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LARP and GNS: Narrativist techniques?

Started by xiombarg, May 20, 2004, 02:36:02 PM

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To concentrate on a real tiny bit of a really cool post:

Quote from: Erling Rognli(Another interesting example of a highly successful, and more pure narrativistic larp is inside:outside, which I was not personally involved in, but I'll try to get one of the people involved to post something, if there is interest.)
I'd very much like to hear about that LARP.

As for your other examples, this is congruent with what I've already been thinking, which is pleasing. I was thinking of a game where the PCs all represent political factions. Like PanoptiCorp, there would be a lot of in-game currency to trade around and act on.  Like Arans Hus, the interactions between the PCs would affect the larger interactions of the game world, tho in part this would be less determined by the GMs as created by the players themselves with metagame Currency, sort of in a Universalis style. (Part of what I'm thinking is bringing a lot of aspects of Universalis-style play to LARP.)

Writing this game is the covert agenda of this thread, and why I want techniques. I want to be able to have a reasonably Narrativist gaem focusing on factions, using a system that can support anything from a game based on parliamentary politics to vampire clans.
love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT

Matt Machell

I think your biggest problem there (as with any political/faction game) will be avoiding drift to very gamist play. Though that's a very premature judgment on my part based on far too many Freeform/Vampire LARP games.



Quote from: MattI think your biggest problem there (as with any political/faction game) will be avoiding drift to very gamist play. Though that's a very premature judgment on my part based on far too many Freeform/Vampire LARP games.
That's why I want to set things up in a "Gamism-serving-Narrativism" fashion, like The Riddle of Steel. Something like "LARP SAs" might be in order.
love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT


Quote from: xiombargI'd very much like to hear about that LARP.

You can find the basic introduction here:

I never participated, though, so I don't know the specifics.
Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi


Much like Merten, the LARPs I've run are based on R-maps.  This does give you the potential to build in Premise, but you do face limitations - in the end, the desire to address premise has to come from the players.  The games are one-shot and last ~6 hours, run roughly once a year.

On the one hand, we've had players decide that pursuing their goals isn't worth risking the End of the World - is this addressing a premise, or wimping out and ignoring their character sheet?  I'd tend towards "address premise" in this case, but we can certainly argue the toss.

For our next LARP (coming up on June 20), we asked players for 5 words to describe what they might want to play (per a suggestion from Walt).  This hasn't been entirely successful in generating fodder for our R-maps & briefings to include more premise, but we have one potential major hit - a player asked for "a character like Vir from Babylon 5" - a moral person trying to loyally serve an immoral boss.  The player asked for that premise, and we're delighted to provide it in the briefing and R-map.  We'll see how it pans out in play.

Gamism-serving-narrativism: players understand "these are your goals" pretty well; how wel does it work to provide goals that either/both a) conflict with each other; b) require them to do things that the player may consider morally repugnant?  Inevitably, the outcome depends on the player.

Xiombarg specifically:  I'd argue in favor of keeping the game as rules-light as posible; and the nature of possible depends heavily on your group.  I run games for friends whom I can trust not to be munchkins, which radically cuts down the rules overhead.  Your mileage may vary.  However, IMO, social rules get really clunky really fast - I'm better off forcing players to fall back on their own social skills.  Your mileage may vary if your players are generally not up to that.  Combat can't get rules-free, though, and always bogs things down in mine, despite trying to streamline it.

Eirik Fatland


Erling wrote me about this thread and asked me to describe inside : outside. That description is coming up next. But first, I noticed the fateplay technique was mentioned earlier in the thread.

The fateplay technique is desribed here. Mostly in Norwegian, though there is an introduction and a definition in English.

It's a technique, but it was invented in order to and is usually used to facilitate a kind of play that you would probably call "pervy narrativist" in forgespeak. A common premise would be "Opposing the cruelty of destinty leads to even greater cruelty in fulfilling the destiny". The technique was developed in order to larp-roleplay stories from greek mythology and theatre in a satisfactory manner.

I think fateplay has become so pervasive in arthaus Swedish larps (like "Hamlet" and "Mellan Himmel och Hav") that reviewers don't bother to mention that it was used. Although, precisely because reviewers don't bother to mention it, I'm not certain. In the technique's homeland, Norway, it's a rarely used though a diluted version - what I call "suggestionplay" - is quite common. Suggestionplay is basically fateplay where you can overrule a fate instruction if it doesn't seem appropriate - often mixed up with puzzle and conflict.

