Cheap tricks and useful advice for LARP design

edited September 2006 in Play Advice
Since there seems to be plenty of us LARPers here, let's share. Let's try to keep the actual tricks short and then expand by Q&A, if convinient.

Pre-written characters

Pre-written characters are a norm in our games. LARP's are tricky beasts when it comes to controlling what actually happens in the game; GM guidance during the game causes all kind of havoc during the event. Unlike tabletop play, LARP's don't have a single point of focus for information, since players are spread out in larger area (from a single room to a whole city) and usually the metagame level is non-existent. Stopping the in-game for few players to negotiate and clear things out does not mean it stops for other players, among other things.

So we like to do pre-written characters for several reasons:

- Consistency. We can make sure that all characters have consistent information about the setting, other characters, goals and possible plots. Inconsistendy can be added by design and choice and that too is, well, consistent (for example, characters have different information about something that has happened).
- Cut out the need for adding new content (as in setting content) during the actual play. LARP's are not good medium for improvising setting content during the play because of their decentralized nature. If someone introduces new elements to the setting, how do you inform other players about it? Small details are a different matter.
- Plot control. Controlling the plot/events/storyline/whatever during the actual play is troublesome. While it could be done with use of NPC's, GM control, or other means, we like to use the pre-written character since it's a most likely way to exclude the need of control during the actual play. You can insert all sorts of parameters, hooks, goals, plots and stuff to a pre-written character.
- Social networks and character contacts. With pre-written characters you can design a web of connections between the characters and add a lot of stuff that can turn into situtations and player-driven events during the game.

The use of pre-written characters and front-load designing could be condensed to this: you prepare the table for the players, give ingredients and tools, which they can use in whatever way they choose to. You prepare a lot of possible situtations. Then cut off the control and see what happens.

Edited: fixed the header.

Comments

  • We've known each other for 20 years, yes? So, who are you?

    One of the problems I've most often run in LARP's is the symptom of an unknown friend or relative. Your character has known this other character for half of his life and they are the best pals in universe, but that's about all the information you've got before the game, and you meet the other player - and thus, the character - for the first time in the game.

    You don't have the shared history your characters should have. And your tools to create it on the spot are limited - sure, you can decide that you guys haven't met in a while and want to reflect on your past, and create the shared history right there.

    But one method I've grown to be very fond of is to do this before the LARP. Arrange a few hours before the game (or, if possible, few weeks before it), get the players who's characters know each other together and introduce them to each other. Urge them to create the shared history, talk about the small things they've done together (and of course the major ones). If you have pre-written characters, there's probably some framework to begin with, but unless the characters are novella's, they can't really have that much. Creating a shared history with other players make the characters feel more real, both your own and the other characters. Add a lot of color. Also works for breaking the ice between two players who have not met before.
  • edited September 2006
    What a great thread. There's actually lots of the above that I'd like to discuss, but before we get to that...

    Let the players provide their own opposition

    In a tabletop game, it's common for a GM to provide opposition to the players, playing monsters for the PCs to fight or posing problems for them to solve. This is much more difficult in LARPs, because the GM can't be everywhere at once, presenting opposition to the players.

    But you can let the PCs provide their own opposition. Organise the PCs into factions and pit them against each other. Make the villain a PC, rather than an NPC played by a GM. And so on.

    On the same note...

    Make all the characters want something that they can't all have

    Create a limited resource: say, the pirate's treasure, the Three Orbs of Power or the post of Sheriff. Tell lots of players they want it. Watch them fight.

    Better still, create several limited resources and watch them bargain.

    Get the players to interact with each other, rather than the GM.

    If there's a piece of information that's essential to the LARP (say, how to defeat the monster), give it to a player, rather than putting it in a book. That way, the players have to interact with each other to get the information, not you.

    Similarly, if a player comes to you during the game and wants to do something which doesn't involve the other players ("I want to research lycanthropy on the Internet"), discourage them ("There's not much useful. Why don't you ask the other players instead?").

