"Letter Larping"

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#1

Via Facebook, a fascinating idea: Letter Larping:

Letter larping is, in short terms, just what the name implies: larping done via letters. This means playing for an extended period of time, and it provides a lot of freedom that is difficult to find in traditional larps. Much like in tabletop roleplaying the characters are not restricted by the players’ abilities, looks, genders, ages, etc. Furthermore it is easily accessible for anyone who might otherwise have a difficulty attending traditional larps because of children, disabilities, mental illness etc. It also happens to be a wonderful way of brightening up otherwise dull periods, such as the dark winter, or simply to bring some spice and amusement to everyday life. The wonderful feeling of opening your mail box to find beautiful handwritten letters is something we think more people should have the opportunity to experience.

So basicly De Profundis or Quill with a centralised GM or GM team providing a bit of setting and maybe some kicker events (Quill does this with specific guidance, because its pitched as a one-shot, solo rpg).

The website notes that they consider it larp for basicly historical reasons: the first games run like this in Nordic larp culture were labelled larps, and so it stuck. Whether it is or whether it is larpadjacent I guess depends on whether you think you can larp alone (classicly, while locked in a dark closet). If the game is about the characters writing letters, and you sit there in character (and optionally, in costume) writing a letter with appropriate implements and in the appropriate style, you’re certainly “doing what your character is doing”, at least as much as in a live action online game with diagetic video.

But at the least, its useful for thinking about the role IC, diagetic letters can play in a game, and I can see some genres (e.g. regency) where they could be a huge part of play when coupled with physical events.


#2

I know some people that do something like this during downtime between events. They use email, though, because they treat it more like p&p where your characters may be in the same room/on the same ship/at the same encampment.

In the specific case I know about, they mostly seem to enjoy the philosophical discussions arising from having the worldview of an elf and that of a mercenary collide. Hard. :smiley:


#3

"Letters "in downtime seems quite common in larps in NZ, though they’re not usually sent physically. Though Musketeers had some physical letters - people have posted photos of their IC correspondence piles.

The difference here is that the “larp” is the letters.


#4

Let me be the devil’s advocate then and ask: do you really need a GM for this? If so, why?


#5

Vaguely related - although not a larp, this has really tickled my novel-writing brainparts and that hasn’t happened for a really long time…


#6

TBH, I don’t think it does - at least not for small numbers of participants. Neither of the published rpgs in this style use a GM (and Quill is very explicitly pitched as a solo game).

Though if you have a large number of participants, I can see that a GM might add value by adding events or NPCs and providing a framework setting.


#7

:upside_down_face: Some letters might get “lost”? Or read by people who shouldn’t read them?

Drama!


#8

Ideally. But the first requires letters to be sent via the GM, the second that the GM know the contents. The website notes that some games asked participants to send the GMs a photo of each letter sent, but it broke down because a) people forgot; and b) the GMs didn’t have time to read them all (which suggests they needed more, or more active, GMs).

Riffing on @Viperion’s point, it is a nifty way of crowdsourcing your epistolary novel.


#9

So, they’re discussing this topic over on the Gauntlet Forums (an indie-gaming forum) as well. There’s been suggestions about leveraging the physicality and mailing small props etc. But the most useful comment so far is this one:

  1. I believe setting a timeframe (10 letters over the course of a year, at least 2 done by X date) helps not only define the game, but also puts a pressure on the participants to keep their end of things. It allow allows for the out of game conversation about “hey I can’t meet this commitment because Y reason, what can we do about it?” to occur.
  2. Much like @Ren_Neuhoff 's microgame about the mars rover , I feel that you should include some sort of way to gamify the lack of a response, whether through missed post or missed schedule. I think you can get some value out of that.
  3. since we love having our laser like focus on what we are emulating for most games, having a set list of subjects that gets randomized for each participant to use like in Dear Elizabeth helps keep a tight focus and gives each player an “out” when their juices are dry I think.

The links on that are both to little one-shot indie-games, which are pillageable for ideas (and “Dear Elizabeth” is regency - perhaps the ultimate epistolary genre?)

On the role of the GM, I’ve been poking around the site for Incendio, a 20’s Potterverse letterlarp. In true Nordic style, they say straight out that there is no plot, so that people can feel like they are the main character in their own story rather than a side character in someone else’s (something we solve in NZ theatreform larps by having lots of plots, so characters are both). But that doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything - they talk of introducing small narrative threads that players can follow whenever and however they want, introduced at start or during play by media reports:

The storytellers in Incendio include things that the organizers send out at lajvstart and the newspaper that will be published regularly during the lajvet, but above all, the storytellers will build on things you as players find themselves on, both before and during the lajvet. It is these self-made stories that usually give the best game.

So I guess someone running these is looking for small plot seeds, which the players can expand upon. In a regency game, this could be an announcement that someone important will be holding a ball, that a new noble has taken a house in the district, or of preliminary reports of a battle being fought overseas (given the speed of information flow, it was fairly common for newspapers of that era to do a very brief preliminary report, then a detailed followup when the full information arrived days or weeks later).


#10

I was bitten by the game design bug last night, and am now seriously thinking of trying one of these. Partly because there’s now a specialist facebook group I can ask for support before I start…

I’d be looking at a Lovecraftian theme. Because I currently use PbtA in tabletop a lot, I’ve sketched out a series of letter-writing Moves to provide genre guidance (and ideas about what to do) e.g.

When you encounter the unnatural, describe how it has left you shaken, or what it has revealed to you about the true nature of reality, or both.

I’m also planning to provide genre guidance for characters by getting them to select an archetype (e.g. scientist, artist, journalist), and a few options from a pick list (e.g. “you solve problems by…” and “you are currently concerned by…”). The latter would seed initial plot and provide common interests to connect characters.

I was concerned about conclusions, but @Catnip has suggested imitating the XP / character retirement system from Legacy: a list of genre-appropriate actions, which double as covert suggestions of things to do. When you do one, mark a box; when you’ve marked six or so, your story should come to a conclusion. There’s also a Move for “When you decide that you have gone insane or been confined in an asylum”.

If this sounds like fun, keep an eye on this thread. If I can pump the Nordics for information, I might be able to start something late next month.