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Author Topic: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design  (Read 12817 times)
Jake Boone
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Posts: 15


« 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 
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JonasB
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« Reply #1 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.
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John Burdick
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Posts: 105


« Reply #2 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
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Jake Boone
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #3 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
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #4 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.
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JonasB
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« Reply #5 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.
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #6 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?
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JonasB
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« Reply #7 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...
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JonasB
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2005, 02:03:55 AM »

I would really have liked to edit that... "concussion" is a very unfortunate mistyping of "conclusion".
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rrr
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #9 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

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Graham W
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« Reply #10 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
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Jake Boone
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« Reply #11 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
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rrr
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #12 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
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My name is Drew
I live just outside north London, UK
Here's my 24hours Ronnies entry: Vendetta
Sven
Member

Posts: 8


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« Reply #13 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.

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JonasB
Member

Posts: 29


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« Reply #14 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 :)
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url=http://unrealitiesofmine.blogspot.com/]Unrealities of Mine[/urlUnrealities of Mine
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