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Showing posts from October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 34)

Maybe it's just the sessions that I've been involved in, but it doesn't seem very often that religious characters go out of their way to evangelise their belief to others. I've seen it in a few games, usually on the part of a player who just wants to get in a bit of roleplaying through exposition with NPCs. Religion is just a surface coating on a character, maybe it provides certain spheres (or domains) of clerical magic, or restricts access to certain weapons, but it's rarely a functioning belief system.

The prayers of these characters are simply another form of magic, sometimes they even use the same spells as traditional hermetic magic users or instinctive sorcerers, but they acquire them in different ways (according to their domains or spheres, rather than through schools or mentors).

I'd like to develop a system that relies on belief, something that will apply to mages (who use their own belief to fuel their mystical effects) and religious types (who rely …

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 33)

Something I find common to many RPGs is a definitive quasi-supernatural meta-history for the setting. Quite often it has vague parallels to the Judaeo-Christian myth, with a single god creating the world, then creating a host of lesser gods (or angels) to look after specific aspects of the world. The dominant race (or at least "the race of men") typically worships the great creator while other races worship the lesser gods.

In a postmodern age, some might say that this notion is inherently racist. It draws strong parallels to the Christian belief that there is no other correct worship than their own. It reeks of religious imperialism. It basically fits the general feel of most RPGs with their setting in a pseudo-Europe during a late dark age or early renaissance, but when RPGs strive for something a bit more exotic, it just doesn't feel right in my mind.

If I'm developing a setting with seven different core cultures, and seven different core races, I want there to be…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 32)

Now that the system incorporates so much, we can start exploring how to expand it a bit.

The "Clans of Elgardt" group that I've just joined up with runs fortnightly, with ne fortnight focused on war sessions and the other fortnight focused on scenarios and roleplaying.

There's no reason why this system couldn't follow the same general structure, and with the set-up we've got, we can add some fun scenarios to the "off week" war session.

The game includes characters who have offsiders and followers, it also includes factions of multiple characters who might come into conflict against one another.

The war sessions might be used to resolve these conflicts. A faction might pool together their funds, to hire mercenaries or build fortifications for opposing teams to negotiate. If a player has characters belonging to two opposing factions, they'd have to favour their primary character over their secondary (and they'd get to choose which character be…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 31)

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Time to do some graphical design for this project.

I discussed earlier the concept of placing key character information on name badges, maybe not the names of characters, but things that could be picked up by spending a bit of time conversing with someone or interacting with them. I deliberately wouldn't include names on these badges because I've been in many LARPs where people go out of their way to conceal their true names as a part of deeper storylines...presenting a name on a badge would defeat the whole purpose in this.

Instead, here's where I'm thinking of heading with a simple round badge.


Vital information comes in each sector. At the bottom and fairly prominent we see hit points, maybe a number, maybe an number of illustrations of blood drops (one per hit point).
Race and culture would be similarly printed on everyone's badge, but there might be a few variants for each of these, with a few red-herring variations to keep players on their toes.
Reputation wo…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 30)

I’ve stated a few times in my posts that I like coherent and consistent systems across a game. I don’t particularly like game where there is one system for a certain type of action which might be modified by a range of subsystems depending on specific circumstances, and then completely different systems for other types of actions.
As a hypothetical example…I wouldn’t like a game where melee combat is handled with a strike based on a derived attribute followed by a random hit point loss, while grappling/wrestling is handled with a non-derived attribute followed by a modifier on the next round…meanwhile etiquette checks are simply a situation of rolling under a “social” attribute for a flat success.
I can understand why it’s done, a system might be really good at one thing and not so good at something else, so you pick and choose the optimal systems for each situation, but it strikes me as lazy game design. It can be hard for new players to pick up when they have to work out which system …

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 29)

This series has touched on all sorts of elements relating to a LARP system.

From the basic mechanisms of hit points and actually hitting people with foam latex weaponry, through to character development, gathering people into factions, rules that bring a degree of safety and interact between the physical world and the fictional narrative.

The one thing we really haven't touched on at all is the system of performing actions outside the confines of combat. Since we're focusing on a game akin to an Australian Freeform, then dice are undesirable, but I'd still like there to be some kind of failure chance when actions are attempted, especially when it comes to things like picking locks, crafting items or concocting potions, tracking or trying to research occult and arcane forms of lore.

On the other hand, I'd like there to be some kind of economy where players can choose to invest extra effort into specific tasks that are more meaningful and dramatic to their stories.

But …

New Character Colours

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The scavenger's mostly done...time to start colouring the next character for the book.



Sneak preview for my 1000th post

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I've been doing this now for a few years, and have finally reached 1000 posts. There have been a few good sequences of ideas in that time, and I've released plenty of different games using a variety of game engines. I've reviewed stuff, I've thrown ideas out there, I've provided mapping tutorials, I've explained my methodology of game design and critiqued the design methodologies of others, I've thrown random stuff in here and there just to break things up a bit.

