27
April 2017

GM Corner

Editor’s note: The below post was written by Matthew Oostman and Ron Leota. What they give you is a succinct description of their game, the world they created and the creative process involved in implementing the game.

What they only hint at is how quickly this game, that only runs twice a year, is blowing up, selling out months in advance and breaking nearly all of the expectations of it’s participants. I expect to see big things coming out of this game in the months ahead!

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Spite: A Science-Fiction LARP is a twice per year high-immersion/low-rules live action game. Our events center around factions working within a humans vs. aliens scenario set in a near future Earth shortly after a full-scale invasion.

When we began writing Spite about 3 years ago we wanted to bring a unique LARPing experience to the Pacific Northwest. We are both avid LARPers and enjoy many types of games but there were some genres and styles we had not seen locally or at least hadn’t seen combined into a single game.

We were inspired by a number of local LARPs. LAST Games’ Zombie and an assortment of “European” LARPs were a big influence with their simplistic rules and once per year models. High-immersion games like World of Oz and Shadow Accord influenced our decision to make a fully WYSIWYG game. Alliance and Devia were also big influences on our combat intensity and economy.

One of the things we wanted to build when creating Spite was a supportive LARPing community. We celebrate our role as many of our players’ second or third LARP. It’s our hope that we can encourage players from all over our area to try out other games and share their knowledge, skills, and props as much as possible.

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Our model for Spite has always been to run a limited number of events per year in an underrepresented genre. Initially we considered a zombie survival game with a sci-fi twist, however Dystopia Rising, a nationwide franchise zombie LARP, established a local chapter and filled that niche. Rather than compete with another local game, and keeping true to our desire to run something unique, we decided to continue developing the rules and reworking the story.

After some brainstorming we came up with a game about humanities struggle versus a race of intelligent humanoid insect aliens: the Dromanae. Things fell into place quickly as we wrote the world and finished the rules. We really found the genre we were looking for that would provide exactly what we wanted: a game with a low entry-barrier but with a ton of room for elaborate costuming.

Roughly six months ago we ran our first game and we were blown away by the support of over a hundred attendees at the event and the level of immersion they brought with their game play and their own stories. We just ran our second game at a sold out Camp Kirby. This has pushed us to look at much larger sites for future events. We both look forward to the future of Spite and appreciate the amazing staff and players who make it all possible.

-Ron Leota and Matt Oostman Spite Game Runners / Creators

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You can read more about Spite, and interact with the community, in their public Facebook group or you can read all about the game, it’s rules, themes and everything else on their website: www.spitelarp.com.

All photos courtesy of William Myers.

Have you been to Spite? Chime in down on the comments and tell us about your experience.

 

Does this game sound fun to you? What makes an event worth attending? Is it setting? Rules? Community?

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Oct 06, 2015
Dagorhir Roar

(Photo Credit: Kestriel Photography, https://www.facebook.com/kestriel)
(Event: Dark Tides V, 2014)

Editor’s note: This post is part of our “GM Corner Column” and are the thoughts and musings of the GMs and Game Staff of their prospective game. The opinions and statements are the author’s and the author’s alone.

During the winter here in the Mid-Western United States—where LARPs dare not brave the cold and snow to have events—I find myself working on things for LARPing more so than during the season. I craft for those who go with me to events and I sometimes enlist them (possibly other friends) to help me on big projects. When we talk about LARPing in front of other friends or people they sometimes are interested, sometimes not, but I always try and explain it to them nonetheless. So conversations come up between my friends and I while we craft and between people when they are curious about it. Between those who come and craft with me conversations can range from a sporting event to philosophy from the LARPs that we play (character morals, what would happen if we did this, etc.).

Those who ask me, “what is LARPing?” are always looking for an explanation, and they want a simple one. Many people would say, “It’s like D&D, but not, sort of, depending….” Yet, though discussions with those who I LARP with and other friends, I think the best way to describe LARPing is as a spectrum.

Like any spectrum LARPing has two ends: the sport end and the role-playing/story telling end.

