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Author Topic: LARP Concept  (Read 2769 times)
Vulpinoid
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« on: June 01, 2008, 06:45:02 PM »

I've got a group of friends who've been itching to get back into a live roleplaying game for a few years. Their reasons for wanting this are fairly simple.

1. To dress up in costume (whatever that costume may be).
2. To socialise with a growing crowd of people who also enjoy dressing up in costume.
3. To tell epic and developing stories that unfold over the course of weeks, months and years.
4. To have a situation where the mechanics behind the system are simple and presented easily to newcomers.
5. To have a global storyline allowing players to travel to neighbouring cities and take their characters with them.
6. To have a deep and rich setting that invites the telling of tales rather than the negation of it.
7. To avoid the OOC politics inherent in certain global LARP campaigns that shall remain nameless.

We've had this in other LARP campaigns, but it was the last two that was the killers among that campaign.

So now that my other projects are pretty much complete, I'm starting work on a new LARP system and setting.

Name, not defined, yet.
Concepts, still in a very rough state.

One of the things that makes the concept difficult is the costume genre. We've got a couple of people who love period clothes, a few goths, some anime-freak/cosplayers, a few mediaevil re-enactors who'd love to get involved in something and a few interested parties who don't really have costumes yet and would probably show up to a few games in regular clothes for the first couple of sessions.

Challenge 1. How do I get all of these styles into a coherent setting?
Challenge 2. How do we ensure that this setting is open to newcomers?


I'm working at the moment with a notion of a spiritual post apocalypse. There is a reality reflecting our own, except that it always exists a lunar month ahead of our own. This reality deviates from our own by the fact that 99% of the population simply ceases to exist tomorrow. ("Tomorrow" always progresses with our timeline, and the month ahead also progresses with our timeline). Of the remainder, maybe 99% survive normally and the tiny fraction remaining develop some kind of powers.

I don't know what casues the apocalypse, but the ramifications become instantly recognisable. Infrastructure collapses, no trucks for a month means no delivery of petrol/gas, no food deliveries, ammo has run out from a month of looting and pillaging, basically you get the whole "I am Legend" New York scene, but with a few scattered people who aren't zombies/vampires.

I'm still undecided about whether to include the supernatural as an element in this, or try to keep it hard-core sci-fi.

The characters basically exist in the real world, our world, but they have a means to travel to this alternate reality. Maybe a portal, maybe some kind of device. Either way, their voyages through the post-apocalypse are limited by duration (maybe they can only spend a night there at a time or else become stuck there permanently, maybe their hyperspace transport device only keeps them in phase with that reality for a couple of hours at a time, this is still a key concept linked in the the backstory that needs exploration). The characters can make changes to the real world, to make changes to the other world, but changes in the other world aren't necessarily reflected back (except possibly in dreams). John builds a steam powered car in his garage and locks it up, when he steps into the other world he unlocks the garage door and there's a good chance that he'll find a working steam-car that doesn't need petrol.

The idea with a setting like this is that players have a rich world at their disposal, a world that they can research to their heart's content at any library.

How do the costumes fit?

In the other world, there are different bands of survivors, some have tried to develop different types of societies based on where they thought things went wrong. One faction might decide that the elegance of the Victorian era was the pinnacle of society, others might choose to go back further to a time of swords and direct melee conflict. Another faction might be scavengers, while some could be cyberpunks who've claimed a range of technology in an attempt to keep ahead of the dangers around them.

What's the point of the story and characters?

The game would be about exploring this strange reflection of our own world. Themes would include coming to terms with how much we actually need the civilisation around us, maintaining a social facade in the face of global annihilation, developing an empire in a world where the rules have suddenly changed. Some could even use it as a means to explore deeper themes such as politics, religion and race.

Why are you telling us this?

This is a first thoughts forum. I'm looking for ideas that might mesh with what I've written so far. I'm wondering if anyone else out there thinks that this concept has potential.

 
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David Artman
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2008, 07:30:31 AM »

Interesting setting notion--our world, but changed, is a strong start for costuming and prop reasons alone. Part of why I am most keen to do a post-apocalyptic game with GLASS (see sig).

Are you going contact (boffer, Nerf, Airsoft) or non-contact (cards, RPS, stats)?

Will players have full autonomy to create characters, or are you going to do pre-gens, or somewhere in the middle (i.e. "classes" or "GM-appointed" stuff like factions)?

How concerned with "play balance" are you, given the potential disparity of technology levels (e.g. my modified paintball marker will SMOKE those sword swingers).

What's the general reason for mixed-genre play; why do these folks from different cultures mingle once a month (or however often you're running the sessions)?

Would you consider using an existing system, or are you going the homebrew route of 99% of LARP organizers?

What sort of play space(s) do you anticipate using routinely? (Seems like any and all would work, given the setting background.)

RE hard sci fi vs. supernatural: you will have to explain how this "event" occurred. And either way--some supernatural is just misunderstood nature (e.g. Cthulhoids as 8th-dimensional beings). For now, it's the least of your concerns at this juncture, but it will most-impact color in the game world.
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Adam Riemenschneider
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2008, 01:27:45 PM »

Yeas, Larps!

If I'm reading you correctly, you are trying to come up with an in-game, setting-based reason for why these characters only interact once a month, and also have a setting that allows for cross-over genres.

