Drifter’s March Preparations

Over the past month we’ve gone over the plot overview for Drifter’s March and the kind of events that went down over the course of the game. Now we’re going to talk about the preparations I made for it in the first place.

Firstly, the rules.  The rules were something I’d been working on for over a year.  I literally read dozens of different LARP rule books before finally coming up with my own and I slowly amended mine over time as I thought up different scenarios or realised their flaws.  My rules needed to be fairly independent of the Game Master and to be based around accessing information or objects rather than new combat techniques.

I ran a playtest to stress test the bad guys and tinker with the combat / healing rules a little but unfortunately the playtest couldn’t really test most of the rules since most of the rules were based around things like lock picking and reading people.  Not exactly easy to do in a separate playtest.  We also did a workshop to help reinforce character ties and help people better understand the rules.  We had a pretty good turnout to both.

As for the rest of what I needed, I can say that I spent quite a lot of time spray painting.  I tried making up some modern foam weapons out of foam mats but they turned out to be too hard to safely swing.  I used the off-cuts to make a collection of foam surgical tools and engineering tools which were light enough to throw.  I also worked with my husband to make some fake leg traps out of foam.  I found a set of squeaky toys at K-Mart which was amazing as it meant if you stepped on the trap you’d hear a squeak!  Except they reacted poorly to the spraypaint and are still tacky to the touch to this day — three months later.  So my foot traps went without squeakiness.

I purchased 10 1GB USB sticks so I could give them to the robot NPCs and have people loot them off of them — and 7 didn’t work.  Such a shame.  10 USB sticks all in the same colour would have been amazing!  I made up for it with a few donated USB sticks and decided that the robots would have 1 per life.

I created “password-protected” folders on the USB stick that were represented by a gold padlock with a little number-based mini-game in a separate file beside it that people had to complete in order to access the folder.  I put clues to the location to some of the handbags on the USB sticks.  (Unfortunately there was no general computer people could use to read the USB sticks so they went largely unused).

I had a collection of those plastic balls people put in ball pits and I used blue tac to make a c on them inside a circle to give them a bit of detailing (referring to them as Care Packages in-game) and then spray painted them in silver and brass.  Silver meant they were electronic scrap.  Brass meant they were mechanical scrap.  Unfortunately the plastic rejected the paint and despite putting a protective top coat on them, they slowly chipped off.  Still good for one use but I had to toss it all out in the end.

Even the players brought some of their gear along!

I purchased several airsoft masks for the robots and a Tron costume as, let’s face it, there aren’t many forms of robot costume that look good.  I also received a bunch of donated items of clothing that I could rip up for use by the Zed-Synth NPCs.   And I bought 1000 NERF darts … that ended up being hard-tipped rather than the soft-tipped ones I’d been expecting.  They’d worked for this session but we’re going to have to replace them next time.  Luckily they only cost us $90.

I also bought a bunch of little cardboard boxes, tiny medicine bottles and little metal tins that could be used to make base chems (that could be mixed to make meds) and drugs and medication.  I printed off drug and medication labels to affix to them so people had ready access to the rules behind them.  I then put jelly crystals in the base chem bottles (colour coded for ease of use so Strawberry jelly crystals for Red Chems) and tic tacs of various colour sets into the drug and medication bottles.

I also had to print everyone’s character information and their character cards containing their skill and equipment lists.  In this game everyone only had 150 chits worth of equipment they could bring into game so lists had to be put together.  I also set up some boxes of equipment for the merchants to be able to sell in-game, as well as a document full of secrets for the Secrets Merchant to be able to sell.

I made up some poison gas and radiation indicators (just buttons of specific colours with the word RAD Indicator or Poison Gas Detector written on them).  I then bought green and red tinsel that could be used as poison gas and radiation representations out in the field so people knew when to take damage or when their indicators would start chirping.

I chose a mask out of my stash for Varus Draconis in his final form.  I also bought a few masks for NPC animals and insects that people could tame or attack but I didn’t end up having enough cast members to portray enough NPCs to make them necessary.  Also no one bought the Calm Animals skill.  So those masks remained in the stash.

I had a very helpful cast member, Tamara, sort out a hot lunch.  She cooked up some spaghetti sauce at home, then reheated it and cooked the sticks during the game.  I purchased and set up a bunch of morning tea materials so people could snack throughout the day.

I bought walkie talkies for the Rules Marshalls who were players who had received an extra two hours training in the rules so that they could help give people advise during the game.  They had these black arm bands (sewn by my husband) with these cool silver badges ironed on.  That way people could see who was a rules marshall at a glance without it ruining their costume.  We used Velcro to hold the bands but they were only glued on rather than sewn on so the Velcro didn’t work.  People tied them on instead.

The players brought laptops to decorate the journalist’s news room.

I used reflective tape to write GM on my upper arms and back of my weathered black pleather jacket.  That way people could tell who I was without me needing to wear something that completely broke immersion like a hi-vis jacket or street clothes.

I won’t go deeply into the set up on the day but I can say that I rocked up the night before with a few helpers who had car loads of gear.  We sectioned off the little foyer into an NPC area using old wooden voting booths and then set it up with all the NPC gear.  The NPC players (our cast) set up the lootables outside that very morning.  I directed the set-up of the internal rooms and nooks.  I had a bunch of cushions that were used for an out of character chill out area over by a large log outside.  We also put up a 10-person tent near the hall for the shuttle’s nose cone.

It was a 7 hour game and the set up and pack up alone would have equated to about 5 hours and the pre-game preparation to about 70 hours, all told.  Plus side is I can re-use many of the props, gear and even characters in the upcoming Triway Peak weekend LARP and the Multiverse Chronicle itself after that so we’ll certainly be getting enough bang for our buck.

Besides, I really did enjoy the preparation so it didn’t really feel like work at all.  I learned a lot about spray paint and about cobbling together neat story item out of random things I had lying about the house so that was fun.

While I did have some assistance here and there, I was silly enough to do it primarily by myself and run the thing as a solitary Game Master though Tom did stand in as NPC Wrangler as well as rules marshall which was amazing.

Would I do it all again?
Hell yeah!  In fact, I’m doing two four-hour “Drifters’ March LARPs” designed for brand new players as part of the Fringe Festival.  Stay tuned!

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