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Title: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Jake Boone on October 03, 2005, 11:30:29 AM
I began trying to create a reasonable ruleset some time before discovering the Forge (and I wish I'd run across it sooner), however, I had a few preexisting rules-of-thumb to follow while designing:

1) If it's not LARPable, don't try to LARP it (for example, invisibility spells or truth potions).
2) Combat Math is bad (any required numbers should be simple to keep in one's head).
3) In this boffer LARP, emphasis should be on the LARP, not the boffer (a rich roleplaying environment is crucial, and endless critter-killing detracts from that).

PREMISE: Pentarch ("Rule of Five") will be a ruleset for outdoor, multi-day LARP events, incorporating boffer-based combat, resource collection, continuing campaigns, and roleplaying goals and rewards.  Players physically take on the roles of people living in a pseudo-medieval fantasy village, using their wits and skills to survive local politics and occasional violence.

SETTING: Frankly, the world isn't particularly fleshed out at the moment; it's currently "sort of like England just after the Norman invasion, but polytheistic and with magic," but there's nothing sacred about any of that, and I've been creating and discarding setting elements as the ruleset coalesces.  I'd like to avoid the whole "here's a map that Jake thinks is cool, but everyone else thinks is sort of lame" situation if at all possible, but I'm not sure if simply dropping the game into an Ars Magica-esque "alternate Europe" is my solution.

CHARACTERS: I am strongly considering making humans the only PC race (though I'm waffling on that, due to pretty much constant pressure from several friends).  Characters will likely tend toward the "generic fantasy" types; priests, warriors, merchants, thieves, and that sort of thing.  There are no hardcoded classes in Pentarch, however; every character chooses abilities from the same list.

CHARACTER CREATION: Characters are built by allocating 150 points to various Advantages (which cannot be improved) and Skills (which have five levels each).  Advantages cost a flat 10 points, and skills cost 10 X level for each level, so a level 1 skill would cost 10 points, whereas a level 5 skill would cost 150 (10 + 20 + 30 + 40 + 50).  It's sort of complicated, but since all of the number-crunching happens between games, it shouldn't be too tough to deal with.

I'll include a sample skill here, since it'll be easier to point to this while explaining how the skills work.  I'll use Sword, since we'll then have the combat-related stuff out of the way right off the bat:

Sword:
  1. Character may use a sword (2 damage).
  2. Pierce.
  3. All strikes +1 to damage.
  4. Parry.
  5. Slay.

The first level of Sword skill allows the character to use a sword for the listed damage (two points).  This means that when a character with Sword 1 hits someone with a boffer sword, they suffer two points of damage.  This is an "always on" sort of thing; it doesn't require any point expenditure per use  Once the character reaches level three with a weapon, he will inflict one additional point of damage.  Since the majority of characters will be able to suffer only five points of damage before falling, this is a notable difference.

The second, fourth, and fifth levels (in this case, Pierce, Parry, and Slay) are Pool abilities.  The player chooses to spend a point from his Combat Pool to perform any available abilities.

Magical spells are purchased in the same way; each one has five levels, and each level grants access to another effect.  This creates a situation in which lower-level effects are treated as prerequisites to higher level ones.  Like the Combat skills, Magical skills are largely used by spending Pool points; in this case from the Magic Pool.

Finally, we have Trade skills, which again have five levels.  There are two major subgroups of Trade skills: Collection and Production skills.  Collection skills grant the ability to pick up color-coded " resource tags" in the game area and return them to game staff in exchange for "commodity tags."  Production skills use commodity tags and convert them into finished items.  As an example, Bjorn the Woodcutter could collect Wood tags, which he takes to game staff and converts to Lumber tags.  Then Bjorn sells/trades his Lumber tags to Ketil the Carpenter, who converts the Lumber tags into a crossbow.  It's a bit more complicated than that (a character may need commodities of several types to manufacture an object), but that's the gist of it.  And again, Trade Pool is used to perform the conversions.

Pool capacity is determined by the highest single skill in the category.  So if Bjorn's highest Trade skill is Woodcutter (at level 3), his Trade Pool will likewise be 3.  If a character has no skills in a category, his Pool size defaults to 1 (Bjorn's Magic Pool is likely to be 1, for example).  Pools refreshes each sunrise, so the Pool sizes act as an effective limit to the number of skill uses per day.  It's up to the player whether he wants to use up all of his Pool points right away, or to try and space them out.

Characters have upkeep costs; they need to turn in food tags at the end of each game, for example, or their characters begin suffering the effects of malnutrition.  This could potentially lead to nasty surprises for people used to other boffer LARPs; neglecting economic skills in favor of combat can be pretty unpleasant.  If I've done my job correctly, the outflow of money and tags for upkeep, combined with staff control over the number of tags that can be found in-game, should keep the economy from spiralling out of control.

REWARD: The time-honored (and/or hoary) Reward Through Character Advancement is built into Pentarch, though I'd be more than happy to provide meaningful rewards through more interesting mechanics, if I can come up with any.  As it stands, characters get 10 points for each game they play, with small bonuses (say, 5 points or thereabouts) to characters whose factions completed their Faction Goals.

I'm also trying to support a subplots mechanic.  Out in the woods, along with the resource tags, are occasional green Subplot tags.  Any character can pick up one of these and take it back to game staff, who will then run a small subplot for the character.  It may be something like an opportunity to loot a long-forgotten tomb, for example.

I know I'm leaving out tons of stuff, but this post is getting awfully long.  I'll leave it at this for now; feel free to criticize, suggest modifications, ask questions, and otherwise kibbitz at will.

Thanks!

 -- Jake 


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: JonasB on October 03, 2005, 12:25:38 PM
"2) Combat Math is bad."

To me, coming from Sweden, you combat maths seems fairly complicated, but I know you got some absurdly complicated larp systems over there. How do you communicate the ammount of damage you do to the opponent?

I once arrenged a larp where you marked your sword to tell the world you made two points of damage insted of one (the only two alternatives). Today, rules like that would be rare in sweden. Everyone do one damage with one hit...

Is this game supposted to have lots of NPC:s? I guess a game like that would play very differently from our larps, where there could be a one or two true npc:s for several hundred players.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: John Burdick on October 03, 2005, 01:27:04 PM
Jake,

CHARACTERS: I am strongly considering making humans the only PC race (though I'm waffling on that, due to pretty much constant pressure from several friends).  Characters will likely tend toward the "generic fantasy" types; priests, warriors, merchants, thieves, and that sort of thing.  There are no hardcoded classes in Pentarch, however; every character chooses abilities from the same list.

Consider replacing the class labels with actual occupations. Closer to Warhammer roleplaying than to D&D. At the moment I'm thinking "teamster" would be fun.

John


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Jake Boone on October 03, 2005, 07:22:42 PM
JonasB:

Yes, there should be a greater NPC-to-PC ratio in Pentarch.  There are mechanics to help with this, for example, when a character is "offscreen" building items, the player is strongly encouraged to play an NPC during that time.  Damage is done with calls; on the first strike, a player will call out the number of points he inflicts.  Since there's no way to change that number in combat, a single call is generally enough.

John:

I wasn't very clear on this, but there are no classes at all.  Most of the Trade skills have a "career"-style name for flavor purposes (like Woodcutter, Financier, or Footpad), but having, say, Diplomat 3 does not mean or imply that a character is a government official; it may stem from a natural charisma or a silver tongue.  There's nothing keeping any character from branching out as much as he/she wants to.  I do, however, expect that some players, used to D&D and the like, will try to make "pure" spellcasters or warriors, and will miss out on the economic participation that really drives the game.  I'll have to work on explaining this more effectively once the copy writing begins.

 -- Jake


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Andrew Morris on October 03, 2005, 09:30:28 PM
1) If it's not LARPable, don't try to LARP it (for example, invisibility spells or truth potions).
2) Combat Math is bad (any required numbers should be simple to keep in one's head).
3) In this boffer LARP, emphasis should be on the LARP, not the boffer (a rich roleplaying environment is crucial, and endless critter-killing detracts from that).
Design goals -- great! So many people don't even have any, so you're ahead of the game here. Your third goal seems a little undefined, though. Emphasis on "LARP" over "boffer"...hmm. What does that mean, exactly? Character-to-character social interaction is preferred over combat interaction? If so, do you reward social interactions more than combat interactions? For example, do I get a greater reward (mechanics-wise) if I talk my way out of a run-in with bandits or do I get more if I beat them in combat?