Which, by the way, is totally awesome.

I can see a few different options, depending on what you want to have this say about the setting.

1): The alternate reality (let's call it Reality X) is only "accessible" once a month, for a few hours at a time. Different groups from different realities have all developed their own methods of getting to Reality X (ritual magic, supernatural effect, sci-fi), because it is somehow valuable for each group to make this kind of effort.

2a): Reality X is governed by very powerful beings. Let's just call them Watchers (hey, look, the Watchers are GMs. Neat, huh?). These Watchers have their own, mysterious reasons for drawing the characters from their various realities into Reality X. Perhaps the characters *have no choice* and are pulled against their will?

2b): Or perhaps there is some kind of understanding between the Watchers and the groups in their respective realities, and the characters are essentially diplomats or envoys, sent across the cosmos on a regular basis. The game only happens once a month because this is what the Watchers have decreed.

3): The various groups *can* and *do* send each other around to various realities. However, they all go to Reality X once a month because this is a mutually agreed upon regular meeting. Again, this explanation sets up a diplomacy-style game, since everyone is there voluntarily.

Most non-contact Larps I've seen or played in are similar to the Minds Eye Theatre, VtM kind of setup, where most play is expected to be social, and not combat oriented. This way, players spend most of their time in-character, and simply walking around and talking to one another. Personally, my best experiences larping came from games where I only had to make one or two challenges.... the rest of the time was spent fully immersed, in character, with no thought to mechanics whatsoever.

So, I'd encourage you to consider the "diplomat" format for your game, if only to support best this kind of social play. But combat boffing has its place, too. Depends on what you're shooting for.

Hope that helps,

-adam

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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2008, 04:24:05 PM »

Some people love the concept of addressing other peoples posts point by point...other people hate it.

I don't mind either way, but for ease of answers I think it's often easier to fall into the first camp.

I'll preface my responses with some experience, which will put a few of my responses into a more coherent perspective.

I met my wife and most of my current friends through Live Roleplaying, we've each got a "costume trunk" with dozens of outfits that just aren't getting used anymore. Everything from ancient egyptian, through to napoleonic reactment, and victorian corsetry, via japanese school uniforms and onward to flight suits, and science fiction uniforms. There's about a dozen of us, and we've each got three or four other friends who'd love to try out live roleplaying.

I guess we just tell great anecdotes about the old days:

Running through Sydney's Central train station and down one of it's busiest street in full costume...scaring the regular folk.
That game where one guy threw a tennis ball into the room and yelled "grenade" while ducking, causing everyone to run out in a panic even though it was a tennis ball in both our reality and in the game reality.
The game where we paid far too much for strippers who claimed they could do kinky stuff that would "make out party more interesting", then ended up leaving our game mildly disturbed themselves...

...there's plenty more that cover fifteen years of LARP (of which I've been GMing it for at least ten of those).

But we've got the good and the bad. There are things that we'd rather forget about those times, and those things rarely make it into our stories.

We spent a few years using Mind's Eye Theatre, under the auspices of the Camarilla, but there are some inherent flaws in that.

It may have been more predominant in our part of the world, but I've heard plenty of similar stories from other places. Metagaming is rife, out-of-character politics plays more of a role than story, it was the kind of evironment that we didn't want to introduce new friends into because it showcased the worst that Live Roleplaying has to offer, while hamstringing the ability to bring out the best.

That's just a personal opinion based on my own experiences, mostly in this part of the world, not a general reflection of the organisation as a whole. I've met a few great people through it...

My aim is to create a similar type of concept, but eliminating as many of the negatives and reinforcing the positives.

That's the background, now to the answers.

Interesting setting notion--our world, but changed, is a strong start for costuming and prop reasons alone. Part of why I am most keen to do a post-apocalyptic game with GLASS (see sig).

Are you going contact (boffer, Nerf, Airsoft) or non-contact (cards, RPS, stats)?

Years of GMing LARP games have taught me that you can never please everyone all the time. But you can cater to different tastes and bring out special moments for individuals, and even create communal scenes where everyone shares a special synergy with the game world and the story. I'm aiming to have the game run at three levels.

1. A regular gathering in a social environment where people can politic, ally, connive, swindle and generally play the "safe game".
2. A series of missions and adventures for those players who like their characters to get dirty and fully immerse themselves in the "other world".
3. A mystic/scientific exploration of the concepts and ideas behind the world.

Most sessions will favour one of these three aspects, using another of the aspects as a secondary flavouring source.

I always though Minds-Eye Theatre's no-touching rule was a bit over-the top. So a "low contact with consent" notion is what I'm aiming toward. Most interaction will be resolved through talking first, mechanics second, contact third. This keeps the mediaevil re-enactors happy because they get to gently swing their swords and make things look more real and immersive for the rest of the participants in the game.

Players who aren't happy with their costumes getting wrecked can always opt for game mechanics to do the resolution for them.

(I'm also custom moulding swords, axes, and weapon props from "movie special effects grade" foam latex).

Quote
Will players have full autonomy to create characters, or are you going to do pre-gens, or somewhere in the middle (i.e. "classes" or "GM-appointed" stuff like factions)?

Another lesson I learnt from various types of LARP play.

