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.

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Creating LARP Rules Pt 7

Typical Rulebook Progression

Naturally different rulebooks are designed for different purposes but typically there will be a flow from general knowledge to more specific knowledge. So if there’s information *everyone* needs to know, it should typically be put at the front. If there’s information only some folks need to know, or which will be rarely spoken about, you can put it toward the end.

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Creating LARP Rules Pt 6

Revision Tricks

When revising your rulebook, it’s important to give yourself adequate time between revisions so you have fresh eyes. Most revisions will do with around 2 weeks break between them but your last revision should be around 8 weeks as you’ll need to a decent gap so you can better notice any issues.

So what are some revision tricks?

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Creating LARP Rules Pt 3

Advice for writing rule books for LARP systems.

When crafting a rulebook think about how the player is expected to design their character and position the chapters in such a way that the player can build their character while going through the rules. If they have to jump around between chapters, perhaps find ways where box outs containing summary information can plug the gaps and allow for a smoother progression through the chapters. If you’re unsure how to proceed, turn to someone who has read a lot of rulebooks for assistance.

When double checking if your rule book is easy to read, see if there is someone who is willing to help you who has difficulty reading (even if simply due to lack of time) and pay close attention to what they have to say. When people check rule books during games they are going to be tired, stressed and in a hurry so their experience will be a closer match to players on the day.

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Creating LARP Rules Pt 2

Should the skill stay or go?

Ultimately, this is up to you and the style of game but please remember that every mechanic adds an extra layer of complexity to the game. It takes brain power to remember the mechanics, identify the signifiers that the mechanic is coming into effect, and then respond accordingly.

If the skill is super intuitive (I shoot you with a NERF gun and if the pellet hits you act like you’ve been shot) than the brain power needed is less than if it’s unintuitive (I shoot you with a NERF gun and if the pellet hits you than you are super hungry for Weetbix if the light in the room is green or chocolate if the light in the room is red).

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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.

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Creating LARP Rules

LARP mechanics are incredibly personalised to the game. Everyone will have an opinion on them – they will like or loathe them depending on their own gameplay style, interests and how easy they personally find them to use. This means that when you get or give feedback, you will need to think about how personal it is. A lot of folks like rules-lite systems because they don’t have to remember as much — but players also flock in their thousands globally to World of Darkness games that use slightly modified forms of a full tabletop book selection. So different strokes for different folks.

Then there’s the not-so-small matter that what works in game, might not work in another due to differences in gameplay, antagonist design, length of the individual sessions, or focus of the sessions (i.e. political games have different needs to war games).

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Balancing Act IV: LARP Monsters

When running a LARP, your monster design is limited to your budget, craft skill, accessibility of online costume purchases and what behaviours are physically possible for your cast to perform. This means that you probably can’t field a legit flying creature and you certainly can’t do that stop-start “It’s here, no, it’s there,” creepy teleport thing that movie monsters do so well.

While the advice below focuses on LARPs, you can use them in your role play and descriptions of monsters in tabletop games as well.

So how do you make it work?

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Tech Hates LARP

The more complicated the tech, the more it hates LARP. I have a CD player. It’s an old CD player. Other than a few scratched CDs making it repeat itself creepily and unexpectedly, it works. I also have a Bluetooth Speaker with a USB plug. Sometimes it’ll let me switch between the two USBs. It requires a little fiddling around with. It will always eventually play from at least one USB (so long as the sound formats are correct). It’s not as quick, easy and safe to use as the CD player.

However if I decide to go even higher tech and try to use it through Bluetooth, it can be as snarly at the start as using a USB, but even once you get it running it will occasionally stop even though the mobile phone controlling it sitting on top of it.

So what’s the moral of the story?

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LARP Design: The Verbs

There’s this idea in text-based adventure design that you have to figure out what verbs are available to your characters. Can they walk, run, jump, crawl, or look in cupboards? Is this a game where Shoot is more important than Talk To, or the other way around? By looking at what players can do in the game, you can find out what the game is about, and vice versa.

You can port this theory over to LARP even though technically anything that is physically possible may theoretically occur.  Sure, your regency romance LARP can theoretically involve players choosing to crawl — but is it likely, incentivised, or encouraged?  Probably not.  So you wouldn’t consider it a verb of your game.

In the average boffer LARP, you would have Walk, Run, Fight, Throw, and Shoot.  You might also have Read, Collect and Talk as there may be the odd note, chatty NPC, conversation between PCs and herbs to collect. But you might not if talking isn’t really a part of how the game works, even if it does occur.

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