Monday, June 27, 2005

Anatomy of a Convention Larp

Usually, a person first exposure to Larping is some kind of Game Convention Larp. This allows people to try out things they might not ordinarily have the opportunity to play. Let's face it. At the point in which this book is being published Vampire: The Masquerade is the most popular form of larp. Modern day vampire larps are everywhere. In fact, if someone tries to create something other than that, they are pretty much swimming upstream. I learned this the hard way. Just try to get a Vampire Victorian Larp up and running on an ongoing basis. I dare ya. I DOUBLE dare ya!

Con larps give people an opportunity to try out new things. Perhaps, you can attempt to play some other type of supernatural critter in the White Wolf's World of Darkness, Perhaps you can try larping in some other time period or even try the larp systems that have been developed for Call of Cthulhu, Nobilis, or 7th Sea. Who knows, you might have the opportunity to try out a homebrew adaptation of some older game or some brand new game. D20 games now have Living components too. While I am not a fan of D20 systems at all, I'd be interested in at least trying Living Spycraft.

Con larps usually follow a fairly strict timetable. At the top of the convention, the larp organizers are out trying to find out how many people are interested in playing and how many they can cast. Some larps that I have played have even asked me to fill out a simple survey in order to help cast me better. This works pretty well in my experience. The only problem that you run into really is late in the afternoon when the staff realizes that it has overestimated or underestimated the number of folks that are interested in playing. In the case of overestimating, The challenge becomes making sure that all the major roles are cast, cutting any unnecessary plotlines, and putting players, ANY players, into roles in the game. Sometimes this is good, It can enable an unknown guy to come into the larp and get a character with some real meat on it and enable him to show the other folks how it's done. More likely though, is that the game will have a percentage of players that are ill-suited to having anything really powerful, either through inexperience, or poor temperament.
On the other side of the equation, If the ST coprs has underestimated the number of people interested in playing the game then, the staff has to build a bunch of characters on the fly. This can get hairy, especially if the various ST's don't have a hard and fast set of design specs for the desired power level of the game. Also, it means plugging additional characters at the last moment into plots. This can be disasterous if done badly.

Well organized Larps will usually try to plan some kind of orientation for newbie players and folks who are unfamiliar with the system. Take notes if you can. Ask questions if you need to. Read everything they give you thoroughly.

The larp will usually start with a large general meeting with some general remarks by the larp staff and maybe some plot related announcements. (again, you might want to take notes.)

The first night of the convention larp is usually a night for walking around, finding out who everybody is, figuring out who to ally with and who needs to be crushed. Finding and evaluating evidence and figuring out who's lying and who's telling the truth. In all the con larps, I've ever been in, it's rare for some major league combat situation to break out on the first night. Sometimes, you'll see smaller conflicts but mostly, people tend to maneuver on the first night. This is too bad for people with short attention spans. That sort of player will probably play his character on the first night and simply not come back the next. Most con larps will lose 5% to 15% of their player base on the second night of play no matter how good they are. This is to be expected and is occasionally written into the plot.

On the second night of play, the tendency is for players to drive their characters like rental cars. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all. After all, you'll probably never have the chance to play that character again. Might as well come out swinging. If you go down, at least it will likely be in a blaze of glory. Or you might be more interested in the actual plot that's going on and you're more keen on bending your efforts to solving the mystery or stopping the cultists or brokering the peace between warring factions or whatever. In any event, be prepared to mix it up and to be patient while conflicts get adjudicated. The Larp staff tends to get spread a little thin and sometimes their patience gets that way too. If there are any last minute double or triple crosses planned or any plot twists yet to unfold, it will usually happen in the last hours of the larp proper. Then the Larp staff goes off to enjoy multiple large alcoholic beverages and fall into a numb stupor. At this point, pester them at your peril.

The last day of the con is sometimes host to a wrap-up meeting. I've been to Con Larps without such things but it's not usual. This is usually where the Larp staff lets everybody know what has gone on over the course of the larp and what plots and plans have unfolded or failed to unfold. Such meetings are usually rife with such commentary as " That was YOU?" or "I KNEW you were working for the other side!" and other such like. Generally these meetings are friendly but sometimes there are hard feelings. Hard feelings are silly. The Game has been put to bed.

Off to Origins

So, Day after tomorrow, i'm headed to Columbus to partake in my first really large con. I plan to take pics. You chilluns will have to fend fo yoself till ah git back.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Party Time!

(Editor's Note: While this article was written originally for Vampire: the Masquerade Larps, It can with a little re-tooling be made to fit easily in any Vampire: The Requiem Larp)

It seems like every LARP that I've ever been to has some sort of Primogen meeting during the weekend. And since nobody likes to be left out of such big important goings on, Primogen members find ways to invite every member of their clan on some pretext or another.

This is wrong and should be discouraged. Primogen members don't tell their secrets to their younglings they issue orders. These meeting should be secretive affairs and a source of great speculation and anxiety among the neonates. Especially if the Master comes home pissed every time. As a result, you would think that vampires never get together in LARP except in the face of some kind of emergency or coup.

You'd be wrong though. Vampires were human once and humans are still gregarious creatures for the most part. Occasionally, Even the Undead like to kick off their shoes and relax, Sip a bit of blood and have good time. Even vampires like to party. Below you will find descriptions of the types of parties that vampires enjoy having, The types of Vampires who enjoy giving and attending parties, and the things that vampires like to do at these parties.


Any description of vampiric social life must begin with the Toreador. Many other vampires joke that the Toreador will use any excuse for a party. ("It's Thursday! Happy Thursday!") While this is not technically true, there are a bewildering number of Gallery openings,Theater opening nights, Arts Council fundraisers, Toreador Deathday parties,Raves,Cotillions, and Regatta dances that can fill up a social calendar fairly quickly. Parties are both work and play to the Toreador. They are a chance to see and be seen. To impress and pretend not to be impressed. To make contact with vampires and humans alike and pump them for information,share blood, or feed. They are the bread and butter of the harpies and the heart and soul of the rumor mill. (The rumor mill has nothing to work with if everybody is at all the meetings)

Toreador like flash,dash and panache. They dig masked balls. They love parties at the track,or on the yacht, or at a hired carnival, They dig performers too. They hire live bands. And they also hire dead bands too. They might book a magic act or a live sex show. Toreadors can even get into a Vegas act if they're in the right mood. If they have a ghoul or Herd-member who is a performer of some sort that person will be performing like a trained seal all night long. Blood flows like wine at these functions and those who attempt to "spike the punch" will earn the collective enmity of every Toreador in attendance. (It's incredibly rude...Not to mention obvious, and it causes other people to distrust Toreador parties...And we can't have THAT!)

Odds are good that any party you are freely invited to at the LARP is being held by a Toreador. If only to get to know everybody in town.


You might think that Ventrue are far to stuffy for parties. This is not the case, although they do tend to look at parties as more of an opportunity to network and expand their social contacts. The main exception to this is the anniversary of their embrace which tend to be lavish affairs and fairly private (You must be a really good friend to at least 1 Ventrue to be considered for the guest list.) This is often a time when Ventrue renew the bonds of tradition that hold them together and have a bit of fun. Ventrue being naturally competitive enjoy party games that enable them to show off. These sorts of things range from live chess matches, to Jousting to...Heck anything. Even bowling could be fun if the Ventrue are in the mood for a bit of cheese.(Toreador will not be invited bowling...Ever.)

In other situations, Ventrue can and do go to parties and at least seem to enjoy themselves. They can often be seen at Toreador functions sometimes because they want to cement good relations between the clans and other times because they might actually appreciate art.


A Rave is a dangerous thing. (Remind me to tell you the story sometime of me,Yassir Arafat,and Nell Carter, the Denny's waitress with the wooden leg, the 14 hits of lab grade acid and the mosh pit at the last Pearl Jam show.) While a Brujah rave is quite possibly dangerous to any vampire who attends it might be totally safe to any mortals who show up. (Unless they're those punks with BTS. Those fuckers are in for a rude surprise.)

Brujah's like old fashioned parties: Guns, Half naked chicks, drugs, fire trucks, broken furniture,Beer,blood, humping and sucking in the bedrooms-bathrooms-whatever,Motorcycles,doing donuts on the lawn, Moshing, Extremely loud music, house pets in microwaves, mass hysteria. You know...Like last Saturday. They like to bring this with them anytime they crash someone else party. Brujah look at parties as a way to let the pressure off the beast within. They get rowdy and they let it all hang out. Ventrue don't. Which is why their so fucking uptight.


Speaking of uptight....Tremere for the most part hate parties. It's not that they're opposed to fun but with some rare exceptions they just don't have the social acumen to fit in and relax. Most Tremere GO to parties, but they don't tend to enjoy them. It takes them away from their studies, they have to verbally joust with the oh-so-amused Toreador in attendance, and they tend to be loud and crowded. Tremere go to these parties because they make a list of specific business they want to transact and because they can't stand the idea of things going on that they don't know about. They tend to clump together and stare at the other party goers as if memorizing their faces for later actions. If Tremere have parties of any sort, other vampires have never heard of it. And for the purposes LARP this is not particularly useful.


Sewer Rats and Creeps like to have their fun. Much of this fun can be really strange to other clans who don't consider Nosferatu to be very gregarious. Parties however are rife with informational potential. So even if you don't see them, they are probably still there. Parties also present possibility for pranks at the expense of others...Especially Toreador. Think of the ensuing chaos when a well known "Brujah" bellies up to the bar, picks a fight, and then assumes "Zulo" form or "Crinos" form. Fun is had by all.... All of the Nosferatu that is. Many a Toreador has been driven to speechless apoplexy by a score of Nosferatu showing up at a party in spotless tuxedos and evening dresses and proceeding to waltz and out-toreador the Toreador. Some are also comfortable at Brujah raves and these kindred are usually welcome unless local politics are prohibitively nasty.

Nosferatu also have a custom that when they have parties that all are welcome and the Nosferatu themselves are forbidden to talk shop all evening. This drive many to distraction, which the Nosferatu enjoy watching.


Elder Setites don't party. They're too busy being evil and corrupt. Setite embraced in the last 400 years or so have turned partygoing and party throwing into a high art. They know all the tricks. They know where to get the right "Party Favors". They know where to get the right "Party People". They know the right kind of music. They know all the best places. They know how to have to have fun and more importantly they also know how to get other people to have fun. A fact that has led more than one vampire to his doom.


