Introductory LARPS


#1

If you were somewhere that hiring halls is prohibitively expensive/hard to arrange, and you were looking at a playerbase which didn’t include many experienced LARPers, but would like to try to grow the hobby, which LARPs would you run?

Keep in mind, it is quite bitingly cold in my fair city at the moment.

~Will,
Who accidentially netted himself a role as Chch LARP organiser.


#2

I guess you’re looking for larps you can run in the comfort (and cheapness) of people’s homes? At least until there’s enough interest to pay for a venue or you find one for free/cheap?

If you want a small campaign that could be run in homes, and the World of Darkness settings appeal to your players, that might be a good match. It doesn’t have to be playing vampires or the whole angst thing, there is also the option of playing mortals hunting nasties, which could probably handle sub-genres all the way from Buffy to Supernatural. Similarly, Cthulhu Live could make a good at-home campaign. Both can be set in modern day homes, so you’re not trying to stretch your houses into something they’re not. There are also larp rules out there for Nobilis (playing god-like characters) and Legend of the Five Rings.

If you don’t want to start a campaign (which would be understandable, it can take over your life if you’re running events regularly), you could look at one-off larps. There is a list here. Some of those are free, some for sale, and quality varies. The “Freeform Games” scenarios are a great for new larpers, and NZLARPS owns several of them so if you were a member and ran the event as a project those could be provided to you. We have A Dead Man’s Chest (pirates), Curse of the Pharoah (18th C archeology), Happy Birthday R.J. (Dallas), and I think Dazzled to Death (classic murder mystery? - I think I have that one and have never run it). All of the “Shifting Forest Storyworks” games a free, and they’re written for really small number of players, 8 people max, so they could be suitable if you’re working with a small group. “Snow White” seems especially popular. I hear the rules may be over-complex, so you might want to chat to people about ways to simplify them.

There are heaps of other larps that have been run at Chimera, some NZ-written and some from abroad, that might work well. “Bitter Tears at Sad Mary’s Bar and Girl” is a surreal Over the Top larp set in a bar, would be great if you had a bar venue but also cool at home, might be hard for new gamers to understand. If you wanted to have a crack at fighting with foam weapons, I make my The Black Hart of Camelot available free to NZLARPS members. There’s also Super Sparkle Action Princess GX! which is also home-grown, and sets the players loose as the cast & crew of a low-budget children’s TV show where they’re trying to film a desperately under-planned episode with real cameras. Those last two might take more space than the average house, but if you had a house with sizable rooms they could work.

And so on. What kind of thing do you fancy?


#3

The current issue with hall hire is that halls have skyrocketed towards prohibitively expensive postearthquake.

Cheers for the brief list, I’ll probably get back to you in a day or two? Running a continuing campaign is out though, I’m not prepared to give that much time comittment.


#4

Okay, a few questions to help us focus.

Do you want ready-to-run scenarios, or would you be happy with writing your own scenarios for a ruleset/setting? Roughly how many people do you think events will attract?

In terms of production values, which is true: 1) you don’t care about costumes and props, happy to say house is a spaceship without any set dressing and ignore the fact that everyone is in jeans, 2) you don’t want trouble with costume, but want things to look correct. So the scenarios need to be set in a modernish house, or 3) you want nice production values and fantastic settings, will set-dress house and go all out on costumes?

Normally I would ask if you want live combat with foam weapons, or abstract combat (e.g. rock-paper-scissors), or scenarios that don’t involve combat. But I guess you’re limited to the last two options if you’re playing in homes?

In terms of venues I might normally suggest public parks, but obviously you have the weather/cold/maneating sinkholes problem. A number of scenarios could work well in a large pavilion or army tent, if anyone you know has access to such a thing, and it might be possible to put one or more of those up in a large back yard.

If I had to pick one game that’s likely to work anywhere for anyone, I’d go for A Dead Man’s Chest. People like dressing up as pirates, it’s light-hearted, it’s written for new larpers, and you could play it in a house/backyard/wherever.


#5

Ah - found your original post on the topic here. So you want ready-to-run scenarios and low costume requriements.

I agree with Anna’s recommendation regarding the Freeform Games scenarios (from that thread). They’re perfect for introducing people to larp. They’re casual so people can costume or not as they please (like a typical kiwi costume party). Best of all, they have well-written characters that have lots of stuff to do in the scenarios and there’s potential for drama, problem-solving, humour, etc. They work as larps, in the sense that interesting, fun, unpredictable situations arise during them. The only potential downside is the abilities system, which allows characters to suck secrets out of each other a little too easily for my tastes. However, that’s something you could adjust.