    Don't plan the plot

    If you plan that the LARP will end with the Second Coming, chances are that a. The players won't care, because they've all decided to be atheists or b. it'll be irrelevant, because the Messiah made a surprise appearance in the first hour of the LARP. So don't plan an ending: try to find one from what the players have done.

    Watch the players and adapt

    If they seem bored, do something, even if you hadn't planned to do it yet. If they seem happy playing, rein back on your Next Big Bit Of Plot.

    Be careful of secrets

    If you tell Player X "You murdered Lord James", Player X will keep it secret.

    If you then ask the other players to find out who murdered Lord James, they'll never find out, because Player X is keeping it secret.

    If you use secrets, you need some way of forcing players to reveal them.

    Use the plot to provoke players, not to excite them

    The players will not care about anything that doesn't involve them. If the Messiah appears halfway through the LARP, they won't care. If the Messiah appears and offers the place at his right hand to one PC (only), everyone will care. Probably. Sometimes.

    Two pages is a good length for a character sheet

    Nobody will read more than two pages of character sheet and background. Even if you think the third page is essential, even if you give it to them in advance, they won't read it.

    Nobody wants to learn the rules

    Everyone just wants to start playing their character. So, if you have rules, keep them very simple.

    (This is bollocks for White Wolf games, of course, where everyone will go away and read rulebooks in their spare time, but...er...anyway.)

    Make it an event

    LARPing is much more theatrical than tabletop. Be welcoming. Be larger than life. Stand on chairs and wave your arms about. Make it sound like the best game in the world.


    Bloody hell, that was long. Feel free to argue with any of the rules above, of course.

    We need Adam Cerling to come on this. He's great at this shit.

    Graham
  • Posted By: Graham WalmsleyWhat a great thread. There's actually lots of the above that I'd like to discuss, but before we get to that...
    Great stuff, Graham. I'll pick up a few points that instantly rang my bell.
    Let the players provide their own opposition

    In a tabletop game, it's common for a GM to provide opposition to the players, playing monsters for the PCs to fight or posing problems for them to solve. This is much more difficult in LARPs, because the GM can't be everywhere at once, presenting opposition to the players.

    But you can let the PCs provide their own opposition. Organise the PCs into factions and pit them against each other. Make the villain a PC, rather than an NPC played by a GM. And so on.
    Yes. On this and creating plots and stuff in general: I usually like to divide this in three tiers.

    1. All characters and the whole event in general.
    2. A faction.
    3. A character.

    This applies to both creating plots, story hooks, parameters and writing the actual character backgrounds.

    First tier is the big stuff and goes with creating the setting and coming up with a vision. What are the big things that go through everything and affect pretty much anyone? Are there any major plotlines? Why are all the characters where they are?

    Second tier is the factions. Is there a way to group some characters together with a common ground, goal or background? With Vampire, this is relatively easy - there are the clans, small social cliques and such. Are there any goals for the whole faction? Why is this faction here, are they trying to achieve something as a faction, what are the character to character relationships and faction to faction relationships? This usually produces a faction level background could be integrated to a character background or distributed separately.

    Character level. Who is this guy? Why is he here? What does he want? Does he have any individual goals? Does his stuff clash with the faction stuff? What are his relationships to other characters (expanding the faction level, which kind of displays the stuff everyone in the faction knows - but this is a personal approach and can be a whole different thing)?

    (I have one good actual design case from the last LARP I was involved with for this, but it takes ages to write that down)
    Be careful of secrets

    If you tell Player X "You murdered Lord James", Player X will keep it secret.

    If you then ask the other players to find out who murdered Lord James, they'll never find out, because Player X is keeping it secret.

