The Intersection of Larp and Tabletop

Last night we played Archipelago II, and the setting was a generation ship returning to a mysteriously silent Earth. We crafted a creepy, lonely, Alien-like vibe and ran with it. And there were a lot of scenes with people huddled around control panels or sitting in the dining nook having tense conversations. It felt very live action - at one point I got up to refill our water glasses and basically did it in character, carrying on the conversation. For the most part we stayed seated, but the roleplaying bits were pretty intense and had we been completely larping it, we would have been sitting anyway.

It made me wonder if there is a liminal space between the two forms, perhaps a sweet spot that could bring disparate enthusiasts together. I think Jeepform exists in or near this place, perhaps skewing toward the live action side.

Anyway I'm super interested in larp right now, and I'm filtering it through the lens of my many years of tabletop experience. I'm exploring what each form can offer the other, and I'd love your insight into that.

If you larp a lot, what sort of larp is it and how does that impact your engagement in tabletop play?

If you play a ton of tabletop but larp occasionally, same question but reversed. I'd just like to hear your thoughts on this topic if it is relevant to you.
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  • There is such a place, yes. (That is, a nexus between tabletop and larp that is palatable from both sides.) I was exploring it a bit in 01-03 before I got seriously involved with the Forge. Based on my experiences, it is entirely feasible to create a game that would be compelling and recognizable to both larpers and tabletoppers at the same time and at the same table. My masterpiece in hindsight was "The Temple", a pretty straightforward simulationist-immersionist treatment of the titular Lovecraft story. The closed room environment made it easy for the game to be agnostic over the degree of live action, so while there was a GM and pacing and external events, everything that happened inside the submarine could be shifted freely over the continuum between the forms. I designed the game for an abnormally large table (up to 15 players, if memory serves), and there were premade characters for the convention environment, so it was quite larp-y in many ways.

    I haven't larped since the '90s, though, and reading the last three paragraphs of your query I see that it's probably better for me to not draw any deeper conclusions here. Interested in seeing what others more currently involved have to say, though.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarIt made me wonder if there is a liminal space between the two forms, perhaps a sweet spot that could bring disparate enthusiasts together.
    Obviously there is. I could quote Matthijs on "multiform" (or was it "multi-morph"?) role-playing, from the Society of Dreamers manual, and that fits nicely with my experience w/that game, which was in degrees of larp-ness, peaking in the playtest session with Norwegians and a Swede.

    But a "liminal" experience of mine which more closely resembles yours, Jason, is playing Joe's Ribbon Drive — all of the times. It makes sense, considering most scenes involve 3-5 people sitting in a car and talking, which means the practical differences between "tabletopping" or "larping" those scenes would be minimal.
  • As you Jason I recently experienced an overlap playing around a table. There were many family dinners scenes were acting out happened naturally like doling out stew, getting up from the table and leaving, leaning over and whispering or just touching a shoulder. It happened in some other scenes but mostly the dinner ones. What I found was that the fiction had the mirror our physical positioning for the acting out to happen, we never rearranged ourselves in anticipation of acting.

    Perhaps if you rearrange your physical positions at the start of each scene the acting out will happen more often. If the players setting the scenes do it it might even become natural.

    My only LARP experiences have basically been drunken costume parties done in character so not much experience there.
  • Some versions/variants of freeform are in this space. And "Play With Intent" is (to me) all about exploring that space. Rafu mentions "Society of Dreamers" and multiform, which is also all about that space.

    So it's pretty much the space I'm in these days.

    ---

    What I like from larp is the physicality of it. Using your own body - to shout, to dance, to sit in a corner and moan, to intimidate, to be servile - makes the experience more real, more physical, more in the moment. You are there, much more than when you tabletop.

    However, tabletop has the weird effect of adding color in retrospect. Larp feels like a "real" memory - I was Matthijs in these clothes, I did these things. Tabletop feels like the memory of a dream - Euanthe was talking to the sphinx, the Greek mountains smelled of these herbs.

    I like freeform/multiform because it lets you talk and plan, and it lets you improvise hugely - larp is very bound to its physical form; if you and I are both in costume, it's sort of stupid if I say "...and then my sword starts to glow and you see me transform into your ancestor!" In freeform, however, I can do this, because we're not in costume; there's no attempt whatsoever at verisimilitude/360 degrees/whatever.

    Freeform, in this space, is augmented reality. We are ourselves plus.
  • Larp and rpg are the same thing; role-playing, in two different forms, but still; in family and with resemblances. And of course; not always easy to tell apart (like twins, sometimes).

    The different forms of role-playing games are:
    - physical (larp)
    - verbal (rpgs)
    - literary (pbf/pbm/pbm)
    - visual (mmorpg)

    I find it interesting to think that the different forms of role-playing games also correlates to each their narrative artform:
    - physical (larp) - theatre
    - verbal (rpgs) - storytellling
    - literary (pbf/pbm/pbm) - literature
    - visual (mmorpg) - film

    For myself I have experienced a lot of verbal rpgs that plays out like a larp. I've made some of them myself. I've played larps that resembles rpgs too. We need to observe these two forms as distinct entities, in order to discuss the strengths of each form, and to design on its particular strengths.

    But the divide is not something we may expect to obey us in all circumstances; there are lots of games crossing the border we have invented. And those games are often very, very interesting. Let us be open to that fact.
  • Jason, are you thinking about specific games that operate in that space (including, like, Sea Dracula) or styles of play -- sometimes more and sometimes less supported by different rules texts -- that exist in between? To me it sounds like the latter, in which case, defining it as either larp or tabletop seems outside the point, right?

