21 September, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 12)

Once you been around LARPing circles for a while, you start seeing a lot of the same patterns in various games. Some of those patterns are good, some are frustrating, some are outright dealbreakers. I'm obviously not the only person who has seen a lot of these issues, so it's time to start looking at some other people's responses to the hobby. I don't want this Boffer LARP system to simply be my heartbreaker (when I say this, I mean that I don't want to work alone on it for days/months/years, only to see that it doesn't really address other people's concerns, and actually brings out the worst in so e parts of the system). I like to know what other people think, and I like to push some boundaries to develop something new.

I typed "simple boffer larp rules" into Google and thought I'd have a look at what came out. There's some interesting stuff out there. The first to really give insight was written by Peter Woodworth (it can be found here), and I was actually pretty happy to read it because many of his thoughts echo my own; some of the issues that he thinks need re-examining, are issues that my current design has either taken into consideration, or sidestepped completely.

1. The Card Check. I've been in plenty of games that use cards to track character abilities and activations, and it's typically fine when used sparingly, but when used too often is does break immersion (I'm thinking of Minds Eye Theatre here). I was planning to use cards or something similar for fuelling special effects and to reflected the resources used when crafting items, but minimising their use is a good thing for the purposes of streamlining the system and improving the immersion.

Of course, if the game setting uses these props as an immersive element, then the whole situation is moot. Some Asian-inspired settings draw their magical traditions from belief systems like Taoism or Shinto, where spells are inscribed on paper, then burnt as a single use effect. On this case, a piece of parchment torn up or burnt actually improves the narrative immersion.

2. Narration. I agree wholeheartedly with this, and I'm hoping that the system for participant interaction inspires more players to get involved in the creation of the world, and therefore minimises the chances for people not knowing what's going on. I'd really want stories to flow through this game in the form of news sheets posted on a central message post (preferably even a physical post, or message board). Any props and sets are always an advantage, and while I admit that they can be time-consuming to make, they can always be re-used and recombined to create new scenes for characters to interact with. Re-using props also helps maintain continuity in the game world, places that become favourites might become key locations within the ongoing story, and objects that appear time and again might develop significance beyond their mere combat statistics. Focusing on smaller parties (with a single dedicated GM for each)will also ensure that this problem doesn't develop.

3. Prestige Classes. Here's another one that bugged me about Minds Eye Theatre (particularly the "Camarilla's" implementation of it). Prestige classes have basically been handled in this Boffer LARP by altering the costs of three components (occupation, race, culture), with less common aspects of the character costing more of the starting point pool, and even rarer/more-advanced aspects costing additional amounts. To access these odd character types, a player has a finite pool of points that are only replenished by contributing to the game, good roleplaying, or other effects that can be easily observed by other players. Gaining advanced classes during the course of play was always going to be a thing, but such classes would simply build on the existing abilities of starting characters and were always intended to be gained through means that could easily be uncovered through play (or through a bit of player research).

4. Big Numbers. With low hit points, and damage either reducing these hit points or disabling limbs, this was never going to be a problem. The biggest issue might be the other side, when players confront big monsters who should be hard to take down... I'm hoping that "armour-as-hit-points" or "armour-as-damage-reduction" should work at that end of things. Generally though, more powerful characters don't focus on better combat stats in this game, instead they gain higher levels of influence in the game and become more threatening because they have more influence over story, more henchmen, and are harder to reach.

5. Calling Damage. I had only considered calling damage effects to the level described as a suggested solution. A character with a special strength effect might get to declare this once per opponent, applying an extra hit point of damage as a one-off effect (certain monsters might always get to use this), meanwhile characters with a special endurance effect might get to reduce an increased hit once per conflict (or once per opponent when they get better). Other effects might be the declaration of an elemental energy associated with the attack ("fire", "earth", "water", etc.), or the declaration of special effects ("poison", "curse", etc.). Such words would have an immediate effect unless a victim had access to a trait or word that countered it.

Reading further through his series could be useful to this overall design process, I'll be looking through his ideas further over the next week or so.
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