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Author Topic: Homebrew LARP - now played!  (Read 1888 times)
JamesSterrett
Member

Posts: 118


« on: July 01, 2004, 12:05:16 PM »

I'd asked for ideas about this earlier (Player Death  and  Eliciting player input.  It ran on Sunday, 20 June....

The overall scenario:  

Nearly everybody boards Atagonia Airways 314i, a blimp.  Everybody on the blimp is a shareholder in Atagonia Airways and can vote in the board meeting, and everybody in the game is either a book pulbisher and has one or more books to sell.  Three players are not on the blimp.

The blimp crashes into an anomaly, which an evil sorceror uses to keep himself and his assistant alive through the ages.  The three players not on the blimp are his backup life-batteries, from 100, 200, and 300 years ago.

Chaos ensues as the players try to figure out what's going on, terrorists try to disrupt the AA board election, and the sorceror tries to prevent his lives from escaping.  In the event, he failed (*why* did he walk up to the three players from the past - each of whom had a pretty garbled/photoshopped picture of him - and ask "Haven't I met you before?"), everybody still alive got rescued (most of the players) and we finished out the board-room and book-buying plots.

All told, it ran for around 6 hours, and everybody reported having a good time, notably including two who had never taken part in an RPG before.

The write-up I just sent to the players:

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LARP 2004 Report – James Sterrett

First off – thank you all for coming and playing!  Without you, these games don’t happen.

Second:  Jim and I don’t know everything about what went on in the game.  I’m going to present some thoughts about the game below, but we’d very much like to hear your thoughts, too!  Let us know what was cool, what was fun – and what wasn’t.

Since I don’t know about everything that went on, I’m going to stick to some thoughts and commentary on what I think went well or poorly from a game-design point of view.

- The initial politics on the blimp worked *very well*.  Everybody inside broke up into small groups, arguing or hearing a case about something or other (and usually the board election).  We had not thought it would work so well; in fact, we’re thinking to base the next game around something much more like this.  (See the end for that.)

- Combat went more smoothly than normal, largely, we suspect, because of the explicit, participatory example in the beginning.  Still not as smooth as I’d like, but them’s the breaks.

- Giving everybody a piece of the book-publishing plotline, and nearly everybody a part in the Atagonia Airways board election plotline, seems to have worked well to ensure that very few people could find somebody else in the game to whom they had no plot connection.  (In fact, once the sorcerer/anomaly plotline is figured in, everybody had connections….)

- Death as being “just a mute ghost”.  This hopefully broke the notion that death results in super-information; but frankly, the super-information “Land of the Dead” thing worked a lot better.

- Corinne being a blind executive worked less well than we’d hoped.  Her character had power on paper, but none in the game, and being blind, she was highly ineffective at negotiation since she could not make eye contact.  Full points to Corinne and Sarah, though, for playing their roles extremely well as blind executive and hypercompetent PA.  And Jim and I have, hopefully, learned that a player in power must have something to give, not just something needed.  (Which seems terribly obvious when you write it out that way.)

- Asking for 5 words to describe a character didn’t always work well.  We should have been more explicit in our goals, and I’ll do that now:

   We want to write characters for you to play that will resonate with you; a part that won’t simply be moving a pawn about on the chessboard of the game, but one that, somehow, speaks to you.  We did get several requests that translated *directly* into characters, most notably Steph’s request to be “like Vir in Babylon 5”, as a result of which she was made the good-hearted assistant of an evil sorcerer to whom she was loyal - a character we hadn’t planned on having, but were delighted to insert when we saw it.

   Steph says she had a blast confronting the dilemma of being a moral person trying to provide loyal service to a monster.  We’d like to be able to provide all of you with dilemmas - not necessarily that dilemma, but one that you would like to explore.  What we were really driving at when we asked for five words was a clue to the kinds of dilemmas or challenges you’d like to overcome.

   Naturally, we won’t always succeed in doing it (and our apologies to Lisa, who asked to be central to the major plotlines and to have a secret - central to three plotlines, but no secret…!  :-(  Fortunately, she doesn’t seem too upset.  :)  )  -  but we do intend to try.  :)

- The “treasure hunt” stage, of looking for suitcases after the crash, probably was not worth the effort.  We wound up crunched for time, and were unable to do a decent job of hiding them in a coherent manner that might advance the story.  We should, in retrospect, probably have simply dropped it.  Equally, we decided to let the physicist’s device get found by whomever found it; this may or may not have been the best plan, but it was the one we had time to execute.  In the event, Larry found it, didn’t know (none of the players knew) that it was one of his two nemeses, and traded it to Lisa….