    To me, playing a larp with really structured resolution mechanics (mostly stuff in the American larp tradition, like MET and Shelter in Place) feels much more like playing a tabletop game with really structured resolution. But playing tabletop games with much more freeform resolution (Silver & White, Metrofinal) feels much more like freeform larp. So the way players engage the mechanics and each other seem more important that how they perform play. Formal resolution leads to a play experience that feels more like a game. Freeform resolution leads to a play experience that feels more like a church service.
  • I don't really have an agenda. I was hoping people would address my direct question but everything has been thought-provoking so far anyway.

    Here's an anecdote: After playing The Tribunal, I immediately wanted to run it, and to run a game my first impulse is often to reframe it in a way I find personally accessible. The act of building handouts or character sheets or whatever is a way for me to really dig into the material, understand it, and make sense of it from an information design POV. It's just what I do. So I created handouts for The Tribunal, which it doesn't completely need, and J. Tuomas Harviainen's comment on my effort was "Interesting, you've made it more accessible to tabletop players". Presumably by adding some ephemera. Anyway, food for thought, right?
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarIt made me wonder if there is a liminal space between the two forms, perhaps a sweet spot that could bring disparate enthusiasts together. I think Jeepform exists in or near this place, perhaps skewing toward the live action side.
    I've never LARPed, but I've played in this liminal space.

    One memorable time was a World of Darkness mortals game. Our characters arrived in some tomb that had been disturbed. We began to use the short hallway leading to bedrooms of the apartment we were playing in. The lights were out in these bedrooms, the hallway was dark. At one point, to illustrate where a body was laying, the GM laid down and had us show how we were approaching the body. One of us got close enough to touch, but nothing happened for 5 seconds - then he grabbed that players wrist. It freaked us all out and our characters started panicking.

    I can't stand the idea of LARPing completely (esp with dozens of players or more). I want the rules and structure that tabletop allows, or at least the minimalist structure that Jeepform promises.

    To make it more rote and common, I could see posing the question (either to the table to just an internal assessment) on whether or not getting physical could help out. Or, perhaps just in general the answer is "yes" in scene framing, and only "no" when outside of peoples' comfort zone (e.g. a gladiatorial match, or flying super heroes). Simple stuff like whether to remain seated or stand could be the baseline.

    On the other hand, despite some great experiences, I am not really convinced. I'm thinking about the game I'm running, a sci-fi first extra-solar colony setting, and the idea of moving around for scenes just doesn't worth the discomfort of being more in my body (which is a purely psychological discomfort). It's not really something that's a whole lot of fun to push.
  • Jason, you seem to be interest in the theatrical threads along the line of larp <-> jeepform <-> tabletop. To my mind, larp is distinctive because it is both theatrical (with performance, staging, and props) and distributed (with no one vantage incorporating anything like the entire experience). When these discussions come up on Story Games, we invariably talk about the former, but not the later. Is distributed play of interest here, or is that not the aspect of larps you are presently more curious about.

    - Mendel
  • edited April 2012
    "Acting out" the action of your character in a tabletop game, using your entire body to show other people at the table what your character is doing, feel very natural to me, we did it from the beginning, and I am sure that a lot of people here do it without even thinking (Jason, you realized only afterwards that you were "larping", right? At the time it did seem normal and natural)

    "tabletop" is a legacy term, a relic from the time of lead miniatures and dungeon geomorphs. When we play we are communicating and we use the table only to have a place to put the sheets, food and beverages. From there, is only a matter of scale, of pushing some forms of communication over others, and you get jeepform (or you get A taste for Murder played "live" with the table used only to roll dice, as I like to play sometimes).

    So, if tabletop isn't about any table at all, what it's about? It's about having the means to narrate and describe something, and not being limited to acting out the scene. LARP is limited in the kind of communication that it allows, but this limitation means that there is no need for everybody to know what the others are doing all the time (or a GM that do) anymore

    An hybrid of these kind of pgs? I don't know, in practical terms it's something I can see (limiting the narration, acting out the descriptions, etc.) as something that make one of them more similar to the other, but it still would be one or the other...

    (Once upon a time, I thought that Jeepform was that hybrid, but a lot of discussions with LARP aficionados convinced me that the Jeepform I like are much more similar to "tabletop" games than LARPS)

    Apart from these "theory" thoughts, in practice I noticed that I like very much a lot of acting in my tabletop games, and a single imagined space in my LARPs, so I suppose I am trying to get to that middle point...

    (it's difficult for me to even use "tabletop" talking about rpgs, it's specific American term, in Italy nobody would use "tabletop" to mean a rpg. At most one would use "pen and paper", but usually it's only "role-playing game")
  • Posted By: J. WaltonSo the way players engage the mechanics and each other seem more important that how they perform play.
    This.

    When the mechanics lend themselves to being done in a variety of circumstances, you're in the liminal space of "TT+LARP".
    * Boffer combat can't be done just anywhere: VERY LARP
    ...
    [We are trying to think in here, in this thread, as I see it.]
    ...
    * Dice sorting, rolling, and passing/saving can't be done just anywhere: VERY TT

    SO... when you have mechanics (freeform or not!) that don't demand all sorts of handling, you can get up from the table and gesture and take it to another room (split the party, yo!!!) and so forth. You might be LARPing... BUT, you're also probably bearing 90% of the situation in imagination. The more the situation can be mapped into the play space, the closer to LARP you get.