Ravnos are not generally welcome at your average vampire bash. This is really too bad because when they get together they have fun with that Gypsy flava. It's like part circus and part rave. Many of these parties are reserved for Shilmulo and kin only. Flying knives,wine,women,and song. And the best part is it's in a new place every night.

Other Clans:

Gangrel,Nagaraja,True Brujah,Assamites,Giovanni,Samedi,Kyasid,Gargoyles,Tzimisce,Lasombra, and other clans like that are not known for partygoing or throwing. Malkavians probably have parties but the mind boggles. Daughters of Cacophony usually end up performing if they show up at all.

Elements of Parties:


Some forms of entertainment have already been mentioned but here is a more complete list

Music (records,chamber music, punk band,live DJ, etc.,etc...)
Performers ( Piano players-singers,Magic shows,Mimes,Improv teams,stand-up comedy,jugglers,clowns,dancers,puppet shows, Murder mystery performers, performance art.)
Games (Backgammon,Chess, Jenga, Lawn darts...No...Bad idea, try badminton.)
Gambling (Evening horse races, Casino nights,)
Recreational Feeding ( Drugs, Alcohol, "Wine Tasting")
Debauchery (Bloodsports...Typically suspended above the open-mouthed spectators,Live Sex shows. Human pinata games, Dwarf bowling, full-sized-person bowling.)

There is but one unwritten rule at a party full of kindred.Don't spike the punch. You can share blood all you like. You can walk around with your vessel of transference all night. But only the most monumentally stupid kindred attempt to add his own blood to any communal blood supply. It's a good way to become a communal blood supply yourself. The Tremere hate these parties but they always come and they will catch you.

It's also considered rude to give blood to somebody else's ghoul. Especially publicly. The imputation is that the Domitor is incapable of keeping his ghouls properly fed and restrained. This is the kindred equivalent of a public accusation of erectile dysfunction.


It always happens. Some Malkavian or Gangrel trolls in uninvited (usually after manhandling the ghouls into a coma.) and proceeds to create some scene or other. It could be worse. They could be Sabbat or Lupines. The wise party-thrower plans for it. The master party thrower can turn it into some kind of entertainment or can make the crasher feel welcome and kind of stupid for crashing in the first place.


The great equalizer. Nothing keeps a Kindred party civil like a passel of mortals in the crowd. Especially if the party goers aren't sure if all the guest are "in the know". Whenever Brujah crash a party in force, they like to bring along any human ravers who've happened to come to their party. It makes it impossible for the host to whip out his vampiric powers and bust Brujah ass. Mortals come in all sorts of flavors at parties:

Hanging refreshment (Not going to survive the night)
Food on the Hoof (Probably will survive the night unless their assailant gets too frisky.)
Ghouls (Valued assistants, treasured pets, influential pawns being introduced to other kindred for business purposes.)
Mortals in the know ( Hedge mages, gypsy types,mortal allies...It is not wise to come to this kind of shindig uninvited. It's also unwise to let the mortal guest wander around alone,for about a jillion different reasons.
The Mostly Clueless ( Mostly Toreador and Ventrue herd, also any artist or business person who enjoy patronage of same.)
The Completely Clueless ( Club kids who've heard about the Brujah rave somehow, random people from the phonebook invited by Malkavians who have not showed themselves, Dates of the Mostly Clueless.)

Pee Ay Are Tee Why! Why? Because I gotta!
Sono Finito

On and Off the Stage

"Preparation, preparation, preparation."
-Ben Kingsley in the movie "Sexy Beast"

I liken most gaming endeavors to acting on a stage. It's a pesky habit but it fits with my experience both as an actor and gamer. As I become more and more interested in Larping, the comparison becomes more useful.

What makes an actor an artist is not the ability to stand on a stage. Although it should be pointed out that many people would rather be set on fire than do just that. What makes an actor an artist is his ability and inclination to prepare for the role that he performs onstage.

Now, If you've never actually had a situation where you've been involved with a stage production, let me give you a sneak peak into how it works. I'm sure that there are people who think that actors just show up and make it up as they go along. (leaving aside Improvisation) but it just ain't the case.

4-6 weeks before a show goes up, the people who want to be in a particular show audition to be in it. Once the director has chosen who he thinks will make the best show, then he sits down with them for the first couple of rehearsals and they read through the play and discuss what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.

Over the course of the next weeks the player work on the play over and over, piece at a time. Usually, about three weeks in, the actors are asked to be off book (but are still allowed to call for lines) about two weeks before the show goes up, the actors begin to assemble all the pieces of the play into a sequential order and are now working on rehearsing the play whole acts at a time.

Usually, at the 1 week mark, All of the technological elements are added in. The actors are put on the stage for the first time, The have to deal with all of the sound and light cues that up until now have been missing. They have to deal with costume elements and make-up for the first time. And at this point they aren't allowed to call for lines anymore and in fact get notes if they get lines wrong or paraphrase them.

An exhausting amount of energy and time and preparation go into each production that goes up on the stage before the curtain goes up on opening night. And if your production is a musical of some sort...My god, you just have no idea what goes into something like that.

So what does this have to do with Gaming?
One of the things that I find hard to understand is that there are many players who seem to not have a single thought about a game outside of the actual game night. This is totally confusing to me.
Most of the really good ideas that I have about playing a particular character for stage or game come from those times when I am far from rehearsal hall or gaming table.

In fact, in the case of most larps. The best sort of work one can do is done entirely offstage.
Let's take a look at Mind's Eye Theater. In most games you have both influences and backgrounds.
The use of these things is mostly offstage activity. Say you have a game that meets monthly or bi-weekly. If you take a single night between games to e-mail your GM some thoughts about what you'd like to do with you offstage resources, then as like as not, you'll have a nice active agenda when you hit the door on play night. Not only that but those things will have been going on while other people are not paying attention.
Most people who don't take advantage of their offstage time usually spend the first hour of any larp session trying to get into character and figure out what they're going to do. Preparation beforehand makes a huge difference.
Even if you have a character that is heavily combat based (and thus is primarily an "Onstage" character.) There are things you can do to prepare for the game ahead of time. Take your basic gun bunny character. What are a few things you can do in your off hours? You could train, study tactics,buy and modify guns, plan escape procedures, create bolt-holes, Engineer ambushes, create ideal places for those ambushes to take place. lure foolish enemies into the places to have the ambush. create the necessary resources to find people who need to be found...If only so you can stomp them at appropriate times.

There are also characters that seem to be onstage characters but in fact are not really. Take the example of a Hacker. Hacking is a vitally useful thing and a hacker character is not liable to be without work long in any given larp. However, Hacking runs in a larp setting are hardly high drama,visually interesting, or fun for anybody but the hacker player. So, for the most part, actual hacking runs ought to be conducted out of play. Hell, in real life, it might take several hours.

So, if a hacker can't hack during an actual game session, What does he do?
He networks and lines up jobs. He gathers and evaluates intel. He identifies targets and assesses security. He figures out ways to get to paid for work without getting himself killed. He acquires new toys to work with. He hires people to help him get information that isn't on the net anywhere.(like cat burglars, and rumor mongers.)

The bulk of this sort of work is about understanding your particular role within the story structure and the nature of your particular character's role in life. In order to make most character concepts work it's necessary to find the balance between the Offstage life and the Onstage life. It's not exactly a fine line to walk, but it does take a bit of thought. For instance, Say that you create a character that is heavily invested in his offstage life. Perhaps you've got character that is built mostly on backgrounds and influences. But when it comes to raw onstage power, you don't have much at all to work with. This means that you might have great time being the spider at the center of the web but during the actual game you might find yourself bored. Especially if there is a lot of onstage activity that you can't get involved with for whatever reason. (Like, you might get horribly killed.) So how do you fix it? You might start using your social skills and your backgrounds and influences in the same way the Hacker does that I described above. This might at least give you some allies to help you out and an enemy or two to have to deal with.

Another thing you can do offstage is make plans that come into effect when whatever you have got going on goes tits up. You can even put this sort of thing into a letter and put it in the hands of the ST staff or appropriate player characters with the legend. "To be opened in the event of my horrible, horrible DEATH!"

The point I'm trying to make is that there is a lot you can do to create interesting plot that has nothing to do running up to the ST prior to the game and filling his/her ear with what you've been doing for the last month, and expecting them to remember any of it, answer any questions, or be able to process it all. Especially when there are 10 other people who want to do the same thing as soon as you stop to draw breath.

Sono Finito

The Delicate Art

This has been on my mind for a bit. Role playing requires a bit of delicacy to actually pull off. It's not like writing a novel or any other form of art that requires one mind or hand. It is collaborative. Like making movies or putting on a stage show. It requires a certain amount of harmony of it's participants or at least a GM who is enough of an Alpha Wolf to make clear what will be accepted in his/her game and what will be met with teeth on throat.

What I don't understand is, how many people don't seem to understand how delicate it actually is. Every day on some new horror story turns up about some jack-ass at a tabletop game who abrogates the social contract. On more than one occasion, I've been treated to the sight of some personal argument between players bringing an entire larp to a screeching halt. Larps are even more prone to delicacy due to their size and the increased likelihood of Byzantine sexual politics.

The unfortunate bit is, I don't really have a solution to these problems. It's SO easy to wreck a night of fun for everyone just because you've got some kind of burr under your saddle. It's so painfully,ridiculously easy to ruin a Tabletop game or larp, that I often wonder why do it at all. And really the only thing that will stop that sort of behavior is to occasionally step on another persons windpipe and say. "Look. I think you're a decent person and all, but you're behavior leaves a lot to be desired. It needs to stop right now and I EXPECT it to stop right now. Nothing against you personally but leave that shit outside when you come into my game. Capisce?"

As I say, Larps are particularly prone to this sort of shit. Out of Character politics can wreck a game faster than any gaffe on the ST's part. Hell there have been times when the OOC politics were so bad that it was causing me to feel a nameless sinking dread and real nausea. Why go to a game that makes you ill?

Honestly, when a Larp is hitting on all of it's cylinders, It's a thing of beauty. But when personal shit starts to gum up the works, people start leaving in droves and not just because they've chosen up sides.

Sono Finito.

Friday, June 24, 2005

For those of you who came in late...