I'd like to avoid the whole "here's a map that Jake thinks is cool, but everyone else thinks is sort of lame" situation if at all possible, but I'm not sure if simply dropping the game into an Ars Magica-esque "alternate Europe" is my solution.
Well, if Jake doesn't think it's cool, why would I waste my time playing? Heck, if Jake doesn't think it's flat-out awesome, why would I?

I am strongly considering making humans the only PC race (though I'm waffling on that, due to pretty much constant pressure from several friends).
Is this your game, or theirs? It's your vision, man. Go with what gets you excited. Designing by committee seems like a pretty good way to lose anything that makes your game special.

Finally, we have Trade skills, which again have five levels.  There are two major subgroups of Trade skills: Collection and Production skills.  Collection skills grant the ability to pick up color-coded " resource tags" in the game area and return them to game staff in exchange for "commodity tags."  Production skills use commodity tags and convert them into finished items.  As an example, Bjorn the Woodcutter could collect Wood tags, which he takes to game staff and converts to Lumber tags.  Then Bjorn sells/trades his Lumber tags to Ketil the Carpenter, who converts the Lumber tags into a crossbow.  It's a bit more complicated than that (a character may need commodities of several types to manufacture an object), but that's the gist of it.  And again, Trade Pool is used to perform the conversions.
Err...how does any of this Trade stuff support your design goals? Do you really want to encourage people to go out of game for large chunks of time? Those aren't rhetorical questions, I don't know everything that's on your mind. If you're really trying to simulate a society with its own economy and social hierarchy, this could be a valuable component of the equation. If you're trying to provide a fantastical adventure, well, then this seems like kind of a lead weight.

Characters have upkeep costs; they need to turn in food tags at the end of each game, for example, or their characters begin suffering the effects of malnutrition.  This could potentially lead to nasty surprises for people used to other boffer LARPs; neglecting economic skills in favor of combat can be pretty unpleasant.  If I've done my job correctly, the outflow of money and tags for upkeep, combined with staff control over the number of tags that can be found in-game, should keep the economy from spiralling out of control.
Again, does this support your design goals? Going back to the "creation of a society" thing, this could potentially be another supporting component. Of course, if death is just a minor obstacle (as it is in so many boffer LARPs), this kind of breaks down.

REWARD: The time-honored (and/or hoary) Reward Through Character Advancement is built into Pentarch, though I'd be more than happy to provide meaningful rewards through more interesting mechanics, if I can come up with any.  As it stands, characters get 10 points for each game they play, with small bonuses (say, 5 points or thereabouts) to characters whose factions completed their Faction Goals.
I'm starting to feel like a broken record here, but we go back to the issue of supporting design goals again. This doesn't seem to support anything I read. Do you have other goals not listed. Is this the whole of your reward mechanic? Because, if so, the first and most important thing for the player is to show up. After that, accomplishing faction goals is nice, but definitely secondary. And down at the bottom of the importance scale is....well...everything else, because it doesn't get rewarded.

I'm also trying to support a subplots mechanic.  Out in the woods, along with the resource tags, are occasional green Subplot tags.  Any character can pick up one of these and take it back to game staff, who will then run a small subplot for the character.  It may be something like an opportunity to loot a long-forgotten tomb, for example.
Sounds like that could be a small logistical nightmare -- putting out the cards, recording where they were located, collecting them at the end of the game, etc. Why have an actual, physical card out in the woods instead of a central location where players can go and describe where they're exploring, and then they get handed out cards, if appropriate? I really don't know, my boffer LARP experience is limited to a few games here and there when I was younger.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: JonasB on October 03, 2005, 11:36:33 PM
I think your desing goals could be agreed on by almost all Swedish larp-organisers, but their resulting games differ greatly. I will go through them briefly just to show you a different way of doing it...

1) If it's not LARPable, don't try to LARP it (for example, invisibility spells or truth potions).
- You have to carry out almost everything you want to do for real and in character. If you build a crossbow, do it for real. Eat real food if you are hungry. Magic is kept to a minimum and are mostly ritual and long term with few or no combat spells. There are rules for combat, captivity, posions and sometimes sex. Nothing more.

2) Combat Math is bad (any required numbers should be simple to keep in one's head).
- *No* combat math. Each hit do one damage, after x hits you go down. A "deathblow" is required to kill someone.

3) In this boffer LARP, emphasis should be on the LARP, not the boffer (a rich roleplaying environment is crucial, and endless critter-killing detracts from that).
- There are few or no NPC-critters to kill. If you get killed your character is out for the rest of the game (the game can last up to a week). You get to play another character, but death is still a serious matter. This makes combat very rare.
- Subplots are parts of characters background and all plots are played out between characters. In essence, the entire story is constructed through the characters, and when the game starts the larpwrights have very litte control. They can make sure certain important, game spanning, events happen at the right time, but they do not interfere in character plots.
- You stay in character all the time, even during sleep.
- There is no rewards other than having a good time and the joy of fulfilling your characters personal goals.

I can somewhat understand wanting a more complicated combat system, allowing people not that good at boffer to play a good warrior, and that the setting needs more magic. What I do not get is the tag collection and "crafting" system. It seems to much lika a computer game to me. Is the game supposed to be some abstract representation of a longer timespan? Cutting timber is usually at least a one day project, and making a crossbow is not something a medival warrior would do in an hour between his battles.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Shreyas Sampat on October 04, 2005, 01:29:20 AM
I'm not really sure, actually, what the ability to boffer someone out of the game does for you, other than generate players that get left out of the action and go home unsatisfied. Can you explain a bit?


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: JonasB on October 04, 2005, 02:00:46 AM
Was that a question to me? You must have missed the "You get to play another character, but death is still a serious matter."

The point is, that if you kill someone, they remain dead. Violence and death are powerful concepts and they are cheapened if you simply respawn when you body stops functioning. I guess the difference lies in how you want the game to play. Most Swedish games try to create a plausible fantasy world, and that most often means death is final. This will make combat something rare, but as I said, that is part of the design goals. It is also considered bad form to simply go around and kill people, and characters like that are not allowed. The setting and story are desinged in a way that random killings are unlikely, as they are in reality (how many people are generally killed in a populaton of 500 in a weekend?). The bulk of the combat is usually in the final day of the game, if some of the  major conflicts come to a violent concussion.

Different types of stories, different types of systems. I guess an american larp would never have 50% of the participants play unarmed farmers and craftsmen. That is not unusual over here...


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: JonasB on October 04, 2005, 02:03:55 AM
I would really have liked to edit that... "concussion" is a very unfortunate mistyping of "conclusion".


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: rrr on October 04, 2005, 02:12:54 AM
Hi Jake

I think you've got some good design goals for your LARP system.  I have a few comments regarding the combat system.

It seems to me like you're trying to inject a level of complexity that isn't necessary.  I'm with Jonas on this one.  Why not have each weapon do one point of damage and only ever one point of damage?  The benefits are twofold:

1) Less "combat math".  Whenever you are hit, take one damage.  You don't need to know what you were hit by, who you were hit by or how skilled the attacker was.  Instant and easy.

2)  Any system with additional damage calls / special attacks. immediately starts to suffer from damage call over-load.  Imagine a fight involving more than three or four combatants.  Here's what it will sound like "SINGLE! SINGLE! DOUBLE! PARRY! PARRY! SINGLE! DOUBLE!"  It will sound like a bunch of people yelling damage calls, not a fantasy combat. Not very immersive to my mind.  It kind of breaks any illusion of reality whenever you have a combat call system.  It's not necessary, and it causes more problems than it's worth to my mind.  Keep that kind of thing to a minimum if you can.

I like the trade skills system.  I think it's important to have at least some level of "economy" underlying an ongoing, long term game, and this sounds like a decent start.

Finally I'd query your examples of what is "LARP-able" 

Invisibility is easy:  in the UK it is common that a player or NPC with a hand raised with one finger in the air is "not there"  and should be ignored.  You need to trust your players somewhat, to roleplay the fact that they can't see the individual, but it generally works.  Of course you may find that the idea of people wandering around who aren't supposed to be there breaks the illusion a little for you.  I guess it's more where you draw the line rather than what you can or can't LARP. 

Similarly truth potions work ok.  You get a ref who explains to the player that they are under the influence of a truth potion and therefore they must speak only the truth.  Again you need to trust the players, however it is reasonably easy for the ref crew to find out if someone is cheating and not telling the truth.  In my experience it doesn't happen much, and players who do cheat like this are often banned from the system.

