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Author Topic: GMless LARPs  (Read 12294 times)
Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« on: November 24, 2005, 10:05:58 PM »

I do hope I'm doing this thread thing right.

I'd like to see a LARP where the GM gets weeded out.
When I first heard about LARP I got excited about the possibility of little or no GM intervention, but that has never been the case. Here's what I'd like to see:

- A quick-start LARP, something you can run right out of the box (or with very little prep.)
- A LARP that remains true to the avatar-oriented style of play (each player has a single primary character to develop and nurture)
- The GM's duties divvied up among players

Here's some theories on how to do it:
With a team-oriented approach, you could split players into artificial viewpoint groups - teams.
Beforehand, a player or council of players could provide the backing (backstory, background characters, back-whatever) for the game... at least in the general sense.
(preferrably this would mostly be handled by boxed materials.)
Players would receive their team assignments and make characters within their groups.
Team assignments would give you an idea what you did in the group, as well as your GM Powers, such as...

- the guy who finds the clues and shows them to the others
- the guy who decides how badly you're hurt and how long it takes to heal
- the guy who hands out special equipment and props
- the guy who handles NPC interaction
- the guy who resolves innergroup conflicts
- the guy who deals with intergroup conflicts

You'd probably want to have built in failsafes - like, the guy who finds clues can't interpret them himself (he'd probably know THE BIG MYSTERY or whatever's tying together the backstory.)
The guy who hands out special equipment can't make any for herself to use

Help?
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2005, 02:35:18 AM »

For some ideas on the subject, check out the Collective Larp pages.

In general, the problem with the line of thought you are proceeding with here is that it's often very hard to combine the highly mechanistic approach you are describing (desiring?) and the lack of a central arbitrative authority. For example, having NPC characters /at all/ in a game without a GM is very problematic - without someone with the right to balance and guide their actions in accordance to the other game elements (and vice versa) they transform from NPCs into "normal" characters who are just more two-dimensional.

-Jiituomas
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Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2005, 10:07:06 AM »

I certainly agree that the approach is problematic. But the mechanistic approach provides a couple of advantages that I'd like to see fleshed out.

LARPing, more than standard tabletop gaming, closely resembles a sport - it's very active, there's a lot of movement, etc. and applying the dynamics of sporting events to a LARP might be a worthwhile endeavor.

The problem, as you say, lies with the artistic aspect (which I see butchered as often as I see it elevated. Heh heh. Sorry. People get snotty about "melodrama" but they can't carry off a simple intercharacter dialogue without resorting to trite syllogisms or plot-blocking withdrawals. So art is in the eye of the beholder, eh?)

On the other hand, simple rules tend to empower players and, if delivered in an entertaining or energizing fashion, facilitate play. Mechanisms can be simple.

Thinking of it this way, I figure a good LARP should have about eight or nine things you have to remember about your character - eight moves you have in your toolbag that have their own built-in limits and advantages. It would seem elegant to combine these aspects with the necessary duties of a GM.

Of course, the team approach may not facilitate this approach, but it's all I've been able to sort out so far.
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Adam Cerling
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Posts: 159

WhiteRat


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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2005, 02:47:46 PM »

Arpie,

Welcome to the Forge!

I'd like to begin by asking: why do you want a GM-less LARP? I think the answer to that will shape the techniques you use to achieve the goal.

You're hinting at some of your goals here, as you talk about playing "right out of the box" and "empower[ing] players". But neither of these ideas are innately at odds with having a GM.

At the same time you also value "Avatar" play, which as I understand it is completely at odds with the idea of taking responsibility for anything but your character.

Judging by Forge game designs, GMs are rather useful for achieving lots of different play goals. At the same time, some designs do really unique things without GMs. So what goals do you have that fit better with the latter group than the former?
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
John Kim
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« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2005, 10:48:16 PM »


Here's what I'd like to see:

- A quick-start LARP, something you can run right out of the box (or with very little prep.)
- A LARP that remains true to the avatar-oriented style of play (each player has a single primary character to develop and nurture)
- The GM's duties divvied up among players

A few comments.  First of all, are you familiar with Shifting Forest Storywork's Parlor Larp series?  They call for a director, but several of the series have fairly low requirements of the director.  The Mirror Room, A Little Magic, and Queen of Spades come to mind.  Really, there aren't many prepublished larps which are playable out-of-the-box. 

