Tag Archive | Games

Video Game Inspirations for LARPs

There are many people who often compare LARPing to video games. This is not unexpected, as it’s very easy to compare a LARP like NERO to a video game like World of Warcraft: Get a bunch of people to play different class roles to kill NPCs and get loot, rinse and repeat. While I agree that LARPs should be judged as their own thing, the comparison to other game formats can still be valid. But there are considerations for LARPs that are separate from video games. Namely, where to play it and what physical resources will be needed to play or run it.

Below are three games I think could make great video game adaptations for LARPs, with some changes to fit it into the LARPing format.

Dark Souls

Now this would be an interesting concept for a game. No character truly dies, but they can lose things if they do die and turn undead. Becoming human again would have to be incentivized, and death and failure would be commonplace. Magic would be slow to cast, and leave the player vulnerable.

The dark fantasy setting would be nice, but it’s been done before. Tricking the AI wouldn’t be a thing, unless the NPCs were told to act dumb. And the sense of loneliness in Dark Souls would be lost in even a medium-sized LARP.

FTL: Faster Than Light

This could be a great LARP if blended with digital gaming. Several rooms would have to be decorated as ship bridges, with each player filling a role on the bridge. Each station has its own role and players on a single bridge have to communicate with one another in order to successfully operate their ship.

I know I’m basically describing Artemis Bridge Simulator (a great game, by the way), but while it would be great to use for the networking necessary, it doesn’t take in the Role-Play aspect of LARP. There would need to be changes made to the way players communicate, such as microphones and webcams so players between one another can see and hear each other. This would also take a lot of resources to set up properly, and depending on where you want to play, away missions could be possible but at the cost of transporting all of those computers and their wires and such to an appropriate location.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

This would be a neat parlour LARP! Players would take on roles of defense attorneys or crime scene investigators, working together to solve a case and prove their client’s innocence. It could even be played in public, depending on how outlandish the costumes are. The plot would have to be very well written, and the drawback is that the story would be already be written for the most part, with the players only piecing it together rather driving it forward (aside from winning or losing the trial, of course).

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A Review of Secrets of Magic LARP

This review is very very late, like many of my posts. But a new LARP has emerged, and it seems to be very promising.

Secrets of Magic is a fantasy-based LARP that has just opened up this year. I’ve had the privilege to attend two of their day events, and I’ve been very impressed so far.

Genre and Narrative

As I said before, Secrets of Magic is set in a Fantasy world where the various races of the world are very weary of one another. Humans were enslaved by the more monstrous races, such as the Drakekin and Ogerborn, and were unable to use magic the same way they did. That was until they discovered a new path of magic: Death. I don’t want to give too much away on this review, but it ended with many civilizations ending, and each race being scattered across the world, creating isolated settlements for themselves.

Then Darius comes to found a town in which all races are equal. He and his compatriots seek out adventurers to help settle this new town, which is where the PC’s come in.

The races are Humans, the only race that can use Death magic, as they are the only ones who are mortal, Drakekin, descendants of dragons who are proud, determined and fierce, Feyfolk, graceful and cunning descendants of Fairies, and Ogreborn, who are enduring and forceful descendants of Giants. Each have their own innate abilities, such as the use of specific Secrets, the term for the various types of magic within the game.

As things stand in the story, the town the game takes place in is nothing more than a person’s barn. However, the PCs have a chance to really determine the direction the town evolves into, for better or for worse. The directors have done a good job of involving the players as much as possible, giving them jobs and tasks to help the new town prosper.

Rules

Like Elegy, Secrets of Magic’s rulebook is very small. However, it wasn’t designed to be as unobtrusive as Elegy. This is largely because Secrets of Magic realizes that it is a game. Yes, there’s plenty of role-play, but that doesn’t mean that it tries to hide the fact that is a game.

Characters are not class-based, but are built around XP. You start with X amount of it, and purchase skills and abilities with it.

A unique function of Secrets of Magic is that if you’ve been playing at another LARP, you get extra XP for your first character. There is a limit here, but it helps a lot of you’re a veteran LARPer.

XP is gained every event, and how much you gain is determined by whether or not you have a Protagonist Token by the end of an event. This is given to each player, and is a sort of “get out of jail free card.” If you don’t have it, you get 4 XP. If you do, you get 7. Alternatively, you can use it to refund 7XP worth of skills on your character card to respend. This is handy if you don’t like a particular set of skills anymore, and want to get rid of them. I haven’t seen this done at a LARP before without having to jump through a lot of hoops within the game.

