NELCO (New England LARP Conference) 2019 Schedule


#1

Psst!

This hasn’t been announced in any official capacity in our community, but the schedule for NELCO 2019 is now viewable on the website. It’s not quite set in stone and there is probably a decent amount of editing that will happen to improve some of the titles of the events and the descriptions… But I’d be curious to know if people have any thoughts.

https://nelco2019.interactiveliterature.org/events/schedule/saturday

(We also have Little Boffer Con running adjacent to NELCO – six 4-ish hour one-shot live combat LARPs with pre-written character sheets. This format is gaining traction here.)


#2

An interesting lineup. “Calibration techniques” is a damn useful topic. “Creating LARP Theatre for the Masses” sounds interesting - there’s not a lot of interactive theatre in NZ, but there’s the new Second Unit for “What we Do In The Shadows” which has got people thinking about it. “The Road to Bigger One-Shot LARPs” is also interesting to see - from past lineups, Intercon games seem to top out at , what, 40 players? NZ has had a past culture of bigger games (for years KapCon ran for 66, and we’ve done 80 player games, and Chimera memorably had the 160-player “Rose and the Dragon”), though its largely died due to writer and player fatigue and now we struggle to fill anything bigger than 30 in a con setting. But having helped with writing a couple of these (“Rose and the Dragon” and “Dry Spell”), the answer is definitely larger teams and breaking the problem down into manageable chunks. @Ryan_Paddy did a how-to on it after “Rose and Dragon”, and while he was very formal about the process, less formal groups still need people doing the same things.

Unfortunately we’re really bad at publishing the bigger games. “Al Shi-ma” made it to DriveThru, and “Sanctuary” (which is great BTW) is on a wiki. But most are just lying around on hard drives or in the cloud.


#3

The LARP Theatre for the masses was a surprising proposal, and very unusual for the sort of the topics we cover at Forum@Intercon and NELCO, so that should be pretty interesting. I think our community doesn’t think much about non-LARPer interaction with LARP – we either avoid it entirely, or largely ignore it when it’s unavoidable.

Intercon wanting larger LARPs is definitely the inspiration behind that topic. We’d like to expand and take over the last ballroom in the hotel we’re currently in, it’s enormous(and divisible into five very large spaces)… but would more than double our budget. We’d like to grow, but if the average LARP size doesn’t increase, it will be hard – there was already a bit of grumble last year over all of the slots filling so quickly for Saturday evening.

We have lots of fairly large room, but not many people are bidding LARPs over, say 20 people, to make the most of the space we do have. (I had a draft for a post for this forum asking for this community’s take on that I never got around to posting for some reason.) Intercon used to have very large LARPs, player-wise (I think many of which were weekend long) but that was a long time ago (before I started attending), and we shifted towards smaller, shorter LARPs, especially during the last years in the old hotel, where we used up all of the function space and expanded by renting all of the suites for a few years. Suddenly, we had 12 more spaces that really wanted games for under 10 people in a single, smallish room, and people wrote to accommodate that. Now we want to push in the other direction.

That’s too bad about publishing. Maybe we need some kind of mutual pact/exchange. :slight_smile:


#4

Fall of the Jaguargods is there too (http://mayanapocolarp.pbworks.com). Southernseas, which is a smaller game but ran as a flagship at a smaller con, got deleted because I didn’t notice the “do you want to keep this wiki” email in time. I have the whole thing locally, and I might get around to putting it somewhere evenutally.


#5

Its fairly easy for a single writer to crank out a 12 or even a 20-player game by themselves. And its fairly easy for a pair of writers to crank out a 30-player game. Much more than that, and it becomes difficult to keep everything in your head at once, and you need organisation, planning, and pre-commitment.

Unfortunately, larger games are disappearing in NZ. In addition to the pressure on the writer side, there’s been a reduction in outlets due to Chimera’s demise and Hydra moving away from flagships, and a reduction in player interest at KapCon. There’s still demand in the 30-40 player range in the South Island though from Cerberus, Phoenix, and Buckets of Dice. It would probably take Chimera restarting to fill a 60-player game again.

I’ll see what I can do to get some of the others made available. But if you’re looking for a quick way of filling space next year, “Sanctuary” is a good option, and its had the benefit of multiple runs and tweaks.