This particular Crank Report represents something of a departure from normal Cranks of the past. In discovering Blogger, I have found a new way to work. And in doing so, I am inspired to do more.
To be honest, Writing is a lot like Magick. Some would even say that it IS a form of Magick. And magick requires exactly 3 things from it's practitioners. Imagination, Will, and Patience. I have the first two. Gaining the third is unfortunately the work of a lifetime for me. I have more than I did when I was young, but I still lack the patience necessary to create large scale long term projects. You know, the kind I could make money with.
The old saw is undoubtedly true. a writer writes. And while I like to think I know my way around a turn of phrase, I have never had the discipline to sit down in front of the computer and write at least a little bit more days than not.
As a result, I am finding ways to try to circumvent my natural laziness, procrastination, and latent perfectionism. The method that I discovered was to work in short bursts as best as I was able. Some Crank reports would boil out of me from some weird emotional impetus and others would come in bits and pieces until I could assemble them into some kind of framework. While I always appreciate being struck by the lightning of creativity, You cannot expect that kind of storm every day.
Now, with the functional ease of Blogger, the way is bit more clear to create brand new things, to spitball ideas, to bluesky wildly. To speculate or critique events in the geek world or the game world as they become available to me. To slap up ideas that are half finished and work on them a bit more as I go. To get feedback even and incorporate the best ideas into the ongoing projects.

Hey the whole point of this exercise is to help refine the art of Gaming and if I can come home from work and plug an idea into the blog simple as pie, then the tendency is to think more about those things and see what will come from them.

Now if you're not the sort who gets all buttery from how writers work (or try to work) The by all means completely disregard this post. But to me, this represents a bit of a departure. A new experiment. A new mountain to climb.

And I have to admit. I'm excited.
Over the next week or so, I'll be going through old files and such and turning out my pockets of things that for one reason or another haven't gotten put up yet. Some will be finished and others will get finished as we go. I am formally encouraging each and every one of you to help out as you see fit.

I also want to thank John Rogers and Warren Ellis for showing that this Blog thing is actually kind of neat and useful if you've got something to say beyond " My Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Gender neutral fucktoy/ just dumped me. OMGWTFBBQ!" or "Here is diary of things that happen to me and why the world sux! I am Manic-Bi-Polar and I might have Multiple personality disorder. So I can't really be held responsible for anything that I do."

Bleah! Multiple personality disorder my ass. You're lucky if you've even got one in there, you flavicamous scooter-monkey!

Blogs are actually kind of neat and in many cases can offer a window into lives you would never see into otherwise.
and who knows, maybe with this new wrinkle, I might figure out a way to make one of my primary obsessions buy a house for me. That would be nice.

Things I've learned from the Shadows Larp

For about the last couple of years, I have been playing in a lovely larp called "Shadows Over the Bluegrass" and been having a good time with it. I've resisted writing about it here because it always seemed like it was rude to write about while it was going on. Since we have run our Gehenna chronicle and I've got a little distance on it, I wanted to talk about a few things that I have learned in the playing and the running of the larp.

-Power creep is okay as long as everybody benefits from it and as long as it's pace is fairly slow and steady. In fact, it should be an element of your chronicle that the players will eventually supplant the power Npcs that you have in place at the outset. Because that's the way it *ought* to happen.

-This leads me to the concept of Experience Banking. Over the course of time, it's become clear to me that the best way to handle experience is to make it the province of the Player and not the character at all. In this way you have an opportunity to control how the player spends his experience without having to penalize him. Let's say I've got a player who has been playing a character for over a year and that character gets ganked. It doesn't really make a difference whether it was intentional or no. Does it make sense to make the person start all over with a beginning character. Well, honestly, no. It also doesn't make sense for a player who can't keep a character alive longer than 2 months to make them start over each time
So, with Experience Banking, You can take the EXP built up by the guy with the sudden mortality problem and help him build a character with a little bit more sauce on his ribs. Conversely, you can take the player with the extremely built up player and have him put his EXP into a new character. You might allow him to put them all into a character that you, the ST might want to put in play, or you might allow the player to put those points into a sibling, childe or Sire of the dead character or in extreme cases of point build-up ask him to split his EXP between two or more middling level characters.

-As an ST. It's in your best interest to keep an eye on the bottom level of the spectrum and offer a break to brand new players with some "point debt" as a possible option. You'll want them to earn some of it at the jump.

-Talk to your fellow GM's in person. Get on the same page as to what kind of larp you're running. Constant communications are the best method for maintaining game cohesion and any time ST's play tug of war with the various plots, everybody suffers. Also, trying to meet right before the game in question, never seems to work well. Mainly because at the top of the game, damn nearly every player wants a moment or two of your time.

-If it's not on paper it is not a rule it is merely a rumor. Don't attempt to convince me that there is a homebrew rule that covers whatever it is that you are talking about without you don't have documentation to show me. The ST who told you, may have made it up on the spot, may not remember it at all, and may not even be there that night.
It helps nobody if there are rules that only exist as a semi-sentient energy being capable of communicating only with one of
the ST's, and then only in signs, portents and fever dreams. If five players have five versions of how to adjudicate and all are claiming that it's part of the homebrew rules. SOMETHING HAS GONE TERRIBLY WRONG!

-You will piss somebody off because they simply don't understand what you're doing and that you have reasons for doing it. And you will only learn of it after the person in question has been poor-mouthing you for the better part of a month. Often times this will come out in some toxic rush in a spate of angry emails over things that you may not have even done. Unfortunately, Larp OOC Gossip is like a big elaborate game of "Whistle down the Lane". And this can be very puzzling. I was
accused of giving an Ventrue NPC advanced levels of Quietus...Which I had not in fact done. I've never even used Quietus in a character I've created. I'm still not even sure where this rumor came from. The best defense against this sort of thing is to have a few folks who you can use as spies to find out rumors like this and bring them to your attention before people get angry and leave the game over things you haven't actually done.

-Never assume that you are really in control of anything, and make multiple plans.Figure out what you will do to advance the plot even if everyone involved with the plot is now dead. Remember also to leave more clues out there than you think you will need and multiple paths to the truth.

-Don't assume that the heroic types will prevail and don't force it either. Tragedy can be a good way to go. Not every story ends happily or neatly.

-You will burn out. Plan to have plenty of eggs in your basket for when this happens and lean on your fellow ST's as best you can.

-Try to be as patient as you can be. I struggle with this one when too many people want my attention. It helps when you can impress on your players the difference between offstage action and onstage action. Offstage action like the stuff your character has been doing in down time can be discussed easily in an email (which has the added bonus of leaving evidence that you did it.) Onstage action is anything you need to do in the actual game proper. Guess which one is more important to
fill the ST's ears with at the top of play.

-While I have long been a proponent of creating a stable of Characters for beginners, and while I do occasionally like to hand off an interesting NPC to players, You can go through a lot of creative juice if players get the idea that the best way to get something powerful is to go to the ST and say. "Um. Do you have a character for me to play?" Now if you're the sort of person who aims to please you will run yourself ragged trying to please everyone. Thus, I have come up an idea to cover this.
The Troupe Squad is a group of players that can be trusted to build a set of characters based on your design specs and pull them out and play them on the spur of the moment. Need a Sabbat pack or a group of Imbued Hunters to make life interesting for your players, The Troupe Squad is the group to handle it. Need a player to play a reclusive mentor for a character, Pull one of your TS and either hand it to them or get them to build it. Naturally, anybody who is on the troop squad
needs to be well versed in the system and could stand to be up on any game systems you plan to bring into play. Personally I am of the opinion that Squad Members ought to receive extra EXP since they are taking time out of playing their own characters to assist you.

-You're a fool if you don't sit down and come up with a few templates for various types of people that the Characters might run into over the course of their peregrinations. Cops, SWAT teams, federal agents, church hunters, and so on. Make the Templates in such a way so that there are two on each sheet, because a player can't really throw more than one fist at a time. Heck, if you can put them on 3"x5" cards, so much the better. Print up an assload of them.

-If there are more than 3 Mook unfriendlies for each PC involved in a mob scene, only give them one retest period. If there are more than 5, don't give them a retest at all. Attrition will be more than enough to grind them down.

-Learn to say "This is a special case" with confidence. Have that confidence by dint of having a very good reason for every thing you do.

-I used to think that Mission Statements were some kind of corporate wankery until it became clear to me that they were useful for communicating overall strategic goals and tactical goals to other ST's and Narrators. A very basic premise of leadership is that people can't really do what you want unless you tell them exactly what you want. They can't fucking read your mind and they can't anticipate your needs if they don't know what they are. Believe me, I've worked with too
many people who expected me to do things without being told and it frustrates me mightily. With a Mission Statement you can at least let people know where you want to go and how you plan to get there. Honestly, it's better to make a decision and expect people to follow than to dither over whether the decision is right or not. If the decision is wrong you can always change it and do something else. Dithering gets you nowhere.

-Information and Power is never free
When something works for the players very well, up the stakes. Don't let them fall into a comfortable rut with something that begins to be like a gum-ball machine for them. Say they have a ritual that enables them to summon a demon, the demon should up the stakes each time he's called forth.I missed an opportunity or two that way and I ended up regretting that. Always make a character pay with sweat or pain

-There is a general tendency for all action to gravitate towards formal court. This is, in and of itself, not a bad thing, but it does make certain plot lines get ridiculous when Elysium security gets seriously hard to crack. In truth, efforts should always be made to support multiple areas for play in a Larp. Court should be one of course, but at very least there should also be a vampire bar of some sort. Over the course of an evening, it's certainly possible to draw vampires away from court and into some other venue by dint of having crazy shit happen there and the vampires hear about it Another method for creating multiple areas for play involves dealing with multi-region politics. Perhaps an intelligent prince appoints some ancillae to vassalage in the surrounding suburbs and bedroom communities of the urban center. Or perhaps a vampire with enough and
age and power decides to set up a princedom in a small nearby town. And the prince of the bigger town either can't or won't dislodge him for whatever reason. Then you've got TWO courts or more in an area and the politics gets a great deal more interesting. Suppose that a character does something dumb and gets a blood hunt called on him. He has the
option of running to the other prince and throwing himself on his mercy which can create great friction between the neighboring principalities. This can be fun.

