Keep It To Ten Minutes
A friend of mine, someone I regularly collaborate with on various projects, posted this on his Facebook page. With his permission, I am re-posting it here because it makes a lot of sense.
WARNING! INCOMING RANT! If you don’t wanna read it, then don’t. And I’m not going to reply to anyone who can’t put logic first.
So, here’s the thing about abilities at LARPs that take a long time to use.
Crafting skills and “medical” healing (and a few other more game-specific abilities) classically take a very long time in LARPs to take effect. The reasons for this that I’ve heard are things like “It’s more realistic” and “It creates roleplay opportunity”.
Firstly, if you want realistic, a sword wound or gun shot can take MONTHS to heal fully with modern medical technology, let alone whatever medieval doctoring equipment is available in most LARPs. If someone in a game spends 6 hours going from 0 HP to full, or returning a broken limb to full usefulness, that is just as unrealistic as spending ten minutes to do the same.
Secondly, these things don’t “create” role-play opportunity. The role-play opportunity is there regardless of how many hours people spend banging foam hammers on a fake anvil or stitching someone up. The people are there, and they are role-players; if they want to role-play, they will do so regardless of whether or not they’re being forced into a mind-numbing chore to replenish in-game resources.
Those first two points serve to address the obvious flaws in the argument for such abilities to take a large amount of time, but don’t serve to promote the argument of why such abilities should take a short amount of time. That’s this next part.
See, when players have limits to their in-game resources, they will seek to replenish those resources whenever possible. As a result, players will always spend the time necessary to replenish those resources, whether or not they’re enjoying themselves in the process.
Now you might say, “Well, most people don’t enjoy the act of forging metal or stitching someone up,” which is largely true and not a small part of why most people don’t do it in real life. But this isn’t real life, it’s a game. And when people are playing a game, especially when they are PAYING MONEY to play a game, they want to enjoy themselves. They are paying their money in exchange for entertainment (World Of Warcraft not-withstanding).
So whenever you have a game mechanic that would cause most people to get bored and stop enjoying themselves, what you have is a bad game mechanic. It will make people not want to take part in that aspect of the game, which is especially problematic if they wanted to make or have made a character for the purpose of being in that aspect of the game.
You know what happens when LARPers get bored? They stop talking about stuff that’s going on in-game and start talking about stuff that’s going on in real life, which breaks immersion for everyone around and causes even more problems. You might say, “Well, if they’re LARPing, they should stay in character even if they’re bored,” to which I reply, “Then YOU should have a system that doesn’t encourage them to break character.”
If players get bored and break character because the plot isn’t engaging, that’s not something that can be fixed with the rules. But if they get bored and break character because your rules are forcing them to effectively remove themselves from actually playing the game in order to be allowed to keep playing later, you’ve got a problem with your rules that can be quickly and easily fixed.
This isn’t just a problem with resource restoration, though. LARPs also often have game effects such as spells or abilities that render another person unable to continue interacting with the game for large amounts of time, often an hour or more. Why bother making someone stand around for that long? Whether they’re frozen or imprisoned or whatever, what purpose does it serve to make the player (or even cast member) stand around and do nothing for a whole hour? All you’re doing is taking away someone else’s ability to enjoy the game.
After a certain point, such abilities stop “creating tension” and start taking away from the enjoyment of the poor saps forced to endure them. It’s one thing if you’re stuck in place for ten minutes; you can spend that time wondering if they’ll get you, maybe trying to plan an escape. Any longer, though, and all they’ll be thinking is “Man, I really just want to get back to playing. Or maybe go home.” An ability that takes someone else out of the game for half-an-hour or more may seem “powerful”, but it’s really just dickery.
Short answer? Don’t make any game mechanics that force someone out of play for more than ten minutes at a time. Even ten minutes can be pushing it for some people, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that most people of the role-play mindset can mime an action or stand around for ten minutes without losing focus.
Any “role-play opportunities” that can occur within an hour can also start within ten minutes, and can be continued for as long as the people role-playing wish to continue. Instead of feeling forced, it’ll feel natural and immersive.
Any “realism” you feel you might be losing wasn’t really there to begin with. Ten minutes to heal someone up with stitches or forge a sword that never needs to be sharpened is just as unrealistic as an hour or two.
Removing a person from the game for more than ten minutes is likely to get them bored, and they are paying money to have fun. If you have rules that take people out of the game for more than ten minutes, you are being paid for a service that you are not rendering.
Healing. Crafting. Resource restoration. Removal effects. Ten minutes, tops. Otherwise, all you’re doing is wasting time.