April 2018

GM Corner

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


There is an old saying: it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Whenever I think about the issue of griefing at a LARP, I like to change that saying to ‘It’s all fun and games until someone threatens you out of game with character death.’ Okay, so that’s not quite as snappy, but the point still stands. Any good LARP experience can be marred by the presence of game harassment known as griefing, so let’s break down the practice in its many forms.

A griefer is defined as a player who intentionally spoils a game for other players.While that might seem too wide a description, in many roleplaying communities it has become a term for players who use their character’s capabilities to seek to kill other player characters to either show off their character’s superiority, to loot for in-game goods or gear, or to act out some out-of-character vendetta against another player. The term is used heavily in online games like MMORPGs where griefers might be players who camp out at respawn points to murder newly returned and weak players, or higher level players that camp out in low-level areas to harass the new players or extort them for loot. This kind of player versus player (PVP) action is segregated to certain areas in many online games to allow players who just want player versus environment (PVE) adventures to play in peace. Still, that is not the case in every online game, and in LARP that kind of segregation of player population is nigh impossible. Unless a game outlaws PVP altogether, the issue of griefing can occur.

Each of the ways in which griefing expresses itself can have vastly different consequences and reasons behind it. The first kind of griefing can occur when a player just wants to show off the strength of their character. To gain attention, they’ll take on other players and push a player versus player agenda into their character just to get the opportunity to kill others. This is perhaps the least insidious form of griefing because at its core it is pretty blatant as to the motivations. Player A wants to feel powerful while playing his character, so he’ll target other players to rack up a kill count. Usually it is easy to identify this kind of griefing because the actions the player takes with their character will often not match up with plot or storyline, and the player will probably go out of their way to kill another character ‘just because’.

The next form of griefing is what I like to think of as mercenary griefing. Since most games have an in-game economy that player characters participate in, the quest for resources can put people into competition with one another. If a player wants that new piece of armor, or a better weapon, they’d better have the gold for it; sometimes there just aren’t enough enemies dropping loot to get everyone what they need. The impulse can then turn to treating fellow player characters just like you’d treat NPC enemies, and kill them for their gear, goods, or gold. This kind of behavior can have lots of causes, but I postulate that it might stem from identifying the self as the sole important part of the game and everyone else as background characters to the individual player’s ‘success.’

griefingThe third kind of griefing is far more insidious. Griefer has also come to mean someone who threatens to or kills another player’s character due to out of character reasons. That out of character reason might be personal (‘I don’t like Jimmy, so I’m going to kill Jimmy’s character Ferrox the Unholy’) or it might sadly be more ideological (‘I don’t like Jimmy because he is ______ so Ferrox has to go’). Still other times it can come from more unfortunate inter-game conflicts in which players may try to dissuade someone from playing in multiple games at once. Most LARP communities have at least one instance of inter-game feuds that they can reference from their history. Two games occur near one another, jealousy over player base sizes can occur, and somewhere along the line pressure is put upon players to decide where to go.

Regardless of the reason behind the griefing, when a player begins to see killing a person’s character as retribution, that’s when the unfortunate out of character/in character line is crossed. While all three ways to grief another player can be harmful to player experience, this last one is the most troubling. It steps outside the in-game exercise of player versus player into a meta-game that can be straight harassment. Many games include anti-harassment policies that include considerations about vendetta actions like these and may be consider such actions as subject to punishment.

So where does the impulse to grief come from? The behavior might be tracked back to a number of factors. To start with, what some may see as griefing can be seen by other players as simple competitive exercise within the game’s rules. In that mindset, player versus player battle is only another way to engage with the environment, as they treat other players the same as they’d treat an NPC without consideration for the out of character feelings of the killed player. It is that last part that turns PvP into something more than just two players vying against one another and turns it into what might become an uncomfortable situation; a PvP situation isn’t griefing until it steps over the line into spoiling the game for someone else. In the end, it really is all fun and games until someone gets killed in-game for making someone angry out of character. Then, it’s just a giant, painful mess.

