Two Meetings

Over the Saturday before last, I attended two back-to-back meetings, one to address the process of bidding LARPs for Intercon, the all LARP convention, and one to move the process of planning NELCO, the conference on LARP, forward.

Intercon has had the same bid form for years now, even though various aspects of it were less than ideal, and a few parts have become obsolete. A small group of Intercon com members got together to go over the bid form, item by item, and see what could be improved, what might need to be added, and what could be removed.

Specifically, the questions regarding advertising (i.e. using a LARP for advertising, or asking GMs if they are willing to help advertise Intercon at other events) have been removed, as our methods and goals for advertising have changed significantly over the years.

We also discussed a handful of new questions for the bid form. We’ve had some issues with player expectations not matching the LARPs they play in terms of sheet length, so we discussed asking GMs how long character sheets will be and making that information available to players when the sign up. It sounds like a simple change, but it took a fair amount of time to go over the various potential issues, such as how this will affect games that have not yet been written at the time they are bid, and how this will affect games that have character sheets that wildly differ in length.We also talked about whether or not this question should be open format, or if GMs should be given a series of broad categories to choose from (something like “0 to 2 pages”, “2 to 6 pages”, etc.)

Another potential question to add to the bid form was how complete the LARP is. We’ve had some issues with LARPs not being complete before Intercon (sometimes people are scrambling to finish them last minute and players don’t get their sheets in time to do full prep. Some games have also been cancelled last minute due to incompleteness.) Adding this information to the website will allow players whether or not they want to risk signing up a LARP that may not be finished in time.

Both of these additions seems straightforward, though I have some small concern that  if we include this information on the website, it will increase the players’ sense of entitlement to certain information. If the information turns out to be faulty, this could upset players more than if they’d never felt entitled to the information in the first place.

A somewhat more controversial change to the bid form was including a question about “weirdness” in a LARP — i.e. how much supernatural there is in a LARP that seems to be historical on the surface, or whether or not there are any major genre shifting surprises. (As one person phrased it, “does your blurb lie to your players?”) This is another issue in which players’ expectations have not been met and thus caused problems.

Personally, as much as I dislike bait-and-switches, I’m not convinced players are entitled to this information, or that Intercon should be getting in the way of GMs who want to try to surprise their players. One of the purposes of Intercon is to act as venue for LARP writers to share their art, even if certain aspects of that art (such as unexpected genre switches) are very unpopular. It’s a thorny, complex issue.

We also talked about one significant change not related to bidding LARPs; the Radisson has new management, and they want to take over food service. One of the awesome aspects of Intercon is that the price of membership is quite low compared to other cons, and on top of that, Intercon also provides meals. We’ve always handled food through volunteers, which helps keep the cost low. The Radisson staff has essentially asked us to pay them our food budget and let them handle it.

I’m slightly leery of this — it sounds great on the surface, in that our costs will be the same, but now we don’t need to rely on a volunteer to give up a ton of their personal time both before and during the convention in order to provide free meals to con-goers. But the Radisson will have to both provide the food and pay hotel employees to prepare and serve it. They might be overestimating their ability to feed us on a budget that has only ever covered the cost of food, and not covered wages for cooks and servers.

If they can do it, that would be awesome. If they can’t… well. We’ll see.

If the minutes of this meeting are shared publicly, I’ll post a link here.

 

The NELCO meeting came right on the heels of the Intercon meeting. We talked about various proposals for programming, including a single track of longer panels (with longer breaks between them), tables for less formal discussions of narrower topics, focus groups, runs of short LARPs and discussions deconstructing the experience, and a party after hours. I’m particularly interested to see how making the panels a bit more formal (by requesting introductory statements, prepared questions, and putting effort into making sure the panelists represent diverse backgrounds and opinions) will affect NELCO. I’m pretty excited about these proposals. (You can read a brief overview of them here.)

NELCO is actually not that far off (this year, it’s taking place mid-July) and I’m already quite excited to see what sort of panels will be running. I’ve been reading about a number of other LARP-related conferences, and I’m actually a bit surprised references to NELCO don’t pop up a little more often. NELCO was the first LARP-focused conference in the U.S., (unless you count PreCon as its own entity) and it has hosted a slew of interesting academic, informative, and practical panels, as well as a number of enjoyable workshops, and its BYOG program has produced two full LARPs that have both been run a number of times.