-In the course of a Larp it can be a good idea to keep on eye on cliquishness or a tendency to not be very welcoming. I covered a lot of this ground in the Crank Report entitled "One Shot" but you might point out to your more socially minded players that new people in the larp mean more manipulable resources. Get some of the more social players and talk to them about being a sort plot-based Welcome Wagon. In the old Blacklite larp. I played a very social Ventrue who loved
nothing so much as meeting new people, finding out a little about them and then taking them around to connect them up with the sort of people that might help them in their endeavors (which invariably meant that both players felt beholden to me in varying degrees.) But it also enabled me to steer new players into as much plot as they could handle on their first night in play. That shit makes a difference to the new player and it makes for better play for everyone else as well.

-Delegate or you will go mad. Anybody who has been tagged as a Narrator is the sort of person who knows the system and shows up regular. Give them responsibilities. Have someone handle hunting and send you a precis of what happens. Have
someone handle Influence (or perhaps more than one person) and let you know what's shaking. Have someone handle the armory, Have someone keep track of who holds what office at court (especially if there is a lot of turnover. The Prince should know this stuff, have him keep track of it.) Aim for being the spider at the center of the web of information.

-Energy is contagious, as such, you need to bring as much energy to the game as you can and you need to be willing to try to perform each game session. Your actions and energy set the tone and are the lead that others will follow. See what you can do to push the envelope each time. And on those night when you just don't have it in you, throttle back and simply observe, but walk around drop tiny plot bombs everywhere. If you're doing it right, players should be terrified to see you crooking your finger at them with that grin on your face. Especially, if they see no NPC tag on you.

-There will be people who will be critical of your game and your style. They may not get it or they may not like it. Or they may not dig a particular change or ruling. Always listen to these concerns if they are brought to you, but under no circumstances allow yourself to criticized publicly. Public critique is incredibly disrespectful. By this same token, do not publicly criticize players under any circumstances. If you have to call them on the carpet, do so privately and in person.

-Be prepared to kill your own characters at any time. Make certain that if players attempt to kill your NPC's that you don't make easy for them but you also don't make it impossible for them. Remember, NPC's are not there for you to feel like you have a big dick. They are for the players to interact with. In the words of Dr. Phil, "It ain't about you!" Besides, if your NPC is a major league bad-ass and he gets mysteriously offed, then naturally whoever offed him is going to become a bigger scarier threat, right?

-Dog-piling will kill any character. I don't care how bad ass you think you are, if the odds are worse than 3 to 1, you're gonna bite it. The best you can do is run, figure out who those assholes were and then hunt them one at a time at your leisure.

-When a Larp is reaching the end of it's life, and it is obvious that it is winding to a close, you will lose a chunk of players. This isn't necessarily because they hate you or the game but there is a tendency not to play through to the dramatic end. This is a pity. But it does let you focus on the players who actually think that kind of thing can be really fun.

-Nobody wants to die cheap. They don't necessarily mind dying, but they don't want to go out like a punk. Or over some dumb rules bullshit.

-Sometimes, the best thing you can do, is take your character and drive him like a rental car.

Sono Finito.

One Shot

Politeness is the grease that enables the machinery of social intercourse to move forward. It only takes a second to be polite, and yet in the increasingly narcissistic western culture that I live in, that second is rarely taken.

This is sad. Moreover it is dangerous to the hobby that we love. Gamers are used to a certain amount of persecution. If not from people in their own community, then from the media, who like to make gamers out to be some goofy caricature or some dangerous new threat, depending on what will sell more papers. Over the years, it's become very easy to develop a siege mentality over it all. My bitterness over certain elements of it is a matter of public record in these pages.

As gamers become an older demographic, we also tend to become more insular. We play with the people that we've played with for years because that's what we've always done. Player groups can become ingrown like a toenail. New people who come into any kind of gaming group are usually treated to unwarranted levels of scrutiny and a certain amount of aloofness. As Gamers become older we also become less tolerant. Actually, it could be argued, that we don't become less tolerant, we just become less willing to put up with situations and behavior that always irritated us.

And if there is any sin that we are most culpable of, it is the sin of Elitism. Many gamers are smart and literate. As mentioned above, we've had bad experiences at the hands of people who are not as sharp as we. This breeds contempt in our hearts for anyone that we perceive as being "lesser" But, that contempt goes from being directed at the truly stupid to anyone who seems unable to meet our standards of personal interaction. Including other gamers who may not have developed the necessary social acumen. It never occurs to us to realize that if we don't teach them...Who will?

So maybe we get a little cantankerous in our old age. We become less tolerant of play styles that clash with out own or people who have different aesthetics than our own.

Good gaming is like a Choir that blends it's voices together in perfect harmony. Bad gaming is when each and every voice tries to drown out the others...Maybe even singing different songs.

As I said, this is dangerous to our hobby. I intend to back that assertion up.

One of the things that I have discovered about people, is that they don't like to do things that they don't like to do. They also don't like to talk to or hang out with people who they don't like, or who don't like them. This would seem to be a no-brainer and yet it's something the gamer community has yet to parse in full. The reason why people get turned off to gaming is generally that they have a bad experience early on. Oh sure, negative portrayals of gamer culture may prejudice a person going in, but if they have fun on the first night of play, they'll come back and try it again.

Here is my topic sentence, Are you ready?

A Person who tries a game and doesn't enjoy the game and/or the people playing it, is never coming back.

Granted, there are people who will try something more than once, just to be sure. Or they have friends who harass and chivvy them into trying something they hate again, but you can't count on this. These situations are atypical. Most folks will try something and if they don't like it the first time they will not go back and if you pester them about it, they'll start to hate it out of perversity.

Hey, if someone dislikes it the first time, They might try it again in another circumstance and discover that they love it the second time. It could be the place or the game or the people or all three that turns them off. Remove the problem and try again and you might get a convert. But you'll have to overcome the resistance that was built up from the first try, and that resistance can be considerable.

This is especially prevalent in Larp circles where with dozens of players it's easy for the FNG to get lost in the shuffle.

In other words, You get only one shot.

So, as per my usual modus operandi, I will try to offer constructive hints on how alleviate the specific problem of new player turn-off.

First Impressions

It's a good idea to let players and/or the GM know that you are bringing somebody new along. Long-standing social situations develop their own sort of behavioral quirks. People become comfortable in their own social milieu to the point that when an outsider is brought in, resentment can result at the sudden lack of social ease. You may have a player who is used to being able to clip his toe-nails at the table or who likes to crack jokes about chicken fucking, or Satanism, or Satanic chicken fucking, or whatever. Being told at the last minute that an outsider may be along for the ride and that he should curb those tendencies may result in some friction.

If, however, you give players some lead time, The idea that they should put on their party manners won't be such a rude shock. If nothing else, they might at least think. "Bob is bringing a new person to the game tonight...Maybe I should shower?"

Gamers get on their moral high horse about appearances and how they don't matter...And yet they tend to judge others just as harshly. (Categorizing them as jocks or preppies or what have you.)

Better Plan: get off your fucking moral high horse and attend to your appearance, because that's how people will judge you when they first meet you. If you look, or smell like something out of Lovecraft, they aren't going to be interested in getting to know the real you inside. And take a shower will you? You smell like high horse.

You know why larpers seem to get laid more often. It's because they get dressed up more often and Larps tend to have more new people coming into them all the time. Larpers get used to trying to make a new impression on people. That's a good habit to get into.


Some people take a sort of perverse pride in their abrasive demeanor. They may have an elitist streak and may be unwilling to suffer fools gladly (or anybody they perceive as foolish)

I know a guy, Who is actually a decent fellow once you get to know him but his brutish demeanor and semi-racist commentary are such a turn-off that it's nearly impossible to bring people into a gaming group he's in, without trouble of some sort.

Other people may have antisocial tendencies and have trouble relating to new people until they get to know them. And there are people who play characters that are so thoroughly unlikeable that new players may decide to hate the player too.

As GM or as a player of this type it is important to try to dial that shit down when you first meet someone. Reserve judgment on a person for a while and you might just find that person extending you the same courtesy. In fact, it's a really good idea to step on players who try to decide whether or not someone belongs in the gaming group after the first session. Getting to know someone is not something that can be accomplished in a single night. Also as a GM it's imperative to impress on your players that if they don't observe party manners in front of new people that you might just take time out of your busy schedule to stove in their fool head for being an asshole. Even if it turns out that the new player is not going to work out for various reasons, You want to crush these tendencies. Just because player "X" didn't work out, doesn't give you a license to be shit head when I bring in player "Y" or "Z".

For players who play asshole characters, it's imperative that you meet the new person in your own persona and get to talk to them awhile. Let them see that you're a regular Joe just like them. Just because you are playing the vampire larps prince doesn't make you a cold blooded bastard. In fact, if the player meets "you" before meeting the "prince", he might have more respect for your chops as an actor. If he meets the prince first and then meets you later, He might just be confused. If he doesn't meet you at all...Well, I think you know where I'm going with this.

The Welcome Wagon

It is important to make a new person feel welcome. This should be staggeringly obvious. But more and more, I see people tossing new players in at the deep end of the pool and then ignore their thrashing and cries for help.

Hey, Here's a thought. Maybe the new person is like you, and everybody else, insofar as they may be a little timid in brand new social situations. Maybe it might be good to cut them some slack for that reason alone!

Learn the persons name (Write it down if you have to, shmucko.) and do the same for his character. (oddly, people seem more able to remember character names than real ones.) There is nothing sweeter to a person's ear than their own name. It means you cared long enough to learn it. There is nothing more irritating to a person than to have someone repeatedly mis-remember or mispronounce their name.Can you guess why?

Go so far as a to take a moment and formally welcome them to the game. Take a cue from every Shriner or Rotarian you've ever met and look them in eye while giving them a warm handshake. Save any hazing or abuse until after you've hooked the poor bastard. If you can't do that, make sure that the ribbing is of the mildest sort.

Be patient. If you, the GM, don't have a lot of patience, see if one of your players has the temperament to act as the FNG's Mentor.

Explain stuff that the player asks about. Do not explain stuff that the player does not ask about as this will overtax his head. As I've mentioned before, let only one voice be the one that explains things to the player. I know you want to help the GM, but invariably you create more confusion as the player tries to process too much disparate information from too many sources.

Also, Be willing to praise a new person when they come up with some new or novel approach or figure something out. Nobody likes playing with someone who doesn't give them any bounce. Newbies like this even less.