Those LARPs that fall on the sport end of the spectrum are those that focus only on the fighting and athletic aspects of a LARP. They are the live-action part of the live action role-playing game genre; another name for these games are battle-games. These LARPs are about going out and fighting with foam weapons, bashing on each other, having fun. This, it seems to me, is the basis for American LARPs. Pictures of people running at each other with blue “camp pad” foam swords and shields, wearing just normal clothes, come from these LARPs. Being an American I think this became so popular in the United States because they are simple, relatively low cost, and sprung up around areas where sports are a large part of the culture.

My first experiences with LARPs—if one can call just sword fighting a LARP—was on a college campus when I was younger. I thought it was brilliant, it took me back to my childhood days where my friends and I would fight with sticks. Though there was no apparent role-playing structure to these games, it sparked my interest. I later found out that the college students called their LARP Belegarth. Some similar LARPs to Belegarth are Amtgard and Dagorhir, though over the years I have seen that there is a spectrum inside those LARPs as well. Many of the sport LARPs have began transferring to a more role-play game. I do not wish to offend the players from those games by calling them simply a sport, I know my experiences with those three LARPs are seriously lacking, but from what I have seen they seem very sporty compared to other LARPs I have played.

Sport LARPs are usually just results of teens and young adults making foam weapons to fight for fun. Whereas large LARPs that incorporate hundreds of people or more; tend to have a role-play aspect whether or not the game has role-playing incorporated into it. I like sport/battle-game LARPs for something different and simple, though if I had to choose I prefer a middle ground between these games and the games I am going to talk about next.

 

Under World Larp

Photo credit Sierra Katrian find her work also on Facebook from an Underworld Larp event.

 

On the role-playing/story telling end of the spectrum are games that are only about being your character, and combat is not a priority. Murder mystery dinners, parlors LARPs, many vampire/werewolf LARPs I have come across are like this. The rules and ideology of the game is to, basically, live another persons life for the duration of the game. While some of these heavy role-playing LARPs have combat, there is no focus and it is usually not important for the game to function. It is akin to playing dress up as kid or the “game” “house.” It’s hard to find pure role-play LARPs because many people enjoy the combat aspect of LARP.

Of course both of these ends of the spectrum are hypothetical. There are no LARPs that I know of that are perfectly live-action or are perfectly role-playing. Obviously this is due to the fact that LARP stands for live-action role-play; anything that can be considered a LARP will have, at least, a little of the live-action and the role-play. Most LARPs that we, the LARPing community, are a part of fall in the middle. The deviation from the middle is minimal—I can’t give any specifics because this is purely your choice as the LARPer to decide where your game falls compared to other LARPs—though I’m sure people could argue that there are some very close to either end. European LARPs, in my opinion, fall closer to the role-play/story telling side because there is much more immersion in those LARPs, just search for pictures of Drachenfest and Conquest of Mythodea (yes, those are extreme examples). While many LARPs in the United States would fall closer to the sport end, though there are more and more immersion LARPs popping up around the country.

So when explaining LARPing to new people, you might consider telling them it’s a spectrum and that there are many versions of this awesome activity.

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Feb 11, 2015
Nordic Larp

From the larp KoiKoi, taken by Xin Li

You’ve probably heard the buzz recently about ‘Nordic larp’, and you might be wondering what’s so special about it? – how’s it different from US or UK larp?

Different countries and part of the world have different larp cultures, that reflect the people who live there and the kinds of societies they’re based in. Nordic larps… well, they’re something rather remarkable.

Over the last 20 years or so, the Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – have evolved a shared larp vibe which is quite distinct from the rest of the world, and which is now being increasingly sought out and imitated. These countries all have strong social and cooperative politics, and a popular tradition of reflection, questioning, and discussion. And this carries right through into their larping.

Nordic or not so Nordic?

To start with, there’s been a lot of argument over what “Nordic larp” actually means. It looks like a geographical term, but it’s more often used to refer to a particular tradition of larp. Not all larp played in the Nordic countries is necessarily considered “Nordic larp”; while larp from elsewhere that shares the same spirit might be considered “Nordic-style”. And then each of the four countries has its differences, and much of their larp is outdoor broadly-fantasy-medieval campaigns, like everywhere else. These differ from US and UK larps mostly in being more immersive and having a lot less rules, but they’d be recognizable.