I've gone from less than a dozen views on a typical day, to an average of a couple of hundred views. I'm certainly not huge in the grand scheme of things, but enough people are interested in my work to keep me plugging away at it. I've been through bouts of depression, worked at keeping my mind active to avoid it, and have had moments of manic inspiration.

As a thankyou to everyone for watching me over the past couple of years, here's a sneak preview of my upcoming children's bo…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 28)

Some of the things that have been mentioned earlier in the series relate to long term playability of a campaign. In part 8 I mentioned the idea of campaign resets, and how I don't like them (see the section in italics at the bottom).

Generally, the system proposed overcomes these issues by taking more powerful out of the day-to-day activities of a game (pulling their players into more administrative roles within the organisation), and ensuring powerful characters are never so far above the new players that they can't be threatened.

But, these ideas could dampen a player's motivation to keep playing. If a player has defined their play experience based on the growth of their character, what happens when this growth plateaus and their definition of play is no longer relevant.

The easy answer comes through secondary characters, and giving the player the opportunity to renew their pattern of growth with a new story.

That's a key part of the experience for me.

Here's a t…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 27)

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For those of you who don't know what Boffer LARPs look like, here's a few images from the session I attended on the weekend.












On a vaguely related note, an interesting rule was adapted by this group after contact witth a Canberra based LARP group. The rule is certainly something I might consider for the pirate/steampunk LARP in development, it goes like this.
Players who show up without costume have 3 hit points for their characters. Players who show up with partial costume have 4 hit points for their characters. Players who show up with full costume have 5 hit points for their characters.
The rules didn't take into account quality of armour, or extra damage for magic/character-strength/two-handed-weapons...but it was a day of battles and combat practice more than anything else. This group runs alternate fortnights of battle days such as these, and quest/scenario days.
The idea of rules that link the in-game and out-of-game worlds is interesting. To keep things legitimate in p…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 26)

We have a pretty robust system developing.

It allows scope for numerous character types within an ecosystem of communal storytelling, so that basically matches with the intended design goals.

It doesn't allow everyone to play everything that they could imagine, because that would dilute the focus of the game and basically water it down to an incoherent mess. Instead of this, it uses a chunky point system to channel players into preferred character types.

It allows players to gather their characters into meaningful factions with some kind of mechanical benefit for doing so.

With a definition of cultures, races and occupations, we can even combine existing systems to develop subcultures within the setting. You want a specific farming caste within the settlers, then maybe you can define this through a faction that limits itself to settlers who have held the farmer occupation at some stage in their lives. You want a group of freebooting swashbucklers who regularly interact with pirate…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 25)

Now that we’ve reached the advantages of gathering characters into factions, it’s probably a good time to look at how those factions might form and what limitations might be placed on factions.
Since factions can start from 3 players, and could theoretically expand to cover any number of players, the variations possible are endless. Personally, I think the narrower the definition of the faction, the more focused it will be, and the stronger the relationships between the characters in that faction. More inclusive factions, on the other hand, then to have a wider focus and looser relationships.
The first thing that could define a faction is race; whether that comes in the form of specific races being permitted to join or specific races being denied entry to the faction. There’s an inherent racism and prejudice when saying a faction may only possess members of a single race; I’m not includes applying moral judgement to that choice of racism/prejudice, I’m just saying that it’s a thing.

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 24)

LARP is a social activity. That’s why I’m involved in it. Sure there are social aspects in an MMORPG, but everything is moderated through a screen. Some people like that, there’s always the stereotypical slobby gamer who inhabits avatars of hot chicks wielding oversized swords or guns, and wearing skimpy armour…but LARP isn’t about them (for the most part… let me tell you a story about a trip to Melbourne one time).
Following up on the last post about “doll-housing”, there is a great way to use this technique to expand the game for everyone. I touched on it at the end of that last post, it’s the point where a few players get together and develop a tight knit group that acts as a self-contained unit for storytelling.
I hate to say it, but one of my regular commenters was among the first group of players I saw do this well. +Klaus Teufel, was a part of a secretive group containing a pair of vampires and a mage (which I became embroiled in later), I think it’s safe to say now that the g…

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 23)

There is a concept in some forms of roleplaying that hasn’t really had a name. It’s where a single player creates a magnificent back story which doesn’t actually enter play. A few years ago on Story Games, this idea was described as “Doll Housing”.
The basic idea states that a player creates an elaborate “doll-house” for their character background. A unique snowflake of intricacy, carefully linked into everything it means to “BE” this character. But in many cases, this is such a carefully crafted and delicate thing, that they don’t allow other players to play with it.
There lies the problem.
Roleplaying is about portraying a role, if your backstory isn’t going to come into play through your portrayal of the role, why have it? I’ve played with hundreds of people in live-roleplaying contexts over the years, and I’ve seen my fair share of players who come to their role with no background thoughts what-so-ever, I’ve seen just as many elaborate backstories that just don’t enter play at a…

Random post of 2014

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He is coming.



I'm so happy about this. I guess the avatar stays in place for a few more years.

A Map of a Place that Some People might find Familiar

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The Scavenger's Tale takes place in the post apocalyptic world of Walkabout. Which means that it occurs somewhere in a twisted future version of our world.