#6

We’re mostly focusing on how to incentivize/enable larger games to get written, rather than on how to do the writing itself. Also by larger games, we’re talking about a broader definition – maybe 25+? 40 player LARPs would be cool, but right now, a few more 25 or 30 player games would be helpful. And ideally, ones that can run in a single room (though ones that can run in multiple rooms are also helpful if the GM is willing to run in a non-peak time slot.)

Right now, pretty much the only thing we offer to incentivize larger LARPs is membership comps for GMs. We recently swapped our comp system from two comps per LARP to one comp plus an additional comp per 60 player hours. (Eg a four hour, 15 player LARP gets two comps.)

Other reward/incentive ideas have been bandied about (swag, like t-shirts for larger games? Early sign ups for GMs of large LARPs? (This is an unpopular idea.)

In terms of supporting the writing and running of larger LARPs, we also don’t do much yet. The con staff has been creating and providing portable room dividers, so that GMs who want multiple rooms can make a single room work. We’re trying to think about what else we can do as NEIL (the organization behind Intercon) or con staff… Run Iron GM like competitions, but for larger LARPs? (Iron GM is for LARPs that are 5-12 players. There’s another local competition that is trying this out – Oceanic MOLW is a writing competition for larger LARPs.) Create a network for writers to connect? Run workshops on expanding pre-existing LARPs? Offer funding to cover printing costs?

Thank you for the links! I will check out Fall of the Jaguar Gods. Al-Shir Ma, and Sanctuary (and Southernseas if it ends up back online?)

(Your concept of a flagship LARP is an intriguing difference between our communities, by the way. Also this isn’t the right thread for it, but I’d be curious to hear about what happened to Chimera, Hydra’s shift from flagships and what Bucket of Dice is.)


#7

On the 25-30 scale, I think its largely about creating small teams or creative partnerships. A single writer can write a game that size or larger (e.g. @Anna_K’s “Masquerade on Fleet Street”), but its easier with help.

For institutional support, Wellington tried a Peaky-style writer’s weekend, and that got us two large games in successive years (“Dry Spell” and “The Insubstantial Pageant”). But it was just exhausting and petered out. Probably a deeper writer pool would have more success. Anything which helps writers to connect would probably help, and funding printing seems like a good idea (especially given the heavy production loads of larger games).


#8

I think the sign up system may be a bit different at our cons. However, we have a system where every player gets one “heart” to assign to the game they most want to play at the Con, and players who have hearted a game get first preference. Some cons give GMs a second heart to spend. It’s also typical for GMs to get a $5 discount


#9

There are some smaller cons that give advantage to GMs in sign ups, but I suspect it works better for the smaller cons than Intercon because the sign ups are less fraught and a much smaller percentage of people end up on waitlists. Do people like the extra hearts system, or does it cause any grumbling?


#10

I like it, both as a GM and a player. It means I get to highlight the thing I desperately want to play in, and pretty much guarantee getting into it. But this is in a context where people are expected to participate almost every round, where there’s a good distribution of tastes (and so heart picks) across the con, and where we usually have empty spots rather than people who couldn’t get a space in anything.

@Scott? @Viperion? Any user feedback?


#11

In New Zealand, public acclaim and egoboo is the main incentive for writing big games. When you have a bigger cast, the writing load is a lot more, but you get more of your game fee that you can spend on props and set dressing, so the flagship teams often do a lot of work making the game space feel really immersive. The Great Exhibition is another one I remember fondly (did those guys publish it?) New Zealand style: the smaller games in a con get to draw on the local gear pool for props and set dressing, but normally the GM would pay for printing; the exception is the Saturday night ‘flagship’ which gets additional budget to print character sheets and buy/make bespoke props.

A good strategy, I would say, is to run a bigger game, go to town on production standards, and hope to influence the rest of the community. That’s what happens in the Kiwi larp scene - we get a big push of someone doing something cool, people pick up with their own ideas, and there’s a big thing for a while, then people get a bit burned out until the next New Big Thing comes along and the new cycle starts.


#12

Sadly, no.


#13

I love the idea of a local gear pool for props and set dressing, I’d love to hear about how that gets organized and maintained.

We do have a few large, nicely dressed LARPs per year, but sadly, it doesn’t seem to be increasing in popularity. Offering larger games some money to cover set dressing/props or at least cover printing sounds promising. Is there any competition over who gets to run the flagship games? Or is it something more like first come first serve?