Shreyas:  Why "the ability to boffer someone out of the game"?

Short-ish answer from my perspective:

1) it creates tensions between the players which results in conflict, which results in FUN.
2) "Player Lead Plot" (UK LARP buzz-phrase of last year, basically means leaving the players to roleplay amongst themselves) is often more charged and more exciting than ref organised plot, there is most definitely no linear plot to work through, and no right answer.
3) without the recourse to violence and death, conflicts turn into endless wah wah wah, nothing is resolved, the player's natural inclination to compromise prevents any real drama arising from the situation.
4) without the real threat of character death you lose the FEAR FACTOR.  I find it boring to play in a long term game in which there is no chance of death.  The chance of death gives meaning to in-game bravery, gives weight to in-game actions and gives you the rush of fear in combat which is part of the viseral and immediate appeal of LARP combat as opposed to table-top.

Yes, character death should be final and irreversable.  But it doesn't mean you stop playing. In most (UK) LARP systems you will not be removed from the game upon your character's death.  You usually have two options:  either create a new character immediately, or join the NPC crew for a while.  Personally I like to join the NPC crew for a while then come back into the player side of things when I feel the moment is right.  So most people will not "go home unsatisfied" as it is an acknowledged and normal part of the game.

Drew



Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Graham W on October 04, 2005, 11:56:04 AM
Hi Jake,

I'm very glad you posted this. I'm designing a LARP to the run in the UK at the moment, so this talk helps me.

This looks like a lot of fun. I'm especially pleased that it's a boffer LARP with emphasis on the LARP. Take my enthusiasm for the game for granted.

Here's some questions.

PREMISE: Pentarch ("Rule of Five") will be a ruleset for outdoor, multi-day LARP events, incorporating boffer-based combat, resource collection, continuing campaigns, and roleplaying goals and rewards.  Players physically take on the roles of people living in a pseudo-medieval fantasy village, using their wits and skills to survive local politics and occasional violence.

All right. Here's my problem at the moment.

What do I do when I come to your LARP? Here's what it looks like at the moment. I play my character for a while and talk to people. Then I  wander off looking for tags. I do some trading. But there's no overall reason why I'm doing this, no goal to aim for. Eventually, I go off looking for a subplot tag, so I've got something to do.

Do you see what I mean? There's lots of things I can do, but I don't really have any goals for my character.

And this relates to the premise. Although you've told me what I can do, you haven't told me what the game's about. Is it about trading enough so I don't starve during the winter? Looting dungeons so I can support my family? Trying to become the most respected in local politics?

Quote
Characters have upkeep costs; they need to turn in food tags at the end of each game, for example, or their characters begin suffering the effects of malnutrition.  This could potentially lead to nasty surprises for people used to other boffer LARPs; neglecting economic skills in favor of combat can be pretty unpleasant.

What's the reason for this? Why is food such a factor? It might just become an annoying side-issue that players don't really want to deal with, but they have to because of the rules.

Quote
REWARD: The time-honored (and/or hoary) Reward Through Character Advancement is built into Pentarch, though I'd be more than happy to provide meaningful rewards through more interesting mechanics, if I can come up with any.  As it stands, characters get 10 points for each game they play, with small bonuses (say, 5 points or thereabouts) to characters whose factions completed their Faction Goals.

There's a danger here, I think. The problem is that the regular players get more and more powerful. And then a new player comes in and gets overwhelmed by the old guard.

Can I ask: why do you want character advancement? What's it meant to do? Have you considered a more story-based system of advancement: something like Dogs In The Vineyard, where "advancement" doesn't necessarily mean more powerful skills?

Thanks again for posting, Jake.

Graham


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Jake Boone on October 04, 2005, 10:22:45 PM
Let's see if I can address at least some of the questions in the time I have available this evening:

Andrew:

Yes, I'd like to emphasize social interaction over combat smackage.  Talking your way out of combat with bandits means you're less likely to end up bleeding out in the mud than taking the violence route; I don't currently have any particular mechanical reward for such things (though I'm always open to suggestions).

I won't run a game I don't think is cool.  The tricky part, in my mind, is distinguishing between things I and others think are cool, and things that I alone think are cool.  I prefer the former, obviously.

On your "design by committee" point, yes, you're spot-on.  In my defense, however, I'm not entirely convinced that they're wrong.  While a couple of them apparently want a suite of fantasy-standard races (the elf, the tough one, the cat-one...) - which is not going to happen - there's also the suggestion of adding a PCable "Fae" race, patterned after various European legends.  I'm still unsure whether that would enhance or detract from the game, but I'm not entirely ready to jettison the idea as of yet.

Trade and upkeep will, hopefully, be a relatively simple way to model an economy without bogging down in details.  I do, in fact, want people to go out-of-game for chunks of time, because those same players will be a large percentage of my NPC pool.  While Otto the Blacksmith is making a sword, I can have Otto's player go skulking about the woods as Rudi the NPC Bandit.  To me, this is definitely a feature, rather than a bug.

As far as advancement is concerned, I'm still pretty conflicted about it.  I'd love to have rewards that aren't just for showing up, but it's extra difficult in a LARP, as there are huge portions of the game that take place out of view of the staffers, and I'm worried about ending up with a system that rewards the loudest or most popular players.  I could skew it more heavily toward faction goals, but I don't want factions to be the be-all and end-all of the game; there should still be room for some cross-faction cooperation.  Sometimes.

Putting tags in the woods isn't particularly difficult; all of the real work (numbering the colored popsicle sticks) is done before the game, and collecting them is done along with the final litter patrol (which we need to do if we want to remain welcome at game sites).  The primary reason for it is this: it gets people out of the safety of the village and out into the dangerous woods, which is nice for the risky feel I'm trying for.  I'd like to avoid a problem I saw in another (more monster-fighting-heavy) boffer LARP I played in; it turned out that town was the most dangerous place in the game.  Since nobody had any real reason to venture out into the woods, monsters who wanted to fight PCs had to come into town to do it.  This led to a situation where people who wanted to avoid combat went out into the supposedly monster-infested woods, which were empty, because all of the monsters gravitated toward town.  With a reason for PCs to go traipsing around the woods collecting resources, ambushes, wilderness encounters, etc. are much simpler to arrange.

Jonas:

I need to learn Swedish and go play a couple of LARPs there.  Every time I see anything about the Scandinavian LARP scene, I want to pack my bags and hop a plane.  Would I be right to suspect that there's a lot more Gamism built into LARPs here in the US than in Sweden?

The games do represent an abstract longer period of time; I tend to think of it as "somewhere around a month," but I'm avoiding pinning it down exactly.  So the food tags one gains over a weekend game determine the amount of food one's character eats over that "month," and the amount of lumber one obtains represents the amount of logging done over the same time period.

Shreyas:

Jonas and Drew (rrr) have stated most of my reasons for favoring the boffer combat resolution system; it's immediate, it's scary, and it's fun.  And I do intend to have death be irreversible, and for players to be able to make new characters.

Drew:

You and Jonas have gotten me rethinking my combat stuff.  Originally, I wanted a reason for people to use different weapons; I figured nobody's going to use a two-handed hammer if it carries no advantage over a sword, and that's where the different levels of weapon damage came from.  Any ideas on combatting the "everyone carries a sword" effect?  Or am I imagining a problem where none exists?  Is it really bad if nobody carries anything else?

The economic system is an attempt to address exactly the concern you mention; many (most?) games that have money also have terrible economic self-destruction if they go for a long-term game.  I'm hoping to avoid that effect here.

My examples of unLARPable effects come from personal experience (which, admittedly, is entirely unscientific).  The problem I've had with invisibility effects is this: Ned's character, who we'll call Baron Ned, and Wally's character, who we'll call Lord Wally, are co-conspirators in a plot to overthrow Duke Bob.  Duke Bob's High Wizard turns invisible and skulks into the room where the conspirators are chatting.  Ned and Wally now have a problem; they know they're being observed, even though their characters don't.  Without any intention of cheating, they're likely to either a) not reveal much about the plot, or b) worrying that they're not revealing enough, they end up revealing more about the plot than they'd have actually discussed if unobserved.  Plus, for me at least, it damages suspension of disbelief.

Truth effects are tough, too, because it often ends up with a "D&D Wish" sort of process.  The victim of the effect finds a way to answer the question in a *technically* correct sense, without answering truthfully in the normal sense of the word.  It seems to breed Clintonian "it depends on your definition of 'is'" moments, and I don't think they add enough to the game to warrant the hassle of arguing whether a player was "really" lying or not.  Again, just my opinion.

