Joined: 23 Jan 2006
|Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:54 pm Post subject:
|I shall try to remember to repost them when I get home. Or I could log into gmail...
Writing and Running a LARP for Kapcon
The purpose of this document is to pass on some advice from previous LARP writers and runners to future Kapcon LARP writers. It will be largely opinion based, but will at least be based on experience
Contributors: Matt Cowens, Mike Sands, Frank Pitt, Svend Andersen
A LARP is a big undertaking, and you need to think about the following roles:
1. Head Honcho - the person who is in charge of the LARP. It's probably best if this person is in charge creatively and logistically, and is really enthused about the idea.
2. Writers - each writer should have between 5 and 20 characters to write. Obviously the more writers you have, the less each one has to do. However, as the number of writers goes up, the communication between them becomes less easy to manage, and you have more chance of someone dropping out.
3. Proof-readers - can be writers, but people generally shouldn't proof-read their own stuff.
4. Set-dressers - venues can be dressed up a little with props and fabric, and this is a job that can be done by anyone with enthusiasm and a little time.
5. Props buyer - many LARPs feature little bit and pieces that need to be bought, and this should ideally happen well in advance.
6. Props makers - people to make aged documents, puzzles, maps, and anything else that needs putting together.
7. On-the-day NPCs - it can help a LARP to tun more smoothly, and certainly helps to introduce new information in the second half of the game, if you have NPCs. With multiple costumes, one GM can play multiple NPCs over an evening, as long as there are good in-character reasons for NPC 1 to disappear before NPC 2 gets there.
8. On-the-day GMs - people to answer questions, help resolve conflicts, and make sure everything is going OK. Depending on the style of LARP you might need lots of GMs, or you may only need a few.
9. Email and Admin Person - someone to assign characters to players, answer emails, and keep track of what has been sent where. This job took a lot more time than I thought it would.
10. Printing Monkey - someone to print out all the character sheets and information, and make sure there are spare copies of all the stuff that you need spare copies of. Again, this can take longer than expected.
I think a good sized team for a 60 player LARP would be around 5-8 people, if you include the set dressers and such. That would be a core of 2 or 3 people to bang out the initial idea, 5 writers to share out the characters, 3 on the day GMs and 3 NPCs, and 1 or 2 people buying props and setting up the venue. GMs should probably be the core writers, NPCs could be anyone willing. The idea of GMs being 'in-role' (as, say, the hosts of the party) is also not a bad one.
You need to look at the space you're running the LARP in, and consider whether you want to use one space for the whole game, or if you have multiple spaces available, do you want to use them? It's usually good to have somewhere where characters can talk in private - the hallway can suffice if nowhere else is available. If you're going to have multiple areas, do you want characters to be able to move freely between them? If you want the characters to be mobile, you need to write solid reasons into their backgrounds and goals for them to want to move around.
WHAT ARE CHARACTERS GOING TO DO?
This is worth some thought. Are they just going to talk? Will there be combat? Will they trade things, or make deals? Will there be gambling, or dancing, or party games? Anything that you can put in for people to actually do during the game is likely to be good.
There's a lot here, as this is 90% of your LARP.
1. What sort of characters to write. The theme of your LARP will largely determine where you start with this. Do you want to write recognisable character types (archetypes or historical figures), or do you want to entirely create characters that fit your purposes. Having something that the player can immediately recognise and 'glom onto' is a good thing, so working with stereotypes can be to your advantage. Of course, whether you then subvert the stereotype or merely go along with it is up to you.
2. How much information to make available. People like to know what sort of character they're signing up for. For Mike's LARP, the distinction of white hat, grey hat, black hat was added to character descriptions. This means that a player should, in theory, know if their character is going to be evil in advance. This is a little tricky with characters who are written to appear nice to everyone else, but are actually evil. It's a judgement call as to how much you want to tell people, but in general, the more the player knows about their character before they choose, the more likely they are to be happy with what they get.
3. Players as writers? This year we allowed people to choose a Victorian concept, and write us up a little background, and then we worked them into the game. Some of our coolest characters were created this way. If you have people with strong preferences who know about the game far enough in advance, this can take a little work off the writers, and it means the players have bought into the game from the get-go.
4. Goals. Characters should have 3 goals: one which is longer term and involves other characters (plans may be made during the game, but is unlikely to be resolved on the night); one which is easily attainable; and one which is attainable on the night but not easy. The idea that the goals should encourage interaction is a good one. Hence, 'Don't let anyone else find out that you're a vampire' is largely passive, as it probably entails not saying anything about it to anyone, whereas 'Find someone who is willing to accept you as a vampire' encourages the player to interact.
5. Background. All characters should have some depth to them. It helps the player to get a feel for what they should be doing. If you can link characters in their backgrounds then they have something to talk about when they meet.
6. Links. A very important consideration is how are the characters going to be connected? Are characters going to have desirable commodities and wants as ways to link them? Are they going to have conflicting goals, or collaborative ones? Are they going to start in groups, or will they be in pairs or individuals? Do some people know secrets about others?
