Sunday, June 18, 2006

No way out!

No way out

It was a happy accident. During the play of Clayton's fantastic Aeon Adventure game, We had a chased an ancient japanese artifact across the world and aboard a japanese submarine where we tangled with the Admiral and his ninjas in order to recover the Wakizashi No Kame. Which incidentally got run through my character up to the hilt. I remembered a bit of game mechanic that would have saved my bacon 1 action round to late to make a difference.

But i digress, The admiral and his ninjas dispatched, our team was looking to recover the sword and blaze for safer ground. The scuttling charges had gone off and the ship was sinking. I was bleeding out and in shock and most of my teammates were dinged and battered as well.

There was only one problem. The sword would not let anyone pick it up. It damaged anyone who tried. implements and gloves were no avail. Having noticed earlier that the Admiral had decorations on his uniform that indicated he was of imperial blood, i coughed out that it could only be wielded by someone with Imperial blood and that we should leave it behind. At least that way we'd deny it to the Brotherhood of the Black Lotus and stop their plans.

But, Camille, who was playing my twin sister wouldn't hear of it. Being british both of us had been brought up with the whole idea of, "Well. We've come all this way..."
And while the water rose she tried every trick in the book to figure out a way to take the sword with us.

Just then a bolt of inspiration struck her. She had been wondering aloud about the Reporter (Played by Gina) who Uncle Roger had asked along for the original expedition before his untimely murder. It had seemed out of character for him to do so. In a flash, she realized why. Somehow, Uncle Roger had figured out that the intrepid reporter Tara Tucker was in fact distantly related to the imperial line.

We pooled our inspiration and did a massive dramatic edit. Tara picked up the sword which tasted her blood and then purred, "We are your servant Empress."

Then we got aboard our seaplane and hauled balls out of there.

Clayton admitted to us later that had had no actual way for us to recover the sword but that he certainly didn't mind the brilliant solution Camille had come up with. Neither did we. It was damn cool and major props to her for coming up with it.

Some days later i had a talk with Chris Stopper about this very game while we were working in the lab. He mentioned to me that it reminded him of something he and "Evil" Joe Lamothe had talked about regarding PC's.

He said. "Once players get to a certain level, you really don't have to leave them an out. All you have to do is make the scenario tight and close up the obvious holes in the plot. Most of the time, the players will come up with a better way to resolve it."

This is a cool idea and i like it a lot. It takes a certain amount of GM confidence to relax and allow things to unfold in their own way and at their own pace. a single path to the end is the sign of an insecure GM.

The more i think about it. The more i realize that being a GM is a lot like being a regulator in an Improv group. A regulator is the guy that comes on and sets up the game and moves it along. He slows it down when the laughs are coming hard and he speeds it up when the laughs aren't there. He's the one who looks for the best laugh to come out of the crowd and lets the players get off strong. He's also the guy who knows when a game is not working and moves on to the next thing. He kind of controls the action without controlling the stage. If you get what i mean.

Sometimes players go down roads they think they need to go down, and persist even though it's obvious to everyone at the table that it's boring as hell. Ever had a player stop the game cold with pointless library research? Ever see a player slow a game session to a crawl haggling over weapons? I've seen both.

And i now know the answer to all such problems.


Because everything is better with Ninjas!
Sono Finito

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Perversity can be your friend...or, you know, not.

Here is a list of things that will fuck up a larp good and proper. Commend them to your study and if your are sick of your larp and have come to hate your "friends" and wish be to be shut of them. See how many of these you can pull off before the whole thing implodes and engenders hatred of any kind of larping amongst those people for years to come.

It's important when starting on this path to realize the nature of vital communications and to ruthlessly strangle any possibility of allowing them to happen. Larping being imaginative sorts, will fill in the blanks of anything that they don't have direct experience of, So if you want to really cripple your larp, do inexplicable and arbitrary things and then refuse to communicate with anybody about why or reassure them that you have a reason for doing so. Players love to speculate. In fact they love it so much that you should give them even greater rein to do it by losing your internet access and giving your cell phone to a homeless Puerto Rican
If you can't manage that. You might consider a "Sock Puppet" account designed to take any current rumor on the mailing list and blow it wildly out of proportion. Even innocent questions like: "Why is the site fee going up 10 bucks per person?" or " "So how did he get all those dots of Temporis?", can send the larp reeling into a spiraling downturn of lies and recriminations.

