Roll the Bones: I Love Running LARPsBy: talonkane posted at Apr 24, 2011 5:22 am
As a follow up to my last blog, I wanted to show the other side of LARPing; Game Mastering or GMing, and convince you, through my own experiences, why you should run one. Being a GM is not an easy task. The players rely on you to tell the story, know the rules, be the adjudicator, and keep it fun. You need a true love of storytelling to go through the labor of running any game, especially a LARP. Let me explain why you should do it.
First, LARPs are great outlets for stories. With any game I run, I love to tell the story, which is the backbone behind the entire campaign. When I run a LARP, the players have a better opportunity to bring the story to life. In my superhero LARP I ran, the players were supposed to be competing against each other, in some type of test set up by their host, who was the villain. Seeing these superheroes I created come to life by the players was unreal. They stuck to the personalities I created as if they were always this person. Even better, they cosplayed the hell out the LARP. Everyone came decked out as their superhero and some with their own unique takes on it. I absolutely loved the fact the players wanted to help the game feel real.
Second, LARPs are unpredictable. To any GM, this sounds like a nightmare. To me, I love it. If a table top roleplaying game runs exactly as expected, I find it boring. I expect my players to do something completely unpredictable. In LARPs, unpredictability should always be expected. LARP players are more likely to take risks with characters since they are usually playing for that one time event. Also, players will not always follow the goals the GM provides them with. In a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP I ran, the players were characters at an auction trying to obtain unique artifacts with many of them in competition for the same item. One player convinced others to join with him and use their combined resources to get the items they wanted. I didn’t expect this to happen based on the way I wrote the characters, but it did. I gave those players a thumbs up for a great idea that had a major impact on the outcome of the game.
Third, LARPs can easily accommodate a large number of players. Have you ever tried running (or playing) in a table top game of 20 or more people? It’s very cumbersome. The GM needs to spend too much time between all the players to keep their interest on the game. In a LARP, the GM only needs to provide the players with certain events that will cause the players to follow leads and chase down their goals with very little guidance. In a Spycraft LARP I ran with 75+ people, all it took were three events to get the game fully moving: 1) a poker tournament and 2) the assassination of a scientist NPC, and 3) the suicide of said assassin. And those occurred within the first 30 minutes of the game. One small chain of events set off everyone else in trying to complete their goals before the end of the game.
Finally, LARPs are great social events. With most table top games, you probably already know the players involved. At a LARP, usually since the amount of players is larger than most table top games, it gives you plenty of opportunities to make new friends and contacts. You get the chance to meet new potential players, new potential GMs, and trade some gaming stories with people with similar interests.
The last LARP I played in was at Gencon 2003. It was a Spycraft game being run by the writers and head folks at Crafty Games. The LARP was so much fun that I decided to introduce myself to them and thank them for running it. As we talked for a few moments, I offered to run their Spycraft LARP for them next year. Now, 8 years later, I’ve written and run, multiple Spycraft LARPs and 1 FantasyCraft LARP, plus made some very good friends with the head folks at Crafty Games.
If you’ve never run a LARP before, you may be intimidated by the work it takes to set it up. Don’t be. It’s a lot easier than you think. Here is the simple guide of setting up a LARP. First, set up the story for the game. LARPs can run hours or days, so that will be up to you. Most of the LARPs I run are about 4 to 6 hours in length. My stories have varied depending on the setting I want to run.
Second, create your characters. This is probably the hardest part of setting up a LARP. Your characters should have attainable goals based on the story. Plus, characters should be linked to other characters so they have connections to work with in the game. For example, in one Vampire: The Masquerade LARP, I wrote a story of two Ghoul families who were having two of their children marry to keep peace between the families. When I wrote the characters, I wrote it so of course all the family members knew everyone else, so the players had a few people they could interact with right away and help them accomplish their goals.
Third, set up a timeline. A timeline is crucial for pacing the LARP so you know what should be happening at what time to keep the characters moving along. Here is an example of a timeline from one of the LARPs I wrote:
7 – 7:30 PM – Character handout and rules explanation to players.
7:30 – 8 PM – Player Q&A over their characters and rules.
8 PM – Game begins with all prisoners in their cells. Warden and guards are together in a meeting to discuss the routine for the night shift.
8:15 PM – Guard players escort prisoner players to the yard for some free time. Vinnie Gambulli, NPC, is among those in the group.
8:30 PM – Fight breaks out in prison yard (non-players). Chaos ensues for a few minutes until fight is subsided. This gives players time to perform actions while guards are not aware. Players can make attempts at Vinnie Gambulli if they wish.
8:45 PM – Prisoners are ushered back into their cells. Prison guard players should patrol the halls. The Warden can use this time to have any prisoner brought to his office to question antics in the yard. Prison guard players may be used to interrogate players.
9 PM – Prisoners are ushered to various locations to perform work duties. Areas include the library, laundry area, and license plate room.
9:30 PM– Prisoners are ushered to cafeteria for dinner.
10:30 PM – Power goes out in prison if scheduled properly, which is the cue for the prisoners to make their get away. A riot will also ensue since all prison doors that were electronically locked are now open.
11:00 PM – Power returns and the manhunt begins for any escaped prisoners. Prisoners continue their run to make their way out of the prison.
Midnight - Game wraps up and story explanation.
Finally, find people to help you run the LARP! My golden rule is to have 1 judge (other than yourself) for every 10 players. So a 20 player game should have 3 judges, yourself and 2 others.
Once you’ve had a taste of playing in a LARP, go challenge yourself to run one for your friends. You’ll definitely find the effort rewarding once you get to see how your LARP plays out. It always is for me every time I do it.
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