I went through an exercise and discussion on "Collective Larp Organizing" at Knutepunkt 2005.  (cf. my Knutepunkt 2005 Report for details).  That was mostly about establishing background, however.  Nordic larps tend to run with very little intervention from the organizers. 

Here's some theories on how to do it:
With a team-oriented approach, you could split players into artificial viewpoint groups - teams.
Beforehand, a player or council of players could provide the backing (backstory, background characters, back-whatever) for the game... at least in the general sense.
(preferrably this would mostly be handled by boxed materials.)
Players would receive their team assignments and make characters within their groups.
Team assignments would give you an idea what you did in the group, as well as your GM Powers, such as...

- the guy who finds the clues and shows them to the others
- the guy who decides how badly you're hurt and how long it takes to heal
- the guy who hands out special equipment and props
- the guy who handles NPC interaction
- the guy who resolves innergroup conflicts
- the guy who deals with intergroup conflicts

You'd probably want to have built in failsafes - like, the guy who finds clues can't interpret them himself (he'd probably know THE BIG MYSTERY or whatever's tying together the backstory.)  The guy who hands out special equipment can't make any for herself to use

Well, a common way of doing some of these is to work it in with the characters.  That is, one character is secretly the killer and the player thus knows all the details of the murder mystery.  Another character is the special equipment master and the player is in charge of handing out those props. 

Others of these seem better suited to direct interplayer interaction.  Most larp systems are designed in the first place to have combat and conflict resolution without a GM.  You can move to completely GM-independent by having a voting scheme, or just trusting the players a little more. 

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- John
Graham W
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Posts: 437


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« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2005, 12:54:20 AM »

Thanks for starting this thread, Arpie.

It sounds as though you're halfway to designing a GM-less LARP system. I'd like to see the finished game: it sounds good and it's often easier to discuss finished games.

On that subject, I wrote a GM-less LARP system recently for the Ronnies. It's called Dirty Fucking Freaks and once, you get past the sexual content, it's a LARP that runs without a GM. It's a flawed game, but it does cope with some of the same problems you're trying to cope with. I'd be interested to know what you think, especially if it's critical.

On your game...I like the idea of dividing up the GM duties. I think Adam's right that you should explain why you want a GM-less game, not because a GM-less game is a bad idea, but because it'll give a better idea of what you're trying to achieve.

There's two bits I'd like to question. The first is the backstory...

Beforehand, a player or council of players could provide the backing (backstory, background characters, back-whatever) for the game... at least in the general sense. (preferrably this would mostly be handled by boxed materials.)

I have a real problem with backstory in LARPs. My problem is this: an interesting backstory hardly ever leads to a good in-game story. I've seen lots of LARPs where the characters had hugely wonderful backstories but very little to do in the actual game.

Equally, I've seen lots of problems with LARPs that have a Big Mystery. Often, the Big Mystery seems to be:

a. exposed in the first half-hour of play
b. never exposed at all
c. not cared about

...and each of those leads to different problems.

I'm running a LARP in a week's time and I've tried not to give the characters backstories, as such. Instead, they have something much more like Kickers (in Sorceror): something that happened very recently that the character can't ignore, that prompts them into action. We'll see how that works, but I hope it'll be better.

Quote
With a team-oriented approach, you could split players into artificial viewpoint groups - teams.
Players would receive their team assignments and make characters within their groups.
Team assignments would give you an idea what you did in the group, as well as your GM Powers, such as...

