20
January 2018

new players

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

want you for the foot

In a recent discussion on Facebook I posed a question: “What are your suggestions for recruiting new players for a brand new game in a brand new area?” I went on to explain that for the scenario, assume that you don’t have a current player base to draw from (meaning you’re not leaving a larp to start a new one and taking people with you). You’re essentially reaching out to people who have little to no larp experience. I asked this question because Dave and I have decided to start a Seattle Larp and don’t know many larpers here! The answers given came from folks all around the world and are really helpful and insightful.  Check out their answers (please add any we’ve forgotten in the comments) and a few summary thoughts at the bottom.

Marcus Mellqvist

Inform and create curiosity. Ease the participants into the full experience. Take it slow and methodically and you’ll have well informed and invested participators; the best kind to help bring in more people when everything is up and running

    1. Show & tell: get your game out in front of as many people as possible in as many ways as possible.
    2. Movie nights featuring NA-larp documentaries
    3. Walkthrough of a quest (a smaller trial of a larp where they get to try basic stuff out during a few hours)
    4. Workshops – Create your character, basic roleplaying, making gear, armour, weapons, and so on…
    5. Free trials – Give people a taste of your game.

It takes effort and time, but it’s well worth it if you want to create invested participants in for a long run.

Ivan Zalac

    1. Invest some time in building a professional-looking structure – Website, Facebook, Rulebook, presentations that you’re gonna run, a suggested online community that works etc.
    2. As you have the funds and talent for it, create a well designed presentation. If you can’t build heavy fantasy imagery that looks good – on par with high profile games, movies etc. – look for simplicity, clarity, and minimalism. Good design will help gather people initially.
    3. Before you’re really sure you don’t have a group to recruit from, check again – if you’re doing one type of larp, others might slip below your radar (have you checked if there’s NERO/Amtgard/Dagorhir/Belegarth/Theatre scene/World of Darkness scene locally?) Recruit from their ranks.
    4. Find online discussion groups and communities (Facebook, forums, etc) with interest in science fiction, fantasy, medieval culture, reenactment, history, comics, anime, cosplay, horror, goth, role-playing, computer gaming, board games, psychology, sociology, teaching, acting, theatrics, special effects, camping, paintball, airsoft, nanowrimo, etc. and drop a few notes there (you will probably not be successful in all of those – depending on type and genre of your larp).
    5. Recruit from the friends you have in that area. Ask them to like the Facebook page, share it and link it to someone who might find it interesting.
    6. Encourage people to share info on Facebook (whether they go to larp or not), and maybe throw a few dollars into the advertising on Facebook.
    7. Run presentations, panels, demos, workshops and mini-larps on your local and regional scifi/fantasy/anime/comics/role-playing conventions, clubs, stores, etc.
    8. Drop a few notes on out-of-area larp groups so they know the larp exists. List your larp on Shade’s list and Larping.org
    9. Involve your new players and treat them well.

Martin Straarup

    1. Do all the social media stuff and website planning, sometimes it’s best to just focus on just one or two social networks (where the people are you want to talk to).
    2. Then, when you have five people, dress up in costumes and go hand out flyers or do something similar to get the public’s attention. Maybe invite the local news paper and write an article. I remember when we started we had a guy out from the local paper and I wrote a monthly article after each scenario with pictures to keep the attention.

Shawna Vertrees

    1. Make postcard-sized flyers and get business cards. Hand them out and put them up. Go where gamers are likely to be and invite them.
    2. Find gaming focused FB groups and join and be awesome (editor’s note: don’t spam groups, no one likes spam) and invite the group via the events tab.

Brandon M. Burns

    1. Flyers. Hit your local gaming shop. If there’s a local con, hit that too. Look for a gaming Meet Up group in your area.

Final Thoughts

Never give up! Recruiting new players is hard work and can be discouraging. There are a million misconceptions about larp, people are busy, and it is a lot of work to get a larp started. There’s just no way around that; you’re going to have to dig deep into your bag of tricks and become a larp evangelist to get people to join your game. Keep at it and never give up! In the end, when you have a larp started and people are showing up to events, that will be reward enough for your hard work. Plus, the people that join will thank you.

What are your tips for recruiting new players?

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Sep 18, 2013

Two weeks before your first larp is probably the most thrilling time before you are there. Right now I am counting down the days until I can get out there and role-play. At this point, you should have your main outfit, back up clothes, undergarments, shoes, accessories, and your character ready and worked out. If you don’t, that’s okay; just make sure to not forget any of those things. They are vital when it comes to the game!

Now that you have the basics, you need to gather what you need to pack. If you’ve never gone camping before, there are plenty of lists of what to bring. I linked a video in my last post that gives an awesome list of what you need.

