Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Beats in a Blood & Smoke LARP

Blood & Smoke is the latest edition of Vampire: the Requiem and it works out experience points a little differently than most.  Rather than earning a full experience point for an action, you instead gather partial XP called beats that combine into a single experience point on a 1 for 5 basis allowing you to slow down its accrual and reward multiple aspirations and conditions rather without flooding your players with experience points.

Naturally in a LARP of 20 players it starts to look a little complicated so here is an example of my LARP's excel spread sheet which I update several times a month to reflect my player's actions.  After every session I tally up the experience points and award them (typing them up in people's Downtime threads) and then I tally up the remaining beats and add them to the next month's Roll Over column.

Since people are also capped at earned experience points equal to Campaign Months x 2 (i.e. you can only earn a total of 12 XP by the end of the sixth month), I also need to pay attention to such caps though no one has ever met that growing cap yet.

Here's an image of the spread sheet columns to give you an idea of its complexity though naturally it's far longer as there's 20 different players at present (click it to enlarge):

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vampire: the Requiem (Status Perks)

Since status isn't something purchased but earned during gameplay, it can be difficult convincing people (especially Australians) of the value of seeking out such status.  After all, if you keep getting invited into the back rooms, your status is ranked at a higher level anyway so why push it?

 So here are some of the perks of city status: 

The current city law entitles vampires to a block of feeding grounds per rank of status which is enough to provide a feeding check bonus on the Valued (+1), Respected (+2), and Admired (+3) levels.

The higher ranked kindred become sensitised to their underlings and so get a number of points equal to their Status -1 to learn tidbits about their underlings on a successful Wits + Politics roll.  The cost to gather this information is also dependent on the target's status.  The cost per hint is equal to the target's Status so none can use this strategy to learn details of the Admired Kindred in the city.

Finally kindred are innately hierarchical in order to keep the Beast at bay.  The nature of those hierarchies and the meanings behind them may vary, but they still form a vital structure.  Therefore Kindred regain a point of willpower whenever they accept a valid order from above or when the order they give is accepted.  If the Kindred is already full up on willpower, they instead immediately spend it on an action or a tip to how best to fulfil or assist with the fulfilment of the order.  This doesn't count for boon trades unless the lesser ranked vampire accepts a far more trivial boon than what the task is worth.

I'm trying to think up a few more small but interesting ways to attract interest in city status itself because it provides an information struggling point.  It doesn't just encourage politics in a PvP sense.  Simply by revealing your successes and accomplishments, taking charge of difficult situations and successfully resolving issues between rivals, you can increase your standing so even in a deeply PvE game there are benefits to an urge for hierarchy.  

Otherwise there's surprisingly little incentive to share plot other than being a good gamer since letting others know about particular plot lines you are following means that it may be changed, warped or even stolen away from your character.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Feeding Checks in my Vampire LARP (Take Two)

Since the main way to trouble a vampire is to lay the pinch of it's blood supply, I have been giving each character a feeding check prior to each game.  These feeding checks take in a lot of information to come up with a fair analysis of different people's abilities.  There's an article somewhere within this blog about how it works but it's become all the more complicated so I thought I would regale you all again.

First you begin with the amount of blood they had from the last session.  Unless they need to feed off vampire blood, it is assumed that they are capable of maintaining their current blood supply minus any healing required.

Then we move onto the typical Attribute + Skill roll to reflect their hunting technique and gain the successes in blood.   Record both the bonus and the actual number on the dice to check for feeding mishaps.

Add the bonuses from certain disciplines that synchronise with that skill (+1 blood for the use of Majesty, Dominate or Obfuscate).

Subtract a -2 penalty for any feeding restrictions taken (not including animal or human basic restrictions but does include attempts to avoid the Daeva bane triggering).

Add the Rack bonus (ranges from 1 to 5 with all racks beginning at 2 at the start of the campaign) as a single use blood bonus.  This encourages PCs to build up their own racks and perhaps undermine the racks of other people.  Since my Adelaide is divided by gloom patches which crisscross the city and can wipe out an errant vampire attempting to cross them … rack accessibility becomes very important.

Add +2 bonuses for the custom Coil of Ascetic at both the Binge Drinking and the Carrion Feeding levels (presuming they can eat their victim's carrion).  Having to use Feeding Below One's Beast overwrites the use of Binge Drinking as they cancel each other out.

Add the feeding grounds bonus as a single benefit for the first feeding check.

Use Herd only if there's a need for it.  Otherwise do not use Herd so that they can sell them later on or call upon them during the session.

If more blood is required, ask the player if they would like to spend further downtimes on feeding.

