The Vital Nature of Delegation

The more nitty gritties you can delegate, the more time you can spend on managing the event itself and dealing with all the little things that can’t readily be delegated.

The first hour of game is always chaos. Everything always takes longer than you expected and you will often have a dozen or more players or volunteers stopping you every so often to ask important questions. Therefore the more nitty gritties you can delegate, the more time you can spend on managing the event itself and dealing with all the little things that can’t readily be delegated.

Many folks are willing to help if needed, and most will even be flattered you thought of them. So don’t fear asking for help!

Naturally it’s best to give them as much notice as you can so they have time to prepare and so they won’t feel pressured to do it if they don’t want to. Plus, if they do say no, you’ll need time to think up an alternative. Of course, if it was unavoidable, most people will accept a last minute request for help.

When you’re trying to find a volunteer, think about what people are good at AND the kinds of things they enjoy. Some folks love set dressing, while others are keen to give rules advice, and there’s always a contingent of folks who want to help but would prefer the straightforward jobs of tidying up or putting drinks away.

If you know any players who are good at logistics and thinking on their feet, bear them in mind in case you have a sudden need. It will happen, on occasion, and most folks will be understanding. However, if a player volunteers to help you at the last minute, you can’t assume they’ll be able or willing to do that task *every session* unless you ask them specifically to do the task long-term. Feel free to ask, of course. They may be pleased so long as they’re asked in advance. But don’t jump dump the role on them next week without asking.

If someone steps forward to volunteer their services, remember it! That’s a great sign. Think about if you could use the services they’re offering, or something similar to it. Build on others’ enthusiasm wherever possible!

Easy areas of delegation include:

  • Combat Inductions
  • Weapon Inspections
  • Sign In Desk
  • Snack or Merchandise Sales
  • Rules & Logistics Questions
  • Standard Set Dressing
  • General Set Up
  • New Player Guides
  • Parking.

Not every game needs all of these volunteers and in some games those roles might be combined into a single volunteer. But having folks to do some of these tasks, where they are necessary, will free you up to focus on more strategic decisions, questions others can’t answer, managing a sudden crisis, briefing volunteers and welcoming new players.

Having a decent amount of assistance and support will help you start on time and have more brain space available to focus on the game ahead. Plus it helps build a sense of community and provide skills to others who might be thinking of organising events for themselves in the future.

Keep Folks Informed

Players are actually a fairly agreeable lot. If they understand why things are happening the way they are, or if they can predict it, they are normally fairly accommodating. They’ll step up and help out if they can. If they trust that you are trying your best and the situation is out of your control, if a crisis develops, they’ll help out or accept a long lull.

And if it turns out the game isn’t what they enjoy, so long as they’ve enough experience to know what they enjoy, then if that’s communicated accurately beforehand they’ll most likely understand why they didn’t enjoy it without getting angry. Then they’ll either drop out beforehand or dislike the experience but acknowledge that maybe, considering they hate romantic comedies, and despise romantic roleplay, perhaps that romantic comedy LARP might not have been a good fit.

Yes, you’ll get exceptions and you’ll remember those. It’s hard not to. But *MOST* people really do take it with good grace, and most of the exceptions just grumble a bit and move on.

Therefore it’s in all of our best interests to communicate as much as we can, as best we can, without overloading the players. Some stuff will be lost in the grind, some emails unread, but even that has its saving graces as most folks will acknowledge you made a good effort to communicate and they won’t fault you for it. The anger drifts away.

So now we’ve gone over the many reasons why it’s worth it to communicate, what are some of the things folks need to know? Well, anything related to their basic needs or which goes against cultural norms.

Advice from Videogame Design that works for LARP

While LARP and tabletop games are very distinct mediums from videogames, there are certainly some elements that are shared between them. Both are interactive mediums, after all, and both (typically) have a designer who has created much of the setting background.

While LARP and tabletop games are very distinct mediums from videogames, there are certainly some elements that are shared between them. Both are interactive mediums, after all, and both (typically) have a designer who has created much of the setting background. So what are some of things we can learn from videogame design?

