LARP Writers' Workshop 2011 Point-Form Minutes


  • Bee, Berndt, Andrea, Jo, Lara, Philip, Rudy, Rolf, Jeremy, Desilu, Simon, Adrianna, Camilla, Justin, Roxy

Types of LARPs

  • Boffer LARPs
  • Theatre-style LARPs
    • Gamist (plot driven)
    • Immersionist (understanding what it's like to be a particular character)
    • Dramatist (player objectives different to character objectives)
  • Murder mystery dinners
  • Campaign LARPs

Overview of a LARP-writing process

  • Idea phase (often long; variable in length)
    • Lara:
      • Black Coffee Blues started with an idea for one character.
      • Consequences came from the idea for a setting.
      • Historical research can be a rich source of ideas.
    • Simon:
      • Revenge of the Yak had a giant spider diagram.
    • Jo:
      • Using Fiasco to generate characters.
    • Co-writers are very useful for shooting down ideas.
      • If you're writing alone let ideas simmer for a week—if it still looks good it's probably a good idea.
  • Selecting number of characters.
    • Gender flexible characters are very useful.
    • Subtextual relationships.
    • Allies are very powerful effects in LARPs.


  • Small LARPs become implausibly connected.
  • Small LARPs can be more emotionally intense.
  • Selecting setting:
    • Historical settings.
    • Established fantasy settings.
    • Homebrew setting:
      • Money, travel.
  • Situation and containment:
    • Storms.
    • Official events.
    • Exploding collars.
    • Phones?

Comparing LARPs to other forms of storytelling

  • LARP writing can be beneficial for other writing forms because it emphasises character construction.
  • Writer has less control—tight plotting is more difficult.
  • Only medium where player embodies a single character.
  • Collaborative—you write characters and then give to other people to see what they will do with it.
  • Comparisons with Improv:
    • Could possibly workshop characters.
    • In LARPs the players are the audience.
    • LARP has simulationist aspects

LARP gimmicks

  • NPCs who die early.
  • NPCs who are pseudo DMs.
  • Cards:
    • Silly LARPs can get great use out of cards.
    • Power limit LARPs.
    • A bit like designing a small card game.
  • Telepathy:
    • Need to define what telepathy is.
    • Lots of DM work.
  • Unconciousness or anything that take people out of the LARP is tricky.
  • Limited resources are good.
  • Envelopes:
    • Can write numbers on people's name tags or on objects and let people open their correponding numbers when they see the numbers.
    • Useful for conveying information that is trigger by events.
  • Items:
    • Identical items.
  • When writing mechanics think about whether they require a DM.
  • Players shouldn't be asking you over to talk ask about their characters—that should already be in there character sheets. DMs should only be called over to handle unusual situations.
  • Insane characters:
    • Different world view.
  • Insane asylum LARP:
    • Red objects behave differently for players and for non-insane NPC DMs.
  • Food can be used as a gimmick:
    • Race specific food.
    • Characters bring food into the LARP with them.
    • Setting specific food.
  • Poison.
    • Tricky because food is both in and out of character.
  • Underlying world rules:
    • Important to make these things clear.
    • E.g. does a small mask constitute a disguise.
  • Being able to call in outside help.
  • Size of venue can make a big difference:
    • Lighting.
    • Sound.

LARP combat

  • Rock, paper, scissors works nicely.
  • Nice idea: rolls can't kill you—players have to explicitly decide to kill another player.
  • Having non-combatants be able to influence combat, or be emotionally invested.
  • Freezes:
    • Keep them short.
    • Enforce them properly.
    • Use distance moved as time ticks rather than fixed amounts of time (in order to discourage running / sprinting).
  • ???
  • Character sheets completely in-character.


  • Keeping two groups separate and then mixing them.
  • Ships, Islands, Space stations, Submarine.
  • Masters, servants, merchants (layers).


  • Can be soft barriers to interaction, hard barriers are not good.
  • Character changing:
    • Suddenly losing all your goals / progress for the last hour is not fun.
  • Romantic subplots.
  • No real guns or knives.
  • Characters who have amnesia.

Controlling pacing

  • Finding people takes time.
  • Formal negotiations take time.
  • Collecing M out of N requirements.
  • Resource contention.
  • Players being able to delegate to other players.
  • Having to interact via intermediaries.

Sanity-checking characters

  • Broad-opened goals:
    • causes, kleptomania, dependents
  • Dramatist LARPs can be tricky for new characters.
  • Check each characters motivation in each of their plots.
  • Check difficulty of each goal.
  • Mentally cast the worst person in each role.
  • What would happen if you ran the LARP without each character.
  • Check allies and enemies:
    • Evil == minority position + self interest.
    • Allies being blackmailed won't help you when you're down.
    • One real ally is a good idea.
    • Minions are allies.

Writing character sheets

  • Memorable, pronouncable names.
    • Titles are really helpful!
    • Short forms of names are realistic and useful.
  • Some people like double-spacing others don't.
  • Some people like two-column.
  • Name, single line archetype plus age, life history, recent events, summary of people you know, equipment and special abilities.
  • Good production—images, nice format, booklets.
  • Which information is widely known, which is secret.
  • Get proof-readers.
    • Preferrably not one of the writers.
    • They can help DM the playtest.
  • Stick blurb at front of general background if you want people to read it.
    • People's first encounter with your LARP.
    • Have it spell-checked. Show of your LARP.
    • Mention style of LARP, seriousness.
  • Writing style infuses character with personality.

Running a LARP

  • Keep debriefing short.

Writing solo vs with co-writers. Many characters vs few characters. Naming characters. Costuming. Casting. Gender switching.

  • Book: Nordic LARPs.
  • Roxy is writing a LARP about historical figures from the medical school.
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