    When you're out in the woods, in costume and makeup, living in tents and cooking over a fire... you don't really have to *imagine* anything--it's right there ("You see what you see").

    So... the liminal space, now that I'm done brainshowering... I think it's in the space where the imagination must be engaged, but isn't straining to bear the whole situation; and the mechanics/system/resolution tools don't tie one to a particular physical posture or location.

    It's no wonder all the examples above of such "balanced" experiences have to do with games that present very Aristotelian, Three-Unities situations (one place, one time, one conflict) that, further, are not heavily "genred/colored." All the more so, if you don't even have to imagine a CHARACTER (e.g., some Jeepform has you playing yourself in the situation).
  • I like playing at that boundary. I really enjoy the results of the question: Can you show me how your character does that? I'm sure I told this story before but I played in a good game where two animals-turned-human try to figure out how to drive a car. Myself and the other character put two chairs side by side and acted it out - we had the GM in stitches. I don't think you have to take it all the way to costumes and voices to get a lot of bang for your buck by embodying imagined events.
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarAfter playing The Tribunal, I immediately wanted to run it, and to run a game my first impulse is often to reframe it in a way I find personally accessible. The act of building handouts or character sheets or whatever is a way for me to really dig into the material, understand it, and make sense of it from an information design POV.
    I do the same thing. Part of internalizing AW and MG for me was proving that I could hack those game effectively, demonstrating that I've internalized what the game is trying to do enough to build on that. My early AW moves were kinda lame, but now they're pretty good, which shows progress in my understanding (at least, I hope so). In the same vein, I think hacking or prepping for the next adventure (making new monsters, etc.) plays that same role in more traditional play: you're taking the game, internalizing it, and then spitting the game back out. I presume prepping for running a larp is similar: sounds like you're just getting your prep wires crossed because of your own habits of internalization, yeah? That's great because, as Tuomas says, you're also partially translating between audiences.
  • You might look at the last big (American) commercial success, the World of Darkness, which had a drastically popular LARP component and tabletop component active at the same time, with much crossover between the two in terms of enthusiastic population. The most recent iteration of the World of Darkness LARP rules is actually a very good "light" version of the most recent iteration of the World of Darkness tabletop rules. (Compare to the earlier versions, which were very different.)
  • For my book, I followed some larpers quite extensively through a bunch of traditional tabletop games. I noticed a couple things about the way they tabletopped that seemed atypical to me:

    - they weren't afraid of splitting the party or running a tabletop game with 10 players.
    - the game play was less about the actual plot of the game, and much more about the character interactions among the players. It seemed like they spent a long time exchanging poetic small talk, compared to "solving" the plot.

    To me, watching larpers sort of larp their tableop suggests that tabletop is often more about the group narrative, while larp has more tendencies toward individual narrative; tabletop is more about the overal story, while and larp is more about the personal experience -- sort of the difference between doing and being, if that doesn't sound too ridiculous.
  • Read Lizzie's book. I'm looking forward to finishing it on my train ride home this evening. It's fantastic.

    There are multiple things that differentiate larp from tt play, as wyrmwood/Mendel says, though I would add slightly.

    I would identify the difference in acting out character action vs. describing character action as one thing.

    And the wysisyg notion of physical space - costuming, props, set design, and otherwise mapping physical interaction in the event space with character interaction in the game world as a separate (though, of course related) thing.

    And as a third thing, I would identify the potential for simultaneous action, aka disparate narrative - the possibility of having multiple things happening at the same time such that any one participant only experiences one set of what happened - one story out of the possible stories that could be constructed out of what actually occurred.

    Once you identify those 3 separate things, I think it's easier to analyze different ways that people have explored the space between the two media.

    I have more to say, but this thread is moving fast, so I'll get that thought out first.

    Also, Dave is right to acknowledge that heavy handling prodedures from either side - dice, boffers, etc - generally make it more difficult to float around in the spaces between the forms.
  • So, Jeepform makes use of larp-style speach techniques. Mostly. For the most part, players say what their characters say and do what their characters do.

    But Jeepform plays down the costuming, staging stuff and only uses the most minimalist and abstract of props. So it doesn't do a lot of the "mapping the physical reality to the game reality" stuff. They might do things like placing a 4 chairs in 2 rows to represent the seating arrangements in a car, but that's about it (from everything I've read, this is how they do it. Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

    And Jeepform plays down the simultaneous action / disparate narrative stuff. They use small groups of players and all the players are present for 1 scene happening at a time.

    Also, Jeepform uses a lot of tabletop-y handling. They have a GM cut and frame scenes. They have a GM use bird-in-ear to nudge players toward things that will ratchet up the drama and conflict and such. They have players monologue their inner feelings (which isn't super common in tabletop, sure, but it's even less common in larp).

    So yes, Jeepform makes use of larp-style communication. But in other ways, it's more like one of the more experimental indie tabletop games like Penny For My Thoughts.

    Yes, though, it does make good use of exploring that in-between space to create powerful games.
  • Thanks everyone, this is very useful and interesting to me.

    I like the idea of perfect knowledge that tabletop (sorry Moreno) provides - five of us who all know everything that transpires. I find the idea of a 40 person game (or 400 person game or - if you are in Russia - 4000 person game) disconcerting. This is probably my bias toward story over character, as Lizzie notes.

