Creating a LARP Part 3: World Building

Creating a LARP Part 3: World Building

World Building, the art of making settings from your LARPs initial idea. Regardless of what that idea is.

World building puts the focus on the place and it’s a vital part of LARP writing.

Let’s a look at making a world.

Your World Influences Your LARP Site

Set your LARP in a forest idyll and you need a site that reflects this. The same goes for a game that needs a castle or an urban dystopia. A site that can look like your world helps players. If you design a world that cannot be represented by the sites available to you then a lot of work has to go into helping your players in another way.

Compare your planned game world to your LARPs location. The bigger the difference the more you should consider doing to help set the scene.

Your Players

Make up the people in the game world. So let’s give them some help fitting in with your world building.

Costume Guides

I don’t like to say standards, that can feel a little restrictive. Instead, give out guidelines about the people they are playing would look. Unless you’re talking about an armed force we’re not talking uniform. Just get them assembling costumes that stylistically would be worn. The game will good and everyone will feel good.

Societal Rules and Phrases

People from similar places/backgrounds will talk in a similar way know what is and isn’t taboo. If you can illustrate some of these and get players following them then the game world will feel a little bit more alive.

Common Backstory

If it’s one thing that LARPers are good at its backstory for their characters. As well as the things that make these characters unique there will be larger-scale events that all the characters are aware of. Make sure you’re players have an idea of these.

Also when it comes to backstory don’t forget the power of storytelling. I’ve been in some larps were telling a story was entertaining, powerful and relevant to the event. So don’t just bung it all on a website. Consider using oral storytelling to sell the world.

Technology

We live in a technological age. I’ve no idea of what your game world will be like. But I do know that players will wonder what they can and cannot do. Consider saying that these things do exist, but these things cannot exist. Leave the rest up to your game designers and players. The dos lay the foundations. The cannot exist, will structure the world. Most other things can be worked out from there.

Religion

This is another thing that needs to be made clear. Once your players get how religion functions in your world then they will start referring to deferring to it as needed.

The Infinite List

At this point, I’m going to stop listing as there is a myriad of things you could document. It could feel that it goes on forever. The truth some details may well help your game. Others are nice to not know but perhaps not essential.

Create enough information to answer all common questions and then listen to your player’s. Their questions will flesh the world out. Do not stress over documenting everything. The input others can give you just by asking a question is valuable. Use it.

The Ongoing Story

How many stories does your world have? If it’s a one-off game then providing the event is good you do not have to worry about this. For longer LARPs, this matters.

When the first event completes will it end with hooks for future stories? Will, there be stories and arcs that the players will naturally want to resolve?

Before the first event runs, make sure you have ideas for the next one. Then look at what your players have done. Responding to them is critical.

The LARP is no longer yours

If you’ve been successful then the LARP is no longer down to just your creativity. Other people will be contributing ideas. It becomes more communal and more alive. It means you’ve done a great job of world-building

The Building a LARP Series

This is the third in a series of articles about creating a LARP from scratch. Part one, containing an index to all completed articles is here.

As always with this series, if you have experience to share on the topic of World Building please let us know so can pass that information on to other.

The end of Summer 2020 Larping Season

The end of Summer 2020 Larping Season

I hesitate to say Summer 2020 Larping season as well; we haven’t been able to LARP. This is the year where for the first time since its inception that LARP stopped.

I’m writing this in the evening of the UK end of August Bank Holiday. Normally at this point, I’d be cleaning up and recovering from a fantastic LARP. If you’re not in the UK I’ll explain. It’s the most important date in the UK larping calendar. Where our oldest and largest LARP systems run flagship events. Not to mention a host of other games are active. Regardless of whether or not you attend these, it is still a date that resonates to British Larpers.

That’s why I’m getting all reflective now. I will write from a UK perspective, as these are the conditions I know.

The big thing for me is that I’ve missed seeing all those people I would meet with at LARP events. There’s been loneliness to this year that is hard to describe. Coming with the people are the conversations. LARPers are a creative and fun breed who thrive on ideas. As much as I’ve missed the people I’ve missed those talks. Also the experience and feeling of actually being at a LARP. There is nothing quite like it

But this is not a time to feel sorry for our losses.

Its time to look to the future.

As lockdowns ease and we start to figure out how to live with Covid-19. We start to figure out how to LARP with Covid-19

2020 wasn’t just the year LARP stopped. There’s also been an outpouring of creativity. Online LARPs, all lit up. New LARPs are being developed… People have been writing, drawing, painting, making costumes and trying out new makeup. Its been a lost a year only in terms of going to events. But I think the response by the larping community means that we can look forward to good times ahead.

