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LARP-writing Thought Experiment

Kainenchen's brief mention of LARP politics and scale of game in this post got me thinking about that topic, and I wandered off into "what if" territory that has nothing to do with actual use. To give a bit more background on the point, I think many games - particularly LARPs - run into the issue of wanting players to get invested in political plotlines without knowing how to get the players to make the shift from stick-jock to politico. The problem, I have believed, is that political brinkmanship requires bargaining, and it takes a lot of time for characters to build up a stake for that bargaining. Without something to risk or give away, players don't have enough of a reason to care what goes on, and most players will avoid getting involved, because most players won't jump feet-first into an encounter when they don't feel like they have anything to gain. When the politics take place on a national or even (in Eclipse's case) interstellar level, it's tricky.

The thought experiment, then, is the extreme case of bringing the scale of the game down to something players can identify with and enjoy with a minimum of handwaving. What if all of the PCs in a game grew up together in the same hamlet, and were themselves 90% of the hamlet's population? It would really change the way character histories were written, as each character would necessarily be written with connections to other characters. Maybe every new character history has to have two connections to existing characters and two spaces for new characters?

Huh, there's an interesting idea, actually. Character backgrounds could be based on one's role in the community, replacing cultural backgrounds such as we currently use.

Character Backgrounds

Forest Witch: -3 CP cost for (whatever magic is in the game) or Healing Ways
Hunter: -3 CP cost for Tracking or Security (for snares)
Innkeeper: -3 CP cost for Brewing
Shepherd: -3 CP cost for Animal Empathy or Staff
Woodcutter: -3 CP cost for axes
Baker, Farmer, Miller: I'd want to do something in the game mechanics that dealt with food supply. I don't know what exactly, but these backgrounds (possibly merged into one) would be relevant to it.

This setup suggests conflicts that are personal and immediate, as characters are protecting their homes and fighting off threats to the supplies that they need to survive. The simplicity of the setting appeals to me in theory. I think that in actual play many players would regard this scale as unheroic, though, which has a lot to do with why I wouldn't run it. The rate of character growth and power that are common in CI and Red Button games (really, games other than the Wildlands campaign) would quickly come to feel inappropriate in such a game. I would not find it intrinsically unreasonable to slow the game's advancement.


I'd also tweak mechanics to further discourage swords and shields, possibly requiring teaching for such weapons or unusual skill prerequisites. What if you had to have Striking Blows in some other melee weapon to start training with swords or shields, as a minimum level of competence before the local knight would employ and train you? Medium and heavy armor would be equally rare.


Low magic makes sense here, with a heavy reliance on individual exploration and discovery. Who knows, maybe the whole reason we care about this village is the awakening of magic there, so the PCs must learn on their own. Maybe magic comes from compacts with powerful beings (a kind of teaching time that you halfway look forward to and halfway dread, because you might be about to bargain away something else).

The whole point here, though, is the setting's simplicity: most of the people, places, and things the story cares about are within reach. Players meet all of the people of any political importance, because they are local. You know, immersion. (Immersion I would cheerfully toss to the wind to make sure we had electric lights, fans, refrigerated food, et cetera...)

Aaaanyway. Just some Sunday-afternoon rambling.


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