I’m writing this on the 22nd of March 2020. Social distancing is required as is self-isolation. Many of us are working from home whilst others have been laid off or are forced not to work. Some countries are in lockdown. The UK is trying to let people do the right thing. It remains to be seen if enough will. The Covid-19 pandemic is unlike anything any of us have ever seen.
Amidst this chaos, and the need for isolation the larping community are looking for ways for the hobby to continue to be an active and positive part of their lives. Larping is inherently a social activity. Depending on social contact with others. So what happens when we can no longer get together?
This is an attempt to look at both the technology and techniques that could be used to bring larpers together when events are not possible. Some of these ideas are recommendations are personal experience. Others stem from ideas I’ve seen online. I don’t believe it’s possible to correctly give credit to the people whose ideas I’ve seen. I would like to say thank you for putting them out there to be shared and distributed.
The Technology of Remote Larp
The good news here is that there are lots of options. This list is not exhaustive. I’m not sure it could be. These are however all good options. I’m also only focussing on those that are free to use. You’ll find that some of the items here are login in and use. A few require installation on a webserver. These are included as there is a lot of technical skill amongst larpers, and the resources to do this.
A free text and voice chat service specifically designed for communities and games
Almost needing no introduction. Long used by larps as an organisational tool, don’t discount it as a place for conversation
Mastodon enables are free and private social media. Think of it as being Twitter just for your group of people. Interestingly Mastodon can federate between individual Mastodon installations. Giving the possibility of opening up the conversation if desired.
An oldie but a goodie. Its ability to handle conversations is well known
Used by a great many. This is another first-rate free group messenger
Not messaging but open documents. I’d imagine this as a great place for larp letter writing, or group planning
phpBB is a venerable but great bulletin board. Allowing for varied group discussions. The actual list of available bulletin boards is vast. So we’ve just picked on one of the best here
Designed to support remote tabletop RPG games. I see no reason for putting this into play for creating online larps
Ideas for Remote Larp
It’s ok having technology at your disposal, but how do you use it? So here are a few ideas
Agree a time to meet up online. Simulate that you’re character has been out doing things or travelling. Around the campfire talk about what would have happened. Regale each other with past glories and gossip about what may be happening.
The Mead Hall
Any bar setting will do but I’m calling it a Mead Hall as I’ve stolen the idea the Wolves Faction are Curious Pastimes who have built a Mead Hall in a Facebook group and at the time writing the role-play is building up. The idea is not unlike a The Camp Fire idea. Create a space for conversation exist and let the Role Play do the rest.
Once upon a time, all remote communication was accomplished with letters. Imagine if you will that your character needs to converse with another character further afield a letter needs to be written. So write your letter. Of course, we shouldn’t be posting physical letters in isolation. Send your letter by email etc. Keep the letters as separate files so that they can only be read as "letters". Use them in future events
Play a Larp
Using a scenario. Get online and talk you through playing an actual game. Talk in character. Do video – and wear your character’s costume. Use a referee from your larp and keep things in line with the main plot. See where a few hours online can take you. Someone should document this session so that what happens online stands a chance of being integrated into the main larp.
Crafting In Character
Lots of games have rules for crafting items. Allowing for special in-game items to be made and maybe traded. Extend the crafting rules online and let players role-play their following of the crafting process online. Players get a chance to better learn an aspect of the game. Items can be made ready for the next event. Just one thought – not too many special items. Care must be taken to maintain game balance here. Don’t be silly with is.
Learning to Craft for real
If you can’t larp why not learn to make things. Try your hand at leatherwork, weapon making, sewing, carving, 3d printing etc. Setup a self-help group with some friends and learn a new skill and make costumes, props and weapons for your next larp.
Create a Shared Story
Start a shared story. Put of the broad theme, location and starting conditions of the story. Then open it up to let others add a little at a time. As each person tells part of the tale it develops. Each new segment adds something unique to what has come before. It is surprisingly like larping. Very organic and stemming from the creativity of its contributors. Try using it to tell side stories from your larp.
Develop and Share Character Backstories
Larpers are generally good at backstories. So take the time to better develop those of characters you have or have intended to play. Don’t stop there though. If can come up with any more put them out there for your larp community to take a look at. It might help develop the larps world a little, and help new larpers when play resumes.
Thoughts around online
A few things to think about when you are engaged in online play. These particularly apply to video or audio calls and come from experience with recording our shows and interviews.
You need to get an idea out and talking at length feels like the right idea. This isn’t true, it just seems like it. Put out your idea in smaller bite-sized chunks. Develop it in conversation with others. One person talking at length can be boring. It stops discourse and often puts too much out in one go for a reasonable conclusion. So keep things short.
Don’t talk over each other
When a lot of people talk at once online the conversation can collapse into babble. Let one each person complete what they are saying and work from there. Consider assigning the role of the referee or moderator to someone. Just to make sure everything is fair and even.
Assign a record keeper
Key outcomes may need to be written down for later reference. Don’t rely on everyone’s shared memory. Make someone a dedicated keeper of the notes. Make those notes available to everyone after the session so that corrections and extensions can be made. Also shared to the larps organiser if needed.
Consider recording the session
Only d0this with everyone’s permission! Record the session and share it out to other players of your larp. In fact, why not put it out on Youtube for other larpers to watch. We should all be helping to entertain each other in these dark days
Consider Using Facebook Live or YouTube Live
If you’re doing an online event let people know and think about broadcasting it live. This could be a real boon to everyone
Self-isolation is not a natural larper state of affairs. Do what you can to stat in touch, have fun and keep things going. If you are running something online don’t to publicise it on Social Media. If you let LARPBook know we’ll do what we can to help get the word out.
The important thing is to stay safe, stay well but also to stay in touch and keep the larp fires burning.
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