LARP at Play: Doing Your Homework, Part 2

This is the second article in a three part series on doing your homework. The first article can be found here for those who may want to look back at it. It focused on what things creators and designers should research and explore. This article will focus on what organizers and staff should look at. The last article in this series will explore what players should consider.

More than likely you’re not having to do a lot of design work, but you do have a very big hand in the logistics and operations of the game. Much like designers and creators you should ask yourself those top three quesions: Why you want to run the game? What style or genre of LARP do you want to run? And lastly, what is your target audience?

You should also be aware of what expectations the game or rules set for players and the style of player that the game encourages, and then work in harmony with that. A game that is clearly meant to be a battle-game won’t necessarily have the structure to be a deep game of intrigue and political maneuvering unless house rules are created. Also, you should be aware of the out-of-game culture that develops around your game, particularly if it’s an ongoing game. As LARP.Chronicles shared in response to an earlier article:

  • “Is a player expected to attend a non-game related social event, such as a ‘Dead Dog,’ after the event wrap?
  • “What community ‘traditions’ would a player expect to encounter when their character first dies, or they succeed in their first quest, etc?
  • “Do players hear about a given LARP through references from their friends, by way of GM invitations, or some public announcement/forum?
  • “Are there certain taboos (or sacred cows) in the LARP? (No Player-Killing, No Characters based on ‘Evil’ archetypes, No Characters who use RL religions in the game)
  • “How do members of the community treat each other outside of the game and does that behaviour cross into the game space?

“As an older member in the LARP community, where my resources of effort, time, and money go are at a premium. Culture can be a deciding factor.

“If a fighting practice is optional, but it’s an informal (and unwritten) downtime activity, I may pass the game up due to schedule (and because it was a uncommunicated expectation).”

Beyond deciding expectations and what kind of culture you want to surround your game, there are many points you should look at and consider before even starting to set up your game, and there are a few other things you might need to keep in mind.

If your game will be a chapter of a larger organization:

  • What do they expect from you and how often do they expect them? Report? Royalties?
  • What agreements will you need to make with them?
  • What do you get in return for being a part of a bigger whole?

If there are existing chapter or games that are a part of the larger organization you’re looking at, send out an email to the heads of those other games asking them for their opinion on the organization. What issues have they had? What benefits have they gotten from being a part of the bigger whole? How accurate is the information on what the organization expects of its chapters? Use this time to get background information so you can make an informed decision about what you want to do.

If your game will be run at a convention:

  • Who will you be working with to schedule your games or who is your main convention contact?
  • What does the convention expect from you?
  • What do you need to supply vs. what will be supplied for you?
  • What deadlines do you need to meet?
  • What contracts or other agreements will you need to sign or agree to?
  • Are there any meetings you’ll need to (or should) attend prior to or just after the convention because of running your game at the con?

Much like those looking at becoming a part of a bigger organization, don’t hesitate to ask those who have run LARPs at a given convention for their take on how things went. What problems did they have? How helpful were the convention staff and what problems did they have working with them? Were the LARPs shoved off to the side or were they given ample space and advertising? What expectations did they have of those running LARPs at the convention? Was there a good draw to the LARPs there or was it hard to pull people in for a game? Use the answers you get to help you figure out if the convention would be a good opportunity for you to run your game or if you should pass it up.

Regardless of where your game will be run or if it’ll be a part of a greater whole you should also ask yourself some key questions because one person can’t run a game without running them-self into the ground. Yes, this means you should seek others to help you and delegate responsibilities:

  • What kind of help do you need?
  • What skills and abilities will those helping you need to have to provide you the help you need?
  • How long will you need help?
  • What will they need from you in order to do their job?
  • What kind of commitment will you need from them?

As shared earlier, you won’t be able to do everything by yourself, so make sure you get at least a few others to help you and then understand what has excited these people enough to want to help you. Take care of them and be aware of their needs because by taking care of them they’ll help take care of you and your game. Also, unless you’re paying your staff, they’re volunteering because they want to; so be aware of what you ask of them vs. what they’re willing and/or able to do. Talk to your staff and figure out what they need from you to help your game be successful. Show them you care.

And if you’re not one of the executive members of the team, but an auxiliary staff member there are some things you should ask yourself before volunteering to help with a game:

  • What do the organizers expect of you?
  • What kind of commitment are they requesting? Time? Money? Experience?
  • How long are they seeking this commitment from you?
  • Are there any life events (weddings take a lot out of you, a new baby on the way can change priorities, when classes start up will you have the same amount of time to spend on your LARP staff duties, and etc) that might cause a snag in what they’re asking from you in the not so distant future?
  • Do you have the skills or abilities that the job requires?
  • Do you have the time and availability to fulfill your commitment?

Don’t hesitate to do a bit of research into the game and possibly ask other staff members for their opinion. Understand what all is requested of you before you agree and start work so that everyone is clear about the manner and amount of commitment you’ll be providing.

The big takeaway here: Take a long, hard look at things before you dive in and get things in writing, particularly the more complex the project becomes or the more people it involves. Knowing what you’re potentially getting involved with will help you figure out if you’ll have the time and resources to give the endeavor your proper attention and having a paper-trail (even a digital one of email strings) can be invaluable if you need to go back and look something up.

Do you have anything else you feel a game’s organizer or staff member should consider before diving in? Words of advice you’d share with someone just jumping into game organization or staffing for the first time? Other thoughts?

The next article will be Doing your Homework, part 3. As always I love to hear feedback and suggestions for further articles. Feel free to leave a comment here at the Mortalis Games site, write Amber at webmaster [at] mortalisrpg [dot] com or once this goes live on, visit the article’s forum thread (there should be a link below the article to it) to see what else has been shared or to leave a comment there.

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