Saying No: Physical Roleplay Boundary Setting

This week’s blog is going to be a bit odd, as I received an immensely important question on the website, but it was a question which I don’t have much experience doing. One of our readers asked:

“I was wondering if you would do one about how to decline physical role play. It was always a problem I had. I always felt I was going to ruin someone else’s game if I said no to physical role play… It sounds silly but I am sure I am not the only one scared to say no for fear of ruining someone’s game or being considered less of a larper for not being ok with it.”

While this is a vitally important question, I’ve always been a very physical-touch oriented player. When I self-examine, I actually am probably someone who has broken consent boundaries without realizing it and it’s something I’m constantly working on to improve. Since I’ve not had many issues myself, I reached out to the greater LARP community in general for valuable advice to our reader. I believe all these answers are valid and each has their place depending on the game circumstances or community. They fell into a few general categories which I’ll list, with my brief commentary, then the direct advice from others.

Pre-Game Expectation Setting: In my opinion, this is the easiest way to smooth over these issues and is partially on yourself, but also partially on the game runners. If you have workshops before a game, make it quite clear in those workshops (before you’re involved in intense scenes) that “No, I do not like being touched in game, we can mime through things but please ask for consent before physically contacting me.” That way, you aren’t breaking a scene but you are clearly outlining your own boundaries. However, it is also on game organizers to set up a space where people feel comfortable setting these boundaries. Organizers should have a clear set of contact rules and communicate them ahead of time. If a game does not have these things, it might be worth evaluating if it’s worth your own mental health being at risk to play that game.

  • “When it comes to avoiding unwelcome physical play in a LARP, preparation is your biggest asset.

Assess the game. What are the games themes? Do they include lots of romantic, sexual and/or violent undertones that would lend towards physicality? What is its alcohol policy? Consider if drinking is allowed, that it may mean you could have as much physical contact as you’d expect at a bar or club (not saying that’s right, just a present day fact). What are the organizers perspectives on physical play? What are the safety mechanics? If any of these are red flags, consider whether it’s too risky a game to play in.

Assess the character dynamics. What relationships do you have pre-built? Could they lead towards physical interacts (siblings, parent-child, spouse, lover, bully, etc). Try and contact and establish physical boundaries around those relations particularly and/or establish comfort with them so it’s easier to ask them to stop if they start something. If you have a lot of these difficult interactions or it’s not possible to contact these people, or these people seem dangerous – make changes, either through the organizers (change relations/characters) or your own participation.

If you can’t make proper assessments beforehand, consider that another high risk situation. Take these risks in aggregate and consider if they are worth it for any particular game you are playing. Then go into the game with the mindset of, WHEN physical contact occurs or is asked for (better preparation), I’m going to react this way. Keep that in mind throughout the game – and do this with every game. It’s easier if you have a plan and an expectation.

We talk about total immersion in LARP, but total immersion is really a fallacy. If you are not minding safety, you are putting yourself and others in danger – either as a victim or victimizer. That’s the hard truth of LARP. LARP is a high risk activity – you want to go into it with the same perspectives and precautions as any other high risk activity. Otherwise it’s necessary to except that there may be consequences from NOT preparing for those outcomes.” – Frank Beres