Graham:

My working motto for the game is "Survival is Its Own Reward."  So I'd like it to be darker and grittier than a standard "elves and faeries" sort of adventure game.  I think your "surviving the winter" is probably closest to what I'm trying for; I want every game to feel like it takes work and risk to do more than barely survive.  I also want to encourage lots of politicking, treachery, and occasional bloody murder, but without turning the game into an overt war between Faction A and Faction B.  That said, I do need to work on hewing out a more defined premise; while I can imagine what *I'd* want to do in such a game, I'm discovering it's rather more difficult to know if everyone *else* would want to do that.

Food is definitely an important factor in the game.  I'm using it for two reasons: first, as a way to keep money flowing out of the economy so as to avoid the Inflation Spiral of Death; secondly, as a way to encourage people to create characters with an economic niche to fill in the village, rather than spending all of their points on optimizing their fighting (though if someone can manage to support themself as a hired sword, more power to them).

The danger of new players getting smacked around by the entrenched veterans has never been far from my mind.  I've tried to make the power difference between a brand new player and a long-term player pretty flat; I want the oldest characters to have reason to fear newbies, and I've done my best to ensure that even the most powerful player can be taken out by a determined one.

If an alternative rears its head, I'm willing to entirely discard the whole experience concept.  Thing is, however, I also want to allow characters to grow over time, and I'm not sure how else allow that and reward people for playing along with their faction.  I (regrettably) don't have the money to purchase a copy of Dogs in the Vineyard at the moment (everything I read about it reminds me that I need to own it someday), so I'm not familiar with its reward system... can you clue me in (or point me to somewhere I can read about it)?

Everyone:

Thanks for the quick (and thorough) responses!  It looks like Premise and Rewards are my biggest sticking points at the moment; let me know if I need to start new threads on those subjects, or if we should just keep it all nice and compact here.

 -- Jake


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: rrr on October 05, 2005, 12:54:10 AM
You and Jonas have gotten me rethinking my combat stuff.  Originally, I wanted a reason for people to use different weapons; I figured nobody's going to use a two-handed hammer if it carries no advantage over a sword, and that's where the different levels of weapon damage came from.  Any ideas on combatting the "everyone carries a sword" effect?  Or am I imagining a problem where none exists?  Is it really bad if nobody carries anything else?

Hey Jake.  You're coming from the point where the difference between weapons is purely based on "game effects" like damage done or type of special attack that can be made.  There are at least two other reasons why everyone won't be carrying a sword:

1) Colour.  Not everyone conceptualises their character as using a sword.  Some people will want to play a character weilding an axe, some will like the idea of a hammer.

2) more importantly there are distinct differences in fighting styles and the real physical benefits of using various different weapons.  These are independent of the amount of damage done and do influence fights considerably.

Examples:

A sword is faster than a comparable axe because the weight is to the hilt, but an axe can be used to attack round a shield more effectively. The haft will be stopped by the rim of the shield but the head will extend beyond that, often dealing a blow.  "Shield wall" warriors in the LARP systems I play in favour axes and hammers for this reason.

Spears and polearms have reach far exceeding that of a sword.  One-on-one a guy with a spear is at an advantage versus a guy with a single sword.

Daggers and short swords are far quicker to use than anything else.  Someone dual-wielding such small weapons is lethal against someone wielding a single sword... they will parry the first blow with one weapon, step in and slice you up on the inside.  Dual wielding daggers is known as the assassins choice.  The amount of damage you can deal in a short time with this technique is scary.

Hope that is of interest.

Drew


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Sven on October 05, 2005, 01:15:54 AM
Jack:

Quote
I need to learn Swedish and go play a couple of LARPs there.  Every time I see anything about the Scandinavian LARP scene, I want to pack my bags and hop a plane.  Would I be right to suspect that there's a lot more Gamism built into LARPs here in the US than in Sweden?

What Jonas describes here is the most common form of LARP here. Apart from that there exist also of course more system heavy games (In particular MET, which is the most system heavy LARP I've ever heard about over here and it's still quite popular. I know that there are much more extreme examples in other countries. A friend of mine recently played in a MET campaign. The GM:s created the games so that almost all mechanics used were used between meetings. All the events were in a haven, so there couldn't be any fighting.)

I must admit I am a bit sceptic about the game you are describing. But it might mainly be  for the reason that I have never been in a boffer larp och really felt the urge to be. I'm quite sure, that I could never enoy a larp were you are supposed to shout you weapon value. That is not a critique, though, I'm just pointing out that some people have that bloc.

What I canšt understand is your approach towards condensed time. I think this a very interesting concept in larps, but I  thinks it' has to be done in a very understandable and direct manner to be playableinstead of confusing. It can be done in really small larps, (below twenty persons) but above that I don't get how you would create a consensus of condensed time among all the players.

If you're interested you should read Jonas two articles about Nordic larp. The second part is here (http://unrealitiesofmine.blogspot.com/2005/09/nordic-lajv-part-ii-others.html).



Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: JonasB on October 05, 2005, 02:58:06 AM
Nice of you to pimp my blog, Sven!

If you want to read about the pinnacle of Nordic fantasy larping, check out the www.dragonbane.org. It is a pan-European fantasy larp in the Nordic tradition. It is probably the most ambitious larp ever created. It will be mainly in English, so start saving your money now :)


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Matt Machell on October 05, 2005, 04:09:44 AM
It's always fascinated me how little little LARP developments are shared. Even within the UK scene there are vastly divergent styles and systems.

With that in mind Jake, I'd suggest trawl around Pagga (http://www.pagga.net/cgi-bin/vBulletin_v3/) for an idea of differing approaches. The LT (http://www.lorientrust.com/realworld/system/rulescontence.htm) is an example of UK practice for large-scale (500+) boffer style, not my favourite system, but it might give you ideas. For smaller scale (100player), I personally play a fair bit of Shards (http://www.shardslrp.com). The more you know about what people have done, the more informed your design can be.

Jonas, could you start a new thread about how Dragonbane is ambitious? From a quick reading of their site it doesn't seem so, it'd be cool to get a handle on what makes it different, and I'd rather not clutter this thread.

-Matt



Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Andrew Morris on October 05, 2005, 06:25:28 AM
Jake, here's a few thoughts I've had reading this thread.

Dogs in the Vineyard is well worth the $22 price tag, and you really need to see the mechanics in action. If you absolutely can't afford it, just search some threads here or look for reviews online, I suppose. It's really hard to explain in text, and easy to understand from observation. I really can't figure out how to apply any of its mechanics to the current discussion, though, so I'll put it aside for now.

On Economy
In my opinion (and it's just that, an opinion, nothing more), creating a "realistic" (whatever that means to you) economy has a good and bad side. The good part is that it does tend to force players to look at things from their character's point of view ("How am I going to survive the winter?"). The bad side is that it can quickly become boring. You may have addressed that by having players take on NPC roles when doing the "dirty work" of their profession, but that's not necessarily an enjoyable option for everyone.

If you are definitely going for it, though, here's what I would do. First, give consistent rewards for trades and the like.

Second, give inconsistent and limited rewards for "adventuring." Think of what the modern-day equivalent of an adventuring party -- mercenaries. Your jobs pay well when you get them, but they're not always there, they're dangerous, and you don't always get paid what you expected (or anything at all, sometimes). On average, you make less than someone with a regular 9-to-5 job.

Third, and you seem to have addressed this at least somewhat, you need a way to drain the economy. Food is one way, taxes are another, and I'm sure there are many others that I can't think of at the moment. It might be easier and more palatable to simply go with an "upkeep" cost based on the character's profession.

Fourth, make sure money is represented by actual in-game currency, so that it can be stolen.

Put all of that together, and you'll have characters scrimping and saving, stealing from and mugging each other, and some folks willing to gamble their lives hoping for that big payday that lets them settle down in luxury.

On Advancement and Survival
You say you want your characters to "grow" over time, but that's horribly undefined, and can cover a huge range of possibilities. By "grow" do you mean have increased in-game effectiveness? Do you mean have more affect on the game storyline? Do you mean they develop complicated and often unpleasant relationships with other characters? You get the idea.

The thing of it is, no matter what method you use, if you define "growth" as increased effectiveness, you will always have the situation of long-time players who are more powerful than new players. So, either accept it and move on, try to limit it mechanically, or do something else entirely.