What do you think? Is griefing such a huge problem, or merely an exercise in differences of opinion? What kind of griefing do you think is the most problematic? Share your experiences and let’s break down this phenomenon a little more.комплексная поисковая оптимизация сайтовtopodсайткак взломать пароль в одноклассниках бесплатноаквалоо ценыбыстрые займы онлайн круглосуточноjuegos de casino gratis para bajardubai escorts high classbetsafe online casinonetbet casinoдешевый тур в африкуклубные танцы марьино

Aug 28, 2013

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

– Corinthians 11

I remember the first tabletop RPG I ever played. If you think that there is anything wrong with that particular brand of geek, I will be creating a follow up article entitled “One Thousand Reasons Why I am Awesome and You are Wrong”. Like many other gamers, my first was Dungeons and Dragons, specifically ADnD (that’s Advanced, cretins). I also sucked at Calculus, so I stopped being interested in ADnD, but then I found 3rd Ed, which was awesome, and math lite. I had some kick-ass DMs, and I had fun. If you find anything wrong with this, consult my follow up article.

The Untotes FleischI bring this up because I remember the subject matter covered in my first campaign. We were light, innocent, playful. The maidens were rescued, the villager’s grain was recovered so they didn’t starve. We committed mass genocide of goblin villages so they wouldn’t invade the townsfolk. We tortured captured thieves to learn the location of the guild. We murdered the king’s child so he would be emotionally distraught and be off his game during negotiations with the country that hired us. And we certainly didn’t cover adult content, lest our childhood innocence be tainted and destroyed forever.

You see what I did there? If you didn’t, you may also wish to consult the follow up article to this piece.

Adult content is everywhere, and need not be consciously included in a storyline. Players create it themselves because it is in the sum of our experience. We turn on the news, check reddit, feast on newsfeeds, and thusly imbibe in adult content, so how is it that it is taboo to include it in a game, any game?

Maybe you are just tuning into this LARP thing, this gamer thing, this life thing (and if so I am writing another article for your attention), but being that I am glad you have decided to get yourself up to speed, I will indulge. Adult content in the realm of LARP is an iffy prospect. Why?

Roleplaying is a freeform game, but also a story which requires no control and no plot outside of a loose ruleset that allows limits and interaction. It creates balance. Order. Conflict. Conflict is what really brings interest to a game, but because it is freeform, it is open to all ages. Expand the genre, and introduce LARP. The same free form ability and open plot applies, as is the lack of a specified age group. The target audience is determined by content only, and there are social standards in place for what is age appropriate.

I am not going to force an 8 year old child to face down the bleak realities of losing a parent, and the death of loved ones, because a child’s life should be filled with happiness. Not tragedy.

But consider that it is not solely determined by me what a child experiences in life. Though I may shelter a child from loss, a tragic freak event may interject. This is not to say that I should not do all I can to keep happiness in a child’s life, but just because I refuse to include something, it doesn’t mean that the drunk driver wasn’t already in the room (read as elephant). We see, hear, and experience all these things regardless of who may include or disclude them from the world. I blame those violent video games for the degradation of the nation’s youth, but that stuff was already there before they started playing Duke Nuke Em.

Maybe I digress. If you really want to bring attention to that….article…

There are games that are obviously intended for the very young, like Candy Land. In the realm of RPG’s there are also games that are obviously meant for a more adult audience. Consider White Wolf’s successful series of games in which everyone plays a monster.

MET- nagDid I stutter?

Did I accidentally say charming knight? No, I said a freaking monster. Vampire the Masquerade and other White Wolf games makes the protagonist a monster, and morality is an intrinsic part of the character. It is, in essence, the game, but murder, death, treason, torture, madness, blood, all of these are littered throughout. Powers in the game are used to incite pain, lust, and insanity. Control and domination. These have potency! This is adult content, is it not? The very usage of abilities to force the will of one onto another is adult. This is the bending and destruction of will! For those of you who are saying ‘well that is why I choose to not play that game’, there are just as many who are saying ‘that is not really adult’. How is it that murder is not adult?

It is commonplace, and talked about. Perhaps it is merely the levels to which we talk about these things, and the level to which we include them in the game which makes them taboo. In some worlds goblins are seen as inherently evil, as are other monsters. However, simultaneously, monsters have since developed into a pop culture of themselves, and there is a segment of gamers that prefer to play monster characters in table top, medieval violence, and LARP. As we have created something of a monster culture, can we still butcher them wholesale at every encounter, and still consider it morally right? Is it goodness to destroy all that which is evil, or is it less morally questionable to attempt to take evil and convert it to good?

