Showing posts from September, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 18)

One of the first live roleplaying games I took part in occurred at a Sydney gaming convention in 1994. The game was called Shadowkin, it was based on White Wolf’s “World of Darkness”, there were sixty to eighty participants and the area the game occurred in covered the entire outdoor environment of a high school, as well as several of the classrooms to depict specific locations of importance. I was a new player to this campaign, so were half of the other players. There was no real attempt to pull new players into existing stories, everyone was basically left to their own devices unless they knew existing players (who would then hook them into the various stories). I was playing a Werewolf of the urban “Glass Walker” tribe, but the only players I knew had characters who were Vampires. Thus began a very strange story that lasted about four years, culminating in some very strange Lovecraftian and xenomoprhic twists when my Werewolf contracted the “Vicissitude Virus” (from the “Dirty

A break to look at someone else's work

When I see something good, I like to share it with people. I also like to make sure that the originator of the work is suitably credited. Sometimes, this doesn't quite work out. As a fan of elegant game design and well laid-out pages, I could hardly go past this new game that came across my G+ feed yesterday. I can only attribute it to "Gremlin Legions", because that's the name he goes by on G+ (and that's the name given in the bottom corner of the rule sheet).  It's a basic step die system, where individual dice are scored rather than comparison of totals, but it's got a few nice twists that should prove interesting to play with. I'd love to give this a try some day when I get the chance.

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 17)

If our chosen genre is a steampunk-pirate mash up, then we can pretty quickly choose seven common cultures. 4 common (worth a single point each) The Imperial/Colonial Forces - These are the conquerors and lawkeepers of the setting. The Pirates - These are the daring criminals who seek freedom and gold. The Freebooters - These swashbucklers exist in a grey area, unofficially working with the Imperial/Colonial forces, but getting away with whatever they can in the shadows. The Settlers - These folk are just trying to make a living in the new world, far from their homeland. 2 less common (worth 2 points each) The Church - They came here to convert the natives and ensure believers don't stray from the flock. The Natives - These people lived in the surrounding lands long before anyone else arrived. 1 uncommon (worth 3 points) The Cult - These hidden manipulators believe something powerful is hidden in these strange lands. These cultures are stereotypes, sh

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 16)

The last post said that I was thinking of getting graphical for a bit. I don't know if we're quite ready for that. There are a few outstanding features of the game that really need to be addressed before character sheets can be properly developed, and since we've been plunging headlong into design concepts both nebulous and specific, drifting in some areas and stabbing corwar in others, it's probably a good time to look at the original design goals and see if we're still within those parameters. Positive Non-negotiables: There needs to be a system for tracking conflict through bashing one another with padded weapons.   (This is definitely still one of the core features of the game. TICK) It needs to be quick, avoiding the need for books to be carried around.   (This is still an aim, starting players/characters don't have much to remember, and the general mechanisms of the game are more commonsense than anything else, at worst I'm seeing a qu

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 15)

I hate systems that aren't consistent and coherent. I like systems that require little rules knowledge, are easy for new players to get into, but provides options for a bit of crunch for those players who like it. With that in mind, this game will use abilities and techniques. Abilities will follow the previously described 3-tier system (basic, intermediate, expert/advanced). Techniques will be special capabilties that a player can buy for their character, they will require prerequisite abilities and must be purchased seperately. Abilities simply allow new options for players to engage (if you have it, you can do it), Techniques on the otjer hand open up the possibility of doing things (you need to perform some kind of test every time you attempt a technique). I'm seeing most characters start with 6 levels of 'Abilities', half a dozen techniques, and a few traits that influence these.  Over time, they'll gradually learn new 'Abilities' and acquire ne

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 14)

Now that we've started delving into specific mechanisms rather than meta-narrative effects, it might be time to start looking at the way character abilities are actually implemented. Even if I'm planning to divide abilities into levels of expertise (none, basic, intermediate, expert), the easiest way to implement these would be to simply open new options to characters who possess these ability levels. This has precedent in a lot of systems I've encountered. Here are some specific ideas applicable to this game (also with precedence in a lot of Boffer Systems)... Melee None: You may common use weapons up to 30cm/1ft in length. Basic: You may use common weapons up to 60cm/2ft in length. Intermediate: You may use common weapons up to 90cm/3ft in length. Expert: You may use any common weapons. This may seem a bit strange, but among reasonably equally skilled opposing players (such as most LARPers), weapon length is a great way to differentiate character s

