Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dealing With Drama

Last week I talked a bit about women in LARPing. There’s a stigma that women cause drama – and that’s true. But just as much as men. Drama can be minor, but here I’m thinking of things like injuries, cheating, stealing, fighting, and the accusations of all that and more. How to deal with drama? Here are a few tips.

Rule 1: Don’t get involved. Especially as someone running a game, try to stay away from gossip, rumors, and taking sides. If you can avoid it, it’s best to stay as neutral and as calm as possible. Except, of course, you can't avoid it! So...

Rule 2: Be prepared. Some drama comes in the form of injuries or illness, so know who your on-site first responders are, have a first aid kit on hand, and have the information and route to the nearest hospital. Players and Staff alike! Know how to get a hold of the ranger or camp owner. And in the worst case, something might happen where you’ve got to call in The Law, so have the number or location for the nearest enforcement on hand. Also, if you haven’t already, you may want to check in with a lawyer from time to time – if something comes down to a legal issue you’ll be able to get advice asap.

Rule 3: Don’t wait. If you experience or witness something directly, take it to someone in charge as soon as you can. Even if the information is just a rumor (but a serious one, not that Bobby called Sam fat). If it’s true, it should be nipped in the bud right away – or at least investigated. If it’s not true, the object of that rumor would probably appreciate it if everyone didn’t think they’re a dirty cheater :) Once you hand it off, step back, and see Rule 1.

Unfortunately you have to use best judgment on what is serious. It should be something that will impact the game and/or players’ safety. Staff might like to know about personal issues as well, if they might impact the game, but it can be done more informally.

Rule 4: Hear them out. Whenever someone brings you an issue, and it could be whether you run the game or are just someone they trust, try to listen to whoever is reporting and promise to investigate their issue and get back to them. Then do that – even if it’s just to give them a generic response or to confirm that you passed on their concern.

Rule 5: Investigate. Get all sides of the story first and get as much truth as you can before you respond. Try not to spread rumors, and keep the information to who needs to know. If it’s a major thing, make sure and tell your Staff and anyone else so they are warned and so they know the real deal.

Rule 6: Safety in Numbers. When going to talk to someone, don’t go alone. I’m not just talking about safety, since physical altercations are pretty rare at LARP, but so that there’s another witness to the discussion. If you are sending someone an email, make sure to keep a record of these messages, and/or copy other appropriate people. In fact, it’s good to keep all the messages you send saved if you can. Aside from the c.y.a. aspect, it's great to have easy-to-access reminders!

Rule 7: Stick to the point. When it comes to having "a Talk" in some format, sugar-coating, or dancing around the point, or sugar dancing, may cause your message to be misinterpreted. Smiley faces and the like are ok if you want to soften the blow, as being over-professional can come off as rude. :( See how that works? :)

Finally, try to let it go once you've dealt with it. Easy, right? :)

Got any other tips?


  1. The most common kind of larp-drama that I've seen is the gossipy, negative stuff you mention. "Jane's a cheater" or "Bob's a plot-hog" or "Susan only runs mods for her friends." I agree that it's better to not participate in that kind of thing. But it does serve a perverse purpose. . . it can tell you that the people saying those things aren't having fun.

    For some reason, many people have a very difficult time being honest about their experience at LARPs. Nobody wants to be seen as whiny, so people rarely admit to feeling left-out, ineffective, or jealous. Instead, they criticize other players and staff for being so unfair as to have fun while the complainer is left in misery.

    So, particularly as a staffer, but also as a player, hearing that kind of complaining can be a clue that you need to work on fostering a more honest dialogue. You can take the opportunity to switch the subject around to the person who is complaining, and ask them what they want to do, how they want to be involved. Really entertained, engaged players rarely care what other players are doing, unless it's something really terrible.


  2. I think that's a great point! That's another good reason to hear out the person making the report, since you could learn something. Especially if you start hearing something from a few different places. Whether or not it is true, obviously it's spreading and it's a good idea to take steps to address it. Perception is 9/10 of reality and all that :)