2) Favoritism
Your S.O. Is the best player ever. In fact, it's one of the reasons why you hooked up in the first place. Since he/she's so good, and every one should see it, You should figure out a way to make all plots center on her/him. Hey, while I'm thinking about it, you might want to adjust his/her power level up so she/he can handle the extra workload. After all it's one of the perks of being star of the show.Right?
And hey, while I'm at it, let's talk about people that flatly rub you the wrong way. Now I'm not talking about people who are obnoxious, or smell or don't really get it. Those sorts of people are gold in any larp you want to ruin. No I'm talking about the people who you don't really know, and haven't really got time to meet because your clique is already full of the people you care to know. The key to dealing with these people is starve them for plot. Or maybe place them in over their head. Have someone mind control them into going after the gigantic vampire/Were-koala all by their lonesome. They'll get the hint. They'll figure out that the only person who can conquer such a beast, and look fly doing it, is your S.O. Everybody else is goose pate.

3) Dull stories.
Want to kill a larp? Make the stories dull. Make each larp event as dull and boring as you can manage. Create plotlines that involve paperclips or re-organizing a power players desk for him. Drone. Fail to make eye contact. Load up on Melatonin or L-Tryptophane. Make a pointless and arbitrary combat every so often, but don't let the players win or capture the bad guy. Each Larp should be an exercise in frustration and "Blue Balls." Make each an every event that occurs in the life of the larp, as interesting and engaging as waiting in line at the DMV and you'll be well on your way.

4) Dull players
You should begin weeding now. It's obvious that the sort of player who enjoys dressing up, who likes performing for others, and who is more than capable of getting plot stirred up all by himself is an active danger to the deceasement of your game. You want players who are entirely reactive. You want players who are far more comfortable with the Tabletop dynamic and abstruse mechanics. After all, mechanics are simple and don't change at all, not like pesky people. You want to start actively recruiting people who are,in fact, shy. Get them to play the moody loner who doesn't like talking or doing anything. Plant them in a corner and leave them be. Heck. If you're going to that length, you might even want to consider allowing a potted plant to be one of your NPC's.

5) OOC politics (Sexual or otherwise)
You know, the "game" of the game ought to be duller than dogshit, but that's no reason why things can't be as complicated as a season of the Sopranos backstage. Hey, if you're not having at least one shouting match with a fellow narrator over a settled issue or dragging someone's sexual improprieties into the harsh light of critical opinion, Well, you're just not trying hard enough.
Sex, of course adds an extra level of prejudices,shame,and drama to any encounter of this sort. Sure, you can have great arguments over "Who secretly hates who." or "Who fucking up who's plot" but it just doesn't have as much sting as "Who's fucking who." or "Who WANTS to be fucking who."
Heck, I've seen games damaged by brand new players who felt the need to inject their two cents into a situation they had no knowledge about, just because they SUSPECTED some sexual impropriety on the part of two players. The people involved didn't think much, but I say kudos to the dumb cunt. That took real initiative and a certain amount of bloody-mindedness.
I have heard inspiring stories of young ladies and young gentlemen who use the larp as their own personal daisy chain with nary a backwards glance at the emotional trauma left in their wake. Believe me, such people can create a sexual tension in a game so thick that it can be cut with a knife. I read a story of a young lady on RPG.Net who had a habit of fucking a guy in the larp, then breaking up with him a week later, fucking another guy in the same larp and then telling all sorts of lies about her former paramour. Lather, rinse, repeat...A person like this can engender personal hatreds and grudges for years to come. The amount of damage someone with this sort of pathology can create in your larp can be nothing short of EPIC.
But while sex can go a long way towards screwing up a game, there is very little that can screw things up as badly as a contest between two people (or more) for being the Alpha. Power vacuums ensue. And we know what a power vacuum does don't we? That's right. It sucks.
It's even better when an Alpha realizes that he can't have his prey, so he vomits all over it.

6) Bureaucracy and Burnout
Like any human endeavor involving large amounts of people, a Larp requires paperwork. It needs people to make it, manage it, update it, and keep it safe. So it's imperative that you sabotage this FIRST.
Make the forms and character sheets uniformly complicated and badly formatted. See to it that the flakiest person you can find is placed in charge of coming to the game with the archives. See how much work load you can press onto one person before they crack. Make sure that the software you use is the most complicated and yet feature-free software you can find.
Even better, make the players be responsible for all their own paperwork. The short sighted among them will routinely forget to bother with their sheets or forget to spend large amounts of their exp. But others with more vision will understand that this is a tacit blessing of their rampant cheating. Go and sin some more my son.