No, the term “Nordic larp” is generally taken to mean a particular tradition of progressive arthouse larps that’s emerged from the Nordic countries over the last few years. These wildly creative and experimental one-shot larps have captured the imagination like nothing else.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The larps range from a few hours to several days long: some take place in specialized venues and involve elaborate costume, others are run in nondescript convention rooms in ordinary dress. Typically they have a preparatory ‘workshop’ to help players get into their characters and into the game, but these vary considerably in length as well.

Just a few from many hundreds of examples:

  • The White Road – players as drunken hobos go on a real road trip that ends with them casting their dead friend’s ashes into the sea.
  • Soulstrip – a short larp for just three players, who spend the entirety of it naked and shut inside a wardrobe. They represent different personality aspects of a character in danger of being caught in adultery.
  • Fade to Grey – an experiment in reversing the usual larp dynamic. Characters become progressively less interested in each other, and in the plots, as the game goes on, until at the end they’re all bland and grey.
  • Delirium – a larp about love and madness, which essentially induced insanity in its players over a continuous 42 hours of play. (Preceded by five days of intensive workshops.) http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/Delirium and there’s a video documentary about it here
  • Luminescence – about cancer patients undergoing music therapy. Played out near-naked in a room full of flour; with no story of any kind, just physical interaction.
  • KoiKoi – nomadic tribes rejoin for ceremonies of rites of passage: children become adults, couples become married, the old prepare for death. With much drumming and dancing.
The Hour of the Rant.

From Knutpunkt 2014, taken by Johannes Axner

Rules and regulations

The first big difference you’d notice when moving from a US-based or UK-based larp to a Nordic equivalent – whether it’s an arthouse one-off like the above, or a traditional fantasy campaign – would be the massive de-emphasis of rules and system. In Nordic games, having even a few pages of rules is considered heavy, and many have no written rules at all. Damage from combat and other results are usually assessed and judged by players themselves. Magical effects and the like are described, and their outcomes agreed mutually according to what makes for a good story. There’s an underlying shared assumption that you don’t do anything that would detract from someone else’s game: ‘Don’t Be an Ass’ is pretty much the only rule required.

Larp for losers

This is all possible because Nordic larps don’t usually take in the notion of character progress in strength, abilities, etc. There’s no sense in which players are trying to achieve things so as to make their characters become more powerful. Instead, the shape of a character’s story is what’s important – and this can go down as well as up. ‘Playing to lose’ is a vital concept in Nordic larp. If it makes for a good story for your character to do badly, and other players will get enjoyment out of playing along with that, then that’s entirely fun and engaging: players will have their characters crash and burn without a qualm.

Get immersed

Torture workshop.

From Knutpunkt 2014, taken by Johannes Axner at a torture techniques workshop

Two further key Nordic concepts are the ideals of immersion, and 360-degree illusion. As with all Nordic larp terms, their meanings are hotly debated. But broadly speaking, immersion (which can be into setting, into story, and/or into character) means that you should be thinking and feeling as within the larp all the time; and 360-degree illusion means that the larp is designed and set up in such a way as to facilitate immersion, by making the real environment match the game-world setting as closely as possible. Most larps try for this to some extent, but Nordic larps take it very seriously indeed as a philosophy: often to the extent of not having an out-of-character area, with players eating and sleeping in-character throughout.

It comes back to story again: the better the gameworld illusion, and the deeper the immersion the players experience, the more satisfying will be the story that emerges. The larp Dragonbane , for which the organizers built an entire medieval village and a life-size electro-mechanical dragon that breathed fire, is perhaps an extreme example. Likewise the retired naval warship whose interior was converted into a Battlestar-Galactica-universe starship for the larp The Monitor Celestra.

The expedition to find the missing Dr Klüft.