A very complex system but one that makes the Rack Building Mini-Game, Herd and Feeding Grounds more important.   Bear in mind, also, that the current city law entitles vampires to a block of feeding grounds per rank of status which is enough to provide a feeding check bonus on the Valued (+1), Respected (+2), and Admired (+3) levels.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Engaging LARP Players to Help Immersion

While some LARPs prefer to keep most matters on the level of player imagination, some attempt to re-create elements of the game world to engage their player's five senses to help them better connect with the situation.  Since most LARPs don't earn enough of a profit to utilise top-notch venues or purchase epic props, and most LARP GMs don't have either the personal finances or storage space to provide it themselves, it's important to tap into the resources of your player base to get that higher end game.

                Note that I don't mean you should start handing out invoices or demanding people purchase various goods and if no one has what you're looking for than you just need to go without.  Expecting players to pony up the funds for items you want isn't fair either.

                Oh no, what I'm talking about are using communication and gratitude to ensure that players have the opportunity to assist with game immersion and are rewarded for doing so.  If you need something for your game and you have a steady membership, ask if anyone either has the prop or has ideas for how you might cobble together a basic version of the prop.  If no one responds, that's fine.  If they do, fantastic.  Thank them and take their ideas on board.

                This is a really good idea for small things that may still be costly to have to keep providing.  If you need something to represent herbs, seeing if anyone has a lavender bush that they're willing to cut bundles off is much more cost-effective than going off and purchasing lavender yourself.  If a toy version of the item can work, such as a stethoscope, you could always put out a call out for that as well in case people have the item in their toy chests.

                Sometimes players may be able to loan you larger items as well so don't fear asking if someone has a portable barbeque, trestle tables, table cloths or Christmas trees that they don't mind bringing to the game for a night.  You'd be surprised what people have knocking around in their sheds and if you have the storage space, you might find they're willing to literally give you extra chairs, tables and the like.  Many players want to invest and feel like they're a real part of the LARP's success and will go to great lengths to help the LARP if you give them the chance.

                When you're running a LARP campaign, I'd also recommend being flexible and inventive with the items they bring.  In other words, if a player is super excited about making an edible jelly heart, find a way to include that in the game.  Don't make the session rely on it if they haven't done it before as no one needs that pressure, but consider it for either atmosphere or a standalone puzzle.  If you keep saying "no" or being uncertain about offerings, your players will stop making those offerings as they may start to feel like the offerings themselves are unwelcome and that's not a good place to be.

                You want to get the players used to thinking in terms of how they can pitch in with you, give them a sense of ownership of the game and you want to help them get their creative juices going.  If they're only ever responding to lists, they'll either switch off or even just forget to mention their own creativity abilities.  Plus it can be a really good way to get your own inventiveness going when a player brings something nifty to your attention.  You'll be surprised by what you can come up with.

                Where people donate or provide items for game, you should certainly make a point to thank them by name on occasion.  It doesn't have to be a public thanks every time, especially if the player doesn't like such public commendations, but certainly show your gratitude on behalf of the game.  This is far more important to most players than any experience point burst and I have had success in my game going by this alone.  This isn't to say that you can't reward people with experience points as it's a nice and tangible way to say thank you, but you shouldn't rely on it.  At the very least, a more public reward makes the other players realise that it's an option and helps create an "All In" mentality where the players themselves feel like partial owners of the game rather than passive consumers and customers.

                And this last point is equally important.  As a LARP organiser, you are almost certainly a volunteer and while their assistance is helping you realise your vision, your vision is meant to be a framework within which they can design their own characters arcs and play their own paths.  Sure, feel sincerely thankful for being part of such a great community full of wonderful players that want to pitch in, BUT don't take on a humble, submissive, I'm-Not-Worthy mentality unless you want a quick road to resentment, bitterness and burn out. 

                It's hard to feel good about something when you sink unpaid hours into it and yet expect yourself to beg for scraps of player assistance.  It's a destructive and unhealthy habit encouraged by too many GMs online to combat the old school and equally unhealthy God GM arrogance.  You are a volunteer.  It is good to ask for help.  It is good to delegate.  Don't be mean about it, respect your players limitations in time, money and investment, and you'll be fine.  No one likes an unnecessary martyr.  Breathe and ask!

                Building a LARP community around your games where everyone is welcome and able to contribute is a far better model than using a customer service model where volunteers must sink in hours of service provision at the beck and call of consumers.  But that's a whole other tangent worthy of an article of it's own.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Possible LARP Benefits of Status

The following is something I am considering for my vampire LARP to make the status game a bit more interesting and give people more incentive to either increase their own status or decrease another person's status.


·         The high status characters must delegate, where possible, duties and dangerous actions to the low status characters, because High status characters are better informed about various plots and so if they do not delegate plot solutions, it is more difficult for low status characters to stay involved.  This is further emphasised by the general differences between the experience point pools of those who are high status and thus generally older and those who are low status and generally younger.  Luckily those who are high status are, by default, allowed to delegate.

