Monday, October 4, 2010

The Beauty of LARPs

For the life of me, I cannot find the scene, but I believe it can be found in Amadeus, where Mozart extols the virtues of Opera.  If I remember correctly, he said something to the effect of "In a play, you can only have one actor speaking at a time.  More than that, and you lose what everyone is saying.  It stops making sense. But in an Opera, every can 'speak' at once, all singing in harmony with one another, and what they say matters less than the music that they make."

As I'm putting together my LARP, I find that this metaphor works very nicely.  When I reveal portions of my LARP to others, some comment that it seems "awfully complex for a one-shot" and that "I don't need to worry about so much."  This might be true (I lack the perspective to know for sure), but, in my view, a LARP works very differently from a table-top game.  In a table-top game, you need to pick your focus and stick to it, as ultimately, you can only explore one thread at a time, preferably with everyone together at once so nobody feels left out.  You cannot have the Princess exploring her undying love with her champion at the same time that the Knight tries to uncover the mystery of his father's death, even though these two elements might be tied together.  In a LARP, not only can you, you must.  You cannot stop the LARP and explore the princess's elements and then shift to the Knight.  Instead, you'll have the Princess doing her thing, and the Knight doing his, everyone amusing one another without interfering with each other's "attention bandwidth."  Everything is going on at once in this grand, harmonious cacophony, and only at the end can you stop and start to see the big picture.

So why am I making everything so rich and complex?  If you actually boil down my grand stories, you only find, roughly, 4-7 threads: One per House, and then a couple that mingle characters from the various houses (for example, there's a thread surrounding the Scallywags, as well as a thread that, for example, will occupy the Elk).  Every player has a part to play in several of these threads: A player might be a hero in this thread, and a villain in that thread, as different characters see him from different perspectives.  Because I cannot know what elements will speak to a player and which will not, we add to the complexity by giving them a lot to choose from, knowing that they'll pick a direction, a role, and go with it.  This means that not every player will be fulfilling every "threads" role, but every thread has more than enough players in it that they can likely keep it going.  For example, the Princess of the House of the Bear wants a strong, romantic thread for her character, but she's not aggressive, and thus I must bring players to her.  I could pick a single player as her love interest, but what if he's more interested in other things?  In such case, I've directed several characters in her direction for different reasons.  Thus, if only one out of those three is actually interested, she still gets her story, while the others have a sense of choice and direction.

The result, I hope, will take advantage of the inherit chaos of a LARP.  Instead of forcing players into parts, I'm directing movements and creating possibilities and paths, designed robustly enough (hence the "complexity," which really isn't complexity at all, but redundancy) that even if one element should fail, the general movement of the plot should continue and, hopefully, contain enough surprises that everyone enjoys themselves thoroughly.

How fitting, to describe a Houses of the Blooded LARP as an Opera...
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