LARP-making 101
July 26, 2009 10:36 AM   Subscribe

How do you organise, structure, and run a LARP - particularly one that's a little bit unusual?

I'm quite inspired by White Elephant Burlesque, which is part burlesque troupe part LARP. They have a storyline, with characters, and they perform in character.

I would like to do something similar (and they've given me their blessing) - I have a storyline that could work quite well. How do I get it going?

1. The storyline I have in mind has some set characters, and a basic plot, though there is always room for innovation and deviation. How strict should the plot be? How about the characterisations?

2. Do I assign characters to players? Do I cast for certain people to play certain parts?

3. I don't imagine my story will involve a lot of combat or any other points-gathering activity; however, having quests and challenges for the characters sounds interesting (the overall story quest I had in mind centers around the identity of a spirit and their murderer). What are some creative ways of incorporating quests into a LARP like this?

4. From what I can envision, this is something that would likely be played over time - and sometimes online - and many of the players would either be burlesque/performer types that are new to gaming, or people that like to RP but may be new to performing. I'm not out for stage talent here, just a bit of fun. How can I best organise people's time and have them get along with as little conflict as possible?

Any other resources on running and structuring a LARP, or any other related game style that can help (as I write this I realise this has shades of murder mysteries) would be helpful too.
posted by divabat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Rule 7 is an excellent LRP resource, albeit somewhat UK-centric. There are some massively experienced pro and amateur game organisers on there who'd likely be happy to offer sound advice.
posted by Bodd at 12:11 PM on July 26, 2009

Our LARP (where are you anonymous response button, I feel so dirty) is structured as a multi-hour event that happens once a month. There are storytellers (who have final authority on rules and judgments, make decisions, approve characters, do other maintenance & manage the disbursements), narrators who are there to assist running scenes that they're not involved in and do minor duties. Because the "set" characters in our game are often more powerful than the "created" characters, they are played by "real" players as "Non-Player Characters", so that the character's strategic decisions are left up to the storytellers. But because of the depth of interaction, the actual walking-around and social interaction is done by a player who is given the general gist of the way the character might operate.

There are several different varieties of LARP in the world. I'm not sure if there are any Camarilla chapters in Brisbane, but this is an international game run by White Wolf Entertainment, and is vampire-themed. It might be good to go to a game as a new player and watch. You may also want to try to find a boffer LARP in your area, which while a little more physical than your average roleplaying game, will also give you fresh perspectives.

You can think of a LARP as an interactive theater group. This is how we really structure ours, we tell people to improvise, come in costume if they're comfortable, create a character, think about the background, understand mannerisms. People are awarded experience points based on the number of games they attend and their contributions between games through a report called a "downtime report". They send this after the monthly game, illuminating not only what they did during the actual event but what their character does over the month. Conflicts between players are done using a mathematical system comparing points which then influences a game of rock/paper/scissors.

If you have any more questions, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by arimathea at 1:30 PM on July 26, 2009

Camarilla does play in Brisbane. They're good people, and fun to play with. I'd also look into Commedia dellarte, which sounds very relevant to what you are doing.

As for your questions specifically:

1. Be prepared for your characters to throw left field activity at you. Locking your game onto rails is the quickest way to frustrate yourself and your players. Depending on the game, it may be best to create the overall "environment" that they're operating in - the history, the clues, the NPCs, and a general timeline of what the NPCs will get up to without player interference. A sandbox, if you will. That way the characters can solve the puzzle their way, in novel and surprising ways, without being railroaded into doing it one way alone.

2. Is your game just a few set characters or is it all set characters? Players bring a lot of their own interpretations to the PCs they play. As suggested above, your best strategy from a gameplay perspective is to have the critical roles (characters whose knowledge moves the plot forwards) played as NPCs in order to stop the game going off the rails, and to help give everyone the same quality of experience. It makes it fairer if everyone is starting from the same point. You're really going t benefit from a couple of buddies to help out at that end. It also means you can deliver your clues and help move the story forward in a timely fashion.

That said, it's not unusual to stipulate certain types of character - give your players a loose framework to build their character in.Games systems are designed to help curb overenthusastic players from trying to cram say, Timelords into epic fantasy games. Camarilla mentioned above will often limit the types of vampires allowed within the Brisbane game - when I played with them, I was limited to the olde schoole Cammy clans, no Sabbat. Gving them the general idea of what sort of characters they can play stops it from getting silly or unweildy to run.

On the other hand, if it's all set characters, like with the dellarte, doing up cue booklets like the How to Host a Murder games is a good idea. It'll help make sure everyone has something to do, and that all the characters are balanced.

In both cases I'd reccomend taking an hour or two before the game the game itself to sit down and have a chat with each of your players about the characters. Getting to know the PCs will help you direct your plot by pulling on their strings, so to speak. Using their interests and motivations is a great way to move everything forward.

3. That said, NPCs are also good for issuing challenges. Using PC motivations and histories are good too. Leaving cursed relics around for the character with the habit of picking up anything shiny, getting the cop pc involved in an investgation, the daughter of the deceased approached by a medium (hell, or is the medium). Use the space you're playing in to lay out "disoveries" ahead of time.

4. I would strongly reccomend coming up with some sort of fair conflict resolution system, and skill allocation system, purely to prevent arguments over what a character can and cannot do. There are heaps of LARP systems out there - I'm most familiar with Mind's Eye Theatre, but it wouldn't be too hard to come up with something very basic if this is more a performance than a game. An impartial system allows you to avoid arguments, and even the most rational adult will argue if their character's honour is on the line.

You haven't mentioned how big a group you are planning to run for. The larger the group, the harder it is to shedule everyone. My most sucessful large group game only survived due to an iron-clad We Play At My House On Wednesday And If You Are Not There or Have a Bloody Good Excuse I'll Give Your PC the Pox rule. Given that this is a LARP, your venue is going to be important, so give your sheduling priority to when you can get the space you need to play in. Using mailing lists are good too, and the chatroom function of many IM clients can be good for discussions where everyone cannot get to the same venue to chat.

Lastly, I'm only at St. Lucia if you want to paw over some gaming resources. It's mostly table top stuff, but I play games that are story heavy and have a strong character creation angle. In fact, I think I may have an old How to Host a Murder kit lying around here somewhere too. PM me if you like.
posted by Jilder at 7:35 PM on July 26, 2009

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