I do worry that the XP gain might be a little fast. I hit that starting XP ceiling my first event, and now I don’t know what to do with my build, as a lot of the skills my character would want is already known by my character. I imagine this is what will happen with a lot of other characters after a few years of playing.

That said, the skills themselves are pretty straightforward. There’s only a handful of spells for each type of Secret, and the same can be said for combat abilities. Crafting is remarkably fast as well, which is a good thing. A lot of other LARPS either have tediously long times for making things, or simply gives you a pool of points to spend on items at the beginning of an event. Secrets of Magic allows for the role-play of item creation without the long waiting times.

Player Base

What a friendly bunch of people these folks are! You can tell that they care about their players and make sure that they’re involved and having a good time. I like how there’s enough leeway with players and what they want to do, and plot reacting to said actions. There’s enough structure from plot that players don’t just go murder-hobo on everything, but players can still pursue personal goals for their characters.

Right now, the player base is small, only about 15 people total, so there’s only a small amount to handle, which is easy. I’m hoping that it can keep that spirit alive as the game grows, as more players means more individual desires to deal with. I also hope there’s a plan for that as well. Knowing the owner of the game, he probably does.

Also, ZERO drama. None. Or at least none I saw. This could be because of the small numbers, but as things stand for me personally, it’s a great change from other LARPS I’ve been to.

Other Stuff

Like I said before, Secrets of Magic puts a great emphasis on player-driven plot. But it does so in a controlled way. NPCs have given PCs roles within the town, and are given tasks as well as payment for said tasks every event. It actually functions well.

The game’s is the Badenoch Community Center in Guelph, Ontario. It’s a small site surrounded by crown land. Bring bug spray in the warmer months. The place does have bathrooms, but no showers. Which is fine, as the events this year are only day events. Also, bring your own food.

Overall, Secrets of Magic is a very well-run game that needs little resources to run smoothly, and has a promising future if it keep it up as their numbers grow. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a larp that has the players’ interest in mind.

Secrets of Magic Facebook Page

Don’t Puke On The New Carpet

I recently participated in the 2015 Global Game Jam, the first video game jam that I’ve been to in a couple of years. Whenever I go to one of these events, I try to do something different or try to learn something new. I saw a let’s play video of Don’t Shit Your Pants recently, and I decided that I would set out to make a game like it, simply to figure out how it was coded.  This was also an opportunity to use the new UI tools that are part of Unity 4.6, something I haven’t touched yet myself. The result is this very immature game that, while I’m proud of the learning experience, I’m not so proud of the content. Still, it made me laugh and I hope it makes you laugh as well.

To run the game, download the zip file in the link below and unzip it’s contents. Double-click the exe file and select your settings. It can play fullscreen. Enjoy!

Download Don’t Puke On The New Carpet

Player Vs Player Needs Consent

In and of itself, I have no problems with Player vs Player in games. The idea of a “We Vs They” or “Everyone For Themselves” in games is certainly not new. Competitive games encourages sportsmanship, promotes teamwork, and can promote self-confidence, especially in physical sports.

When you enter into one of these games, you understand ahead of time what the rules are and the expectation that there are two or more teams competing against one another. The same goes for games such as League of Legends or Call of Duty (if you play it online) where it’s clear you’re going to be an a PvP situation.

Table Top RPGs and LARPs, however, do not have these built into their systems. There’s no PvP-only zones in a larp, and nothing saying you cannot attack or kill other players that are playing around you. This causes a problem with those that simply want to enjoy their LARP or Table-Top experience as presented to them by their Game Masters.

This is especially problematic when a person wants to play one of these games with the intention of doing a lot of Player vs Player. A person who does this is essentially saying “I’m going to have fun at someone else’s expense.” It shows a lack of empathy for other players, many of which bring the game world more to life with their character’s actions.

I personally find non-consentual PvP to be abhorrent. At best, it’s just rude. At its worst, it can completely ruin an event or evening for a player. I’ve seen many new players driven off from LARPing because of someone that simply wants to steal and kill everyone just because that’s how they get their jollies.

So, what to do? In the case of Table-Top RPGs, it should be discussed between the players and the Game Master as to what level of PvP is acceptable among the group. Once that is established, you can then move forward with the game with those parameters, and everyone will be comfortable playing at that setting.

For LARPs, it gets a bit trickier. LARPs are not as small or intimate as a D&D group. As a result, not everyone at a LARPing event will be familiar with one another’s comfort or views regarding PvP. Some, as I stated earlier, come in specifically to take out other players for fun.

