character design in table top RPGs, and how many of these rules systems approach to character design. There is a great tabletop RPG called Dread. It’s a  rules light game that has a character creation section that is solely based off answering several questions. They describe answering these questions as the following:

The goal to filling out a questionnaire is not to create a character that will survive and thrive in any environment the host throws at you, but to create an interesting character that makes the story worth participating in.

– Dread role playing game | Filling Out a Questionnaire

Building Characters

We can take this principle and use it in LARP. Using this question format when creating LARP characters we can ask ourselves several questions. These questions should be answered in as little text as possible, even a word or sentence. Using a flash card example we can sum up our character’s information on less that a third of an A4 page. This allows us to remember more easily what is written down, while also allowing us to come up with more traits and quirks about our character in a game.

Profession Psychological Traits Appearance
Profession, archetype, and/or world hook A psychological and/or physical trait Define your appearance
A drawback related to the profession A fear, phobia, or psychological weakness Character’s Equipment
A speciality Character’s world view A personality trait
Relationship (family, friends, etc) Any hobbies, skills or quirks What is your name?

Example

Using this flash card template we can create Jackson Crow. A seedy retired sailor with a crippling fear of the ocean blue. The years have not been kind to Jackson as he pulls on his salt and pepper beard pensively staring into the distance.  By simply answering these 12 questions we’ve been able to create the premise and backbone of an interesting LARP character.

Profession Psychological Traits Appearance
Retired Sailor. Pulls on his beard when nervous. Long salt and pepper beard.
Rivals from his pirate days. Fear of the ocean. Lots of rope.
Ship hand. ‘Money makes the world go round’. Seedy / Shady.
Old shipmates. Ties knots. Jackson Crow.

There you have it. 12 simple questions, you can ask in a flash card format, to help bring your characters to life. To hit the ground running it’s as simple as that. If you use this technique, I’d love to know how it worked out for you. Let me know in the comments.

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