GM Cost – Benefit Analysis of Effort

It’s important to effectively use your time when creating entertainment in your LARP.  Your time before game is limited and your time during the game even more so.  This means that the larger the game to game master ratio, the more work each of you have to do and therefore the more people you need to entertain with each ounce of effort.

Are you doing something that could easily be done by someone else?  For example, perhaps you need to set up a laboratory space and you have a cast of NPCs available who can do just that. Simple things can be done by players who arrive early such as putting drinks in the fridge.

Have you sunk ten hours of time into a mini-game that will entertain one player once?  And you only have ten hours of prep-time?  That *might* be okay in a 5 player campaign game where the other players will each get a specialised mini-game in upcoming sessions, but even then, you should at least put some time into entertaining elements for the other five.

Of course, I’m not saying that you can’t spend time devoted to programming a mini-game if it brings you joy, only that you will still be expected to spend sufficient time to ensure the rest of the game is good.  If you can’t do both, then you’ll need to scrap your hobby project until there is time.

For this reason it’s worth avoiding personal plot for characters if you have over 25 players (this number may be lower if you have limited time or only one Game Master). Instead look at factional plots that are tied into the same clan, religion, family, etc.

Even with small player numbers, it’s best to have personal plot affect other characters so that more people can get involved. This has the added benefit of making personal plot feel relevant to the game at large.

Encourage cast members to include multiple people and to avoid too much focused roleplay on each other.  A single NPC entertaining seven players is good value.  Seven NPCs entertaining one player isn’t unless you have an incredibly high NPC : PC ratio. Seven NPCs entertaining each other is wasted effort. They may need to interact with each other for a few minutes to lay the groundwork for upcoming scenes, inform each other of things, etc. but they should keep their focus on the PCs.

If you have a lot of pre-game time available to set up events you can create plot elements that can save you energy during run-time.  This can include “downtimes” where players can choose actions between games that will affect the game as a whole.  This could involve gathering information or assets or identifying needed skills that the players can then bring to the session to negotiate, inform or trouble others with during game time.

Other forms of pre-game effort include physical clues and handouts that put player’s in the position of explaining plot or exploring the game environment for more information. It’s a wise idea to have a reason for the same information or clue to be duplicated, where possible, so it’s not just one player who gets a collect-’em-all quest.

Even better are tasks that involve multiple players. Lockboxes might send characters in search of a locksmith, herbs dropped around the park lands are in need of finding, and jigsaw puzzles representing mechanical engineering need to be located and put together.  Just make sure you have a game culture where folks share any information found, and don’t just pocket the missing piece, otherwise all your hard work will only help one person (if that). Of course, it’s a good idea to have a redundancy (back up puzzle pieces) on hand in case something just goes missing.

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