I have seen it done, and argued both ways. There is a bitter sweetness to the reluctant paladin that feels the moral weight of every soul put to rest. However, at this point it should go without saying that moral relativity is abundant in Role Playing Games.

Switch over to LARP.

We are no longer including a forum of our dearest and closest friends. It is not a predestined specified group of comrades which knows each other’s comfort levels. It is best in larger numbers. Who wants to run, or go to, a LARP which is only attended by a couple of our closest friends? Such a game would be covered by my next article.

We crave and need numbers, if for nothing else, then for the sense of immersion that numbers bring to a game. We aren’t in the woods with 20 people wearing different hats. Numbers imbue a sense of worldliness to any game. To do anything which would limit the number of attendants is, admittedly, bad.

By using content to target an audience, we limit the set of attendees to a game. Simultaneously, by allowing all content, we create a diverse player base. This is the biggest issue with allowing adult content in LARP, RPGs, any media.

“You immoral reprobate!” You say…. Consult my followup.

The Untotes FleischI don’t personally have a grasp on this whole moral absolutism thing. I was ostracized from a game for threatening to geld a “prisoner”. I was morally grey and willing to do anything for the benefit of the whole party. There were other examples of this type of play, but generally I would wheel and deal with whoever, whenever, and do whatever I needed to do to support my ends. I shot Greedo first, and took lofty contracts to fund networks of spies and informants. I was about as grey as you could get without being black enough that I sought the death of PCs, nor attempt to end the world. There was a segment of the player base that loved me and thought that I was a good addition to the game, but a core group of players didn’t like the cut of my gib. Ironically, this same game featured deep seated emotional abuse, rape, murder, treachery and the loss of innocence within plot; things that, in my opinion, have far more reaching damage than the capacity for ultra-violence. Some people are only made better by dying. I was adult content in their eyes. It is their right, I suppose, to nourish or exile my brand of play.

Where is that line within a game? Where should you draw the line on your plot? What is allowed in-game?

What kind of player do you want to allow and encourage to flourish?

Adult content is going to come into gameplay unless your player base comes strictly out of portions of Utah, or perhaps is limited to Quakers and the Amish. Should you do this, I expect that the permanent structures on site are a hell of a thing. If that is what you want, then more power to you, but I know for a fact that I would probably be bored as hell at your game.

Inversely, if you grab entirely from a detention center best lest forgotten that was used for government experimentation of the usages of the rage virus, then your game will limit the pure and chaste. It is not my place to put a slider rule on moral right and wrong, and nor is it yours. I think the birth of the antichrist would be a terrible thing, but there are some pro-lifers out there that may think otherwise because every sperm is sacred even if it came from a jackel wrought beast with two backs. I am not here to tell you what is right and wrong because who really has the right to do that?

Grab your staff and consult. Find out what everyone who is running a game wants, or is willing, to include in the game. If you say that anything goes, then understand the weight and implications of your words. If you want to mold your player base to a heroic path alone, then you can do a number of things to promote a string of Gallahads:

  • Deny PVP: No use of combat abilities on other players, and things like the use of the pickpocket ability. This still allows for friendly shenanigans for players that may not get along, but nothing that would be detrimental, except for maybe social warfare in which players destroys each other’s credibility and reputation.
  • Promote good acts: You have a mechanic somewhere that give boons, or bonuses, to those characters that do things that you like. If you don’t, get one. Don’t be that guy and just give it to your friends, but instead actively strive to award players that perform heroic deeds. This could be a stat bump, or even a get out of Hades free card when they heroically sacrifice themselves so that the rest of the group could flee the rabid smurfs you sent after them in the last module. If you want to encourage moral paths, you could have different rewards for effective acts on either side of the moral spectrum.
  • Discourage evil acts: There are wandering spirits throughout a fantasy world, and if you decide to jay walk or torture prisoners to death, evil spirits may mistake you for a like minded comrade in arms and hang around you to the detriment of yourself or the group. Commit enough badness, and who knows what might manifest? Simultaneously, if it is irritating enough, sub plots can occur as the hero rises from the darkness towards purity of heart and purpose. Who knows? Maybe a player even learns a thing or two.


