17 December, 2015

Rewards in Game

I'm working on rebuilding the Elgardt LARP system, incrementally. The problem is that there are other parties who are also integrating changes into the game.

One of my aims when designing a freeform LARP is to give everybody too many things to do during the course of play. I like to set up webs of intrigue between players, and give them jobs to do that force them into interaction with other players, while the other parties interested in developing the game further have pushed toward micromanaged quests with small groups led by GMs through railroaded scenarios. The problem I see with that second option is that when you only have one or two GMs for twenty or more players, you can micro-manage four or five (maybe even six or seven) each but everyone else is stuck waiting for their turn to go on a quest later, or maybe they get relegated into the role of NPCs.

This is great if everyone is on the same page regarding the game structure, but if everyone is hoping to play their own characters in an immersive world (the way Elgardt was originally intended), then this just isn't going to work. We've also seen a few spin off games that seek to emulate the LARPs seen in Melbourne, where they have big events with 300+ players. These large games have a critical mass of players, have been running for years, and probably have a background logistics team who make the whole thing seem effortless. They also seem to only run events every now and then if their website is anything to go by...but I'm assured by players who've been down to Melbourne that they have regularly weekly training events with 100+ players.

So, I'm trying to develop a self regulating system, or at least a system that requires a little facilitation to help it run smoothly rather than direct control by a specific GM team. To achieve that, I'm looking at applying in game rewards based on character archetypes. A bit like the XP system in "The Solar System". Every character will choose two paths of experience, and each path will say something about the character while pushing them into contact with other characters for specific reasons.

The Path of the Merchant prompts players to trade goods with other characters, the Path of the Thug prompts player to take down other players without using any of their special combat abilities, the Path of the Healer prompts them (naturally enough) to heal injured characters, the Path of the Deceiver prompts them to send other players on red herring missions. In each case, the character gains 25XP for engaging in the path's action once, 50XP if they do it twice, and 100XP if they manage it three times.

I'm aiming for a dozen or more of these paths, so that every player has a decent choice of tasks that fit their character concept, and in each case a player will have to get another player to sign off their checklist to confirm that they've interacted with someone else and that they have actually done the thing that their path requires. This becomes tricky in the case of the Path of the Deciever, because we don't want other players knowing that they've been lied to, so instead the GMs will carry a notpad and every time someone asks them about a plotline that hasn't been predetermined, they will note who is following the plot, and at the end of game determine who started the rumour. Other paths that vary from the norm might include the Path of the Pacifist, where a character earns experience for avoiding conflict with others, and could theoretically score points for hiding throughout the entire game (not really something we want).

Each of these paths needs to contribute something to the game's ecosystem. That might be heightening conflict, promoting trade, increasing magic, or anything else, and I'm sure that getting the balance right between these paths will be a delicate art. The paths will remain a constant part of the game, but in addition there will always be one or two significant events happening in the game. One driven by the GMs and/or one driven driven by the actions of the players in previous events. Then there will be a range of lesser events happening in the game, generally working on the assumption of one minor event per ten players (round up). This means that every player will have their two paths, at least one major event, and at least two minor events to connect with during the course of the story. A path might take 10 minutes per experience generating action (but such action opportunities might only manifest once every hour or so). A major event might unfold over three or four scenes (each taking half an hour or more) and a minor event might unfold over two or three scenes (each taking fifteen to twenty minutes). That gives us a minimum of a hour scattered across the day for path activities, roughly two hours for one of the major events, and half and hour to and hour for minor plots... three-and-a-half to four hours of activity for players to latch into, before they even start connecting into the plot lines developed by other players as they manipulate the world around them, or before they start to manipulate the world for themselves.

Most of our games run for around 5 hours, so that gives an hour or time for self entertainment and engagement with the world. But in most cases, that hour could easily be used up in walking around the parkland.

Paths so far...
(In most cases 1 action = 25xp, 2 actions = 50xp, 3 actions = 100xp, unless otherwise mentioned)
Academic - Use a skill or knowledge to further a quest
Assassin - Backstab a character with a bounty on them
Crafter - Create items to trade with others or use in game
Deceiver - Send other characters on erroneous missions
Guildmember - Further the aims of the guild or complete guild missions
Guildmaster - Recruit new guild members or assign missions to guild members
Healer - Heal other characters
Herbalist - Trade a found herb into the market
Hunter - Trade a found animal into the market
Merchant - Trade with other characters
Messenger - Travel with a message between two characters
Pacifist - Avoid Conflict (1 life lost = 25xp, no lives lost = 50xp, never engaged in conflict = 100xp)
Ritualist - Conduct magic ritual with other characters
Sentinel - Remain in one area (1hr = 25xp, 2hrs = 50xp, 3hrs = 100xp)
Standard Bearer - Provide a morale bonus in battle
Thug - Take down other characters without using special abilities
Wanderer - Visit locations around the game (3 places = 25xp, 4 places = 50xp, 5 places = 100xp)

I know there are still a few more paths I'd like to add, but I need to consider what other sorts of things I want to reward in the game.
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