Pre-gens are great for the GM. They can help channel a story and can instantly get new players into the thick of things by tying them to the events that are happening around them.

Fully player generated characters allow for all sorts of variety, which makes the players really happy because they get to play with all sorts of nuances in the game mechanics, but they can sometimes seem at odds with what is going on in the rest of the game. One player could come up with an incredible character concept that just doesn't fit and they can sometimes just end up in the corner doing nothing because they just didn't take into account a social setting when they devised their combat monster.

I'm tending toward middle gorund at the moment. With new players getting pre-generated characters that are more carefully linked in with the setting, while those players who have shown their skill and talent are gradually given more leeway to develop their own characters.   

Quote
How concerned with "play balance" are you, given the potential disparity of technology levels (e.g. my modified paintball marker will SMOKE those sword swingers).

I am definitely concerned with play balance and that's something I'm trying to work into both the setting and the rules. I'm toying with the notion that the "apocalypse" has a tendency to disrupt technology, but I can't go too far in that direction if I want my players with cyberpunk and sci-fi costumes to stay.

I'm working off the concept that things with mechnical parts are typically fine, but electrical devices have a chance that they've short-circuited or require some hefty overhauling to get working again. Consider a global earthquake and electromagnetic pulse...If a player chooses to embed their laptop in a lead and ceramic lined underground cell to protect it's electronics, it might survive. They might even choose to connect it to a solar cell for battery recharging. But if the earthquake has caused a huge collapse over the bunker, they won't be able to get to it for a while. They might spend all night trying to get their laptop and might have to head back to the real world before finding it.

If you want to load your modified paintball gun with pellets filled with acid rather than paint, go ahead, but the acid will eat through the standard plastic pellets, and glass pellets will probably shatter in the earthquake.

Swords are swords.

But the general assumption with the world is that anything really useful will have been scavenged between the time of the current world and the time when the players emerge into the alternate setting. Cars will have been smashed, but can probably be rebuilt or at least repaired for short term drives. Aircraft are out of fuel and not much use at all. Most computers have been wiped out and the internet is pretty much gone (there could be wireless networks still in place, but since the power stations have gone without workers for a while, there probably won't even be enough energy to keep these functioning).   

I could go on with far more, but there's plenty more questions to get through.

Quote
What's the general reason for mixed-genre play; why do these folks from different cultures mingle once a month (or however often you're running the sessions)?

The reason for mixed genre play is the interaction of cultures. Different people have different ideas of how the apocalypse can be best survived, and they all have different ideas of how the new reality can be rebuilt and redefined.

Each of the characters has a mundane existence in the "real world", a regular job that is the core of their existence. Their persona in the "otherland" is just something that they take on when the need arises. A cyberpunk in the post apocalypse setting might be a mechanic or computer programmer in the "real world", but when they visit the "otherland" they use their regular skills to do things that have been forgotten, or they might find their regular skills augmented by mysterious means.

Why do they gather?

That's the crux of the game I guess.

One of the last ideas we had for a game under the Camarilla involved an area just outside a major city. A group of mortals had become aware of the supernatural influences around them and had banded together to prevent their part of the world from being overtaken by these demons of the night. They gathered in a regular monthly meeting to explain what had happened at their part of the border and to discuss any bizarre events that they might have noticed. They then discussed the events at hand and spent the remainder of the night investigating the issue in a more hands on manner. If outsiders chose to invade this part of the world, they'd be met by an organised paramilitary group who had learnt many of their enemies secrets.

In the Camarilla organisation it was hard to get approval to cross-over from one genre to another (ie. vampires shouldn't contact werewolves because character deaths inevitably follow), but anyone could interact with mortals fairly easily. So we had set up the game to be mortal oriented for the biggest chance to interact with the other groups around us. If we wanted to fight werewolves one week, vampires the next, and fey on the following week it was no problem because there would always be a stream of outsiders trying to raid us and take part in the stories we were trying to tell.   

The dark side of this game was the fact that the mortals were in fact being subverted by insular supernaturals who just didn't want others to come into their territory.  A pair of werewolves, a lone vampire, a mage...each of them had the permission and relevant Out-of-Character authorisations to take part in a mortal game. But they all kept their existence very well hidden from the mortals they were trying to manipulate, and each were only vaguely aware of one another's existence. Each of these supernatural beings was more interested in keeping their own lands private and isolated, and since the others had the same mentality they grudgingly accepted one another's existence.

I'm going for the same kind of notion here.

The majority of characters will be regular folk who've uncovered this strange alternate reality and each of them are trying to stake their claim against dark creatures from beyond, or at least trying to keep it safe from the scavengers and nomads who have taken to the streets and wilderness. Those players who have done well will be rewarded with the chance to develop new characters or advance their current characters in new and interesting directions.

Which still leaves the question of why they gather...

They gather to retain contact with this other world, they accept one another as defenders of a world gone mad. They may each have different ideas of how best to deal with the otherworld, but they know that they can't do it alone and they know that their efforts have to be maintained regularly otherwise their efforts to improve the world will collapse. 

Quote
Would you consider using an existing system, or are you going the homebrew route of 99% of LARP organizers?

I'd consider using an existing system except that most of the LARP systems I've used have been very limited in the scope or have been very unwieldy in their application.