Make a special effort to hear what the new guy has to say. Older players will talk over them. You can't ever expect them not to. They will also have the attitude that if they want to say something that they should speak up. It doesn't occur to them that a new person might be a little timid or unwilling to rudely interrupt. You have to adjust for them, or even shut them up when asking the new person what he wants to do.

Stuff to Do

When bringing in a new player, it's a good idea to make sure that his character has one well defined specialty. It shouldn't be too specialized either. Making the new player a competent healer or combatant gives him plenty to do, but making him the foremost expert on European languages in a game set in Chicago limits his utility.

Then make sure that the game you are bringing him into has the opportunity to shine in that specialty in some way. This is another reason why I always advocate creating some pre-baked PC's for newbies. You can slot them fairly easily

Also, keep mechanical crunchy bits to a minimum. If a newbie PC is a combat character, then make sure he's really good at only one type of combat so it obviates having to explain large chunks of the combat system to him. If guns are easy, give him guns. If fists are easy, give him fists...But don't give him both, he'll be unsure of what to do if he has too many options or doesn't understand the options he has.

In Larps, my tendency is to test out brand new players by having them play humans instead of vampires. (I explain to them to be careful, because most vampire can break them into pieces almost reflexively.) It cuts down on having to explain a whole raft of stuff to them.

In a larp setting, It's very important for a new player to be identified quickly and hopefully given something to do on the very first game session. You might be leery of handing a major plot to a new player on his first night, he may not come back, and then your plot is stuck. You could however try to make contact with the new player early on and try to give him a task to do that would last for a whole game session. Something simple and short term. Try to give the player all the factual information that you can do so from the get-off that they would ordinarily have, and then at some point during play make sure that they get to hear at least one big secret and one big lie.

New Players who sit around bored all night don't come back. Hell, Old Players who sit around bored all night don't come back.

The idea is the one that drug pushers around the world have used since the beginning of recreational chemical abuse. The first time is free. And it behooves the pusher to give new clients the good shit... So they get nice and hooked on the good shit.

Also, This idea helps activate passive and active players alike. With an Active player, on the first night of play, they may be looking for an opening or any kind of toehold that will let them get into play or into the game world. Passive players tend to wait for things to happen before they really get involved. If you come along and hand them something on the first night, that may get them going... It may even get them going in a direction you want them to go in.

The practical upshot of all this is that you should aim to create a situation for a new player that requires as little explanation as possible. Low impact is almost always good and lets the player ease at his own pace. It requires real work to make something easy for someone else. Be willing to do that work.

Good ideas

-Make a list of table rules that your game has, Make it understood that newbies are not to be jumped on if they break the rules, because you aren't going to give them the rules until their second session. Table rules are an extra layer of social rules, and as such can wait until next session. The player will be busy trying to learn how to feel his way with the new people. Table rules are simply more information to clutter the mind. They also might create a certain amount of guilt if the newbie screws it up on the first night.

-Include newbies in on the in-jokes. No person likes feeling left out of the fun that everybody else is having.

-Take regular breaks, this gives players some time to try to get to know the new guy/gal.

-Step on anything that seems like some kind of 3rd degree or sexual harassment. Avoid the sort of topics that you'd avoid at a really nice party. (Sex, Politics, Religion,Satanic Chicken Fucking,Etc...)

-Make sure you have contact information for the new person. It's so easy to forget in the rush of all the other things. Once you've got that information, make sure you follow up. Don't assume that the guy is going to call you and ask you when the next game is. Make the effort to get in touch and let them know what's happening Try to do this so they have some lead time longer than, "How soon can you get here?"

Keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out

While most of this information is to help you make new people feel welcome, there is a line that you should draw. New people are still strangers and until you have made some kind of real honest connection with them there are certain things you should not do.

Avoid loaning the new person any cash beyond spotting them for some fries at the fast food joint that you hit after the game. You can write off the loss of 3 bucks if you never see them again. More than that is harder to swallow.

Never loan your books to people that you don't know. I loaned a copy of one of my larp books to a new guy once, he never returned and my book didn't either. I didn't even get the asshole's name because he asked me while I was dealing with a dozen other things. I wanted to help and got burned for it.

My suggestion for loaning things is simply this, get a white board for your room that is solely dedicated to loans. Make sure that you put the name of the book on the board and the name of the borrower and as much contact information that you need to hound the player to the ends of the earth in case he feels like keeping your book. This also keeps you from forgetting that a book has been loaned.

* * *
Getting to know new people is a delicate and occasionally intricate process. Take an extra second for that politeness and grease the wheels.

Sono Finito.


As I have often said. Great art requires conflict. The only sort of art without conflict is that which you find bolted to the wall in a hotel room.

Great gaming also requires conflict. But here is something I am coming to understand about the nature of conflict.

Conflict is a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum you have everything being resolved with violence. On the other end, there are slowly simmering resentments and hatreds that make for sniping and character assassination. Both have their place. Both ends of the spectrum are useful and all points in between.

In many games I've been involved in, Violence seems to be the first option of most players. If the game is designed that way and if the GM has trained them to that style of gaming then that's what they'll do every time.

Training is important. Gm's train players all the time. Some GM's train players never to split up or explore then unfinished part of the dungeon. Some train them that if they pull their guns they've already lost and others train them to believe that all threats need to be beaten with a stick until it stops moving. These approaches have their place but in the end the GM ends up trapped by the training that his players have received. Sadly, these approaches can make a tabletop game or larp go in bad and undesired directions. By sticking to one level of conflict you can keep a game from being its best.

Case in point: Jenna (my Occasional Co-GM) is a master at weaving a tangly web of interpersonal relationships and in-character angst. She loathes and despises combat. (which is a shame because she's better at running it than she thinks.) As a result, At times, a truly satisfying beatdown of the antagonists is usually not forthcoming and this can be frustrating. Conversely, my style tends to be more slam bang action movie style and the various relationships of the characters can get a bit of short shrift.

I participate in a larp where the ST staff for the longest time ran all manner of antagonists as NPC's. As a result, the players sort of got into video game mode in terms of dealing with threats. Now, snubs are met with extreme violence and trouble devolves into huge running gun battles every session.

I am in another larp that is only now finding it's way to using conflicts from both sides of the spectrum. In a good vampire larp you should have room for brujah to beat on one another and for Toreador to pepper one another with veiled insults.

This is why I am not a proponent of Monster of the Week problems in a larp.

if you're playing a investigator type of some sort of social bee type then you have no business mucking in with the gun bunnies and combat monsters when the ST decides to have the bad guys show up with a monstrous War Ghoul in tow.

Which means you either go anyway and get your ass beaten in for you or you'll not go and be bored out of your tiny mind if the ST's have nothing else going on.

Multiple levels of conflict are a necessity. They also tend to make for additional texture and dimensions in both TT and Larp.

Let's take a look at various types of conflict and how they can made to work.

Man vs Man (or whatever)

A Hero is only as good as the villain he finds himself up against. So it behooves GM's to create suitably horrifying villains and make them very bad indeed. Naturally, some care must be taken to keep bad guys from being too god-like or players will get discouraged. The Antagonist must be a challenge not a mallet to beat players down with.

Now, good guys and bad guys are very simple and easy to put together and everybody understands them. Black and white morality is good for the movies but not always for games (Depending on the tone of the game. A pulpy game requires it. a film noir style game needs it's antithesis.)

But what about a situation where each and every faction has a portion of the truth and is committed to being right and true. Take an average Vampire Larp:

On one side you have powerful Camarilla elders who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. They want to keep violence at a minimum, they take proprietarial pride in the cities they control and have no respect for anarch who demand rights and concessions in a city they didn't help build. They try to create an orderly and relatively safe existence. They may be a bunch of evil old bastards but they keep the chaos of the Sabbat at bay and try not to damage the world of mortals more than is strictly necessary. They remember what happened during the Inquisition and how the humans reacted and they know it could happen again.

On another side, you have the Anarchs. All they want is to be left alone, to be free of the oppressive hand of vampire politics. They want the Camarilla's gerontocracy to fall apart so that vampires may govern themselves without the draconian laws of the evil old bastards. While they may share certain ideas about freedom with the Sabbat, they haven't cast aside their humanity and don't generally treat humans like cattle. They may even believe that the Camarilla is lying about damn near everything but they still don't side with the Sabbat because as bad the Camarilla is, the Sabbat is an engine of chaos and destruction.

Then of course is the Sabbat. They know the lies the Camarilla have promulgated over the centuries. They know the real threat that the Antediluvians present to all of vampire-kind. They have forged themselves into a lean mean fighting machine built to destroy the powerful elders (read = tools) and they have made themselves into a powerful religious crusade in the name of freedom from slavery. If they have had to cast aside their humanity in the quest to stop them, then so be it. At least it's more honest than the Camarilla vampires trying to pretend to be something they aren't...Human. And if the Anarchs are too weak or stupid to see they share common cause, then they are merely another obstacle to be overcome.

Now...Here's a telling question. Who is the bad guy in all this? Who wears the cape? Who wears the black hat and the Simon Legree mustache?

Isn't it more interesting to have everybody to be right? Or is it more interesting to have one group be the definite bad guys? Each group can have it's idealists and it's crapweasle pragmatists. Each group can have it's soldiers who believe in the cause and it's scumbags who will sell out for a wrinkly dollar. That may not make for straightforward play but it can make for much better DRAMA.

Let's take another direction. Say that you get involved in a situation where it seems very clear as to who the bad guy is and who the good guy is. But it turns out that you are dead wrong.

Take the television show "Alias" for example. Here you have a young Sydney Bristow who gets false flag recruited by SD-6. She thinks that she's working for the CIA but she's actually working for a cabal of creepy old gits who are trying to take over the world. It's only in discovering who the bad people are and how she's been aiding them all along that you have the real drama. Cyberpunk and Shadowrun and Delta Green are full of these sorts of conflicts.

Man Vs Nature

Nature is a powerful force. In fact, it's more powerful than you. It's *always* going to be more powerful than you. I don't care if you've got a trenchcoat and Katanna and you're a lesbian stripper ninja master. If you go up against a hurricane, you are going to LOSE.

Natural events are unpredictable and potent and affect everyone in their path. When Nature goes wild, the wise try to keep low or preserve what they can in the face of it.

Natural events, by themselves can make the simplest of actions into a major operation. An ice storm can cripple an entire city for weeks at the height of winter and it can make it impossible to drive 4 blocks without an accident.

