Friday, June 24, 2005

The Bench Report (Con Larps)

I'm starting to feel froggy. One of these days I'm gonna jump. I'm totally into the Larp thing these days and I'm feeling that someday down the road I'd like to try my hand at being the lead ST on a Con Larp sometime.

To this end, I'm taking every thing that I learn from a larp and trying to make sure that I take careful notes and learn as much as I can by watching from the bench before getting into the game myself.

Delineating the Areas

It's a good idea to decide where stuff is, and to tell your players where it is. Let's assume you're doing a Vampire Larp. It's really important to try to make a determination as to where things are such as the Tremere Chantry, Vampire town hall, and the Sabbat hideout are. Granted, many venues aren't really congenial to setting aside whole areas for larp play but even if it's just a particular corner that been set aside as the Nosferatu sewers, it will let players know where to go.

The alternative is something I've seen all too many times. People wandering around lost, looking for their elders who are wandering around looking for them. It makes for too much walking. Wandering characters may have vital information and be unable to find the right people. It also enables parley. If I'm playing the Tremere regent and I want to send an emissary to the Nosferatu, all I have to do I send him to the area set aside for them and he'll hang out there until a Nosferatu happens upon him and demands to know his business.

Newbies will also need a place to find the elders (read:the experienced players) before some jerkoff decides to off them for the simple crime of tooling around cluelessly.

Levels of Play

It's a simple fact that people don't game at the same level of experience. Some folks have a lot of experience. Some are Larp ST's at home. Some may even be total system monkeys who know stuff cold.

But not everybody has this level of competency. Some folks have done it a couple of times and have more enthusiasm than raw ability. Some folks have played tabletop Vampire, but wouldn't know an R-P-S challenge if it nibbled on their naughty bits. Some people don't know anything about larping,Vampire,gaming or anything else. They may not even be sure who they are or what their name is. Sadly, these folks will attach themselves lamprey-like to the first person they see.

While I encourage players to help those less experienced than themselves, there is a fine line between coaching and baby sitting. It can be fun to take a relative newby and explain the vagaries of kindred existence to them as part of an embrace storyline. It's quite another to have to explain the entirety of Vampire Cosmology to somebody before being able to go off and pursue one's own goals.

To this end, an ST must be prepared with a number of fairly crunchy low level characters to be doled out to newbies. These characters should have enough supplemental material that a new player could conceivably run them without having to bother somebody every five minutes.( Tip: People absorb material far faster by reading than by listening.) In a Vampire Larp, this should be Neonate Brujah,Gangrel,Ventrue and Toreador. Ideally they should play ghouls instead. But ghouls generally only figure into very large larps. Hunters might also be good idea for these types of players.

Public Speaking

When holding the first meeting of the con, it is very important that you prepare a speech for the beginning of the larp which informs the players and doesn't meander. Many times players are chomping at the bit to go and get involved so if you get up and make a bunch of general remarks and meander around while you try to remember the other important bits of information. So make an agenda and stick to it as well as possible. Opening meeting information should include the following:

-What time the game starts each night of the con
-What time the storytellers plan to call it a night. (Doesn't mean play has to stop it just means adjudication won't be done after a certain time.)
-Where the players can find information out during the game (typically on the door of the ST's room)
-Introduction of the game staff and who is responsible for what. ( I.E. if you've got a guy who is responsible for influence stuff then that should be announced so that players don't come to you for it.)
-Introduction of the various clan heads, and what time their first meeting will be.
-Allowing clan heads to announce to their people what time their first meeting will be and where it is.
-Areas that have been specifically set aside for play (see above)
-Areas that are strictly off limits to Larp play.
-General remarks and welcome(which should come first)
-Plot related remarks (which should always be last.)

If you are uncomfortable as a public speaker, or speak too softly, or you are sick, or have trouble keeping attention of your players, you might want to consider turning the opening speech duties to someone else who is more capable in this regard. Also you should bring along something that will enable you to cut through the crosstalk and inevitable chatter that ensues like a gavel, or an airhorn, or a whistle, or a starter's pistol.

Closing Ceremonies

The last Larp that I went to had no closing ceremonies. Every con larp that I'd been to previously had one and I found that I missed it. It affords an opportunity for players to actually get to talk to one another outside of the game and to chill some of the hard feelings that might develop over the course of trying to kill one another. It also offers an opportunity for ST's to lay out the plot some and expose a few of the secrets. I've also found it's a good time for people to exchange numbers, email, and such. It's a nice to time bask in the warm glow of a game well played with the other players.


Each Larp will have it's share of newbies. Larp is actually a good way for people new to gaming to get involved and fool around with the idea of being another person and I am all for this idea. New people in a game can lead to old friends in future games and I'm certainly down with that! There's only one problem.

They don't know anything.They don't even SUSPECT anything.

While it's a good idea to set as good an example for newbies as possible. It's also really a good idea to set aside some time to get them trained. An hour before the game is to start, there should be a good general briefing for the very new players on the very basic ideas of the game and how the basics of the systems work. One person should host this Orientation and give the newbies an idea of what's going on. It is also my opinion that New persons should be given some sort of sticker for their badge that proclaims their newbie status. (while this might lead to some players preying on newbies others will have more mercy and anybody asshole enough to prey on newbies can be bounced from the game.

Nothing can bog down a larp like a passell of newbies who are asking a raftload of questions. It is my considered opinion that if a new player shows up too late for Orientation then they should not be allowed to play on the first night. Orientation can be run again on Saturday night if there is a need, but you should make that player wait until then. In the last larp, I got stuck with two newbies at once by the Larp staff. Newbie1 had played Mage and at least understood the concept of the World of Darkness, but had never played any Vampire before. Newby2 was the semi-drunk girlfriend of another player who literally didn't know anything about gaming at all. This girl got babysat all night by me and my clan mates because she asked an assload of questions but was too intimidated to DO anything. Newby2 did not belong in House Tremere. Newby1 finally began to understand when I managed to explain to her that Tremere had been one of the houses of Hermes. Then it all fell into place for her.

Sono Finito.


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