From the (Cthulhu-themed) larp Terra Incognita, taken by Johannes Axner

In recent years there’s been a trend, particularly among shorter larps, to no longer require a continuously authentic setting illusion, in order to help the development of story between players: using, for example, what are called ‘metatechniques’ – player–player communication techniques that temporarily break character. This all means that there is now wide variation in types and degrees of immersion, and in levels of illusion. But they remain important parts of the basis of the tradition.

The Georgia-based larp campaign Avegost is an interesting example of applying Nordic principles in a USA context. Organizer Joe Landolfi talks here on larping.org about his mission to introduce Nordic-style immersion to the campaign, and the difficulties that some existing players had adjusting to it.

The face of Dr Klüft.

From the (Cthulhu-themed) larp Terra Incognita, taken by Johannes Axner

Knutpunkt

The Nordic larp scene is strongly associated with Knutpunkt (it means ‘the nodal point’), the annual larp conference which rotates around the four Nordic countries. In April 2014 it was held in Gothenburg, Sweden http://knutpunkt.se/ , and the mix of talks, workshops, panels and round-tables included:

  • Sing it out loud! – musical meta-techniques
  • Typology in character creation
  • Edu-larp for socialization: building a bridge to real life
  • Ethics in larp writing
  • Viewpoints – performance techniques for connecting role and player
  • Experience-focused larp design
  • Culture definition through pre-larp workshops
  • Portraying sex-work at larps
  • Creating the connect-with-coplayers toolbox
  • The selfish player
  • Blackboxification

((If that all sounds perhaps a little dry or academic, there were also a load of larps to play, performance events, parties, and a sauna and hot tub.)Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download)

Knutpunkt is also known as Knutepunkt, Knudepunkt or Solmukohta, depending on which of the Nordic countries it’s happening in that particular year. But the books of proceedings that are published to accompany each conference are always called Knutepunkt-books, to commemorate the first Knutepunkt, which was held in Norway: http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/Knutepunkt-books .

Mad about the Boy

One of the pioneers of Nordic larp in the USA is Lizzie Stark, who in 2012 organized a run in Connecticut of the Norwegian-written game Mad about the Boy. This is a weekend one-off set in a near-future society where all men have died – the characters are all women, and the larp examines gender roles, heteronormativity, parenting, democracy and lots of other interesting and potentially troublesome issues. This event really gave a good kick to US awareness of Nordic larp in general, and Lizzie’s blog also contains some fantastically valuable resources – including ‘Nordic larp for noobs’ , which she wrote as an intro for Mad about the Boy players but which is great reading for anyone who wants to learn more. And you can download a writeup of the game here: http://www.rollespilsakademiet.dk/webshop/matbus2012.pdf

Or if you prefer videos, you’ll love this ‘Introduction to Nordic Larp’ talk by the Finnish writer and broadcaster Johanna Koljonen: http://nordiclarptalks.org/post/576668918/introduction-to-nordic-larp

Nordic Larp

From the larp KoiKoi, taken by Xin Li

More, more, more

If you want to find out more about Nordic larp, there’s absolutely stacks of material available. Here are a few places to start with:

  • What does Nordic Larp mean? http://nordiclarptalks.org/post/48230787098/what-does-nordic-larp-mean-jaakko-stenros – Finnish game researcher Jaakko Stenros gave this keynote speech before Knutepunkt in 2013. It’s half an hour long, but it’s really clear and concise, defining the term, ‘brand’ and tradition of Nordic Larp. You can either view the talk itself (see previous link), or go read the transcript (which has some fun slides and illustrations) here http://jaakkostenros.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/keynote-script-what-does-nordic-larp-mean/
  • The Foundation Stone of Nordic Larp http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/The_Foundation_Stone_of_Nordic_Larp – This book, made for Knutpunkt 2014, specifically aims to serve as a primer for people new to the Nordic larp discourse and tradition. It’s available as a free PDF (as are all Knutepunkt books). The book is 300 pages long: it contains some newly-written introductory essays, a presentation of some of the Nordic Larp Talk videos you might want to check out, and a collection of essays that were particular highlights of previous Knutepunkt books. Here’s a review http://imagonem.org/2014/03/31/this-thing-of-ours/ of the book that may give you an initial impression and guide you through the essays.
  • Nordic Larp http://nordiclarp.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/nordic-larp-book-now-available-for-free-online/ – An epic tome that presents a cross-section of this vibrant culture through 30 outstanding larps, by presenting stories told by designers, players and researchers, with over 250 photographs. In addition the book contains essays explaining the history and rhetoric of Nordic larp, and contextualizing it in relation to theatre, art and games. In 2012 the book received the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming. The link leads to a free PDF copy of the book, which is around 300 pages long. (If that seems a bit much, start by looking at the pretty pictures… and work from there following what looks most interesting.)
  • Nordic Larp on TLC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77ACDFVzH_0 – A 14-minute documentary shot in Denmark, focusing on a larp set under a repressive regime.