    If you use secrets, you need some way of forcing players to reveal them.
    One efficent way to do this is simply to make one or several other characters to know that this guy might know something about The Secret. Building a web of who-knows-what interlaced with character goals usually ends up providing a nice domino-effect which reveals secrets one step after other. Also, letting the character with secret to know that someone knows or suspects puts a pressure on him. He has to take action to protect his secrets.
    Two pages is a good length for a character sheet

    Nobody will read more than two pages of character sheet and background. Even if you think the third page is essential, even if you give it to them in advance, they won't read it.
    This depends. Two pages is a good rule of thumb, but it can be circumvented. We tend to use character background templates which put the "color" background first and then the important stuff (things you have to remember, relations to other characters, places where you have to be at some point, etc) to the end of the background. Of course, when you distribute the character background matters - if it's a convention game where players have maybe an hour to so to prepare, two pages is an absolute maximum. If you send out the characters a month of few weeks before the LARP, players have more time to adapt and get to know the stuff. We (almost) always use the latter method because it affects character propping as well. Have to give players time to hunt down clothing and such.

    I don't personally mind long characters if they are well written and provide help for me to get into my character. I do mind if all the important data is hidden into ten pages of average prose.
    Nobody wants to learn the rules

    Everyone just wants to start playing their character. So, if you have rules, keep them very simple.

    (This is bollocks for White Wolf games, of course, where everyone will go away and read rulebooks in their spare time, but...er...anyway.)
    And while some people definately like to use the rules, it's a good choice to keep them very simple and quick. Using a complex set of rules (say, MET-style extented RPS challenges that go on and on, until every last dot on the character sheet is used) halts the game for people involved. However, as other people keep playing, this creates a continuum problem, a timestop.

    Trying to mix tabletop with LARPing (like MET does) is a bad idea. One mass combat with MET rules (which could take hours to resolve) is usually enough to notice this.

    Also, empowering players to resolve conflicts without need of GM arbitration is a good idea. It's faster, it doesen't tie up GM resources and, well, it lets players to decide what happens.
  • Casting your characters is very important. You've got a bunch of pregens, and a bunch of players, but you need to decide who plays who.

    One way to add a simulated history is to make character relationships mirror real life relationships. For example, in one game I ran, the group of escaped convict PCs had banded together on the spur of the moment and had no reason to trust each other, so they were played by folks who didn't know each other well. Whereas the man and his wife who were hostages were played by a pair of engaged players. If the character's played by someone you know, you're more easily able to play with them and that character.

    I also prefer to stick less proactive players in the roles where the situation forces them into (re)action, but leave the more proactive players with just a vague idea what to do. Which seems counterintuitive: you're putting the more introverted players in central roles for the LARP, and the more active players on the edges of the game. But it works, because then everyone's doing something, rather than the non-proactive players watching the active ones do things.



    Start things off with a bang. Give the players a very short time to mingle in character to get a feel for everyone else, then have some big climactic event happen that everyone needs to react to, and spurs on various character plots. Murders are good inciting incidents, though lots of other stuff works too. Without an inciting incident, everyone will just sit around chatting in character for a long time. If a man enters the room waving a gun around, though, you know people are going to start doing something interesting, though there's no way to know what.
  • Posted By: Mr. TeapotCasting your characters is very important. You've got a bunch of pregens, and a bunch of players, but you need to decide who plays who.
    Yes! Though, again, it's a two-edged sword. We like to do invitation-only games and take players whom we know, both for quality- and casting-issues. This, of course, does nothing on the front of reaching out to potential new players.

    Some organisers like to take the middle ground and have open games with screening process, which tries to nail down a) what kind of players the registered persons are and b) what kind of characters they favour.
    I also prefer to stick less proactive players in the roles where the situation forces them into (re)action, but leave the more proactive players with just a vague idea what to do. Which seems counterintuitive: you're putting the more introverted players in central roles for the LARP, and the more active players on the edges of the game. But it works, because then everyone's doing something, rather than the non-proactive players watching the active ones do things.
    Also; when casting players, you want to take account the fact that some people always end up playing similar characters because that's what they are good at. It could be a good thing (the player certainly knows how to play that kind of character) or a bad thing (the player gets set in his ways and always seems to be playing the same archetype). Breaking this has it's up- and downsides.

    Giving introverted players clear goals, plothooks and a lot of relationships could also help. Proactive players can do stuff just by themselves and don't need that clear goals.

