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Top 21 Tips for Joining a new LARP

When you’re thinking of joining a LARP for the first time, it’s important to consider a few things. Firstly, everyone was new once. While some people have gained some experience in tabletop roleplaying games, re-enactment or improvisational theatre, many have walked in without that experience. The grand majority of players are eager to welcome in new faces, introduce you to the game and get you started with your character.

1.       If you’re feeling a little shy, perhaps you could arrange to meet a few players outside of the game first so you have some familiar faces.  ARC Inc. runs a number of social events, many of which are open to the public, which could provide a great way to introduce yourself.  We also have a forum and several Facebook groups that would give you an online method of saying hello.

2.       Contact the Game Master *BEFORE* you attend the game to let them know you’re coming.  Typically you can find the contact details on the LARP organisation’s web-page or message them on Facebook.

3.       Let the Game Master know if you have any previous experience in roleplaying and what sort of games you have played before.   This will help them give you the right amount of advice tailored to your needs.

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LARP Design Principles, Part 3

No LARP can be all things to all people. Each decision affects every other decision and trims away certain opportunities in favour of highlighting others. It’s always worth keeping your game’s design principles in mind so that you don’t inadvertently contradict yourself — such as if you have a “simple mechanics” design principle that you only pay attention to intermittently in the combat and magic sections, making certain parts far more complex than others.

In line with this, I have spent the past few articles considering my own LARP design principles while making the Multiverse campaign.  This article will touch on the last two principles.  You can read up on the other principles in Part 1 and Part 2.

Town-based roles typically reserved for NPCs would be given to PCs.  Also known as, let the PCs do it!  There are incentives for players to have their characters run the banks, merchant stalls, hand out quests and manage the law.  Some of the roles are given funding that they can use to hire other adventurers to accomplish certain tasks.  Suitable PCs will also be tapped on the shoulder with further information or experiences that they can bring to the session.

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LARP Design Principles, Part 2

A creator’s LARP design principles should affect everything they do which is why an article I’d hoped would be written in one post will likely be done in 3!

If you’d like to check out my overview of the processes of creating a LARP you can see where this all came from.  Otherwise you can find Part 1 of this series over here.

Now without further ado, here are my next two principles:

Low, mainly social, PvP became of interest to me because my previous experiences have all been in games where the focus is competition — often both between and within teams.  Characters were typically designed not only with personality flaws but to be selfish, cruel and sometimes even downright villainous.  These were great games but they were wearying and they only told certain kinds of stories.

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LARP Design Principles, Part 1

I figured I’d talk a little about how my existing player base and LARP history informed some of my later decision making when creating a new LARP campaign. You see, I’d run a few dice-heavy theatre LARPs in the Vampire: the Requiem setting and I had a number of players who didn’t come from a boffer background. I didn’t want to lose them, and I didn’t feel that I needed to. I also knew how much fun you can make from adventure-style games involving clues and NPCs despite a dice-based combat system and figured that surely I could use some of the lessons there to make the Multiverse campaign even better.

I also didn’t have any co-GMs in mind so I had to build it in such a way that it could be largely self-run.  I’d likely get the occasional person willing to run a module or two, but nothing more intensive than that.  All the GMs I did know had their own LARPs to run or would prefer to be a player in this one.

So I had a few design principles in mind as I refined the rules:

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An Overview of Creating a LARP

There’s not much out that that explains the creative process of creating a LARP so I thought I’d step up and explain the processes that I’ve stumbled through for the Multiverse Cycle. Though the mind rarely moves in clear-cut stages, I thought that vaguely grouping them into time-passed semi-linear categories might help people interested in doing it themselves. If you have a very different process, feel free to describe it in the comment box below!

A random idea

Oftentimes the idea might come from a conversation with your friends, a television series or a roleplaying game idea that you have percolating for a while.  When I had a conversation with my friends about the LARPcraft rules and how we would improve upon them, I never thought I would sit down the following day to write a widely differing character generation system.

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10 Ways To Belittle Your Players

AKA How to make your players feel trapped in an alleyway of trash rather than at a fun event! A few weeks ago we discussed the many ways that players can help the Game Masters burn out so they won’t want to run a game ever again! Now let’s discuss another hot topic — ten ways to belittle your players and make them wonder just why they’re playing this game again. The joys of belittling your players are many and varied, and you can do it in a slow and insidious way where a multitude of little comments build up in a way that undermines their self-esteem without ever revealing what you’re doing and why!

1.  Give your group of players a nickname they’ll really hate.  Call them your “adorable little munchkins who could power game their way out of a paper bag,” or your “band of dumb crazies,” while shaking your head whenever you discuss their antics.  Sure, some players might like those nicknames if they are actually trying to be crazy or the game is about power gaming, but this pointer is directed to those many players who have to suffer such nicknames despite their actual intentions, desires and play style.