About the Author:

This article was written by Mo Holkar. Mo has been playing freeforms since some time in the early 90s, and running them almost as long, mostly as part of the Epic Experience. Check out his full list of work here. It’s seriously impressive. продвижение сайтаtopod.indeeo.ruкак взломать webmoney на деньги без программчехол для макбуккредит на малый бизнес с нуля втбfree online casino bonus slot machinesiran girls sexcasino oyun oynabeste-onlinecasinos.comарушафитнес в тц бум

Oct 20, 2014

This is a continuing series of blog posts that exposes the raw ego, naked agony, and rare raptures associated with designing a live action role playing event, The Dreamlands, from scratch. I hope this collection of self-reflections serves you as either an inspirational anthem or a cautionary tale of dire warning—it might be both.

Thanking the GMs, fellow players and Enigma at the LARPY Awards

Mike Tice thanking the GMs, fellow players and Enigma at the LARPY Awards

“I don’t know what all this trouble is about, but I’m sure it must be your fault.” – C3PO to R2D2 (Star Wars)

Larp Design

I postponed The Dreamlands larp. There were not enough players to support the structure (close, but not quite), nor did I have enough time to assemble or build everything I wanted. I overbooked myself this year, and now I pay the price. However, this means that I have more time to prepare the larp for spring 2014 and write some more articles about it. This delay of the larp dovetails nicely with something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while: blame and credit.

To whom do you hold accountable for your experience at a larp?

I see four entities contributing to the overall role-playing escapade:

  1. The larpwright(s), scenario writer(s), or system/rules creator(s)
  2. The event staff/GMs (not always the game designer)
  3. The other participants (NPCs or PCs)
  4. Yourself

Of course a combination of the above is possible and likely. But can you differentiate between each? If you have a good time or a miserable time at a larp, whose fault is that? Here are some examples.

Years ago I designed and ran a western one-shot theater style larp (though we did use Nerf guns) with elements from H.P. Lovecraft, earning it the pejorative description “Cactus Cthulhu” from some players upset that the Mythos elements were (intentionally) hidden from them until mid-game. Regardless, one player playing a thief was cornered by Pinkerton agents and shot near the end of the event. Recently, this player told me that it wasn’t my fault for her character being shot. “There weren’t enough GMs in the game,” she said. She blames the staffing, or lack thereof, for her character’s demise. But I look at it differently: she played a thief. The lawmen (and woman) deduced her secret identity and moved to collect her bounty. This occurred without a GM present. The combat mechanics were understood and properly enacted and obeyed by all participants. Is it the designer’s fault for creating a character that was wanted by authorities and allowing Pinkertons to be in the game, or the GMs for not monitoring every conflict? Are the other players at fault for playing their goals to the mortal end, or is it the fallacy of the thief player herself, for being plugged with lead?

Kevin Moran after his acceptance speech

Kevin Moran after his acceptance speech at the 2006 Larpy Awards

A converse example: at my first fantasy boffer campaign as a PC, I attacked everyone in the game with an area affect fire spell: “By the sound of my voice…5 fire.” Personally I greatly enjoyed the scene, as I spent the next thirty minutes braying in blubbery shame. I spent the rest of the weekend trying to make it up to the PCs. I had a great time, but other players still resent me. They didn’t have “fun,” the false god of larps (read my article on fun here). I don’t know if attacking the other characters was against the rules, so was it the designer’s fault for not telegraphing clear restrictions against character vs. character (CvC) action? Was it the GM’s fault for not stopping me or calling a hold and ret-conning the spell? Was it the NPC’s fault (I befriended a demon in disguise, I thought he was a PC) for encouraging the power display, or was it solely my fault for deciding to go ahead with it?