    Good stuff, keep it coming, folks.
  • I'd like to note that all of this, so far, applies to good tabletop play too. It's just more critical in a larp, based on the strengths and limitations of the format.
  • Spurred on by something Jukka said above...the key, to me, is to ensure that you don't just have allies and enemies, but that you make it about commonality of goals. That is, an ally is somebody with whom you share a common goal such that if it comes to fruition, you both benefit. An enemy will suffer if your goal comes to fruition.

    Here's the really important part, however. For most characters who the character has a common goal, have them have a conflicting goal as well. Basically try to make as many characters both potential enemies and allies at the same time. Because then the players have something to bargain about. No longer is play simply about trying to discover your allies and enemies, but instead discovering the various goals each character has, and how yours mesh or clash with theirs. Then in order to get players to do things, you often have to negotiate back and forth. I'll give you A, if you give me B, which is antithetical to your goals.

    This also promotes backstabbing, and betrayal, as a player tries to get A, without having to give up B. It makes for very much more complex interaction than just factioning up, and driving together on a goal. Then you get Graham's ideal of having players provide the conflict for each other. As Jukka points out, a good way to do this is to have a faction loyalty that makes working with others in the faction a goal, while you can make their individual level goals clash. This is one good example of the overall principle at work. Another is Graham's idea of the limited resource that everyone wants - then everybody is a potential enemy no matter what other friendly goals they have.

    Mike
  • LOL... I just saw this thread guys... LOL. Most everything here mirrors my own beliefs on LARPing. We can just continue here, then!! Thanks again.
  • edited September 2006
    Comment on Secrets:
    Pace the dissemination of your information.

    You have to seed the players' backgrounds with the information you want them to have. However, you cannot assume that they will a) hold onto that information until the time you need them to release it nor b) can they be expected to know what info is important when.

    Cards that spall out pieces of their memory or NPCs that ask and answer the right questions are often very useful in keeping the "clues" on target and relevant.

    Don't forget that the players are not in your mind.

    As with tabletops secrets in a game are only useful if they are revealed. Let me emphasize this: Every game can be improved by having it's "secrets" revealed. I have never seen a game that had some underlying gotcha that would not have been cooler if the players knew about it.

    And I do not mean revealed during wrap-up.
    - Don
  • edited September 2006
    Posted By: Merten

    One of the problems I've most often run in LARP's is the symptom of an unknown friend or relative. Your character has known this other character for half of his life and they are the best pals in universe, but that's about all the information you've got before the game, and you meet the other player ...

    But one method I've grown to be very fond of is to do this before the LARP.
    Standard in Norwegian (Scandinavian) larping is to have workshops before the larp and family/group-meetings.

    More on larping from my side: http://www.fabula.no/manifest.html (a small and insignificant manifest, for your use).
  • Posted By: Mike Holmes
    Here's the really important part, however. For most characters who the character has a common goal, have them have a conflicting goal as well. Basically try to make as many characters both potential enemies and allies at the same time. Because then the players have something to bargain about. No longer is play simply about trying to discover your allies and enemies, but instead discovering the various goals each character has, and how yours mesh or clash with theirs. Then in order to get players to do things, you often have to negotiate back and forth. I'll give you A, if you give me B, which is antithetical to your goals.
    Yes; and depending on what kind of experience you're aiming for, you could either come up with a very full conflict/relationship map which means that the the event will be very "political". Or you could aim for more variation; you include conflict-heavy characters, but also characters with less conflicts or no conflicts at all. The LARP doesen't have to be focused (though it can be), but can work on different levels. Also, player casting is an important factor - players want different things from LARP's, different kind of experiences. The good thing about LARP's, especially the larger ones, is that you can have a lot of different games and levels inside the event, mix them up and make them interlace. On longer games, you can even change the focus during the game by implementing structures and phasing the game.

    Also, in less focused games, you can blend the conflicts into the background material. The goals and needs don't have to be clearly stated, but can be installed to the character backgrounds as gentle directions which the players can pick up, expand and explore.
  • Posted By: Tomas HVMMore on larping from my side:http://www.fabula.no/manifest.html(a small and insignificant manifest, for your use).
    Ooh! A manifesto! I haven't seen a new one in a while. Should we create a long and bloody argument over this, since I definately see both things I agree with, things I don't agree with and things I don't understand?
  • Propping, venue and other physical dimension issues

    The physical layout, look and location of your playing area has a lot to do with what you're trying to accomplish, as does the appearance of the players. It's also a design issue.

