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January 2018

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This was a great talk given by Lizzie Stark at the Living Games Conference which took place in New York March 14th-16th. She wrote up this article based on her keynote speech discussing how to create a positive and inclusive community for your larp. It has some great incites on how you can not only help your own larp have a great atmosphere, but also how you can help the larp community among several games in your area. Thank you for this great write-up Lizzie!

If you would like to learn more about Lizzie Stark and her work, you can visit her website or check her out on facebook.

Lizzy Stark (2)

Lizzie writes, “Last weekend I had the honor of delivering one of the keynotes at the Living Games Conference, the US’s first academic larp conference. The whole experience was a blast, and I wanted to post some of my notes for whoever wants them.

“Some issues around community include, how to introduce new things to existing communities, how to capture people not currently into gaming and get them into larp, and how to be intentional about the community you are creating. One of the things I love about gaming in general and larp in particular, is that it’s a social hack: even if the experience sucks, it bonds you together.

“When we design games, the rules and guidelines structure a social interaction. In the same way, we can use rules and guidelines to structure community interaction–we can do social engineering for good.”

To read more about Lizzie Stark’s advice on how to create a strong gaming community for your game and your larp community, you can find the full article here.

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Mar 28, 2014

Finally a show that laughs WITH LARPers instead of at them!

LARPs: The Series

We’ve heard the promises for years. They’ve been heralded from across the world and from larp to larp. “This movie will be the one! The one to finally show what larp is actually like!” they told us. “This will be funny, insightful, slightly self-depricating, but honest in it’s attempt to capture the glory that is LARP!” And we’re always disappointed…

Until now! The above quote comes from Tom Miller, resident artist and Creative Director here at Larping.org, and he sums up our collective sentiments. When I first saw this popup in my inbox, I thought, “Oh man, another lame attempt at a larp web show…here we go…” (ok, I’m jaded, guilty as charged!), but oh man I was completely wrong about this one.

From start to finish I was drawn in, engaged and chuckling along with the jokes. My only disappointment was that the clip ended! We can’t wait to see more and hope that you will heartily support, share and help get the word out about this awesome web series. We think that LARPs: The Series is finally the show that will let the world know what our hobby is really about and like. No small feat.

This is what we've been waiting for!

About the Show:

LARPs is a fictional web series that explores how roleplaying games influence real life and vice versa. Five twenty-something friends meet regularly to play in a live-action roleplaying game (known as a LARP). We follow these LARPers through their daily lives and see the parallels between the game and the real world.

LARPs presents roleplaying as a normal hobby while acknowledging the sometimes eccentric nature of its players. Thousands of men and women roleplay around the globe. LARPs gives its audience a glimpse into their passion while still examining the realities of life outside the game.

Episode 1 Arrives March 10th! For now, check out the Pilot!

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Feb 07, 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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