I’m currently mulling over some ideas for panel, discussion, and workshop suggestions. You can already send in suggestions via the email address listed on the website, but I believe a more formal call for topics will be sent out soon. So if you have any ideas of subjects you’d be interested  to see discussed at NELCO, keep an eye out for that. Even if you don’t plan to attend, there’s always a decent chance someone’s powerpoints and/or notes from NELCO will become available to read online.

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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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36 Responses to Two Meetings

  1. Stephen Kohler says:

    I admit, I have always felt that sheet length, in and of itself, is a pretty much useless statistic that causes more problems then it fixes.

    Yes, yes, the difference between a half-page sheet and a ten page sheet is often pretty marked. But without context, what’s a three-page sheet? Very dense and character-y, with a lot of other info on bluesheets as well? Light and fluffy, with three pages of text but very little actual info? Somewhere in-between?

    Generally, when the topic of sheet length comes up when talking about a game, there’s context; “My sheet is three pages, *but* it’s (dense/jam-packed/light/cheese/other). Just having a number (especially with a range, *especially* with a range like 0-2 as a possibility, which covers a HUGE set of possibilities) is almost certainly going to cause more problems then it fixes.

    I like knowing if a game is done or not, though! I also agree completely with you about weirdness; it’s up the writer.

    (Reflecting as I write this, btw, I wonder if the reason people react so strongly to it[weirdness] at Intercon is that, for a lot of them, this is one of a very limited set of chances they get to play LARPs in a year. So even though a bait-and-switch in a four-hour only affects, well, four hours of your life, because it’s one of the 5-7-ish games you get to play in a year, it has a much stronger effect. Thus negating one of the major advantages of four-hours; the fact that, since they’re shorter, you can be more experimental with them. Hmmm. Obviously the answer is that we should move Intercon back to a weekend-long game convention format)

    Any minutes from the NELCO meeting, btw? Any idea when the next one is? I would still like to attend one if possible.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I know there was one particular LARP at Intercon which handed out very short sheets (maybe one or two paragraphs-ish?), people had expected more and found the LARP to be lacking in content, and somehow this caused some kind of balagan that reached the con staff. I hate the idea of policy changes over a single event, but other con com members claim that this sort of thing has happened before. (I don’t know of any examples, but I take their word for it.)

      I have extremely little experience with LARPs played at generic geek cons, but supposedly, the length of those sheets was on par with a geek con LARP, so it sounds like people have wildly different ideas of what a typical LARP is. Most people who come to Intercon come with the expectation that most LARP character sheets are between 2 and 10 pages (and cues in the blurb often inform more specific expectations of sheet lengths) but I have to remember that there are a handful of new GMs and new LARPers every year. And I can’t even tell for sure what assumptions I have are actually universal, and which are particular to veterans of Intercon.

      So I guess with this policy, we’re heading off problems like “my character sheet has two lines and I expected 10 pages” and “I was told this was a light, silly LARP and I’ve been given 25 dense pages to read in two days, I quit.” (I’ve witnessed the latter happen a grand total of once.)

      I also think there’s a strong possibility that this will have no discernible effect at all. I guess we’ll see come Intercon O?

      I think you make an excellent point — people get very invested in Intercon, especially when they have very little LARPing the rest of the year. It’s also the case that people feel that they’re giving up on other LARPs in that time slot, which feels like a cost. If I play a LARP during some random weekend where the other option was to stay at home and watch tv, it’s not a big deal if I don’t get what I want out of it. Sometimes at Intercon, I feel something like, “there was another awesome game I wanted to play in this time slot, and I gave it up so I could play this Victorian tea party, and now Cthulhu has ruined my tea party. If I’d known Cthulhu was going to show up, I would have played the other LARP. I paid a cost — I don’t want to not get what I paid for.”

      I haven’t seen any notes from the NELCO meeting online either — if they pop up online, I will share a link. In the meantime, the topics we covered are on the website, and if you email the coordinator, he might send you the notes. (I looked over his shoulder — they looked minimal.)

  2. Chad B says:

    I feel like some of this information is really useful for the -con- to know, but for some of the reasons mentioned above, as well as maybe others, shouldn’t be exposed to the players as a whole. The con arguably has some responsibility in managing attendee expectations and providing a positive experience, so this information can be of good use in informing how the con interacts with both GMs and players. But you are right about this information giving entitlement, or even just biasing or coloring people unduly.

