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.


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