COOL IDEAS AND GIMMICKS
Badges - name badges are good, and Svend came up with some great ways to put extra information on the badges. You have the name in the middle, and then small symbols around the border to indicate extra information. Simple things like: any character with a red border on their name badge is 'kick-ass'. This means you can tell by looking at them that they are tough. Any character with a clock on their name badge is 'out of their natural time period'. Any character with a snake on their name badge is a drug user. Then you only tell some people what any given symbol means, and they instantly have more knowledge about people they meet than everyone else.
Meet and Greet NPCs - it can help to get people started if you have some NPCs written whose purpose is to get people warmed up in character.
1. The rules should be as simple as possible. As close to no rules at all as you can manage.
2. The rules should have as little capacity for confusion or things that need a GM as possible. I.e. if two people have abilities that conflict - say a 'mind control' power and a 'resist mind control' power, then one or preferably both should explicitly say which wins when they both come out.
3. That stuff goes double for combat rules.
I'd add that minimizing the potential for physical combat is a good thing, combat slows things down. Svend's name tags with the "kick-ass" border were good for doing that. It meant the hard-asses tended to make allowances for other hard-asses, and others treated them with the right amount of respect.
When you have limted venue space or there is a plot need to keep the characters from just up and leaving, it can be a good idea to come up with an IC reason why people cannot leave the venue. For instance, in the "Golden Future Society" the Inspector had sealed the room because of the murder. In BeanStalk, you couldn't get out of the elevator without walking in space, etc.
A thing that proof readers really need to check for is that the various character links work!. For instance if character A knows character B, make sure character B is actually one of the characters! This sort of mistake can easily happen with multiple writers, as someone decides to change a name and that change does get communicated properly, so someone needs to proof all of the character sheets once they are all completed.
If there is an important prop mentioned in the character's description the organizers either need to ensure the prop is available on the night or that the player is going to provide it. It may help for a proof reader to also act as "props manager", reading through all the written material noting down everything that might be a prop. Some things may not actually be props even though they are mentioned, but the possibility needs to be raised.
Try to ensure that the major plot threads can function without all the players. There can always be emergencies that result in players not being there, or you may end up with someone playing a role who really can't handle it. The main plot(s) needs to be robust and redundant enough to survive the loss or poor play of one player. The simplest way of doing this is assigning major plots to groups rather than individuals.
If a player does fail to turn up, make sure that there isn't something crucial to the plot(s) in the sheet, and if there is, ensure it gets given to someone else. One way to try and ensure this is to always have more than one person know every important piece of information.
A briefing on "how to play" for players is a good thing. Yes, you need to mention the standard non-touching rules mechanics and stuff, but encouraging people to share information and talk to people is also good.
Actually maybe a separate article on "How to Play Big One-Off LARPS" is in order as well?
In fact, it might be far more useful than the GM;'s guide, as more people play in big LARPs than run them!
There's a lot to do for a big LARP, and it will go a lot more smoothly if everyone knows what their deadlines are, and efforts are made to stick to them.
For a January Kapcon LARP:
Jan/Feb - assemble the team. Find a Head Honcho, recruit writers and helpers. The post-Kapcon high means that you may be able to do this in the week after Kapcon quite easily.
Feb/March - lock in your theme and setting. This allows you to start chewing over ideas. Have a first LARP team meeting (everyone), to make sure that everyone who said they'd help is still enthusiastic.
March/April - build up the main plot ideas, over email or at a meeting. It's important to get the basics decided early - you can add detail and complexity as you go.
May - LARP meeting (Head Honcho plus Writers). A list of 70 - 80 character concepts needs to be made, and roughly ranked (eg. key/supporting/extra). The key and supporting characters should immediately be divided amongst the writers, and a list of main plot ideas should be distributed to each writer.
June/July - writers write as many characters as possible (aim for at least 40 characters written in this period, as that will generate a lot of ideas and a solid base).
August - LARP Meeting (Head Honcho plus Writers). All writers email their characters to each other, and bring print-outs to the meeting. Plots and characters are discussed, and potential links between groups / plots / individuals are discussed, and recorded by the Head Honcho. Rewrites are assigned to writers, to be completed within 1-2 weeks. NPCs should be discussed, as should rules mechanics (if any) to be used. Extra characters should also be divided up here. The preliminary list of characters may be made public at this point, as you'll have a pretty good idea of who the key characters are. It may be worth discussing who would fill specific roles well - if there are Kapcon attendees who would do a particularly good job, there's no harm in contacting them and offering them the character before the list goes public.
September - check writers' progress, and see if the work needs to be redistributed (if any writers need extra help). Sort out who will play NPCs, who will GM and so on.
October - post the complete list of characters on the Kapcon website/blog/NZrag. The admin person needs to check email pretty much daily from here on in. Continue writing characters.
November - Finish writing core characters. Final meeting to share characters and redistribute any work not yet complete.
December - before Christmas, all extra characters should be written. Character sheets will need to be formatted, cover made, and props purchased. Set dressing materials should be purchased before Christmas also.
January - Continue assigning characters, dress the set, send out character sheets by email, run the game