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.
I was originally going to post about what I’ve learned about game design through LARPing and how it can be applied to video games, but given the current discussions about Gamer Culture, I’ve decided that instead I’m going to focus on one particular portion of that.
Where in recent weeks the discussions about inclusivity of Game Culture has seemed to have been taken over by the loudest and most toxic individuals, LARPs do inclusivity right, and they’re better for it. Almost all of the LARPs I’ve attended have a fairly large female population. The LARP I primarily go to, EPOCH Toronto, has an almost even ratio of men to women. In addition, there’s usually at least one woman on the executive board at any given time, and not long ago, the board was entirely composed of women fielding those positions.
This isn’t limited to just the sex of a person. Gender, race, nationality, religion, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome at a LARP event. In addition, there’s nothing stopping you from playing any kind of character you want. Are you male, but want to play a female character. Totally doable! Want to play a very religious person, but are not particularly religious yourself? Not a problem! Want to play a character whose gender is completely different from your own? Go for it!
As for the more toxic individuals that try to attend? They’re usually given the cold shoulder by the rest of the player base, and often wander off to another LARP, or just stop altogether. If the individual is particularly disruptive, they’ll be asked to leave. There will always be inter-personal conflicts in any social group, and conflicts are resolved rationally by the owners or executives of the LARP, often getting both sides of the story before taking action.
From a business standpoint, however, inclusivity gets you more customers. If a LARP is a safe environment, and provides a great game atmosphere, those that attend will tell their friends, and bring them to the next event. Then those new players tell their other friends, and bring them along, and for forth. Often times the best advertisers of a LARP are the ones that play it rather than run it. And the more inclusive a LARP is, the more varied, and therefore larger, the potential audience becomes.
Marketing teams across all game companies should take a good look at this, as sales will be more constant as more and more people buy the game, play and love it, then tell their friends, who will then buy it and do the same, as opposed to making things look shiny and having to rely on pre-orders to make their money.
Aside from the business portion of the equation, inclusivity also creates a positive culture that can actually be respected by those viewing it from the outside. There’s a reason why many people regard “Gamers” as mouth-breathing, socially-inept neckbeards, or a bunch of juvenile 12-year-old boys. They’re the ones that are the loudest, and the ones most people think of when they think of what a “Gamer” is.
By having a more inclusive culture, those in the media, and people in general, can consider games as the art-form it can be instead of a juvenile past-time. LARPing might be in the same boat when it comes to public viewpoints, but that’s just on the surface of LARPing. A LARP can bring people out of their shells, players can experience things that they may never experience in their normal lives, social issues can and often are explored, and so much more. On the surface, yeah, we’re in silly costumes swinging plumbing supplies at each other. But that’s far more benign than what Gamer Culture is on the surface: A culturally backward, toxic place where threats of rape and murder are commonplace.
If you want a better culture surrounding games, or just better games in general, allow more than just the social-inept dictate their direction. Bringing women, LGTBQ folk, those of different races, nationalities, etc. into the development-side of gaming. Have them included in creative decisions, not just in artwork or animation where a majority of women have positions inside the games industry, but in design and programming as well. From there, games being made with these groups in mind will come, and in turn, people that identify with them will come to play.
Communities will come together to create a great, positive spaces for everyone to enjoy. Those that try to bring them down will find themselves quickly silenced.
It’s already happening, folks. Just let it happen. You’ll be a better person for it. Don’t believe me? Give LARPing a shot and see what you’re missing out on.
Hello everyone! Great news!
The game that I Co-Designed and Co-Produced is on the iTunes store!
Beet Medley is an eclectic creative playground for children of ages 4 to 6 that features a collection of mini games and creative exercises that foster self-expression and inspire a love of music and rhythm. These mini-games add to the experience of the Freestyle game, a music-creation tool, which expands its capabilities as the players achieve goals and overcome challenges presented to them. Kids playing this game can create their own music to share with others.
This game is for the iPad and can be found here, and by searching the iTunes store!
Recently I picked up a copy of Shadowrun 5th Edition. I brought it home and read it, and really liked it, and decided that I wanted to run a game at my place, announcing it on Facebook and seeing if people were interested.
While I got a few takers, another person posted how that the new edition wasn’t good at all, in his opinion. He went so far as saying it reversed innovations within the game industry as a whole, as well as posting a link to some guy who not only hated it, but wanted to hate it. This left a bad taste in my mouth, not because he trashed something I liked, but because his action discouraged others from wanting to come out as a result.