They come in a variety of sizes, so you could start with one of the small ones and work your way up to a larger one as you gather interest.

They’re reliably good. In terms of other scenarios on that list, you’d have to ask people who’ve played or run them whether they’re good - some are probably lemons.


#6

Diamond Geezers from Peaky Games has got low set requirements (a garage or shed works just fine, and the original was written with item cards rather than physical props (although I liked the props that Scott made - they contributed a lot to the game atmosphere.) And it was a lot of fun. Super Sparkle worked well at my house, although we had a small park just across the road that people could break out into and it was a bit of a squeeze getting everyone into the main room of the house, so definitely a good weather game. The kids’ party game that went with it would also work at a house, so long as there’s some outside space to run around in as well. I wrote some very low set dressing semi-larps that you could run in a living room, but they’re kinda experimental/indy type which wouldn’t be for everyone.


#7

BSG: the Black Corridor (available over the rpg.net wiki) is explicitly designed to use a house, with different rooms representing different parts of a spaceship.


#8

Definitly recomment Diamond Geezers, low costume requirement, props are easyily obtained from $2 shop or warehouse, it requires a small room or garage.
Although its a low number larp, its great for having realitively new people in a room playing characters and bouncing off each other.


#9

It just occurred to me that ‘A Serpent of Ash’ (I think its another Freeform Games scenario) which I “ran” at Chimera 2009 (by which I mean I handed out character sheets and picked on someone to start us, then just watched the game run itself) is in fact just supposed to be a smallish bunch of modern day people sitting down in a room together and talking, so it’d lend itself well to being run almost anywhere with little effort. However, it probably isn’t really a good introductory LARP, due to its content - everyone is a former member of a cult that collapsed when the leader suddenly died. It has the potential to get quite intense, and could easily make someone uncomfortable. That and the fact that it is probably just going to be people sitting down and talking for 2 odd hours, which probably isn’t what everyone wants. Maybe something to pull out when a bunch of people with some experience want something low on physicality, but potentially high on the roleplaying and emotional element.

Having played in A Dead Man’s Chest, I think I’d agree with Ryan that its probably an excellent pick for a first LARP. Its the sort of high frivolity game almost everyone should enjoy.


#10

Would Prayers to a Porcelain Altar work in a house as well? It’s about people being hung over, right? (Never played it.)


#11

Yes!! we played at Chimera last year, it was just in a single bunk room in the keep. The only thing I’d worry about, is the type of LARP.

SPOILIER ALERT!!

[size=80]
Theres lots of speculation etc, with no real end, the LARP is designed so that the 8 or so people only remember various parts of their night. There is no actual outcome or answer to the various questions that the character sheets supply.
You can come to various conclusions, it was a great way to just have a couple of hours pretending to be someone else, I enjoyed speculation and teasing people about their nights activities. [/size]


#12

Yes. Though if people are scared of Serpent of Ash, then they’ll probably be even more scared of Prayers.


#13

I draw the opposite conclusion. It has minimal setup, zero rules, and offers a good roleplaying experience. These make it an excellent introductory scenario. I don’t see the religious content as at all problematic, provided it is clearly advertised. People are usually mature enough to deal with religious themes in larp, and the game itself doesn’t really take sides either way. Its a good example of dramatic larp distilled down to its purest elements.


#14

I draw the opposite conclusion. It has minimal setup, zero rules, and offers a good roleplaying experience. These make it an excellent introductory scenario. I don’t see the religious content as at all problematic, provided it is clearly advertised. People are usually mature enough to deal with religious themes in larp, and the game itself doesn’t really take sides either way. Its a good example of dramatic larp distilled down to its purest elements.[/quote]I certainly agree with you that it has minimal setup, zero rules, and offers a good roleplaying experience and that it is a good exaple of dramatic larp distilled down to its purest elements (to borrow your well-put words), and in that respect I think it is excellent for an introductory LARP.

