Over the past two days I ran five sessions of Technocculte, split over two nights (for more on this <2h, 4-player game, click here). Some things were great, some not-so-great, so I’ll start with the «could have been better» stuff so that I don’t forget it. A lot of it is common sense, or things I already knew, but chose to ignore or just forgot.
- A great site that matches your vision can be difficult to get, or only at certain dates. Do realize the price of these scheduling constraints. Running a game outside of the usual week-end dates, close to new year’s eve will mean that not only some players won’t be able to attend, but you’ll be managing sign-ups and questions during the holiday season, family dinners, travel etc. And shops that you need open will be closed. Probably not the best time of the year to finalize your larp.
- A great but somewhat remote site rented for only 4 players (because of your creative agenda) means that, to make the game affordable, you’ll need to run the game several times. Which will be challenging because your player pool will already be depleted by the above weird dates and by the weird concept of traveling sometimes more than 2 hours to play for less than 2 hours. Time spent recruiting and promoting will not be spent preparing the actual game. And even if you do fill your multiple sessions of the same game, it will give you more work, as it’s never just copy and paste.
- Running these several games in one night will put time constraints on the pacing of the briefing, a source of stress for both your players and you. It will also prevent workshops and a proper, structured debriefing. And you’ll be running to prepare the next session instead of just enjoying the vibe from the previous run.
- Organizing alone is great because you have full control of the creative agenda, no meetings to plan or reminders to send… But you’re alone. So when real life trouble affects you, it affects 100% of the game’s organizers. Hence it affects the quality of the game.
- Even if it’s a short, «laidback» kind of game, running it 5 times still means you’ll be managing 20 different players. Alone. If you’re not the greatest time manager and tend to underestimate the amount of work needed to achieve your goals, being alone means no one will be there as a sounding board/voice of reason/reality check. This means rushing, being stressed, tired, underfed, and sometimes pretty sloppy execution.
- To avoid the above, planning helps. Tight schedules. Checklists. Detailed notes. Stress will make you forget things during briefings, and that will affect the game. So do write the things down, even if you think you know them. Do not trust your memory. It will fail you. «Winging it» only works up to certain amount. You can’t wing it 5 times in a row.
- You can’t physically be everywhere. This means that when you’re busy briefing a player on how to use their tech stuff, you’re not being a very nice host to the rest of the players who just arrived. And you won’t take any decent pictures.
- Technology will fail. If you use a lot of technology (because it’s part of your creative agenda) it will fail a lot. In new, unexpected ways, at every session. Sometimes in a way that goes unnoticed by players, but sometimes it will spoil your climactic ending. It will not work like the way you tested it at home, or like the way the fantastic presenter at the larp convention first showed it. Players will touch the devices in different ways, computers will crash for no reasons, even rechargeable batteries will die. Like, won’t be rechargeable anymore, ever. So you need more time to foolproof your technology before the game, and a detailed checklist with a re-test of every piece of tech before each session. And allow more time for briefing on the tech, so that players feel comfortable with it. See above comment on site availability and multiple sessions. Even if some of the technology enables you to run that larp alone, do realize some of it requires certains amounts of manpower and time to do it right.
- Different players have different levels of expectations. Experienced roleplayers, whether larp organizers or tabletop game masters / creative writers will expect more in the way of plot consistency than more casual gamers. In any way, all players deserve a nicely rounded plot where everything fits. Even if some of the elements are just there for flavor, or don’t really need to make sense in your vision of the game, they need to make sense in these players’ heads. It’s part of the kick they get out of larp. So go all the way and even if you’re running the game for kicks, nostalgia and experimentation, deliver the nice «clockwork plot» you’re used to delivering in other games. It’s just a bit more work, won’t hurt your vision and will make more people happy.
- Experienced roleplayers will expect more in terms of immersive environment than more casual gamers, especially if you’ve sold your game on immersion. So even if the real reason you stressed the importance of seriousness and tension was to avoid attracting goofy roleplayers, it also binds you to deliver that seriousness or tension to the people that came for it. Otherwise you need to explain them that it was just a way to avoid the really goofy stuff, but that it won’t be that perfectly serious. And even if you think you’ve explained your creative agenda all over the place, some of the less connected larpers will not have seen it. So just be even clearer in your materials sent individually to the players.
- Even you think you’ve communicated a lot, realize you’ve communicated a lot about what you wish the game will be, not what it will actually be like. If you advocate truth in advertising in other people’s games, be better about practicing what you preach.
- If you’re going for a quick game, don’t overload it with “useless” plot details. Whether they are delivered via a PC sheet, live NPC interactions or physical clues, they’re still details. So they will take time. Time away from roleplaying/immersing, whatever. Only keep the important bits. There is no time for too much fluff.
- Overall, focus. Chose your poison. Don’t scatter.
- If you just want to make a thank-you game for friends, maybe don’t make it a big public thing where you invite people from all over the local larp scene. People that were not at the games being referenced or paid tribute to don’t really care about that aspect. So make it a good game -period.
- If you want to make it an «alone in the dark» game, don’t make your game so damn cooperative, with the need to share clues etc, with lots of flashy technology that can bug. Next, try the same game in the same site with only two players. Yes, this will make the logistics even worse. But focus on the aspect that is most important and deliver on this one aspect.
To show I haven’t fully integrated these lessons, I’m running another game in 3 weeks, alone. But it will be 9 players, only one session, and no technology. We’ll see
Next: positive things (yes, there are lots of them) and a summary of player feedback as it rolls in.
Tags2013 burlesque convention critique défi XVIIIème english france français french gn gniales gnidee hip-hop huis clos jdr jeu de rôle jeu de rôle grandeur nature knudepunkt knutepunkt L'Exposition Extraordinaire d'Aven lacepunk larp larp critique le four fantastique live-action roleplaying murder party nordic larp nordic larp talks old news orc'idée paris podcast prop rap review roliste shadowrun sk2012 solmukohta steampunk stim suisse switzerland technocculte XVIIIème