A great technique I’ve learned from Elegy is the idea of talking to another player Out Of Game about the PvP you’d like to engage in. If they say no, then don’t do it. But if they do agree to it, with or without conditions, it’s all good! Why? Because now there’s consent involved.

A lot of great story can be developed and carried out between players that do this, and it can make an event even more immersive and exciting for everyone involved. In addition, because everyone involved consented to it, there’s no hard feelings at all, and everyone can still leave the game happy.

So talk to people you want to engage PvP with. No one will regret it, and it leaves your LARP or RPG game a better and more welcoming place.

I’m Taking It Back

With the whole GamerGate fiasco that’s been going down in recent months, the idea of “Gamers are dead” because everyone plays games now, whether it be on their phones on the subway, for hours on a PC, or anywhere in between, has come up. And I respectfully disagree with that statement.

The term Gamer is meant to be a term for a Games Enthusiast. Someone who not only plays games, but also reads and writes about them, blogs about them, subscribes to magazines (or used to before the internet was a thing), discuss them with other Games enthusiasts, and even make them on their own time. It isn’t just a thing to pass the time on the subway, it’s a major hobby that occupies a large majority of free time.

The logic of “Everyone is a gamer now, therefore no one is” doesn’t make sense to me. I wear clothing regularly like everyone else does, but that doesn’t make me a Fashionista, or Fashion Enthusiast. I eat food like everyone else, but that doesn’t make me a Foodie, or a Food Enthusiast. If I owned a car, I wouldn’t be a Gearhead, or Car Enthusiast, as a result.

Gamers are not dead. I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for playing and creating games. But some have, namely many female game developers and enthusiasts who have been the target of gross amounts of hate and misogyny simply for being female. Which is gross.

To me, it’s not that Gamers are dead, but instead that the term has been hijacked and twisted to mean something else entirely. The mainstream media often tries to depict Gamers as petty, apathetic, socially inept teenagers filled with angst and hate with no healthy outlet for their emotions, and therefore escape into games in order to cope. And because the loudest voices among Gamers are basically the petty, apathetic, and socially inept, that’s how the media labels ALL Gamers.

Except that we’re not.

Most Gamers actually want to see a large variety of different games, with different stories and perspectives. I’m craving variety right now, and I’m not getting it from the AAA publishers. The ever-growing indie games scene is where the variety is coming from right now, and that’s where you’re seeing all the variety. But somehow the ones causing all the noise and making all Gamers look bad think that variety means that their favourite games somehow disappear. I have something to tell you: Activision will still be making Call Of Duty over and over again for years to come. It’s not going to disappear because women want to make games about anything other than shooting brown people. Same goes for Battlefield, Gears Of War, and many other games you cling to.

The Gamers I know are a very welcoming bunch. They’ll accept you regardless of gender, skin colour, sexual preference, and so on. As long as you’re someone that isn’t largely negative and share the same passion for games, you’re welcomed with open arms.

And the ones that are spreading misogyny and hate, slut-shaming and harassing women in the games industry and within gamer culture? I’m going to say this as simply as I can.

You. Are. NOT. Gamers.

You may spend some of your time playing games, but you do not do anything other than that to express your enthusiasm for the hobby. You do not drive the direction of games in any way. You don’t add anything to the conversation beyond spreading hate. In fact, you spend more time discussing your hatred for people than you do discussing games themselves.

That is not enthusiasm for games. That’s enthusiasm for bigotry. You are BIGOTS, and that’s what you should be called. That’s your label now.

You do not represent me, or any Games Enthusiasts at large. The game developers and publishers are not siding with you. The games journalists are not siding with you. Even the culture you claim to be in does not side with you.

I’m taking back the term Gamer for myself and anyone that wants the term to become what it was, and always should have been: people who have a passion for games. Anyone that wants to exclude anyone else for that just for their sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, or whatever, can go away and bitch about it with the other Bigots.

I am a Gamer, always have been, and always will be. And if you’re more concerned with games than you are with making sure only certain people get to make or talk about them, you’re welcome to be one too.

P.S. If anyone wants to call me a Social Justice Warrior over this, can you do me a favour and call me a Social Justice Wizard instead? I like that character class better, and it gives me an excuse to get one of those Social Justice class pins.