Another example from the second run of Rock Band Murder Mystery at Intercon, a larp I designed with Morgan Joeck. One of the first turning points of the narrative occurs upon discovering a body. In this run, many minutes went by before anyone saw her–I paid cash to a model to role-play a dead hooker in the con hotel; phrasing that casting notice took finesse. When she was finally found, the lone witness took clever steps to hide and then dispose of the body. But the plot couldn’t really move unless the other players saw the corpse. As a GM, I pushed fiat and made up an excuse to breach the secret among the other players and keep the plot rolling. Whom would you blame for the frozen plot: the design team, who should have constructed the opening reveal better; the GMs for not tipping the scales sooner; the other players for not investigating better; or the person who found the body, who stayed true to character and did everything right to conceal the stiff?

A final anecdote: in a film noir theater larp, one character played a police officer. After the first murder, the cop called everyone into the living room and prevented anyone from leaving. The plot could not continue, the game faltered and then fell. Whose fault? The designer for creating the character, the GM for allowing him to exert his authority, the other players for going along with it, or the cop character’s puppetmaster (player) for enforcing his auth-or-i-tah?

These examples are merely thought exercises for you because, I think, the answers reveal your approach to live action role playing. Are you someone who believes that you pay good money to be entertained, and the GMs damn well better give you what you paid for, or are you a loner who makes your own joy no matter what else is going on?

I don’t believe that any larp system is foolproof. No matter how good the rules (however you define “good”), I feel that a poor GM team or malefic players can derail even the best system. So, too, can a responsive GM or passionate participants turn weak or nonexistent rules into a profound experience.

A 2006 Larpy Award winner and two presenters (including baseball player Jose Canseco)

A 2006 Larpy Award winner and two presenters (including baseball player Jose Canseco)

And of course your own input into the mix is critical. I’ve had moments of incredible joy in terrible larps, and I’ve let myself and others down in extremely well designed, well-run events (sorry to everyone that played in “The Yearbook” with me at Intercon M).

Of course each larp, each larper, is different. But I think it’s important for all of us to know which way the four winds blow that whip any larp: the designers, the GMs, the other PCs, and you.

What can you do to ensure the best circumstances for a good experience? You can’t control everything, but here are some things to think about:

  • As a player, did you read the rules and lore? Did you spend enough time on them to comprehend them, at least for your character? If not, did you ask for clarification? Do you play to make the best larp experience for yourself or for others? Do you play to win, or play to lose? Do you use any metagaming techniques to adjust or reflect on your role-playing before, during or after the larp?
  • If you are a larp designer, did you make your rules simple or complex? Clear or opaque? Did you leave room for others to modify or change your rules, either the GM staff or the players themselves?
  • If you are running a larp, do you know when and how to subtly “rescue” players from themselves or the plot and when to let them twist? Have you adequately explained the rules and mechanics? Have you made yourself available to the players? Do you pick sides and favor some PCs over others?

I hope that a few moments of reflection and constructive criticism—of yourself as well as others, externally or internally—will lead to greater knowledge of yourself, of what you enjoy in larps, where and how to get it.

In the comments below, tell us about one of your favorite or worst larp moments. Who do you think caused that to happen: the game designer, the GMs, the other players, you, or a combination? 

 

Check out the rest of the series: Filling Space (1), No Fun (2), and PVP and PVE Fighting in a Locked Cage (3).продвижениесайтапродвижениепрограмма для android взлома wi fiбампер для iphone 5варианты оформления договора банковского вклада предусмотренные гкslots gratis casino 770massage parlour in dubaibet casinoPay with phone creditтур на майские с киевастеп братиславская

Dec 16, 2013

Larp is… a character-driven one-shot.

