So, this is an actual design thread of yer old school Nordic character immersive LARP, focusing on how LARP is designed and why things are done how they are done. Examples are based on Isle of Saints, a World of Darkness LARP we did several years ago.
This is a longer series of posts which I'm thinking to split up in several topics:
1. Why, what and how? The vision
2. Roleplaying contract, rules and how LARP's are different from tabletop playing
3. Initial concept design and iteration
4. Main plotlines, groups and group level plotlines
5. Characters and character level plotlines
6. Actual play, GMing the LARP
7. What worked, what did not work and what should be improved
Feel free to drop in a comment at any point, especially on things that needs more detail. Or if you think there's a topic missing.
1. Why, what and how? The vision
Isle of Saints was a one to two days and nights long LARP for about 60 players, organised by team of three writers. It was also what's known around here as a city game - a LARP where the play area is a whole city and sometimes beyond that. The two other guys had done a similar, if smaller, project before in which I was a player. So Isle of Saints wasn't the first citywide LARP in Finland - I know of at least two, possibly three, earlier projects and I had participated in one of them, a Mage larp that was kind of a test drive and and prequel to IoS.
The game was held in Helsinki, which doubled as the capital city of Isle of Saints - an imaginary island in middle of Atlantic Ocean. The cities were identical copies and the players were instructed to think that the streets matched and internally think that the street names fitted the setting.
IoS was based on White Wolf's World of Darkness, mostly Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension, though not on the Minds Eye
Theatre-versions of them. One of the reasons we wrote the LARP was to fix things that thought were not working well enough in the MET-based LARP's we'd been participating.
Some examples of things we wanted to avoid or do in a different way:
Change the rules. Minds Eye Theatre is, for a character immersive play, a very clunky set of rules; it basically takes the Storytelling system tabletop rules, streamlines them a bit, changes dices to RPS-test and tells you to roll with it. In essence, it brings a tabletop-paradigm to a LARP with not that good results, since LARP's are very different beasts. More about this in rules -post.
The "Elysium-syndrome"; LARP's tend to happen in single physical place, which is a bit ankward for a large group of players and characters. Players have to fake reasons to stay in the playing area even if it's clear that their characters would not stay there. So either you hang around, with no reason, or go out from the game.
The "Only Vampires Allowed"-syndrome. It doesen't really feel that you're a beast in the top of the food chain if the only people you meet are other beasts in the top of the food chain. Where's the personal horror and predatory feeling in that? We wanted to simulate a full city in World of Darkness, with several different supernatural factions not entirely aware of each other, and with lot of humans mostly unaware of supernatural beings. In essence, we wanted "the masquerade" that works.
We wanted to avoid a large social gathering with obvious plots happening during a fixed period of time; in other words, we wanted to simulate few days and nights of life of the characters; not the least exiting days, more like starting slow and then acclerating the pace.
We decided that we'd want to have around 60 players and that the game would be invitation only; we picked an initial list of players whom we know would have the same idea of Live-Roleplaying that we had. We also had to take into account matters like playing space (players that could provide their aparments for playing) and travelling (players with cars). We drafted initial budget, calculated the participation fee and discounts for players providing apartment or a car.
We didn't really spent a lot of time pondering on how we wanted to do things; two other writers had one similar game under their belt and we reviewed what worked in it and what did not, what to do in same way and what to improve.