Natural events can be serious trouble in urban settings too. A massive power outage can cause major chaos and in the aforementioned vampire larp could be seen as both a disaster and a major opportunity. Major Earthquakes and urban fires however are going to be scary to both vampires and humans and hysteria is as contagious as biological weapons.

Not only are meteorological phenomenon a possibility but anybody who's watched long stretches of Animal Planet on cable may have a few ideas about a horrific adventure or two themselves. Take three groups of adventurers looking for a lost relic in darkest African bush. They may compete at trying to find the relic all they like only to find that once they get near the place where the relic is supposed to be, they've walked squarely into a situation straight out of "Leningen and the Ants". At that point the adventure stops being about relics and competition but about surviving a natural onslaught with the help of former competitors. If you're especially cruel, you might decide to mix in a dash of Cthulhu mythos in that mix and that is some serious shit. In fact, one could make a case that the entirety of the CoC game is an example of Man Vs. Nature.

Man Vs. Himself

This form of conflict requires work. It requires work on the part of the Gm and on the part of the players and that is why it tends to be the rarest form of conflict seen in gaming. Literature and film are full of examples of a character dealing with some sort of internal trouble. It requires a certain knowledge of the character in question in order to create situations that the character has to respond to. It requires from the player a certain amount of flexibility in terms of being willing occasionally to allow his character to be vulnerable. The phrase "But my character would never get into that situation." kills more story possibilities than it helps the character.

Let me create an example: Say you have a character who is a decent fella. Heroic in his own way, but maybe in a high stress situation or unable to deal with pressure for some reason. He may be competent in his field and helpful to his teammates. He might even be able to keep it together for long stretches of time...At least, until he has an opportunity to get himself very drunk. And then he falls apart.

This sort of situation requires the knowledge of the GM of the PC's problem and the ability to work in situations where incipient alcoholism comes into the main storyline. The Gm may be able to get to the point in gaming where the character is in a high stress situation and simply say to him. "You got a bad case of the shakes and serious cottonmouth." and leave it to the player to deal with the fact that his character wants a drink so badly that he'd sell a kidney. The player, conversely must realize that taking disadvantages in any game system is not mere point engineering. It is taking on a responsibility to behave in certain ways in certain situations. Don't do it unless you can actually manage to live up to those responsibilities.

You should also consider the consequences of resolving internal conflicts. If you create a character who is wound up tight in his quest for vengeance against the people who killed his family, what will you do when you finally manage to achieve your revenge? Will you have any motivation to do anything after that? What happens if you finally find the man responsible for the death of your family only to discover that he's repented his sins and only wants to find peace from his past transgressions. What if your revenge becomes hollow?

These are the sort of things that both GM and Player have to consider.

Man vs. Himself storylines are rarely wrapped up in a neat package nor are they dealt with quickly and easily. There are situations where the stuff of heroism comes out of a character facing a phobia of his in order to save someone else. In which case, you should play it for all you are worth. (whether you are GM or player.) This sort of play is definitely for the advanced group but it is rewarding in the extreme.

Sono Finito


Over the course of many years of writing this column I have been attempting to get at the bone under all the meat of gaming. Why does it affect it us the way it does? What makes a good game and why? How can we maximize the good and minimize the bad. Much of what I offer in this column are tips and tricks and ways to avoid some of the basic pitfalls of gaming. For the initiated, this column may not hold a lot of secrets or surprises but I like to think that even old timers like me can still find something new in these pages.

I have slowed down in recent years for a variety of reasons. I don't have to reinvent the wheel, so anytime I find good gaming advice on a particular topic, I let it rest in my mind. I don't feel I have to cover that topic. I also don't want to repeat myself too much.

Still, on occasion things occur to me that I think will make a good crank report and after they've rolled around in my backbrain for a while, I feel they need to be shared.

As a performer, Larping seems to be a natural progression for me. In fact, these days, Tabletop gaming is getting to be more like real work. I'm getting to play in more larps these days anyway.

As a result, I had an interesting conversation with a like minded fellow who described to me a large scale con larp that he had been to.

The plot involved the defection of a high level Tzimisce elder from the Sabbat to the Camarilla. The fellow I was speaking to described a scene in the conclave where the Tzimisce elder strolled in. He was dressed head to foot in white. White hat, white tailcoat, white shoes,

a white porcelain mask with "Flesh" seemingly holding it in place. (the makeup job he described sounded to me like the work of at least a few hours.I know a little something about stage makeup.) In addition to this sartorial exhibition. The Tzimisce Elder had 6 ghouls in dog collars.(also held in place by "Flesh") leashed to his hand. They scurried around dusting off his shoes, moving furniture out of the way and other sundry tasks

The fellow to whom I was speaking had this to say about large scale larps. "The are people in any larp who are willing to go that extra mile in order to make a larp get up and live. When you get a large number of larpers together...That number of people tends to reach critical mass and amazing things can happen.

I had to admit he was right. Heck a small group of dedicated players is way preferable to a large group of lackluster types. I've seen a few amazing things myself

Gaming is a social activity. This would seem to be fairly evident. It is simply a means to a pleasant end. It's an opportunity to sit down with friends in a structured activity that enables you to create a story and if things go right, Have fun, make art, and make memories that can be happily shared. By itself, Gaming is a community activity that is harmless,amusing, and a good way to meet like minded people.

So, why does so much of it suck?

Why does it go so badly wrong? Why are there so many snarky, humorless, assholes in the hobby? Why do friendships end over bad decisions and arguments over rules? Why does it seem like there are so few people who really "get it" and are clueful about gaming and there are so many spasmodic thyroid cases who can't shut the fuck up for five seconds.

Part of it has to do with the maturation process. As you get out of your teens and your hormones calm down, there is a tendency to not view everything as some kind of massive trauma. Life becomes less soap opera like and everyone breathes a sigh of relief as the ability to perceive events with some kind of actual perspective begins to assert itself in that gamers mind.. I was forced to restrain myself this weekend at my larp when a much younger gamer got into a snarky argument with the ST during a major battle scene. His character had just met an unpleasant demise at the hands of some Garou and he had pretty much decided to make everyone miserable, especially the overworked ST. As he was leaving that night I heard mutter that he would start his own larp...A Sabbat Larp...Yeh. That would be Kewl! I am proud of the self control that enabled me to keep from hurling a heavy object at this churlish boob.

Lest you think I'm bashing on younger gamers, this kind of behavior is certainly not limited to them. I've told the tale of the guy who showed up at a larp and demanded to play a Malkavian with true faith in order to (direct quote) "Screw with your players." He'd have done much better to arrive at the game asking the GM, "What do YOU want me to play?"

In my considered opinion, Most of the problems inherent in the game world are due to selfishness on the part of Players, Game Masters, or both. Instead of thinking "How can I make this game fun?" Most people think "How can I have fun." And therein lies the rub.

Sometimes, I think we get so bound up in our own idea of fun that we forget that it can be great fun to make things fun for others. Rather than be a star in our own fantasies we might want to try to make an effort to get into the "Hey Kids! Let's put on a Show!" vibe.

Each and every time you sit down at a gaming table with your friends, you are making a certain number of unstated, unwritten promises. You are making a social contract, as it were. When you approach a game selfishly, you abrogate that social contract and ruin the possibility of all the good things that gaming has to offer.

The main problem is of course that the contract isn't written or specific. Most people aren't even aware that it exists. Most people don't even understand that the basic idea of "Don't be a dick." is necessary for something to even continue.

Since this contract isn't worth the paper it isn't printed on, it can be abused from all sides. Gm's make players miserable, Players make GM's miserable, players make one another miserable. Misery loves company doesn't it? Once trust is broken play becomes very difficult.

In these pages I have told stories of people who have broken the trust in major ways, and in nearly every case found thereafter that no one really wanted to play with them anymore.

Is that what you want? Do you really want to be a social leper in a community of GEEKS?

Oh I'm sure that you'll find it fun to go to the vampire larp and play the Malkavian in the feety pajamas who likes to sing Christmas carols at the top of his lungs. I'm sure *you'll* have a good time. You might even get a few laughs. But the other players who are serious about their fun/art are going to be pissed. In Show Business we call that "Upstaging" or "Pulling Focus" Nobody want to work with people who do that sort of thing... And word gets around my friend.

Try thinking of a larp as a holistic whole and not as some place where you get to go and play your character and beat up other people and take their stuff. It's more than that. It's a stage to play on. A stage is far more compelling. While there is the occasional star turn, a larp is much better as an ensemble, working in harmony with one another. This means taking some responsibility for getting on the same page with the player and the ST's about the tone and flavor of the larp itself. This means taking an active role in making story happen rather than being passive and waiting for the ST to hit you with the plot stick. It means finding ways to deal with problems that don't always involve violence (because too much violence can get real old real fast.)

In truth, I have likened the larp experience to civilian folk as a sort of interactive improvisational soap opera. To this end, your players need to get into the habit of thinking like a troupe of crazy loving actors who are putting on a show. Even if it's only for one another.

Here is the nub of my gist:

If you work at it, If you learn how to share the spotlight, If you find ways to make things interesting and fun for everyone, not just yourself, if you learn how to manage your feelings and your temper, if you learn when to fight and when to back off of an issue. Then people will notice and they want to play with you. If you do the opposite of these things, then you will find nobody willing to put themselves on the line.

That's the key. Get into that crazy performing place in your mind. Every player of games has it. Some are simply more extroverted than others. Find ways to bounce off of your fellow players instead of trying your best to ignore them. Have an active agenda in mind and be willing to pursue it...And also be willing to chuck it at a moments notice.

Once while talking to a friend of mine. I likened the process of Gaming to BDSM. I was rewarded with a spit take for my insight. He defied me to prove it. I said "O.K. Bondage involves giving up a measure of control. It involves the master making someone hurt AND making them enjoy it and it absolutely isn't any fun unless everyone involved trusts one another. Think about this. If a player trusts me then I can make his character's life a living hell and he'll have a great time trying to navigate the obstacles and flying shit I'm throwing at him. If he doesn't trust me though, He's going to assume that I'm out to get him and ruin his night. He'll take personal umbrage at each tiny thing that goes wrong for him. Also, there is a tendency to go too hard which can be recognized if the players have some sort of prearranged signal...Like a safe word. (I then proceeded to tell him the "Karma" story that Tim Toner told me.)

