Making Your Live Action Role-Playing Game Accessible: Part 2 of 3
In the first part of this series, I talked about what you can do to enable your players to have a good time at your Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) game before the game even begins. Today, I’m going to write about what should happen during the game: how to start the entertainment and keep the ball rolling. Your players are at the least teenagers and able to entertain themselves, but you have to facilitate that with an interesting, complex game world.
First, start on time. If you say the game is going to start at nine, start it at nine. Not all of your adventures are ready to go yet? That’s fine! Send cast members to interact in town. Some of the best times I’ve ever had were as a random non-player character who’s come into the area to gossip. You can get information out as the old farrier come into the tavern for a drink, the Duke’s footman complaining about his boss, the farmer selling apples.
Keeping your players informed is the most important way to keep them entertained. Assume that you’ll have to drop the same information several times and several different ways if you want it to be widely known, and that if you want it to be believed, you’ll have to put it in writing. You can cause all manner of conflict with a rumor. The best part about using in-game gossip to cause conflict is that it doesn’t require the presence of a non-player character.
Consider also setting up in-game sites to visit around your play area. A crime scene can really add to your story and requires minimal cast attention. Do you have reports of a mercenary army in the area? Plant the remains of their campsite. Work with the play area you’re already using. For example, a well becomes a wishing well with a history in the area. A treehouse becomes a lookout point. A creepy footbridge
becomes a creepier footbridge. If you add incentive to explore, like in-game coins, materials and plot items, your players will happily form adventuring parties and go off on their own.
When you’re playing at a convention, you’ll be limited in scope when creating your setting. This might mean an additional suspension of disbelief on the part of your players. It’s up to you to create a setting that makes them want to do this. Your cast should be entertaining. In this situation, subtlety is less important than keeping people involved. If you have a tavern setting, you can grab people’s attention with a storytelling barkeep, a bard busking in the corner, a town drunk gossiping about the plot, maybe a gambler wrangling players for a game.
You can easily run a LARP that’s just an inn with interesting locals in the middle of an interesting setting, but if you have a big enough cast, you can run adventure trails. Adventures don’t have to be about just going out and killing woodland creatures, they can involve physical obstacles, riddles, puzzles and good role-playing.
Ideally, any adventure trail should have elements to interest a diverse group of players. If your game involves rogues, give them something to do besides sneaking up on the enemy and stealing pocket change. Set traps to be disarmed and locks to be picked. Depending on your game’s rules and budget this can mean anything from having a cast member rolling dice to actually building a trap or lock to be disarmed and picked.
Consider building physical challenges. This can mean something as simple as a trail scattered with twigs with a sleeping monster nearby. Players have to traverse the path silently to avoid waking the monster. This offers options: they can sneak, fight, or seek another solution if they have any in-game abilities that apply. This sort of thing allows even a player who’s used up all of their game skills for the day to enjoy themselves and stay involved.
One of the draws of live-action gaming is that it lets players do things they might not in real life. This can mean slaying a wild boar or brokering an international peace treaty. The more options your game has, the bigger a player base it can attract, and the more people will stick around to play.
In short: keeping your players isn’t about spending big money on props or throwing endless waves of monsters their way. It’s about intriguing stories and challenges, and creating a world where they can act as a character for a few hours.
I’ve talked about what to do to convince your players to play and to keep them interested. The next article in this series will be about why players leave, and what you can do to keep your game a safe, harassment-free place.