Re: yet more LARPs

From: Sandy Petersen (sandyp@idgecko.idsoftware.com)
Date: Fri 10 May 1996 - 17:23:02 EEST


Yet more LARP comments. Then I (may) be silent.

Doyle Makes a Very Reasonable Response.
>The wave length that I am refering to involves the process that
takes place in a
>room where each player is imagining a slightly different scene in
their minds. >Yet the closer these individuals "fantasies" are to
each other, the more each >individual's suspension of disbelief
increases. This is a process that feeds on >itself, becoming more
and more pronounced as time goes on during a role playing >session.
        My experience is that this process takes longer than a
single session, and goes on for years. In my RQ campaign that lasted
for over 6 years, after the first couple of years everyone had
built up such a history of events, stories, tales, old enemies, old
friends, etc., that the venue seemed utterly real to _me_ when I was
GMing it, and I believe to the players too, some of whom wept when
it broke up. *sob* I could generate entire scenarios out of
happenstance meetings with folk they'd met in the past and
remembered well. And we got to know each other's characters so well
that I could precisely design events and scenarios and know just how
Mugumma, or Skin-Like-A-Grub, or Harmast Nightblade would react. I
was never unpleasantly surprised by player ingenuity after the first
year -- the players were still ingenious, and did many unexpected
things, but it was never a scenario-harming type of event. I dunno
if this was because I had become more flexible in handling their
antics, or if they had adapted to my GM style. But we were so used
to each other -- all our little warts and quirks had hollowed out
corresponding depressions in each other's psyches, so to speak --
that when I moved to Maryland and started up a new campaign, running
it was exceedingly difficult. I would start a scenario, then wait
for the players to do X, while they waited for me to do Y, and it
would go nowhere. I had to start from scratch all over again. In my
current campaign (though it was on hiatus for quite a while), the
players have managed to build up a backlog of history and events for
me and they to construct new memories upon. Even now, they all
remember bargaining with the Huan-To, the Isle of Humakt, and the
troll's trial. I look forward to the next decade of gaming with them
(knock wood), so that the group fantasy can grow ever keener.

Doyle mentions that his game in which straight white males played
lesbians and blacks worked out fine. Cool.

Doyle wonders what to do:
>a) Journey to far away cons, and participate in Glorantha a couple
of times
>a year.
>b) Organize my own Gloranthan LARP, and try to convince the
Masquerade crowd
>to participate (hard).
>c) Organize my own Gloranthan LARP, and try to convince the RPG guys to
>participate (harder, since most of them think of LARP in the same
category
>with "the rubber sword crowd" or "the Masquerade crowd").
        Your pain is mine. I moved to Texas over three years ago.
While in Maryland, I played LARPs several times a year. Since moving
here, I've played only in the Gloranthan LARP minigames (a six-hour
game can be fun, but it's NOT the full experience, guys).
        Take heart -- the difficulty of writing, traveling to, and
running LARPs means that TTRP will be the major form of experiencing
Glorantha for many many years to come. LARPs will never replace
TTRP, in the same way that live theatre will never replace movies.
They're not a threat to one another -- they are _complementary_. I
frequently use skills and techniques from LARPing to enhance my TTRP
GMing and play. When I first started writing and directing LARPs, I
found that my previous GM and RPG experience was an enormous aid,
giving me an advantage over many other directors.
        Now, when I do a RQ mass combat, for instance, I use LARP
techniques. The players are then able to tell exactly what's going
on in the battle, participate individually, and have fun in the
confusion. I was never able to reproduce this properly in TTRP
before I had seen it done in LARPs -- my mass combats were always
too mechanistic or too confusing or too wargamey. Even Pendragon and
Bushido, best of the lot, were unsatisfying. But now my TTRPs are
enhanced by the LARP mass combat. Ditto for other features -- such
as running multiple plots simultaneously (easier for me now than
before), romance (much MUCH easier to handle), NPCs (I just steal
personalities from old LARP experiences), etc. My GM skills are
better than ever before thanks to LARPs.

