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How I Design a LARP (part one: Location-Cubed)


Someone I know chants, "My process is not your process," and that applies. That's why this series is called, "How I Design a LARP," not, "The One True Method as to How to Design LARPs and why you're stupid and ugly if you don't do this same thing."

If I happen to be giving the same advice as someone else, please point me to them, because maybe they have a solution I don't for some of my issues. Otherwise, I am mostly writing this down as a guide for my co-GMs of the future.

Location Cubed

So, one of the well-known real-estate mottos goes, "Location, location, location." This is also integral in designing a LARP.

See, location isn't just physical setting, but the time, space, and people involved. There are expectations. Knowing Location-Cubed before starting plot design helps significantly, because those things can affect how the plot plays out overall.

Time: I like my LARPs to have time-based plot organization. For my NYE LARPs, I want them to end at "midnight" in-game and a few minutes before midnight in real-time. For conventions, you need to work around your time slots. I've got a closed-door LARP I've been planning for years ("The Feast of Sky, Sea, and Stone") that revolves around a particular dinner.

Remember, the standard LARP I'm teaching you to build is a lot like a movie - there should be two major ("affects everyone") plot points, a climax, and a short resolution period. You are going to have a lot more "down time" than a movie, so two hours is a hard run.

Place: Use your space. My NYE LARPs were held at my family home, and the "party-friendly" spaces were well-known. Bathrooms are generally off-limits (you're vulnerable enough there - games of KILLER being an exception). Convention games sometimes need some arrangement with the organizer - if you're familiar with a room and need that space, make it happen. I've done locked-door mysteries all in one room, but I had full control of the set-up of the space (there were no unnecessary tables in the way, etc.). There's a fabulous theatre room that has been available at ACNW for some LARPs - it has a balcony you can sit up in and listen to the conversations beneath - make that part of the game!

People: This is the part you may have the least amount of control over, minus perhaps numbers. At the NYE LARPs, I know that not everyone is going to play, but I have a good idea of who is showing up, so while I give some stronger interests stronger-plot characters, I try to get everyone to at least have some option to get involved. At a convention game, everyone's there to play. I have been surprised, though, with both presumptions (both NYE LARP people who really get involved in the game who I thought were just there to hang out, and congoers who paid to get in who didn't really want to be a part of the game.) Location is a mental space, too.

Location: Real-world and in-game have repercussions. If you're going to have multiple places, use what you have to clearly separate the space. Keep a piece of chalk (can be vacuum'd up) at the very least - use chairs, caution tape, whatever it takes to say, "This is Mars. If you're here, you have to have gotten to Mars somehow." That clears things up visually ("Quick glance - we're supposed to have an event on Mars... is anyone there?") and, again, provides an important mental component.

Of course, I've been at those LARPs with people who have the ubiquitous crossed-arms "invisibly listening" to events, but at least you know they're on Mars, not on the planet with which you're plotting.

You can create a game idea simply with these few options. (If you can't come up with a few game possibilities based on having a balcony theatre or a NYE time limit come up, you're not trying.) So I'm presuming you have a thousand ideas for a LARP already. Let's move on to part two, and see what we can do to get them ready for action.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 15, 2009 5:31 AM.

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