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Author Topic: [Crazed and Feral] Reward system  (Read 5794 times)
Graham W
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« on: September 11, 2005, 03:41:37 PM »

I'm currently designing a werewolf-themed LARP to run at a convention (probably in November). The setting is a country pub, and the game will start on a sedate note, with the participants discussing village issues. Shortly after that, the horror will ramp up, with bodies discovered and werewolves approaching.

(For anyone who knows British television: the game is an All Creatures Great And Small/American Werewolf In London crossover)

Now, what fascinates me about the werewolf theme is the opportunity for moral dilemmas. Since the werewolves are human, there's the basic dilemma of: do you get killed by the werewolf or do you kill it - and hence kill a human? And of course there's various other possible dilemmas as well: do you stay in the pub or help someone outside? And so on.

What I'd like the characters to do is deal with these dilemmas: to be tempted both ways and for any choice they make to have both good and bad consequences.

So, first question: can you think of a way of encouraging this style of play? Probably some sort of reward system, I would think, but I can't quite think what.

Bear in mind that this is a one-shot LARP, so there's not much opportunity for character development. Also, I don't use a formal conflict resolution system - any conflicts that arise are dealt with by the GM instantly narrating a resolution. So there's little opportunity in either of those areas for rewards.

And as a second, more general, question: if anyone can think of other moral areas I can push the game into, or any nasty moral dilemmas, I'd love to hear ideas.

Any help much appreciated. And, apart from anything else, I'm interested to know how much feedback I'll get on a LARP question.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2005, 04:04:29 PM »

I don't know anything about LARPing but it sounds like your options for reward are limited (unless you are actually playing in a pub, in which case the reward is obvious - trips to the bar). 

If the GM narrates outcomes, I'm not seeing any mechanical incentive you can provide, unless it were a token that allowed them to override GM narration. 

Can you trust your players enough to listen if you say "guys, here's what I'm going for" before play - to spell out your hopes for conflicted decision making? 

You might look at some of the interesting freeform stuff coming out of Sweden and Denmark - I recently posted on this.  The Jeep dictionary page has some cool stuff that may be inspirational. 

--Jason
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Kirk Mitchell
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« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2005, 04:13:12 PM »

Ok, so I have absolutely no knowledge when it comes to LARPing, but I do know moral issues and suchlike. One thing that fascinates me about a lot of British television is the ability to cram incredibly droll humour in with some serious questions, and this I think is something that you should certainly explore. Also, watch the movie Ginger Snaps, in my opinion the best and most innovative werewolf movie in much long time. If you haven't seen it, its about two rather depressing suburban girls, the hot one and the not hot one. The hot one turns into a werewolf. The movie, as I see it, is about their relationship and dealing with Ginger's urges. So thats human relationships, particularly sibling relationships, which offer a huge range of emotions to explore. The human behind the werewolf is another thing to consider. How human can you remain/appear with these urges to slash kill MAIM EAT RIP HAHAHAHAH! sort of thing. So not only do you have the moral issue of how others deal with a werewolf, but how the werewolf deals with being a werewolf.

And if you want moral issues along the lines of pubs, survival and whatnot, look no further than Sean of the Dead. Watch as romantic comedy humour mixes with gore and some interesting moral issues (not too many mind).

Rewards for a LARP? Dunno.

Hope this has been of some help.

Kirk
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2005, 04:36:17 PM »

Graham, to really answer your questions in any specific, useful way, I think we'll need to know more about the mechanics of the game. That is, of course, assuming you want some mechanical means of pushing moral issues.

As to the moral issue of whether to kill a werewolf or not....well, to be honest, that doesn't seem like much of a moral issue at all, to me. Now, my own personal ethics might be wildly different than the rest of the world, but if anything (animal or human) is trying to kill me, I wouldn't have any moral reservations at all about killing it first, and I can't imagine others would either.
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Kirk Mitchell
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« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2005, 07:07:45 PM »

Andrew, that's where Ginger Snaps breaks the mould slightly. What if the werewolf was a sibling to whom you were very, very close to. Or your parents, or even child. That, as I see it, is where the moral issues really become important. If you don't even know the guy, and yeah he is trying to kill you, instinct generally kicks in.