>d) Organize my own Gloranthan LARP, and get one of the regular
groups I play
>with (4-7 individuals) to play with me at one of our houses. Hmmm.
Since I
>don't rely too much on heavy amounts of rules anyway, this sounds
suspiciously >like one of my regular sessions, sans table. Come to
think of it, sometimes we >don't use a table!

SANDY'S SUGGESTION FOR A LITTLE BITTY LARP
        In many campaigns, important things get decided that affect
the PC's lives, but which the PCs themselves, realistically, would
have little input into. Such events can be handled by means of a
miniLARP. Let me give you an example:

        The Sartar High Council met to discuss whether or not they
ought to rebel against the Lunar occupation. No PC was important
enough in Greg's campaign to be in on the council's deliberations.
So they all played members of the council and debated it out, each
with their own agendas. The decision was made, and then the game

went back to the rebellion. The GM now knew which power factions in
Sartar were pro-war, which were anti-war, which were pro-Lunar, etc.
The clans and cults had all lined up, and the PCs now had tons of
intrigue and drama to set the stage for their activities.
        At one point in my own East Isles game, if the players stay
there long enough, the Vorumai menace will come to a head. I plan
to have a diplomatic intrigue by the various important Isles, with
spies, traitors, etc., in which my players will run the bigwigs.
What happens in the council will affect the campaign significantly.

Yet the PCs may never meet any of these people personally.

>Sandy, can you really claim that the exhiliration that I, and
others, felt
>during these events, is pale in comparison to LARP? That Larp is
the sum of
>all roleplaying in Glorantha? Or the sum of all role playing everywhere?
        No. But the fun I have in most RPG sessions isn't really
the fun of that one single session, but includes the accumulated fun
of games past (and sometimes future), so that an entire history of
play and accumulated adventure can be experienced or at least
thought of, by me in every game.
        One evening of LARPing is very fun. But you can't repeat
it. You can repeat a TTRP (pretty much, anyway). LARP isn't the sum
of all roleplaying any more than computer games are the sum of all
good gaming. (Quite the reverse, in many ways.)
        Let me state my articles of faith in a less evangelical manner:

        1) If you like TTRPs, you will almost certainly like LARPs.
        2) You can do things in LARPs that you cannot do in TTRPs.
        3) LARPs seem much more "real" than a TTRP, because the
world _works_. (More on this later.)
        4) A single day of LARPing generates more "war stories"
than a dozen sessions of TTRP.
        5) A LARP is physically and emotionally exhausting and I
refuse to play more than once every few months, even if I _could_.
        6) LARPs generate no history. You can't play Cafe
Casablanca, and then play the same character, dealing with the same
characters, in the same milieu, in Cafe Casablanca II. Some players
won't come to the second game, many directors won't want to write
the same story over again. The same tricks won't work (how can you
be the unsuspected Resistance traitor _twice_? Esp. after inflicting
your successful betrayal in the first session?) Some of the very
best bits of LARPing would be lost in a repeat session. Example:
heroically dying is far more common in LARPs than TTRP, because
you're never going to run this guy again anyway. Players take more
risks with their character, and so the game is far more dynamic,
_especially_ since it's as fun to LOSE in a LARP as it is to win.
But if you had to worry about whether you'd play the character again
next summer, this aspect would be lost.

        The most fun I ever saw a person have in a LARP was a man
who was publicly executed. His arrest, trial, escape attempt, solemn
march to the place of execution, final defiant speech, and firing
squad was a tremendous way to go. He had more eyes fixed on him than
anyone else during the whole course of the game, and died with a
grin so enormous I feared the top of his head might come off. The
second most fun I ever saw was a man playing Captain Kirk, on trial
in Judge Wapner's court for child support, with a Klingon
prosecutor. He almost fell off the prisoner's dock shrieking with
laughter when a parade of no less than 6 "sons" came marching in,
all imitating Wm. Shatner's worst pseudo-Shakespearean excesses of
over-acting. And of course, when the Klingon was "forced" to phaser
one of them, Kirk got to say The Line, "You Klingon son, you killed
my _bastard_!"

Anyway, we may not disagree as much as one might think.

Sandy

 

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