My concern extended from the fact that, as I see it, it is really supposed to be a very serious and full-on game, and I was thinking that it might put off many people who are completely new to roleplaying who were expecting something with a bit more straight out, er, ‘fun’ (the sort of thing that I expect almost everyone would get from A Dead Man’s Chest, which is why I endorsed it). So I would say that it is probably good as a game for new-ish players, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it as a first game for people completely brand new to roleplaying. That being said though, if someone felt it was appropriate to their circumstances as a first game, I certainly wouldn’t tell them otherwise. It basically comes down to my opinion that a light-hearted, silly game is usually the best way to introduce people, because it doesn’t tend to need much use of the brain, but it is very easy for people to have a good time with such a game - and then when they’ve had a bit of that and decide they want something a bit more serious, that would be the perfect time to run Serpent. And if you the have right new people, it may be that Serpent is the perfect first game.

As for the religious aspect, I agree with you that making it clear to people that they will be playing former members of a cult, and that things could get heavy, should alleviate problems, but I can still easily imagine someone who is totally new to roleplaying not truly appreciating beforehand what they were actually getting themselves into, and having a bad experience. Probably something to be judged by the prospective GM with regards to their potential players.


#15

Have to say I agree with Jarak, while games like Altar and Serpents of Ash are great games, I am not sure if they suit most first time players. They can be quite intense and there is a lot of potential to fade away and be left out and not have fun. Most of the people playing these games (that I have seen) have been experienced LARPers, or at least the bulk of the players in the game have been. Where I am not sure how it would go with a room of new players.

I think they would be perfect games for Will to have up his sleeve to run easily in Christchurch, with little set up or costuming needed. I just think starting with one of the other games first.


#16

Here’s a list of scenarios (not larger than 20 players) that I have played and would recommend for new larpers.

Curse of the Pharoah
Freeform Games, 6-19 players
My in-laws ran this game for me for my birthday a few years back. On the upside, the 19C archeology genre is fun and there are lots of interesting things happening between the characters. On the downside, the mystery is pretty unsolvable and some events may seem scripted. Of course, some players like the occasional big scripted event, they create big moments that everyone is involved in. Works fine with just 9 players.

A Dead Man’s Chest
Freeform Games, 12-16 players
I played this at Chimera when Anna Klein ran it. Again, I had a strong sense of there being good inter-connectivity between characters. There were several characters that I could interact with in some depth, as well as with the overall flow of events. It didn’t feel as scripted as Curse of the Pharoah, apart from the requirement for a vote - but that still left things in the hands of the players, really.

The Black Hart of Camelot
Ryan Paddy, 18-24 players
This is more of a serious/dramatic scenario than the Freeform Games ones, it’s probably not the right choice for light-hearted fun. From some feedback I’ve read from players I think it might be best to set expectations of an emotional, tragic kind of scenario based on the Arthurian literature where a lot of characters will fail to get what they want. Daphne ran it in Dunedin with 10 people or so, so the minimum of 18 might be exaggerated. It has rule options for foam weapon combat and rock-paper-scissors. In my (biased) opinion, it also does a pretty decent job of linking characters together.

Betrothals and Betrayals
Donna Giltrap & Debbie Cowens, 13-14 players
I liked the Regency + supernatural setting of this scenario, and if your players like Jane Austin or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell then they’ll get excited by it. I found the characters were quite clear archetypes which made them fun to play and interact with, and the contrast between the characters was well-designed so you’d have interesting interactions.

I wouldn’t tend to recommend Much Ado About Something, I found it too loosely designed for my tastes. It rested strongly on using challenges to get information out of people (rather than well-developed characters who had reasons to share information), and the challenge mechanic was fun at first but wore thin.

I don’t know that I would recommend Vox either. I didn’t realise this when I chose to run it, but it’s rather a railroad. I spent quite a bit of time fleshing out the characters but they still need work to put PC interaction at the heart of the game. To solve the railroading the Big Plot needs work too, to give the PCs more options and influence. Happy to supply my version though if anyone wanted to look.


#17

While curse of the Pharaoh was fun, I remember it being -awfully- fiddly with so many bits of paper that it was a bit of a nuisance.


#18

I don’t have anything particularly new to add except that at this stage I’m expecting to be moving to Chch next year, so you won’t have to be the only person organising larp things! Of course, that doesn’t help you this year :smiley:


#19

Agreed, using Freeform Games rules out of the box is a bit messy. Each character has about three abilities, plus an Information and a Secret that can be wrangled out by using abilities. That information gathering mechanic can seem a bit artificial, although it helps if you roleplay the ability use. Using foam weapons and calling “Bang!” for guns can also simplify and speed up fighting. What I really like about the Freeform Games scenarios are the characters and the situations, not the rules.