Again, I have a few ideas for your consideration on the topic.

First, you could simply get rid of the concept of XP in the traditional sense. Advancement comes from depth of character and in-game relationships. As you said, survival is its own reward, and if you want to focus on that, why reward anything else? Any development happens naturally (e.g. a swordsman gets more familiar with the dangers of the area and gets real practice in his skill, a lumberjack finds that great logging area, etc.).

Second, you could go with increased effectiveness, but have it come at a price. You want to become super-master-swordsman? Great, but you also accumulate penalties from all the injuries you've received in perfecting your art. You want to be uber-elite-sorcerer-guy? No problem, but you're constantly haunted by spirits and your body is withered from your unnatural practice. See where I'm going with this?

As a more general note, any time you reward something, you are saying to the players, "This is important. Make sure you do this as much as possible."


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Simon Marks on October 05, 2005, 06:51:31 AM
Fourth, make sure money is represented by actual in-game currency, so that it can be stolen.

You back up all your other suggestions with good reasons, yet assume that this is a given. Why?

As a counterpoint, no LRP system has had an effective justice system that I have come across (due to the dullness and length of time to play police) and the extended periods of unplayed "downtime" lead it to being tricky to implement.

Without a Justice System, criminal activities do not have the 'balanced' approach that even reality has (in LRP, like in MMORPGs, the police are never going to kick down your door whilst you sleep in your bed 3 weeks later. Generally if you get away with it at the time, you don't get caught)

Anyhow, the issues surrounding Theft of items is a mindfield, so I again ask "Why is it vital that currency be PhysRepped and stealable? What does this add? Why does it appear to be a given?"


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Andrew Morris on October 05, 2005, 07:45:56 AM
Okay, that's a fair criticism, Simon. I don't assume this as a given, I put it forward as part of my suggested system, designed to focus the game on making the economy a significant factor in play. The reason I do so is that making money stealable gives it more value as a tool to drive interaction. It makes being a thug or extortionist playable. If you're a rich merchant, there are no friendly, FDIC insured banks to entrust your wealth to. You have to hire guards (who are players). If a farmer's money is stolen, the victim might ask for help from more physically inclined characters (who are players). If it's a physical representation rather than a number on piece of paper, it makes it easier to toss over your belt pouch to a mugger, and have the pouch tucked in your belt overlooked. It also adds to the immersion of the event.

As to the issue of a justice system not being present....err....so what? While I'm no expert on the subject, most medieval villages didn't have anything even remotely similar to a police force. The regional court was often some distance away, and it was up to the populace to police themselves more often then not. Vigilante justice was the standard practice, and widely accepted. Large towns might have a volunteer citizen watch, and cities might have a military presence that doubled as a police force. Now, obviously, a fantasy world could have whatever justice system the creator wanted, but most games base such things off medieval Europe, when trial by combat was still a legally accepted practice.

To be honest, the only advantage that I see to not having money physically represented in the game is a logistical one -- it costs real-life money for the props, which can be avoided if money has no in-game representation. Is there some reason why you think it's better not to represent currency in game, or were you just curious about my reasoning?


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: JonasB on October 05, 2005, 08:31:06 AM
Jonas, could you start a new thread about how Dragonbane is ambitious? From a quick reading of their site it doesn't seem so, it'd be cool to get a handle on what makes it different, and I'd rather not clutter this thread.

I have made one here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17120.0).


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Lig on October 05, 2005, 02:01:11 PM
I think you've got some nice ideas there, particularly considering the complex systems that seem to be so common in the US.

I'm a UK larper, mainly playing large "boffer" larps (not that we ever use that term) - the main one I play at present is Maelstrom (http://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/), which is of the player-led style that was described earlier.

I'm also one of the organisers for a near-future airsoft larp, called N-E-X-U-S (http://forums.n-e-x-u-s.org/index.php?), which currently has around 60 participants, but we expect to have a lot more by the end of next year.

Anyway, now that I've pimped myself, I'll get to the point. The things that set me thinking were economy and justice.

Firstly, justice. Most larps in the UK, certainly the larger ones (which are usually called "fests") have the players living in a large and very dynamic world, which renders them quite small, and rather impotent. Maelstrom deals with this quite well, by having the players as colonists of the New World - which is a long way from the established order in the Known World - and the leaders in the New World are players. The Known World has little effect on the game. Still, the problem exists.

In my opinion, the problem is due to the social equilibrium of the larp, which is more often than not pre-specified, or set by the NPCs. Almost every larp I have played has suffered from this. The way round it is to put the players in a position where they are the ones creating the social equilibrium - like I say, Maelstrom does this to an extent, but such a large scale (about 800) means that the equilibrium is at best punctuated.

The way we deal with this in N-E-X-U-S is by making the game intensely local, and giving the player characters ownership of the IC location (in this case, a settlement). Within a year, they've set up a local council, and have a very active defence force, as well as numerous other trade organisations. The larp is "character-driven (http://www.pagga.net/wiki/index.php?pagename=Story%20Matrix)" which is a term that descends from "player-led" but is a lot more useful. In effect, the players have created their own community, and set about policing it (although with lots of arguments and suchlike).

My point, anyway, is that if you're planning to set it in a village, let the players be the ones to set up a government - maybe the king has insisted that a new village be established next to [insert place of evil], or possibly the first event begins with the death of the local leader, and the corresponding grabbing for power. That way, the players will have a sense of ownership, and a vested interested in the stability of the village, and therefore a desire to see some semblance of order in place, even if it's only to keep them in power.

The second thing was economy. I think you're very right to have one, but you really need to do it well, or interaction in the game will quickly get crap, as the money will all gravitate towards the rich (this is good if it happens a little, and bad if it happens a lot - eg. if I start with 5 coins, and hyperinflation pushes the price of a sword to 1000 coins then I'm unable to get involved with the economy legitimately).

I definately suggest that you lose the time-delay thing, and also the requirement for players to stop playing so that their character can make something. People turn up to an event for hours or days of playing their character - making NPCing a mandatory part of playing an artisan is, to me, at odds with that. Also, it's very important that you realise that your PCs are far more valuable to interaction than NPCs, and anything that discourages them from playing their character will damage the larp. PCs are long-running characters, and have a whole web of interactions and relationships that no NPC can hope to match, if they're a short-running character.

But, fundamentally, you've got the idea right - there should be a means to make stuff, and there should be a cycle rate for wealth in the game. What I would recommend is that you have a "downtime" system - this sorts out your crafting rules and your skill progression. The downtime represents the time between events, when you do the really dull stuff, like digging up turnips, or carving holy icons, or practicing your skills for weeks on end. Leaving the event for the really fast-paced stuff, and also leaving characters in a position where they can't just leave the game to make whatever they need, but instead, must sigh dramatically and wish they'd made one during the last downtime - this way, they are forced to go and find a character who has one, and beg/buy/steal it. Thus, plently of interaction between characters, rather than losing a character from the game.

It runs deeper though - suddenly, I need to have a hard think about the help I need to arrange at the event, to facilitate my downtime. For example, finding a teach to speed up skill learning, or finding contributors to help research that new ritual scroll - you actually get a service (or tertiary) economy appearing as a property of the mechanics (in addition to what the players would develop on their own, like guard and courier work). If you think as uptime/downtime as an ongoing cycle, each supports the other, with, of course, the uptime events the main focus of the action.

The other nice thing is that I have to make hard choices - do I improve my Cheesemaking, or do I make some Enchanted Brie? Therefore, old characters aren't automatically more powerful, or richer. They might be one or the other, but probably not both. And, if the downtime system supports group-based actions, new characters are sought after by the old hands, because they need all the help they can get for their research.

Oh, I'm drifting off the subject, aren't I? Sorry. Back to the economy - I'd recommend that you have plenty of one-use items in the game, so that time, skills and resources are needed to make them, and when the item is consumed, not only the item is in demand, but also the time, skills and resources to make it. This way, characters can have quite "powerful" items, without risk of "unbalancing" the game (whatever that means), and also links them into the economy, whether they like it or not. As someone has said, this could concievably be boring, but if you're bored by walking around talking to other characters, you're best avoiding larps that focus on anything but combat.

It shouldn't be hard to come up with lots of one-use items for the game - some things, like weapons and armour, are not really acceptable, but enchantments on those items are. Thinking of having spell points for each character? Why not make them find/make/buy mana stones, or whatever - magic becomes more effort, and requires more thought, because your spell points don't just reappear each event/each morning; rather you have to interact to obtain them. And I think that interaction should always come *before* mechanics - quite literally, in this case. You could also have one use spell scrolls, potions and herbs (a good one to put in the woods, as an incentive to go out there).