Kirk
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2005, 07:48:29 PM »

The ultimate payoff of a one-shot LARP is, in my experience, how the characters have changed by the end of the game. It's in the denoument each player imagines.

Since your system is GM fiat, maybe what you're looking for is a way to keep score. Players earn points for doing certain things in line with their character.

I could see this being like Keys in The Shadow of Yesterday, for example:

Key of the Xenophobe: You earn 1 point in a for a scene in which you stick up for the traditions of the village. You earn 2 points for getting someone else to reject an unorthodox idea. You earn 5 points if, through your time-honored caution, you save yourself or someone else from coming to harm. Buyoff: You earn 10 points and lose this Key if you embrace a radical new idea.

Naturally, when you design characters, you give them Keys that will be in self-opposition during play -- as if someone with Key of the Xenophobe and the Key of Compassion has to choose whether to accept his brother-in-law, the crazy town drunk, as a valuable member of the village.

Plus, if you invent different types of points, you can tie that to different denouments (My Life With Master -style). "If you end the game with at least 5 points of Hope and less than 5 points of Respect, you find love with the shy widow at the edge of town. If you end the game with at least 5 points of Respect and less than 5 points of Hope, you are one day elected town Sheriff."

Oh, and build in lots of relationships between the characters. Especially to the characters who end up being the werewolves. Relationships make games go.
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2005, 04:44:31 AM »

I think I missed a very important dilemma, that was present in American Werewolf in London. The dilemma of the New Werewolf. Do I die, or do I allow myself to become a werewolf and kill people so I can survive? You can make Lycantrophy very fast acting so players who get hurt turn quickly to werewolves, so it's a decision they have to make that night and can't put off. Give them relatives and love ones amongst other players perhaps.

To make facing the wolves versus saving the victims more of a dilemma perhaps players have knowledge of why different victims might be useful. For instance: "That howling is coming from the south, thats where Reverend O'grady lives, maybe he knows how to stop this? If he doesn't at least we can make our final confessions and meet God with a clean slate.", or "Holy smokes thats coming from Clems place! That crazy loon's been stockpiling weapons for years waitin' for the government to come and try to get him out. We could really use some guns!"

-clyde
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Graham W
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« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2005, 10:07:20 AM »

What excellent feedback. Thank you.

Here's some quick responses. I should point out that I'm trying to keep some elements of the plot a secret. So if I don't address something you've said, I'm not dismissing it. It might mean that you've hit on my Brilliant Mid-Game Plot Twist (TM).

I should point out that this is a one-shot LARP with 10-15 players, played within a single room, with one GM.

I don't know anything about LARPing but it sounds like your options for reward are limited (unless you are actually playing in a pub, in which case the reward is obvious - trips to the bar).

It's not a bad idea. I can think of some nice twists on that. Imagine telling the players that the survivors will get a pitcher of beer between them. Then sit back and watch the sparks fly.

Can you trust your players enough to listen if you say "guys, here's what I'm going for" before play - to spell out your hopes for conflicted decision making?

Not quite. I could do that if I wanted to say "Guys, I want you all to screw each other and backstab each other". This worked quite well in the last game I ran (a Paranoia LARP).

But what I really want to say is "Guys, I want you to worry about moral dilemmas", and they won't know what to do as a result of that.

But one-shot LARP players are often given objectives and they generally follow them slavishly. So there's a route there which I can take. Probably along the lines of giving moral objectives  - "Keep yourself safe. Save your family at all costs" - which I then bring into conflict later in the game.

Kirk, thank you, film recommendations are always welcome. I hadn't heard of Ginger Snaps and I've just put it on my Amazon rental list.

Graham, to really answer your questions in any specific, useful way, I think we'll need to know more about the mechanics of the game. That is, of course, assuming you want some mechanical means of pushing moral issues.

I'd like some, but I'm not sure it's possible.

There's very few mechanics. When players get into a conflict, the resolution is narrated by a GM.

One mechanic I could use is powers. Players in one-shot LARPS are often given powers: "Once an hour, you have the power to compel someone to tell the truth", "You can tell an animal bite from a human bite", "If you love someone, and they are in werewolf form, you can compel them to change back". So you could give someone the opportunity to use more powers as a reward.