  • “I think that the game runners should make an effort to be clear that declining physical roleplay is 100% acceptable and okay, in order to foster the sort of culture where all participants feel safe to express their boundaries AND where all participants understand that they should not press or coerce via emotional manipulation (ie, pouting, bullying) if someone declines physical roleplay they have offered. (Disclaimer: I come to my opinions through the lens of kink and poly, where interpersonal interactions are heavily negotiated. It seems as though many alt communities are beginning to work with a positive consent model, LARP included. We can be good stewards of the culture of consent we want to encourage by always asking if you may touch someone.)” – Juniper Mae Oliphant
  • “I think this question gets to a problem that is starting to be discussed with how we are handling consent negotiations. What we want is a way for the player to invoke their right not to be touched. But for some, the very act of being asked exerts social pressure to consent. Some people have suggested systems here that avoid the need to ask, which is a design solution to this problem, but doesn’t help the player if they are in a game where they are being asked. In theory they should just say no, but I don’t think that advise really addresses the problem of the pressure they feel not to say no. My advice for that person is to think about how they can state their preferences without implying that they are not willing to go along with play in general, or that avoids the perception that they are rejecting the other player (rather than just that particular suggestion). Sadly nothing will be as clear as a straight “no”, and sometimes anything else will not be heard properly, but if this play can’t bring themselves to say “no” then maybe something like “I can’t today” could work in the immediate situation. That sentiment is more open so I might be easier for them to say, but also that openness might be misconstrued.” – Cameron Betts
  • “Normalization of asking for consent to touch other players before engaging, with a heavy push and demonstration by the game’s staff base. Consent culture adoption begins with positive reinforcement, and consistent demonstration.” – Emrhys Benson of Queerical Errors
  • “Hey, we are all placing the burden of this work where I think it belongs, which is on the game culture and the person seeking permission, but what can we do to advise a person who wants to say no but feels uncomfortable? I would try: For you, the person saying no, to seek out the person you said no to and check to see how they felt about the interaction. This will give them the opportunity to tell you that it was great and they appreciate your honesty about your boundaries! Tell your immediate network that you won’t be doing physical roleplay, and exercise that boundary with them too. I might tell my partner and friends not to touch me while IG. This will help me to get used to not being touched in a casual way, and will help me feel more normalized about expressing my boundaries AND having those boundaries respected. Speak to staff to see if there is anything you can do beyond simply saying no, such as IG norms/signals you may not have remembered or known.” – Juniper Mae Oliphant
  • “Clear communication, setting expectations, and game style are important. In a
    Faith Healing Jacque Blake

    Deck healing Audi, Dystopia Rising. Photo by Jacque Blake

    parlor LARP, it’s very easy to set this up. In a boffer combat LARP, it can be much harder. The scenario that comes to mind for me is this – I see a new player go down in combat (assume from a ranged, non-touch attack). My immediate thought is likely going to be to heal them and get them to safety. Pausing to ask them if they are OK tapping them to heal is going to be awkward in the middle of a large scale combat. The proper solution to this is that such a thing should be established BEFORE the game begins, and communicated somehow – a headband, a very visible patch, or a culture / rules set that establishes No Touch by default, including combat.” – Geoffrey Schaller

  • “For smaller larps, especially those with workshopping ahead of time, just bring it up there. It’s much easier to say “I don’t want to have physical contact” in a workshop or a discussion of character ties than in a high-stress IC larp situation. Make sure the players of the characters with a very high potential to initiate physical contact know you don’t want physical RP ahead of time and 99% of your issues will be eliminated.” – Russ Cartwright
  • “I would approach the STs here and establish a rule for the entire game. Either a signifier for “I consent to physical roleplay” or “I do not consent”. Or an out of game “Do you consent to me touching you?” before any physical ropleplay is initiated. Either way, this isn’t something the player should be expected to establish themselves. But I would make sure they understand that, at least for parlor LARPS, any physical contact between players is very unusual.” – Joshua Shessel
  • “Establish that one IS playing a game without assumed consent. Confirm with the staff that it is allowed to refuse physical roleplay. When someone asks you, simply say “no.” I have had people tell me that all the time. If the person asks out of game later, just tell them it isn’t something one accepts. If they try to ask IG, simply say “I’ll tell you later.” If a player can’t accept no, tell staff. If staff says “deal with it,” leave game and find a new larp.” – Anonymous
  • “I think it comes down to boundary setting and communicating those boundaries (for either side). Physical touch role play covers a lot of ground so it’s best to negotiate either before game (if the game is built with time to go over rules. consent etc) or before a scene. I find with a lot of consent negotiation, hammering out what is ok and what isn’t makes for a better scene since everyone involved can work within the parameters. If breaking character to negotiate isn’t an option, then there should be a hand signal (or signal of some sort) to denote a ‘no’ or boundary on the fly introduced as a mechanic and discussed/explained before game.

