Substitute Actions

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Enactment where one type of action represents another action.

While Live Action Roleplaying Games make players enact their characters' actions, not all action are feasible to enact due to physical, social or moral issues. Substitute Actions is a solution to this where problematic actions are replaced by other actions which have similarities to the problematic ones but are acceptable to use.

The concept of Substitute Actions have also been described as Allegoric Play, see Wrigstad[1].


As a pattern pertaining to Live Action Roleplaying Games and especially the Nordic Larp style, example of Substitute Actions are found in these games. Ars Armandi is one example, a rule system which replaces sex by representing it through touching somebody only on their hands, arms, shoulders, and upper back (for a description of this technique, see Stark[2]). Another, more common, example is that of using padded or foam weapons to substitute real combat with boffer[3][4] combat.

Using the pattern

When designing Substitute Actions, one needs to considering what are the affordances, consequences, and communication the problematic type of actions has. This being done, candidate types of actions which maintain as much of these as possible need to be identified. These candidates may also be slightly modified (or certain expressions given extra meanings) to fit better.

After the Substitute Actions have been designed, how to inform players of these actions is a vital part of making them work successfully. Giving players the opportunity to train on these may be useful.

Specific examples of Substitute Actions include the above mentioned Ars Armandi and boffer combat.

Workshopping techniques and especially Warming-Up Roleplay Exercises can help player familarize with how and when Substitute Actions should be performed before gameplay begins.

Diegetic Aspects

Substitute Actions is a Diegetic Pattern in that it directly affects the diegetic presentation in a game.

Interface Aspects

From an interface perspective, Substitute Actions can be seen as a Interface Pattern in that it lets players have access to certain actions that otherwise would not be able to do.

Narrative Aspects

By providing a way to represent problematic actions and the events they cause, Substitute Actions is a Narration Pattern.


Substitute Actions is a Meta-Technique that can be done through Physical Enactment in Live Action Roleplaying. By not forcing players to break their Physical Enactment, it can avoid or lessen the use of Non-Diegetic Communication and thereby help maintain Diegetic Consistency.

Meta-Postures and Substitute Actions are diametrical solutions to the same design problem and thereby work against each other.


Can Instantiate

Diegetic Consistency, Meta-Techniques

Can Modulate

Physical Enactment, Live Action Roleplaying

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Workshopping, Warming-Up Roleplay Exercises

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Meta-Postures, Non-Diegetic Communication


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wrigstad, T. 2008. Nuts and Bolts of Jeepform. Playground Worlds.
  2. Stark, L. 2012. Leaving Mundania - Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-playing Games, p. 220. Chicago Review Press.
  3. entry for Boffer on the Nordic LARP wiki.
  4. Wikipedia entry for foam, or boffer, weapons.