    Is your LARP an event that could be run in pretty much everywhere with enough space? Or are you aiming for a 360 degree match of physical and imagined space? Or something in between? How does this affect your design?

    If you're aiming for 360 degree match, it pretty much affects everything. You should know the venue beforehand and seek for one that matches the setting of the game. If you're running a grand ball for the upper echelon of social class, you probably don't want to do that in a basement. You need a place that can conviently pass for a grand hall. You probably want to advise your players to dress up for the occasion. Sneakers are a no go. Getting medieval castles for LARPs set in medieval castles can be a pain in the ass, so would you rather consider some other setting?

    Aside from obvious considerations like budget, it could also affect the actual play and techniques you are using. Going for the full match means that you're aiming for the gray area of full character-immersion (or isolation, with nudges to Kuma) event. You want to keep the GM control out of the game and meta-level things at bare minimum. Also, consider the flow of time - you have very little or no control over it, unless you specifically design that control. If not, it'll be real time.

    If you're aiming for more relaxed approach, where the venue and surroundings don't mean that much, you have a lot more room for using different techniques. You can do scene framing, tell players where the characters are, change the setting and surroundings. At the expense of (character) immersion, probably. You still want to design stuff carefully, but you have a lot more options.

    I'm very much a 360 degree guy and I'd be very intrested to hear about how the physical dimension has been used in LARP's which are more freeform in nature. Graham, how did you run the Meat Loaf LARP? Or how was the recently discussed Pirate LARP run?
  • edited September 2006
    Jukka,

    I generally go for a very, very relaxed approach, not making any attempt to make the venue and surroundings match the in-game setting.

    The Meat Loaf game is a good example, actually: there were high-speed bike races in it. Obviously they weren't done in any sort of immersive way. The racers stood in line and held up cards saying what they were trying to do each round; the audience made rulings on who succeeded and who failed. So there was no attempt at immersion or simulating the bike race: it relied on the players' narrative skills. It worked really well.

    If you're interested, I posted a long play report on the Meat Loaf game a while ago. And all the materials for the game are on my web site.

    Graham
  • I'm a fan of as much correspondance as possible between physical setting and in-game setting, just because I like using physical setting to get me in the right frame of mind, even if I'm not going for a full on immersive experience. That said, a 'real' setting for most games isn't always possible. A couple of years ago, I ran a game based on Kabuki theater. I would have loved to have a Japanese castle, or Buddhist temple complex, but there aren't very many of those around the SF Bay Area.

    Lacking exactly appropriate real-space analogues, I'm willing to settle for evocatively representative environments. For the Kabuki game, I found a location on Stanford campus that worked wonderfully: There was a bamboo grove nearby to represent a forest, an open area to be the village, the balcony of a concrete-gray building to be a mountain path, and even a steam plume from the power-plant up the street to be the distant holy volcano. Many Stanford larps take this representation strategy for their physical setting, though it helps that the Stanford campus has a wide variety of environments, well suited to many different sorts of games.

    (Between myself and a couple of the players, we managed to procure enough vaguely-Asian clothing to get everyone in the game into some semblance of costume. That element was a lot of fun too.)
  • Posted By: Graham WalmsleyThe Meat Loaf game is a good example, actually: there were high-speed bike races in it. Obviously they weren't done in any sort of immersive way. The racers stood in line and held up cards saying what they were trying to do each round; the audience made rulings on who succeeded and who failed. So there was no attempt at immersion or simulating the bike race: it relied on the players' narrative skills. It worked really well.
    How did you use the venue? You had two rooms and a hallway - did you mark down places so that racing track is in this room, this room is The Valley Of Death (or something) and this corridor is a highway, or did you leave this out entirely and when a race begun, you just said that "here are the spectators, the track is over there"?

    Also, when players dispersed around - where they setting-wise in small area or could they just dictate that "we are in a car, parked half a kilometer away"?

