Making Your Live Action Role-Playing Game Accessible: Part 1 of 3
This is a hard time for expensive hobbies like Live Action Role-Playing. People have less discretionary income and your game can’t afford to turn away or repel players. You have a limited amount of time to capture players’ attention. Believe it or not, the key to gaining your players’ hearts and minds isn’t spending a huge sum of money on props and costuming. The key is to remove the obstacles between the player and the game.
What does this mean? It means a player should be able to play the moment the game begins. In a Live Action Role-Playing game, this can mean anything from participating in a bar brawl to gambling to court intrigue. Each of those situations is going to require different skills and tools, and you will have to provide them for your players. This is particularly true when you’re running a game at a fan convention — you’ll have new players who didn’t necessarily plan on attending your event.
In this series, I hope to highlight a few problems that are common at Live Action games and offer solutions to them. I have about eight years of LARP experience in just about every genre. I haven’t played every system out there, but I can offer a lot of perspective.
Let’s start before the game begins: your website. Look at your website like someone new to your game might. What’s missing? Can a new player make a character based on the information available there? Are you using published system like White Wolf or NERO? Have you directed your potential players to the information they need? If you’re running a play test, or your area has certain house rules, they should be publicized so that players can learn as much about their own skills as they’re able to before the game.
This advice also applies for a convention game. If your information is all available online, you should either have multiple printouts or a computer with internet access. Extra points if you have more than one computer to do this on site.
When the player arrives, how are they greeted? If you’re at a public park that’s locked after hours and needs a code to get through the gate, you need to publish that on your website and make it available to new players. (If this sounds oddly specific, that’s because it is.)
If you want to encourage people to come and bring their friends, the face of your game needs to be friendly. You’re not being paid and your new players aren’t customers, but you need to value them like they are! This doesn’t mean grovelling, this just means smiling. Say hello. Don’t glower, and don’t sigh heavily when they have questions. If you’re the kind of person who can’t handle this part, don’t do it! New players bring enthusiasm and vitality and make your game sustainable.
This goes doubly for conventions: be NICE. You have a few hours to make a good impression, and it’s easy for your players to wander off to find something more interesting to do.
Next, new player orientation. A good game will handle this by having someone helping to make characters. If you’re a convention game, pre-generated characters are a lifesaver. If you have an experienced player talking new ones through their skills before the game even starts, you’ll have fewer stumbling blocks during game play.
New player training should always include a rundown of how combat works. Do you have combat control words? This is the time to practice them. Give out loaner weapons and costuming, make sure everyone is comfortable. It’s better to find out you can’t fight in a mask before the game starts.
Finally, before game on even happens, dispense starting supplies. Players should be able to play from the moment the game starts. This means if there’s in-game currency, hand out a few pieces to each player before game-on.
One example of bad planning involved new players having to buy their spellbooks in-game. This would have been fine, except that new players are not given starting currency. To get currency, you had to kill things. As a caster I had no way of killing things without my spells, which could be found in a spellbook that I would have to buy. The staff eventually understood this problem when I pointed it out… but I wasted a good chunk of everyone’s time trying to make this understood.
A lack of starting currency is one of the most frustrating things you can experience as a new player. It’s not fun. It eliminates one of the ways you can interact in the game world. You can’t gamble or buy beverages in the tavern, and the tavern is often the best way to socialize. It’s also incredibly hard to kill things as a new player unless you’re innately good at combat. I highly recommend giving your players starting supplies instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.
To recap: if you want to lure in new players, make it easy on them.
In the next part of this article, I’ll be talking about how you can enable players to create their own entertainment during the game.