I want something quick to pick up, easy to understand, but difficult to manipulate with loopholes and irregularities.

Quote
What sort of play space(s) do you anticipate using routinely? (Seems like any and all would work, given the setting background.)

I'm foreseeing a lot of games in industrial space, open parkland and people's homes. But you're right, virtually any space would work for this type of setting.

Quote
RE hard sci fi vs. supernatural: you will have to explain how this "event" occurred. And either way--some supernatural is just misunderstood nature (e.g. Cthulhoids as 8th-dimensional beings). For now, it's the least of your concerns at this juncture, but it will most-impact color in the game world.

I'm working with the concept that this is a natural phenomenon, a part of the metaphysical universe that echoes a potential future reality. The fact that the players never actually see the events will make it a step removed from them. Any investigations will have to occur through second hand evidence and interrogation of survivors (most of whom will be too traumatised to remember specific details about it). Having an EMP associated with the effect stops a player from simply setting up a camcorder and recording the apocalypse.



Now for Adam's comments...

I guess in a round-about kind of way I've addressed a lot of these issues.

Yes, I'm aiming toward the diplomacy angle, but only for one part of the game. I'm trying to cater to a few different types of player by creating a few styles of play that can be used to manipulate the game world.

I've been toying with the concept that the core of the game is an old style "gentleman's club", or if you want to use the Vampire terminology, an Elysium. In the club, deals are made and broken, etiquette is the measure of a member and status is used as a measure of standing and a currency within the hallowed halls. Members of many different factions gather in a local club because this is a safe point near where the energies between realms converge. Players claim territories outside the club's neutral territory. Those with high status might be able to claim zones close to the club, while those with low status are cast out to the borderlands.

Noting that characters have a "real world" persona and an "otherland" persona, the factions of the setting would be based on the real world subcultures the person might belong to. A group of trekkies might discover a portal into the world and try to develop a federation where they have strict first contact protocols and other aspects based on the various TV series. A bunch of goths might claim the cemetaries, all over the world and act all angsty and cathartic...these are stereotypical and exaggerated, but you get the idea. In the "real world", the faction might communicate by chat rooms, phone calls, internet forums, or "real world" conventions...once they step into the "otherlands", they are stuck with the people who happen to be geographically close to them (whoever they may be, and whatever faction they may be from).

So diplomacy would work on two levels, the global game which could only occur in the "real world", and the local game which could occur in both the "real world" and the "otherland".

As for the points you've touched on GMs...I understand the old adage of 1 GM to every 5 players, and where possible I try to stick to it. But a good game should be able to run without too much GM intervention, and the GM's should always have the chance to play NPCs. I'll get into that more if people are still interested.

Thanks for the interest so far though....
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Ian Mclean
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2008, 10:00:35 PM »

Though I understand the concept of GMs and the player authority ratio, I am more partial to a non-authoritarian model for larp. Larp, unlike table top, is non-centralized and spread out across a large area.

For a diplomacy/democratic/consensus-building game you might consider a more distributed model of game organization, control, and management. Players (as a whole) are more invested in the game and it's direction than any of the GMs I've had at my local OWbN Friday LARP game. GMs have rarely ever made the night. Most often it was the players themselves through various maneuverings. If each player is given enough power and responsibility over their character and slice of game-reality then they can regulate themselves by consensus. How this would work is largely dependent on the setting and system of the specific game.

I tend to favor a system like Magic the Gathering and Oh Hell meets Robert's Rules of Order. Where players can use setting integrated mechanics to mediate the play of the game without the need for reference to the rules or deference to an authority. Both of which are disruptive to immersive play.

I've been working on my own LARP system for sometimes for the exact reason that I've fallen in love with the LARP medium, but I despise the way it's squandered in MET: WoD. You have no compelling reason to cling to the authoritarian model that is inherited from the wargaming-roleplay hybrids of the 1960s.
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2008, 10:32:22 PM »

O.K.

Time to touch on what I've been considering.

Player to GM is a relative index on a sliding scale rather than a fix pair of roles.

New players would begin very much on the side of the "player", experienced players gradually move across the scale toward the GM stage.

The more a player invests into the setting, the more responsibility they'll gain.

My initial aim was something simple.

1. You come to a game and play for a session or two to get the hang of things.

2. You invite a friend or two along and you start your own cabal/circle/pack/whatever. Since your friends will be looking up to you as the role model you get a bit more authority within the game (most systems would have this authority implied and wouldn't give any actual benefit, but I'm trying to give a bit more bonus for stepping up to the challenge).

3. You've been playing a few games and you decide that you'd like to inject some of your own storylines into the campaign's mix. This is another level of stepping up. The player gets some new responsibilities and some new benefits for their reward.

4. You're a veteran and people regularly try to get involved in the stories relating to your character. In this situation you gain quite a bit of prestige within the game because people want to do stuff for you...you get the idea.

The more a player puts into the setting and the game, the more they are rewarded.

I don't want to make this a metagaming thing where the vampires get points for donating blood in the real world, or where someone does a bit of book-keeping every month and ends up with an uber-monster.

Since people seem to be comfortable with the Minds-Eye concept as a basic paradigm, I'll sit with it a little longer.

