Archive for the ‘Managing People’ Category

Injuries and Gameplay

November 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Hey guys!  Sorry that we went a few days without posting! We just had an event this weekend over at Exile.  The event went well, but we had an injury during our main mod.

I chose this picture because the kitten’s expression is surprisingly close to our injured player’s.

The person in question is ok, but it made me think of how injuries are often handled at LARPs.  Thus, I would like to make a few recommendations.  (Note: this article is meant to discuss things like sprains, minor fractures, impact injuries, and the like.  If you have some sort of horrific injury, follow the first two suggestions, but use your judgment with the third.)

First of, and obviously, for big injuries, a Hold should be called.  Everyone knows this, and I have never seen a LARP ignore this one.

Next: if you are not qualified to assist: move.  My players did this amazingly well, with only two people crouched down next to the injured player. In the past I have seen a game’s medics called over only to find a crowd around the player, making it difficult to get close and assess the injury.  Usually people get out of the way, but you should not be there in the first place if you are unqualified.  One person can hang with the injured person to comfort them until help arrives: five people is unnecessary.

(It is also a little embarrassing, at least for me.  I feel weird with everyone paying attention to me because I am hurt.)

Finally: resume gameplay.  Stopping the entire game for an injury (barring life threatening injuries) is unnecessary, embarrassing, and sometimes annoying.

Unnecessary because it does not take an entire game to be sure that one person gets the medical attention that they need.  As soon as the medics get the injured party off of the field, you should feel free to resume gameplay.  It shouldn’t take ALL of your GMs to handle someone with an injury.  In fact, having ALL of your GMs there will only mess things up!  Too many people trying to assist or make decisions will only make medical assistance take longer.  One GM and one medic (or one GM if the GM is a medic) is all that is needed.

Embarrassing because then the injured person may feel guilty or uneasy because they have brought the game to a screeching halt.  No one likes to be the reason that their friends stopped having fun, and if you compound that with an injury, now they might feel really bad.  I know that I do.  I feel really weird when I know an entire mod has stopped because I rolled my ankle.  Even if no one is mad (and most of the time, no one is mad) it is still a little embarrassing.

Annoying because now you have a huge group of people, standing around, waiting for the game to continue.  This one feels a little heartless, but it is valid.  You have paid money to come play this game, and want to play and be involved.  If you have to stand around and be bored while all of the GMs run off to handle someone with an injury, you are going to get annoyed.  Especially since, as I just noted, it doesn’t take 10 people to handle one injury.

As soon as you get the injured party off of the field, call your Game On.  After the scene or fight is over, if people want to come check on their friend, they can.  This has the added benefit of not having 10 people hanging around getting in the way.  You have some time to assess the injury in peace, while the players finish their scene, and the injured person has time to calm down.  A lot of pain is exacerbated by stress, and having a lot of people hanging around panicking at you is going to make you start to panic as well, which is no good for an injury.

In conclusion: it is better for the game, and especially better for the injured party, for one or two people to help out, and for everyone else to go about the game.

NPCs: How to Handle Downtime

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Click picture for source page.

A few days ago, I posted something about PCs handling downtime.  Since then, I have gotten a few remarks about how NPCs should be responsible for the handling of downtime.  “That is what they are supposed to do, right?”

Well, yes… NPCs and GMs are there to entertain you.  It is why you paid to go to an event.  However, they aren’t supermen, and can’t be with you at all times.  Sometimes NPCs have to all go away to set something up.  Some of the onus of responsibility for entertaining the players MUST go to the players.

Having said that, there are a few ways you can deal with downtime at your game without using too many NPCs.

Take-Home Puzzles

Give your players a puzzle that will take them a while to solve.  It is nice to have these sitting around and ready for if you need to distract your players for a while.  These puzzles can include long cyphers, or physical puzzles that they need to put together.  I had my players work with two separate puzzles that I had spray painted white with a message on each.  It took them a while, and kept a number of players busy and chatting.

You have to make sure that you don’t do these too often, and be sure that they aren’t too hard or annoying, because then your players get bored and frustrated.

Angry Ex-Boyfriend (Or angry anything)

Send in an NPC, just one, with great fighting stats.  Have them there to challenge the lover of his ex, or the person who stole his bread… It doesn’t matter WHY he is challenging the players, just so long as he is loud and distracting for some of the downtime.  The players will have a good time dealing with the angry person, and you will have avoided some downtime.

Competition Loving Noble

Send out a noble character, who wants to find the best (fighter, singer, crafter, whatever) and have them arrange an impromptu competition, with prizes!  This can be put together quickly, and gets the players to compete amongst themselves.