#14

Boxes. Lots of boxes.

@Derek and @joker can tell you more, but basicly: props and costumes bought for NZLARPS-funded games go into the gear pool, which gradually builds up. It also accepts donations, and sometimes has dedicated working sessions to build gear (e.g. Wellington had a sewing session to make medieval costume for Kingdom; Auckland spent a day building more shields). And we sometimes buy gear in anticipation of future need (e.g. buying lots of swords before a fantasy campaign). Every so often there’s a cull, with old gear being dumped or sent to other regions who want it.

Storage is a big problem. Wellington used people’s garages for years, and Auckland had an outdoor shed which moved from backyard to backyard. A couple of years ago we both moved to rented storage, which is less hassle but more expensive.

(NZLARPS basicly started as gear library, to use the leftover gear from the Mordavia campaign to help new larps).


#15

I might be derailing my own thread here, but there’s a lot of conversation around communal resources for things like props, weapons, set dressing, and costuming but it often doesn’t go very far because of the issues of storage and maintenance, so I’m pretty interested to hear how it works out for other communities. It seems hard to find volunteers to do the storing, sorting, washing, and moving, so even when it does happen, it’s often a lot of very low quality stuff that always needs a wash. That makes it hard to convince people to invest in it, but I love the sound of the community work sessions. That’s sort of what we do for the con’s room dividers.


#16

Most years it isn’t an issue. Rarely, two teams have made a bid for running a flagship and the con organisers make a decision on which they’d prefer based on things like how experienced each flagship team is, but also, a team can just offer to run their idea in a later year if there’s a double up.

So, the advice given to me by an ex-SAS soldier who later turned his hand to running ‘leadership’ courses and took me and some co-workers on a self-navigated bush bash in which we beat the time he’d given us as a stretch target by two minutes (I’m still proud) is: Make It Fun. If you’re not naturally gregarious, then fake it or recruit someone who is, or both. Having the organiser bringing energy into the room really pulls people along into the project.

The other practical advice I have for things like this are:

  • Be really liberal on praise statements. Like at least five positive things said for every criticism/piece of constructive feedback. If you’re working with children, make it ten to one.
  • Feed people. Whether it’s a pizza run, everyone brings potluck, or you get someone to volunteer to cook for everyone else, a good feed up helps a lot for group morale.
  • Similar to feeding people, if your thing is in an environment that challenges people on their physical needs (rain, cold etc), plan to have a big rebound post-working bee event like “and then we all had hot showers and met up at the cafe and had a great no force I was there talk”.
  • Have a plan. Think through what you need people to do before they get there. You can use strategies like arranging your space in stations for people to work in parallel, or an object that needs multiple steps to move from group to group in order. Group the tools and materials needed for specific jobs with each other and keep them together. Make a list of the tasks that need doing and get everybody to come see you for their job ie “I need two people to cut out fabric, one person to sew the long seams, and three people to paint on the decorations…” For something that needs a complicated setup, drawing a plan of what the room should look like and putting it up where people can see it to help you set up can help.
  • Tidiness and timeliness. As much as you can, pack down all your gear into its correct place, clean and in working order, the first time it’s handled. The Wellington gear store has all its boxed labelled with the expected contents; I’ve seen preschool setups where they get even more detailed and have laminated photos stuck on the shelves so that it’s really obvious to newcomers where to put things. If you can’t do that, for instance if you’ve got time pressures to pack out, plan to do your tidy up/washing clothes working bee as soon as possible after The Big Event as you can - it’s really depressing going through manky wet clothes that have been left in a bag for six months.
  • Be a floater. This can sound really counter-intuitive and like you’re shirking your share of the work, but often you can make everyone else more efficient and effective by stepping back a bit. You’re available to answer questions without being pulled off something that needs doing, and you can do rounds of checking in with people and making sure they know what they’re doing, and that they’re having fun/not getting too tired or overloaded.

Gear storage is the biggest difficulty for all the gear stores I think - paid for storage space costs a lot for a non profit group. I think a big part of our NZLarps membership fees go to that, and sometimes we run fundraiser games that are relatively cheap but we know will be popular which helps.


#17

Wellington its $50 a month, thanks to the generosity of the Brooklyn CA. The past couple of years gear rental from non-NZLARPS games have paid for most of that. But Auckland is facing 6 or 7 times that cost, and so they need to run big, profitable games to pay for it.