But for all of you that want a Gallahad farm, know this: conflict generates plot and interest. If everyone plays the same character, how fun is that? The morally questionable within the ranks of the PC body will provide flavor to the game, and promote plot, discussion, conflict, and a more varied style of gameplay. I think you’ll like it. If you wish to have this diversity to the game, then allow risks and rewards for both paths.

Constantly discuss the morality of the game with your player base. If there is a compass that needs to be followed, then make sure everyone knows where north is. It isn’t that I have a problem with honorable gameplay, but when you show me a morally iffy world, then I am going to dive in and see what comes of it.

Here is another concept that I hope will cause discussion: Love abounds throughout stories and media. It is central to shows of all ages. Teenage drama is rife with it, and few Hollywood movies can get away without having a love story. “Halloween” has a love story. That being said, isn’t Love adult content? It causes all kinds of passions, problems, and emotions. The greatest of hurts occur in the vacuum of Love. We tell children that they do not know love, they are too young.

Hell of a thing that many disregard this as adult content…they will be included in my followup.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
-Corinthians 13

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Aug 21, 2013

Larpwriting isn’t something you do if you like to sleep.

Last night I lay awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, with larp problems replacing my usual visions of sugar plums. You see, I’ve recently lost my sanity: I’m going to start a larp at my university. I cycled through setting, story, rules, NPCs, but at the forefront of this bundle of problems was how to gather a playerbase. More than that, I came upon the big question:


Searching for the answer. It’s not going well.

How do I instill passion in my new players? How do I make strangers love something the way I do?

Right now, due in good part to being an easy media punching bag and to the vocal minority of those who perpetuate the stereotype, larping has a bad rep. We’re shown as irritating, argumentative folks who live in fantasy because we can’t handle reality and are lacking in social skills. With preconceived notions like that, how does one go about recruiting players to a game? Do I lie, and call it something else, something more palatable to the masses? Do I market it as long-form improvisation, or an extended type of RPG?

It may bring me more players, but I can’t bring myself to call this rose by any other name. I’m far too proud of my hobby, my game, my friends, and my fellow larpers to do that, to treat it as a dirty secret. Unfortunately, my pride and self-worth make this a bit more difficult than if I’d just tweak the facts and trick newbies into falling in love with larping before admitting just what I’d gotten them into.

Perhaps if I could find the essence of what it is to larp, what it is that makes us drive for miles, spend hours creating the perfect kit, invest in armor and weaponry. If I could distill it to its most basic form and create a game around that concept, around the things I love most about this fantastic hobby of ours, I could entice players on that platform.

I can clearly remember the moment I first fell in love with larping. It was the second day of my very first event. The night was dark, with flickering torches casting shadows across the foot-packed dirt, and I knew enough to be afraid of them; the enemy used shadows to move undetectably from one place to another. They could appear, kill you, and fade back into the dark in a matter of seconds. In the dead of night, there were no safe spaces. When they’d first attacked I was in the tavern, and from there was shuffled to a fortified household, then a mad dash to another, where we had been ambushed, surrounded, but not alone: the town’s defenders, a collection of knights, nobles, and rogues, closed us in a circle, while the enemy formed a circle around them.


Imagine a group of newbies in the middle of this knot of fighters.

So there I was: a first-level mage, 6 hit point in a game where veteran players could cause 8 damage, clutching a spellbook in one hand and a knife in the other, with one set of complete strangers determined to kill me and another determined to save me.


That moment.

That single, terrifying moment. My heart pounded. My mind raced, trying to figure out some way, any way, to get myself to safety. It was fear. It was life or death.

It was real.

How could I miss so simple an answer? I just have to make a larp that’s real! I have to force my players give in to their characters, to the world I’ve created. I have to make them believe what’s happening around them is actually happening. I have to force them to stop thinking as themselves and start reacting as their personae. I need to make them passionate about this odd world and its people, this story I’ve created.

I am so hosed.

How the hell am I going to do that? I can’t make someone’s brain process in the fashion I want it to. I can’t make them be in-character because I say so. How do I create a setting that is so convincing, so immersive, that the players who have trusted me (sometimes warily) to take them on this adventure become people, not just characters? How do I make them bleed, give them something to take away from this larp? I’ve got a story, certainly, but is it good enough? Will they like it? Will it change them at all?