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Encouraging Players to try a New Game

While some players are eager to try new games, others are pretty happy with what they’ve got and don’t really want to try anything new. There are new rules to learn, new techniques required to succeed, and they just not be jazzed about the genre. So what can you do when you’re really excited about trying a new game and one, or more, of your players aren’t?

Firstly, sit down and have a chat with all of your players both individually and as a group about why you want to run the game.  Tell them what excites you about it and how long you’ve been thinking about it.  Most players will be sympathetic if there’s a game you’ve been yearning to run for years even if they have no personal interest in it.

Once they understand your enthusiasm, find out what they think about the game you’re offering and what kind of game they prefer.  See if they’re willing to at least try the game and offer to let them play without having to learn any of the rules.  Let them know some of the most useful techniques in that style of game so that they can feel confidant playing it.  You want to set the entry barrier as low as you can.

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Players Planning for Success

Okay, so let’s say your character has a really big goal that can’t be managed through a full frontal assault. You either need to politically tear down your enemy, gather the evidence required to indict them or set yourself up to have some sort of strategic or tactical battle to come. Let’s take a Vampire: the Requiem example and say you want to erode the head of Clan Ventrue’s power base and humiliate him until the entire clan refuses to have any dealings with him.

No easy task. If you start by hurling baseless accusations around, or take a step wrong, you’ll likely end up being the one humiliated … or even murdered. So what do you do? How do you take control in this situation?

Firstly you need to keep accurate notes on your enemies.  Find out their motivations, likes and dislikes, allies, enemies, assets and other resources.  Find out the same information on those allies and enemies.  Get the best perspective on the situation that you can and record it because if you don’t than you will forget it.

Then brainstorm some options with your own allies, jotting down (OOC at least) each and every idea for both short-term and long-term plans.  It’s easy to just toss around thoughts verbally without writing it down, but if you don’t, you’re likely to forget half of your best ideas and get distracted by a less-than-ideal option that seemed easiest at the moment.  If they’re all written down, you can also go back to other ideas once you’ve fully nutted out whichever idea seemed the most valid in the moment.

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Getting Everyone on the Same Page

One of the trickiest parts of starting up a game is ensuring that all of the players and the Game Master are on the same page as to how the game is meant to be played. Unfortunately, there are certain meta-game considerations that should be kept in mind when creating a character in order to get the most out of a particular game. Some of these considerations are in the feats and attributes chosen, but a lot of is about the character’s mentality and design.

If I were creating a character for a classic dungeon crawl where the whole point is to fight monsters for fun and profit, then I shouldn’t make a Barbarian whose fear of her own rage convinced her to be a pacifist. Now this isn’t to say that you couldn’t make a pacifist Barbarian, as that could be a fantastic character concept in a different kind of campaign (even certain kinds of dungeon delves) only that it won’t work in this particular campaign unless we toss the essential premise (kick in doors and hit stuff) out the window in favour of something else.

So what can a Game Master do to ensure that everyone knows what the campaign is about so that they can take that into consideration when creating their character?

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Hook: The Bizarre Mystery

Something happens … but the players can’t be sure just what it means. Perhaps they receive a mysterious letter addressed to a previous owner and have to find out who they are and what it’s about. Perhaps they find themselves with blood on their hands and have to figure out how that body got there (akin to the Sudden Event but far more slow-paced).

The mystery hook requires active participation on behalf of the characters because their enemies aren’t (yet) looking into them and so if they persistently ignore the hook the campaign will fall apart.  Therefore it is important to have the players on board first and foremost.  If they are the type who hate doing something that wouldn’t make sense for their character, make doubly sure they have characters built who would take the bait.

The trick with a Bizarre Mystery is to take the initial situation and make it odd enough to inspire attention.  It can help to have a second hook in case the first doesn’t provide sufficient incentive.  Perhaps after the mysterious letter, they find a mysterious break in as someone steals the letter.  This is still not a Sudden Event hook because it happens while they are away and if they simply file a police report and ignore it than there will be no further pokes from plot.

So make it interesting and tie it into the characters as best you can — both through nudges in character generation and through adjusting the hook to suit them.  The Pathfinder campaigns often encourage players to select campaign traits that provide in-built motivation.  You could borrow a page from their book to nudge die hard character immersionists into having the incentive to follow the plot line.  Sample traits could involve an interest in local history or a desire to be an amateur sleuth.  It doesn’t really matter so long as it helps ensure the characters get involved.

Once involved, the characters need to behave proactively for the first section of the game until they draw enough attention to themselves for the villains to put them on the defensive.  If you’re curious about seeing this sort of hook in action, take a look at the grand majority of Call of Cthulhu games where the character hunts down a particular clue thread until they surprise the evil villains in the middle of their ritual.  Naturally if it’s a campaign the situation might not remain so proactive throughout but it is important to bear it in mind that to begin with the PCs will control the pacing unless you put in an obvious ticking clock.

Do you have any advice for baiting a mystery hook?  Seen it done particularly well?  Feel free to put down more ideas in the Comments section.  Alternatively if you’d like to check out the base article you can learn more about other forms of campaign hooks.