    And Stephen, I’d love to see more weekend long games, but I suspect you can’t run them at the same event as a convention of four hour games.

    So clearly we should start another event just for weekend long games.

    • Alon Levy says:

      What’s the point of running weekend-long games at a convention rather than as a one-shot? For four-hour games, the idea is that it lets people play several games in the same weekend, not always with the same other players. Maybe I’m running a game for our host Friday evening, but Saturday morning I’m running a game that our host already played but my Friday evening co-GM hasn’t, etc. This flexibility isn’t really needed for weekend-long games, since it’s the same cast of players the entire weekend, and people only play one at a time definitionally. And in that environment, there’s value to having more GM control over the space and the schedule.

      • Fair Escape says:

        Personally, I’m with you — at Intercon, I like to get to try out multiple LARPs, not just one, but everyone has different tastes, and weekend long LARPs at Intercon used to be a thing. (I don’t know how common it was, but it was done a number of times at the earliest Intercon.)

        The advantages of running a weekend long at Intercon are the same was running any other LARP there. I think the biggest plus is the space — Intercon provides really nice space at no cost to the GMs (I find hotel function spaces are infinitely nicer than almost all university spaces, especially the classrooms.) The LARP gets advertised to a large number of enthusiastic LARPers at once, and the social time with other LARPers also serves as a draw for players. (Also, Intercon has a culture of better costumes which is a nice little plus.) I also think that the GM has more or less as much control over the schedule at a weekend long LARP that runs alone as they do running a weekend long at Intercon. And most players are sleeping on site, so that reduces people showing up late in the mornings or after meal breaks, and players are easier to find when they go missing.

        I guess some people are just as happy to play one weekend long as a slew of shorter ones, although it seems their numbers have dwindled enough such that no one’s bidding them anymore.

      • Chad B says:

        The point is to have a larger organization that can arrange for space, advertising, and communication. The point is that a separate one-shot is just one game. The older Intercon style (back when games generally speaking were only weekend long games) of weekend long games had several games, 2 or 3 at least, running. Which means that you might go play that romance heavy game and I might go play that politic heavy game, but we could still both go to the dance party at night, or the local restaurant at meal time.

        And GMs still get control over the space and the schedule within that framework.

        But it is hard to deny your point. It’s one of the reasons why the four hour game convention format took over. People want to play multiple different games with multiple different people. GMs want a chance to play too. Etc, etc.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I agree it behooves the con to manage expectations, but we could be managing them the other (harsher) way. “Disclaimer!! Some LARPs at Intercon may not have accurate blurbs. Some will change genre dramatically mid-stream. You are not entitled to play the genre you signed up for. If this might be a problem for you, Intercon may not be the con for you.” Won’t help unhappy players in the least bit, but it covers our collective ass. 😛

      Augh, Chad, nooooo, curse you! That sounds awesome and now I want to make it happen.

      • Alon Levy says:

        I do think GMs have a responsibility to indicate to the players the tone of the game. This is especially true if there are triggers, but also if a game that starts out light turns out to be a horror game, or if a game that starts out dark turns out to be comedic.

        • Fair Escape says:

          Triggers are already covered in our current system — not perfectly (in fact, I think our current system is terrible), but it is addressed, and I think it’s a separate issue from what the new addition to the bid form intends to address. Genre and level of weirdness (which I interpret as supernatural, but that was a subject of debate at the meeting) were the two primary topics this change was intended to address, and whether tone is part of that is debatable. (I think tone was not intended to be part of this.)

          I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a game that deliberately pulled a bait and switch with tone. Also, tone is a vague, nebulous concept, and highly subject to personal interpretation (even more so than level of weirdness and genre, I think, and those are already highly subjective). If someone’s expectations for tone aren’t met, it’s usually because the GMs failed to convey what they meant to convey in their blurb, the players failed to interpret it correctly, or the GMs just failed to produce a certain tone with their writing (or players engaged with the LARP in unexpected ways) and that’s not something adjusting the bid form can correct.

          Like genre bait-and-switches and weirdness-level-surprises, I think trying to create an unexpected tone is likely to be extremely unpopular and unsuccessful, but I don’t think that means writers/GMs shouldn’t be allowed to try.