Here I am, floundering to find the answer to two of life’s big questions: how do you spark a passion, and how do you make a large, diverse group of people enjoy the same thing? If I come up with an answer, I’m certain the world’s educators would love to know, but at the moment I’m just as stumped as the greater minds before me.

For those of you who have the same worries keeping you up at night, I’ve stumbled across a paltry few tips for creating and running a game:


Enjoy this, for you may soon be killed by orcs.

  • Make a safe setting. I’ve noticed that when everyone’s letting their guard down and having fun, there’s no social expectation to be upheld. We don’t have to be mature adults. We can all play dressup and make believe we’re other, fantastic people for a while.
  • Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Your players will take their cues from you. This isn’t to say that all larps need to be light and fluffy; quite the contrary. You can enjoy playing a serious, heart-breaking scene. In fact, your players will take more from these difficult scenes than the easy ones, but make sure they’re earned.
  • But take it seriously. If you, the gamemaster, aren’t being serious about the logistics and functions of the game, are being flippant with no one else will be. This is serious fun. You’re the adult in this game: act like one.
  • Don’t stifle your passion. It’s okay to let your nerd flag fly, especially when you’re talking to prospective and new players. If they see how much fun you have, how much it means to you, they just might take the leap of faith and discover their love for larp.

I have a few months left, not to find the perfect answer to instilling passion in strangers, but to creating a game that said strangers will (at the very least) not completely despise. They may even take something away from it. That something may be a discovery that larp is not for them, but the larpwright in me, hopeless idealist that she is, is certain that the something will be self-discovery, a greater understanding, and a few hours well-spent. If I can create a larp that gives them just a crumb of what larp has given me, I’ll consider it a success. If I can make a world that is real, even for just a moment, I’ll have succeeded.

I can dream, right?

Do you have suggestions for gathering a playerbase? Have any tips or tricks for making your players interested in the game and take their characters seriously? Join the discussion below!

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Aug 15, 2013


There are few topics in gaming today quite as hot as that of gender in games. Questions of gender equality, representation, and fair treatment have been rampant throughout the geek community. Within LARP, however, these topics represent a challenge to designers and game organizers who must keep in mind the complexity of gender when creating game plots, modules, and NPCs for their worlds. Organizers have to consider a lot of questions to provide gender-friendly plots that will make players feel comfortable while on their fictional adventures.

What does it mean to write gender-friendly plots for your games? The key comes down to creating and managing player expectations about how gender will be represented.


Who is your game written for?

Each LARP is helmed by a game organizer whose job it is to not only set the tone for the in-game world, but whose choices set the tone for the way gender is perceived in their game world. A LARP organizer has a difficult task of deciding how gender is defined and accepted in character in the fictional world they want to create. While this task might seem like a no-brainer on the outset, there are a lot of tricky pitfalls that come with accepted gender norms that a designer can build in out of simple subconscious habit.

GenderImage1The first question that is often taken for granted is whether gender in-game is only a biological factor or a question of gender identification, i.e. whether or not the game world has transgender characters. This often runs hand in hand with the question of whether or not transgender players are welcome in a game, a fact that sadly is not a universal in all LARPs. While that question is more out-of-character, if a world does not have a place for transgender characters, then the designers are making a frank statement about their consideration of what is and is not male and female. That can signal to a player that, even though transgender players may be welcome in the game, transgender characters (and by extension their players) don’t have a place in that game universe to tell their stories.

A second question when considering your game audience is the way in which characters are treated based on their gender. Are all of the characters who are powerful NPCs male? Are the women expected to portray themselves in a particular manner, such as those of submissive to the man? What about the way in which male NPCs are constructed and perceived? The main fact to consider is whether or not the portrayal of genders in the game world adheres to a stereotype that might pigeonhole players into a particular portrayal without room for diversity of expression. If that is the case, players whose values, ideas, and identity out of character do not line up with your design might find your game world restrictive, stifling, or just unwelcoming.

The third question is the often attached but separate and complex issue of sexuality, which can come hand in hand with gender representation. In a modern day, it shouldn’t have to be asked whether or not gay characters are allowed at a game, but if players identify that all of the NPCs and plots are designed towards male-female relationship lines, then that will also inform the way in which relationships are considered the game.

Bottom line: whatever gender decisions you make when creating your world will be mirrored back in what players perceive as acceptable or ‘in genre’ for your setting. The organizers, as in all things, set the tone.