    When characters screwed together, how did they actually do that? By chatting? By appearing to be humping?

    Were the races narrated out aloud? Was any "acting" involved?

    By reading the actual play report it sounded very... Freeform to me. Using the physical dimension in sense of space, but not mapping it competely to imagination, and such. Not exactly same, but very similar with, say, the JeepForm stuff. And this is very intresting because it's completely different from what I've done - I don't think I've ever been in a LARP where the physical and imagined space don't map or aim to map by almost 360 degrees. When thinking about a Meat Loaf biker LARP, my first thoughts were on the lines of: "Yes, cool. The bikes could probably be arranged, but you'd have to arrange players who are able to drive the bikes - and how would you ever run the race without someone getting injured for real?"

    And that there between these two approaches is a gray area that should explored for techniques which can be used in both playing styles, techniques that should not be used in one style and, most importantly, how can the two styles be mixed in order to bring out something unique and best of the both worlds.
  • Posted By: Albert AI'm a fan of as much correspondance as possible between physical setting and in-game setting, just because I like using physical setting to get me in the right frame of mind, even if I'm not going for a full on immersive experience. That said, a 'real' setting for most games isn't always possible. A couple of years ago, I ran a game based on Kabuki theater. I would have loved to have a Japanese castle, or Buddhist temple complex, but there aren't very many of those around the SF Bay Area.
    This is very much the stuff I'm familiar with, as well - with a few exceptions (a LARP set in modern era or a heavily propped LARP) you can't almost ever make a perfect match of the imagined and physical dimension. But you can get close enough so that the differences don't ruin the effect and, like in your case, take the "non-fitting surroundings" into account and turn them into strengths. I've been in a fallout shelter which actually was a large basement, and that worked out well enough. I could imagine that a large room could be transformed into a space shuttle with little difficulty.

    The location does sound very good, by the way. I can almost imagine it.
  • Graham is too kind...!

    I'm of Graham's breed regarding how I expect the physical surroundings to be rather abstracted. I was raised not only on Mind's Eye Theater LARPs, but on Werewolf Mind's Eye Theater LARPs: and as there is no convincing way to visually represent the fact that you're a nine-foot man-wolf, I'm used to using imagination rather than staging and special effects.

    Besides, imagination is cheaper.

    Therefore to me, good LARP design has far more to do with situation and mechanics. It's all about taking advantage of the fact that you have a dozen or more intelligent, imaginative free agents in the game. How to you harness all that creative power in a manageable and fun fashion?
  • I reposted this for convenience sake since it seems like a good jumping off point for several of my comments.

    I have a theory about LARPs. It's something I have been saying for years and the idea constantly faces resistance.

    In my opinion a LARP is chatting in character. To take that further it's the responsibility of all involved to find engaing topics to chat about (or instigate topics) but ultimately there is nothing more to it. Now some LARP types are different, particularly when you get into boffer LARPs with mad props and NPC mooks you can accomplish a little more. However I don't think any LARP should just be one scene after another of action. This is not a cinematic medium like tabletop can be. GM narraration should be kept to a minimium. Players should suss out their own drama and try to attain their goals socially - and consequences for acting in an asocial manner should be as harsh as they are in the real world.

    All the information the characters need should be in their backgrounds, doled out throughout the game through NPCs or added background or found in well placed props. That information should lead them to their social goals.

    With some very difficult and dynamic exceptions a LARP should be driven by social goals. How do I get info from this person? How do I convince them of an action? How do I rally their support? How do I get others to rally against them? Once they have the social goals then there should be some sort of measurement for their success in game (a vote off the island, appointment of a new post, a lynching, a tbale full of gathered components). And I think most importantly I think people should be talking about it. We should be talking about what we should wear, what we should be bringing, how we should or shouldn't act and commenting on how others act. In my opinion that is the heartbeat of a LARP.

