Navigating CVC

Posted by Courtney Kraft on

“What will you do when their army comes through town?” I asked Domni.

“Hopefully watch your head roll across the street,” Domni replied without missing a beat. Moira, Domni’s player, flashed me a smug grin and went on her way. I watched her go, completely incapable of responding with anything even remotely as threatening.

It was...perfect.

Character Versus Character (CVC) conflict can be a rewarding and fun aspect of live action roleplay, but it can also be the most difficult to navigate in a healthy manner.



“Bleed” is a term LARPers use to describe the sensation of a character’s emotions affecting the emotions of the player outside of a game’s scene. The reverse is also possible where a player’s feelings towards another player--be it positive or negative--influence how their characters interact.

Bleed is what usually erodes a fun CVC scene into real life drama. If you find yourself feeling negatively towards a player you engaged in a CVC scene with, pause and ask yourself if what you are feeling is bleed or not. Additionally, if you find yourself reacting uncharacteristically negative toward another player n a scene, pause to consider if there are external factors (hunger, fatigue, real life stress, etc.) influencing your actions.



“The character is not the player.” Say it with me. “The character is not the player.” Repeat that to yourself a few more times. Compartmentalizing your thoughts towards a player versus your character’s thoughts toward another character is the most important aspect to master if you want to have successful CVC roleplay.

But how? Start with taking time to get to know the player outside of the game. Spend time with each other in a capacity that doesn’t involve the game like a board game night, getting coffee, hangouts with friends, etc. When you have a clear grasp of the differences between the player and their character, you are less likely to be affected by emotional bleed.



Checking in is the process of touching base with another player before, during, or after an intense scene. Taking a brief moment to check in with someone can make a world of difference in their perception of you as the player.

Pre-scene check-ins: Sometimes you know something will go down at an upcoming event involving you and another player. By checking in before the game, you can learn and set boundaries. You can also use this time to instill confidence in your scene partners that what they do you won’t take personally, or reassure that your character’s feelings do not reflect your personal feelings toward them.

Mid-scene check-ins: Every now and then, you may feel an urge to check in during an active scene, especially when things get heated between characters. This is where things can get a little sticky because some players don’t like to ruin the scene’s momentum by breaking character. Some games implement hand signs like a thumbs up/thumbs down or OK to signal the players emotional state without breaking the flow. I’ve heard of players having entire screaming matches while flashing that signal.

Post-scene check-ins: Sometimes you may look back on an intense scene and feel a sense of unease because you’re unsure if a player enjoyed the conflict you presented or not. When this happens, you can still approach the player at a later time to check in.

The big reason why checking in is vital to CVC roleplay is because it shows that you respect your fellow players. It reminds them that you care about them having fun and that you aren’t playing for the sole purpose of ruining someone’s day.



Before you decide to engage in a specific CVC scene, you need to stop and ask yourself this very important question: “Why?”

“Why?” is the most important question to ask when developing a character, good or evil. In fact, I could write an entire article on just that question. However, when it comes to CVC, you need to ask yourself “Will this scene be fun for others or is it only for me?” and “Why would my character do this?”  If the answer is, “Because they’re just an asshole,” that’s not gonna cut it. That only works in children’s books.

Think about villains in your favorite stories. They have a goal. They don’t just wreck a city merely because they feel like it. There is something to accomplish in wrecking said city. Perhaps it’s to create a distraction, or instill fear into getting the locals to follow, or maybe it’s just collateral damage to pay for annihilating the heroes. Consider the goals you wish to achieve with these CVC scenes.



So there was this guy named Isaac Newton who whipped up some laws of physics a really long time ago. His third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Although you can certainly apply Newton’s laws to the boffer side of LARPing, there is something to be said about that third one when it comes to CVC.

When your character does something to harm, hinder, or otherwise foil another character, you need to be prepared for some consequences. Did you jump someone in the street and take their belongings? Then don’t wonder why the town guard is surrounding you. Did you betray a friend? How odd that suddenly there is a knife in your back and you’re dropped into bleedout. Huh.

My advice to you is this: Embrace consequences rather than try to avoid them. It really can be just as fun to get your ass handed to you in revenge as it is to dish it out. You’re also facilitating fun and satisfying roleplay for others when you allow yourself a little vulnerability.

But there is also the possibility of damaging out-of-game relationships when it comes to CVC. This is why everything I’ve written above is so important. CVC isn’t about screwing over other players. It’s about creating an avenue of fun roleplay for others as well as yourself.


Courtney Kraft

Courtney Kraft is a veteran LARPer and geek-culture industry pro with over 20 years experience. She can also play the hurdy gurdy.


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