How not to Network

So there’s a right way, and a wrong way, to make friends and contacts in the greater “Live-Action Roleplaying” (or LARP) scene. What I’ll be discussing below is an example of the latter. Now while I was not present at this particular event, I know many of those who were there, and were either witnesses to or actively involved in this incident, and know it is true.

Anyway, a few weeks back, there was a Pirate-themed event in the Portland area. The Pirate community in the greater Metro area is fairly active, and has multiple events a year. They aren’t exactly the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), but they aren’t exactly a fly-by-night, impromptu LARP group, either.

What I’m saying here is, they are organized, and have clearly defined rules. This is important later.

Well, as this particular event was winding down, some folks who are rather well-known and established with the local Pirate scene were talking with a couple who were new to these events, but apparently not new to Pirate events in general. At some point, an argument broke out, which (depending upon who you believe) nearly became violent.

So, here are the facts everyone agrees upon:

  • A lady in the group of ‘established’ pirates took off here corset, due to back pain, to adjust it. This left her bereft of clothing from the waist up (not an unusual occurrence at a Pirate gathering).
  • The male member of the ‘new’ pirate couple touched the half-dressed lady on the stomach.
  • It was then explained to said man that this was not okay, and said male apologized.
  • An argument ensued.
  • Staff from the event had to intervene, to keep things from getting worse.

Now then, here’s a bit more detail, which was corroborated by witnesses…

  • The man from the ‘new’ couple did apologize, but followed that with a “but…”, as if he wasn’t really taking responsibility for his own actions.
  • When a different lady from the ‘established’ pirate group explained how important Consent is in the Pirate community, said ‘new’ male called this other lady a “Mouthy Bitch”.
  • The husband of the lady he insulted stepped in to get this ‘new’ male to step down and knock his rudeness off.
  • Another man in the area, being friends with the ‘established’ group, jokingly stated he would bet $1000 that the ‘established’ male would kill the ‘new’ male.
  • Days later, the ‘new’ couple publicly insulted the entire local Pirate community, including the King.

Personally, I would have bet more on said ‘established’ male in this particular fight. But that’s just me. I found the joke hilarious, when I heard about it, but I also believe it probably didn’t make calming the situation down any easier.

Anyway, it really is clear who fucked up in this incident, and who made it significantly worse than it had to be, and that was the ‘new’ couple. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, upon first hearing their side of the story, but then I learned that while they were new to the local Pirate scene, they are not new to the Pirate community overall. They know what is acceptable, and touching someone like that certainly falls under the heading of “DON’T DO THIS!”

Just like calling someone a “Mouthy Bitch” for trying to explain proper etiquette to you falls under “ABSOLUTELY DO NOT DO THIS!”… and doing it around her husband, who has studied Martial Arts and swordplay most of his life, well that just falls under the category of “WE TRIED TO WARN YOU, BUT YOU DIDN’T LISTEN…”

So what does all this have to do with the overall topic of discussion? Simple. When you are trying to join an established roleplaying community, be it Pirates, the SCA, a local Ren-Faire scene, or even just a small LARP group, there are a few things to keep in mind. In my experience, you should hang back and observe, at least at first, to help learn the group dynamics. Roleplay when the opportunity is offered, but otherwise hang back and see how the community interacts.

What you don’t do is touch someone, especially someone you’ve just met, without their expressed permission to do so. In fact, I’d be hesitant to touch someone even with permission, given the circumstances!

Another thing to remember is to ‘start small’. Go into this new community as a common member of the group (say, a member of a pirate crew, for example), so as to keep a low profile. Your persona can always be adapted later, as the group becomes comfortable with you.

Walking into a new community and telling everyone you are “The Pirate Queen” probably isn’t a good choice. Especially when said community has a King, and you aren’t involved with them in any way, shape, or form. Just saying.

Anyway, the best thing for all concerned is to just ease your way into an established community, as opposed to just barging in and hyping yourself up while blatantly breaking their rules. Because, as was pointed out by someone in a Facebook discussion of the event (above), LARP communities overlap. Pirates interact with Rennies, who interact with SCAdians, who interact with Vampires, etc. And insulting, then telling off one community leads to being ostracized from all of the local roleplaying communities, in time.

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