    I like the utter lack of verisimilitude in tabletop. There's no physical representation so changing it into a robot is no big deal - you just say it is now a robot and it is. I know you can make this kind of social agreement in larp but somehow it seems anemic. You've stepped out of the theater of the mind into the physical, tactile realm, and ignoring that - even in the service of satisfying play - seems strange. I probably just need to get over myself on this point.
  • I'd love to see an MMO/LARP hybrid that uses the XBOX Kinect to skin people and generate backdrops.
  • I would argue that tabletop has been exploring this in-between space for a long time in various ways, usually with just one of the 3 differentiators at a time.

    For example, passing notes between player and GM, GM taking a player outside to conference about something, or related techniques explore the disparate narrative space. We always experience different things out of a shared group activity when it comes down to it, but by employing those techniques, the difference is expanded and becomes more noticable.

    The "speaking and doing in character" aspect has been explored quite a bit. When you speak out an argument rathern than just saying "I convince him to let us in, what do I roll for that?" you're exploring part of that continuum. I would argue that most people who are considered good roleplayers are called that because they stay away from the total abstraction end and engage in dialogue instead. Adding movement in is an extension of that.

    Probably the least commonly explored of the 3 differentiators is the mapping of physical reality to game reality. Some GMs have done this by using props, especially interactive props. If you have to actually put together the puzzle that your character is putting together, you're exploring this space a bit. Also, some GMs do a little bit with decor and mood lighting and such to help engage their player's senses along these lines. And I would say that the OSR technique of mapping out a dungeon, which has gotten a lot of attention lately, is an exploration of this space.

    So, yeah, there's been a long history of exploring these spaces in very traditional games. But like I said, it's usually only one aspect at a time. Tabletop players tend not to want to get "too larp-y" in their play, like they might accidentally catch it by being exposed, like you do with gayness (j/k).
  • edited April 2012
    Jason,

    In addition to looking at jeepform, which meets your criteria, you should also look at blackbox larp.

    Hopefully Levi Kornelson will drop in and say more about it. He's an expert on it and I only know what I've heard from him over several years. But from my understanding, it works like this.

    Players get together in a location - usually a blackbox theatre. One or more stage spaces are designated. Players have their characters to play and are costumed, but costuming is not a huge concern (I think you could skip costumes and also jump characters, really).

    A player sets a scene on a stage by writing it on a post it note. They jump on stage with some other players and start acting out the scene. The post it is there so that if someone comes along who didn't hear the stage setting would know where it's taking place. Other players can bring their characters on or off the scene as it seems fitting to do so.

    While anyone is off stage, they are audience to the other scenes that are happening.

    So basically, it's kind of like jeepform play done for larger groups and without some of the techniques like bird-in-ear.

    I think you'd find it interesting to spend a few moments reading up on it. Levi has posted threads in various places about it - Forge, rpg.net larp forum, etc.

    It looks like my dissection of where the differentiators are has helped you see what spaces you are interested in exploring more of, Jason. That's good. (Not to take all the credit, as Moreno clearly started that part.)
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI like the idea of perfect knowledge that tabletop (sorry Moreno) provides - five of us who all know everything that transpires. I find the idea of a 40 person game (or 400 person game or - if you are in Russia - 4000 person game) disconcerting. This is probably my bias toward story over character, as Lizzie notes.
    Well, I'd say that part of it is your habit of being used to knowing the whole story of an event.

    I'd suggest trying, at least twice (not once, that's a horribly subjective sample size for just about anything), a solid pregen game with ~20ish characters. If you get a chance to play The Final Voyage Of The Mary Celeste, which is now available online for free (Don't read it before playing, though. Half the fun is in the spoiler stuff.), jump at it. Maybe even go both feet in and try an InterCon once.

    I'm not trying to convert you or convince you that you are wrong or anything. Just trying to suggest a way to really try out a solid disparate narrative experience a few times before being sure that you don't like it. Also, you might learn something interesting about disparate perceptions that you can bring back to tabletop games.

    Also, I think it's worth noting that story is something that typically happens after a game, not during (unless it's a REALLY long game, in which case stories happen during). Because story can't happen until there is an ending. Story is what happens when we have a conclusion and we construct a narrative of what lead to that conclusion. Story is the process of applying causation as a way of understanding outcomes.

    So in a bigger larp with simultaneous action, there are a lot of outcomes, many of which any individual knows nothing about. But for what happens to you, there are still your outcomes and what lead to them. There is still your story.

    That's why a lot of time is spent after a large larp talking about what happened. That's the process we go through to find out the things that affected you that you didn't know about at the time (character X's secret motivation to thwart your plans, for example). During that process, you add detail to the narrative of what happened to your character.

    It can be a really fascinating process. It's different from what happens in a smaller tabletop game where people know what's going on. It's even more different from a jeepform game, where players are encouraged to monologue, so you get even more exposure to what's going on in people's heads during the game (which can then affect the remainder of the event, which is also really neat).
  • Oh, I definitely will try it. I'd like to get up to Intercon Mid-Atlantic this year.

    Here's the thing - in tabletop there's a phenomena known derisively as "playing before you play" - excessively massaging setting and situation before actually beginning the game, which is pleasurable in itself, but is not the point of social roleplaying. It can be dysfunctional and weird (it can also be fun).

    The notion of a massive debrief so that you can find out what actually happened in the game you just experienced seems like the same thing on the other end - playing after you play. I know this is a super common approach to large, distributed knowledge larps. That doesn't necessarily make it less dysfunctional and weird (or fun).
  • Tell me more about "playing before you play". I'm not super familiar with the term.

    Does that mean the lonely fun of, for example, drawing maps and prewriting letters and stuff like that?

    Does it mean the time spent hashing out a character by yourself? Does it still fall in this category if you're doing it with lots of back-and-forth with the GM? Does it still fall in this category if you're doing character development with the whole group? Does it still fall in this category if you're doing character development with the whole group and engaging with the system to do so, for example, doing the relationship mapping thing from Smallville - or at that point are you clearly already playing the game?

    Does it include the time the GM spends coming up with ideas for what the game will be? Does it still fall into this category if your doing your brainstorming with some or all of your players?

    I'm not asking tons of questions to be an ass. I'm really honestly trying to get at what you mean and since we can't quickly dialogue, many clarification questions are occurring to me.
  • edited April 2012
    The only experience I recall that sounds similar happened in High School. I had a teacher that wanted to impress upon us how easy it can be for a jury deliberation to become something out of Twelve Angry Men. Turns out it's pretty easy, at least when a bunch of teenagers are involved. The main thing I took away from it was that the greater the reality of the experience the more profound of an effect it can have on the participants. That sounds obvious, but at that point I had never thought about that sort of thing in a role-playing context.

    So, "reality of the experience". The fewer, and less distracting, the elements are that you're surrounded by that don't simulate, emulate, or reinforce the scenario of play the more likely it is that at some point you'll buy into that scenario on an emotional level. That buy-in won't even happen consciously. The main impediment that I think tabletop play has in this regard is the artifacts of the ritual. We usually have character sheets, dice, cards, play aids, books, and what have you spread out before us. They frame and shape the situation in a particular way, and act as interpretive layers between the players and the scenario. Their form and function is also usually in no way related to the fiction in the scenario. It seems to me that being able to use objects that can reflect the nature of the scenario, turning props and surroundings into system, could go a long way towards pulling a tabletop experience towards that nexus between it and LARP. Of course, a lot of that may rely on how closely the scenario mirrors sitting around at a table, in your living room, etc.
  • Posted By: RobMcDiarmidTell me more about "playing before you play". I'm not super familiar with the term.
    You're "playing before play" basically when your content is regurgitated: first you plan out how a scene (or session, or campaign) will go, and then you play the scene. It's a simple phrase, and most sorts of game prep don't really fall into it. When it does happen, though, it seems very pointless to many gamers, myself included. My impression is that it's more common in more theatrically oriented groups, larps included, perhaps because it's easier to mix up important content and support structures on those games.

    Note that "playing before play" properly should only refer to situations where you're actually going over the same important content twice. If the game happens to be one where we know the plot in advance but the creative agenda is about seeing the emotional states of the characters involved, then it's not "playing before play" to outline the plot in advance. However, if you also outlined the emotions involved, then you would be "playing before play" by pre-arranging the important details. The actual play would be merely acting out the things already hashed out in advance. That's properly called theater, not gaming.
  • That's a really good point, Chris. Removing some of the layers of interpretation can sometimes help with emotional engagement.

    On the other hand, trying too hard but coming up short can sometimes make you end up in the Uncanny Valley, where the things that are not quite perfectly representative of the situation can become more glaring and distracting. If we rely too much on our senses and don't make use of our imagination to do the hard work of filling in the gaps for us, then the imperfect details become distracting thorns that draw us away from emotional engagement.
  • edited April 2012
    I Larp and table top, here's a link to the larp group in the uk. http://www.dumnonni.com/ and another http://www.burntisclean.co.uk/justthewind.htm

    The table top group I play in prefer in character play mode with discussion with adjudicator setting scenes and playing Npc's , lots of conflicts are solved in this mode and when someone does surface to disagree a discussion and dice are involved.
    Props are used e.g. Pass ports, Letters, jewellery made from card and painted, crime scene reports, maps and figures
    Leaving the room and secret notes are passed around.

    I think this type of play for us helps to create the story, from sketchy plots and character backgrounds we generally produce dramatic effects.
    What is important for this to work is that the players believe the story can be effected and the story agenda is unknown to them.
    Discussion about meta game stuff is a taboo and acts as a spoiler for the players.

    The down side to this style of play is
    The adjudicator has to perform, push for drama and control.( This can be rewarding when the players are doing this themselves confined in the scene set up)
    The players have a less demanding role and can sit in anticipation for the next great scene or plot for them to interact with. (This is rare in our group)

    So boiling this down Larps are good for entertainment small Larps for sure, see links. The settings and costumes and great plots.
    Trying to achieve this at the table will be less. (No great back drop or costume e.g.)

    Being aware of this as a group can save disappointment and stress trying to live up these expectations.
  • Posted By: RobMcDiarmidOn the other hand, trying too hard but coming up short can sometimes make you end up in theUncanny Valley, where the things that are not quite perfectly representative of the situation can become more glaring and distracting.
    Definitely, Rob. Which is why each scenario should probably be crafted in relation to the setting it will take place within, and not add anything that will stand out as a prop or poor substitute for something else. When we can effectively turn our environment into system, without having to add extraneous elements, then I think we'll have found that sweet spot.

    I keep thinking about some scenario involving a dinner party, where resolution and fictional triggers are determined solely by how you eat your meal and which utensils you use. Playing with your food, stabbing at the air with your fork to emphasize your words, commenting on the limpness of the asparagus, playing footsie under the table....
  • Playing before you play:

    "OK, in this scene I want to ask for the hand of the princess."

