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Author Topic: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design  (Read 12818 times)
Matt Machell
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« Reply #15 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 for an idea of differing approaches. The LT 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. 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

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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #16 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."
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Simon Marks
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« Reply #17 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?"
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #18 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?
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JonasB
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« Reply #19 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.
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Lig
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« Reply #20 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, 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, 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" 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, 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.
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Simon Marks
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« Reply #21 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.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #22 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?
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Simon Marks
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« Reply #23 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.
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Lig
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« Reply #24 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
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #25 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.
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Jake Boone
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« Reply #26 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
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #27 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.
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Lig
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« Reply #28 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 and Pagga (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, 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, 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.
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« Reply #29 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
As Larp grows up

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.
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
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