14 October, 2014

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 game has been dead for 15 years that these characters were bound by the fact that they were all secretive infernalists (I’m sure he’ll be able to correct me on this if I’m wrong).

Using this group, they infiltrated vampire communities, mage communities, and various other groups through their influence. Most people seemed to know out of character that they were up to something, and many translated that meta-game knowledge into their characters (but that’s another point entirely)… very few actually knew what was going on.

Individually, these characters might not have had the influence to make a lot of difference in the story, but as an unholy trinity they could combine their forces to overcome the vast majority of characters who operated independently as “lone-wolf moody stalkers of the night”. Rarely did other characters unite their forces unless facing a specific one-off threat provided by the GMs, after which they’d go their separate ways again.

In the interests of pushing the concept of player driven storyline, it makes sense for this game to formalise the relationships between characters, especially in small factional groups that might struggle for power in the shadows.

Let’s start with the fact that I’m a big fan of the triangular number progression sequence
1T = 1 = 1
2T = 1+2 = 3
3T = 1+2+3 = 6
4T = 1+2+3+4 = 10
5T = 1+2+3+4+5 = 15

The one player unit is 1T, a single player. A pair of players can work together, but they get access to a new level of power (or something special) once they add a third character to their mix. Three characters becomes the minimum number for a small faction.

Since we talked about primary characters and secondary characters in earlier instalments of this series, we can discuss their implications here as well. I would suggest that a player may not have primary and secondary characters belonging to the same faction (because this could be abused to artificially boost factional numbers), but then we run into the problem of players knowing what is happening behind the scenes in two separate factions. This causes a problem when dealing with immature players who would use this meta-game knowledge to their advantage, but let’s assume most of our players are mature. A second rule that would help curtail this problem might state that only a primary character may hold a leadership role within a faction (and thus know what is truly going on within the faction).

What are the bonuses for working as a faction?

Here I’m thinking prestige, access to a secure stronghold/storage-facility, access to resources, training in special abilities, and factional secrecy. Players in the faction would be able to choose which options their faction possesses, and would be able to lure new players to their faction with promises of rewards from those options.

Let’s link this into the story point system where players risk their experience points by linking it to a specific storyline. This way when the faction gains power, everyone gains a benefit, when the faction loses power they suffer. It’s in their best interests to push the factional agenda.

This means every character has one to three points invested in their faction, and in turn, this gives the faction leaders a pool of points that may be spent to empower factional benefits. Faction leaders don’t necessarily know who is contributing what number of points, they just know the overall total.

As an idea, these points might be spent in the following ways.

Secluded Meeting Place = 1pt (Maximum for a 2T faction)
Secure Meeting Place = 3pts (Maximum for a 3T faction)
Stronghold = 5pts (Maximum for a 4T faction)
Fortress = 7pts (Maximum for a 5T faction)
Employ a minor mentor (capable of training a basic level ability) = 1pt (Max. 2T)
Employ a competent mentor (capable of training an intermediate level ability) = 3pts (Max. 3T)
Employ a master mentor (capable of training an advanced level ability) = 5pts (Max. 4T)
Regular income of a small amount in some common material = 1pt (Max. 2T)
Regular income of a moderate amount in some common material = 2pts (Max. 3T)
Regular income of a large amount in some common material = 3pts (Max. 4T)
Regular income of a small amount in some uncommon material = 2pt (Max. 3T)
Regular income of a moderate amount in some uncommon material = 4pts (Max. 4T)
Regular income of a large amount in some uncommon material = 6pts (Max. 5T)
Access to bodyguards / workers = 1pt per pair of bodyguards/workers
Factional secrecy = total number of points to be spent must be greater than half the number of characters in the faction (rounding down).

You get the idea.

Factional prestige would purely be measured by the number of characters publicly swearing allegiance to the group.

I think that this bit of the game might be one of the defining systems that sets it apart from other LARPs. So we might need a bit more work to get this part right.
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