    "Cool. And she's totally going to say yes."

    "Right, but I'm going to get challenged right? I mean the Duke is not going to take it lying down is he?"

    "No way, so you guys have to fight. But you'll win!"

    "We should totally fight on the battlement where I murdered the Princesses sister!"

    "In a frickin' rainstorm!"

    "And maybe the King isn't really dead and he comes out of nowhere to save your bacon?"

    "Cool, let's just say that happened and fast forward to after we're married."
  • Posted By: C. EdwardsI keep thinking about some scenario involving a dinner party, where resolution and fictional triggers are determined solely by how you eat your meal and which utensils you use. Playing with your food, stabbing at the air with your fork to emphasize your words, commenting on the limpness of the asparagus, playing footsie under the table....
    Awesome. Make sure to workshop those mechanics before the game (during lunch, perhaps, or a pre-dinner the night before). Preferably work in drama-game style exercises during the workshop that the players use to create their characters and establish relationships. Then you'll have made your own Nordic style larp game. Then make sure to take pictures and document it afterwards and send it in for next year's KP book.

    Oooh. And make sure to include a solid discussion of lines and veils and talk about how that affected the game in your writeup. Then you'll have addressed an aspect that the Nords are currently focused on and struggling with, and they'll be even more interested.
  • A friend of mine went to an organized murder mystery with meal with the twist.....it was a wake for his relative or friend I cant remember which.

    some of the actual guest were actors of the event.

    So when this gorgeous bird introduced herself ,asking how he was related to the deceased he spluttered then twigged what was happening and started some spiel he remembered from his background.

    He said the moment was bizarre but introduced him to lots of plot, which he then spread in conversation later in the evening.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarPlaying before you play:

    "OK, in this scene I want to ask for the hand of the princess."
    Ok. I get where you're coming from. (And thank your, Eero, for the detailed description. Very helpful.)

    Ideally (and this is an important word in this sentence) that's super different from what a good after game discussion after a good disparate narrative larp is like.

    Ideally, you had a well developed character (probably a combination of what was developed preplay and what happened in play) and had some goals (probably some of which were given preplay and some were discovered during play) and some relationships (probably some of which were established preplay and some discovered during play). And ideally, you went through the game and engaged with your goals and relationships, while also engaging with new ones, and you had a good time doing that.

    So right after the game, you've reached some sort of conclusion and can create a story in your head about that, based on your experience.

    And then, everyone gathers and tells about who they were and what they did and stuff.

    And as you listen and laugh, many additional, related stories come out. Some were tightly intwined with yours and give you mindblowing insight into the fact that, for example, a person you thought was helping you was secretly your enemy and was the reason you failed to accomplish one of your goals and if only you'd asked that one girl about it, she'd totally have told you that and that whole outcome would have been different. And other stories you hear are less closely related, but still interesting because they have one or two connection points with the experience you had.

    So now, after having played this game, you have not just one story of what happened, you have this whole intertwined network of stories about what happened, like some crazy postmodern novel told by 20 unreliable narrators talking about the same event.

    Ideally that's what happens.

    What actually happens is usually less than that ideal, but when luck holds you get pretty close. And picking the right games to play helps. Going to InterCon will make that more likely.
  • A group of friends occasionally does a surprise birthday party larp. Everybody knows about it but the birthday party person, and they plan out a series of adventures with the birthday person as the star.

    I want to do one for my son sometime in the next year or two. He's 10 now and plays somewhat regularly in a sci-fi non-live-action larp, and has done some boffer stuff as well. For a birthday game, I'd probably do some sort of boffer thing. Like a zombie apocalypse or something.

    The surprise larp thing has the interesting element that the primary participant hasn't had the opportunity to prepare themselves mentally for gameness.
  • Posted By: C. EdwardsI keep thinking about some scenario involving a dinner party, where resolution and fictional triggers are determined solely by how you eat your meal and which utensils you use. Playing with your food, stabbing at the air with your fork to emphasize your words, commenting on the limpness of the asparagus, playing footsie under the table....
    I went to a dinner party once, met my "wife" outside the house, we were introduced, and went in; for an evening in "the family", celebrating something we had to come up with on the fly, playing along with whatever other players told us, in private or open conversations, or in the speeches at the table.

    It was called "13 at The Table". A simple live action role-playing game for grown up players.

    We had a blast!
  • Cthulhu games seem to take on some of this quality, occasionally by accident, sometimes by design. I ran John Wick's Curse of the Yellow Sign pt1 a couple of years back, and had the player of the first casualty start playing the part of the ghostly tormentor monster/NPC, bby running around the table and whispering horrible things to the other players, kinda-sort Bird in Ear style and it worked really well. I also got a chance to meet up with john kim and some of his pals who'd been running a very lomg-term coC campaign for a session, and a good bit of that was run very casually, in-character, and was quite a bit like a mid-sized larp played indoors in the hosts' home, with people moving around in different areas and having individual conversations, even while some part of the gatherde players were getting more traditional TTRPG type play with the GM.

    IIRC, a classic old CoC scenario from UnspeakableOath magazine called In Media Res also involves a good bit of advice on how to make that scenario almost parlor larpish, as does Grace Under Pressure , another well-know classic, this one set on a submarine.