- Through a flaw in our writing, the “mystics” got the notion that their spells would destroy the world; in fact, their spells were the alternate nemesis to Larry’s evil sorcerer.  We’d like to know how the nature of the spells could have been clearer.

   The spells were built with huge health sacrifices as an impediment to making them easy to cast - the mystics would need to find each other, then find a large enough health pool to survive the casting, and the final spell required a sacrifice to die.  The brake on the physics version of solving the problem was prestige, since the physicists were advancing and/or proving their theories by making tests in the device.  We should have had a better explanation for how the device worked in terms of proving or disproving the various physicists’ theories.

- Dividing people into first class and steerage, and confining steerage to our mildly unpleasant basement, seemed to go well in terms of creating in-game social differences and did not appear to cause anybody undue hardship.  I’m sure the steerage passengers were plenty happy to leave the crashed blimp, though….!

- We went through three major and three minor “stage changes” in the game – onto the blimp, off the blimp, rescue by helicopter to the conference center; and the changes in the communications rules between Red and Blue after the blimp crash.  These were pretty artificial, but everybody played along - thank you!  We don’t know how to have done these things less artificially.


And, finally, some thoughts for the next game (there’s no date set or even under consideration, yet):

We’re thinking to ramp up the politics full-scale.  All the players would, at least ostensibly, be heads of state and/or ministers at a major conference.  Your armies stand ready for war, your cease-fires are due to expire, you have territorial ambitions, and the superpowers are taking an interest in your natural resources….

And we’ll simulate the war(s) by using a military-training-grade wargame, TacOps, and provide you with TacOps players as your generals.  They’ll be playing TacOps via the internet, commanding your battalions.  A few people may play CNN, providing a “big screen” coverage of events on the battlefront for all to see.  You’d have cell-phone and/or IRC (internet relay chat) for direct access to your generals

Thus, your political decisions would be translated into orders for your general(s), and their tactical prowess would in turn have an impact on your political prospects, with negotiation and combat proceeding simultaneously and in parallel.

We think this could be pretty nifty, especially once you add in the usual layer of subterfuge, secret identities, secret goals, and political skullduggery at the conference.
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LordSmerf
Member

Posts: 864


« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2004, 07:35:59 AM »

Hey James,

If you get the time would you mind posting a short summary of how things went (including set up) for those of us who weren't there?  It seems like you had a lot of fun, and your after-action report summarizes which design goals you felt were met, but i don't really feel that i understand how they were met.

It sounds like you guys had a really interesting time and you've piqued my interest...

Thomas
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Current projects: Caper, Trust and Betrayal, The Suburban Crucible
JamesSterrett
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2004, 08:22:10 AM »

A *short* summary?  Er.  :)

Trying not to get into too much detail (or it won't be short!):

We always play where I live, a small bungalow on a chunk of farm- and wood-land in SE Pennsylvania.  It's a wonderful place to run these!

The system is very rules-light, the postings referenced above contain an earlier version of the rules, and not much changed for this run.  Walt Freitag would probably call this a SIL-style LARP; it is not a boffer LARP with "real" combat, and focuses on diplomacy and intrigue.

Factions:

The Sorceror and his apprentice: This pair have been harnessing the anomaly for hundreds of years, trapping people inside it and then draining their life essence to continue living.  The anomaly appears in our world once every hundred years.  People inside the anomaly live 1 day every hundred years, excepting those (nearly all) who suddenly die of old age.

The opportunistic sorceror: a sorceror who is clued-in, but just happens to be on the blimp.  Put in the game as an evil counterweight to the sorcerous pair, he will take over the anomaly if possible.  He's also a sub-editor at one of the two publishing firms.

Three people trapped from the past (a Dutch tulip merchant from 1704, a Russian officer from 1804, and a Kansas schoolteacher from 1904).  These are the only people who are *not* shareholders, for the Boardroom plot.

The blimp captain and his radioman. The blimp captain is the leader of the opposition in the Boardroom plot.