Which leads me to the nature of mechanical "power" itself, and the matter of stealing. As I understand it, there are two types of power in a larp - static and dynamic. Static powers are things like skills and character-based spell points. They belong to that character, and no-one else can take them from them, therefore removing them as a tangible objective for other characters. Dynamic powers are things like item-based spell points, and artisan's tools, which can be traded/stolen/borrowed/whatever, and provide a wealth of tangible objectives for other characters to pursue. In most games, you get a mix, but the focus is usually on static powers, which are usually only improved between games, making "power" something to be pursued out of character, rather than at the event.

As a new character, I can, potentially, gain quite a lot of dynamic power at my first event, despite lacking skills and a network of supporting characters. But, if I can't steal, then what were dynamic powers suddenly become static, and I might as well ignore the noble altogether, because he has lots of "power", and I have none, and I have no means of changing that balance short of killing him - but even then, I won't gain any "power" from him - it will cease to exist, or pass to his IC mates.

Items can also be potent interaction-generators - money being a perfect example, as, in most larps, it can be used to aquire goods and services of any kind, but only if people first interact to aquire it, and then interact to use it. For this reason money is desirable, and is perhaps the most tangible of tangible objectives. Another example would be a powerful item, such as (in N-E-X-U-S) a stun baton, which allows the owner to do great things, but also makes them a target for every ruffian in a 10 mile radius. Thus, the power is as much a curse as a blessing, and you'll end up spending more time protecting it than using it.

Something that you might find useful is Ryan Paddy's Encouraging Emergent Stories (http://www.pagga.net/wiki/index.php?pagename=Encouraging%20Emergent%20Stories), which also has a couple of notes from me. Fundamentally it comes down to the fact that emergent "stories" will appear, and so you're far better to encourage than discourage them - but don't be upset if the players then ignore your plot, because theirs is more interesting...*smiley*

That was a long one.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Simon Marks on October 05, 2005, 02:07:03 PM
As to the issue of a justice system not being present....err....so what? While I'm no expert on the subject, most medieval villages didn't have anything even remotely similar to a police force. The regional court was often some distance away, and it was up to the populace to police themselves more often then not. Vigilante justice was the standard practice, and widely accepted. Large towns might have a volunteer citizen watch, and cities might have a military presence that doubled as a police force. Now, obviously, a fantasy world could have whatever justice system the creator wanted, but most games base such things off medieval Europe, when trial by combat was still a legally accepted practice.

The Justice System involved in living in a medieval peasent village is just that - you live there.

In LRP events, its (at most) 1-2 days at a time, and mostly this means the downside of being a thug and extortionist (a small village can only support 1-2 of them, and these people tend to be end up dead in a ditch because people get fed up of them after a few months) is lost. And you end up rewarding Thugs and Extortionists out of all regard to the system (stealing people's money is more fun than earning it, and you get more of it).

Without a justice system to balance these out, it tends to make the 'cash cows' really bitter and often end up leaving.

To be honest, the only advantage that I see to not having money physically represented in the game is a logistical one -- it costs real-life money for the props, which can be avoided if money has no in-game representation. Is there some reason why you think it's better not to represent currency in game, or were you just curious about my reasoning?

Hmm, I was curious as to why you think there should be an IC currency. In addition, there are other advantages.
Quote

It's really hard to get 'real coins' out of the hands of players even if the characters should spend it. Example, Character A dies, but Joe the player still has the coins. Is Joe a good boy and hands back his coins? Or does he simply say "Well looky! My Character B is a little richer!"

My suggestion. Bank Notes.
Cheap and easy to produce and you can drain money out of the systems by enforcing character expenditure of money.

Consider this a Warning from the Lorien Trust. This system has been running for 14 years now, with the average player currently gaining 2-4 gold a year.
There are on average 2,000-3,000 players at any one time.

The LT has relased 10,000 gold coins into the system, and it's bank has another 90,000 gold on it's accounts.

Money MUST flow out of the system as fast as it goes in. Basic issue of economics. In something like this, the easiest way is to not give the players permanent phys-rep.

Bank notes, easily controllable and easily made.

Finally - Hi Lig (more than a few of us UK Lrpers here now) - but I disagree with you on the stealing issue.

Transferal of Dynamic resources (currency) is vital, you are right.

But I'm of the opinion that this transferal is best done via social interaction rather than 'boffertastic' combat.

In other words, allow people to give currency - but not to take it. Then you get threats of violence, begging, persuasion and all that.
But if you can steal it, that rewards combat. Which isn't what is wanted.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Andrew Morris on October 05, 2005, 07:53:30 PM
Quote from: Simon Marks
Without a justice system to balance these out, it tends to make the 'cash cows' really bitter and often end up leaving.
Well, if the designer of a game thinks this a problem, then yeah. Personally, I'd rather not game with someone who was so bitter about an in-game interaction. While my experience with boffer LARPs is very limited, I played an alchemist in one game (the best trade for making money). Did that make me a target for theft? Sure, and that was cool. I hired guards, giviing the fighter-types something to do when they weren't chasing monsters. At night I got drunk and wandered around throwing coins at people, hoping someone would take the bait and mug me. Then I could do neat things like hire a posse to track down the thief and get revenge, and stuff like that.

Quote from: Simon Marks
It's really hard to get 'real coins' out of the hands of players even if the characters should spend it. Example, Character A dies, but Joe the player still has the coins. Is Joe a good boy and hands back his coins? Or does he simply say "Well looky! My Character B is a little richer!"
Well, anyone can cheat in a game if they want to, but why would the rules need to be constructed to cut out the chances that they have an opportunity to do so? I mean, you could ignore hits in combat if you felt like it, but then you'd be making the game less fun for everyone. I think such situations should just be handled socially -- "Hey cheater! You're a jerk, and we don't want to see you around here anymore. Beat it."

Quote from: Simon Marks
In other words, allow people to give currency - but not to take it. Then you get threats of violence, begging, persuasion and all that.
But if you can steal it, that rewards combat. Which isn't what is wanted.
I'm not sure what you're saying here. How does stealing reward combat?


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Simon Marks on October 06, 2005, 01:32:36 AM
Quote from: Simon Marks
In other words, allow people to give currency - but not to take it. Then you get threats of violence, begging, persuasion and all that.
But if you can steal it, that rewards combat. Which isn't what is wanted.
I'm not sure what you're saying here. How does stealing reward combat?

I hit you.
I get money.
Thus I have a reward for hitting you.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Lig on October 06, 2005, 06:35:43 AM
Hello Simon. It's your fault that I'm here, actually...

Quote
But I'm of the opinion that this transferal is best done via social interaction rather than 'boffertastic' combat.

I see what you mean; I was thinking more about theft from tents and suchlike, although lethal mugging is clearly an option. In a situation where there is a justice system, like you say, it works quite nicely, because there is a balance between the easy access to resources by stealing, and the threat of being caught.

I would question, though, how players can establish a justice system (assuming that only a player-based justice system is going to be harsh enough), if they never have any significant  threats to their wealth - after all, it is need that forces development, both technologically, and socially.

Perhaps one way to deal with it is to have more of a class* system in the game - eg. serfs, freemen and nobility - it would only be serfs and freemen that would really gain from large-scale theft, as the nobility would already be quite rich. But the serfs and freemen would have a hard time doing anything with it, because any legitimate trader would question where they got it from.

Of course, there would likely be illegitimate traders, who don't care about the law, but that then means that you've got a black market economy, which should be healthy for the larp, and also gives the local lawmakers something to fight against - far easier to strike at an underground economy than it is to strike at scattered individuals.

* In the British society sense of the word


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Andrew Morris on October 06, 2005, 08:36:21 AM
Simon, I was thinking more about deception and pickpocketing than thuggery, but I don't see a problem either way. Like I said, they inspire character interaction (e.g. hiring guards, mob justice, etc.). Even negative or violent interactions between characters are interesting and potentially fun.

Also, the reward for such actions is not so clear-cut. In my mind, the benefit to risk ratio is balanced -- you have the choice to attempt to mug someone, sure. First, you have the uncertainty of failing in the attempt. Second, you have the uncertainty of your actions becoming known and losing social standing. Third, the guy you mug might not even have any money, and you've taken the risk for nothing. You're taking a significant risk for an uncertain gain. You might make out, but it's a gamble. Plus, like Lig says, having a stealable currency gives the players the drive to create their own justice system, which is also neat -- more character interactions.