Back Story Relevant Folks

Lots of characters have a “long lost” something.  Send an NPC out to fulfill that role.  But put in a twist.  Long lost love staggers into town, but with no memory!  Long lost father comes back, and wants you to help him somehow!

Whatever it is, it may take two people, but you are involving people’s backstories in the game, and it makes them feel involved.  Not ONLY are you involving them, but you are doing it with the least amount of effort on your part.  Heck, a backstory relevant mod can be handed to someone who you are currently testing out as a GM.  If they mess up, it doesn’t effect the entire game, and is only relevant to that one story-line.  Really, it tests them out on their ability to run serious, thoughtful mods, and makes a player feel like they are loved!

Treasure Hunt

This one can be set up in minutes and doesn’t require a lot of planning.  Have an NPC draw a map, and make it TERRIBLE.  Then give that NPC a treasure chest with some loot in it, and have him/her go out and get the players to help him/her find it.  Depending on how bad the map is, the NPC can have the players wandering around the property for ages, bumbling and hilarious.  Get one of your more inventive and entertaining NPCs to be the bumbling treasure hunter.

Gamblers, Drunks, Merchants, Trainers

These are things that you can give to ANYONE and then turn around and ignore them.  The players can interact with them, and if you give them free-reign to do what they want within their skill-set, then Huzzuah!  You have new blood out there, making your game interesting and odd.

In conclusion: having a few NPCs out to distract people while you set up or tear down mods (or just nap… I love naps) is a really good idea.  It tricks the players into thinking that you are clever and had more things planned, and keeps them out of your hair while you set things up and get things done!

A, E, I, O, U: Why the Vowels are your Friends

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Let’s face it, PCing at a LARP can be one of the most liberating and therapeutic experiences a person can have. We’ve all felt it – the nervous anxiety that builds up as an event weekend gets close… the fun-filled anticipation of something that you just know is going to be awesome. You go to an event and you let loose. You don this fantastical persona and participate in what feels like an infinitely complete alternate universe; and what’s more is that you genuinely feel unique and heroic in this alternate universe. When the event ends, you go back home with a grin on your face, barely able to contain your excitement for the next time you can come back. This is why we all LARP. This is how many of us will remember our first PCing experiences.

But what does it take to actually create these universes? What does it take to create such a rich and complete set of plotlines and rules? What does it take to create not just the fantastical in-game awesomeness of LARPing, but the out-of-game foundation to ensure a successful game that will indeed leave people wanting more? In short, what does it take to run a successful LARP?

Well, first, we need to define what a “successful LARP” really is. For the purposes of this blog article, we will keep it simple. What I define a “successful LARP” to be is a LARP where all the players of the game generally feel that the game treats them fairly and equally and also feel that the LARP’s main focus is on the players’ fun and enjoyability of the game.

So, with that definition in place, now we can talk about how to structure a LARP as a whole or the constituents thereof in order to make the awesomeness happen… and to do that, we’ve invited a few friends: A, E, I, O, and U. We left “Y” at home because, well, the other vowels hate Y.

Anyway, these vowels can make or break a LARP, game department, or, hell, even a business! They stand for: Assiduity, Efficiency, Innovation, Organization, and Universality. You like how I did that? There’s even an “I”nnovative “O”rganization to this blog. So let’s break it down… and these vowels come in no particular order.

Assiduity – the “never quit” attitude. The greater the amount of effort, time, and dedication that you or your staff members dedicate to the success of the LARP, the more successful it will be. Vigilance cultivates success. It’s actually quantifiable! And it’s rewarding. It’s rewarding to see the success of a game based on the effort put into the game to keep it successful. This is a quality that every single member of a LARP staff needs to possess. Assiduity is what makes all other qualities and goals a tangible possibility.

Efficiency – Do you want one person to run 100 miles or a hundred people to run 1 mile each? Actually, it’s probably best to have 10 people run 10 miles each when it comes to this analogy, but I’m sure you get the point. Efficiency is clutch. You need to be as efficient as possible and utilize as many resources as you have available. Do not overburden or overtax your resources, make sure to always cut “dead weight” (that is, anything at all that could be making something less efficient than it should be), but, at the same time, do not spread things too thin.

Innovation – Let’s think outside the box! I cannot stress enough how important this is. Go against the grain. Be willing to adapt and change. Do not be a source of inhibition, but always champion growth. Do not be the same candy bar that every other game out there is, that anyone can buy at any store. Of course, this is not to say that you intentionally go out of your way to change or be different when change or difference is not needed, but it is simply to say that unique creativity breeds success. The more innovative you are with everything from the out-of-game business model, to marketing, to the in-game world you create, the more successful your LARP or game will be.

