I wrote a bit about stories in larp a while ago then along comes Ian Thomas and absolutely smashes it with this piece. It starts with the observation that larp is about the stories afterwards. About the froth, if you will. That’s when I started waving my cheerleader’s pom-poms.
Then it suggests a bit of practice: why not start your design with a list of moments you hope will make good stories afterwards, and link’em together later? Which I’m in complete agreement with; I’ve got two scratchpads on the go right now with moments I want in a couple of games I’m going to run. I’ve got one request for a prop in with a serious genius which I am pretty confident will blow people’s minds if it comes off.
I look back and I *think* the moments I really treasure weren’t given to me by an organiser, they came out of the actions of my group and the players we interacted with. (Usually. Once or twice me on me’own.) Yes, we were in a place delivered by an organiser, yes, the context for our best and most remembered efforts was in a world that was convincing, and real, and had life breathed into it – but the stories I really remember are the ones *we* made.
One of the many troubles with that belief, and I don’t expect for one moment that it’s universally held, is that my actions are so terribly unreliable as a source of stories. I have no safety net, and no-one else to blame if my stories that I made for myself aren’t good enough. Now, there’s fixes for this. For one thing, don’t expect as many of’em. I think myself that the expectations of larp are too high on both sides. Theatre has thousands of years of practice, and hundreds of hours of rehearsal. Games have thousands of hours of play-testing. Film has budgets with more zeroes than I can imagine. Larp (usually) has one take, no audition process, no player training, and no real shared vocabulary for managing expectations. Another – of course – is to rely on the organiser – and if it’s someone like Crooked House, for example, you’ll be bathed in them.
One of the things I love about larp is that is is collaborative, and interactive. The wonder you get from even the finest prop isn’t unique to our medium. I believe the sine qua non of larp design is to help people make their own wonder, to build the place, the structure, the setting, where they can surprise and delight each other.
[And one of these days, I’ll get round to drawing out the common elements of the stories I treasure and see if I can identify any themes that make’em so memorable. In the meantime. Just. Hit. Publish.]