In the end, it might just break down to us having different ideas of what's cool and fun and what's not. Personally, unstealable currency seems game-breakingly lame to me. A large LARP is going to be nearly (if not completely) impossible to focus on one defined set of options and choices. Restricting the player's choice in this way seems definitely un-fun to me (not that I'm opposed to restricting player choice in general, just in this specific case). Or it might be that one or both of us are not accurately predicting the results of stealable/unstealable currency -- playtesting might be needed.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Jake Boone on October 06, 2005, 12:40:17 PM
I'll start by thanking Jonas, Sven, Matt, and Lig for the links... I spent most of yesterday reading them, and I'm glad I did.  Pagga's Wiki has been particularly useful as a companion piece to the glossary here on the Forge, and that Dragonbane link will keep me humble for a good long time (how in the world do you get corporate sponsors for a LARP?!).

ON COMBAT:

Drew and others have convinced me.  I'll be stripping out the differing weapon damage and, therefore, the majority of combat calls.   From now on, one hit equals one damage.  For now, at least, I'm planning to keep calls for disarm, pierce, parry, and other effects of that sort, as characters are strictly limited on the number of those they can perform.  This should help make the game more interesting for people like Sven, who are turned off by damage calls.  I know I'll like it better, at least.

ON TIME:

I think the players won't mind the condensed time issue too much, especially if I reframe the issue to me more of a "time passes, but we extrapolate how much food/money/trade goods your character gets throughout the intervening time based on what you get during the game."  The mechanics will be identical, but perhaps it won't weird people out as much.  I agree that the crafting of items could reasonably be performed during the between-game periods without burdening the players with it during runtime, but then I have to carefully consider how I'm going to run a game with a very limited number of NPCs.  I'm not saying it can't be done; I just have to restructure my thinking away from the "limitless streams of NPCs to do my bidding" ideas I had before.

ON COINAGE:

I'm definitely going to have stealable coins for the game.  They add a lot to the flavor, and add yet another way to get money out of the game.  If Joe the Player cheats by transferring money to his next player, well, he's cheating.  Since the players won't be allowed to take coinage home with them between games (game-end procedures involve turning in all game items, which will be reissued at the next game), we'll have a pretty good idea whether or not this sort of thing is going on.  But at some point, I have to accept that I won't be able to make a "cheat-proof" game.

As far as "bank notes" are concerned, yes, I'll probably have something like that for larger sums, but not for most day-to-day transactions.  However, I do plan to have two types of money created, so that when and if things *do* get out of hand, I can have a monetary debasement plot waiting in the wings, ending with a changeover to new currency following the crash of the old.  This should allow a "reset" of an overpowered economy while preserving at least a thin veneer of in-game plausibility.

Andrew and Lig, your economic ideas are exactly where I wantto go with this game.  I really, really like the "mages have to scrounge for power" aspect of Lig's post, and I think it's better than anything I'd come up with.  I want to explore this idea further: what other Static things can I turn into Dynamic ones?  The Static v. Dynamic Power concept was a new one to me, and is sparking all manner of new ideas.

ON JUSTICE:

I expect the players to come up with a justice system largely on their own; with penalties for starvation, upkeep requirements, and the like, the PCs will have a real economic incentive to provide for some sort of law enforcement.  Thieves, in my LARP experience, aren't generally a problem (though my experience may be atypical).  Many will eventually be caught as they get careless, unlucky, or simply outwitted by someone who's getting paid to catch them (whether as paid police or as a freelance bounty hunter), while a few will do well for themselves.  Simon makes an excellent point; I don't want to drive off the "cash cows."  But overall, I'm with Andrew on this issue: muggings are good for a game.  I'll keep a close watch to ensure things don't get out of hand, but I think the PC base will manage to deal with any problems like this on their own.


Now, of course, I wonder: what other sins of US LARPing am I unwittingly carrying over into my game?  It's amazing how "natural" calling damage feels when that's the only way of doing things you've seen.  Likewise, perhaps there's a better way of performing magic than by throwing little packets of birdseed-filled cloth at people.  Something more... stately, maybe.  I also think I need to codify my design goals more firmly (using firmer terminology), so as to better weigh whether a given mechanic is helping or hindering my efforts.  Once more, thanks to everyone for the great ideas you're throwing out on this thread; I'd tell you they're worth their weight in gold if, you know, they weighed anything.

 -- Jake


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Andrew Morris on October 06, 2005, 01:11:58 PM
Quote from: Jake Boone
I also think I need to codify my design goals more firmly (using firmer terminology), so as to better weigh whether a given mechanic is helping or hindering my efforts.
That's never a bad idea, no matter what you're designing (LARP, table-top RPG, orbital telescope, etc.). And, honestly, whether or not something supports the design goals or not is the only useful judge when analyzing a game, as far as I can figure.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Lig on October 06, 2005, 01:55:49 PM
Now, of course, I wonder: what other sins of US LARPing am I unwittingly carrying over into my game?  It's amazing how "natural" calling damage feels when that's the only way of doing things you've seen.  Likewise, perhaps there's a better way of performing magic than by throwing little packets of birdseed-filled cloth at people.  Something more... stately, maybe.  I also think I need to codify my design goals more firmly (using firmer terminology), so as to better weigh whether a given mechanic is helping or hindering my efforts.  Once more, thanks to everyone for the great ideas you're throwing out on this thread; I'd tell you they're worth their weight in gold if, you know, they weighed anything.

They're not exactly sins, but they are holdovers from a very early era of larp design (or lack thereof). I always find it interesting to see the different styles in different parts of the world, and the different focus for design, even when using the same elements. For example, while the Scandanavians seem to rejecting mechanics almost entirely, in the UK, they're becoming less obtrusive, and often used to force interaction, instead of governing the roleplay.

Being so large, and spread out, the US larp "community" doesn't seem to have a lot of communication, and so people are learning from their local larp, or worse, from a huge franchise like NERO. Forums like this one, and also Shade's Larplist (http://www.larplist.com) and Pagga (http://www.pagga.net) (which is, b' the way, a Cumbrian word meaning "fight") are the best way round the problem, as you're seeing. Not only can we learn from people in our own countries, but also from people outside - and the further away they are, the more radical the differences in style.

Oh, if you want something heavier, look up the Scandanavian Knudpunkt (sp?) convention, which has published three journals so far, at least two of which are available as PDFs. I've got them on my computer, but I can't find the webpages they came from. Sorry.

For magic, there are several ways around the problem. The first is to throw away all those old D&D ideas about spell casting. The D&D style has absolutely no mysticism or mystery to it - it's just science by other means. It's also not that suitable for larp, because only a few effects are "larpable", as you've defined it.

Some possibilities include:
> Ritual only magic - we were going to use a ritual-only system for Sunlight (http://www.sunlightlarp.org.uk/), which has, unfortunately been cancelled (due to my mismanagement, so take what I say with a pinch of salt), and it might be worth glancing at that - it's designed to need minimal reffing, but allow for power effects being cast remotely. In any case, rituals can be great fun, with plenty of time to explain the effect you're casting, in IC terms, and also makes it more about roleplay - plus, rituals might need guarding, to prevent them being disrupted, so it actually makes the mage require a wider range of support. You could also have stuff like having a ritual to summon a demon, who does the actual effect for you, if you ask real nice. A good example of that can be found in The Grand Design (http://www.granddesign.org.uk/index.html), which is an excellent small UK larp.

> Words of power - the only magic that works at range could be words of power - so you're not casting a lightning bolt that no-one can see, and the words used to cast the power are completely IC.

> Touch magic - keep magic touch-based, so that the spells can be quite complex (the caster can whisper the effect to the target), but don't intrude on anyone elses immersion.

> Chants - the caster chants to provide protection to them or others

> Magic only cast on self - this way, you can do anything, and it will only ever need to be known by the caster. We were going to use this for faith "magic" in Sunlight, to raise the theme of the validity of religion - the question being whether or not gods were real, if only the devout were able to experience "proof" of their existence.

> Alchemy and Enchantment - lots of options here - you can do some fantastically involved effects by using tear-open "lammies" (lamminated cards) or just a piece of card folded over with the edges glued. The lammie has all the ingame effects written on the inside. This means that you don't need a referee to implement potion and magic item effects, but the player can't see the effect until they tear open the lammie. For example, in N-E-X-U-S, we have some ingame narcotics, with a stat bonus which lasts for two hours, followed a huge disadvantage for the rest of the event, unless you take more (to facilitate addiction). Because of the tear-open lammies, we were able to introduce these new items without even mentioning it to the players - all the OC crap was contained on the cards. The same applies for enchanted items, if they are single use, and, indeed, anything else that is used only once.