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 13)

I'm thinking of card draw effects. Mostly because most gamers have easy access to a deck of cards, but I'm also thinking of tarot cards to add a degree of "mystery" and mysticism. I started thinking about these when I read through Peter Woodworth's post on finite and infinite character death, then cross referenced it to the way heroes are taken out of a campaign in the miniatures game "Confrontation". Basically, Peter's post posits that there are two extremes, those in which characters live only once and when they are taken out of action in conflict they are never seen again, and those in which characters may return time and again. Between these extremes, thee are games where characters have a finite number of lives, that may be known or unknown. I can't find it in the rule booklets I've just searched through on my shelves, but I remember heroic "characters" in Confrontation being blessed by the gods, and when they die they h

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

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 11)

One of the important things about anything in life is to have balance and variety. I think this is the case whether it comes to diet, hobbies, experiences, or anything else. If you do the same thing time and again, it gets boring. You might get a good feeling for what to expect, and you might even like it the first couple of times, but eventually it gets stale. That's one of the reasons why I want this game to have a variety of story types that it can tell. It's always going to be focused around combat with rubber swords and other padded weaponry, that's what lures the players in and that's what they expect to find, so it would be a nasty bait-and-switch to make the game focused around something else.  A story in this game needs to have a variety of scenes, and each of those scenes should have a variety of opportunities for different types of characters to succeed. Perhaps a bit like the current crop of scenario driven miniature battlegames, where everyone plays

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 10)

I met my wife Leah through LARP, but over the past few years she has become less able to engage the more physical aspects of the hobby. She broke her back quite some time ago, and now one of her vertebrae is degrading at an alarming rate (it lost 1/3 of it's structure over the course of a year), this means she is in constant pain and runs the risk of paralysis if she does anything too strenuous. Despite this, she wants to engage at some level in a new LARP. I joined a Boffer LARP group last year, and can still hold my own on the combat field against most of the more active players half my age (at least for a short time), Leah hasn't joined because everything has been based on combat and she can't risk permanent injury. Leah wants to join in the role of combat medic or apothecary, something where she can gain advantage through the game in a way that either forces people to come to her, or allows her to slowly, carefully pick her way through a battlefield and avoid the worst.

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 9)

This is a bit of a follow up on the last post, because I basically got carried Way with describing something I don't like. Now, it's an opportunity to show how my alternative to this system is actually an improvement through a couple of examples and rule applications. The first thing you might ask is "why would someone bother setting up a game like this if they could be ousted after any event?". Let's circumvent this by saying that during the first six months of a campaign, noone may challenge the founding GM. This gives stability to the game when all the participants are new. After this point, it's up to the GM to keep running good stories, otherwise players will either vote them out or simply leave...I'd rather see the game stay alive with a lasting legacy and fresh blood running things, rather than see it fizzle out as participants don't get what they're after. The next thing you might ask is "what's the advantage of being a les

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 8)

Here's the bit where we get a bit controversial. It's the idea that really deviates this particular set of rules from most of the other things I've seen on the web, and the idea that pushes this LARP toward a more communal storytelling ecosystem. Virtually every LARP I've been a part of has effectively been a dictatorship, many of the successful ones have been benevolent dictatorships (with a single person informed by the masses, then catering to as many of them as possible), many of the unsuccessful ones have been malevolent dictatorships (with a single person controlling everything, and pushing the story according to their creative vision regardless of the desires of the players involved). I'm sure anyone who has been around tabletop games for a while has encountered these two forms of leaders in their GMs, but imagine that management style translated to a 20-30 player game (or more).  Quite a few LARPs have multiple GMs, all co-ordinated by a single uber-

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 7)

I've basically been hedging around the actual mechanisms of the game with explanations and references to other games. I've decided that I don't want dice to be used at all, but that still leaves lots of options open...card draw, tokens, rock-scissors-paper, other? The other catch is trying to maintain consistency in skill levels (basic, intermediate, expert) when some effects are based on physicality, while others might be based on more abstract concepts. I don't want the idea I've seen in some games where different skills have different cost progressions. This whole project is aiming to create a system that's simple, that will blend into the background to allow more focus on adventure storytelling for small groups of players (and more complex storytelling between those groups). These two elements are going to be the crux of the system, so they need to be right. But that leads me to thinking about something else...the mechanisms need to inform the se