One of the most contentious divisions of the 20th and 21st century is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Just as hostile is the split between theater larp and live combat larp—but without the bloodshed, the battles confined to forum flame wars and bellicose bluster. Participants of one larp type typically don’t enjoy participating in the other. I know YOU do, though, my Special Snowflake. I’m talking about every other larper except you.

RBMMNot In My BathroomThere are subcategories within this bifurcation as well. In live combat, there can be larps with more Nerf guns than foam swords, a full contact combat system bashing away in low RP battle games or a light touch fighting style in a lore-laden world course. There’s a pigeonhole for each bird to be shoved into.

I am going to focus on a subgenre of the theater variety: parlor larps. This term was first coined by Shifting Forest in 2005 to represent larps that are simple to set up yet complex and deep in meaning. This style of larping has gone by other names: murder mysteries, mini-games (from New England), live games (from UCLA’s Enigma), “Tavern larps” and “nighties”, two different types from Germany, or interactive theater. However, I view all of these (which I am going to consider under the generic name parlor larp) as a subset of the larger theater larp style. All parlor larps are theater larps, but not all theater larps are parlor larps. I hope spotlighting a distinction between the subordinate genre and parent will illuminate the larger field of theater larps, with a little enlightenment dispersing dark doubts about experiencing this kind of activity.

Following are four misconceptions about parlor larps:

  1. Parlor larps never have combat in them.
  2. Parlor larps are for emo queens who love to cry and make a spectacle of themselves.
  3. Parlor larps always focus on dark, depressing themes.
  4. Parlor larps only use real world settings.

While there are certainly parlor larps that fit these points, not all of them do. Let’s instead examine common traits of a parlor larp. If a larp has most or all of these qualities, it’s probably a parlor larp, and if not, it’s probably not. Note the qualifier “probably” in the preceding sentence. Larp analysis and dissection is in its infancy, and our postmodern renaissance in the art and hobby of live action role playing is also nascent. Creating hard definitions for larps is like gathering fog with a fork. Like any good art, it’s up to the artists and visionaries to smash these categorical walls.

Caveats aside, here are four characteristics I use to define a parlor larp:

Classof901. Combat is representational: you don’t actually hit someone with something. What you do instead is widely varied but usual suspects include: rock-paper-scissors, comparing raw character skill levels, flipping a coin, drawing a playing card, and, rarely, rolling dice. Sometimes these are combined such as adding a PC’s skill to the number on a drawn card and comparing results. Rarer still are staring contests, thumb wrestling, dancing. The unifying facet is that the player doesn’t physically hit their antagonist with anything.

This does NOT mean that fighting is sparse in a parlor larp, just that the process for determining results is not based wholly or partially on the physical prowess of the player. In a parlor larp, Stephen Hawking could play Conan the Barbarian.

2. A parlor larp is not part of a campaign. When the event is over, it’s over. Some have sequels, but in general whenever a parlor larp concludes, that’s the end of the narrative—although like the “Whatever happened to…” montages at the end of high school movies, GMs and players customarily construct a coda for their characters. Related to this point, most parlor larps take place in a single, continuous time span, typically one evening. Atypical is the parlor larp that lasts more than six hours.

This limited duration and set finale usually funnels the energy of a parlor larp to a large climax as the PCs unfurl their big powers or reveal their scandalous secrets near the end because only a few minutes remain to accomplish character goals. This is both a strength and weakness of the genre: it almost guarantees an explosive ending, but it also creates a predictable, formulaic structure. But then, we know almost all movies climax in act three and we still enjoy watching them—a formulaic structure does not guarantee a faulty experience.

RBMMWaking Up In Bed3. Parlor larps emphasize role-playing and character relationships, a.k.a. “fluff.” Character point builds are uncommon so min/maxing is nearly absent, and since it isn’t a campaign, there are no experience points and no incentive to hoard assets, unless they are part of the character’s goal. This low barrier to entry (memorizing rules deters many people from larping) leaves a lot of room for character personality and motivation. The bulk of text on a parlor larp character sheet will be devoted to qualities like history, hopes, fears, flaws, desires, dreams. Whether the GM or the player or both write those words varies from larp to larp; the common thread is that there are more words than numbers.

