Many of NELCO’s attendees had dinner in the hotel’s little restaurant, the Bar and Grill. We pushed several tables together to include as many people as possible. I liked the tight-knit community feel.
The first panel I went to after dinner was Writing and LARP-Writing, in which three writers discussed how LARP writing was similar to and different from various other forms of writing (specifically, novels, short stories, and plays.) The idea that each character should feel like the star from their own player’s point of view was a popular notion, as was the idea that conflict is what drives any story (including the stories told through LARP) and that making a player fight for something will make them appreciate it more. A lot of the panel ended up focusing on writing character sheets, and whether or not they should be written as though it were a story that gets cut off right before the LARP takes place. Some LARP writers and players feel that character sheets should be as concise as possible in order to facilitate the player remembering as much relevant detail as they need to.
I find my own preferences vary depending on the sort of LARP experience I expect and want. Some LARPs, I want to get be able to get deeply into the character presented to me, in which case I would like carefully crafted, detailed character sheet that focuses on showing, not telling, which often means a longer sheet. For example, you can say “you want to win this competition to show up your rival” which sums up a motivation in one eleven word sentence. Or you can describe several competitions in the past in which you came in second and this other competitor wound up being showered with praise and dating the person you had a crush on and so on and so on. I think I’d be more likely to pursue the competition with gusto if I had read something that made me feel the frustration and the desire for a different outcome, rather than just being told “here’s something you’d like.”
I also find that getting out the sheets early enough (to allow for more than one read through) and decent summary sheets (typically the who-you-knows and goal lists found at the end of character sheets) solve the problem of forgetting important details. This is particularly true of the sheet isn’t long because it contains a lot of details that I expect I’ll need to remember for plot reasons. For example, a character sheet might contain a long, flavorful description of the poverty my character endured as a child. I don’t expect knowing what shade of gray the gruel she ate was will be important, so I won’t memorize it at the expense of more plot-relevant detail. But I will come away from reading the character sheet with a pretty good mental impression of what an impoverished childhood was like for my character.
After Writing and LARP-Writing, I attended a panel called Romance in LARP, which covered an array of subtopics, from romance and sex mechanics to listing the various forms a romance plot can take (besides the classic star-crossed lovers plot, which notably requires other characters to put in effort into getting into the lovers’ way.) The panel also went over the idea of romance being a means for a character to undergo transformation (such as learning to open up and trust another person) rather than just being a goal for a person (i.e. “win over X’s heart) and that it need not be “young lovers finding true love”. A LARP might include the issues of navigating a marriage.
I wish we’d had a little more time to focus on romance mechanics- i find the topic very interesting. Some LARPs keep romance entirely separate from mechanics, others like to involve mechanics but ultimately leave the decision up the players, and still other LARPs let mechanics completely dictate whether or not one’s character is in love, how they fall in love, and whether or not they can fall out of love. I think I find the middle ground to be my favorite approach- it prevents romance plots from being resolved too quickly, or having no way to concretely resolve them at all. Torch of Freedom and King’s Musketeers are two examples of LARPs with romance mechanics that I really enjoyed (though I thought the latter could use a tiny bit of tweaking.)
A very difficult question came up right at the end of LARPs, regarding players with significant social impairment (such as behavior characteristic of autism) signing up for romance heavy LARPs. The two methods of handling this issue suggested involved casting as usual, with the recognition that a romance plot may simply not work out, and alternatively, writing an additional character and expanding the cast by one. Not always possible, but I think it may sometimes be a reasonable option.
After the Romance in LARP panel, my last panel of NELCO was the Religion in LARP panel, for which I was a panelist, which I will cover next in its own post.