Drifters March Lessons Learned

Drifter’s March was the biggest LARP I’ve ever run with 40 players and 11 cast members portraying NPCs. We’ve gone over an overview, some events that occurred during the game and the kind of effort that went into preparing for it.

Now I can talk about the various lessons that I learned from the event so that you can learn from the mistakes and successes I’ve made.

  1. Never assume that even simple technology will work. I have a little laptop that’s not very good but I figured it could run a HTML file “Choose Your Own Adventure” which is what I was using for the drug & medication mini-game. People would select the two choices in chemicals mixed and then could be surprised by the result *after* they had given it to someone to try.  The laptop worked really slowly and in the most fiddly way possible so I couldn’t let the players just handle it themselves.
  2. The walkie talkies we bought cheaply from the USA don’t actually talk to Australian walkie talkies. They use different bandwidths. We only figured this out toward the end of the game when it was learned that someone pleading over the walkie talkie just wasn’t heard by anyone else who had one.  Since we’ve bought eight of them … this is kind of problematic.  On the plus side, no one can eavesdrop on what the Rules Marshalls and Game Masters are talking about and there’s a chance that there’s at least one shared channel between them all.
  3. The area was far too large to be used properly. I should have cut it in half to ensure that people bumped into each other more and were more likely to run across gear and equipment … not to mention the bad guys. I’ll do so next time.
  4. The character sheets were too complicated. There were far too many goals per person, which typically meant that they only remembered one of them. This meant that most players didn’t feel like there was enough to do until I drew their attention to parts of their histories and goal lists that they’d forgotten.  One member of a faction requested more political game play in future … their faction actually did have a major political goal but it was overlooked.  Next time I will streamline the character sheets so that the mini-goals all support two or three larger ones to make them all more memorable.
  5. There wasn’t a general use computer and none of the players brought their laptops with them. There was only one computer in play and it was with the journalists in their locked room. Plus there were no speakers and one of the items had a video on it.  Oops.  At least we can use it again next time.
  6. I gave a merchant a plot-sensitive item and didn’t tell him how important it was so it spent half the game in his suitcase.
  7. There needed to be far more clues regarding Varus Draconis. New rule of thumb is at least one major findable clue for every five to ten players as otherwise it’s too easy for it to disappear into a backpack and only revealed to a few people who might not mention it to others.
  8. Out of my 11 cast members, only 7 were able to play enemy combatants. Although it was never meant to be a high combat LARP, it was still too low a player to fighter ratio and there were too many bullets in play to really be able to be much of a threat. Until people got cocky and started splitting up.  When the end boss battle occurred and they started respawing in waves, players were overwhelmed quite quickly as they didn’t have melee weapons and hadn’t had any real practice against those kinds of battles before.
  9. My cast members were quite at self-managing themselves and setting up a variety of encounters. I can definitely trust in my cast to be able to put together their own ideas and put them into play.
  10. There were a few rules miscommunications and basic logistical issues. When respawning waves, I need to create a clear “respawn point” that cast need to return to before charging forward. I also need to have better pre-game workshops so people have a better understanding of what kind of play is rewarded and what is available.  More clarification on our lack of a crafting system and the limitations of the repair system.  Something physical for the scientific researchers to do so that they feel like they’re doing something when researching new scientific matters.  Things like that.
  11. The skills were too specific so some of them didn’t come up often enough for people to find them. I’m going to condense my skill system to ensure that uncommon skills are combined into one more useful skill and to enhance the core abilities to ensure that everyone remains useful. Of course, there’s always the risk in one day games that someone’s skill spread won’t happen to match what they personally encounter but minimising that is always a good idea.
  12. I’m also wondering if perhaps 51 people was too ambitious for one game master to handle! Even with all the Rules Marshalls and Tom’s NPC wrangling, things were pretty tight. I’ll try and keep it to around 40 people in future for Triway Peak.

So there we are.  I learned twelve big lessons from that event and a whole bunch more besides.

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