How movie endings can help make LARP better

We’ve all seen the picturesque movie endings. The hero walks into the sunset to find new adventure and to be reintroduced to the world as a whole. LARPs are definitely a type of story, just in a different form. That being the case we can design how our LARPs end and begin to be just as impactful as a blockbuster best seller. With LARP we have different constraints to movies and films. We can, however, take techniques used in the industry to help take LARP events to the next level.

I don’t want to say using techniques like this will only work for certain LARPs. Like smaller LARPs, one shots or more story driven LARPs, but it definitely helps. As well as this I also have this habit of refering to LARP as this all encompassing idea. When in fact it is a collection of a myriad of different styles and approaches. In this article we’ll be specifically looking at LARPs that have a story element.

Just like a movie, I’ll probably be saying that a lot, the opening ‘scene’ of a LARP is one of the most crucial of the whole event. While the introduction to a LARP may not be the most memorable or intricate it sets the expectations and the starts the ball rolling for everything to come. A players ‘keen’ can be made or broken in these first few minutes. Today we’re going to be talking about just that. We’ll be talking about how using our first and last few moments in a LARP can be so important.

Set the stage

Before we get to endings it’s important to cover the start of an event. I briefly covered above why the first few minutes to hours of a LARP are so important. This is not only important to give players ‘keen’ but it’s also important as a time to start conveying ideas. Start to convey: the feel of your world, its struggles and the people that live in it. This may also be a point in your LARP where you want to start foreshadowing events that are to come. A good first ‘scene’ of a LARP should commonly allow the players to answer the five w’s. These being: Who, what, where, when, and why. There may be some circumstances, for example, a horror LARP, where we may want to leave the players guessing. However, as a baseline, this is a good start.

A common approach to this is to start your game with a meeting, muster or gathering. For example, let’s look at an example from Futures End:

The first ever Futures End event started at a time in at 6 pm. Soon after this, the main faction NPCs showed up at each camp to explain to the players, in a theatrical approach, why they were all there. They explained who they and the players were, where they were, what they were doing and why they were doing it.  This was all done in a manner that conveyed information but wasn’t a simple ‘dump’ and instead kept the brief in character. This also allowed the players to develop an immediate point of contact with players and NPCs.

Of course, there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to story telling at LARP. That being the case, however, let’s look at an example that doesn’t answer these simple questions for players.

The LARP starts with a ‘time-ish’ at 5 pm, with players not knowing if they should be in character or not. An hour or two passes with no contact from the game team or NPCs. Soon after this, the player characters are attacked by several monsters, without context, rhyme or reason.

While you could say that the above is how some LARPs run to a good effect it is clear to see, that especially for certain LARP types the former sets the scene in a far more clear manner.

Riding into the sunset

A typical ending to stories is to re integrate people to the greater world that the story lives in. We normally associate this with westerns with the protagonist riding off into the sunset. This can be done to allow people to see the bigger picture or to bring them back to the familiar. If your event has taken place in a dark and eerie setting but you want to end the event with players feeling accomplished then this is a good way of doing so.

Unlike movies, in a LARP, we can’t just show a clip of the heroes waltzing off into the sunset. So how do we achieve this type of ending? The easiest way to do this, without directly telling the players, is to imply it. Remove the eerie setting, lighten things up, if you’re larping outdoors then hope the weathers on your side. This can simply be done by adding things that make the players feel good, comfortable and happy.

A LARP based in prohibition 1920’s America is based on how the legal system is corrupt and cannot be trusted. If you want to end on this concept then your ending will reiterate this point with players falling victim to this corrupt society. While if you want to end on a positive note you may end with these corrupt police being put behind bars and the legal system returning to its status quo.

Having players be reintroduced into the world can function as a double edged sword. If the goal of your LARP is to leave players feeling; horrified, discusted or sickened then reintroducing the players into the world will bring them back to the familiar in turn removing the sickened taste from their mouths.

This type of ending can, however, be used to this reinforce these ideas. As shown in the example above. What if a LARP ended with the main antagonist, a serial killer, murderer or something else, was reintroduced into the world? This instead implies an eerie ending. One that may leave players unsettled.

There and back again

‘There and back again’ is a theme used by story writers, movie producers and almost all story mediums in between. It’s the idea of bringing an individual back to a scene that they were met with at the start of the story. In turn adding new meaning and context to it from the experiences they have undergone. An example of this can be seen in the Lord of The Rings. In the first film, Bilbo Baggins is writing in his book about his adventures. While in the end of the final film we see a similar scene however from Frodo’s perspective where he finishes the book with his adventures. This not only adds perspective but also gives more weight to both scenes and marks the ending of the film.

This approach can be used in LARP and other RPG systems. Let’s look at an example of this approach in a form that could be used in a table top RPG or parlor LARP:

It’s a dull morning as the players meet in a typical coffee shop. Outside the smog is dense and visions of the barren wasteland outside of the cities walls protrude their vision. Adventure happens and the players go through a story explaining the world and challenges that occur in this land day by day. The game ends with a final scene in the same coffee shop. Allowing the players to fully ingest the weight of their actions and how far they have come.

This is a similar if not identical end scene to the beginning scene. That being the case, however, there is a new context to the situation. That new context is what this tip is about, it’s about tying everything together in a means that brings the story back to its roots.

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