Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Layers and Layers


Layers and Layers

While I started this blog with the intention of writing about all game design topics that interested me, I must admit I expected to write a lot about LARPing. I envisioned a blog where posts about LARP would be easy and plentiful, while posts about tabletop and MMO design would be harder to write. In practice I am finding it to be just the opposite.

Each time I begin to write down my thoughts on some LARP concept the advice quickly demands some tangential discussion that is well beyond the scope I had planned for the initial point. That's the nature of something as complicated as LARPing, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating to have a growing number of half finished LARP essays lurking about waiting for attention.

One issue seems to be that no matter how good I consider some piece of LARP advice to be, there is someone somewhere who had a positive LARP experience that is counter to that advice. This is because the art of running a LARP is really about managing player expectations. As such, each piece of advice comes with a myriad of exceptions and special cases. To put it another way, the very fact that a piece of LARPing advice is sound and good is the exact reason why a rare encounter that ignores it is memorable.

As I struggle with these concepts, and as I work on creating written pieces dedicated to LARP theory, the one constant piece of advice I can give about LARP advice is this:

When running a LARP, know when to ignore advice and common wisdom.


  1. I'd suspect that the last line of your advice largely applies the "Picasso Rule" -- you learn all the rules, practice them, and then get good enough to have the wisdom to know when to break them.


  2. Absolutely agreed, Trace. Breaking the rules is risky and knowing how to mitigate the risk is something one generally learns with experience.

  3. I think one of the other truths which gets lost with a lot of LARPs is their inability to properly publish and describe their game style and themes. I can't count the number of times I have heard the following

    "I thought there would be more fighting/puzzles/politics/RP/X" where X is some other core LARP element the player or staff member was looking for.

    Often I see then players and staff "giving it a shot anyways" and in a year making the same complaint/observation and leaving the game or staff.

    The tangent to that is the game then tries to "keep their players" by changing drastically the game methods thus alienating the other players who truly enjoyed what they had.

    I think that is the only piece of advice which is hard to cast aside. You can;t customize your game to the players you might have, you need to build a great game and market and advertise it properly to the people who like that style of game.