If you want to be a primogen in vampire or a pack leader in werewolf, you'd have to step up to the challenge of telling stories for your immediate group. If you want to be the prince, or the sept alpha, you'd have to step up to the challenge of telling stories for the entire local community. If someone wants to get political and take down the leaders of the community, they'll have to be willing to take over the GMing duties as well. This way you don't get players who simply step into the positions of power to squash any potential storylines that might develop.

If the majority of players don't like what's happening story-wise, they can rise up en-masse. A political coup wipes out the reigning figures in the game world and a player vote knocks out the GM in the real world. The game continues in a new direction with a new GM, but any old issues have to be resolved before new elements may be brought into play for the story.

You're right, Ian, that game mechanics often get in the way of a good story, and that's one of the things I've been toying with over the last couple of years. That's another reason for desiring a fairly simple, logical and coherent system that is easy for newcomers to pick up but robust enough to cover the widest range of situations.
 
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David Artman
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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2008, 08:11:04 AM »

You seem to have your plans coming along, so I'll just add a few wrap-up points.

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I'm tending toward middle gorund at the moment. With new players getting pre-generated characters that are more carefully linked in with the setting, while those players who have shown their skill and talent are gradually given more leeway to develop their own characters.
Not quite the middle ground I meant, but whatever floats your boat. I meant more like the difference between Champions and D&D: total autonomy to create abilities and set stats, versus constraints via class choices, pre-requisites, and required traits or relationships.

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If you want to load your modified paintball gun with pellets filled with acid rather than paint, go ahead, but the acid will eat through the standard plastic pellets, and glass pellets will probably shatter in the earthquake.
You think too small. My pellets are filled with a mix of capsasin (pepper spray) and fast-acting, insinuative, flesh-eating virus. Without a full chem suit and respirator, blindness and painful irritation is immediate, and death follows in a matter of minutes. Booya.

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They gather to retain contact with this other world, they accept one another as defenders of a world gone mad. They may each have different ideas of how best to deal with the otherworld, but they know that they can't do it alone and they know that their efforts have to be maintained regularly otherwise their efforts to improve the world will collapse.
Hope you got a lot of crew for NPCs, then--if all the PCs are "mostly" aligned, then all opposition has to be from the "outside."

Borrow a page from Mage and let folks break up into factions based on why or how they would shape the otherworld. Some factions could be somewhat aligned, only waiting until the penultimate moment to square off and decide who's particular variant vision holds sway. Others might be bitter enemies, with kill-on-sight standard reactions or, at best, VERY edgy dealings between "diplomats" while outright conflict is only barely held in check through mutually assured destruction. Aim the PCs at each other, not at "the darkness" which you must then fully populate. And go contact, 'cause nothing says "goofy" like a roaring, screaming charge into battle... to whip out cards or play rochambo.

And the more I read about your setting, them more I think you'd want to play in campsites with cabins and, ideally, a meeting hall/lodge cabin (many US State Parks have this setup).

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I want something quick to pick up, easy to understand, but difficult to manipulate with loopholes and irregularities.
May I then suggest a well-tuned set of GLASS Templates and Packages, using whichever Options and Toggles suit your game's lethality, science/supernatural, and rate of character advancement. As a system, its simpler than Champions (fewer abilities), and with GM game type definition, your players can learn it in minutes. It is, however, contact to the core; I once tried to "mix" like you're going to do and found it an utter mess, not only to balance (stat-based combat VS actual player skill) but to handle during play (time drift, as one group is doing a slow, OOG, mechanical resolution while another is rollicking by swinging away in real time).

But, again, whatever floats your boat. I'd happily help you on basic Templates and Packages (or just getting a handle on GLASS, if you have no Champions/Hero experience).

Quote
So diplomacy would work on two levels, the global game which could only occur in the "real world", and the local game which could occur in both the "real world" and the "otherland".
This is a clever notion, blending an ARG with a LARP. I've often thought a true 24/7/365 LARP would be Da Bomb, but struggle with notions at to (a) what goes on during most of the time and (b) what general framing of a backstory would account for regular meetings of these folks, complete with intrigue, fighting, and so forth. Vamp is actually not bad for that (except all the daywalking vampires), in that it provides a notion for the 24/7 play (feed regularly, plan with your cabal for the next Council meeting, have in-character mini-session) and also for why folks gather routinely (council). Spy versus spy, with a sort of Bablyon-5 "safe--usually--zone" (e.g. Over The Edge) is also very doable as a 24/7/365 LARP; and it has the advantage of not being supernaturally driven nor in a different time period than modern (props and costuming not as big an issue for most players).

Anyhow, I'm rambling. Let me know on the GLASScutters.org forums if you have any questions or need any help setting up. Otherwise, good luck--you have a major challenge, with the mixed resolution modes idea and the (current) notion that most or all PCs are in alignment, are "gentlemen."
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2008, 06:22:10 PM »

It looks like a few people have similar notions regarding LARP, and the directions it could take.

It also looks like people are generally tainted by the Minds-Eye Theatre experience...which is like the fast-food equivalent of live roleplaying compared to the gourmet restaurants of LARP I've also experienced.

Which is a shame...

Still, it sets some ground rules that make a nice departure point.