          • Alon Levy says:

            I have heard of tone changes, which not all players appreciated. Hell, Planetfall is such a game, but we warn players in advance both in the blurb and on the casting form.

  3. Stephen Kohler says:

    I sort of like the big public disclaimer warning, actually. It fits perfectly with my opinion on how players should view a random con game.

    The switch-back-to-weekend-long-games thing was sort of a joke; as Adina hinted at, Intercon MA started as a con of weekend-longs, before minigames were really even a thing. (Or so my research indicates) That being said, I’d love to have a venue to run weekend-long games outside of RPI. The real problem I would have with doing so is purely financial. Even with free space, (joys of running on a college campus, although some of those joys are rapidly becoming not-joys) weekend-long games cost several hundred dollars to run. As a poor college student, I need to charge players to cover costs. If such an event charged enough money to cover the venue plus at least enough to help with game costs, I’d certainly be interested.

    • Fair Escape says:

      This all ultimately leads to the question, what IS con com’s responsibility towards players, if any? Maybe nothing. We do have a bid com specifically to weed out games, so even if we aren’t actually responsible for the games in any way, we still put some effort towards minimizing player dissatisfaction. Actually, I think the best thing bid com can do is gather information on what kinds of games have crashed and burned, not to forbid them or insist that players never be surprised (taken too far, this sort of thing will narrow the range of experiences one can have at Intercon considerably — and we already have people who feel somewhat constrained by the standard Intercon LARPs)… but rather, I think bid com should want to be able to tell GMs: “I see what you’re bidding, and here is information on similar LARPs that have run in the past that really upset/angered players.” In other words, we don’t want to hamper GMs, but we do want to be able to properly inform them about common expectations and potential pitfalls. And then they can decided to take the informed risks they want to take (like genre switching and unsual character sheet formats).

      Having games be accessible as possible (including in terms of cost) is a virtue (and sometimes I get cranky with people who insist immersion is the greatest virtue — high immersion often comes at the cost of accessibility!) So I definitely am happy to see weekend long games run at minimal cost in university function spaces and classrooms. But that said… I hate LARPing in classrooms. And I would like to see weekend longs run in hotels. (Or hunting lodges.) I know the costs would skyrocket (the games would need to charge a steep fee on top of hotel rooms) and the target audience would no longer be college students (and I think it’s very important to include college students)… but I know weekend longs running in hotels can be done (and is done.) It would attract an older population, and would give players a higher sense of entitlement… but I’d still really like to see that kind of option pop up around here. (I suppose I could start flying to England to play their weekend longs… in for penny, in for a pound…)

      • Stephen Kohler says:

        The main problem I personally have with games in hotel space, from a player standpoint, is the tightness of the space. I’ve done three hotel games (Lullabies 1-3), and those games were in one or two large hotel function rooms. Which worked well for the Lullaby games, since they really didn’t depend on secret meetings and such. But, thinking about some of the games that have been run at RPI (Torch of Freedom, or Game of Empire, or even 1897), I just can’t imagine those games in tighter hotel space. (Even though I know they all ran in just that style of space originally! The world is weird!)

        Now, something like Intercon-ish-space (In terms of breadth of space if not specific number of rooms, which would be too high for a single game) would alleviate those concerns well.

        And while I’d love to have the option to play a weekend-long game in a hotel up here (or a weekend-long game anywhere up here, for that matter), I really think games in hotel space would be exclusionary to college students simply on the basis of cost, and short of major subsidizing from some other source, I don’t see a way to avoid it. The Lullabies were *expensive* to a broke college student like me, and I honestly spent too much on LARPing at that point. A lot of players I know just couldn’t spare the money for a hotel game.

        Oh, and I agree with your first paragraph fully, btw. Just wanted to mention it.

        • Fair Escape says:

          I agree that hotel space would be exclusionary to college students (and any non-college students on limited budgets.) That’s unfortunate, but I think there is a market for them, and I’d really like to see them run.

      • Chad B says:

        My experience as a past member of bidcom and con chair was always with the perspective that bidcom’s job is to accept games first, and if for some reason it decides it can’t accept a game, it is to communicate back to GMs why not. In either case, if bidcom has reasonable constructive criticism or questions, they are sent back to the GMs. But the default is to accept and ask questions rather than reject.