So I drew a map of a city that I know pretty well, laid waste by war and ecological apocalypse...then added a few place names derived by twisting the current titles, or using socio-geographic features and other interesting trivia to rename them.

Here's the current work in progress.


(...and here's a link to a larger version of the map)

In related news, I'll definitely be getting stuck back into the full Walkabout game project before the end of the year. My Indigenous Studies course at university (and specific discussions with lecturers) have told me that I'm basically on the right track with making sure everything is portrayed honestly and openly. The key is to avoid pigeon-holing, and allow everyone a variety of meaningful options.

Colour Blocking Samples

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For some reason, my erratic internet connection isn't allowing me to upload images on to G+, but it is allowing me to upload images to the blog.


So, here's a pair of different colour treatments for the scavenger.
Both use a cloak colour that's more likely to blend in with sandstone and dusty post-apocalyptic deserts, and other colours closer to an assortment of tanned leathers.

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 22)

In the last post we looked at the economy of the fictional world, and how the NPCs of the world link in to that economy. We also saw how it's possible to trace the harvesting of raw materials into finished materials and then into usable products. We even touched on the ways player characters might influence that system.

But there's more to it than that, this background economy can be used to generate story.

The aim of this game is not to tell the stories of grinding (I think that's the term), where players work away at some menial and tedious tasks for hours on end, all in the hopes of generating low risk experience points or a few resources that might be traded for something better further down the track. This is a Boffer LARP, it's about hitting things, it's about intrigue and mystery, it's about heroic (and nefarious) deeds at critical moments.

Characters go on "AWESOME!!" quests during their game sessions, but in the down times they have a few opt…

Designing a Boffer LARP (Part 21)

+Klaus Teufel mentioned that I might be over-thinking things with regard to this game economy. I'll admit it, this is something I'm commonly prone to doing.

There is a goal in this game of keeping things easy and approachable for new players, and basically it does look like my economic structure is needlessly complicated...but bear with me for a moment as I explain my thought process.

I figure that an easy user experience can come from two directions. The first easy user experience comes from something simple, the mechanisms providing the experience are plain, basic, they simply do what they do, independent of one another...you only need to worry about one thing at a time. The second easy user experience is harder to pull off from a back end perspective, it comes from complex components working in harmony, with numerous systems synchronising seamlessly...but the user only needs to deal with one part of the system to interact with the whole.

The first user experience can easily…

Designing a Boffer LARP (Part 20)

Magic the Gathering has 5 general resources, all the different things that can be brought into the game can be purchased through these. Other games have different numbers of resource types, some functioning on a single resource (typically monetary), others bringing dozens of possible resources into the game economy.

How many resources should we use in this game?
It's a tough question that really alters the way the game economy works. A limited number of resource types simplify the game, but this comes at the cost of realism. A high number of resource types make it harder to keep track of economic flows...who has influence in what fields?...does anyone hold a monopoly on a specific resource type?...can a monopoly be circumvented by other means?
Personally, I think there needs to be a fundamental infrastructure in place for the game economy to work. Since we've already established that this is a game about heroes, we don't need players to take on the role of shopkeepers, farmer…

Local Conventions

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We've got a pretty active convention scene in Sydney, whether that's roleplaying conventions, comic conventions, miniature gaming conventions, or anime/cosplay events. Then you get the special weekend events focused on some particular fandom (such as Dr Who, Star Trek, etc.) typically put on by one of the many fan clubs across the city.

A few weeks ago we had OzComicCon, a generic pop culture event where we saw William Shatner, Orlando Bloom (and a bunch of other actors portraying dwarves in The Hobbit), Jason Momoa, the two leads from Warehouse 13 (who Leah and I had long chats with), and numerous other actors who were the primary drawcards, while comic artists also attended and drew smaller groups of fans.


(Yes, I'm Batman)
This current weekend it's a "long weekend" with a public holiday Monday, so we've got Sydcon (Roleplaying) and MOAB (Mother of All Battlegames) as the big gaming events, and a few fan club events scattered across the city.



Often I ru…

The Weird Dome

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For those wondering what the weird dome was in my last image post...

...here's a bit more information.

Work in Progress: The Scavenger's Tale

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Just thought I'd share the page stylesheet I'm using for my current project, The Scavenger's Tale.



The character needs some shading, but this is generally the direction we're heading.

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 19)

It's always a good idea to do a bit of research. When I made the claim that I didn't think there were many "steampunk boffer" games, I really hadn't looked into it much. I'd only encountered pseudo-medieval fantasy boffer LARPs, so that's what I assumed the majority were. It appears that there are a few steampunk options in existence.

That's not a bad thing, it just means that this game being designed needs a good point of differentiation. I think we've got that with the communal storytelling ecosystem (regardless of what genre it's applied to), but, now that we know of other games vaguely fitting the intended theme, we can actually use this to our advantage by researching their merits and flaws compared to what we're developing.,

Here's a few that I've found so far...

The Vorydian Chronicles - lots of numbers in this one, exactly the kind of system I'm NOT going for. Still, it looks like there are some interesting ideas that co…