Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, Cha… (Episode 1 of 7)

Indulge me for a moment with an assertion that the difference between larp and tabletop roleplay is physicality.

In larp, it is your physical body that portrays your character, the real environment that portrays the environment they find themselves in, and other real people who represent the other individuals in that environment. In tabletop it is your speech that portrays your character, your imagination that portrays the environment they find themselves in, and a GM of some sort who portrays the other individuals.

(Aside: Yes, I can think of counter examples for nearly every element of that assertion – but as the basis for a thought-experiment it’ll do me for now.)

That physicality is one of the things I love most – the fact you actually have to be somewhere to have an effect; you can be just-too-late as well as just-in-time and the failures make success more vital. That, to me, means that the closer to physical reality a larp is, the more it approaches some Platonic ideal of larpicity.

Which is a problem, because taken to its extreme, I can only play a mid-forties-and-aging-rapidly medium-sized fat bloke, who can fight as well as I can, think as well as I can and charm as well as I can. (Or worse, of course.) A depressingly limited range of roles.

So, what to do…

I am not one of those who first reaches for the answer “Well, use your imagination!”, because I can do that just as well inside, in the warm, with a nice cup of tea a lot nearer. I think imagination is overrated in larp. (“descriptive GMing.” works for me as a description of that – thanks Kat. “You are in a wooded glade”, on one memorable occasion in the tunnels of Labyrinth.) Which is perhaps odd from someone who spent the last seven years pretending to be a drowned king of  a dead mythology, but bear with… Maybe not overrated, then, but instead a precious and finite resource, and not to be squandered on the unnecessary.

Most every tabletop I know of uses some abstraction of attributes to help determine the effectiveness of some chosen character action. In lrp, it’s some combination of “soft skills”, calls and maybe stats too. You’d call it non-diagetic, I think…

Look, I’ll get round to actually thinking about it and writing some more words on when ad where and why games might be getting you to spend your imaginative stocks later on – but Joe Cattes has just commented ” Strong, Tough, Dextrous, Charismatic, Intelligent, Wise” somewhere on Facebook, and I wanted to simulpost.

So caution – future episodes coming…

Ep V will be the best.

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