Be Prepared To Be Held Accountable

It’s important to note at this juncture a very troubling and difficult idea: some games will choose to represent gender in a way that might be considered problematic. Game designers have the right to choose to represent gender in their games in a way that might establish ideas about men and women that do not conform to what an individual player, or even a section of players, feel comfortable with or want. As difficult as that may be to accept, that is the game designer’s right. An organizer has the right to choose to make a game world that does not allow transgender characters, or that establishes women in a place of ‘traditional roles’ that excludes women from positions of power. What an organizer must realize, then, is the kind of message that sends not only about the world they design, but the kind of community of players they want to cultivate. By making these design choices, an organizer is signaling that they want to tell stories that will include this content, whether to reinforce those ideas or to challenge them. Those design choices will then tell players to expect certain treatment of gender in game and will signal to a player whether or not the game is right for them. Organizers then, as cultivators of their community, must be prepared to be held accountable for those choices when they are questioned if a player does feel excluded. If a player approaches a designer and asks, for example, “Is your game welcoming to transgender characters? Why or why not?”, you should be able to answer this question. After all, as a designer, you should have made that choice for a reason.


How To Continue Managing Expectations

Once the game organizer has fleshed out how gender is treated in their setting, these established design choices must continue to be mirrored throughout plot implementation. If players are to feel comfortable with the ongoing treatment of gender in the game, they need to see the trends set at the beginning of the game continued through ongoing plot and new hooks that enter game.

This game had a queen: does yours? Okay, so it's Felicia Day on Supernatural in a LARP. That was a gender choice.

This game had a queen: does yours? Okay, so it’s Felicia Day on Supernatural in a LARP. That was a gender choice.

When plots are introduced by game organizers, they may force players into situations where they must conform to gender ideas outside of their character design. This may put said players in uncomfortable situations. A typical example that can come up is the introduction of an NPC that makes romantic advances towards characters. Do the NPCs only hit on the opposite gender, or are same-sex relationships a possibility? Are you accidentally assuming when writing NPCs that all the characters they might interact with are straight? In fact, are you assuming all your NPCs would also be straight? Similarly is the issue of genderizing plots that are put out in the first place; When someone comes running into town looking for help to rescue their kidnapped children, are they automatically a distraught mother? More importantly, do they always look for the male fighters to save the day? That kind of implied bias in NPCs can set a standard for gender expectations in play that will be mirrored back by the player community. If your sexy succubi in game are always women out to enslave men with their sexuality and you don’t consider putting in male incubi too, you’re reinforcing stereotypes with your ongoing design and you’re signaling that that trope (and what it can say about women in general) has a home at your game.

An even more insidious example comes when any game has mechanics which take away player choice in relation to genderized activities. Love potions and mind control are typical dicey plot points, as they take away a player’s right to choose not to engage with romance or a sexual element being introduced. This kind of mechanical removal of player agency is problematic to begin with for removing a player’s choice, but it becomes doubly so if it puts players in a situation that violates their character’s gender or sexuality choices.


Maintain The Player Trust

If whatever gender choices were established by the organizers are not upheld by the in-play hierarchy and ongoing story, then the game has effectively pulled a bait and switch on players. It established cues in the design which are not then provided to the player base. At that point, the organizers have committed a cardinal rules violation: messing with player expectations. Players come into games trusting that the rules established by the organizers will be respected, even by the organizers, and rules established about the treatment of gender are no different. Should they be changed during gameplay without a good reason, both in and out of character, then the basic trust between organizer and player has been violated. Players have a right to speak up and to require explanations as to why their trust has been misused. If things are not resolved to their satisfaction, they then also have the right to vote with their feet – and dollars as might be the case – and seek a game where their game expectations will be met.

These problems can be headed off by a simple application of forward design thinking and clear communication with your player base. In a time when so many gamers are taking a critical look at representation in gaming, it will save a lot of time and turmoil in the long run if designers make sure they’re doing the same.aracer.mobiпродвижениераскруткапрограмма для взлома вай фай сетичехол клавиатура для ipad airкредитные карты с 20 лет без справокcasino online us playersescort dubai high classcasino makine oyunlar?Big computer deskпутевки на майские ярославлядетский фитнес в марьино

Aug 06, 2013
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