  1. Full freedom can be frustrating. Most players enjoy some sense of direction, whether internally or externally directed, though they equally enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs and find something to do. This isn’t to say that you need to give them a laundry list of goals but having certain objectives (even just optional ones) baked into the game whether that is exploring your feelings of loss and loneliness or battling the kobolds in the Spider Cave can help the game feel less aimless.
  2. Shared experiences are valuable. One of the downsides of having a dozen different subplots is that unless there’s some kind of overarching goal or theme to play with, it becomes quite easy to end up feeling isolated. Having some kind of core framework folks can engage with (even if it’s just waiting for the prison doors to open while exploring the horrors of confinement) can go a long way to creating a sense of belonging.
  3. Unique solutions. It’s wonderful when players come up with cool ideas for how a situation can pan out and then execute that plan. Perhaps they’ve figured out a new strategy to deal with enemies or a sideways solution to a specific puzzle.  Embrace those opportunities to allow the players the chance to utilize their creativity to succeed.  If they do something a little cheesy, maybe let them use it once before changing things up again.  I once had my players set up a kill chute using tables and flashlights which guaranteed their success.  We could have had the NPCs leave but that would be wasting a golden opportunity.  Instead we stormed them … the results went badly for us … and we just devised new tactics to use for future scenarios and let them keep the kill chute as their fallback plan.
  4. Realism to a point. While there are exceptions to every rule (this one more than most), most players only want realism if it lets them do interesting things. They especially don’t enjoy it if it makes their gameplay frustrating.  Now this doesn’t mean realism doesn’t matter — it adds context and depth, keeps things interesting and ensures that folks have a better idea of how the game works.  It just means that bending reality to suit the needs of the game (so long as you communicate it to your players) is better than slavishly following realism in most games.
  5. Let new players succeed. I don’t just mean new LARPers but anyone new to your game. Give them a taste of success.  Help draw them into the game so they have space to try a few things and see how the rules play out.  You can do this by having separate new player modules (such as all new characters arrive via a special pre-game quest they play through), by having the first hour or two of game being a bit less dangerous than the rest, or by OOC agreement such as where the characters in a political campaign just happen to be gentle with new players and provide less serious consequences for missteps (or straight up advise the players on missteps and allow them to retract it) for their first three session.
  6. The rules need to be as simple as they *can* be to meet the requirements of your game. For some games that’ll be a half page of mechanics. For others it’ll be a full rulebook or suite of rulebooks.  The question is what you’re trying to do and what is needed to accomplish that.  Every time you look at a new mechanic question what it’ll add to the game and whether it’s worth extra complexity.
  7. Use consistency to help off-set complexity. In Triway Chronicle, all green glowy things are radioactive. I’ll never put glow-in-the-dark green facepaint on an NPC — no matter how creepy it may look — without that NPC also being radioactive.  This makes things easier.  The same can be said for NPCs that are resistant to certain types of damage making a point to really react to hits from those who are using the right kinds of weapon.  That way players know what works and what doesn’t.  This may require some practice as it gives NPCs an extra thing to consider but it’s very important to give them game-critical information or else the players might flee a situation when they should fight.
  8. Side objectives have little value if players don’t understand what they have accomplished. So provide rewards to sub-goals even if it’s just extra information or an improved scenario for their NPC allies (you’d be surprised how much players love the chance to affect the unseen in-game world around them).
  9. Information can be spread around the world through a variety of methods. This can range from signs to pinned-up notes, chalk graffiti, letters, computer terminals, PA systems or telephone calls as well as the usual NPCs. The benefit of this is that it requires no cast and can still keep people busy.

LARP Session Example Time Sheet

There are very few rundowns of what happens at a LARP from a GM perspective so I thought I would provide a schedule for a very plot-heavy and semi-directed session of the Triway Chronicle.  So here it is! 

There are very few rundowns of what happens at a LARP from a GM perspective so I thought I would provide a schedule for a very plot-heavy and semi-directed session of the Triway Chronicle.  So here it is!  A LARP’s runsheet for about 20 players, 2 game masters and 5 cast members who portray NPCs.

Tactical (combat) Route (4:30 – 5:00):

  • Safe House Manager: Wallrider awaits them who can give them context on the safe house.
  • Three Robots.
  • Zeds Group A (first and last): One Group Leader and several zeds who could cut across the circular path so they could attack the PCs upfront and afterward.
  • Zed Group B (second and third): One Group Leader and several zeds who could cut across the circular path so they could attack the PCs upfront and afterward.
  • Lootable Corpses: Three non-combat players.

Surreal Horror Route (5:00 – 5:30):

  • GM Jacket: Shannon simply followed along to GM.
  • Robots: Cancelled as none of the major combat characters of this route attended.
  • Zed Circle Dancers off the path so that the PCs could stealth past them in the darkness. They were twisting and attacking the air around them.
  • Mee (an ex-PC) crying and trying to lure them off the path.
  • Zed Picnic (“eat my arm and I will tell you secrets”). They were another hallucination and all their oracle tellings would’ve been lies designed to create paranoia but the PCs were wise enough to just avoid them.
  • False Alpha and Dead Daughter: An NPC pretending to be one of the big bad monster types (Alpha) faux killed one of the PCs in front of her father. It ended quite awkwardly because we’d had to re-jig it to be a stealth mission due to a lack of combat capable characters so the players were more confused than frightened.
  • The Lurker following from behind.
  • Audio Hallucinations: One PC.

Tragic Horror Route (5:30 – 6:00)

  • Hallucination — Core Phone Call — Powerful alien AI calls them to tell them it destroyed a town due to increasing escalation.
  • Hallucination — Patty’s brother appears next to the Lurker, causing them to attempt to confront the Lurker in order to try to rescue him. Disappears when “killed.”
  • Patty develops into Griefstruck and becomes harder to manage.
  • The radioactive Lurker following from behind.
  • The Hall: Everyone arrives when they do.
  • Audio Hallucinations: Circuit, Glitch, Tobi. Each were given headphones with 14 minutes of pre-recorded voices.

Everyone Together (6:00 – 7:30)

  • PTSD Ranger arrives after Route 2
  • Defragging the Core’s memory (represented by multiple jigsaws that are each a written memory with each memory in a little box that can be unlocked through the use of a skill — there was also an audio version of each memory).
  • Checking the Four Loot Drops in the wilds to collect more gear.
  • Psi-Bomb Science (chance to start building the psi-bomb put forward by one of the other characters).
  • Smiley NPC roaming the area. “Smiley” is actually someone else’s long lost brother hiding his face behind a gas mask.
  • Beacon Turncoat
  • Memorial Wall
    • One PC found a doll left by another PC — they were adults now and didn’t realise who each other was!
    • Patty Doll with USB and video clip from her brother

7:30 FINALE

Things get crazy with the two Lurkers who drop “Griefstruck Obey!”  This causes all grieving characters to see those around them as responsible for that grief — often in quite a delusional manner.  We’d pre-briefed involved players so that they know what to listen out for (the bell) and so they could plot out their reactions.  We didn’t tell them who else was griefstruck.

In the end we started the first route at 5PM and the last route ended up at the hall closer to 7:30PM.  Thus the finale was bumped to 8:30PM.  The Harry NPC couldn’t be wandering earlier so he ended up seeking sanctuary in the safe house because he had no bullets for his gun.  It took some time but he managed to talk his way inside.