While I don’t think he meant it as bullying, it certainly didn’t help with me starting a weekly fun night of gaming at my home with friends. But it also brought up something that’s been talked about a lot within not only the gaming community, but other “nerdy” pastimes like Comic Books or the like, which would be bullying or harassing people new to these pastimes.
I’ve seen it a lot: Someone walks into a game store wanting to get into one of the card games other than Magic: The Gathering, and suddenly they’re met with ridicule by the M:tG players nearby, or the clerks at the front desk, making fun of them for liking something that isn’t as popular or even just different.
This happens a lot these days, and it’s pretty disgusting. Entire communities harassing people that want to get into a hobby or interest makes for a pretty toxic environment, and it doesn’t do well for our reputations. A lot of people think this is just a bunch of kids being bullies, but statistically speaking the majority of the harassment is committed by males in their 20’s and 30’s. The reason we think that they’re kids is because gaming is still viewed my many as a kid’s pastime despite the fact that games like GTA and Call of Duty are not meant for children at all. But I also think that it’s because most people expect that a person that old wouldn’t behave in such a way, making it easier to dismiss it as kids being mean to one another. Also, anonymity and lack of consequence play a huge role in this harassment as well. Lack of responsibility and the the fact that on one won’t be punished for this means that it will occur more often. It’s unfortunate, but most people do or do not do things simply from fear of the law, not by the ethics and morals they are supposed to have.
I really do not understand why this happens. Why would anyone have so much hatred for a person who likes something? I simply don’t get what is achieved by ridiculing someone else for enjoying an activity or hobby. Whether it’s a preferred table-top RPG, video game, LARP, whatever, it makes no sense and nothing is gained by anyone. If fact, it only serves to fracture our communities as a whole and make us look even worse than we do now.
Friends, this really need to stop. It helps no one. You gain nothing from bullying anyone for any reason.
I still plan to run Shadowrun at my place soon, and I’m sure we’ll all have a good time doing so. I’m not going to let someone else bully me out of my interests. I got enough of that in elementary school.
Ok, bear with me here.
There’s a common understanding among most LARPers I’ve met, and it is that you can’t “win” at a larp. Typically, all the players are there to enjoy the drama and action that unfolds every event, the plot continues over a long period of time, and no one is put on a pedestal at the end of a weekend and declared a winner.
However, I disagree. I’ve been LARPing for nearly 13 years now and I’ve seen a lot of different styles of play. The first LARP I ever went to seemed neat when I first started, but as I continued to play I noticed a lot of the same people getting all the plot and cool items and such. Eventually I realized that I would never get to see anything relevant to the plot and that I was just there to support their game with my money and be the occasional lackey. I left long after I should have, and I’m glad I did.
The people that were getting all the plot and wicked loot and In-Game political power were all friends along with everyone on the game’s plot team. If anyone of their characters died, plot would find a way to bring them back with no penalties to their characters. If those players asked for items far beyond the reach of anyone else, they would get them free of charge. These people could not be touched, ever.
So yes, you can win a LARP. And I have a step-by-step guide to being the king of all LARPers just for you!
Step 1: Be A Colossal Jerk
You need to be a horrible person in the first place to even considering trying this at all. Whether you’re a sociopathic bastard, love the feeling of schadenfreude, or just have a general feeling of apathy for others, this step is critical in winning any LARP.
Step 2: Bring Friends That Are Also Colossal Jerks
Even though you’re trying to be on top, there’s strength in numbers. Make sure you’re friends are on board, plan ahead, and make sure that they don’t care about anyone else besides your little clique.
Step 3: Make A Character That Is As Ruthless As Possible
Take a good look at all the options available to you, both in terms of statistics and skills, and in-game cultures and backgrounds. Pick skills that are easily exploited and get the most bang for your buck. For background, look carefully and choose whatever background to justify any and all of your power-gaming and gives you the path of least resistance. If there’s a race that covets power, pick that. If there’s a culture that believes the ends justifies the means, pick that. If there are options that allow for some political power right off the bat, pick the one that’s going to give you the most. Anything that will give you an edge over anyone else or justifies the abhorrent behaviour you’re about to embark on, go for it.
Step 4: Get Really Chummy With Plot
This one is pretty crucial. The greater a friend plot is to you on an Out Of Game basis, the more likely they’ll give you more to do than anyone else, and be more lenient when things go wrong. Invite them into your little clique on an Out Of Game level: invite them to barbecues, throw them birthday parties, anything to get on their good side.
