LARP SPOTLIGHT: Dervin

In a Viking-inspired nation, five clans who have been united under the same banner meet at monthly moots to discuss the issues that arise. Right now the issues include the mysterious storms surrounding the island suddenly vanishing, allowing orcs, dwarves and another human civilisation to finally visit them, bringing their own intrigues and issues with them. The elves, an ancient race, step forward from their swamp dwellings to weigh in on the discourse with unknown reasons behind their actions. This is a political LARP but it does have some boffer combat elements where people who wish to can duel with (latex) swords.

Previous to this session: Nothing.  This is the first session.

Session Begins: The hall is set up with five tables in a U-shape surrounding a central table.  Each of the five is for a different clan and is decorated accordingly.  The orcs are brought in chains to answer for their attacks on the Boar Clan and they are sat in the corner of the room until it’s their turn to speak (though they can listen and call out during other speeches).  The elves come in as guests of the Elk Clan, the dwar as guests of the raven clan, and the other human society, the Ersellians,  as guests of the Horse Clan.

The Boar also had one of their own in chains who had deliberately attacked some of the other clans to amass his own power.  The Boar demanded the right to best him in combat, and all four of them attacked him with (latex) sword and shield but found him inhumanly powerful.  Eventually they bested him though it was difficult to do as his wounds seemed to regenerate before their very eyes.

Then there is time for the groups to separate and speak with one another, but then the speeches of all these strange outsiders happen.  The elves have a ritual where they offer a sparkling gold drink out of a glass skull to all the heads of each clan.  They also requested official recognition of their land, which fell within the territory of one of the Elk Clan.  Their request was accepted.  The orcs apologise for their attacks – they had thought the Dervin were Ersellians who had conquered their land.  The dwar wanted to open up trade with the Dervin people.  The Ersellians merely wanted to open up schools in Dervin lands.

The meeting then broke up for further discussion and snacking on food brought out on wooden plates and bowls.  Each outsider group had to find a clan that they could temporarily join and the various groups tried to learn about the other.

The meeting then continued with the orcs joining the Boar, the elves joining the Bear (based off the roll of a dice), the Ersellians joining the Horse, and the dwarves joining the raven.

The body of the slain Boar, which had been thrown outside, had gone missing, and so the druids cast a ritual to find where it was.  They etched drawings in the soil and paced the circle chanting to represent the ritual casts, but the ritual backfired, and the primary caster fell injured to the ground.

There was more that happened but as it’s a political game much of it isn’t known to me.

LARP Design Principles, Part 1

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The map from Angorn: Land of Sin — another homebrew LARP.

As a follow up to my overview of the processes of creating a LARP, I figured I’d talk a little about how my existing player base and LARP history informed some of my later decision making.  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:

  • Utility skill focus (rather than combat skills)
  • Very streamlined combat mechanics
  • Low, mainly social, PvP (vampire made me weary)
  • A functional player-run society to keep folk busy
  • Town-based roles typically reserved for NPCs would be given to PCs
  • In-game encouragement to portray other NPCs

The utility skill focus was largely achieved by simple brainstorming and trawling through all the LARP rules documents I could get from the internet to find new utility skills.  Once I had the new skills slipped into the various occupational sets, I’d go away for a day or two and then come back to really think about what it’d be like to actually play with that skill, how it could be used, what it added / detracted to the experience and whether it’d even come up.

Utility skills rely quite a bit on other players’ reactions and the GM making a point to include them so I wanted to make sure that the players didn’t lose out when they picked one over another.

Streamlined combat mechanics has been reasonably easy thus far.  Simply don’t include many on the PC front — no spells to force changes in behaviour on a battlefield, no sunders and agonies and take-a-knees and stun-locks.  In order to keep things interesting, I have included the possibility of interesting combat mechanics for NPC antagonists (monsters) and through equipment.  A person might get a very expensive stun baton that has a thrice-usable stun-lock mechanism before shorting out that could be described to everyone pre-game.

While using equipment to make combat more interesting has its faults (very hard to pre-define everything or even recall it all), it makes merchants more useful, money more valuable, and if an item turns out to be overpowered it’ll soon be used up and pushed out of the game.  It also inspired a setting-element that degrades certain technologies over time which excused the lack of guns and would help me balance equipment.  Plus, who doesn’t love finding a knick-knack that can actually do a thing?

Of course, I’m still wrestling with what to do about armour.  Most games have a huge focus on it and I’m not so keen on having armour repair mechanics — but also equally not keen in *not* having such mechanics.  I’ve been advised that we could go without it because, after all, the range of costuming opportunities in this game (Wild West, Steampunk) should be encouraged rather than discouraged by making armour a powerful and vital thing.  I’m still thinking about this little conundrum.

Anyway, I’ll describe how I dealt with the rest of the principles underlying the Multiverse campaign in the next post.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments box below or even put forward your own ideas, suggestions, and thoughts about the LARP refinement process.