Ok, so even more than usual this is a work in progress, this is what I think good lrp is right now at 5pm on a late May afternoon after a couple of good chats with folk which got me to actually hit publish. I’m told manifestos are so last decade, and the cool kids have communiques. I’m going to have a model, something I can hold up against an event concept and see how it could be more like this. I use Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema as examples to illustrate what I mean partly because they aren’t lrp, but they are nearby… I could use actual lrp games, but I can’t imagine a way to start a flame war faster.
In the sense that Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema use the word, I think. In an environment which is authentic to a setting, with participants who are dressed and act authentically to the setting. Note, “a” setting – Plunkett and Maclean is my favourite example – it’s lousy at being authentic to Regency Britain, but it’s fabulously authentic to “Plunkett and Macleancy Britain.”. Which is an altogether better place to play in anyway.
Yes, you can patch anything with imagination, and yes, many/most games I run you need to. But I think imagination is overrated in larp. What sets larp apart from tabletop is physical presence, and there are stories to be told where tabletop is simply a better vehicle. Let it have them, and reserve larp for the stories it tells best, the ones where you can be physically immersed in an environment. (*)
To my mind, if a story cannot be influenced, it is not a larp, it’s a play. If a decision does not have consequences that are reflected by the world, it’s not an action. The Punchdrunk events I have been to are only modestly interactive: you’re never in control of the interaction, they are. I tend to use words like “lever” to encapsulate this kind of thing – the idea that the world is a system you can bend to your will somehow. Secret Cinema: Moulin Rouge is more like lrp in that respect, in my experience anyway. While you aren’t and cannot be in charge of the big arc, it does respond to your actions on the next step down.
This is a right pig sometimes, because some of the immersioning I want to do requires set dressing ahead of time, groups of non-player characters to be move to somewhere specific at just the right moment, things to go bang at the right moment, and not some other moment, that kind of thing. And the sign-posting to these scenes kinda stands against interactivity in the active sense I want it, the sense where every interaction has an effect. What of that effect is to kill one of the scenes I want to bring a really cool moment to life? Heigh-ho. No-one ever said this was easy. (**)
As in “Inspires participants to action”. You must be able to make a difference and you must want to make a difference is something I think Matt Pennington said about good lrp once. Part of this is inherent in consequences – if the world recognises and reflects your actions positively, you’ll be more likely to actually do things. Big things. Impactful things. Part of it is leaving sufficient space for the players to make an event their own, so they bring their imagination to the party as well, so they bring their things to do. Small things, maybe, but personal things perhaps, relationships that mean a lot to their characters or stunts that bring others into the action. I’m in the habit of calling character goals “Ambitions”, because that’s the word we used in Game of Roses. Either way, things that’ll talk about for years later, anyway. (See rants passim. about froth and stories, and Ian Thomas’s thinking about moments…)
I don’t mean to suggest an action should only have a positive effect. An action should not produce a positive effect *simply because a player took it*. Heroism cannot be granted., it can only be earned. However, to my mind the world should try damned hard to say “That was a good thing to have done”, as well as “You did that thing. Here are the consequences.”. “That was a good thing to have done”, as opposed to “that was the Best Thing! Have many biscuits and a bear which is the perfect shade of Bloo!”. I’m aware I’m verging on the incoherence here. I think I am saying that every defeat should be a Dunkirk. I find this extraordinarily hard to manage, myself.
So. Work in progress. It’s a bit thin as yet, but give it time and I’ll try use it to measure up an event or two.
And it doesn’t actually mention characterisation much, now I re-read it, which is probably a weakness – or at least an admission of guilt.
(* Yes, I use “immersion” in the sense of physical rather than emotional or mental immersion. I have no doubt your model will be different to mine.)
(** I guess there *are* people who think running good lrp is easy. My reaction to them is usually some variant of “Ho. Ho. Ho.”)
ETA: As pointed out by one of the wise, an earlier version didn’t explicitly require “participants to be playing a character rather than being themselves”, which was a bit revealing to me, and this current one does. I think there’s something there in the sort of “my body is a puppet” roleplaying I do, and the “I become my character” roleplay which others do. Something to ponder anyway. I’d also forgotten to mention “ambitions”, which are in now.)