Creating LARP Rules Part 1

As simple as it can be. As complex as it has to be. You can get a system with very few rules — that somehow all manage to get in the way — or which fails to provide mechanical support for something that is needed for that particular game. Or you could have a 100 page rules system where every rule is pivotal to the style of the game. So try to keep things as simple as you can, trim the fat, but bear in mind that what is simple for YOUR game’s needs will vary from someone else’s.

Here are some questions to ask of the individual mechanics in the game.

Will this mechanic come up in play? Sure, locksmith is a pretty common mechanic in a hell of a lot of games but in that Player versus Player environment you’re probably not going to get a lot of locks. Do you really need that skill? Will the players really be bringing in lock boxes just to have them picked? Are people going to enjoy the kind of gameplay it creates within the framework you’ve set forward?

If it will come up in play, will it be supported? And how much GM / player effort does it take to support that? Now, the answer might be a lot. And that might be okay. You might be perfectly happy to spend hours making anagrams for your hacking mini-games.

If it won’t get a lot of support, is it valuable when it does come up? The players might be happy even if the Disarm Bomb skill doesn’t come up often, as long as there’s a couple session where it REALLY matters. Of course, such rarely used skills are also important to flag with players if a few people already have it because even if it nets you a lot of limelight when it does come up, if there’s five other people competing for the chance to use their skill, you’ll run into trouble.

Is this skill actually fun to use? Now this is the most personal question of all so I’d recommend either asking your player base in general or target players who would normally be attracted to that system. Ask a multitude of people as you might just get unlucky and ask the one person who just wouldn’t like that. If your players who love being crafters don’t want to touch your crafting system, find out why. Enlist their assistance in making it more fun. It could be the mini-game involved or it could be the length of time involved or it could be something else entirely. Ask.

Does the skill cost the right amount compared to other skills? This cost might be some form of power point (i.e. willpower, mana, faith, blood), time (which could be spent doing something else) or even a social cost (breaking character to ask an OOC question is more acceptable in certain games than others). What does hour-long surgery bring to the game for the physicians and patients? How about 10 minute long surgery? Or 1 minute surgery? There are benefits to all three types but each incentivises certain types of play and can become frustrating in different play environments (i.e. 1 minute isn’t long enough to roleplay more complex surgeries but in a game with a frequent Dropped to Dying ratio, an hour or even 10 minutes might be too long).

Is this the most accessible way of using the skill? Are there accessible alternatives? Using pegs to represent pick pocketing is a great way to get people to use their real world skills for their characters, but is it okay if folks with arthritis use a sticker instead? Or something else?

Does the complexity of this mechanic slow down gameplay to resolve situations? Is that your intention? People play dice-based systems knowing that it will take a little longer to resolve and they’re okay with that. However, if you want fast combat where you can resolve a gun shot in a second than rolling dice in a little jar and determining who gets the higher number isn’t the best way to do that. Sometimes a mechanic might be complex but it’s super-fun for the kind of players who are likely to choose that skill — in which case it’s not so much slowing down gameplay as creating space for a different kind of gameplay. Surgery, alchemy, rituals and other such skills often fall into this category if there are mini-games or roleplay options attached. Such skills need to be treated a little differently.

Head to our list of Creating LARP rules links to see the list of linked articles as they are posted to our blog.

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