He was forced to admit I was correct and as he had foolishly bet that I couldn't, he was also forced to buy the drinks. People ought to know better than to mess with the Reverend. I know whereof I speak.

Sono Finito.

A lathering wall punching FIT! (Or: An Open Letter to Hollywood)

A Lathering Wall Punching Fit!
Hey. I've got an Idea: Why don't we:

-Turn Batman into a murderer. Sure he'll end up waxing all the A-list villains but it's cathartic for the audience. Never mind that it's antithetical to his nature.
-Let's make Two Face a comedic character, instead of the tragic character he truly is and let's make Mr Freeze into a musclebound lummox. While we're at it, we'll make Poison Ivy into an oversexed scatterbrain.
-Let's put Superman in a black suit, take away his ability to fly, and have him fight polar bears and giant spiders...And give him a gay robot pal.
-or we could have J.J.Abrams script for Superman, which feature villains we've never heard of, and a Lex Luthor who is secretly a kryptonian.
-Let's put Tom Sawyer into The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, regardless of the fact that he's American, from the wrong time period, and has nothing to do with the story.
-Let's take John Constantine and make him into a decidedly non British new york homicide cop. After the studio bigwigs say that nobody "gets" that whole British thing anyway...This in the age of Guy Ritchie, and Harry Potter.

Why would you take a basic property. Something that people like and groove on. And then start screwing with it to the point that it's unrecognizable in the vain attempt to update it or make it palatable to a wider audience. Especially, when it has been proven time and time again, that all this accomplishes is the confusion of the wider audience and the utter alienation of the core audience. Why would you kill your word of mouth? Why piss off the people who could sell your movie for you?

Arrogance is why. Because some shmuck sitting at a desk in Hollywood knows better than YOU, the comic book reader. This presumption that Comic book readers are ignorant is actively poisonous..And it won't make you money. Most of your projects will go down in flames if you go on the assumption that people don't know or care.

They do know. They do care.

This is not say that "Re-imaginings" of material don't work all the time. Marvel has made a science of it. Mainly because they hire talent that understands the source material and stay the hell out their way, They let the merchandising and marketing take care of itself, instead of micromanaging the creative process at the get off so that the product becomes like a bonsai tree, stunted and unnatural, but sure to sell plenty of toys at Taco Bell.

I am so heartily sick of my favorite comics being turned into celluloid dreck. I have read the new Superman script online and I can feel the bile rising in the back of my throat. I don't even particularly like Superman and I can feel nothing but loathing in my heart for what they've done to him.

Stop changing creative elements simply so you can reap phat cash from your little chunk of intellectual property that you now own...It doesn't do you a bit of good when the movie tanks does it?

Try casting people for roles in comic book movies that are right for them. I don't care how much dick Marlon Wayans is sucking in Hollywood, If I see him get considered for another role that he's totally wrong for I'm going to BARF. (You do know that he was up for the part of Robin, at one time right?) Even if you have to cast an unknown to do it right. Do it right damnit! I could never see Nicholas Cage as John Constantine (He should have played Ghost Rider, but that fell through) Get malcolm Mcdowell, or Ewan MacGregor (in about 20 years) or even,God, this make me breath a little shallower, Terrence Stamp. By god, that would be a movie I'd see in a theater multiple times. And buy it on video to boot.

Stop making us suffer. Or there will be vengeance.

Will we picket? Naaah. We understand that you corporate pinheads consider even bad press to be useful to a movies shelf life. We'll simply turn our backs on deeply inferior product. Maybe even launch a denial of service attack on the server where the crappy website is. We'll kill you with silence until you straighten up and fly right. Maybe if we executed Jon Peters...

Sono Finito.

I should never write while angry. It's never a good idea. But many times the way us fans are treated by Hollywood makes me angry I could chew tinfoil. Not to mention the fact that it's not only the fans who get screwed but the creators too. And as a creative type, I can tell you it would make me less inclined to make with the creating. I honestly don't know how Alan Moore has put with the shit that he has from the film making community. It seems like there is almost a concerted effort to miss the fucking point of every single one of works, when making them into a film.
Still, posting while angry is not a good idea. And I also owe an apology to J.J. Abrams over the whole Superman script thing. It came to light after I had written this incoherent screed, that the script that had been leaked to the net was in fact an EXTREMELY rough draft. I honestly should have known better. J.J. Abrams is a genius, responsible for one of the best shows on TV (Alias, in case you don't know) and the idea that he's attached to Mission Impossible 3 (as of this writing) makes me very happy indeed.
I still think we should execute Jon Peters though.

The Bench Report (Ongoing Larps)

I've heard it said that to learn from your own mistakes is intelligence, but to be able to learn from the mistakes of another is Genius. That's really what this column is all about. I participated in a larp that I thought was pretty good. Sure it had it's problems, but it was fun and involving. I got into a bit of a scrap with the head storyteller because I had begun to notice that the larp was taking an unpleasant turn. I'll get into specifics below without naming names. As a result of this disagreement, I was forced to depart. The larp soldiered on for a few more months but it died a horrible flaming death. (and no, this did not bring a smile to my face, contrary to what you may have heard.) and a number of people went their separate ways, not speaking to one another...And not returning borrowed books.

Since I've got some distance on this situation now, I feel I can speak about it. Some friends of mine are about to revamp an existing larp.(No pun intended) and they asked me for some input about it. This got my wheels turning, and naturally in order to stop the squeeking and burning smell, I had to write some of this stuff down. Most of the tips provided here are for an ongoing larp, as opposed to the original bench report which had to do with con larps.

NPC means NON-player character!
The storyteller corps of any good larp is the backbone upon which the rest of the flesh hangs. Like police, they need to be ethically above reproach. As such it is my considered opinion that the Storyteller Corps must never be allowed to play a regular character as part of the larp landscape. The ST Corps should be enjoined to create about 5 different characters and be ready to slip into any of them at any time. Sure it's OK to have a favorite, but when the ST's become overly attached to any one character, It is a recipe for temptation. I'm sure there are Gm's out there that are ethically spotless enough to run the game and play, but the fact is, that the tiniest amount of fudging is too freaking EASY. It's a very slippery slope. You might tell yourself, you bent the rules to preserve the story's integrity...But you didn't. And people have a way of knowing that you fudged to save your characters ass. The perception...The mere hint...Among players that the ST are favoring their own characters over the players is sure deadliness to a larp and will sow seeds of disharmony in any event.

The proper attitude to try to achieve is that of an improv troupe that functions like a well oiled machine. You are there to help other people have fun. If you make this happen, then you too will have fun. You are not there to simply amuse yourself by watching the players twitch on the gallows you created.

Along that same line, is the problem when players feel like the other players are being favored over them. Again, it's the perception of this, not the necessary reality, that can cause trouble. It's my thinking that it is a good idea for the storyteller corps to plan one plot bomb for every single player per session. It is also good to let players know that this is the policy. It lets them know that no-one is ever able to completely squirm out from under the Belt Sander Of Destiny, and it lets them know that the bulk of the unpleasantness they face is being sponsored by other players. (which is where their ire should be directed.)

Plot bombs can be large or small. A retainer gets himself arrested, an IRS audit, the Methuselah you mouthed off to at the last conclave is coming to town...ST's are encouraged to keep a good list of player flaws and give them good reason to spend points to buy them off. Plot bombs can be as varied as a creepy letter intimating that the sender knows the receivers secrets or it can be an assassination attempt. (Which should FAIL, if it is plot...More on this in a moment.) Care must be taken to make sure that players don't feel like the lives of the other players are much cushier than theirs, as regards GM-related trouble.

There will be nights when your work life, or your personal life, is creating undue stress. We've all been there. We know what that's about. There will also be nights when your players are going to aggravate you with their behavior. If however, you feel that the next person who works your nerves is going to get killed. You need to go home. You are not helping the game, you are endangering it. If you walked in the door with the thought "I think I'm gonna kill somebody tonight." then you need to just turn around and hit the bricks.

Make no mistake, Characters die. Larps are set up differently from tabletop games, insofar as many of the antagonists players face are fellow players. They enjoy all the same benefits and the systems are not set up to favor one side over another, nor are they built to keep anyone alive. The Joe Bob Briggs rule is in full effect and it reads as follows:

"Anybody can die at any time."

But, when the ST's are feeling a little irritated or are actively conspiring to wax a particular player, then it's because of free floating aggression or some personality conflict. This shit is a game killer. Ethically, you MUST adopt the attitude that even people you actively dislike should be able to come and have fun at your game. (If they are derailing your organization or the bulk of your players dislike them too, that is a different story. Ask them to leave. Killing their character for laughs is still petty and classless besides.)

While players might feel it's fun to play dogpile on the Ventrue the first time, people are going to wonder when it's going to be their turn in the barrel. And nobody likes to feel that the ST is out to get them.

The Law and the Protocols
There is some behavior at a larp that is flatly unacceptable. But then, anytime you have more than two or more people congregate in one place, you're going to get that. As leader of your Larp community, (and you ARE the leader whether you want to accept it or not.) You are occasionally going to be called on to dispense justice. Rather than adjudicate things on a case by case basis and possibly be biased...Or worse, be seen to be biased, it's a good idea to have a code of conduct in place. This code of conduct, should be available freely to all the players and only the newbie on his first night has the excuse of ignorance of the law. It should be available on the game site at all times and there is no reason you can't post it to a website so that any player can download it. The document will see a bit of revision as things come up, but a good starting set of rules should be as follows:

Post the text of the basic rules of larping first, No drinking or drugs, no stunts, no non-consensual touching, no weapons, etc,
-For minor offences: (I.E. screwing newbies, obnoxious out of character behavior, "Fudging") Denial of experience or awarding of your XP to the injured party.
-For medium offences:(I.E. protracted verbal arguments with other players or staff, Blatant Cheating, playing while drunk or otherwise altered) Sheet will be pulled, pending a hearing. At the discretion the ST corps, the character may be permanently removed. The player does get to tell his side of things, but it should be understood that behavior must be altered. Or he will be asked not to return.
-For serious offences: (I.E. Repetition of the medium offences, Sexual harassment or Violence) Player who has committed these actions will be asked to leave. In very serious cases, the police will be summoned and charges will be pressed.