If someone is indicating (whether verbally or through non-verbal cues) that their immersion/role play experience is being ruined because of someone else’s boundaries, it can be hard to push back, especially if they’re higher on the social pecking order (or power dynamic). I prefer to think the best of people and assume it’s because they don’t understand the place where you may be coming from, rather than stemming from more selfish reasons. Reasserting the boundary is important and then maybe offering an alternative action to touch can often help. If they force the issue and do it anyways, that’s when it’s time to escalate but I find that in most cases, people are trying to adhere to boundaries.” – Jen Wong

  • “I like the idea of markings of level of physical play. I have experienced that at a couple of scenarios. But… from someone who like physical play: I wish the level of a player could be announced before game. It even better,: registered before casting. The play between two players casted as lovers will differ tremendously depending on the level. In scenarios with pre-written characters I would love to know beforehand how the player of my lover would prefer to play. This might sound rude, but I feel robbed of the play I wish for when engaging in romantic play and being casted with a player who does not wish to play physical. For both player’s benefit the levels should be registered before casting.” – Katherine Able
    • Ren Williams Response: “Knowing in advance of a hard no is helpful. However, a person who consents in advance has the right to revoke consent at any time during play. Advance notice can only go so far.

Unless a LARP is specifically billed as physical for and by all people, with the purpose being cuddling/touch, then no participants should be expected to touch. Going in with the expectation that someone there will be comfortable with physical romantic roleplay makes a huge assumption. That fosters the guilt people feel around saying No.

I get feeling like you’ve missed an experience — I like intensely emotional RP, and feel like I’ve missed out if that doesn’t happen during an event because nobody else wants it or it doesn’t come up. That’s not the responsibility of other people, no matter how disappointing it is. It’s up to me to find a game with a high population of intense emotional play.”

  • Katherine Abel’s Response: ““However, a person who consents in advance has the right to revoke consent at any time during play.” Of course! Yes! Knowing before the scenario help in the situations were a player knows in advantage that they don’t want to be touched at all. It can help both players in a character relation to prepare. “Unless a LARP is specifically billed as physical for and by all people, with the purpose being cuddling/touch, then no participants should be expected to touch.” That’s not the responsibility of other people, no matter how disappointing it is. It’s up to me to find a game with a high population of intense emotional play. I have experienced players who don’t want any physical play at all sign up for such an event and telling afterwards that they per default don’t want people to touch them. That’s what my suggestion is based upon. None should be forced to anything – and revoked consent should always be accepted.”
  • “Saying ‘no’ should be enough. The questioner should consider asking the game organizers to make it clear in the games on-line presences and at the start of game that saying ‘no’ to physical contact is always OK, and that players should always ask before doing so. A LARP Directors I know made a point of always saying ‘no’ to physical RP at their events, even though at other events they would generally accept, specifically to make it clear that it is OK to say ‘no’.” – Axel Johnson

Subtle No-Touch Consent Discussions: While it’s sometimes difficult to speak up for one’s self, having very quiet, immediate consent discussions in the moment can absolutely keep yourself safe and not break play for others. You don’t need to be loud and dramatic to stop a physical touch (and if someone isn’t listening at subtle, brief requests, they are not being a safe player themselves.) If you are touched without permission, just a very quick “Off-game, I prefer no touch, can we act through this at a distance?” and then going right back into scene will disrupt the play very little. The direct advice of preparing what you want to say ahead, with a proposed alternate way of acting it through, will save a lot of struggling during the game. You can auto-resort to those responses the moment you feel uncomfortable and play should resume nearly as quickly as it broke, but at your physical comfort level. See Raven’s example directly below:

  • “”No thank you” is fine, but I like to give an alternative instead. “I prefer description only, please.” works well for me as the asker, because I don’t have to pause and try to think what alternatives are out there, it makes it easier to switch gears. I also recommend that if you never want physical rp, and the larp genre allows it… add a badge to your costume.” – Raven Fitzcarraldo
  • “Taking brief ooc moments to negotiate the continuation of a scene is something some players/scenes are better at doing than others. Even if it feels like an uncomfortable interruption of the ic flow in the moment, many players seem to appreciate the pause and the effort made in making them feel safe. I find that in some ways, LARP is like watching horror films, where we want to experience the thrill, but combined with the knowledge that we are completely safe ourselves when we watch the film. Our own feeling of safety enhances the experience, not the other way around.” – Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde
  • “I may have a different view than most because the games that i have played have all had built in measures to protect player security over everything and stress that if you are uncomfortable in a situation that you do not have to go further regardless and that it will not be held against you. I would just work to let it be known that you are uncomfortable with physical contact and they can play around that. It is easy enough to pretend to make contact or to run a scene without it.” – Justin Wendt
  • “If I do not know you, I DO NOT LIKE being touched at all. (So basically people who hug me are on ‘the you’re an alright person, I enjoy your company’ scale). I will take this as: hand holding, touching for ‘medical play’, pushing (as a warning to get out of the way of danger). A lot of times, I will say very clearly before going into something, “Please don’t grab me, I don’t like that. Just tell me your actions, I’ll respond accordingly.” I say this over and over, and only once did I have to escalate in a stern tone, “I have told you I do not like physical RP, please respect my wishes.” and MOVED AWAY from said person. I also well start to give the ‘cold shoulder’ and keep away from said people who do not respect my wishes. Hopefully this helps!” – Caitlin Carbonell
  • “Second, if there are a handful of frequent situations in which this tends to come up, and you’d like to have the roleplay but not the contact, have alternatives to offer. “I’d prefer you not do X but I’m ok with Y.” Third, if people are not asking for consent, call them on it. If this is a repeated problem, speak to the game organizers if it is not resolved. If they refuse to establish a culture of consent, it’s not the game for you.” – Michelle Stagnitta
  • “In one of the local games I play in, our consent rules just changed. Before, it was a simple question of “do you consent to physical roleplay?” It was inspecific, and it left way too much room for bad things to happen. Our new policy asks players to be specific. “Physical roleplay negotiation, can I hold your hand?” It makes it a lot easier to decline, if you’re uncomfortable, or negotiate to something that you ARE okay with.

But if you are uncomfortable, in any way, just say so. Every time I’ve done so, the person I declined to have contact with was okay with it. And, to my knowledge, I’ve yet to wreck someone’s game by negotiating down to my comfort level.”  – Katie Craver

  • “I think it’s all in the attitude and presentation. If someone is following the proper form and asking, I recommend saying something like “No, thank you.” I think encouraging people to ask is a good thing and positive reinforcement towards that end is also a good thing. And it has the side effect of not hurting anyone’s feelings. If someone isn’t properly following whatever the established protocols, then I encourage people to be more forceful in their nos.” – Jason Andrew
  • “There are reasons things are in place to help people. Always, ALWAYS, ask someone if they are okay with physical role play. This includes touching hands. At the opener of Star Wars with players that I didn’t know. My first question to each person I was dealing with was “Do you accept physical roleplay?” All I was doing was having them place their hands on top of mine. This action seems simple. But this is an extremely important question to ask. As Michelle said there are two roads “Yes and?” but also “No, but.” Larp is an interactive theater game on many ways and everyone needs to feel safe. If a person does not want to be picked up. Ask if you can rest a hand on the shoulder and say “I pick you up one, I pick you up two, I pick up three.” and you both start walking. If they don’t want to be touched at all ask if you may place a hand near them and repeat the above. To me Larp is about the story everyone is writing, not the cool visual effects you think you can create and possibly brag about later. But think on this. Is isn’t cooler to have that other person tell that story with you, and possibly have a new friend in your life?” – Frank Coyne
  • “As someone who is guilty of not asking for consent every time for something even as basic as a hug, it’s important that people speak out and I would like to say that regardless of physical touch no one is any more or less a LARPer in my books. This is why the “consent to physical role play” became a thing not just for them but for anyone who may or may not be feeling up for it at a given time. Good on them for speaking out and being honest. They are 100% awesome in my books!” – Beth Tiller
  • “In our LARPs, we usually clarify that touching above the waist and on the shoulders is fine, but one can always decline it. I was once in a very physical(outlined in the document before I went) game, and figured out that the level was not ok for me at that time. I took people aside, make the off-game sign, and go ‘Hi! We’re having great game, and I really like when we do Y! But I can’t do X. If you want physical play of that sort, I’m not your man, and totally understand if you want to find someone else.” All of the players went ‘No, I like our game too, and that level totally works for me :D!’ So don’t worry, most of them just want to LARP. Also, inform people who will be playing close relations/enemies or are likely to be IC grabby(if you know them or can spot them beforehand). Your boundaries are very important for your fun and well-being at games. They’re also important for us, your co-players: We don’t like making people off-game uncomfortable, especially when the scene could have been made much more fun for you if we just didn’t touch your shoulder right then. Avoid people who don’t respect your boundaries. They’re usually not very nice.” Adam Smith
  • “The biggest issue I’ve found is people forgetting or declining to ask, and simply engaging. Personally, physical role play in a LARP doesn’t bother me as I’m a theatre person and it’s something I’m very used to. However when someone doesn’t ask during an event, it does make me less comfortable. If the question is being asked (as it SHOULD be) then I believe that the community as a whole should be grandly accepting that some people don’t want to be touched. If we can’t accept/respect the fact that people don’t want physical contact, we will never EVER be able to understand one another on a deeper level than that of complete strangers.” – Drake Cunningham
  • “Speaking as someone who would be interested in trying certain aspects of physical role-play but also as someone who has very strict feelings on other types of contact, I absolutely beg you to communicate what you’re not comfortable with. I will try to hear any equivocation as a firm “no”. Your comfort is far more important than my enjoyment of the game. I *must* respect the sanctity of your personal space.” – Chris Frueh
  • “Just as with most things, the answer lies on the instigator of the question to follow up with “will you follow my non-touch actions?”. E.x. I’m going to rough someone up, pin them against the wall, I ask for physical roleplay, the person isn’t into it (which is super legit), so I ask if they’ll just play along and we pantomime and I give them some extra space. If they are not cool with that, then I really need to rethink if it is even relevant to the scene or conducive to fun RP for everyone involved.” – Orion Gilliam