Key of the Xenophobe: You earn 1 point in a for a scene in which you stick up for the traditions of the village. You earn 2 points for getting someone else to reject an unorthodox idea. You earn 5 points if, through your time-honored caution, you save yourself or someone else from coming to harm. Buyoff: You earn 10 points and lose this Key if you embrace a radical new idea.

Naturally, when you design characters, you give them Keys that will be in self-opposition during play -- as if someone with Key of the Xenophobe and the Key of Compassion has to choose whether to accept his brother-in-law, the crazy town drunk, as a valuable member of the village.

I think this is probably the sort of thing I'm looking for. Perhaps a long-term reward for players that keep to their moral code, but a short term reward for players that break it.

But, then, of course, the reward for breaking your moral code will often be survival. So perhaps I could reward players that survive and reward ones that keep to their moral code and see where that goes.

Clyde, thank you, that's helpful.

Thanks for your suggestions and apologies that my thoughts are all over the place on this one. But I'm still working it out. Any further thoughts and criticisms welcome.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2005, 10:41:10 AM »

The best suggestion I can make is to acquire and play the game 'Werewolves of Millers Hollow', which we often play at our RPG club: it is a simple game where each player is dealt a secret card that tells them whether they are a villager or werewolf, with some of the villagers, like the Witch and the Cupid, having special abilities. It is designed to work with 8 - 20 players, if I recall, and is divided into rounds that start by the werewolves killing a villager (which is done secretly, as all players have their eyes closed and the moderator asks the werewolves only to open their eyes) then the village 'wakes up', discovers the body and debates who to hang for the crime! This continues round by round, with the werewolves eating someone and the villagers (including the werewolves!) voting to lynch someone, until the only survivors are all werewolves or all villagers. There are no dice rolls or task resolutions, everything is done via instinct, persuasive argument, psychology, etc. It isn't really LARP, but the basic concept could easily evolve into that, if everyone has a secret motivation and power; most of the villagers want the werewolves to die, but families might want to protect themselves, lovers might be prepared to sacrifice everything to be together, etc.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2005, 10:52:55 AM »

Allow me to second Ginger Snaps, which is great, and rich with subtext.  Tying menarche to lycanthropy is pure genius. Lots of food for thought for your LARP.  The sequels are rubbish.
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NickHollingsworth
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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2005, 03:14:12 PM »

Re the game werewolves:

I read about this parlor game a while back. It goes under a lot of names. Heres a starting link for those who are interested: http://www.eblong.com/zarf/werewolf.html
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Nick Hollingsworth
NickHollingsworth
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2005, 04:33:13 PM »

Re the larp:

Can I suggest that you dont aim to spot players who confirm to your concept of what they should be doing and then reward them by giving them extra uses of their powers. This sounds cumbersome. I have never fully enjoyed a freeform that required a ref to do anything because (a) they are never there when you need them, (b) its the nature of a freeform that once play starts they dont have much idea of whats going on in the game and (c) being human the ref gets involved in playing out his favourite bit of the plot while the rest of the game and players end up with a second rate experience.

Why not turn the concept round and give them a one off power that only works, or only works reliably, if they are using it to fulfill the aim in question.

So for example if a character has a drive to "Save your family at all costs" then (a) simply state this on the character sheet under aims. This in itself will probably be enough to focus a player in the midst of the confusion of a freeform. And (b) give them a "sacrifice yourself for your family" one use ability card - "by interposing yourself between danger and a member of your family you become the target instead".

I cant advise too strongly that you design the game so that it does not need a ref at run-time. Ideally the ref should be doing nothing but looking out for players who look bored or out-the-loop and gently guiding them back into play.

Cheers,
Nick
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Nick Hollingsworth
Graham W
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« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2005, 01:14:53 AM »

Thanks for the suggestions of Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. Actually, I was on a TV programme that used that system. It's a good idea.

Nick, good points...

Can I suggest that you dont aim to spot players who confirm to your concept of what they should be doing and then reward them by giving them extra uses of their powers.

No, absolutely not.  I was thinking more indirectly: perhaps along the lines of a LARP I played recently, GBSteve's "Gamer's Wives".