Cassandra Simmons, the CEO of Atagonia Airways and a host of other companies, focus of the boardroom plot by the blimp captain to oust her.  Blind, and has a PA to help out; the PA doubles as a bodyguard.

Three physicists who are on the blimp to observe the anomaly and present papers on it.  Their equipment, though they don't know it at first, can control the anomaly.  Two of them are on the Atagonia Airways board.

Three secret agents for various anti-sorcerous agencies, all of whom are looking for the opportunistic sorceror.  Each one only has a tiny peice of information to identify their target, though combined the info produces a perfect match.  All three of these have cover identities as editors/sub-editors for the book plot.

Three people with fragments of spells that, combined, will let them break open the anomaly.  Two are also editors/sub-editors in the book plot and the third is on the Atagonia Airways board.

Three terrorists; one supports the blimp captain, one supports the CEO, and one is an anarchist.

One Atagonian Air Marshal to provide police presence; and, added at the last minute to include another player, one travel writer.

All the editors had credit lines with which to buy manuscripts from players; all non-editors had book manuscripts.  The two publishing houses were in competition, and the various editors in each house were also in competition.

Each of the three physicists had their own theory which they were trying to prove, as well.

So the game begins; we run over the rules, then have everybody except the people from the past board the blimp.  First class tickets have a blue dot on their name-tag; steerage has a red dot on their name-tag.

Politics began immediately and well; had it not been for the people outside (the ones already in the anomaly) then we'd have let this stage run a bit longer.  Both the CEO and the captain promptly went into steerage to try to gain votes there.  :)  The three from the past, meantime, compared briefing notes and pondered their photoshopped pictures.

After 30 minutes, we changed a CD track from a steady reassuring hum of blimp engines to various crashing/rending/tearing noises, and evacuated the first-class passengers to the front of the house, and the steerage passengers to the rear.

Each group was told the other group appeared to be dead; the rules wre: no talking to the other color; no physical contact/exchanges/combat with the other color.

We pointed out the direction of the debris trail of the blip and suggested their luggage (containing manuscripts, spell fragments, physicist's devices, terrorist's bombs, etc amen) could be found.  Players promptly bolted to find their luggage.  :)

One of the physicists acquired the test device from the sorceror, and promptly tried it out, thus changing the rules: speech between Red and Blue became legal.

More politicing as players tried to figure out what was going on, who the bad guys might be, and how they were supposed to get rescued.  The opportunistic sorceror got discovered, arrested, and was held at gunpoint for the rest of the game, but spilled many beans on the nature of sorcery in the process.  This triggered a wider hunt for the Big Bad.

As the players slowly organized, the Big Bad was also at work; since he tried to do this in a nook in the woods, this prompted the posse of players opposed to him to sneak after him, and then ambush him.   He resisted arrest and was killed; his apprentice surrendered (and was held at gunpoint for the rest of the game).  [Both the players held at gunpoint were able to move around and see what was going on; this was entirely a player-adjudicated matter.]

Shortly thereafter, the physicists did their stage 2 test, allowing the transfer of physical objects between Red and Blue.

Things slowed down a bit at this point.  The radioman needed parts to fix the radio, and had all but one - and it turned out that the last part was being held by one of the physicists, hoping to use it as a bargaining chip to force the stage 3 test to prove her theories.  In the end she split the test 50-50 with one other physicist.

The stage 3 test took place simultaneously with the mystics finally getting together and casting their stage 3 spell; the anomaly was thus broken (twice!), the last radio part made available, and with the radfio fixed, rescue helicopters could be called in.

While the negotiations for all this were underway, the anarchist terrorist tried to blow up both the blimp captain and the CEO, but only nailed the blimp captain.  One of the other terrorists tried to blow up the radio room, but - for reasons completely unrelated to the bomb - the radioman removed all his equipment from the radio room about 2 minutes before the bomb's timer got to zero, thus inadvertently saving the equipment.

The helicopters arrived, whisking everybody still alive back to civilization, where we allowed some time for the boardroom and book plots to close out.  The radioman lead a charge to elect somebody else as the chairman of the board, loyal to the blimp captain's agenda - and won the vote!

We then moved to debrief, going over the outcomes of the boardroom plot, the book plot, and generally revealing all and revelling in various Cool Bits as people related them.


Ask away if you want me to prattle away more.  :)
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