Writing for a larp
So, I have done some writing for two larps now. This does not make me the worlds leading expert, but it has given me some fodder for thought. The process of writing for a boffer larp is interesting and worthy of a few notes beyond the usual sort of world creation skills.
Let me first say, that I am concentrating on boffer larps in this post and future ones. This is not to say anything bad about the parlor larps. I have had fun in the Camarilla and other parlor style larps. I have written some weekend vampire games in my time. What I will say is, they are different. Writing a world that happens essentially in the real world only with a supernatural overlay, is not quite the same as making a whole new world and rules set. They each have their own challenges.
On to the subject at hand though. The standard boffer larp is a fantasy larp. There are certainly some that have claims to other genres, but if analyzed beyond the few trappings, they are all still fantastical. If your in a scifi larp and the psionics in it strongly resemble spell casting from fantasy, then it is not really science fiction. Star Wars is not science fiction. It is more accurately called Science Fantasy, I guess.
Why is the distinction important? On some levels it is not, but what it does effect is expectation. I can write a detailed larp about investigating a new scientific principal expanded out into a concept piece. It might make good fiction. It is unlikely to make a good larp, though. Players of boffer larps, are expecting looking for fantastical and adventurous elements. The expectation is a place where they can be heroes(or anti heroes) and not spend days and months trying to figure out a scientific puzzle. They will want a blaster, a sword, and some sort of power that will allow them to be awesome. This places it more in the fantasy genre.
So more generally though, where do you start? I suppose that depends on your approach. I know several folks who started with “I don’t like this aspect of existing larp blah.” That is a place to start. When you first get in to such games, your just happy to find the game. After a while though, you will find there are aspects you feel you could do better. The story elements might not be to your taste or the rules may be bothersome. What ever the reason, you don’t like game A and you seek to improve it in game B. This will lead to a game with a lot of similarities to the original game. It leads to iterative game development. If you want to see a good example of this, compare the national level larp Nero, to it’s various spin offs.
Another place to start is a mechanic. This may be related to not liking an aspect of a previous game but does not have too be. This is really the place a lot of the rules oriented people tend to start. Say you have a cool idea for how to do magic differently, or martial skills. You define that idea and then begin building a world to match those notions. If you magic system is purely based on writing spells out on a sheet of paper and destroying those papers to cast the spell, then you need to think of what kind of world would come of that. What sort of mages would come up? How powerful are they? How do they compare to guys with a sword? It seems like the guy with a sword would be more dangerous in personal combat because his effects happen in less time, but you would need to process out the magic system to be sure.
A place I prefer is start with the world and make the rules to suit your vision. If you picture a low magic world where mages are few and far between, then you will design the magic to more difficult than just saying a few words and casting. If you want the world to be ruled by wizards then you might make magic easier to do for those who have it, but make it hard to get. What ever the story and the theme for a world, they will need to influence the rules.
Generally though, it is a combination of those various starting points going on that leads to a larp being started. One guy says “Hey, I have an idea for a larp.” and gets a few friends to help him write it. They all have different starting points and reasons.
Another thing to keep in mind is….YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GET PAID FOR THIS.
Seriously, writing for a larp is a labor of love. You just have to love larping and running them to do it. It will be lots of work for no pay, save people telling you they liked your stuff. If you are concerned about getting paid for your work, write for someone else. Write fiction or for the tabletop gaming market if you must. Neither of those pay super, but it will be more than you get from writing for a larp.
Also, this is a job for a committee. Generally speaking most boffer larps cannot be run by just one man. You have to write a fully formed world, character creation rules,combat rules, flavor text for a website and run plot lines in said world. It might work for one guy to do it for maybe a dozen people, but much beyond that and you are asking for it to fail. it is too much work.
As it is a committee, try and work with people you know and like. Plot committees historically are the source of much wailing and gnashing of teeth. You get together more than 3 creative personalities all working on the same project but from different direction. They all have their vision of how things should go, their own level of organization skills, and their own style of running things. It is trying on a friendship and considering the above mentioned not getting paid, your stress level for no pay can put a strain on anyone’s patience. Blow ups will happen.
Try and work with people who you know will come to their senses after a blow up. Work with people who can let go of an idea in favor of letting a prevailing idea win out. Try and be able to do that yourself. Try to avoid folks with control issues or ego problems. No one is perfect and always right, not even you.
Anyways that is my first post on this subject. I will post more later.