5 steps to world building in LARP

A while back I had a friend on Facebook. They pitched the idea of an ‘improv LARP’. An event where everyone would show up on the Friday not knowing what the weekend would entail. An event where that evening the game team would sit down and create everything from rules to lore and parcel it all up ready for 9 am the following day. Then the players would have an hour to create their characters before time in at 10 am. I don’t know what happened to this idea,¬†whether or not it took wings and became a reality or not. However, the concept is an interesting one.

The answer to the question ‘could this be done’ is an easy one. The answer is of course yes. However, the real question comes down to ‘could this be done well’. Is it possible for a game team to create a rich interactive world with a dynamic rule set in a matter of hours?

I’m a fan of the idea that this could be done. That being the case let’s run through an example of how such an event could be planned. To start let’s break this up into two sections: the rules and the lore.

The Rules

When it comes to planning the rules it could be done in a wide variety of ways. If you have already run a system then borrowing rules you’re familiar with would be the easiest option. Secondly, if you’re short on time you could simply go ‘rules lite’. Using the ‘rule of cool’ allows your players to be bold and adventurous and test what will work in the system. Finally, if you have the time you could create a rule set from scratch. Here you should look at the rules from multiple angles and think hard of what your players will want to do in your setting. Even if the event is combat focused are there things for your players to do in their downtime? For my example, i’ll be using a rules-lite approach.

The Lore

With such a time frame there isn’t time to create a whole world and a backstory for every NPC and area. Instead, we can forge this event like you would for a short story. We can break this up into 5 sections:

  1. Devise an intriguing scenario.
  2. Find the game’s focus.
    1. Why are the player’s characters here?
    2. What should the characters care about?
  3. Outline character and setting details.
    1. Briefly, outline your NPCs and let your crew run with them.
  4. Write the story as a one-page synopsis.
    1. If you have time getting as much down on paper will drastically help you remember key elements.
  5. Create encounters that help support the main plot or seed in other ideas you want to convey to the players.

With this in mind I’ve crafted a short synopsis for this hypothetical event:

In a rich fantasy setting, individuals from across the world have been gathered to partake in a tournament. Their host, Aamon Crimson, offers immortality to the individual(s) who survive the tournament. Players can work alone or together to complete a series of challenges set out by Aamon / the game team. Challenges involve rules lite combat and non combat elements, seeking player ingenuity. Several smaller ‘encounters’ would take place throughout the weekend to seed lore on the world and the tournament as well as to reward the players.

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