So I’d like to say thank you to all those souls who helped us all out by being innovative this year. I’d like to say thank you to everyone who started to plan and design new things. I’d like to say thank you to everyone who is figuring out how to play safe in a changing world.

As for myself. I’ll be there trying to figure out how to continue supporting LARP in this brave new world. Like Larp, LARPBook won’t stop. We’ll adapt.

But Don’t Forget People Still Need Your Help

We’ve lost peak LARP time; the spring/summer season of 2020. Its been nothing less than a disaster for those who need LARP for an income… So I say go and buy from a LARP Shop or Maker. Or perhaps book a ticket in advance for a future event. Let’s take a little time to help each other.

Planning The LARP Experience You Want (Creating a LARP pt2)

Planning The LARP Experience You Want (Creating a LARP pt2)

The LARP Experience

Is what you actually deliver to your players. Understanding this helps in understanding what needs to be done when creating a LARP. Knowing what your players will experience when larping helps with mythos, location, costuming and all aspects of LARP creation. Here we look at some of the options to consider.

The Types of LARP

There are many possible variations on what a LARP could be. These are some common LARP type. Note these are not genres. Instead, these are ways of running and presenting a LARP

Before getting into the list its important to remember that these definitions are loose and do vary country to country.

Fest:

A literal festival of larping. Typically a large number of players. Players are often organised into factions. Much of the drama comes from the interplay between factions. Due to a large number of players, the accommodation in a fest LARP is usually camping

Boffer:

The focus here is combat via boffer weapons. (link to enter the boffer LARP)[Here’s an older definition that we have]. Boffer weapons have a significant amount of padding. More so than many other LARP safe weapons.

Nordic:

All participants are players. The focus is on atmosphere and immersive roleplay. All players have a joint responsibility towards the success of the event. Complex rules are typically replaced by game mechanics to resolve a situation without losing the feel of the LARP.

Freeform:

LARPs that don’t rely on a complex ruleset. These often have a small number of players. It’s usual for a freeform LARP to have a repeatable scenario, that makes reruns possible. The accent is not on combat. It is normally on character and story.

Parlour:

These are often small larps. A good many parlour LARPS can be played in a restricted space, such as one or two rooms. Combat is likely to be a consequence of actions taken and not an aim in of the game itself.

BlockBuster:

The aim is big. Not on the number of players but production standards. Blockbuster players expect a very high quality of location, props and costume. This often goes hand in hand with very high immersion play and a commitment from the players to make the LARP a great experience.

Traditional LARP:

It’s a LARP with combat. There’s also roleplay and immersion. There can be specialist game mechanics. Rules can be anything from one page long to a series of tomes. For many people, this is what a LARP is. If larping was a space opera then a traditional LARP would be the human race.

The LARPing Spectrum

All LARPs are made from component elements. All of which exist on a spectrum of "quality" or "completeness" that runs from low to high. The list looks a bit like this

  • Combat: how much fighting?
  • Immersion: how deeply are you in character?
  • Length: How long is the LARP?
  • Time in Character: Are you always in character, or are there periods when play is suspended.
  • Costume: What are the costuming standards?
  • Location: How good are the facilities and how close to the reality of the game is the location?
  • Makeup and Special Effects: How far will you go with these?

It doesn’t matter for example if your LARP is low combat or high combat. What matters is that your players understand what they are signing up for and that the setting and plot of your LARP reflect this.

Every decision made here impacts on your choice on the finished game. If a location that looks like the LARPs location is not available to you; then it is impossible to run a LARP designed and advertised as having that.

If you want to write a setting that is accessible to new players then you need to figure out to organise costuming. High costuming standards can put off those who want to try out LARP (at this point they want to try the game rather than buy equipment).

The aim then is to figure out what the LARP Experience will be. So that you can solve any issues this brings. It can impact your world setting, plot, and practical elements such as location and accommodation.

The Big Picture

Getting the LARP Experience right means that all other elements slot neatly into place. You know the goals beyond writing mythos and plot. Players know their aims and everyone understands what to expect on the day.

The Creating a LARP Series

This is part 2 of a series of articles If you want to read part 1 then click here.

Creating a LARP Part 1

Creating a LARP Part 1

Creating a LARP is a fantastic experience. If you start a LARP you will have an incredible experience. If all goes well it will be incredibly rewarding.