- the guy who finds the clues and shows them to the others
- the guy who decides how badly you're hurt and how long it takes to heal
- the guy who hands out special equipment and props
- the guy who handles NPC interaction
- the guy who resolves innergroup conflicts
- the guy who deals with intergroup conflicts

I think the team-oriented approach is very interesting. It's an extension of the "faction" approach that lots of people use when designing one-shot LARPs.

How do the teams connect with the GM roles? For example, the guy who deals with NPCs, is he part of your team, or part of another team? Or either?

And I think that John raised some excellent points, especially about the conflict resolution.

Graham
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Merten
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Posts: 64


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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2005, 04:41:46 AM »

I'd like to see a LARP where the GM gets weeded out.
When I first heard about LARP I got excited about the possibility of little or no GM intervention, but that has never been the case. Here's what I'd like to see:

- A quick-start LARP, something you can run right out of the box (or with very little prep.)
- A LARP that remains true to the avatar-oriented style of play (each player has a single primary character to develop and nurture)
- The GM's duties divvied up among players

What I find to be a bit in odds with each other here is the quick-start and player empowering/team-approach. To get a quick-start, you'd have to have pre-written background things and a scenario. It sounds to me that using a player-council or collective LARP building isn't very quick-start, unless you're running a very light and short LARP. Dividing GM tasks to player does not take the GM away from the LARP - instead, it just divides the GM tasks to a number of players. The effect to the actual play, I presume, stays pretty much the same - the player having the GM task of judging something puts on his GM hat when a situtation comes up, and judges. It empowers the players, but requires a similar amount of judging or out-of-character time that a regular GM does.

Another point I'd raise is the collective background creation and player empowering. The way we usually write our LARPS is that  the GM's/larpwrights put a lot of effort in preparing the in preparation and background work, with the aim of removing almost all GM control during the actual play - this includes designing mechanics with which the players can judge things by themselves, building the background so that issues which would need GM arbitation (like using complex mystical powers which have to be modelled in some abstract way through mechanics, etc) don't really come up. In short, the framework of the LARP is designed to be such that issues which might lead to the need of GM during the game are mimimized or eliminated.

I'd think that things like these - the scope of the LARP, what elements players can and cannot introduce to the game, how complex the conflicts are going to be and how much time should be spent in resolving conflicts - should be taken into account before building the LARP or the framework upon which the collective LARP is prepared and played. Especially because of the nature of LARP as a medium; the actual play is usually not tied to a single nodal point (for example, tabletop play usually happens around, well, a table - everyone is there, sharing stuff), but tends to break down to smaller groups. This brings problems with continuum and information sharing - if someone is judging things with group A, group B continues to play as if nothing has happened and are ignorant of the Fireball Exploding In The Midst of Group A, until someone informs them about that.

Empowering players, I'd guess, would bring forth an increased need for arbitation, because players tend to come up with cool stuff. Cool stuff coming up outside their capabilities of potraying things physically tends to need arbitration and sharing of information. Both arbitration and sharing (out of character) of information are, from my point of view, very complex issues in LARP's. I'd suggest putting a lot of though in coming up with something that makes those processes to work smoothly.
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2005, 09:49:43 PM »

Wow! Thanks for all the responses. I should probably quote a few of you folks, but I've only got about fifteen minutes tonight so I'll do that later. Here's what I think the main question you want answered boils down to - I hope frame it correctly.

WHY I WANT A GM-LESS LARP
Firstly, I feel that the great potential of a LARP environment is to redirect the focus of the entertainment to the individual participants, rather than creating a reinforcement system for the GM.
Currently, the GM gets enormous amounts of focus as:
The Author of the Backstory
The Weaver/Inventor of All the Lead Characters
The Referee
The Voice of the NPCs (aka The Fifth Business - I forget who suggested that term)
The Prop Master
The Mentor/Goader
The Healer and Arbiter of Woe (a subset of Referee duties)
The Center of Attention
and, in many LARPs, the Most Temporally Powerful Character in the Game World
 
It would seem that a roleplaying game presents a wonderful political opportunity, and a sporting event-like chance to spread out and express your character physically in real time and space.
(What you say is what your character says. What you do is what your character does.)

