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.
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).
So You Want To Be A Game Master
Dungeon Master. Storyteller. Artistic Director. They all mean the same basic thing: Game Master. The person in charge of enforcing the rules and setting the stage for the players. I’ve played under some great ones, and some very terrible ones. And over the years, I’ve seen (and made) some common mistakes that many starting GMs make. Below are four tips for those thinking about running their own RPG.
NOTE: We’ve all made these mistakes. Yes, even you did. Admit it. It’s okay, I don’t judge you for it.
Tip 1: You Are NOT The Star
The first thing you have to realize is that the main characters in your story are the main protagonists. They are the focus of the game. You can create a world around them that is fantastical and awesome, but in the end the characters are the ones that should be driving the plot forward. It’s a bad idea to put a character that you control that is always with the PCs, helping them out wherever they can. If you’re short a character, having a substitute NPC is fine, but they should be a background support role, not really making any decisions for the group. Don’t make a Mary- or Gary-Sue character that represents you. Perfect characters are boring.
Tip 2: If It Isn’t Fun, Cut It
As you run adventures for your players, you’ll make mistakes that are not fun for your players. If something is boring or too hard, cut it. Ideas are worth nothing. Yes, even that one. Yes, that one too. It’s all in the execution. If your players aren’t having fun with a plot line or encounter, get rid of it. It’s not a precious baby.
On a side note, please don’t take the above as discouragement. If this happens, it’s okay. It’s a lot better for you make mistakes early so that you can learn from them and become better at running RPGs. You’ll think of something better than what you’ve done before, and your players will thank you for it.
Tip 3: Use The Same Rules As The Players
I’ve seen a lot of GMs make up their own rules far too often. It’s not a bad thing to make a rule or mechanic to go with an encounter here or there, but you have to do it sparingly. Players get frustrated when an ability or the like that normally works suddenly doesn’t. It’s okay if there’s something in the rules that prevents it, but if there isn’t, then it can be very jarring. Part of the art of GMing is getting creative while staying within the constraints of the rules as written. If you find yourself breaking the rules a lot, your game is going to suffer as a result.
Tip 4: Say No To Your Friends
While your job is to be the game referee and to maintain story continuity for the players you’re entertaining, you’re also not a door mat. If a player gives you a character background that would start them with a gross advantage, say no. Unless the other Player Characters are millionaires too, they can’t start with a massive fortune. No, they can’t have the magic sword of superdoomkill, it doesn’t matter if their dad gave it to them on their 16th birthday. If your players are smart enough, they won’t need to have a big starting advantage anyways.
These are all common problems that a lot of starting GM’s make. I hope that for those reading this that are thinking of starting their own games get some insight on what makes a great GM. Happy Gaming!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy New Year and A Couple Of Interesting Links
Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! It’s been too long since I’ve posted here, and frankly, I’ve been very lax on posting things here in the first place. So I’m going to try to post at least once every two weeks with SOMETHING. For now, here are a few links to LARP-related articles that I found interesting.
First, an article about The Circle Of Jerk, a concept where only the oldest, most powerful characters get to have any fun, a situation I’m too familiar with, unfortunately.
The other is an essay regarding the lack of LARPs in Japan. A bit wordy, but interesting none the less.
I hope you like the articles, and I’ll be posting something of my own very soon.
How To Win LARP
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!
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!