No Touch Consent Visible Signals: A few games in our communities (Dystopia Rising and Phoenix Outlaw Productions games among the most prominent) have instituted visible signifiers for people who don’t wish ANY contact at a game. While there are still challenges of people reading and obeying such signals, they do cut down on having to have any sort of verbal negotiation or de-escalation when touched. Here’s what our community said:

  • “Perhaps a patch that specifies exactly what they don’t want such as “please no physical touch”? It would be great if every LARP had it so you had to ask for consent beforehand but I figure having a small thing that stayed ahead of time might help.” – Yisuri Peña
    • Marie del Rio’s response: “It’s such a simple thing too. I wish I knew who not to touch.”)
    • Cameron Bett’s response: “I have used this system, and it works to some degree but is not great at helping someone avoid casual touch at the level that is acceptable at a work event. As you say, people don’t look at the badge – I suspect it doesn’t even occur to them to look if the touch level they want to initiate is within what their brain is telling them is normal or acceptable.
  • “Perhaps talk to you game masters and get them to add a marking that lets your other players know that this person does not like physical contact. To take the conversation out of your hands and to let them easily identify it as well. At the end of the day though you should never feel bad for protecting yourself during a larp you are there to have fun after all and if this is hindering that then you should speak up and anyone who would be upset about it probably aren’t people you want to continue rping with anyway.” – Justin Wendt
  • “I think it depends on the game in question. In DR, I appreciated it when people made “no physical RP” patches (or, heck, I know someone who wears a “service animal, do not touch” patch). I think it’s a good way to make it obvious in situations where you’re dealing with lots of people and an ongoing role, like DR or Dead Legends because it cuts down on people pushing about it. Beyond that, though, either practice being assertive or make sure your friends/people you play with know you don’t care to be touched and ask them to help advocate for you until you’ve got the confidence to do it yourself.” – Russ Cartwright
  • “I’ve always thought there should be a sign that games should incorporate that doesn’t naturally occur usually. A good idea would be holding the middle, ring, and pinky finger out while the index and thumb are clasped. Putting this up quickly can create a simple sign that is meant to convey, “I do not feel comfortable with this and would ask we not touch.

If culturally we create that exact message and meaning then it removes the stigma people feel with saying no. The issue that “no” connotes is that it often gets associated with rejection of a proposal instead of expressing a lack of consent.

If a signal exists that communicates “I prefer not to be touched” as opposed to “no, I don’t want YOU touching me” it creates a communication between players meant to promote healthier collaboration.

