Monday, August 2, 2010

My LARP: The Banquet of Revenge

Out of the blue, about 2 months ago, the Knights of the Kitchen Table approached me and said "We would like to ask you to run the Winter Weekend LARP."

I paused, perplexed, aware of my reputation as an excellent GM and replied "You understand I have no experience with LARPs, right?"

"We know," they said "One of the themes of this LARP is trying new things."

And so, I was roped into running a LARP.  Naturally, my first choice was Houses of the Blooded, John Wick's masterpiece of revenge, romance and intrigue.  I chose it because it cobbles together what most people seem to want out of a LARP (dressing up, sitting around gossiping with one another, and an excuse for sudden melodramatic scenes of over-the-top hammery) in one simple package that focuses on the players, rather than lots of GM handling, and thus seemed a natural place to start.

To be honest, running a LARP scares the hell out of me.  Most of the skills I've perfected at the tabletop do absolutely no good in a LARP.  I cannot describe the scene or help shy players with a host of interesting NPCs.  I cannot run up to a player and hit them in the face with awesome events that drag the story along.  As an outsider looking in, as best as I can tell, all I can do is set the players' starting position by assigning them characters, and fire the starting pistol.  After the flood gates are open, I can at best guide the action.  I have no control.

Fortunately, I have a few very experienced LARP GMs willing to offer me advice.

I've settled on a plan.  First, it turns out that my experience with Slaughter City was certainly not wasted.  Having seen what a vast collection of interconnected personalities look like, it seems the perfect way to establish a LARP one-shot: Create characters, and then connect them to one another with fault lines all set-up for player exploitation.  Second, while I cannot direct events, I can certainly influence them.  A few LARPs I've seen had "turning points" where sudden events shifted the rules of the game enough to clearly shift the game from "act 1" to "act 2" and create a sense of rising action.  I hope to do the same here, using simple, obvious transitions (For example, everyone arrives at the party and mills about: Act 1.  Then we move to the banquet itself and characters must give toasts.  The dynamics change, and we move to Act 2, and so on).  Finally, Houses of the Blooded's LARP supplement, Blood and Tears, suggests a "Grand Game" meta-game, which I'm going to use to create a sort of diplomacy-like encouragement for back-room dealings and shifting alliances all burbling just under the surface of torrid affairs and scandalous gossip.

Controlling events seems relatively easy, as does creating a meta-game.  Matching characters to players, however, looks to be the trickiest part to this, the point most prone to failure.  What happens if a player doesn't show, or shyly refuses to play up his part, or doesn't resonate with the character.  I'll be spending this whole month cobbling together characters, interviewing players (nothing is worse than being handed some generic character because the GM couldn't be arsed to understand what makes you, as a player, tick) and trying to figure out how best to give every player the game they want while interacting with everyone else's game.  What a nightmare.

Anyway, for those of you who are curious, here's what I submitted to the Weekend Comission as the summary of my game:

Amongst the Ven, few names spark as much fascination, curiosity, vitriol and scandal as the name of Fyx Steele, High Duke of the House of Elk.  This highly private man with strange moods and a legendary drunken temper carved out the largest lands any Elk has ruled since the time of the High King.  He commanded respect, thundered his rhetoric in the senate, and brought glory to the Steele family.

But that glory was long ago, the legacy of a younger man.  The High Duke approaches Solace now, his spine bent by the weight of years, his hair stripped of its color.  Surrounded by enemies and those jealous of his power, the High Duke began preparations for his inevitable decline into the dreams of Solace when suddenly the already profoundly secretive Fyx Steele vanished entirely from the social scene.  No longer did he grace his favorite Operas or attend the most fashionable galas. Days turned to weeks, and whispers grew as jealous Ven plotted who should seize what portion of his lands while his heirs milled about in uncertainty.

At last, the engraved invitations came.  After a month of silence, all Ven worth inviting received the summons to the High Dukes retirement banquet.  There, at last, the enormous political pressure would vent, the intrigues carefully set into motion by the master of the Senate would come to fruition.  It would certainly prove to be a terribly exciting party!

There is, of course, more to the story, but that would be telling!  Stay tuned as I lay out more of my plans.
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