This has been stewing for a while, and I’d originally planned it as something for an “hour of the rant”-style presentation if we ever saw a kiwi larp theory conferance. But in order to avoid becoming the focus of a “publish your ‘publish your damn game rant’ rant”, here it is:
Publish your damn game!
New Zealand has a very productive larp community. Looking at the major cons - Chimera, Hydra and KapCon - New Zealand larpers have written over 120 original theatre-style larps in the last five years. That’s a tremendous output. But what’s scary is that only about 15 of those larps have been published - made publicly available in some fashion, whether free on the web or for sale on a site like RPGNow. A few more circulate among authors and GMs as part of an informal re-run trade, but most of the larps we write are never seen by anyone other than their authors. And the result is that a lot of great games are never replayed because they’re stuck on a hard drive somewhere.
The scary thing is, New Zealand is comparatively good at publication compared to other countries. A rough analysis of the (US-Northeast centric) LarpResume database last year showed that out of 500 non-NZ games, only about 40 had been published. The UK has a thriving larp community, but only Freeform Games and the Peaky collective publish anything. As for Australia, a country with one of the earliest claims to have invented larp, I’ve never seen a single one published since “The Freeform Book”.
Globally, from the rpg.net wiki, about 200 larps have been published. A lot of those are from the Irish, and a bunch more from the Nordic community. And a lot of them are falling off the web.
So, if you’re a larp author, I’d like you to publish your damn game. It doesn’t have to be professionally, or for money (as if there’s any in larp publication anyway). It can be as simple as sharing it on Google Drive, or hitting the “publish” button on larpwriter. But please, make your game available.
Why should you publish? Here’s five reasons.
[li] Ego-boo. There’s nothing like the feeling of finding out that your game has been run and enjoyed on the other side of the world.[/li]
[li] It helps you nail down the runtime details. We keep a lot of information about this in our heads, which means that if we want to re-run a game after five years, we might have forgotten it. Getting your game into publishable shape means writing it up so another person can run it - and that other person could be future-you. It also protects you from losing your game in a hard-drive crash (something which has happened to far too many larps)[/li]
[li] It helps the global larp community to grow. New larp communities often need a supply of games to become established (and then they start writing their own). Access to published games helped make the NZ larp community the success it is today.[/li]
[li] It helps us learn from one another as a community. There’s a lot of different ways of doing theatre-style, both in the big-picture (framework-games, scene-based games, pop-larp) and in the nitty-gritty (mechanics, plots, staging tricks). Seeing how other people do it - what they do right, and what they do wrong - is a major driver for improvement and innovation. Publishing your game lets people learn from it, and improve theirs.[/li]
[li] Its a waste not to. Seriously, you spend months writing the thing, and its only going to be run once or twice, and then rot on your hard drive forever?[/li][/ul]
How to publish
Like I said above, you can just put it on the web. If you like, you can pretty it up, spend hours on graphic design and put it somewhere like RpgNow - but there’s no money in it. The market for commercial larps is vanishingly small, and basically limited to curious GMs.
As for how much work it is, if you’ve run your game, you presumably have character sheets and rules all sorted. So what you need is a set-up and run-time guide for the GM, and a props-list. I like to add a blurb, cast-list and costuming guide, but they’re not necessary.
Your larp doesn’t have to be perfect. It will never be perfect. There will always be something you can tweak. But if its runnable, then its publishable, so go ahead and do it.