The Basics

Bedding

Bedding can vary between larps. My personal larp has cabins, but some larps do not. If you have no idea, try to find out through their website. If you can’t find any answers, then you need to bring everything that might be needed (tents, sleeping gear, lighting, etc). Finding out you left something important at home can be very frustrating.

Pán Prstenů - Bitva o Středozem [2012] by Stano Buštor

Some larps do not allow candles for safety or insurance reasons. It’s very easy to drop something or for a spark to fly, sending the entire camp up in flames. In this case, you will need to find a way to bring safer lights with you. Find realistic lanterns that only need batteries (getting creative to stay in decorum is a lot spiffier than just bringing a flashlight!), but as I’ve said before, don’t burn through your wallet on your first event. It’s your choice to make, as always, and it’s okay; in the end, a flashlight is better than being stuck in the dark.

Food

I talked a little bit about food in my previous post, but we’re going to talk about in-game and out-of-game food. When going to your first larp, please do not feel like you need to do something if you don’t like it. This is meant to be fun and enjoyable, and if you aren’t enjoying yourself then it’s not worth it. That being said, if you’d like to push yourself to do more in-game, go ahead. With food, try not to bring a lot of foods that need to be prepared; it’ll save you a lot of time and probably a few bucks. In my larp, fairies have mostly an herbivore diet, but will eat meat if they can get it. For that reason, I’ll most likely bring fruits and nuts. They are easy to carry, they don’t spoil very quickly, and they don’t have to be prepared. Out-of-game food is another thing entirely; bring whatever you feel is necessary for you to survive the weekend.

The video from my last post is a great companion to this if you need more information.

Do Some Homework

Check out all that you can about larping. I personally love watching documentaries on all things in geek culture. This is just a small selection of movies and quick reviews for you guys:

Monster Camp

A wholesome movie, but with patches of negativity that can be off-putting. If you know anything about this hobby, you should know that we get a bad rep. Take films and documentaries like these with a grain of salt. They are good for educating yourself on what you’ll be seeing, but not for a generalization of the hobby.

Darkon

Go watch this one for sure! It follows around mainly one person, and he’s very interesting and a pretty good roleplayer. I think out of all the documentaries, this one is a good one with little-to-no negative connotation on larpers. The group is very cool and combat based, so for the fighters out there, this is for you.

The Wild Hunt

I am a scary movie kind of girl. I love zombie flicks, classic monsters, and gore and horror films, but when it comes to larping, I don’t want the two to coincide realistically unless it’s for my immersion. Here’s why I do not suggest watching this film: It hits very close to home. When you are excited about larping, and what it can bring, the last thing you need is something to burst your bubble. For me, this was it. If you can take these kinds of films like its nothing, don’t let it stop you. I just didn’t personally like the light it reflected on larpers, because it was honestly one of the worst.

Final Tips

For me, I feel like I have so much more to do before the big game, but studying the rules, making sure everything is prepared, and purchasing things beforehand is all I really need to do. This is a small portion of the preparation.

Don’t rush to spend your money

Make sure you know exactly what you need and don’t cloud your judgment. There’s plenty of time for that awesome armor set or those dragon scale bracers, but right now you need the basics, especially for your first game.

DSC00995

 

Don’t forget to prepare

I know this can contradict the statement I just made, but you want to be over-prepared. It really helps to have more than you need so you won’t forget a single thing.

Don’t get overly anxious

Everyone been a noob before, and it’s honestly okay. People want you there, so be polite, social, and humble; this will help make your first experience awesome.

 

What other tips do you have for your first event?

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May 17, 2013

This post is mostly aimed at combat larps, but the principles can easily be applied to just about every genre in existence.

1. Treat new players like customers.

– Give them the experience they deserve.

If you run, own or participate in the management of a larp in any way and you don’t think about new players like customers, you need to start immediately. Before you get worried that I’m trying to turn your larp into a business, let me assure you that I am. Only in the sense that you are providing an experience that people pay for and you should give them the best experience possible. What I’m not saying is that larps that are non-profits are bad and should become profit focused. What I am saying is this: Larpers are coming to have a great experience, you should do everything in your power to give them the experience they deserve. Whether you are turning a profit on your larp or not isn’t the issue. The issue is: are you thinking through every aspect of your game to prove a world-class experience? If you haven’t read ‘The Experience Economy‘ by J.H. Gilmore you should. The premise of the book is that our society has moved through several phases of economies until, finally, we have moved into the economy of providing experiences. As far as I’m concerned larp is at the pinnacle of providing experiences. If you remember nothing else from this post remember this: Your players are customers looking for an experience. Give them the best experience possible. Your larp will grow, be more fun. Guaranteed.

2. Have a welcome committee.

The first step in giving new players the best possible experience is making them feel welcome upon arrival. Most larps have a logistics or sign-in area. This is the perfect place to help players start getting into character and feeling like they’re part of the experience. Your welcome committee can look just about any way that you want, but it should focus on a few things. Here’s a few things to think through:

First, ask: Is it dead clear where players are supposed to go and what they’re supposed to do there?