Steve wanted (I think) to encourage publicity-seeking behaviour by the characters. So there was a board in the corner of the room which said who was "Hot" (i.e. in the media) at any time. Only three people could be Hot at once and whoever was Hot got extra uses of their powers.

It was particularly effective because it had both a social reward (if you were Hot, the whole room could see you were Hot) and a mechanical reward (you could use your powers more).

Equally, your idea of tying use of powers directly to moral constraints would work. In any case, something along those lines.

You're also right that I should design the game to run without a GM as much as possible. (I'm only going to have about 12 players, so it's not too much of a constraint, but still one I should bear in mind).

And I absolutely agree that the GM should be looking to encourage the bored players back into play. It's a major problem in a LARP.

Graham
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NickHollingsworth
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« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2005, 05:16:23 AM »

> I was on a TV programme that used that system

Interesting. What's it's name?

> I should design the game to run without a GM as much as possible. (I'm only going to have about 12 players, so it's not too much of a constraint...

Sorry to have banged on about it when you were already there ahead of me. I have seen very experienced GMs drift into playing or guiding the game to the detriment of most of their players.

Re The Hot Board: The concept of a reward system driven communally by the players is interesting.

After rereading the thread, my personal advice would be - just dont worry about mechanical rewards. You dont need to encourage players to balance personal survival against moral issues such as the well being of loved ones. If you put a nice little line in their sheet describing their character's relationship to another character, then that is going to focus the player and he is going to be balancing that against personal survival. In a freeform a player is always looking for what to do next and how to make his actions have some meaning. I think you will find people will grasp at statements about relationships, debts of honour, unrequited desire etc like a drowning man grasping a lifebelt.

You are in a luxurious situation really. In a one-off shortish game a character's dilema between personal survival and defense of a loved one has no obvious answer. A player can afford to let his character die a glorious death doing what he thinks is the most entertaining thing for the character to do. Or he can choose to survive, wracked with gult. Its the players call. What could you, as a writer, possibly want more than giving the player a completely free choice, at run-time, between two imperfect options. Any mechanics risk tipping the balance, at which point you have hinted to them what you think the 'correct' answer is. That would be a bad thing.

In order to leave it as a true player choice I might suggest that you write the character sheets carefully so that you are not giving commands to the players about what to do. Just outlining the possible dilema so they can decide freefly what to do. Don't for example say 'You love milicent and would die to protect her from harm'. Instead say 'You love milicent. You can't imagine life without her'. Not only is it less of a command but it does less to suggest *how* the character is to protect milicent.

Can I ask why you feel you need a mechanic? And what you hope the effect on the players would be?

In How The West Was One there was a mechanic that allowed characters to fall in love. At which point they each took up the objectives of the other. There was no mechanical benefit to pushing the other characters objectives but I dont recall that mattering at all. The thing that encourages a player to do something is (a) that it gives him something definate to busy himself with (b) that it seems to be taking the character somewhere. Take-on-your-new-beloveds-objectives really worked for me as a player because they were wildly at odds with my characters and so forced me to make a substancial decision about how my character was going to change.

Sorry to not actually suggest a mechanic. Hope there is at least something useful in here and not a second lot of "here's how you suck eggs grandma".

You are writing this for SteveCon aren't you?
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Nick Hollingsworth
Graham W
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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2005, 10:09:16 AM »

Any mechanics risk tipping the balance, at which point you have hinted to them what you think the 'correct' answer is. That would be a bad thing.

Yes, I agree. Also, if I offer anything too mechanical or tangible as a reward, there's a real danger the players will play to "win". Which isn't what I want at all. Sadly, I think that will apply if I offer beer as a prize, much though that idea appeals.

And to answer the other points quickly:

1. The TV show was called Traitor, a BBC2 rip-off of the Mafia game.
2. The thing about combining objectives for people that love each other is fantastic.
3. Yes, I'm intending to run this for SteveCon. I don't want to commit 100% yet, because I don't know what Steve's space constraints are. Also, it's entirely possible he'll say "A WHAT crossover?" and laugh me out of the place. But, yes, that's what I'm aiming for.


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