The 4 stages to ‘rules lite’ in LARP

I’ve spoken about ‘rules lite’ in another article, however, it’s a topic that in its own right deserves much more time on. Rules lite is the idea of creating a set of rules that follow a handful of loose principles. Instead of having fixed rules for combat, progression and experimentation the system falls back on its players to make the system feel real. We’ve looked at some of the most interesting rules lite LARPs out there, including EYE LARP, to see how they define the game style. Rules lite principles can commonly be categorized into the below areas.

The Rule Of Cool

EYE Larp is a LARP system that solely focuses on rule lite games. They refer to themselves as running ‘ immersive experiences inspired by films, stories, and video games’.  On their website EYE LARP has a great definition for the rule of cool:

Think of yourself as a character in an ensemble movie or TV series. Doing stuff quietly in the background is good to a point, but don’t pass up a chance to ham up those big roleplay moments – be they heroic sword fights with grunts, screams and big blows or more nuanced moments of skill use and shenanigans.

– EYE LARP

The purpose of this principle is to make sure players are doing things in the game world. The idea behind it is that if players are doing big and clever things then they’re making game for themselves and other players.

React to everything

An up and coming  ‘rules lite’  LARP is a system based on the Redwall books setting. All of their rules for the system fits on two pages of a PDF file. Amidst these rules is a great summary of what it means to react in a rules-lite game.

Chances are if something is going on and you’re reacting to it (be it being talked at, insulted,
attacked, healed etc.) then you’re doing this right. Your response to people’s actions will be part of
what makes their game cool.
Don’t expect / anticipate the reactions of others to you – you don’t know what might be going on
with their character or how they’ve read a situation.

–  Redwall LARP

Reacting to situations is such an important aspect of LARP and so many other digital and pen and paper role-playing games. Imagine if a character had been beheaded for their crimes, and as it happened another character stood in the corner making funny noises. Unless their playing to their character that scene is detracting from the game as a whole. That’s why it’s so important to react, just like we would in the real world. Reacting to combat, insults, magic and any situation that comes our way is such an important aspect in making the game world feel real.

Make it cooperative and share the love

In the words of Snoop Dog, “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none. ”. We all love being the center of attention and being the spotlight of an encounter. That being the case however in a LARP that just isn’t possible all of the time. There are plenty more players that also deserve a time to shine.  Coming back to their movie anecdotes EYE LARP explains this really well.

Remember the game’s not all about you and give your fellow players a chance to have their moment to shine. If someone’s doing their best to establish themselves as a great tracker or as THE person to go too for exotic potions then make a big deal about it. Think of it as that bit in the movie where one of the characters says “shit, this is beyond me but I know JUST the person to solve this problem” and let the limelight move to them for a bit.

–  EYE LARP

Unlike video games and other single player experiences, in a LARP there will be many heroes. At times while it may be possible for your character to do something it’s important to think if someone else could instead.

Don’t take the mick

The principle of ‘don’t take the mick’ is an easy one and yet can be taken in so many contexts. What this principle is for is to moderate the above principles. Making sure that there isn’t one person who; doesn’t react to situations, takes 100 hits in combat before falling over or doesn’t involve others in encounters.  To help you focus many rules lite LARPs encourage sticking to having a primary and secondary skill for your character.

2 Comments

  1. Most of what is discussed above are role playing principles which I would hope to see in any type of game rather than traits specific to rule lite systems, but the last paragraph does touch on an important aspect of system lite games, trust.

    In a game without the structure of a rule set to guide a characters confrontations everyone involved needs to be able to trust how everyone else interprets the game (Is character A a better hacker than B? Was monster C vulnerable to coriander or was that monster D? I shot E eight times, eight times!). To resolve these situations you need to trust the other players, and the refs, to give you consistent and balanced interactions.

    You can achieve “rules lite” with a small group of players or a group of players who know each other well, but as the size of a game increases retaining a functional level of trusted interpretation becomes more and more challenging.

  2. That’s very true. It’s something you can see when comparing systems like LT and Empire to smaller LARP systems. With the former having almost no rules that rely on trust (Empire has a few in the form of rituals and the like) and the latter commonly focusing on trust and mechanics that are high on ref engagement.

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