Oftentimes the conflict people feel is when there is a sudden break in common activity as opposed to simply including an additional commonly understood method of communication.” – Daniel Tan

  • “Honestly consent should never be assumed and instead of a visual identifier for those that do not consent to physical RP, those who do consent in a generalized manner should be offered a physical identifier if they do not feel like being asked. Consent should always be identified not assumed.” – Kristen Lotano
    • “When I have used systems like this I have everyone have the visual identifier to indicate their consent level. This seems to work pretty well except for the handshakes level of social touch which happens frequently even to players that have said no-touch.” – Cameron Betts

Saying No Is Perfectly Acceptable: While this is difficult because most communities all say this, it’s still intimidating to do as a shy person or someone who doesn’t want to ruin other’s LARPs. However, the next series of advice is, hopefully, a reassurance to nervous players out there that we all want you to be safe and set boundaries when needed.

  • “First off: It is ok to say no. If you know physical touch is something that will make you uncomfortable, it is nice to let your co-players know beforehand, to help them prepare for it. Like Kathrine Abel, I would probably feel robbed of parts of the game if I had romantic play with someone who allowed no physical touch. That does not mean that your opinion is wrong, only that ours are different. Hopefully we could have been cast in different roles, or found a way to negotiate beforehand.I have experienced larps with fighting, where a selection of players were shown in the beginning, with the message “you may not fight/push/shove these players”.

Also, keep in mind: people make mistakes, and people might forget themselves in the middle of play. Someone might touch you, despite your disapproval. You might allow something you really aren’t comfortable with. You might find that you stopped something you later would be ok with. Jamie MacDonald mentions that this is how we learn. If you experienced a situation you were uncomfortable with, maybe try to discuss it afterwards, with the player in question, with some organizer, or with someone you are comfortable discussing these things with.” – Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde

  • “Plenty of good advice here. Another thing is that this is pretty much how most of us learn how to make boundaries: by occasionally finding ourselves at their limits, and reflect on them. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for you as a person to have had experiences like this, or to cause others to have these experiences if everyone is operating kindly and to the best of their ability to communicate.

I learn setting boundaries by doing it. I can think about my boundaries for a year, but until I actually put my own needs first and communicate them, I haven’t internalised it. Practise. Take care of your own experience first. How the other person feels about you communicating your limits is a *secondary* concern, and it will also be a positive thing for the other person to learn to respect boundaries.” – Jamie Macdonald