Personally, I invented the technique but haven't really used it since 1997 - because the larps I've been writing since haven't fit with fateplay, but also due to the huge workload of making sure every fate works with every other fate. More open-ended techniques allow the larpwright to be more sloppy, since players can improvise to fill in the blanks.

I used fates on a larp held a couple of months back, but in that case just to kick-start some conflicts during the actual play of the larp instead of writing them into back story. I guess you can say, in that case, that the fates were used to facilitate sim or gamist play.

peace and love,
hullu norjalainen

Walt Freitag

For those doing their homework on LARPs (with all these links and references, this thread is becoming quite a gold mine), here's my more detailed description of the Arabian Nights LARP that was mentioned several times in the LARPs thread that Ron linked to previously.

That game sheds some interesting light on Kirt's (xiombarg's) initial observations. The Virtues as character requisites come close to filling Kirt's prescription for "LARP SAs;" in fact, I mentioned in the description that the Virtues in Arabian Nights seemed midway between SAs and traditional requisite scores, due to the ways they're used in play.

On the other hand, the game goes the opposite way on the issue of GM's. Arabian Nights is GM-intensive. It's a bit more complex than that, though. In terms of "traditional" LARP GM functions, the Arabian Nights GMs are more in the background, less needed, than for other similar LARPs. Refereeing of rules disputes is rarely required. High-level management of information gradients is unnecessary, and it was planned that way because the large scale of the initial run of the game would have made any such management difficult. However, the GMs in Arabian Nights have an additional unusual function: technically, as organizers of sub-games; socially, as a critical audience. In a way, although this is nowhere stated in the rules, if the players collectively "play" Shahrazad, the GM's collectively "play" the Sultan in the frame story.

Quote from: James (Blankshield)The biggest stumbling block to Nar (and Sim) LARP play is that there is no single SIS. There are several little SIS's with a lot of overlap that make a big fuzzier SIS. It's very difficult to push Story Now with small group A and small group B when those stories can end up establishing contradictory things about the SIS.

Quote from: MattTo get anything Narativist you have to scale down a LARP to a level where everybody present has the same reason for being there. A few people, like a TT game but with more live-ness. I've played in some Sabbat games in Minds eye that had just a single pack present and were nicely focused on the games theme of freedom vs responsibility.

These are also very interesting observations in light of Arabian Nights' sub-stories Technique. Sub-stories partially isolate portions of the shared imagined space from the rest of the game world. Sub-stories are overtly not required to be consistent with one another or with the main game; the same character can even be played simultaneously in different situations by different players. The isolation is only "partial" because nothing prevents sub-story characters from interacting with characters from other sub-stories or from the main characters. In theory this could lead to surreal interactions such as Haroon Ar-Rasheed in a sub-story seeking an audience with the "real" Haroon Ar-Rasheed (a different player) who's currently ruling the Empire in the main game. But in practice, sub-story players stay focused on their own sub-story situations pretty well. (And in any case, surreal juxtapositions wouldn't do much harm in such a whimsical and Author-stance-promoting setting anyhow.) Consistent with Matt's comment, each sub-story also scales down the action to relatively few player, all of whom have mutually agreed to participate in it and who have stated, going in, a specific Virtue they want the sub-story to focus on -- in other words, an explicit (though rudimentary) capital-P Premise.

- Walt
Wandering in the diasporosphere

Eirik Fatland

I posted the inside : outside description as a separate topic.

When it comes to seeing inside : outside as a "highly successful, more pure narrativistic larp" (-Erling), I would be hard pressed to find a single premise for all the different narratives that were in the larp.

"Opposition to a cruel system is a moral duty even if subjugation is inevitable" might be one, often the one players thought they were approaching initially, "self-sacrifice is necessary to achieve moral good" might be another. But mostly, the larp dragged players as deeply as we could get them into the soup of existential questions - who am I, what is the lesser evil  - "what is it that makes you human?" (to quote one of the Judge's favorite questions). The extreme subjectivity of a larp experience, which we tried to accommodate as larpwrights, meant that the narrative, theme and premise were different for each player. Does that mean classifying it as "narrativst" was wrong, that one-premise-per-player is okay for narrativism, or that G/N/S simply doesn't apply very well to larps?

hullu norjalainen