You can, of course, use any or all of these at the same time, which can give a lot of depth to the larp - particularly if there are several ways to achieve the same effect - and allow for several different types of magic user, all competing for limited magical resources; each advantaged and disadvantaged in their own ways.

Or, you could have no magic altogether. Or you could reconceptualise magic completely, and come up with something totally new. You'll have to figure that out on your own, though.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Merten on October 06, 2005, 09:50:33 PM
Oh, if you want something heavier, look up the Scandanavian Knudpunkt (sp?) convention, which has published three journals so far, at least two of which are available as PDFs. I've got them on my computer, but I can't find the webpages they came from. Sorry.

Beyond Role and Play (http://www.ropecon.fi/brap/)
As Larp grows up (http://www.laivforum.dk/kp03_book/)

Jake:

I haven't yet had time to digest everything in this thread, but I'd be intrested to know what's happening in the LARP(s). What's the theme, how the characters are made, is it going to be entirely player/character-driven (players make the characters, decide their goals and stuff, etc), how much combat do you expect the game will have and will happen only when characters initiate it and so on. I don't really want to challenge your plans, but my knowledge of US-based fantasy LARPs is really limited.

As someone said, the Scandinavian viewpoint on resolution mechanics can be quite limited, since we don't really have a lot of them. So you can quite safely bet on the fact that we usually advice on not having a lot of them, even if - taking in account what your players are used to and want to do - it doesen't really make sense.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Graham W on October 07, 2005, 04:02:59 AM
ON COMBAT:

Drew and others have convinced me.† I'll be stripping out the differing weapon damage and, therefore, the majority of combat calls.† †From now on, one hit equals one damage.† For now, at least, I'm planning to keep calls for disarm, pierce, parry, and other effects of that sort, as characters are strictly limited on the number of those they can perform.† This should help make the game more interesting for people like Sven, who are turned off by damage calls.† I know I'll like it better, at least.

Jake, if you don't mind me saying...

I'm not quite sure what you want out of your combat system. So far, you've said, it shouldn't be too complicated. Which is great. But what should combat be about? Is it about dueling for honor, about the gritty realities of being hit in the stomach with a sword, about epic confrontations?

The reason I recommended Dogs in the Vineyard was that it has a combat system which is a. Fun and b. Pushes play in a very particular direction. It does all of these, in fact:

a. Pushes players to get more violent as the combat progresses. (If you can't win with fists, pull a gun. That'll shut them up.)
b. Causes moral dilemmas for the players
c. Moves the story forward while the combat is happening
d. Encourages players to get involved in life or death situations (because taking "damage" in a combat can actually be used to improve your character. And, if you die, you get to reroll a new character straight away, with the same amount of dice as your old character).

(That's all a vast simplification and bastardisation of the DitV system, of course).

And the great thing is that it's the rules that push the combat in this direction.

So, could you have some specific design goals, and then write the combat rules to reinforce those goals? For example, if you want the game to be about the struggle for survival, you could introduce penalties for characters who haven't eaten for days. If you wanted a game about the fear of mortality, you could say that, when someone's hit with a sword, they draw a random card with an injury on it ("You've been hit in the stomach. You're reduced to 1 food ration a day." or "You've been hit in the leg. Roleplay moving slowly with a limp"). Or something.

Does that make sense? You can still have a combat system that's simple but that gives the combat the flavour you want.

Graham


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Simon Marks on October 07, 2005, 04:32:41 AM
In the end, it might just break down to us having different ideas of what's cool and fun and what's not. Personally, unstealable currency seems game-breakingly lame to me. A large LARP is going to be nearly (if not completely) impossible to focus on one defined set of options and choices. Restricting the player's choice in this way seems definitely un-fun to me (not that I'm opposed to restricting player choice in general, just in this specific case). Or it might be that one or both of us are not accurately predicting the results of stealable/unstealable currency -- playtesting might be needed.

I'm not so much suggesting an Unstealable Currency, my mind was wandering off onto another tangent.

Instead, as a suggestion, Sources of Income become more important than actual Currency.

So, instead of "By the end of the game you must have 3 food, 3 water, and 300 coins or you have these problems" you instead say "By the end of the game, you must have or have access to 1 source of food, 1 source of water, 1 source of income"

You can steal money, but it's only a short term boost. In the long term, you have to earn it.

This emphasises interaction and co-dependancy within the players and significantly downplays any ability to 'murder your way through life'

It enforces a society, includes it's own moderation system and allows for more stability. And killing people is bad for everyone (you loose a potential source of resources)

Finally, to ensure (if you wish) that you can remain a bandit, then allow that to be an option. Just put it into the rules.

The obssession with actual coin is (I find) a holdover from Dungeon Crawling. I'm just suggesting that there are always alternatives - and this is one of them. I think that it suits one of the primary design goals (prioritising social interaction over combat) without detriment to the feel of the system.

Still, I could be wrong.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: Lig on October 07, 2005, 08:04:00 AM
Quote
The obssession with actual coin is (I find) a holdover from Dungeon Crawling. I'm just suggesting that there are always alternatives - and this is one of them. I think that it suits one of the primary design goals (prioritising social interaction over combat) without detriment to the feel of the system.

See, I've always thought that having coins is an effort to model commerce as it's found in the real world. It's only when the coins are of little use, and are in fact abstract "gold stars for effort", that it's a holdover from dungeon crawling. And I'm certain that the real world had coins before D&D used them...

There are alternatives, certainly, but they are quite abstract, and would require more processing than an economy that is already entirely within the hands of the characters.


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: daHob on October 14, 2005, 02:23:01 PM
Hi Jake!

I wish I had known abou this place a few years ago. I would have been putting up a post similar to yours. I have gone through the process of designing a boffer combat LARP from scratch. Unfortunately, it died a terrible death after the co-founder lost his job and had to move out of state. So much work, so much fun. The rules are here http://www.thehighborn.com/Published%20Rulebook%20v3.htm if you'd like to take a look. Feel free to steal liberally, we did.

One of the things I learned from the experience was you really need to know what you want in a game. I think you've got a great start in your design goals. You need to put yourself in the place of the player and figure out what you want thier play experience to be. When you have that set, examine all your mechanics and make sure they support your goals in play. Then go back and re-examine stuff you thought was fixed in stone (i.e. do you really need boffer combat to meet your goals? experience? character stats?). We went through about 4 different character systems before we settled on the final one.

Once you are clear on what you want, it's important to communicate it to your players (and potential players). This thread is a great example. You said LARP and people responded with several very distinct playing styles. A ton of work goes into running a LARP. You are far more likely to be successful (defined as everyone, including the staff, having fun) if everyone is on the same page as to what the game is about.

I have some concerns about the PVP. You seem to be sending mixed signals. You are putting a lot of emphasis on stuff, have no established in game legal authority, and a pretty harsh death penalty, but make entry level characters powerful. The rules setup favors a player who comes in to rob, murder and steal for stuff. If he gets killed off he just rolls a new guy and starts again.  However, you seem like you want to discourage that. We had a real delimna with that. Any ideas on how to allow players to pk and steal but not to the point that is becomes the focus of the game?

Hob


Title: Re: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design
Post by: daHob on October 14, 2005, 02:29:53 PM
Quote
The obssession with actual coin is (I find) a holdover from Dungeon Crawling. I'm just suggesting that there are always alternatives - and this is one of them. I think that it suits one of the primary design goals (prioritising social interaction over combat) without detriment to the feel of the system.

See, I've always thought that having coins is an effort to model commerce as it's found in the real world. It's only when the coins are of little use, and are in fact abstract "gold stars for effort", that it's a holdover from dungeon crawling. And I'm certain that the real world had coins before D&D used them...

There are alternatives, certainly, but they are quite abstract, and would require more processing than an economy that is already entirely within the hands of the characters.

We used money as a form of limited character advancement. Coins were directly fuel for the crafting system. The crafting system allowed players to add temporary abilities to their characters (typically for a day or for a limited number of uses). So, it's sort of like getting to add points to your character sheet, but only for a little while. However, our game was kind of high action. Sort of a MMORPG in the woods. Might not work for your game.

Hob