This is the first of a series of articles that talks about all the points you need to cover when putting together a brand new, never seen before LARP.

I’m going to put a focus on building a LARP designed for ongoing play. Whilst I love one-shot LARPs, I feel that building out from single to ongoing use will be of greater value to more people.

Who is this for?

The over-riding hope is that this will help out those who want to start a LARP for the very first time. Additionally, by looking into what it takes to put a LARP together there is some hope that a wider audience of players and organisers will find something of value in this project.

Let’s get started by drawing up a list of things that need to be covered. We’ll then explore each of these in separate articles.

Creating A LARP – The To-Do List

  • What kind of LARP Experience do you want to create?
    • What style of play do you want?
    • Is this to be a high or low immersion game?
    • Will the focus be on combat, or something else?
    • What do you hope players will get out of it
  • World Building
    • Create the base story and lore
    • How to help players understand what the people and factions are like
    • What do the players know about the world events that have shaped their characters?
  • The Rules
    • Figuring out how complex the rules need to be. Does the LARP even need rules?
    • Character creation – How are characters built?
    • Documenting the safety procedures for the LARP.
    • Policies and protections. Outside of game rules and safety where does the LARP stand on the protection of its players, diversity, disability and handling prejudicial behaviour?
  • The Practicals
    • What will accommodations be?
    • How will first aid be handled?
    • How will the players and crew be fed?
    • What kind of site is required?
    • Booking a site
    • Arranging Costume and Props
    • How are you going to document the event?
    • Arranging Ticket Sales
  • Getting the Word Out
    • Using Social Media
    • Getting a website
    • Using Conventions and Fairs
    • Advertising at other LARPs.

It May Look Like a Lot But

Don’t let this put you off. It is a lot of work. But good planning and team-work will ease the load. We’ll include tips on making things manageable as we go along.

The Conversation

This is a big and ambitious series. But not so big that including the thoughts of larp designers wouldn’t help. If you have things to say about creating a LARP please pass them on to us for inclusion. We’ll make sure you get full recognition.

Acknowledgement

The first issue of this page missed entirely the important section on asking "What Kind of Experience?" I’d like to thank Hannah Lipsky for pointing this out. Here is what she eloquently had to say:

I would add an entire first section to that checklist about "what kind of experience do you want to create?" That’s something you need to know before you design the setting or the rules.

Do you want a competitive game or a game where play-to-lose is the dominant philosophy? Do you want a game that challenges people’s preconceptions or a comfortably familiar setting with some details changed? Do you want a boffer game with a lot of combat, a parlor game that’s entirely social, or somewhere in between? How valuable is immersion to you?

You need to answer all those questions and more before you can start the others. Because if you value immersion very highly, you can’t create a setting full of invisible ghosts since it’s impossible to portray invisibility without some kind of out of game mechanic. If you want a parlor game that’s entirely social, that expands what kind of sites are available to you. If you want a game that is very focused on dramatic stories, you’re more likely to have permadeath in your rules than if you want a game that’s very focused on big line battles. Etc

I’d also like to thank Sjors Van Rijswijck for pointing that that we need to mention who this for.

Next Time

We start with thinking about the game experience

Tips and Quotes Defining Larp Safe

Tips and Quotes Defining Larp Safe

A little while ago we started the process of trying to understand what LARP Safe is. You can read that post here. Then we asked several Facebook Groups what LAPR Safe meant. It’s time to look at the answers

Safety depends on the LARP

The universal answer to "is this LARP Safe?", always has been to ask your LARP.

Leah Tardivel summed it up very nicely in this response posted on larp haven

And we shouldn’t expect it. Different games have different standards because they’re played in different ways by different people. Expecting consistency limits people’s options. Expecting clarity is important, and expecting/encouraging people to take time to find to what the standards are for each game they play is also vital. Consistency shouldn’t be the goal.

Larps operate with different requirements. Assuming that whats classed as safe in one larp is classed as safe in another can be a mistake.

Tip 1: Before starting any new larp find out what equipment and actions it classes as safe. Never make assumptions about safety

A common theme was that when it came to combat that no harm is actually done, but that coming home with a few bruises is mostly okay.

Such as this one from Luke Johnson

To me, larp safe means you’re going to get hit but not wounded. Maybe bruised. Either carry a shield or go as a non-combat character. Similarly, make sure any armour won’t hurt anyone should they run into you.