The factional basis on Mage "traditions" is a nice idea and ties into some of the concepts I've started developing over the last couple of days. But with some twists to get it away from the WW paradigm...I'm working toward the idea that this "Otherland" is a spirit world where great beings have fought for control since the dawn of time. These beings are unable to interact with the physical world, but they are able to call humans into their home realm. The "otherland" is always a reflection of a potential post-apocalyptic future, and each of these beings wants the realm to reflect their agenda as far as possible. So you have ancient chinese immortals stuck in the "otherland" calling on their descendents to make changes in the real world that will then cascade back to their reality, native american totems that try to push the agendas of their traditional tribal groups to restore their "hunting grounds", african/voodoo loa, terminator-esque machines, etc. All trying to dominate this reflection of our own world through the humans they call.

The problem is that humans are unable to inhabit the "otherland" for too long otherwise they start to lose their identity. They draw supernatural powers from the otherland but they lose their sense of self. So the characters are forced to walk a line between the realms...like shamans, luantics, priests or visionaries.

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Hope you got a lot of crew for NPCs, then--if all the PCs are "mostly" aligned, then all opposition has to be from the "outside."

For the action packed part of the game, I'm planning on running the game in tandem pairs of strategic groups. There will always be a number of issues to face each game and the players will have to split up if they want to survive or further their agendas. While one group takes on the roles of protagonists, the others will be antagonists...and vice versa.

This type of game will only run if there are enough players interested in running the high-stakes action-packed adrenaline-pumping style of game. This style of play needs to be fast and bloody.

At least half the games though will be more intrigue laiden, subtle and insidious plots that tear old alliances apart and forge new ones as they evolve.

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I once tried to "mix" like you're going to do and found it an utter mess, not only to balance (stat-based combat VS actual player skill) but to handle during play (time drift, as one group is doing a slow, OOG, mechanical resolution while another is rollicking by swinging away in real time).

This is where I think a task based conflict resolution system is out and an agenda based system is preferable.

Before we go into the conflict, we run a few simple tests. We decide who the victor will be and how much damage will be done to the victim, then we let them go in for an improvised combat scene where the actual sword swings don't matter, but the result has to be reached.

Jack and Tom do their challenge against one another, and determine that Jack will lose the conflict with heavy injuries, but Tom will take some damage in the process. They then improvise the combat in front of everyone in real time, no-one else can interfere in the events because they should have stated their intentions to do so when the testing phase was occuring.

Combat begins...

Tom swings, Jack ducks (but he knows that he's going to have to take a couple of hits at some stage, or at least one big dramatic hit later).

Jack kicks at Tom...ouch, he's down with a strike to the legs.

Jack goes in for a second swing, but Tom rolls out of the way.

With his guard down, Jack is hit by Tom in a moment of vulnerability and falls to the ground in pain.

Tom gets up, winded and with a few bruises but he's far better than Jack.


The actual actions don't matter and they fly in real time, but the conflict outcome must be reached. And since the combat is acted out with light-contact, those players who develop a character more dextrous than their real life selves will be able to go through the motions and still have things look dramatic for the people around them. The results of the conflict should be secret to everyone not involved in the battle to increase the tension to those observing it.

The problem here is mass battles, but I'm sure a decent resolution mechanic can give "sides" and deliver injuries to various participants. I'm just figuring through the mechanics of this concept now.

Hell, I know a few players who'd be able to handle a game where they started the entire game with a certain wound state and would play all of their challenges at the beginning of the session. If their challenges indicated that they died during the session, they be happy to die as long as their character did so at an appropriately dramatic moment...but I know far too many immature players who simple couldn't handle this idea.

With this in mind, I think skills as specific task resolution mechanics are out, and general aptitudes for styles of action are better. Rather than a specific pair of skills in strike and dodge, a general aptitude in close combat might be more suitable.

I'll be taking a close look at GLASS, to see how well it suits the ideas I have in mind.
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David Artman
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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2008, 06:30:51 AM »

I've seen LARP systems that front-load the challenge and then act out the results. They suffer the same issues as slow action-by-action resolution: break from immersion and folks in "different time" showing up mid-battle. You've reduced, but not avoided, the problems.

RE the former, any time the players aren't acting and doing things is, in my view of LARP system design, bad. RE the latter, unless you keep a tight rein on all of the players and isolate them from each other when separated, eventually someone will wander up (or dash up) in mid-battle and try to intervene. Front-loading only works, I feel, for individual, unopposed actions (viz Situational Abilities in GLASS--there's a front-loaded threshold check and then the player would act out whatever the success or failure entails).

As for using GLASS for intent-based resolution, forget about it. GLASS is action. It's boffer, Airsoft, Nerf. It's (rather heavily) front-loaded in character creation and advancement so that, in play, all mechanics are short calls and simple resource management (Ability usage, ammo, armor, HAP points) with instantaneous handling times. You couldn't port GLASS to  a stat-driven game without a LOT of rework... might as well start from scratch, in such a case.

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It also looks like people are generally tainted by the Minds-Eye Theatre experience...which is like the fast-food equivalent of live roleplaying compared to the gourmet restaurants of LARP I've also experienced.
I'm sorry I gave THAT impression, because I think MET's system is crap. Maybe the new version is better (I'll never know), but any kind of multi-player battle in MET is like watching Underworld in ultra-slow-mo video. Like, a frame every minute. Cthulhu Live has a much better, more fluid system for non-contact, player-skill-irrelevant stat-play, I feel; and it's easily ported to other genres with minimal rework, assuming you don't need to add a bajillion customized spells or skills or what-not to support the genre/setting.