    Too often I see games where the GMs stand amidst a group of LARPers and narrate what they see and what situation they are in then ask the players to elucidate on what their PCs are doing. Whispered meeting happen as players corner GMs with their laundry lists of secret actions and how they are interacting with the outside world to get their goals met. Players wander off in hiding until the need for what they have stolen has passed yet wander around "out of game" chatting with their compatriots. It is often forgotten that what makes a LARP is not the cool things you accomplished but the conversations you had in your persuit.

    If players and GMs keep this in mind I think a significant amount of frustration can be avoided.
    In relation to our discussion about location, namely, narrative responsibilities of the GMs. In an ideal LARP I believe there should be none. Although the defacto setting can come with it a set of assumed shared delusions or a brief narrative in the beginning of the game it's been my experience that a LARP the requires a GM to describe anything isn't really a LARP at all. The discussion of matching the meatspace to the thoughtspace is almost irrelavent or, more to the point, brought to light through practical limits rather than design limits (otherwise we'd all be playing modern games, especially at conventions). I think a more crucial design philosophy should say that your LARP shoud be confined to your players and the props you can provide. The amount of space you have available to (as mentioned earlier) is important to consider but also having physical locations that you can easily manage in game. Everyone should play the game within the space provided. Everyone should have the ability to look over at a group of characters and say "oh, there they are." If there will be a lot of downtime in a game (an excellent way to limit the use of certain types of actions) then those characters should be forced off-site or relegated to a place they can be found [GM HQ or a room with a TV, etc - AP: I was in a game where it was important that PCs would sleep for 20 minutes before entering a dreamworld. While those PCs were gearing up for REM sleep the GMs sent the players to go get coffee for them :) ].

    This really makes a LARP run far more smoothly than many others I have witnessed. Such considerations keep retcons, missing players and "hiding" shenannegins to an all-time low and allow the flow of the game to move in a more positive direction.
  • I've run the same game* at both ends of the location spectrum, and I'm not sure what difference it had on the LARP. The first time I ran the game we only had one room, so I made a map of the house on the floor using tape. This allowed players to show what room they were in, though the size didn't match reality at all. When conflict happened in a room, we'd just zoom in on that room and ignore the map, to space out the action. When the action spread across the house, we used the map to show relative locations. No connection between real world space at all.

    The second game had a much fuller connection between the game world house and the LARP space (my house). The kitchen was the kitchen, the basement was the basement, etc. This meant less was imagined, though I don't know what impact that had exactly. More important to me the GM was that it necessitated multiple GMs spread across the house instead of one GM for the players. (I also had more players the second time, which forced this more). I have a less clear picture of the events of that game because I was present for a smaller percentage of it.


    *Jailbreak, an Unknown Armies scenario which is perfect for a LARP, and a great game.
  • It sounds like you utilized your space perfectly in both scenarios. The tape is a great idea!

    Did you have any problems with people leaving the space or saying they were in another space that their actual body was?
  • Not that I LARP a lot, but I have a lot of experience running massive online games, and thus:

    Don't complicate the situation too much; the players will do that on their own.

    Seriously, "a man is found murdered, the killer is on the loose" is more than adequate. The players will add and spin and contribute their pieces until that simple situation has become a hugely complex and layered thing.
  • Posted By: eruditusDid you have any problems with people leaving the space or saying they were in another space that their actual body was?
    In both cases, the players were fairly willing to exit the house for short periods. I didn't really have much problem with declaring yourself in one place and standing elsewhere, except places where the taped hallway was too small for three people to stand and such, in which case we'd spread out a little.

    The players had a better idea where everyone else was, which made for less sneaking around, I think. The upstairs was somewhat separate from the downstairs, which allowed some privacy when someone explored the upstairs, but everyone knew that he was up there.
  • Joshua, that seems (to me) to run counter to advice already presented on this topic; that not given things to care about, they'll just sit around and chat, and then at the end of the LARP complain that nothing happened.
  • Posted By: VaxalonJoshua, that seems (to me) to run counter to advice already presented on this topic; that not given things to care about, they'll just sit around and chat, and then at the end of the LARP complain that nothing happened.
    I'd maybe put it this way; don't make things too complicated, just make a lot (or enough) of things. Plothooks don't need to be that complicated - a boiling situtation between husband wife is intresting enough without the secret-lover who's actually after a fat bank account. Unless, of course, you're doing the Bold and the Beautifull. Then it would make perfect sense.