Tip 2: As you larp develop a personal sense of how you keep yourself safe. Let his help you play characters and larps that suit your personal needs.

Larp Safe Weapons

Sjors Can Rijswick gave a very good definition of a larp safe weapon and also went on to mention the manufacturer Calimacil. Here’s what he had to say

For me, a weapon is LARP-safe if it actively protects the target from harm. Foam over a fibreglass or carbon fibre core, protections at the tip and pommel to protect against penetration. Equipment likewise should allow full use but edges should be rounded to prevent injury. The hardness of the foam is an often debated subject here in the Netherlands. My personal opinion is somewhat the minority vote, as most people find Calimacil foam quite hard, I find their foam safe for responsible use. With anything, LARP safety should be measured both in gear and in correct use. Stabbing with a weapon not designed for it is dangerous, stabbing with a weapon that is designed to safely stab with special tip protection in place is safe.

It’s a good working general description of a larp safe weapon. The mention of Calimacil was an important point. Calimacil make high-quality larp equipment including weapons. They frequently appear in safety discussions as although their weapons are of a very standard; and they are known worldwide; not all larps deem their weapons to be safe.

Why?

Because the manufacturing process used leads to a certain amount of hardness. Not everyone is happy with that.

Tip 3: Quality of manufacturer is not an indication that the larp of your choice will consider an item safe

This takes us back to always talking to your larp about how they test for safety and what is considered safe.

It’s not just about weapons and props

One of the most voted up comments was this one from Matt Sofar

Depends on the system. Some use blunted metal. Some a sofa on a stick. Some no physical combat at all. So safety depends on the system. Oh and the most dangerous thing I found in decades of lrp/larp was the terrain. Trees are damn dangerous things they just jump out at folks, trip them up and/or poke them in the eye.

After making the point tha weapon safety rules cross a huge spectrum he talks about the Terrain.

I completely agree with him about Terrain. I’ve been larping since the early 90’s. One of the most consistent causes of bruises and injury that I’ve seen has always been the terrain. Whether its larger items such as trees or things underfoot that you may not notice such as roots or a sudden shift in the direction of the ground.

Tripping and falling can easily hurt you far more than any larp weapon so we all have a need to look after ourselves and watch out for others.

Tip 4: Learn to be mindful of the ground around you.

We are all a part of making Larp Safe

As a rule of thumb larpers have remarkable consciences. We work together to build things that are special and look after each other as needed. This makes larp remarkable.

This quote from Emma Dewey gave me a few thoughts on the subject

What the organisers have decided is safe, and comprehensively explained to all attendees before time in! (Years ago I was hit very hard in a fight), and objected (I was wearing many layers including leather, but the blow still hurt). A nearby player told me that that was a pulled blow because I was still standing….

Safety briefings and workshops are supposed to set the standards of behaviour for a larp. Deviating from these puts challenges our own and other peoples safety. Putting in a personal bias into the mix at best sends out mixed messages at worst actually injures people.

Mentioned earlier was do no harm. This means that if someone tells you that you are hurting them then the only answer to stop acting in a way that causes hurt. We need to answer to each other in order to maintain safe behaviour during a larp.

This extends beyond combat into all aspects of the larp. If we see good ideas in running things safely we should congratulate. If we see what seems to be a bad idea then perhaps its time to ask questions.

Tip 5: All of us are responsible for safety at a larp and we need to listen to each other

Look after yourself

This last one should be obvious but so many of us are guilty of not following it. Larps take us out of our normal routine and thought processes. That is part of the appeal after all. The downside is that there is a whole list of things that we can forget to do. Including

  • Taking Medication
  • Hydrating
  • Eating Properly
  • Resting

It’s so easy to turn ourselves into a mess when larping. This leads into the final tip

Tip 6: Take breathers and check that you really are looking after yourself. A moment of self reflection and self-check is a good thing

Will we ever stop talking about safety?

Almost certainly not. Larp continues to explore new storytelling and game style horizons. That must lead to changing ideas.

Finally, Larp may portray fictional worlds but it lives in the real world. The world never stops changing. Inevitably that impacts on the thoughts that go behind running larps. And in turn on what we consider safe in a larp.

Special Mentions

I’d like to add special thanks to the following people who made a significant difference to this article

  • Leah Tardivel
  • Luke Johnson
  • Sjors Can Rijswick
  • Matt Sofar
  • Emma Dewey
Review: Cyberpunk LED Glasses

Review: Cyberpunk LED Glasses

Cyberpunk happens to be one of my favourite genres. In 2019 I got to play in Tenement 67 a couple of times. This review is all about the prop I loved most in those games. A pair of LED Glasses that were very cyberpunk.