But, in my experience, the game must and will form over and over again into a knot of otherwise determined individuals clustering around the holder and purveyor of all momentum - the GM.

Also, In the early days of LARPs, (I've tried some of the more popular LARPs off and on for years, including the Camarilla, NERO, several con-run games, Cthulhu Live and a few disastrous home bews of my own.) I dreamed of getting around the awkward-feeling clue-dispersement systems and the inevitable arguments over detective skills by throwing a few well-labelled or colorful "prop clues" around, letting the players find them and then watching the chaos/tale/excitement unfold.

I no longer expect anyone to find any clues not hung directly in front of their noses (because, hey, are YOU Sherlock Holmes? I know I'm not.) But I still feel said about the way LARPs kind of look like collapsing spiral galaxies or ribbons of GM-Groupies. (Yes, yes: every storyteller or narrator or guide or GM assistant lessens this, but the bottleneck still occurs because people are people. They look to authority when they find it and seek the greatest power during conflict - precisely because we aren't stupid.)

Oh, and, when I speak of empowering players I mean:
- Providing the most average, nay even the lowest common denominator, of player with some trick or mechanic that gives enough confidence to make decisions regarding their own character's abilities and limitations (Your character can do what you think your character can do)
- Releasing players from the need to seek approval on most, if not all, character decisions (In fact, discouraging players to seek GMs in all but the most severe circumstances, should GMs be needed at all - I'd kind of like to encourage GMs or arbitrators to be patently corrupt and unfair and, most importantly, let all the players know that's what they can expect from the get go)
- Allowing players some method of defining their own consequences, while of course allowing for the fact that people will get away with whatever they can get away with
- Encouraging players to settle disputes between themselves in some mechanistic manner, while also allowing for creative or out-of-the-box solutions (Er... your character does what you think your character can do, but that also applies to all the other players.) :::Teaching Game Theory, or at least touching on it's most important component (when you compromise, nobody loses everything. When you don't compromise, everyone loses something.)

Okay, that's it for now. I gotta check out that freaks game before I go to bed.
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Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2005, 10:23:47 PM »

It sounds as though you're halfway to designing a GM-less LARP system. I'd like to see the finished game: it sounds good and it's often easier to discuss finished games.

On that subject, I wrote a GM-less LARP system recently for the Ronnies. It's called Dirty Fucking Freaks and once, you get past the sexual content, it's a LARP that runs without a GM.

It's not coming up! Argh! And it had a high sexual content, too. You got my wife all excited. Is it listed elsewhere?


I have a real problem with backstory in LARPs. My problem is this: an interesting backstory hardly ever leads to a good in-game story. I've seen lots of LARPs where the characters had hugely wonderful backstories but very little to do in the actual game.

Equally, I've seen lots of problems with LARPs that have a Big Mystery. Often, the Big Mystery seems to be:

a. exposed in the first half-hour of play
b. never exposed at all
c. not cared about

...and each of those leads to different problems.
Okay. Here's a dirty trick I've learned:
You're right. The more intricate the backstory, the more of a mess it makes.

I think we can apply this premise to a good LARP:
1. people will usually complicate things without a GM"s help
2. excited people will really complicate things up good

And I think you're thinking along the right lines with the idea of recent history being a much more potent motivator than ancient history (the public has a short memory... probably because the space between individual neurons seems changes so often... what with folks walking around and all.)

So I think you need to treat an RPG as a moment stolen out of time - a dangerous vignette, if you will.
Now, I know that I certainly don't have shakespearean levels of time control in my writings so I have to use rules of thumb... formulas. I think formulaic approaches are a key to making LARPs fun.

Okay, so here's the formula:
Present a very breif BIG PICTURE, no more than a paragraph (maybe two) describing the where, why, what, when and how that plops everyone into the same space/time together. (The play area/LARP arena/whatever. The pretend place that the actual LARP space takes up. You know, I think I need definitions. I'll address those tomorrow unless someone has some terminology thread or URL they can point us all to.)