·         Those who refuse to accomplish any delegated actions without payment and act as though they are high status are welcome to do so but they will be under the same plot restrictions as those who are high status.

·         Those with more status gain more feeding grounds and thus gain free dots in that merit equal to their Status -3 to reflect the number of blocks they have been assigned.

·         While the Low have plenty of reasons to hide their actions from the High, the High have plenty of experience and a fair amount of reason to sniff out those actions.  Thus those with High Status may ask simple Yes / No questions about other characters that reflect the kind of insight gained from gossip, body language and information one might gather from myriad conversations over the week.   This can be avoided by avoiding all other vampires but they will be told if you do that.

o   Each character has a certain amount of Insight Points equal to their Status - 2. 

§  Valued characters have 1 Insight Point.

§  Respected characters have 2 Insight Points.

§  Admired characters have 3 Insight Points.

o   Asking a question about a target costs a number of Insight Points equal to the target's Status.  

§  Respected and Admired characters cannot be queried in this way. 

§  Valued cost 3 Insight Points per question.

§  Recognised cost 2 Insight Points per question.

§  Acknowledged cost 1 Insight Point per question.

o   You can spread your questions among several characters, or only one.

o   You may spend insight points on NPCs who are part of the vampire court.

o   Insight points may only be spent during downtimes or coffee hour.

o   Insight points don't stack.

o   GM has the right to veto certain questions.

o   Answers will never be precise and generally range from:

§  "Probably."  Whether intentionally or otherwise, whether it has already happened or is likely to happen or is currently happening, your question reads as more than likely to come to be.

§  "Maybe."  Basically it's uncertain.  The possibility is there, being floated, but the character hasn't truly committed to it.

§  "Probably Not."  It's highly unlikely to happen or they just haven't thought of it yet.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Musings on a possible Shadows Left Behind LARP

Being inspired by Alan Wake, Silent Hill and even Forbidden Siren and Dead Space has inspired me to consider how I might create a horror LARP.  Now these are tricky things to run as immersion is key, and even harder things to recruit for as most players understandably want social intrigue, crazy exploration and to indulge power fantasies of being incredibly capable in their hobbies.  Which is fair enough, we never get to be the hero in real life but we do get to be anxious about our shortcomings.

Of course, one can always draw in a bit of a comedic element in a horror LARP like with a Brooklyn Nine Nine against a back drop of Silent Hill but there's oodles of risks there if it veers too far into farce.

Anyway, such a game would encourage a sense of unpredictability.  The rules of the game would change.  One day they might come across hiding from the mist that rolls in from over yonder while another session could involve staying out of the dark and wielding light as a weapon.  Defiling normalcy by setting events in businesses, supermarkets and cinemas can make for interesting (if hard to prop for) locations.

Being trapped and unable to escape the region would certainly add an element of suffocating claustrophobia great for any occasion.  Warping minor reality cues, like cold steam filling the air in a particularly wet fog or certain sounds being amplified, warped or reduced can also occur.

Of course, thinking up a setting is easy.  It's the practical considerations of rules set, immersion factors, character guidelines, advancement and what precisely you do during the game sessions that are the hard part.  Still it does bear thinking about.

I know that whatever I use will have to be simpler than the vampire system I'm currently utilising which has an inherent basic complexity rivalling Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons.

Friday, June 5, 2015

My Own Fears

I'll be this isn't what you were expecting when you took a look at this article.  I'm not talking about my fears to do with work or running games.  Oh no, I'm talking about those bits and pieces that creep you out that can empower your own horror games.

  • Something bad doesn't notice you so long as you don't notice it.
  • Paralysis in the face of danger.
  • Someone else's fear / incapacitation / pain.
  • Isolation - either physical or emotional.
  • Things under the bed.
  • Certain movements / shapes that are unfamiliar and alien to us.
  • Crossing the bed boundaries will attract the bogeyman's arms.
  • Inability to see things clearly - possible threats everywhere!
  • Escape routes being routinely blocked off, locking you in with the threat.
  • Exposure to an unseen threat.
  • Inability to hide.
  • Fear of contagion (especially using mundane vectors similar to disease or radiation)
  • The classic Death, Mutilation and Helplessness trio
  • Dying in agony
  • Witnessing a loved one die in agony
  • The ordinary slowly warping from the threat in a setting / location manner
  • Betrayal and realising the one you love has been corrupted by the Threat
  • Feather of mutilation, especially having to self-mutilate to survive
  • Having to do something awful to stop a greater threat (sacrifice one for the many)
  • Being near safety but unable to reach it, getting caught so close
  • Being near a rescuer but unable to call out, getting grabbed or falling down
  • Being the subject of misinformed vengeance (i.e. not my fault)
  • Something that only moves when you look at it.
  • Or the flip side, "Don't blink".
  • Betrayal by your own body.