7) Lack of effort
And while I'm getting biblical. Nothing helps to engender a soul numbing ennui quite like feeling that the larp has become a cross that you've got to bear and finally get nailed to and die on. To that end, you should do your level best to discourage any person from doing anything to lighten your load. You should discourage anybody from feeling any ownership in the larp as well. It's YOUR cross to bear isn't it.
The feeling that players can contribute to the larp and eventually become part of the machinery that makes it run smoothly, so everybody can have more fun, is the lifeblood of a thriving larp community. You know what you have to do when this rears it's ugly head. Right?

8) Point and shoot
It's important that when you play NPC's, especially during the formative phase of a larp, that you make certain that each plot involving an NPC resolves by killing the NPC. This is useful because it trains players in the proper understanding of how to play a larp. Larps shouldn't really be about politics or indeed talking at all. Larp should be much like a low tech form of video gaming. Violence should be the trained response to every problem. Soon, when other players come in and create problems then the players will turn on one another in a hideous orgy of bloodletting that will leave everyone shaken and wondering if it wouldn't be better to catch up on TIVO on the weekends. Plus it has the added bonus of boring the tits off of the political gamers who didn't buy a lot points in combat/penis substitute.

9) Cheese
This one requires a bit of a cognitive leap. If the players want to do something easy or reasonable. Tell them no. If your players ask for something impossible or so dumb that it has no business being in your game, then say, "Sure!" and smile to distract them from your diabolic inner cackling. Soon enough your players will be flying around like they're in a Wuxia and fighting enormous vampire/Were-koalas.
Well it make for interesting stories for later when the alcoholism sets in.

10) Make them sweat.
Now, you might think that the Cheese route might not be for you. There is another path you can take. You can always turn to micromanagement of your larp. Make certain that nothing can actually happen unless directly observed by a narrator. (And disallow half of the stuff you don't personally witness anyway) Make sure that plots are entirely linear and can have only one outcome, no matter how obscure that outcome might be. Disallow entire scenes that contravene your plans no matter what the damage to your perfect plot might be.
In addition, each situation that players get into should be fraught with tension and peril. Make players make a test for everything. (That what the mechanics are FOR!) If you don't make a player make a roll to re-tie his shoelaces, your surrendering the scene. And we can't have that!
In addition it's important to heap scorn and derision on each and every thing your players say or do. Publicly. Through a bullhorn, if possible.

12) Venue ratfuck
It's important to leave the venue in worse shape everytime you use it. After all, if you don't do this, your game won't get kicked out and have to scuffle to get a new place. A good rule of thumb when doing this is to make sure that by the time the last player leaves, that the place looks like Stalingrad or New Orleans after the levy broke.
Also, if there are people who work in the venue while you play, you should make sure that you expose them to the worst excesses of geek behavior. Don't worry about them. They're civilians, Sheeple. They don't count in the larger scheme of things. It's not like gamers enjoy good public relations NOW. Right?

Follow these basic steps and in no time flat, you should see the end of your larp and a distinct freeing up of your weekend schedule. Also, you have less birthdays to remember, less Christmas presents to send, and a bit more space on your social calendar.

Sono Finito

Friday, June 16, 2006

No, I haven't forgotten about you...

Things have been intense of late. As mentioned in my last post, i am still neck deep in working two jobs.
I may be working on a project with Keith Taylor, Andy Davis and Clayton Oliver over the course of the next year.
I'm taking another SERIOUS look at learning how to podcast.
I've stepped back into the world of working as a Narrator/ST for my local Vampire larp and hope to have the thing completely re-organized by the time school starts back. I'm already working on re-organizing the thing around a blog and our yahoogroups list.

Which is actually something i'm planning to do to T.I. The Website is more or less superflouos in the world of Blogs. I can host all the content in the files section of the mailing list and use this place as my primary web-hub/news outlet/spleen-vent/whatever, etc...

Content-wise, Clayton's Adventure! game has kicked the part of me that like Adventure! and i have a list of new knacks that need writing down and notes for same.

I also have a list of new crank topics that i expect will come boiling out of me soonish.

Origins is closing in.

Still thinking about writing a book on larps and how to organize them.

Still thinking about whether or not to create a Cafe Press store for this place. I have some interesting ideas.