This does NOT mean that parlor larps demand Oscar-worthy performances from the players, or that the characters are larger than life figures ogling to emote every emotion in the book in rapid succession. Some characters can be plain, subtle, quiet, withdrawn, and even stable. Either way, they are often three-dimensional from the start, not a matrix of stats that accretes personality over the course of a campaign.

It also does NOT mean that parlor characters won’t have stats, abilities, powers, skills, attributes, etc. It does mean that those quantitative qualities are sewn into the fabric of the whole.

This point does NOT mean that playing a parlor larp will leave you an emotional wreck, but you could, if you allow it, be emotional.

RBMMcorpse4. PvP: Most parlor larps are, as my wife explains, “A circle of fireworks aimed inward at each other.” Characters frequently have goals that directly conflict with another character’s goals. The drama from PCs fighting one another appears more than from a GM unleashing a battalion of crunchies from monster camp.

This does NOT mean that parlor larps uniformly reward narcissists. Collaboration, trust, and brinksmanship are generally critical skills for this genre.

This also does NOT mean that the GMs of a parlor larp are your character’s lickspittle or even a neutral party. They may be the ones to rebel against. However, most of the time parlor larps have some degree of characters fighting other characters. I like to use the phrase “CvC”, or “Character vs Character,” because I think it’s a misnomer to say you are fighting against the actual player for the larp experience.

Nordic style parlor larps encourage transparency before and during the role-playing. In the ubiquitous pre-larp workshop, the real players talk about what they expect, hope, and hope to avoid in the larp. With player openness, character conflict can increase in intensity. Nordic larps manifest a strong metagame component that shields (not completely) the players from the words and deeds of the characters.

 

limboNote that I didn’t mention anything about setting, tone, production value or PC count. A parlor larp can be a sentimental four-person (three players, one GM) exploration of a love triangle in the real world sans costumes or a screwball comedy for 40 sartorial sensations pretending to be mortals and immortals nightclubbing a Tiki bar in Hell.

Parlor larps, for all their austerity and brevity, have been known to create catharses and epiphanies. Their minimalism keeps a tight focus, much like Twitter’s character limit prevents rambling. Some of the strongest larps I’ve participated in were, in my mind, parlor larps: The Road Not Taken, Mirror Room, and The Tribunal. This is not to say that a larp fantasy saga can’t be impassioned or life changing. However, I believe it is improbable for an escapist hobby larp dedicated to providing the most fun to the most Paying Customers, a.k.a. PCs, to evoke or provoke genuine psyche change in a player—I said improbable, not impossible. Verily, a player’s personality change in a larp campaign normally takes longer to notice—months or even years.

Random Notes

  • Not all Nordic style larps are parlor larps, and not all parlor larps are Nordic style larps. They do have similarities.
  • Some live combat campaigns will hold a parlor larp between weekend campers, or as a convention event where potential recruits can get a taste of the larger epic.
  • There can be parlor larp elements in boffer larps such as a lengthy character backstory, an emphasis on role-playing, and even CvC (character vs. character).
  • Many parlor larp designers release their scenarios for others to run, so they’re easy to propagate. If you would like to read or run a parlor larp, some of the best were designed by Shifting Forest. They are all available as free PDFs here.
  • The Massachusetts-based Intercon convocation is also known for running parlor larps.
  • Parlor larps usually occur in one location, such as a house or meeting hall, but to me that is a common trend, not a requirement of the genre.
  • Parlor larps are common at conventions, but not all con larps are parlor larps.

Parlor larps are like low-budget drama movies, and fantasy campaigns are like grandiose TV series. Neither is objectively better, though we all have our preferences. One axiom: both styles can learn a lot from the other, and an occasional dalliance in the opposite form may improve your regular live action role playing.

It’s worth a shot.

 

If you are predominantly a theater larper or fantasy boffer campaign larper, have you ever tried the other type? Did you learn anything?

This article was edited on November 5 by the author to reflect discussion as to the etymology and qualifications of parlor larps, as well as add the last two notes.

Oct 28, 2013
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