However, MET's factionalism, persistent world plausibility, and easy prep (modern era settings) makes it a nice model for an "alternate near future" game like you describe. It's by no means the only genre with such aspects (viz my spy-vs-spy idea above). In general, my main point is to get the players aimed at each other, not "out there," so that your injections of motivation and opposition are not paramount to play. A well-designed LARP setting and situation, IMO, can sustain the GM not even showing up for a session!

In closing, you might benefit from posting your full system and setting notions at RPG.net's LARP forum, as there's far more interest in LARPs there than here (in my experience). Also, you'd have all sorts of "gourmet" designers and organizers with really deep experience to help you fine tune your hybrid system (should you stick with it).
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2008, 06:37:07 PM »

Points taken...

I agree that some of the best LARP situations are character driven rather than plot driven, and I'll certainly agree that GM intervention can cause levels of strain on a LARP environment. But for new players, GM intervention is often necessary to get them into the rhythm of the setting (based on my experience).

I think my recent thoughts have deviated from the concept of a "gentleman's club" and back into a generic one LARP fits all, and that kind of concept ends up pleasing no-one. If I go back to my original notion where physical conflict is kept to a minimum if not eliminated entirely, then that opens up another series of options that might be a bit more elegant.

It might be worth exploring a multi-form concept where the LARP deals with the politics of the "Otherland", while players performing combats or missions beyond the reclaimed lands work through the medium of battle-game miniatures.

But that's getting ahead of myself again...

I've got a few other thoughts, and I'll start some new topics and run some discussion between here and RPGnet.
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2008, 04:58:17 AM »

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I agree that some of the best LARP situations are character driven rather than plot driven, and I'll certainly agree that GM intervention can cause levels of strain on a LARP environment.

I would highly suggest taking a look at a book written by Lajos Egri called "The Art of Dramatic Writing". The book discusses the merits of character-driven premise-based stories as they apply to play writing, but I find that the book is most applicable to the interactive mediums as well. It gave me some great insights into emphasizing character-character interaction over statistics-resolution tactics; I believe it would do the same for you.

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I don't want to make this a metagaming thing where the vampires get points for donating blood in the real world, or where someone does a bit of book-keeping every month and ends up with an uber-monster.

Metagame is part of the whole game. Your system needs to take this in to account. You can try to segregate "real" world concerns from the game world concerns, but the two are one. Rather than denying this simple reality, I would suggest embracing it and designing it's use into the system you are developing. Make your system handle metagaming as part of it's operation. It'll make your game stronger.

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With this in mind, I think skills as specific task resolution mechanics are out, and general aptitudes for styles of action are better. Rather than a specific pair of skills in strike and dodge, a general aptitude in close combat might be more suitable.

I have a question about your intended gameplay. What do you intend your players to focus? Your expressed emphasis in the system you set forth will greatly influence what your players see as "most important" while they are playing with your game.

Roleplaying games can be largely defined by their emphasis. Dungeons and dragons emphasizes tactical turn-based combat to the detriment of other gameplay concerns. Dice resolution makes anything one attempts largely random excepting the few places where dice rolls have been all but eliminated. Much of Dungeons and Dragons is then subject to the whims of the Dice gods, and as some of us have come to realize, this is a bad thing when story and gameplay are involved.

Magic the Gathering does rather well with very few chance resolution mechanics. Covert or overt voting systems could be viable for the larp constraints as could types of investment systems. I think that the investment systems might be the way to go given what you've laid out as a prototype resolution system. The trick would be to get the front loading done swiftly and effectively (low search & handling time).

I think skills as they are generally conceived of would be far to limited to use in a decent LARP. I know that they are far to limited in MET. One is advised however that MET brings an interesting light to RPGs in general, skills are limited in effectiveness to task resolution in general. Larger things like objective, project, and program-based resolution are better served by background and influence type systems. Right tool for the right job, correct?
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« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2008, 02:35:30 PM »

Let's strip my concept back to it's basics...

1. To dress up in costume (whatever that costume may be).
2. To socialise with a growing crowd of people who also enjoy dressing up in costume.
3. To tell epic and developing stories that unfold over the course of weeks, months and years.
4. To have a situation where the mechanics behind the system are simple and presented easily to newcomers.
5. To have a global storyline allowing players to travel to neighbouring cities and take their characters with them.
6. To have a deep and rich setting that invites the telling of tales rather than the negation of it.
7. To avoid the OOC politics inherent in certain global LARP campaigns that shall remain nameless.


Forget combat resolution mechanics, skill resolution, or anything like that for the moment...I want to focus on what the players will get out of the game, and how the game might address these goals.

The chance to dress up in any type of costume is a major factor for the core group of players, and a drawcard for new players who like to try something if it "LOOKS" interesting.

Mechanics will be faced once people get into the game, and OOC politics usually take a couple of games to develop unless their are some pre-established rivalries (in which case a lot of people just wouldn't come along to the game if that were the case).

Telling epic and developing storylines basically means that things will be dramatic (it may not mean this for all people, but that's what I'm going with for the moment). Character death is a real threat, but shouldn't occur every game, and shouldn't happen for no reason.



