I had a random little idea that came up during a discussion about goals lists.
Goal lists are a fairly common feature of theater style character sheets. Frequently, character sheets include a character history, a who-you-know list, a list of character abilities, and the last section is often a list of goals to achieve during the game. There’s often somewhere between 2 and 8 of them (sometimes more, sometimes less) and they can be very broad (i.e. “make sure the party goes smoothly”) or very specific (i.e. “find your lost necklace”). They can be very mechanical (“win the battle represented by the war game”), or very interpersonal (“obtain forgiveness from your long lost sister.”) And sometimes they can seem like the writer felt every character needed a minimal amount of goals, and tried to pad out the list.
Players react very differently to these goal lists. Some people love the direction, and without them may find themselves wondering, “what is it I’m supposed to be doing here?” Being given a long list can be a reassuring sign that the character is important with plenty to do, and checking them off can be very satisfying. And some people just like to have them as a simple summary and guideline to refer back to.
On the other hand, some people find them to be very “rail-roading”- meaning they represent excessive control by the GMs over the characters (instead of letting players interpret what their characters want based on the histories.) Especially when it comes to emotional and/or interpersonal goals, which are typically strongly influenced by each player’s individual take on their characters.
And it’s not uncommon for casting questionnaires to ask how people feel about goal lists- do they want a lot of goals? Few? Very specific ones, or ones open to interpretation? And I had an idea. For a LARP where the writers have written goal lists for all of the characters, the questionnaire could ask, “do you like having goal lists?” and if they answer no, don’t try to cast them as someone with a shorter goal list… just leave it off. And if someone enjoys having goal lists… simply include it.
Of course, this need not be a hard and fast rule- for example, if some characters don’t lend themselves well to concrete goals, that one could just never go to someone who asks for a lot of concrete goals. And some LARPs have a character or two with goals that really should be spelled out as important to purse in order to keep the plot moving. (Ideally, LARPs would be written in such a way that they wouldn’t fall apart if one goal wasn’t pursued, but let’s be honest- most of us theater LARPers know of some villain character whose player decided off the bat that their character reformed and there went the primary source of conflict!) And certainly, if a LARP has mechanics that require goal lists (for example, I’ve seen characters with the ability to force another player to read them a goal off their list,) every character would still need a minimum.
But in most LARPs, I think this might be a decent way to alter the character sheets a bit to suit the players’ tastes. It would also be interesting to see what kind of effect this might have on how characters gets interpreted- without these goal lists, are players more likely to deviate farther from GM expectations? Or are goal lists more or less just a convenient summary that don’t really direct a player’s idea of their character?