    Some forms of table top gaming, especially with multiple players also tend to go a little LARPy. Reports on the original braunstein games certainly suggest people were doing more than sitting around measuring and moving lead people while waiting for their turn to go. Diplomcy games can tend toward this direction as well, and i've seen older articles talking about people really getting into the character of their nation's diplomat, to the extent of creating a personality and game-name for themselves. i wish i still had the articles, as i believe they predate D&D.
  • This seems to be a direction different from the one this thread has taken, but my friends and I have sometimes discussed what the intersection would look like if it involved hand puppets. We think it's fertile ground.
  • Posted By: RobMcDiarmidI would identify the difference in acting out character action vs. describing character action as one thing.
    And the wysisyg notion of physical space - costuming, props, set design, and otherwise mapping physical interaction in the event space with character interaction in the game world as a separate (though, of course related) thing.
    And as a third thing, I would identify the potential for simultaneous action, aka disparate narrative - the possibility of having multiple things happening at the same time such that any one participant only experiences one set of what happened - one story out of the possible stories that could be constructed out of what actually occurred.
    I like this as a summary of some characteristic larp things. I'd add in also that there's usually a unity of time and space. I don't mean wysiwig, like Rob says, but that usually the action of a larp takes place as one continuous event. You generally don't skip time, and if you want to change the scene you generally have to actually move in space (like moving to another room, or going to another area of the campsite.) I can think of exceptions, but it definitely affects the writing - you know you can't skip the routine 'dull' bits of the characters' lives to get to the exciting car chase or whatever, so you try to write it so that it's all exciting/interesting. Most larps I've been to were trying to mash up key points of all their characters' lives so that they all kind of mix up together and explode into story. Tabletop games can be more liberal in their timing (even if the actual time spent playing is the same), because they can just jump forward three months with the actual consequences of what the players did.

    I've run a few games that were sitting in the intersection - technically they were larps, but the setting was a group of friends getting together for a conversation, so they were mostly sitting around the room talking. I had some food and drink as props related to the theme of the conversation (in one, they were tied to game mechanics, which worked out pretty cool in one run, as the player who wasn't eating and thus not getting the same magic realism experience as everyone else had also taken the most skeptical stance in the conversation). And people came who 'only' do tabletop, and said that they had a good time.
  • edited April 2012
    That's a good point, Stephanie.

    Maping time to reality and maping space to reality very often go hand in hand. Usually when a game is flexible on one, they're flexible on the other in the same way - you cut and frame scenes, which may include skipping forward in time past the boring stuff like travel.

    Wysiwyg larps tend not to do that, or do it very little. Liminal games such as jeepform and blackbox have mechanics for how to do scene/time framing (in fact, it's among the very few mechanics those liminal games usually have).

    But occasionally some games address time in a way that's different from how they address space. I just read in Lizzie's book about a game that, in order to express insanity in a game with crazy people, set a scene where players were cleaning up after a party and then days later, had the actual party (it was a game that took place over several days. And I assume the cleanup scene involved actually cleaning up a room.)

    But yeah, games that are "more larp", if you will, tend to not use time as a flexible thing where you can skip ahead (or back) to the good stuff.

    In fact, for a lot of adventure larps, time is very commonly used as a primary power resource. For example, in many such games, you spend magic points to power special powers. And those magic points typically refresh either in a trickle (such as one point every minute or five or ten) or in clock cycles (all your points come back every quarter day - 6 am, noon, 6 pm, midnight, for example). Time is one of the common ways adventure larps use other types of power limiters instead of randomizers.
  • Posted By: RogerThis seems to be a direction different from the one this thread has taken, but my friends and I have sometimes discussed what the intersection would look like if it involved hand puppets. We think it's fertile ground.
    I just found and skimmed through Puppetland. I was surprised to discover it doesn't involve actually playing with hand puppets, just drawing them and talking about it.

    That being said, Puppetland uses actual time mapping, while not using other larp vectors (I'm thinking vectors might be the right word instead of differentiator, at this moment). Which is interesting and unusual.

    Well, they do use the rule that everything you say while sitting is what your character says and that you speak your actions as dialogue ("I'm going to throw this rock at you, Nutcracker"), which is a small step along the do what your character is doing vector.

    But still, only mapping diagetic time to real time and not mapping other aspects is weird and neat.
  • Posted By: RobMcDiarmidWysiwyg larps tend not to do that, or do it very little. Liminal games such as jeepform and blackbox have mechanics for how to do scene/time framing (in fact, it's among the very few mechanics those liminal games usually have).
    Yeah, some definite exceptions. I also heard about a game set over several days in a mental health ward where the organisers were deliberately screwing with peoples' sense of time - so you'd have two meals one after each other, and they'd be in the wrong order, or you'd be up in the middle of the night and sleeping in the day, and it was all meant to make people feel disjointed from reality.
  • Posted By: StephaniePeggI also heard about a game set over several days in a mental health ward where the organisers were deliberately screwing with peoples' sense of time - so you'd have two meals one after each other, and they'd be in the wrong order, or you'd be up in the middle of the night and sleeping in the day, and it was all meant to make people feel disjointed from reality.
    Yeah, that was the one I just read about.
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarThe notion of a massive debrief so that you can find out what actually happened in the game you just experienced seems like the same thing on the other end - playingafteryou play. I know this is a super common approach to large, distributed knowledge larps. That doesn't necessarily make it less dysfunctional and weird (or fun).
    Remember, too, that the debrief acts like an epilogue. Let's say I've been playing a tiny character, who didn't seem to matter in the big drama. The debrief is my moment of acknowledgement. Hey, you guys, I was secretly cleaning up the mess everyone else was making, because I really cared about the kingdom! And I say that, everyone smiles and I feel good.