What's the vibe of my game?

A post apocalypse world that exists alongside our own reality, no one knows how long this world has existed, or why it exists. But they have learned how to reach it and that it has something to do with dreams, desires and the destiny of humanity. In this world, people appear as idealized versions of themselves, perhaps reflections of their true souls. Some may perceive themselves as high tech cyberpunks, others may view themselves as noble aristocrats trying to enforce order on the world, others still may be rebels identifying with barbaric ages of the past. Truly imaginative folk (or those who bear a taint of insanity) may perceive themselves as elves, fae, or other creatures.

Appearances aren't everything, and they don't apply automatic mechanical benefits to the character, but they give a good idea of the character's goals and motivations.

Where do I want my game-play focused?

I want it to be political. Those characters who have managed to cross over into the "otherlands" start off bewildered by the realm. But those who have been there a while start to realize the potential. In this world where imagination shapes their form, it can also fuel wondrous powers. The characters exist in secret from the native inhabitants of the post apocalyptic otherworld, but in time virtually all of them develop cults of otherworlders to do their bidding. They become revered as heroes and maybe even angels or gods.

But in our world they are regular people, people a little different to the rest of the population, but people none-the-less. No powers to call on, but the mundane actions they perform in our reality can have major consequences on a post apocalyptic otherworld.

I guess the game will have an inherent duality enforced by this notion of parallel worlds.

The regular LARP will be like a gathering of gods within a pantheon. They will always face rivalry from one another, but united, they draw strength symbiotically. Alone, they are weak and at the mercy of the "Otherlands". Generally, each player wants to become the dominant member of the group, without causing the strength of the group to suffer too much in the process. There's no point taking over a major corporation by firing all of the top executives if those executives have been the ones holding the company together in the first place.

Players should consider the cascading effects of their actions before making hasty decisions.

Their attitude to the denizens of the "Otherworld" will be a bit different though. After all, they are the lords and masters of the survivors, derelicts and mutants from the post apocalyptic waste.

How do I want my play to proceed?

I've been toying with the notion of a "Diplomacy" type system for interaction with the outside world. Divide the local city into sectors based on council/county lines, we run a couple of games separately, but to reflect the different issues of the city. One based on the gang crime, one based on the food supplies, one based on the technology, etc.

In these games, the otherlanders are expendible pawns, valuable only because the player who controls the most pawns has the most status within the pantheon. These pawns do the dirty work of surviving and little else, but they can be focused toward new goals.

For example, everyone has three actions for the day, every action generates a point. Everyone require at least two points worth of survival to make it to the next day. That leaves them one action to do useful things for their master. But if you get three people together, then two can focus on survival for a total of six points. They can evenly distribute their points to their third member, allowing this pawn to spend his three action points on something useful. If you want the mechanic to focus his actions on building a car, then the others can support him. If you want the medic to focus on medicines, then everyone can support her for a day.

These actions contribute to background effects that will influence play by shifting the political landscape.

I've still got a lot of work to go on this concept, but hopefully you get the idea.

Players are elders with cabals of troops to do their bidding, they don't fight each other directly because that is dishonorable and weakens the entire group. They vie for status in a post apocalyptic world where they are viewed as heroes and gods.

Yet somewhere in the shadows of that world there are secrets waiting to be uncovered...
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« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2008, 05:40:06 PM »

Metagame is part of the whole game. Your system needs to take this in to account. You can try to segregate "real" world concerns from the game world concerns, but the two are one. Rather than denying this simple reality, I would suggest embracing it and designing it's use into the system you are developing. Make your system handle metagaming as part of it's operation. It'll make your game stronger.

I'm trying to address this in the concept that the more responsibility you take in the parallel game worlds, the more responsibility you take in the real world. The player who wants more status for taking on a position of power needs to do something in real life to maintain their grip on that positon.

The player who organises the venues may gain a position in game that reflects this.

The player who organises dynamic hack-and-slash adventures in the "Otherlands" beyond the walls of the sheltered club may develop a position as the local "war master", "lord tactician" or something similar. This player tells the stories of dark adventure for the other players, and this is reflected in game because the character chooses not to get their hands dirty and instead sends units of troops out to do their dirty work.

The player who knows the rules best for the LARP medium becomes the "keeper of etiquette" and the person you turn to when social rules need to be addressed.

This decentralises the GM role. It also means that any player can have their character to take on a position of influence, but they need to reflect this in-game responsibility with matching out-of-character responsibilities. No matter how much they might try to deny it, people are naturally drawn to types of characters that suit their own personality. I've known many people who've played Ventrue, Malkavians, Get of Fenris, Verbena, elven paladins, gnomish sorcerors, etc... all in exactly the same way, just with a different bunch of stats...

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One is advised however that MET brings an interesting light to RPGs in general, skills are limited in effectiveness to task resolution in general. Larger things like objective, project, and program-based resolution are better served by background and influence type systems. Right tool for the right job, correct?

Very true, and that's why I'm trying to brainstorm the right tools.

Nothing in this thread is set in stone. It's all ways to fulfil the agendas I've set for the game so far....agendas to develop the LARP I've always wanted to be a part of, but haven't been able to find.
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