Second, ask: Will new players feel wanted when they arrive?

Third, ask: How can we get them in game as fast as possible?

3. Simplify the rules as much as possible.

Many larp rule systems are really complex. There are calls, numbers to crunch, races to learn, world history to understand and spell effects to memorize. If you have a complex rule system, then you should assume that new people are really confused and are going to ask a bunch of questions. Instead of expecting new players to read 150+ pages of rules, condense all of the rules down into a one page primer. I know I’m going to get a lot of pushback on this, but hear me out: When a new player arrives to larp for the first time, they’re already overwhelmed. They’ve probably gotten their kit together, made a character and are just worried about their character’s backstory and trying to wrap their head around roleplaying. If you’re really hoping to welcome new players you’ve got to make combat as simple for them as possible. This may mean that some rule systems need to be revamped (it’s worth considering!), but most just need to be made simple so new people can jump into the game, participate in combat and not worry too much about number crunching and listening to 10 different calls.

4. Teach them how to role play.

Let’s be honest: If you have foam combat of any kind (boffer, latex, foam, cloth covered, etc.), then you’re going to attract players who want to beat the tar out of others with said weapons. That’s not bad! It should actually be encouraged, because let’s face it, it’s a blast! But in the downtime, these same players are at a loss as to what to do. These players need to be taught how to role-play. There are tons of resources on how to do this, so I won’t belabor the how-tos, but it should be something that you consider as you plan your event. The main thing here is giving players something to practically do in every situation based on who their character is. Meaning, ‘When “X” happens, how does “Y Character” react?” Simple as that. Here’s a few questions to ask: Have you helped players develop a meaningful back story for their character? Does character development help a player create a personality or just numbers to be used for combat? Does character creation give their character something to do in game?

5. Create a mentor System.

Does your larp have an in-game system for helping new players get acclimated to the society of the game? If you do, move on to the next point. If not, here’s my suggestion, create a mentor system that incorporates new players into existing structures. For instance, do you have factions, societies, guilds, races, families, royalty, groups, clans, etc.? Make it a requirement that players join one of these existing in-game structures and that a required function of each societal structure is to mentor new players in the ways of the game, the game’s history, culture, story, etc. To some this may feel a bit like meta-gaming or interfering with natural roleplaying. I would argue that everything has rules and that the rules should be formed in a way that helps new players get acclimated and existing players are rewarded for taking newbies under their wing.

6. Have a beginner combat lesson/experience/quest at the beginning of each game.

Unless your rules system is so plain and easy to understand that a blind 5 year old could get it, then you need to have a combat lesson for new players at the beginning of each event. I’ve been to many larps that do not have a new players module until the second day of a weekend event. That’s way too long. Schedule a meaningful conflict for the new players to participate in where they fight other people (so they get used to actual combat) and intertwine it into a story of some sort. One idea is to have new players do an escort mission. Have an old man NPC need an escort from point A to point B. Have the old man be a wizened old warrior far beyond combat years and as NPC bandits come to attack him, have him explain the rules as you go. It’s simple, meaningful and if you find the right person to play the old man, it’s hilarious as he throws out insults at the young whipper snapper’s and their poor fighting ability.

7. Bring them into the story.

Most larps have ongoing story arcs that are amazing, rich and complex. Being a new player this can be terribly overwhelming. Especially, when you have no idea why the Demon Lord Xannghein is sending swarm after swarm of undead crabs to attack the local inn. It’s a blast to kill them, but why in the world are there all these undead crustaceans out for blood? Figure out how to tell them what’s going on in game. Here’s a few ideas: Have the town gossip run around telling anyone they don’t recognize all the latest juicy gossip. Have the local bard, minstrel or tavern keeper write a song, poem or spoken word piece bringing people players up to speed. Write the story on scrolls and hand different pieces of the story to new players so they have to find one another and discover the story.

8. Give them something to do throughout the entire event.

Nothing is worse than being bored at a larp. However, downtime is necessary. People need breaks to eat, rest, chat, role play, create conflict, etc. The problem arises when players have nothing to do and nowhere to go for hours at a time. If there’s not much going on at your larp it’s probably a culture issue that needs to be changed by the management and the plot team. Ideas abound on keeping players busy, but whether you’re a small larp or a large one the best way to keep players busy is to keep them interacting with one another. If you’re a ‘Players versus Environment’ larp this can be hard to deal with because the players will be accustomed to only having conflict with what the Plot Team throws at them. My advice would be to introduce elements that cause players to take sides to an issue and then force them to work it out. Most likely this will result in conflict of many sorts. Whatever you decide to do, ask yourself: Do players have something to do the entire event and do they know how to do it?

9. Make them fight!

Why do people come to a larp? To have fun! What’s more fun than using all that kit and foam weaponry to kill foes, vanquish monsters and take down rival factions? Uh… Nothing! There’s a reason why Biccolline, Drachenfest and Conqeust of Mythodea are so popular and we share their photos and videos all over the web. Their battles are amazing and look like a ton of fun! The plot team at every larp should be scheming of as many ways to get people to participate in battle as possible.

10. Make sure your larp is fun and welcoming to new people.

This point is really here to sum everything up. I would highly encourage you to think this through before your next event. Brainstorm. Do a mind-map. Have an out of game meetup with trusted players and plot team. Really work this out so that your game can grow numerically and, even possibly, monetarily. Here’s a few questions to guide your time:

  • What about our game encourages fun, roleplaying and combat?
  • What about our game discourages fun, roleplaying and combat?
  • What do we need to add to our game to make it more fun by encouraging roleplaying and combat?
  • What do we need to subtract from our game to make it more fun by encouraging roleplaying and combat?
  • What does the flow of a typical event look like?
    • What is good about this flow and what is bad?
  • What needs to change to our events to make them more welcoming?
  • What are the three things we can change before next event to make it more welcoming to new players?

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Apr 29, 2013

larp welcome mat

Like any project, after many years of playing a larp it is easy to become too close to it and have trouble stepping back and seeing it from a different perspective. In larp we have many different kinds of experiences and adventures which bind us to the group and allow us to form social hierarchies and patterns together. In some cases these patterns can be divisive, for example two different groups disliking each other for various reasons, and in other cases these patterns can bring people together. We form bonds in a larp that extend well beyond the game and we also carve out places for ourselves within the game and community which makes us feel secure, powerful and in control. All of these things have both positive qualities and negative qualities. The positive aspects are that we make friends we can trust, we learn how to navigate a social space and we get a chance to step outside of ourselves and step into someone else’s shoes. The negative aspects involve the us vs. them mentality that being in a tight group creates, as well as (sometimes) the inability to see the forest for the trees. We can, if in a certain mind space, become myopic and unable to allow new perspectives into our lives.

This is the case for many things. From group work to individual projects, we as humans always need someone to come in to shake things up for us. To shine a light in the dark places and take our eyes off the specifics and direct them towards the whole. For a larp, the people who can offer that different perspective are new players. New players to the game are vital for the growth and evolution of any larp and allow us, if we let them, to show us different ways to play and experiment with the game we love so much.

Why is this important?

Because larp is art. It is, or should be in my opinion, ever changing, ever growing and ever exploring its boundaries. It should push us to see things we have never seen, experience things we have never experienced, because if it doesn’t then it is simply life in fancy costumes.

In larp we have the unique opportunity to let go of what we know and explore the unknown. But if we get too comfortable, too set in our ways and too relaxed, we will no longer be interested in exploring the new, all we will do is fight to maintain the old. It is easy for us, as creatures of habit, to want to find habit in our games, but the trick is to let go of that concept, because in the unfamiliar is where we find true mystery and adventure.

New players, when entering the domain of the older players, sometimes tend to be shy. Luckily I don’t suffer from that myself, but I know many who do and because of that, their unique and fresh perspectives are often lost. If not encouraged from the start to explore the world in their own way, to play by their own social rules and experiment, they will quickly (and tragically) conform to the rest of the group and their potential will fade.

larp advice

Take a seat.

How to encourage your new players?

First and foremost never let them believe their opinions don’t matter or aren’t welcome. Every single person in the group (new players especially) should be encouraged to speak up, provide feedback and express themselves. They should be listened to carefully and not dismissed off hand simply because they are new. What if they have a solution you never thought of before? The more new players see other new players being shot down and written off, the less likely they will be to engage and contribute their unique perspectives.

Older players should be especially cognisant of ‘teaching‘ new players. Remember that new players are impressionable and especially susceptible to all of your opinions and biases. They need to be encouraged to think for themselves, solve their own problems and invent their own fun. They need to be welcomed into discussions on rules (no matter how game-changing) and play and provided with every opportunity to give critical and honest feedback. Think of it as learning from and teaching each other, as opposed to a one sided approach.

New players, don’t be afraid to speak up in a crowd, to fight to make yourself heard, stand up and be counted. Just because someone has been at the game longer than you doesn’t mean that their opinion means more, it just means it is different. Don’t let anyone tell you not to give feedback or pipe up if you notice a problem. Remember that the longer people have played, the closer they are to the game and therefore you might be the only one who will be able to point out a problem that has been staring them in the face all along but they just haven’t noticed!

Overall I think both new players and older players have value to bring to the table, but it is worth recognizing the difference and more than worth while to take some time and listen to the people who are new to the game because their insight and understanding might just surprise you.
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Dec 21, 2012
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