Present goals (yes we all know that goals give meaning to a LARP) with a touch of metagaming, like a director would explain why an actor needed to cross from stage right to left both to avoid upstaging the guy with the next line and out of shock and a need for the comforting nearness to the fireplace prop DL. Provide both the in-game motivation and the reason why, mechanically, the motivation has to be there.


I think the team-oriented approach is very interesting. It's an extension of the "faction" approach that lots of people use when designing one-shot LARPs.

How do the teams connect with the GM roles? For example, the guy who deals with NPCs, is he part of your team, or part of another team? Or either?

And I think that John raised some excellent points, especially about the conflict resolution.

Graham

Okay, I think I see what you're asking here. I hope I do this clearly:
The idea forming in my mind seems to require that team be autonomous in and of themselves. They compete with other teams, or at least conflict with other teams to create the sparks of plot neccessary to engage players in the story, while the players povide sympathetic GM support for one another.

In other words, the NPC guy, the Prop guy, the healing guy, whoever, they provide rulings and input sympathetic to their own team, driving the group along a given storyarc or toward a certain mission. The limits built into each of their "duties" would have to encourage them to give to the team, or any other player, really, without being able to give to themselves.

However, no team could acheive its "factional" goals without getting fresh material from another team.
The problem lies, of course, in preventing teams from overtaking their goals by force - in encouraging the compromise neccessary for a satisfying resolution on the part of all parties.

Whew? Halfway there? I don't think I've even scratched the surface. But here's a partial solution to the problems that seem to be looming in this approach:

I've heard tell of an approach where the GMs compete amongst themselves, jockeying for position on a different, slightly removed playing field than the players do. The GMs might be opposing gods or elemental forces or computer simulations while the players reprsent mortals and physical entities with temporal concerns. The GMs rule over changes to the background world and the patronage of the players gives power and influence to the GMs in their own astral or virtual or however-its-removed-from-the-player's-sphere environment.

Well, maybe that approach can be juggled up a bit. Where, if each team forms a competing GM, the players then have individual goals within the team itself. So you've got the players pursing individual acheivements (probably social goals within their team - jockeying for position within the group) while the group tries to position itself on a different kind of scale, a factional one.


Oh, and I certainly agree with John as well, and must admit that I'm lost at see with regard to solutions (which is one of the reasons I posted here, hoping to get inspiration, suggestions and conflicting approaches.)
But I do not feel the situation is hopeless, simply very challenging. Hopefully not so challenging as to make it not worthwhile to explore.
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Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2005, 10:40:33 PM »

Sorry to post three times in a row, but I'm in a hurry and forgot to mention:

Collective LARPS: GREAT Idea. Nordics take the prize again.
I'd like to see the concept more expanded and formalized, however.
Formalization sometimes overcomes trepidation and assigning duties may overcome the listed problem of both freeloaders and ego friction.
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Adam Cerling
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Posts: 159

WhiteRat


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« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2005, 11:26:06 PM »

Arpie (is that your real name? Mine's Adam) --

That's quite the litany of shortcomings you find with LARPs as they are today! I sympathize. I've had many similar experiences with White Wolf's Mind's Eye Theater games over the last nine years.

I'm impressed by the range of your experience as well: NERO, MET and Cthulu Live are above as widely spaced on the LARP spectrum as they can be, and yet you identify problems common to them all.

From your explanation, I infer that it is the "traditional" GM to which you object -- the bundling of all that authority and credibility into one person, with all the complications it entails. A LARP with a "non-traditional" GM, one whose powers are much more narrowly defined or limited, might also be something to consider. You don't need to split up all the GM tasks evenly among all the players: you just need to split up the tasks that you think really matter.

The good news is that tabletop games struggle with the exact same issues, and you can learn about games here that address the issue in varying ways. If you learn about and play these games, you could easily pick up ideas and techniques that apply to LARP. I believe the two touchpoint games for truly GM-free designs are Universalis and Capes (and I feel like I'm forgetting one more). Then also there are games like Prime Time Adventures that define the role of GM in such a way that he can't run roughshod over everyone else's fun: instead, all his abilities and responsibilities are defined to facilitate that fun.