LARP Bullies

A while back I wrote about How To Win A LARP, and one of the first steps is to Be A Colossal Jerk. While people trying to win a LARP are almost always colossal jerks, there are other people there that simply want to push people around. I’ve identified three different types of LARP Bullies and described them below, though I’m sure there are plenty of other categories we can point out.

The Immersion Snob

Before I start in on this one, I will say that I do like a high level of immersion in my LARPs, but I also believe that immersion goes beyond costuming and props. I can also maintain my own sense of immersion while others are talking OOG, or eating a bag of chips in the open in a fantasy LARP. The Immersion Snob is the opposite. They put a lot of work into their costuming, make-up and props (which is to their credit), but they also demand the same from everyone else. If your costume or props are not up to their level, prepare for a lot of vitriol coming from them. Eat a granola bar, get ready to hear how you can’t eat that because they didn’t exist back in the Middle Ages. They expect you to bend over backwards, with no return on your investments or time and effort, so that they can have a good time.

While they want immersion, they often don’t add to the immersion beyond a superficial level. Sure their costumes are great, but they simply act like themselves instead of portraying a character. A player who acts out a character far beyond their own personality, but doesn’t have an outstanding costume adds way more to an immersive game environment than someone who has a great costume but acts as themselves the whole time.

The problem with the Immersion Snob is that it can be intimidating getting into a LARP for the first time. Rules can be daunting, everyone around you has great costuming, and so forth. That’s hard enough to get used to without someone coming up to you and telling them that what you’re doing is all wrong and that it’s ruining their time. It’s a very self-serving point of view that doesn’t help anyone, and can chase new players away.

The solution I’ve found is to point out that LARPing is indeed a game, and that not everything comes down to the accuracy of the setting. After all, most combat LARPs use weapons made from plumbing supplies and duct tape, and magic is often represented by bean bags. Camp sites often have at least some electricity, and therefore have power cables running along roads. Many cabins have plumbing and flush toilets on a septic system. There are plenty of things to point out, so maybe not having your nerf gun painted isn’t such a bad thing when all of these modern comforts are surrounding you. When you point this out, they’ll leave in a huff, often because they don’t want to admit that they’re behaviour only leaves to hurt feelings and new LARPers leaving.

The Brute

This person is simply terrifying. They play heavy combat characters, and really REALLY want to pick a fight with anyone they can. Largely because they want to do it in real life, but there are laws about that sort of thing, and prison is filled with people that are bigger, stronger, and tougher than they are. So they do the next best thing: do it through a pretendy fun-time game. They want to intimidate and physically bully everyone else around them in order to make themselves feel superior. It’s the classic depiction of the school-yard bully, but while pretending to be a Viking or an orc or whatever.

I shouldn’t have to point out the problems with these cretins, but let’s go over them anyway. Just like I stated above, LARPing can be intimidating for new players. Having a Brute try to push them around, especially early into a first event, can send new players packing. There’s also very serious behavioural problems that the Brute obviously has. Rageaholic isn’t the technical term, but it is a real thing, and it could be that the Brute has it or any number of underlying psychological problems that cause him to take it out on others. Add in the fact that most simply do not fight safely in combat LARPs, and you have a big, lumbering can of newbie repellant.

LARP operators have to be on the look for people like this. A LARP should be a welcoming place for new players, and having a Brute is detrimental to said environment. Personally, if I could, I’d ask the Brute to either take an anger management class or not come back. Barring that, I’d just ask them not to return at all.

The Sociopath

Far more dangerous than the Brute, the Sociopath doesn’t try to push you around physically. Instead, the Sociopath tries to elevate themselves through the coercion and manipulation of other players. They have no regard for the feelings of others, but will feign empathy if they know it will advance their goals. They treat others as objects, things to be manipulated rather than people. They will ruin an event or a LARP as a whole or another player for personal gain, with no regard for anyone else. They do not take responsibility for any of their actions, making fake excuses or throwing others under the bus, most often the victim of the Sociopath’s behaviour.

I don’t have to tell you that this person is bad for a LARP, or anyone playing it regardless of experience, or, frankly, anyone at all. This is a person that is definitely trying to win a LARP, and will do anything to do it. Cheating, targeting, lying to directors, backstabbing, the sky is the limit. This person gets their jollies from making others suffer, and it needs to be stopped before it starts, if possible.

The solution? The Ban Hammer. Get rid if this person immediately. Just like in any organization, this toxic individual can only do long-term harm to a LARP. Luckily, these people are few and far between, but as they say, one bad apple spoils the bunch.

The Puzzle Monster

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!