01 June, 2016

Refining the LARP Political Structure in Larger Groups

In the previous post, I discussed the idea of dividing characters in a LARP into 5 factions in a general pentagonal arrangement; where factions are on corners of the pentagon, allied with those on adjacent corners and opposed to factions on the distant corners.

An interesting court ruling has been posed by a US court, regarding the adoption of game mechanisms by companies. So this makes me feel a bit more at ease with the adoption of the Magic: the Gathering colour system as a basis for this. My first thoughts regarding the factions was the have each group midway aligned between two colours… one white/blue, one white/green, one green/red, one red/black, one black/blue… in some cases this seemed to work well (the cult worked well as blue/black, criminals worked well as black/red, the university could have worked as a blue/white, but the military didn’t really work as a white/green). I found that the factions worked better as a straight up analogue of each colour. It also made things easier for new players to understand, and for those who might only have a passing knowledge of Magic: the Gathering… simple is good when it comes to a shorthand, it gets everyone on the same page, and complexity can develop from there. Of course, Magic has been going for over 20 years, and has had numerous expansions sets and developments over that time, factions of allied colours have developed, factions of opposing colours have developed, multi-colour cards have been introduced, and then there are also the colourless artefacts that can be used by anyone.

If we keep working with the concepts and colours of Magic, I’m imagining that all of our characters are basically named/Legendary 2/2 creatures who cost 2 colourless mana to summon into the game (lesser NPCs are the 1/1 creatures who costs a single point of mana). Once a character chooses a faction, a single point of their colourless mana cost is transformed to match the colour of the faction they’ve chosen to affiliate with, but they gain a benefit associated with that faction. As they improve over the course of several games, their effective mana cost increases, and similarly they either gain increases to their power and toughness, or gain new special abilities that manipulate play in some way. Through more association with a specific faction, a character finds more of their total mana cost converted to match a specific colour. It would be fairly common for characters to have their entire cost made up of colourless mana and that of a single colour, some characters might convert their entire cost to a single colour. In a few uncommon circumstances, a character might divide their effective mana cost between two adjacent colours, and very rarely a character might divide their colour between opposing colours (or between more than two colours); these choices would require some kind of quest to achieve and would not be easily available.

Different character races might also have specific affinities with specific colours:
Green – Elves, Shifters, Wood Elementals
Red – Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins, Fire/Earth Elementals
Black – Undead, Infernals, Darkness Elementals
White – Halflings?, Celestials, Light Elementals
Blue – Merfolk, Air/Water Elementals

The main point of this post is less about individuals and the way they might develop as a comparison to specific cards in Magic: the Gathering, it’s more about the way multiple characters gather together in packs/bands/units/adventuring-parties. I’m think of this like the creation of a deck. You can mix colours if you want, but a deck tends to work better if it’s focused around one or two specific colours, characters all affiliated with a single faction might have good coherence and focus but they’ll tend to lack diversity. Such groups would be prompted into play as more players come into the group, to add more diversity to the mix, and new ways to manipulate the political landscape of the game.

Here’s how I’d view the single colour teams (As long as all of the characters making up the group share that colour, they’d get some kind of colour associated bonus)
White: a military unit/platoon (Protection? Warded armour?)
Green: a pack of tribal/nomadic hunters (Life Magic? Bonus health?)
Red: a gang/cartel of criminals (Destruction? Weapon bonus?)
Black: a coven of cultists (Death Magic? Fear effect?)
Blue: a circle of scholars/scientists (Freeze Spells? Mystical enchantment?)

Then these would be the adjacent coloured teams, where characters would need to have one colour or the other (or a combination of the two)…
White/Green: Honourable Rangers, Light Druids,  
Green/Red: Rampaging Horde, Predators
Red/Black: Destructive Savages, Saboteurs, Coldblooded Killers
Black/Blue: Dark Mages, Cunning Ninjas
Blue/White: Light Mages, Lawkeepers

These are all very loose stereotypes, and there could easily be numerous other types of adventuring parties that fit between two different colours. The general idea behind this whole post is that if two characters share a colour they’ll be inclined to work together, and if they have allied colours they won’t necessarily go out of their way to oppose one another. And on a larger scale, groups of characters will also be more inclined groups of player characters share a colour, they’ll be more inclined to work together, if they have opposing colours they be more inclined to work against one another. It’s all about maximising the depth of the play experience without adding too much more complexity to things.

I'm sure there will be more discussion on this as the theories are put into practice.

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