    Writing a character around a single idea, plot or conflict is not a good idea (unless the game is either a very focused or short one) because plots don't always happen, for plenty of reasons.
  • Okay, so rather than a few complex plots that involve lots of people, make many simple ones that intersect.
  • If you make many simple plots then the players will figure out how they intersect ... often in ways that you would never have dreamed of.
  • Posted By: VaxalonOkay, so rather than a few complex plots that involve lots of people, make many simple ones that intersect.
    Oh yeah. Have several simple plots, but each PC ties into two or three of them, which is where complications come from. This is especially good if the PC's goals in different plots don't fit together nicely (sometimes opposed, or just getting one endangers the other or each works with different other PCs or in a diffeent realm of conflict). The players will create and find connections between the different plots.
  • Posted By: eruditusThe amount of space you have available to (as mentioned earlier) is important to consider but also having physical locations that you can easily managein game. Everyone should play the game within the space provided. Everyone should have the ability to look over at a group of characters and say "oh, there they are."
    I can certainly agree with the first two sentences - the third one is good for some games, but can broken with good effects. Breaking it, though, is something that should be done with consideration and not accidentally. There have been a good amount of LARP's that explore using larger space as playing area; for instance, making a whole city and beyond a playing area, which kind of creates a number of small LARP's (players or small groups) interlacing with each other.
    If there will be a lot of downtime in a game (an excellent way to limit the use of certain types of actions) then those characters should be forced off-site or relegated to a place they can be found [GM HQ or a room with a TV, etc -AP:I was in a game where it was important that PCs would sleep for 20 minutes before entering a dreamworld. While those PCs were gearing up for REM sleep the GMs sent the players to go get coffee for them :) ].
    What do you mean with downtime? Putting players who are not playing away from sight of those who do play, is certainly a good idea. We've been moving away from having out-of-character time, though - we tend to play non-stop, through the low-action and more-action phases.
  • Posted By: TonyLBIf you make many simple plots then the players will figure out how they intersect ... often in ways that you would never have dreamed of.
    Exactly. Or don't provide (only) plots; provide lot's of possible plots, a rich tapestry of relationships, situations, wants and needs. Provide possible means to satisfy those wants and needs. You don't have to lead the players through anything - they'll grap the leads and go, multiply them, play on them and create the actual stuff. They probably won't grap everything. But if you provide the critical mass, explosions will happen.
  • eruditus --

    I'm uncomfortable with any talk of what LARP "should" be or what the "ideal" LARP is. To me, that makes no more sense than talking about what tabletop games should be or what the ideal tabletop game is.

    This whole thread is a little misleading, in fact, since "cheap tricks and useful advice for LARP design" is about as general as "cheap tricks and useful advice for game design".

    The only thing I feel comfortable generalizing about a LARP is that it has a larger-than-usual number of players, and therefore its fiction is decentralized. And still I can think of LARPs that are exceptions to both those assumptions.

    So if anyone wants advice on LARP design, I have to paraphrase the classic: "What do you want this LARP to be about? What do you want the players to do? What do you want the characters to do?"
  • Posted By: Adam CerlingI'm uncomfortable with any talk of what LARP "should" be or what the "ideal" LARP is. To me, that makes no more sense than talking about what tabletop games should be or what the ideal tabletop game is.
    Or to just to generalize; what roleplaying should be. And that there is a question that does not have a good answer. I'm fascinated to notice that there are already so much freeform (as opposed or different from, say, where me and eruditus are coming from) stuff out there. It's very different stuff from what I'm used to and probably does not match the style I've learned to like - but I'm eager to snitch whatever I can use. It's the same thing with tabletop playing, really.
    This whole thread is a little misleading, in fact, since "cheap tricks and useful advice for LARP design" is about as general as "cheap tricks and useful advice for game design".
    And we have already drifted from tricks and advice to compare how and why things are done. Which is an intresting topic in itself. I certainly would not mind reading more actual play stuff.
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