  • “No is a perfectly good answer. There should never have to be a reason why. I honestly prefer the LARPs where there are headbands to indicate no physical contact. The best advice you can give is that players understand that sort of thing and opting out of physical rp does not diminish another person’s game.” – Marie del Rio
  • “In support, “No.” is a complete sentence and does not require justification.” -Erik Kent Smith
  • “In general I would say that you should just decline if you do not feel like it. The fear of being seen as a “bad larper” or ruining someone’s game is usually a lot greater than the actual negative impact this will have on the experience of the one being declined.”  Kjell Hedgard Hugaas
  • “”Do you accept physical roleplay?” “No.” [If] Someone grabs me without asking. “Don’t touch me.” I do not like confrontation, and it has taken me years to be able to stand up for myself and say no. No is an acceptable answer, and anyone who can’t accept no is the problem — not the person saying no. Yes, it’s more immersive to have physical scenes, but no one’s immersion is more important than a person’s feeling of physical safety. LARP is a game. Physical safety comes before games. Reasonable people don’t poo-poo Non-Combat players, and “no physical roleplay” is not any more limiting. If someone is reading this saying “actually, Non-Combat damages my immersion and I don’t want to play with non-coms” then that someone needs to Google “ableism” pronto.”  – Ren Williams
  • “I ask before I touch anyone, and if someone reaches towards me and I don’t want to be touched, I will say so. I’m very firm about allowing or not allowing physical contact and have no problem letting people know. The main issue I’ve run into is people getting offended that I don’t wish to be touched but YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE CONTACT NO MATTER WHAT. And ANYONE who kicks a fuss about not being allowed to touch me, they go on a permanent no fly list.” – Jake Hart
    • Caitlin’s response: “YES, EXACTLY. The consent castle is a real thing, and you just drowned yourself in the moat!”
    • Saralyn’s response: “Truth and more truth. It’s not that hard to acknowledge that not everyone wants to be touched. Like, even just pause a second when reaching for someone to give them that chance to pull away. Verbally check in if you’re not sure if it’s rp or not, or just check in off the bat. It isn’t too hard. It really isn’t.”
  • “No is a perfectly acceptable answer, that’s why we ask the question. If you aren’t okay with it, say so. If that ruins someone’s game, they may need to reassess their own stuff.” – Shaun Barnett
  • “Just as in real life, you never should feel forced to consent to someone being physical with you. If a game does not have an OK system in place, or the player is simply naive that they may be causing discomfort, never hesitate to put your hand on your head and say “I prefer not to be touched”. The fact is, no one’s roleplay is more important than your comfort. I think most people, upon being told that, will feel badly for assuming it was okay, and it may even be a learning moment for them if the issue hadn’t come up before. If they insist, honestly – these are not the people you will have a good time playing a game with. Do not prioritize their roleplay preferences over your own feelings of comfort and safety.” – Kristen Roberts
  • “If the concern is “I’m a bad roleplayer if I won’t’ let them do X” I call bullshit. If their excuse is “I CAN”T BE IMMERSED IF YOU WON”T LET ME DO X” Then they are the shitty larper, not you.” – Michelle Stagnitta
  • “Echoing what’s already been said here.Physical RP should be 100% consent based, and the onus should be on the one attempting to engage in it to obtain consent. At no time should a person be touched without their consent. It is not their job to announce this to the world.” – K. E.
  • “My advice would be this: if someone’s game is “ruined” because they aren’t allowed to touch you, that person is a complete weirdo and also probably a creep. i’m being harsh, but honest to god, if *their* experience is somehow ruined because of you having boundaries, (perfectly normal, human boundaries!) that’s a *huge* red flag on them. *Nobody* is allowed to touch you without *your* consent. other players are not entitled to your body, ever, at any point, for any reason. staff is not entitled to your body, ever, at any point, for any reason. anyone who insists that they should be allowed to just grab you or touch you whenever they want, regardless of how you feel about it? that person is probably a predator and you should stay away from them. at best, they’re someone who needs a really long lecture about keeping their hands to themselves that they apparently never got as a kindergartener. at worst, that’s a person who will start with small touches and advance to more and more invasive stuff that you don’t consent to – it’s a fucked up form of grooming. There’s nothing wrong with you for not wanting to be touched. larp doesn’t ever require physical touch. someone else’s game doesn’t matter more than your boundaries, and anyone who dares say otherwise is the problem, not you.” – Nate Brogan
  • “Every situation can be unique, because factors include, the type of event, personal preference to physical contact in general, desire for scene interaction, and a few others i can’t think of atm. For a general however, if you wish at any time to decline phys rp a simple “no, but thank you” holds a lot of weight because initiating phys RP is sometimes just as stressful for the depth of a scene and to know that the person is thankful but decline is reassuring. Thankful for inclusion without participation is thoughtful.” – Kevin Adams Jr.


3 thoughts on “Saying No: Physical Roleplay Boundary Setting

  1. Sandra Regina says:

    I am bad at touching without asking – sometimes. If someone falls down and I want to help them up, if I need to get their attention and they’re not facing me, if I need someone to get out of my way in a crowded room, I generally just reach out and touch someone. This is the kind of touch I would do in every day life. I am pretty good at asking before more ‘intimate’ forms of touch, like hugging, or searching a ‘body’, or doing medical RP.
    Thank you for the reminder to ALWAYS ask, even for ‘simple’ touches.
    As someone who has worked against being shy all the time, it can be hard to establish boundaries, even when everyone around you is super nice and more than willing to accommodate you. I would suggest, from the other side, that every time someone asserts their right to say no (whether you ask or not), that you thank them (positive reinforcement) and then just move on with whatever RP you were going to do any way without fuss or muss (normalize it).
    And ask even your friends, the people you RP with all the time. They may always be good with it, but you never know. Things change.


  2. Justin says:

    Also, there are valid answers between yes and no.

    “Only touch my arms please”, “sure, but avoid my face and hair”, and so on.

    Details can be situatuational and scene dependent, which makes the habit of asking even better.

    Liked by 1 person

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