But moving back to LARP land for a moment, let me address a few specific thoughts:

Clue-Dispersement Systems. You rightly criticize the GM practice of dropping "clues" for a "mystery" to "solve." Again, the same problem exists in tabletop play. One solution to this problem is perhaps too simple to see: Stop running mysteries! Call a moratorium on any plot that requires detective work. You said it yourself that the strength of LARP is the wonderful political opportunity, so why even have a mystery? Instead, create a situation where all the information is already on the table, all the characters are working at cross-purposes, and let them loose.

In tabletop play, the oft-mentioned game Dogs in the Vineyard does this -- your characters show up in a town, all the NPCs immediately dump their problems in your laps with no information held back, and each NPC expects you to fix everything to his or her satisfaction.

Making Players into GMs. In college I was part of a friend's homebrewed Deadlands LARP that was quite enjoyable and successful for its three-month run. My friend designed the LARP to be mission-oriented, party-oriented and episodic. Postings about the strange things going on outside of town hung in the saloon, and you'd get a group together to go investigate them and kick Weird West ass. (Yes, it was D&D in cowboy boots. But way fun.) Each posting had the name of the GM you'd go to who'd run the mission. The idea was that anyone could be a GM -- you'd just run the mission idea past the head GM before the game, and if someone took it and you ran it, you got rewarded with Fate Chips (experience points) for your PC.

Shameless Plug! I'm working on a LARP system design called Ends and Means that addresses several of the issues you point out as problems. In particular, I limit the GM's power to win conflicts. The power to win conflicts is predicated on the number of Plot Points you're carrying, and the GM's supply of Plot Points is small and limited. So you end up where the GM can introduce situations ("You're put on the FBI's Most Wanted list!") but unless the GM also has Plot Points to back it up, the player can spin the situation on its head ("My expert defense team acquits me of every charge!").

I also use negotiated conflicts (in which players negotiate the possible outcomes of a conflict before deciding with mechanics), so that players can do what they think they can do and they can set their own consequences. They can barter with Plot Points to sway those negotiations.

I provide a section describing the narrative powers afforded to all players, so that GMs don't have to deal with minutae like "hey, I go to the store, can I buy some milk?" Of course they can buy milk -- they don't need GM approval to narrate that. I'm providing guidelines on what they can narrate into the story without GM blessings.

And last, I make the players pay in Plot Points to secure blocks of the GM's time. That should (I hope) control the issue of bored players clustering around the GM in hopes of getting her attention and asking for something interesting to happen to their character. Playtesting will tell how that theory works out in practice.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2005, 12:59:13 AM »

Formalization sometimes overcomes trepidation and assigning duties may overcome the listed problem of both freeloaders and ego friction.

You're very right on the first issue. According to field testing, the method does seem to need a bit more formalization. (I'll say more on that in the next KP book, not before, though.) Duty assignment, however, does not fit in the collective approach: collective style's very essence is to disperse duties so widely that ego friction a) does not arise or b) will not be able to significantly influence the game. Assigned duties, while solving many workload issues, also create convenient niches for freeloaders to hide.

For the record: Adam, from another perspective NERO, MET and CthuL all represent one same style of larping (highly base-structured, mechanical and non-experiential) and are thus "as close as can be" when compared to games like Hamlet, Luminescence or Carolus Rex. But /within/ the field Arpie has stated his interest in, they are indeed quite apart.

-Jiituomas
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2005, 01:02:24 AM »

 Luminescence link corrected here. Cursed typoes.
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Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2005, 10:14:06 AM »

Well, certainly, being rather poor in resources (and not living in Europe), I have never had any experience with the LARPs of the Finns, or any of the other fabled scandinavian LARPing experiences (although I have read of some of the fascinating innovations in that region, of course.)