Step 5: Be A Rules Lawyer At All Times
Argue everything. Deny being hit by that spell. Fudge how much damage you’ve taken (no one notices small amounts) and claim you still have health left if anyone calls you on it. Claim that mage didn’t say the correct words. No matter how trivial, argue it to no end to get the upper hand. Even be a rules lawyer when it comes to In-Game lore and background. If someone is being even one iota off from their race or background, tell them they’re LARPing wrong. The more someone outside of your group doesn’t want to play, the more play time for you.
Step 6: Get As Much In-Game Power As Possible
Strive to get as much loot as possible. This includes killing other characters, stealing (In-Game, of course), and so forth. Hoard as much of it as possible, and only bring it out when you know you’ll look like a hero that saves the day. Be chummy with the local NPC authority, if any, and if you do enough, they’ll make you a leader and give you the means to run the locale you’re in as you see fit.
Step 7: Never Let Anyone Else Get Anything Cool
Once you get political power, use it. If you see a new player get a neat item, take it from them and claim that you know someone that needs it more. If someone gets a leg-up, kill their character and claim they committed treason or the like. No one should threaten the power you and your clique have gained. Ever.
Final Step: Get Kicked Out
You made it! Years of being a dick to everyone that doesn’t matter has paid off. You have all the money in the world, you sleep on a pile of magic items, and everyone does what you say under fear of death. Plot comes to you and your friends and no one else, and even if you did fail somehow, plot has your back.
It’s usually at this point that the rest of the players start leaving in droves as a result of your power-gaming, and if the owners don’t have their heads up their butts, they’ll likely pin it on your posse. So they’ll take Out Of Game measures to make sure you stop this behaviour. They may tell plot to permanently kill your characters, strip you of political power, or just outright ban you from the game. And at that point, you win! No In-Game thing could stop your reign of terror and as a result the game broke, and now you’re being thrown out. Other LARPers in the area now treat this LARP like a joke, and will possibly never recover from your shenanigans.
Congrats! You win!
Whoa! A post not exclusively about LARPing on a site about Game Design! Wow!
Ok, that’s out of the way. On to the topic at hand!
A puzzle monster is an encounter in a game in which the standard beat it to death with your choice of death-dealing method doesn’t work, or is very ineffective, but has a weakness or strategy the player must discover on their own. You find these often with boss enemies in video games.
Puzzle monsters can be done very easily, but they can be also done badly. A good puzzle monster is one that can be defeated by any player, regardless of any skills or abilities the player may possess at the time.
E.V.O. The Search For Eden for the SNES has a simple puzzle monster at the end of the first chapter (if you’ve never played it, I recommend getting a SNES emulator and playing it. Great game). You are a fish at that point, and the boss is a Great White Shark. It charges at you often, and if it gets close enough to you, it bites you for massive damage. If you try to bite it normally, it will either bite you back or smack you with its tail, also for large amounts of damage.
The trick is to stay near one of the cave walls where the Shark dwells, and wait for it to charge, then move out of the way. The Shark will hit the wall, and become stunned, giving the player an opening to attack the Shark. Repeat a few times, and the Shark explodes into large portions of fish sticks (sorry if I spoiled this one for anyone, but later bosses are a LOT harder). Because of this strategy, you didn’t necessarily need to have all of the cool evolutions to beat the monster.
A bad puzzle monster, however, can endlessly frustrate the player. A couple of years ago, I attended a LARP which had a REALLY bad Head of Plot. Among many of his poor choices were puzzle monsters which had a very specific weakness, all of which were in the form of a skill in the rule book. A specific kind of magic spell or the like. If a character did not possess this skill, they had no possible way of defeating the puzzle monster. This led to a lot of frustrated players, especially less experienced players that left simply because the difficulty curve was just made too high as a result.
It doesn’t have to be hard to design a puzzle monster, regardless of what kind of game you’re designing it for. Simple examples include:
- A monster that can only be damaged while standing in a specific area
- A monster that can only be damaged while the player is standing in a specific area
- A player must stand in a certain spot for a certain time to gain a sort of buff that allows the character to damage the monster, but has a very short time span, so the player must go back to that spot repeatedly.
- The monster has a weak point that the player must hit in order to affect the monster in any way
Even a simple puzzle monster like the examples above can be rewarding for a player just for defeating it. Giving loot or the like as a reward isn’t always necessary as a result, depending on the difficulty level of the encounter. The player can walk away knowing that they took down something that was seemingly impossible to defeat with their own abilities, not being held back by the numbers on their character sheets.
Puzzle monsters can be challenging and rewarding, but if you design them badly, all you end up with is a bunch of pissed off players. Designing puzzle encounters around circumstances that anyone can pull off, regardless of the skills of the character a player is playing, will be far more rewarding than loading it up with skill immunities, and I guarantee it!