(Photo by Bret Lehne. Models: Nerissa Hart and Lex Pulice-Farrow.) I speak a lot in this blog about consent negotiations and how to handle narrative free form safely. However, negotiations in larp aren’t just a part of the more free form/emergent styles. Even in your hardest boffer game, relationships and situations come up where it’s important to lay down boundaries so everyone is handling the play safely. This includes everything from in-character romantic entanglements to violent rivalries. An incredibly important part of safely interactively storytelling is being able and willing to have those conversations.
However, those conversations are hard. Many of us are socially anxious; without the comfort of our character’s personality to be a buffer between ourselves and difficult encounters, we want to avoid conflict. Even broaching the subject can be considered conflict or an aggressive act on someone’s part. Not to mention, live conversation can be immensely socially pressuring. There was the wonderful article by Muriel Algayres about how safety mechanics break down around people with social capital because of the social pressure to say yes in the moment. This is just one example of where on-the-fly negotiations can break down.
Therefore, Nerissa Hart came up with a wonderful template that larpers of all walks can use to have an online negotiation of intense larp dynamics. The entirety of the text is below to peruse and it would be useful in a wide variety of situations. As someone who is always pushing for more effective safety tools in larp, now having seem this used in several larp situations, I think it’s an incredibly effective tool to help those talks go a bit easier.
[Name of Larp]
Physical, Emotional, and Topic Negotiations Sheet
Created by Nerissa Hart
[Player Names] / [Character Names]
We are excited to tell a story in the safest and most consensual way possible. This document is intended to assist in that goal.
Notes About the Players
[Player 1] (Pronouns): These are notes that are important to know about the players. For example, if they have specific signals for when they can and cannot handle physical contact, such as colored hair ties, behaviors, or safe words.
[Player 2] (Pronouns):
Notes About the Characters
[Character 1 Name] (Pronouns): A basic synopsis of your character, only a few sentences. Their basic archetype, basic goals or character premise. Think of it as an elevator pitch.
[Character 2 Name] (Pronouns): Basic synopsis.
Plot and Topics Negotiations
Plot points and topics we would like to explore:
- Topics that this plotline will cover. Ie rivalry, betrayal, blackmail, prostitution, seduction, working together, begrudging truces, fights, deception, torture, revenge, friendship, true love. You get the idea.
Specific moments that WILL happen:
- What points do you 100% intend to hit/incorporate? Is there a specific scene you have in mind? Or just basic beats? This is the place for that.
Topics we are NOT comfortable exploring:
- These are topics you in no way want to enter play or conversation. Your hard reds, as it were, content wise.
Banned words (Note that this is outside the list of already standard, offensive banned words. These are additional words outside of the standardized banned language that we do not want to enter this roleplay):
- Insert here
Physical Contact Negotiations
Greens – These are types of contact we both agree we are 100% comfortable using without OOC check-in:
- Ex. touching fingertip to shoulder, hugging, cuddling, kissing. Whatever is comfortable for you and your scene partner! That is what counts!
Yellows – Needs IC / OOC check in, such as an OK check, “Listen Here”, or in person negotiation before proceeding:
- See above.
Reds (Combat related) – We will not be exploring these with legitimate physical contact. Instead, will use standard slow motion or pantomime combat rules.
- See above.
Reds (Non-Combat related) – We will not be exploring actually performing these types of physical contact AT ALL.
- See above.
Screen wipe – These are kinds of physical contact we OOC do not want to perform but with a screen wipe, our characters absolutely IC could.
- See above.
Backstory/Important Details about Character 1 and Character 2
What in the backstory should the other person know?
Is this in character or out of character knowledge?
What about specific character behaviors? Visual cues? Moments or secrets?
Put here what is relevant for your scene partner to know about your story in any format – bullet point, paragraph format, short story. Whatever works best for you.
Here are two examples of the template in use from current games: