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Tuesday
May272014

Things I Think I Think About LARP

After playing in five LARPs this weekend — three of which were not games in which I had a pre-existing character — I got to thinking about what makes certain games or scenarios work for me. What “handles” on the character or situation am I looking for that help me have fun? I came up with a short, almost assuredly incomplete, list.

  1. Connections: LARPs are social games, an order of magnitude more so than tabletop RPGs are. A LARP should first and foremost connect me to other players. Coming in the door, who do I have my first interactions with? Where do I go when I need help? Where is the friction going to be? I want to have at least one group I feel a part of, one person I can trust, and one person who I am at odds with.
  2. Goals: My character is here, now, for a reason. Why do I care about what’s happening, and how does it affect me? What it is important that I accomplish right now? And why do other characters care about that?
  3. Reasons to Change: Those things that I came here to accomplish? What would cause me to not just give up on them, but to pursue their opposite? Those secrets that I need to keep? What would make me reveal them? (I think this is a highly-overlooked aspect of pre-gen character design.)
  4. Knowledge/Power/Secrets to Reveal: It’s important that what’s going on matters to me. It’s just as important that I matter to what’s going on. What do I know about the current situation? What do I have that makes other characters care about me? What does my presence make easier or harder?
  5. High Concept/Schtick: When my character talks to someone, within the first three sentences they should know that it’s not Paul they’re talking to. How do I get a picture of who this person is so can I drop into character in two minutes or less?

That’s in roughly descending order of importance to me. I’ve played in games where I had unachievable goals, no built-in connections to other characters, and no real connection to plot — and still enjoyed myself because I invented connections to players I knew and played my schtick hard. But I’m happiest when the system and the scenario give me those — or the tools to create them — from the starting gate.

Reader Comments (2)

Well put, Paul!
I'm curious what obstacles can interfere with these goals? For instance, one thing I noticed in joining a pre-existing LARP is that a large power differential between PCs can make the low-powered PC feel more like a prop than a character.
I've also noticed that when I have a small number of overly-specific goals, I can be at risk of completing all goals early then feeling at loose ends.
Your first point (connections) largely overcomes these problems. As long as I make good connections, I'm rarely at a loss for something to do. And I think a good LARPer can usually create new goals/motivations on the fly, as long as the system isn't stacked against them.

One last thing that often bothers me is overly complicated conflict resolution, especially when combined with a shortage of GMs. This is mostly a problem when it's PC-vs-plot or PC-vs-environment as opposed to PC-vs-PC conflict.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason

I think the biggest obstacle is when these things aren't thought about when a character is created. They're just not present.

May 29, 2014 | Registered CommenterPaul

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