There are so many LARP systems out there. It would be impossible and unfair to judge them all on the same criteria. Each LARP having their own rules, systems, and settings. A major piece for most LARP systems, however, is the setting. Having a world that above all else feels real and lived in. One LARP that does this quite well is Empire LARP. For this article, i’ll be using Empire as a baseline as I think Profound Decisions have done quite well at doing this in their games. This list is by no means exhaustive, however, does delve into five ways game worlds are created in LARP.
Consistency is such an important thing in most LARP worlds. It gives players something to hold onto and understand as fact. If the continent to the east of the player’s hometown was called ‘Moana’ last event and is called ‘Rivenhaul’ this event it will do nothing but confuse players. This confusion will eventually lead to players thinking in an out of character mindset. Leading players to try and piece together the disparate fragments of the game world.
It’s important to understand that not all LARP organizers can afford the time to sit down and write a fully immersive game world. Instead, it’s important to simply sit down and write the key elements, and make sure it’s shared across your entire game team.
If you’re trying to make your game feel more real and lived in then you must think about what makes it feel real to the players. If you’re running a fantasy setting and have polyester furniture covers on your benches then the setting is going to be less immersive. This is also the case with conversation. Players are going to reflect back how they are spoken to by NPCs. If an NPC talks to them with modern words a player will do the same.
No LARP system has an unlimited budget for props or unlimited time to brief NPCs. Instead of covering all of the bases it’s instead important to focus on what counts. Does your event have a central hub? Focusing props there would make that area feel real. Do you have a handful of plot driving NPCs? Focusing on their brief may be more important.
Depending on your game world’s setting you will most commonly need to have something for your characters to achieve. Just like in a game of Dungeons and Dragons where the party may be off to slay a dragon or find gold at the bottom of a haunted cave, LARP characters need something to aspire to also. In bigger LARP fest systems this is normally achieved by rank. With Empire for many years the role of ‘Empress’ was sought after by a myriad of players. In smaller LARPs this can normally be fulfilled by a quest or goal for the players. There are many systems that run countless encounters. Without having a unified purpose they commonly fall flat because of this reason.
Things To Do
This point naturally continues from the last. While it is important for players to have big goals, it’s also important for them to have things to do in their downtime. Empire’s player base supports this with social interaction and politicking. Also supporting player businesses, like in character bars, and having skill options that can be used in downtime like Alchemy is an important aspect. It’s also important to understand that a ref can’t be everywhere at once. That being the case having things for players to do in their downtime that doesn’t rely on the game team is also important.
For a LARP setting to feel real actions have to have consequences. What if a player was to kill an NPC, with witnesses, and in cold blood and the next day every player and NPC ignored the incident? This wouldn’t lead to a game world feeling lived in or a world that reacts to its players. Instead, the world becomes more of a sandbox. Players test the boundaries of what can be done with little repercussions.
In a previous article on rules lite, I referred to the need for players to react to things in a game world. This is also the case for the game, it needs to react to the actions of its players.