Thoughts on playing Staff at College of Witchcraft and Wizardry: guest post by Peter Edgar, as masterful and afloat as the splendid ship Vasa.

I’ve 7 posts in draft I want get out over Christmas. This bit of copy-and-paste is perfect displacement activity… Happily, I had a post in draft called “Roles and responsibilities – the nature of “play” in player and crew characters”, and you can read this instead.Peter chose his own byline… 

When I use the word authoritative or titled (if that is even a word) it would in a CoW setting for example be applied to Headmistress, Professor, Staff or Prefect. All of these have a responsibility towards the larp as a whole. A responsibility that in many aspects outweigh their own “fun”. In a game outside the Dziobak experience (based on what I have tested) this could be applied to playing group leaders, nobles or military leaders – but to keep this more comprehensible I’ll stick to CoW

Czocha castle

And yes, this is totally my own perspective, and I try my very best to keep these expectations on me and not on other players (though I’m only human and sometimes sadly fail). After all, if a person doesn’t have the same viewpoint as me they just see it differently, it doesn’t make them worse players.  But I still figured I could try to write it down in a semi comprehensible format, because who knows? Maybe someone finds it interesting and I was a little bored at work.

You are not there for your experience.

Always cool to start with a bold statement, right? And while sure, it’s absolutely possible to have the time of your life, it should never be at the cost of players playing “normal” roles. Your function is imbedded into the larp design, and your time and work is needed to generate game, make the larp run smoother and better for the other participants.

Playing a “titled” character can be cool, and a new experience for many, but it should be handled responsibly. And the way I see it, the moment you accept playing such a character, you agree to certain terms. At the core of this principle is a question that should be asked at all steps of your character creation or larp planning  “how does this benefit the larp” And while I think that should be applied to -all- character planning, It’s especially important If you are a titled/ authoritative character. You are there to facilitate play, not bask in it.

Create normality and functionality

Your character is the representation or embodiment of parts of the design document. As such what you bring to the larp is already partially bound by the design itself. So  when aspiring to play something very unique pushes the focus of your fellow players more towards the uniqueness instead of your role or function. And while something like this could generate game, it should be created in alignment to the other “titled” characters.  For example, if many in the staff either want to play Fae, Demon affected or just unfitting as Professors it will affect the overall design and functionality of the larp.

A majority of the titled characters need to conform to standards both in character design and in action. An example of action conforming to standards would be maintaining the functionality of the Hall Passes, Point system or the assignment of punishment. And while certain individuality in design and action creates flavor and generate game, the majority of characters should follow an agreed/shared view (based on the one written in the design document).

Involvement in off game pre planning.

Not everyone playing a titled character has time to spend hours and hours of pre game planning. But there should be an expectation to at least keep updated on the agreed rules.  (that is for example If there is an agreed way of handling Hall Passes or point assignment)

Pre planning is not only tied to logistical matters, there is also game-generating plots, character presentation towards the other participants, etc.  The list can go on, but it is the responsibility of the titled or authoritative characters to help create the world and setting that the rest of the larp will enjoy. What inter-staff relations are public? What history is there at the school? Things like these work to create an “alive” school experience.

If the characters have been casted way in advance, there is no reason to not put expectations on the players portraying staff. Characters should be designed well in advance, classes should be prepared before arriving at the staff, and players should be up to date with what the staff group agrees

What was that about?

For some players this will be obvious stuff that seems self explanatory, and some might not agree on the amount of responsibility or boring off game/meta perspective needed to maintain it. I have had different comments from people when previously running these thoughts by them. And hey, we are all different, we all enjoy different things.. And that’s pretty cool.

For some though, hey maybe this was new stuff? Stuff that maybe will help put a different perspective on things next time they’ll play something tied to the ideas i semi-coherently have written about.

Summarizing the ideas into design

You can see the bullet points as a summary on  my view on player responsibility and how I would like the staff group designed to incorporate these ideas.

Structure and design and preparation

  • Group designed to enhance the game for students, not to further staff players interests and/or personal game. Personal experience should be seen as a bonus.
  • Characters written/designed to match concept.  Teacher roles are written to be perfect examples/avatars of the world, staff and subjects.  If you are planning to play Alchemy teacher, you don’t just add that subject to a premade character – you design a new character that really matches that job/concept.  
  • Characters are clear examples of the fiction. No extreme examples, but instead represents the “core” of the world. Strive for normality (see above)
  • Shared rules/guidelines.  All staff should have a set agreement/options on how to deal with point-rewarding/detentions etc. This to create a school system that is easy to understand for student players, with “normal” and foreseeable consequences. Staff group together (or Project leader/headmaster/headmistress) sets the rules, and if anyone wants to divert from standard, this is discussed beforehand.
  • Clear presentation to students. Well in advance of the larp, a character presentation document should be made. Listing and explaining all staff members, including some relations between teachers, the way they study, etc.
  • A well balanced staff. With early character creations you can set the perfect number (and degree of) evil/good characters. You can spread the tropes out and establish a movie-like perfection. This is a team effort, and the joint presentation of the staff is something that benefits everyone.
  • Shared class design. This means that all classes are open for inspiration between teachers, and also means that they can reference/continue class themes between classes
    “As you have been taught in Magical Defence..”

Responsibilities/rules

  • Follow set school guidelines. While this doesn’t mean that all teachers should for example reward/deduct points the same way, but it does mean that they should work within the same parameters. (as mentioned in the above section)
  • Follow timeframe.  Present your character by given timeframe. Have your classes ready by given timeframe.
  • Present your class. Make sure that people know how your class is handled. What kind of things do you have prepared? Make it possible for players to be interested, give them a chance to opt in/out.
  • Focus on students. Be available for students during the larp, do not focus on relationships between characters in the staff if this makes you unavailable to the student players.
  • Uphold the authority/visual identity of the staff.  Contribute to the feel, bring items that contributes to the larp or teacher’s lounge. Make sure that the shared premises (ex staff lounge) are kept free of trash/items not in line with the visual representation of the group.
  • Provide off game support.  Staff group can greatly help in spreading and producing material that helps the larp and houses. Relationship matrixes, Hall passes, etc.
  • Come prepared with extracurricular activities. All Staff members need to be prepared with extra assignments that they can provide to students. Student players might be bored, asking for help by asking for home-work or assignments. It is your job to provide this.
  • Don’t steal game from students.  If there is a conflict between students. Stay out of it unless they explicitly asks you to solve it for them.

Example of introduction sheet for a faculty member. Used before CoW18.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on playing Staff at College of Witchcraft and Wizardry: guest post by Peter Edgar, as masterful and afloat as the splendid ship Vasa.

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