Not so very long ago I announced that I would be reviewing the Larpcraft rules. This all came out of talking via email to one of Larpcrafts organisers who made the suggestion to me. It was a welcome thought. I’ve been aware of Larpcraft for some time. Primarily due to some postings on the Google+ LARP group and also a number of videos on Youtube.  However my little bit of background knowledge made me think that  a cold looking at the rules might not be the best way of going about this task.

So on February 5th I wrote a post asking for insight from Larpcraft players. I had originally intended to include replies as part of the review. That turned out to be impossible. What I had back were detailed and passionate accounts of the Larpcraft experience. That gave me an immensely positive start. I would urge you to go back to the post and read all of these comments. It is enlightening  Here is the link you need:

Having the best start possible I was nervous looking at the rules. Partially because  I did not want to offend anyone who loved their system but also because US Larp as a whole doesn’t have the greatest reputation amongst a lot of UK players. From a British point of the view US Larp often look as if its polarised into combat heavy “boffer” games and “theatrically” styled games. This kind of distinction doesn’t really matter  or even exist for a lot of UK players where Larp is Larp. Different systems have different ways of doing things and that’s about it. You simply play in the style you enjoy most. Of course this is also a cultural bias.

The good new is that I shouldn’t have been nervous. Someone in Larpcraft has thought long and hard about the “how” to play and Larpcraft is designed from the ground up for combat days for those who want to get good at Larp fighting right through to heavily immersive and character driven games for those who prefer something else. This immediately gave it much more of a UK or European feel than I was expecting. It also meant to me that a wide range of players could be catered for – and that is a great thing.

The core rules of the game are also simple and easy to follow. I always look for this. A game that is too complex may burden players, or deter new players. The basic rules of Larpcraft are easy to learn. That’s another positive score.

This doesn’t mean to say that the rules lack substance. Get beyond the basics and you enter the realm of character development and you will find a lot of detail and advice (I liked the advice). Before I go on I need to mention that there are separate rule sets for different genres. Right now there are play tested rules for fantasy and zombie apocalypse games. On the way are rules for a Galactic SF, Time Travel and Cowboy Steampunk. I’m basing this review on the most mature of these – the Medieval / Fantasy rules which are now in version 4 of their development.

This is important as Larpcraft is seeking to be a club that goes beyond running a single type of game. This is highly ambitious but I think that Larpcraft is organised enough to pull this off.

For each game type there is an online system  that tracks character development. This assists in fair play by making sure all character development is fair. It also makes it easier for players to travel between events, or take part in online character development sessions.

I specifically mentioned travel between events as  Larpcraft has a colony structure. I’m going to briefly mention this  – but I may expand on it in a future article. Colonies are groups of larpers who run games using one or more of the Larpcraft systems. In theory a character from one colony can turn up in another colonies game. In other words the rules and  organisational structure make it easy for players to visit other groups or for multiple groups to get together in large scale games. Its a bit like the Larp equivalent of Starbucks. It doesn’t matter where you go- you know things are going to be done in the same way and that everyone has got to their point in the game world via the same system. It also means there is a central structure supporting games organisers. I’ve run Larps in the past and it is hard work. The organisers at Larpcraft seem to recognise this and as a result have built a structure that offers individual creativity and support. Remembering the size of the US and that Larpcraft has international leanings this is is  essential.

Pause for breath.

You must have noticed that I’ve been impressed. That is absolutely true.

Have I found any down points? In the rules not really.  For the sake of immersion members of Larpcraft are encouraged to interact online using character identities. I get this, but perhaps its my British reserve but I like to chat online as me. The only exception is if I am doing online character development and then of course I have to talk as the character and role-play it. But if that is my only reserve then I would have to say that I have one big thumbs up for Larpcraft.

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