A code of etiquette might be a good thing to make available to players as well. People with differing play styles might not realize that what they consider fun is actually irritating the shit out of their fellows, mainly because they don't realize it's considered poor form. I always think it's a good idea that whenever you kill somebody, you might want to actually sit down with them at some point and buy them a drink and tell them they did alright. Talk a bit of the strategy of the last fight. Heck maybe even talk about their new character and how the two of you can work together with his next character, and screw somebody else. Friendly rivalry is the attitude to be striven for among players. When things get too competitive that's when you've got problems..

etiquette codes also cover what stickers on badges might mean. Stickers point out who is an ST or Narrator, They let people know who is a newbie, and I've seen Larps where there is a sticker called the "Fondle Me Sticker" which allows touching of a familiar sort. (even if a person has three of these on their badge, it's still a good idea to introduce yourself and get to know them, before trying to do anything kinky.) I'm of the opinion that the system ought to work in reverse. If a person has personal space issues or touching issues, that should be on the badge instead (large, orange, easily seeable sticker of some sort.) and it should be understood that light friendly touching is fine. But this issue is yours to decide. Pepper and salt to taste.

This weeks great big whatsit!
There is the tendency to want to create great big epic plots that affect every player on the board. I'm not saying that you shouldn't do this but it should never be done to the point where the players expect it all the time. Methuselah vampires, potent master mages and great Cthulhu wandering into town is overkill. Not only that but it gets harder and harder to top yourself and/or create a sense of real fear in the player populace. It is always better to have 10 plots going on than to have only one. People gravitate to the sorts of plots that will interest them and people who aren't involved in anything are simply not trying. Talented players are more than capable of generating their own plot if given half a chance and actively become irritated if they feel like the great GM sponsored plot is wrecking what they've been doing. All of this boils down to the basic dictum: Don't be heavyhanded. It's not like tabletop where you have to manage every speck of the plot. As a matter of fact, When your ST Corps is having to work to keep with what the players are doing to each other...It is the state to be wished for. It means less work for you.

Plot can come out of the smallest things. A old book becomes available on the black market (or Dark Market, as the case may be.) Someone runs a shipment of guns into town. Someone spots a known revenant going about their business in a Camarilla town. Mysterious ads get placed in the personals or classified section of the paper. Don't be afraid to start small. Let the players work themselves into a tizzy.

The other benefit of this type of plotting is that it involves creating smaller scale antagonists for your players to test themselves against. Great big monstrous problems that come down the pike every other week tend to create the impression among the players that any ST created problem is unkillable. No one likes to feel that their dick won't shoot. As such, it's a better idea to have a half dozen antagonists that range from easily slamdunkable to goddamn hard. ST's that ignore this and create horrifying antagonists that require the lives of 20 players to vanquish, are probably not paying attention to that fact that the bulk of the players are ducking them.

The Stylesheet
As I've mentioned before, I think it's a good idea to create a document for incoming players that gives them an idea of the flavor and tone of the game you are playing. If you're okay with Malkavians in feety pajamas, then you should say so. If you're planning to have a Baali at the center of the politics of a city, the players should get hints from the language of the stylesheet. If you're playing low down undead crimelords or a chronicle which features spiritual exploration, it's important to let the players know that that is the sort of game you're making. This falls under the rubric of game leadership. You can't expect the players to follow you, unless you tell them where you're going and give them an idea of how you're planning to get there. So many time gamers abdicate the leadership responsibilities because they feel uncomfortable giving orders or making decisions. Unfortunately, you can't do that and still be a GM. Most of the time you can still be nice guy, but on occasion you have to be a prick and say no. If you don't, people lose respect for you.

Under this same heading falls the idea that you are a creator, but you are also a manager. Certainly, managing a larp is a good deal less glamorous than simply scripting it, but doing it well requires a certain skill and style. It can occasionally be a thankless job but when it's done badly it gets noticed. I've heard it said that "People don't notice good engineering, but they don't trip over it either. Some basic tips for larp management are:

-Whenever you are forced to call somebody on the carpet or jump somebody's shit over something. DO IT IN PRIVATE. Privacy protects the feelings of the person who is being yelled at. Never ever jump on somebody in public. At best, you will make a mortal enemy of them for embarrassing them in front of the group. At worst, they could turn the group against you.
-Learn how to delegate. If you do not, you WILL burn out. Beside, if you're running a Larp which features more than one type of supernatural critter in it. You will need at least one ST to handle each type of critter.No one can hold all those systems in memory. Strong men have tried and failed, broken on the rocks of Larpdom.
-Even if you have a person who is an organizational genius, do not saddle them with *all* the freaking paperwork. Make the rest of the ST staff take up some of the slack. Few people like to feel like a glorified secretary. This also has the happy benefit of enabling the larp to continue if the organizational genius burns out, or stalks off with his nose out of joint.
-It doesn't matter how creative someone is, Membership in the ST Corps should be predicated on how reliable they are. Each person that you make into a storyteller should be someone that you could trust with a baby with complicated medical and emotional needs. Take note of those who stay after to help clean up the venue. Those are the people who are interested in keeping the Larp running like a top.
-This ought to go without saying but, communicate with your fellow ST's. Meet physically or have a private chatroom and/or email list. Make sure you are on the same page about certain things. If an event is planned that evening make sure each ST knows about it. If there is a timetable of events make sure the corps is up on it. Synchronize watches or whatever floats your boat.
-In that same vein, communicate with your players. If there are rules changes, print them out so that everyone has them and can ask questions. The more changes you make to the basic system, the more work you make for yourself and for everyone else. So K.I.S.S.
-Among the sorts of people that you'll need on staff are: Head Administrator,(Who minds the massive paperwork that goes into any larp and probably handles much of the website duties.) The new player guy, (who builds pregens,indoctrinates newbies into the inner mysteries of Larpery, vetts characters against a fairly harsh and conservative standard so as to weed out players who want to play a Mokole in a vampire larp. And keeps an eye out to try and nudge newbies into the flow of the plot.) The public relations guy (who is the liason between the Larp and it's venue and all other contact with wandering civilians and/or media. Should be schooled in how to speak Normal.) and the Sergeant at arms (Who is responsible for physical on site security. It is helpful if this person has medical training in case of a medical emergency. It is also helpful if they are the sort of person who is ruthlessly impartial about who needs an asskicking and is very conservative about passing them out.)

It is my feeling that, for the most part, one should avoid Larps with too many kinds of supernatural types wandering around. This may be just a stylistic choice on my part but many times this feels excessively twinkesque to me. Not to mention each of the larp genres has it's own stylistic feel and tone to them and many times they run counter to one another. Don't believe me? Drop a freehold of changelings into a vampire larp and watch the chaos unfold. If you've got 5 types of creatures rolling around, the only thing that keeps them from killing one another CONSTANTLY, would be some silly ass treaty, that you'd never believe for a second in a tabletop game. Mage Larp is one of the few types that I feel is flexible enough to have characters from multiple types of games, but that's because Mages are humans (from which most of the character types spring) and they're also more used to dealing with weird shit. Even so, mages don't want to be caught in between Vampires and shapechangers trying to kill one another. Hey, if you can juggle these chainsaws and your players dig it that way then fine. But it still is going to require more work than usual.

Humans: the Other White Meat
Many times, Humans receive extremely short shrift in the World of Darkness. In Larps, the tendency becomes somewhat magnified. Damn nearly everybody trotting around is some brand of supernatural critter with a set of neato powers. What few humans you see are ghouls, victims, hedge mages, or new players who will probably be embraced by some clan or other before the night is through. For some reason, players get irked when they actually have to be circumspect about what they are or curb their fat crackling power of the godz in the face of imminent exposure.

Aw. Too Bad.

They call it Vampire: the MASQUERADE, for a reason. Humans in play change the dynamic of a game dramatically. Players are forced to be more circumspect. Players tend towards less open bloodshed (less work for the ST's) and in fact, it forces them to deal with some of the issues that are built into the game but tend to get shuffled to the back of the deck in favor of violence and vampire politics.

Losing humanity becomes more of an issue when you have to deal with humans on a semi regular basis. Vampires get very lonely too because of the life they've been segregated from. Vampires have great big secrets about them and not everyone takes well to finding out that a person they trusted has been feeding on their aunt or something like that. Humans also alter all the other games in relation to humanity.

Now granted, nobody wants to go to a vampire larp and play a mortal. Who thinks it's fun to play a guy worried about his 401K? Most experienced players will be irritated by the idea that they should play a human coming into a new larp, many will angle to be embraced right out of the box.

Still the basic idea is sound. The ST corps needs to shoulder some of the burden of this, but the New player guy should make a bunch of humans/and or ghouls that can be given to new players right off the bat. It's important to see how John Q. Just-off-the-Street, will handle playing a real person before you trust him to play a Tremere or a Malkavian.

Naturally, The sorts of humans that bump into the supernatural world on a regular basis are at least interesting humans. Police detectives, private detectives, crime bosses, arms dealers, Arcanum scholars, Inquisitors, hired assassins,etc... Many of them have reasons why supernaturals shouldn't whack them as the solution to the problem they represent. (The Prince says; "I don't care if the chief of police was annoying you, ripping his throat out in front of 50 witnesses wasn't smart you dimwit!") Even if the chief of police simply disappears one night, there will be awkward questions asked and a statewide manhunt...At least. Smart princes hold certain types of humans off limits. (like Arcanum) Devious ST's have to find ways to get those Arcanum members into the face of the vampire players. Heck, a news crew at the wrong place and wrong time can make a supernatural's life a living hell. Especially, if the lead reporter has been around the block and is in the know about the dark things that go on in this town.

Sure the new player might get annoyed if handed him a plain vanilla human on his first night there. But give him something with a goodly chunk of meat on it's bones and he might just decide to keep it. If not, you can always help him create a neonate vampire or whatever...But with a lot less traits on it than the prebuilt human. Don't toss that human away either, they can always be used by the storyteller Corps or maybe even farmed out to another player.

Humans can jack up the machinations of the most manipulative of cainites just by being able to be awake during the day. And Influence can be the great equalizer between mortal and cainite. ST's would do well to remember this.

Ghouls are also a way to go, as are hedge mages, and Kinfolk, and Kinain, and whatever else. But again, you lose some of the real flavor of supernaturals without Mortals.

Whew...I have rambled on haven't I? I may have yet more to come but for now...

Sono Finito