NELCO 2013 Post Event Report – Saturday Evening

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.

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About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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11 Responses to NELCO 2013 Post Event Report – Saturday Evening

  1. idiotsavant23 says:

    For Rose & Dragon, we had to write a C13th peasant village, which means established social relationships and most characters being married. Which means not a lot of star-crossed lovers, and more of a focus on messy, complicated adult relationships and how they go wrong and right. Its a bit different from the usual fare, and we’ll see how it works out in, oh, 84 hours or so.

    As for “unromantic” players, our community is small enough that word about who is a bad counterparty for a romance plotline gets around, and its pretty common to see “no romance plots with X” in casting responses. Our GMs regard that sort of thing as a redline, and if it means there’s no possible role for that player, then there’s no possible role.

    For larger communities, I guess it depends on casting style. An unromantic player is basicly ruining that plotline for their counterparties, so if you’re what Brian R called a Director or Tour Guide, that’s a strong point against casting them in such roles.

    • Fair Escape says:

      Sounds like an interesting LARP! I’d love to hear about how the run goes.

      Seeing “no romance plots with person X” is relatively common around here, too. It’s generally treated like a redline too- not making people uncomfortable with their romance plots is often treated as one of the most important things when casting. But I’ve heard GMs say that if someone says “don’t cast me in a romantic part with person X” that places limits on the person who wrote it, not on person X. Which I think is fair, but not always easy to actually implement.

      Director and Tour Guide were at opposite ends of the scale. Are you sure you don’t mean Director and Guidance Counselor?

      • Brian R. says:

        Yeah, when I cast games, I feel very strongly that if Player X says they don’t want to be cast alongside Player Y, that it only limit Player X and not Player Y.

        For instance: say Player X’s application makes them a perfect fit for the President, and Player Y’s application makes them a perfect fit for the Vice President. These two characters have a lot of plot together, but Player X has asked not to be cast closely with Player Y. In this case, I would give Player Y the Vice President, and Player X would get slightly sub-optimal casting somewhere else.

      • idiotsavant23 says:

        There will hopefully be post-game squee on Diatribe, and I’ll post about it on LJ.

        Here we see players using requests not just for discomfort issues, but also to screen against having a dead fish ruin their game experience. They’re usually pretty explicit when its the latter, and it hasn’t been problematic so far in casting.

        And yes, guidance counsellor not tour guide. Whoops.

        • Fair Escape says:

          Are you saying that you take into account requests not to be cast romantically with someone regardless of motivation, and it hasn’t been a problem so far? I find that here we see both types of motivations (though it isn’t always explicitly clear what the motivation is) but either way, if we allowed it to restrict the subject of the request’s casting, it may well become problematic and unfair. (In theory, anyway. In practice, I think the people making the requests do get priority because they tend to be the squeakier wheel.)

          • idiotsavant23 says:

            Yes – we’ve been lucky so far, in that we’ve been able to cast around those preferences, even when someone has a well-established reputation as a poor romantic counterparty and appears in multiple casting responses. But its obviously a problem in something like Dance and the Dawn, where romance is pervasive and casting could give strong clues. In such cases, unless signup is massively oversubscribed and I can pick and choose, I’d have to go with the weight of numbers simply to ensure a viable game.

            • Fair Escape says:

              What do you mean by massively oversubscribed? You mean that you have more sign ups than slots in the LARP? Most commonly, we use a system of first come, first serve, so picking and choosing players isn’t an option. (MIT is a notable exception in that they don’t do first come, first serve.)

              • idiotsavant23 says:

                Normally I run on first come, first served, though if its a rerun I will prioritise people who have not played before (and make sure the players know this). People who are too late get waitlisted. But if I have a problem like this, and there’s no workable casting, I’d look at that waitlist to see if a viable cast can be constructed.

                • Alon Levy says:

                  Re “people who have not played before,” is it common in NZ for people to play in the same LARP more than once? In North America it’s extremely rare.

                  • idiotsavant23 says:

                    Its unusual, but sometimes happens (usually when a GM needs to make up the numbers and the game is either highly segemented (so your foreknowledge doesn’t matter), or experiential (ditto). I did find however that with Dance and the Dawn many of the players were eager to try it again.

            • Alon Levy says:

              As somewhat of a special case, I ran Dance twice at SLAW, back to back, and specifically asked players if they could switch to another slot in case it would make casting easier. (I ended up not having to ask anyone to switch on account of requests not to be cast with someone, and only asking one person to switch on account of easier casting. Thanks, Lise!)

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