    Jason, I would love you to play some British freeforms (i.e. LARPs). We have a dedicated little community here, who write rich games, with low barriers to entry. For example, I played in a Warhammer 40K LARP, which was a superb experience. Come to Conception or Consequences sometime.
  • Posted By: TomasHVMI went to a dinner party once, met my "wife" outside the house, we were introduced, and went in; for an evening in "the family", celebrating something we had to come up with on the fly, playing along with whatever other players told us, in private or open conversations, or in the speeches at the table.

    It was called "13 at The Table". A simple live action role-playing game for grown up players.

    We had a blast!
    This sounds really fun. Less intense than most of the Nordic LARPs I hear about, but still rich. Thanks, Tomas.
  • edited April 2012
    Back in about 1995 I teamed up with a successful designer of LARPs (we called them "freeforms" in Australia back then) called Andrew Smith to write a Vampire the Masquerade scenario for CanCon (a games convention that runs in Canberra). We decided to set it in Gothic-Punk Canberra and call it "Canberra by Night".

    Now, Canberra is a pretty small place. Even including its half-absorbed Siamese twin city Queanbeyan, on the guideline of one leech per 100,000 urban population we worked out that we were going to have the entire vampire population of Canberra-Queanbeyan in each group that played. Since nobody much else is even relevant to vampires, that meant that any NPCs the GM might play would be minor characters, and all important conflict was going to be within the party. So Andrew and I, leaning heavily on his experience of writing freeforms, stewed up a brew of lust, intrigue, hatred, and betrayal and designed five heavily symbolic characters trapped in a mesh of ambitions and resentments that all related to one another. There was a precipitating incident (the murder of the utterly vile prince of Canberra), and the adventure consisted of, basically, everything coming to a head. The characters were LARP characters, but their number (five) was tiny for a LARP, and the game was played (mostly) at a table, with a GM doing bit part NPCs and minor bits of conventional GMing. We advertised it as a hybrid of tabletop and freeform game—I think "multiform" might have been the term we used—and that was the way it ran.

    The essence, I think, was to have conflicted issues among the PCs, with a robust crucible but no dynamic external threats requiring the GM to represent them. It helped that there was no prospect of playing on after the end of the session: with no pressure to keep the party viable PCs could pursue their ambitions and resentments where-ever they led.

    It was pretty successful, and some iterations got quite intense (personal horror and all that). It was in Canberra by Night that I GMed a woman into shock.
  • To follow up, Jason, on the character/story thing:

    To me the cool thing about Nordic larp is that it combines often combines the story concern of tabletop with the character concern of larp. The Dogma 99 manifesto, for example, forbids main plot as opposed to plot for all characters. In fiction writing, this sort of corresponds to the inside/outside story. In literary fiction, characters undergo an emotional transformation (the inside story) that is mirrored by their circumstances (the outside story).

    In larps, this concept of no main plot, only plot for everyone seems to do away with the puzzle plot; instead everyone gets an emotional plot or goal (an inside story -- something like "find love" or "survive prison" or "deal with human mortality") and external plot scopes down to the setting. Even if you don't know the particular ins and outs of what every character did, players still know what happened in a general way, sort of substituting for that absolute tabletop knowledge.

    The debrief, then becomes not necessarily a tool for relating what happened during the larp, but for discussing the emotions raised. And interestingly, at the Solmukohta safety panel, a couple organizers suggested that the most important part of the debrief is constructing the meaning of the game and declaring that no one was harmed; saying it sort of makes it so.
  • Lizzie, that's hugely interesting. Debrief as ritual & definition/creation of reality.
  • Posted By: GrahamRemember, too, that the debrief acts like an epilogue. Let's say I've been playing a tiny character, who didn't seem to matter in the big drama. The debrief is my moment of acknowledgement. Hey, you guys, I was secretly cleaning up the mess everyone else was making, because I really cared about the kingdom! And I say that, everyone smiles and I feel good.
    Agreed, the epilogue is super fun. It's probably dysfunctional - everything fun is - but it's a highlight. And it helps make people hungry for the next session. "Oh man, I'm so going to get you for that, haha."
  • Posted By: GrahamPosted By: TomasHVMI went to a dinner party once, met my "wife" outside the house, we were introduced, and went in; for an evening in "the family", celebrating something we had to come up with on the fly, playing along with whatever other players told us, in private or open conversations, or in the speeches at the table.

    It was called "13 at The Table". A simple live action role-playing game for grown up players.

    We had a blast!
    This sounds really fun. Less intense than most of the Nordic LARPs I hear about, but still rich. Thanks, Tomas.:)

    The Nordic LARPs you hear about are, typically, the very special ones. They are interesting both to play and to discuss, but the full picture of LARPs in Scandinavia is broader, a bit more filled up with ordinary LARPs of fantasy, costume drama and horror. I like those too. Most of us do.

    But then; participating in a well researched interactive drama of teeth-gnashing qualities ...
    - that is really something extra! I love the intense experiences surfacing in such LARPs!
  • Matthijs: I thought it was a super-interesting idea, though I find it faintly Orwellian. The panelists, btw, were Jaakko Stenros, Peter Munthe-Kaas, Johanna Koljonen, and Bjarke Pedersen.
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