Organization – Lawful Neutral Alignment = Very Yes. Having a solid structure in place for how you do everything is key. Come up with standard operating procedures. Create and utilize templates. Create instructions and rules for how you develop everything. Leverage technology and everything you can to ensure this level of organization. Be meticulous with your documentation of said templates and procedures. The more organized you are, the better.

Universality – Be as versatile as possible in all that you do. Be flexible. When you create, create models as opposed to specifics. Models allow an inherent level of flexibility. It also makes creating things in the future much easier. If you ever want to design new rules, a new plotline, or even a new game or another LARP even, the more universal or all-encompassing you made your original models, the easier it will be for you to do that.


Remember, though, taking these vowels individually is only having a small piece of the puzzle. Using these vowels collectively is what it takes for a LARP to be truly successful. When you combine all of those vowels, you create a well of limitless potential. Every successful component of a game and all other things needed to run a successful LARP can be categorized and filed under one of them. So now you have the recipe for how to make a magical pie. For my next blogging subject: Why two bakers in the same neighborhood should view each other as friends rather than enemies. To all my fellow LARP runners out there – live long and prosper!

Categories: GM Advice, Managing People

NPCs: It’s Hard When They Aren’t All You

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

In a tabletop, the NPCs are all you.  They do exactly what you want them to do, drop hints exactly when you want them to, and never do anything that surprises you, (unless you have multiple personalities, in which case, I want to game with you).

Obviously, with a LARP, this is not the case.  Your NPCs are 5-20 different people, and they only know as much as you tell them.  If you have experienced NPCs that you can trust, you can send them off to do complicated mods on their own.  If you have a bunch of new kids, you have to watch them a little more closely.

My biggest piece of advice here is to trust your NPCs.  If you try to micro-manage with your NPCs you are going to go crazy.  Nothing is ever going to go the way you want it to, and the sooner you come to accept that, the more fun you will have.  You have to be ready to adapt to surprises when running a LARP.  There will be times where your NPCs will get a line wrong, or tell people the wrong thing, and you have to be ready to change your story to fit it.

But Red, what if my NPCs tell the players that a main character is evil, or dead, or just tell the PCs something wrong?


Simple!  Have a more trustworthy NPC character come out and say it was all a lie!  Or a mistake!  Just because your NPCs have said something, does not mean it is cannon.  Slips like this are easy to deal with.

But Red, my NPCs were supposed to die in a battle, but the players ran away!

Well, it looks like your PCs just gave you MORE to work with!  Rather than worry about possibly running out of entertainment for the players, they have just given you an easy 2 hours.  Simply attack them again!  Or in a different way!

MY NPCs have blatantly ignored my instructions and did whatever they wanted!

Are the PCs having fun with it?


Go take a nap.  Your NPCs are obviously doing a good job.  Just because it is not what you planned doesn’t make it bad.  Take a break.  Frankly, I have never met a LARP GM who was not overly stressed.  The nap should do you good.

But what if the PCs weren’t having fun?

I find that the players often forget something un-fun or boring if you just assault the town with something crazy.  Or send them on an insane treasure hunt led by a goofy NPC.  Remember, if you end big, they will remember your event fondly.  Follow up something disastrous with an NPC called Billy the Bomber, or Dynamite Pete, and make the PCs dodge explosions for an hour or so.  They will be fine.

You have to give your NPCs some leeway, and let them add their own ideas and character to the parts that they play.  If you are too controlling, your NPCs will become bored or resentful, and that bleeds into how they interact with the players.  Give them some ground to be inventive, and you won’t be disappointed.

The best mod ideas I have ever seen have come out of my NPCs sitting around, waiting for the next assignment.  (Except bubble-gum elementals.  I will never forgive you for that, Courtney.)

Also, remember, while mindless NPC villains can be fun (wolves, zombies, Halo Players) they can get dull after a while.  These get dull for both the players and the NPCs.  Give your NPCs, even your BRAND new ones, speaking roles.

Even if you don’t know if you can trust a new NPC, or how well they will perform, give them a part to go out and have fun with.  Cast them as an annoying fairy, or a bumbling farmer.  Let them be the hook for a mod that is not too important, or let them go out and gamble with your players.  This makes them feel included, and it gives your players someone new and different to play with.

The more responsibility and freedom you are able to give your NPCs, the less likely you are to have a nervous breakdown mid event and run out of the camp with a trail of bodies behind you.

Good luck!

Categories: Managing People