The Video Review

Photos of the Cyberpunk Glasses

How do I get these?

Well the good news is that I found an equivalent. So click here and take a look,

Note – buying from this link will support LARPBook. So please go ahead.

What does LARP safe mean

What does LARP safe mean

Larp Safe – What is it?

If there is one phrase that all larpers know its ‘LARP Safe’. One that we all learn pretty early on is vital. After all, it’s one of the mechanics we use to keep each other out of harm’s way. 

The idea is simple. Larp safe equipment is designed not to injure. Larp safe testing proves that the gear we use is actually safe.

Yet here’s the thing. There is no single agreed-on standard. Different larps have different ideas about what is acceptable. The same is true for weapons checkers. Also, the makers of LARP gear often have their own ideas about what being safe means and how it should be tested.

Why all the variations?

There are lots of answers to that question. It can come down to a difference of opinion. Then there is who will be playing, and just how well the group will self-police. Terrain matters. So does the style of play. Insurance plays its role too.

That’s just getting started. The list could go on.

When we expand to think about internationally then further variations are possible as additional cultural and legal differences come into effect.

Is this a problem?

It can mean people travelling from LARP to another can make the wrong assumptions regarding safety. In which case yes, it is a problem. 

The Opportunity

Instead of worrying about the differences, let’s share them an build a resource. Something that would help larpers know why the nature of LARP safe shifts from place to place and LARP to LARP.

The Opportunity is that we all learn more about LARP Safe.

The Plan

Finally, we get to the plan behind this article. I’d like to create a repository of thoughts around this topic. Teaching each other what we all think safe is, and why. 

The variations we find won’t necessarily mean someone is right and wrong. Instead, we learn about the drivers behind thinking about safety. If we’re lucky everyone learns something.

How does it work?

We’ll post everyone’s thoughts on LARP safe and share them through social media. The end result should be a useful resource for anyone wanting to explore the topic.

You Can.

  • Send us a link to an existing rule or article. Use our Contact Form if you like.
  • Submit your thoughts in written form via our contact email address: [email protected]
  • Give us a link to a website where you have written about this
  • If you’ve made a video about LARP safe then, please send us the link. If it’s on Facebook please make it public so we can share it.
  • Post a video to our Facebook group. We can pick it for further distribution from there
  • Post a video the Facebook location of your choice, and let us know about it. (please make it public to help us share it)

So let’s get to it and find out what LARP safe really means

Addendum

We did, in fact, find out quite a bit about LARP Safe. Follow this link to read the larp safe tips that we picked up from the international larp community

The Taylor’d Weapons Larp Dagger Review

The Taylor’d Weapons Larp Dagger Review

For Stuart’s full review of this LARP dagger, you should refer to our video on YouTube.

Here’s the review:

I agree with everything Stuart says. He nailed this review!

Here I want to add a few thoughts of my own and some pictures for you. Let’s start with photos of this dagger to go with the video

Photos of the Dagger

The Bone Handle

Unusually for a LARP Dagger, this one has a handle made of bone. Taylor’d Weapons aren’t the first people to do this. What I want to do is talk about what that handle does to the dagger.

The Immersion Bonus

Yes, it is the “I” word. Bone handles have been on knives for thousands for years and are still sold today. I’ve handled this dagger and that handle does something. It adds an air of realism to the weapon. I find this hard to define, but the weight, hardness and shape of it make this LARP dagger feel more real.

For me, this is an immersive design, and I like things that help immersion

Is it Safe?

The handle is hard. The pommel is soft latex and foam. I think the chance of it injuring you in a fall is low. Although, I can imagine an extreme worst-case scenario where the bone splinters into sharp edges. That’s going to be enough to get it banned in some larps.

But not all.

Larp safe is a set of common ideas but not an absolute standard.

What constitutes a LARP safe weapon varies between larps. That’s appropriate. We must always think about the style of play, the player base, the environment and local culture when defining what is LARP safe.

This means that LARP safe isn’t just about the weapon. It’s also about the context it is used in.

Thinking back to my own experience would I use it? In a smaller LARP that wasn’t hugely physical, absolutely yes. In the chaos of a mass battle in a fest LARP? Probably not.

If you buy one of these then be aware that it is novel. A LARP may ban it, but that does not mean that it is not a good dagger.

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