I was glad for the luminescence and Hamlet information. Thank you for that. Something that strikes me, however, is the theatrical nature of such experiences. After a discussion with friends last night, I found that, while they enjoyed theatre, they distrusted what they considered a "high brow" approach to the gaming medium. Now, I think that the theatrical elements are indeed neccessary, but perhaps they can be disguised in some way for the culture-weary?

For instance, the concept of the "out" which also goes under a variety of different names, remains a useful tool in any roleplaying situation. It's used for improvisational encounters, giving players a way of ending a scene which may become awkward or too long. The simplest form of this technique is to always have something else you're about when entering a dialogue with any character, particularly if you enter the dialogue as a passive or semi-passive member (in oher words, if someone's asking you questions or trying to convince you of something.) You could be just about to go somewhere, working on a machine, waiting for a phone call, anything that would give you a cue to leave.

The LARPs I encounter often have a similiar mechanic in "free escapes" and other such devices, things which let people leave if too harried. But dropping a flat "free escape" comment can become very unattractive.

Attemting to use the simple "out" terminology didn't work for many of the groups I encountered because they either became overly-enamoured with the theatrical format (and kind of gave themselves a big head) or distrusted it as (rightly) rather elitist or some sort of luftsmench fol-de-rol.

Unfortunately, I think fol-de-rol was exactly what was needed, only in a non-intimidating form. Creating an atmosphere of commeraderie neccessary to a game often requires disguising more complex or "high concept" tools in plain language - language that makes people comfortable. (Which I admit I'm not exactly using right now.)

So, when the idea of the "out" is combined with the idea of the "free escape" and couched in more mechanical-sounding terminology, it becomes more appealing. Calling it a "time out phrase" or a "side task" really seemed to appeal to most groups, especially when practical benefits were tied into the dynamics. (For instance, you could pick a "Side Task" before each act of a certain game I attended. You were assumed to be working on the side task "in the background" and could leave to check on its progress at any time, as long as you informed anyone trying to converse with you or put you in a truly uncomfortable situation that that was what you were doing, and they had to let you go. You could never use the same Side Task as an excuse to leave play twice in a row, hoever.)

Okay, anyway, the point there was that I think one of the things you might do with this divvying up the tasks business is to create a more comfortable and accessible way for diverse players to understand and accept their responsibilities (even their priviledges) as part of the game's meta-decision process.

In addition, if you can use the natural self-interest of the players to support cooperative dynamics in a live action situation, you would have a powerful tool. The problem, like many sociological issues, is one of manipulation and our resentment of any form of oppression as humans (which is a trait I adore in our species. Honestly.) I guess you could call it manufacturing consent by means of ad hominem or ad populum uh... game mechanics?

And before I go, I'd like to say that I certainly like Capes and Universalis, but they depend on a separation from avatars in a very uncomfortable way from what I'm shooting for, here.
I think, perhaps, if only one "class" of character/holder of GM duty had he NPC wrangling option, then you might see less objection. That way, the Identitiy of that player (as that character type) would actually involve taking on different NPC or background character roles.

That person could excuse their metagame behavior by means of, say, being a radio-control operator or a translator - becoming the voice of the NPCs within the group. Now, if I used the factional group structure I'm beginning to envision here, the problem would be one of authority - if two groups have, let's call them conflicting "Voices" - then which one would be the accurate reading? That's where actual conflict resolution mechanics become vital - and must be simple (probably, alas, numeric)

If wonder if it could be as simple as "strength in numbers" - the more members of your team that are with you, the more authority you have to back up the statements/game input created by your particular team, uh, dutyists? niches?

Man, I still don't have terms for this stuff!

Wait, how about "edges?" That sounds kind of appealing, right?
Like, uh, my "edge" is the voice of the NPCs and jake's "edge" is prop engineer and oh, heck, I still need some clearer terms.

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Graham W
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« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2005, 12:16:11 PM »

Whoops. Here's a corrected link: http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/Dirty_Freaks.php.

And I'll catch up on the rest of the discussion later.

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