        • Chad B says:

          And in bad form of replying to myself, I think the perspective might be summed up as ‘Well, I might not want to play this game, but I bet others would, so we’ll accept it’. The notion that unless there’s an obvious show stopper in there, games should be accepted. And that bidcom is in a good position to offer constructive questioning (Do you think you’ll actually need 8 rooms for this 12 player game? Do you plan to have enough runtime staff for this 72 person two hour game?) and that answers to the questions are not a prerequisite to acceptance.

          • Alon Levy says:

            Re your last question, about staff, I’m not sure Bidcom would be in a position to know this. When we were writing Planetfall, we didn’t know we’d be needing like 4 GMs until the game was actually running; it’s a 19-player game, about the same as my previous non-Fluffykins games, which ran with 1 and 3 GMs (and Bad Apples, with the 3 GMs, can run with 2). The mechanics require more GMs than the other games, but when we bid we didn’t know what the mechanics were going to be, and even when we did write the mechanics we didn’t realize they’d require more of our attention.

            • Chad B says:

              Oh, bidcom often isn’t in a position to know. bu they are in a position to ask, through the Bid Coordinator. And as you point out, the GMs may not have the answers either, but at least there’s a way to ask the questino and have it thought about.

  4. idiotsavant23 says:

    Because no-one seems to be asking it: Why does the genre-switch have to be unexpected to the players? What’s the problem with GMs being upfront and saying “This blurb is a lie” or “contains supernatural / non-genre / meta content” (without giving away the specifics)? Wouldn’t it be more likely to result in them attracting the sorts of players who would enjoy the game, rather than ones who are annoyed by it?

    • Stephen Kohler says:

      Because very often (albeit not always), knowing that there is a twist spoils the twist enough to hurt the game.

      • idiotsavant23 says:

        And springing such a twist on people who didn’t sign up for it and wouldn’t if they had known very definitely hurts the game. But the GMs who write these games don’t consider that, because no GM ever thinks “people might not enjoy this”.

        But its not just about marketing and attracting the right players – its also about informed consent for play. And when GM’s lie about what their game is about, that simply doesn’t exist.

        • Fair Escape says:

          Sounds like you come down pretty solidly on the side of the people who want GMs to be required to reveal genre changes and unexpected supernatural things. Personally, that’s what I really /want/ as an Intercon attendee and a LARP player (almost always… I’ve had both neutral and negative experiences with this sort of thing… but that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine an experience where the surprise was a positive thing). But I just don’t feel entitled to it anymore than I feel entitled to not have a movie suddenly display supernatural elements that weren’t hinted at in the trailers.

          Do you feel LARPing is different from other media in that it requires informed consent in a way other media –like books or movies– don’t? Or do you feel that when books and movies have these kinds of surprises, they also are lacking informed consent? (…I’m not trying to draw a false dichotomy here — if there’s another way to look at this, I’d be curious to hear it.)

          • idiotsavant23 says:

            Yes, I think GMs should tell players what they’re in for. It’s not a matter of player “entitlement”, but basic GM ethics.

            Players in any form of rpg are active participants, and they face strong social pressures to continue the game rather than e.g. walk out halfway through when they find out the GM lied about the premise. This makes issues of consent more important than with passive media. But speaking of other media: notice how its very unusual for e.g. Hollywood to pull that sort of twist without signalling in the marketing material. You don’t see time-travelling Nazis suddenly popping out of a cake and start shooting everyone in the middle of a film sold as a RomCom. Why not? Because Hollywood understands that its bad marketing to do that.

            From a con perspective, Intercon clearly has some interest in helping players find games that match their preferences (given that you have trigger warnings, and indeed blurbs). Given that this is something which seems to strongly affect player enjoyment and that would affect game choice, then letting them know seems to be a good idea – if only so people can continue to have faith in the blurbs of non-twist games, rather than having to treat everything as a lie.

            • Stephen Kohler says:

              Huh. I completely disagree. A blurb exists to get players to sign up and to give them a feel for at least some of the game, but I have never thought (as a player or GM) that a blurb is a tell-all of very twist and turn that *might* annoy players. How is it the GM’s responsibility to reveal anything about the secrets of the game if they might annoy a player?

              I know a player who despises vampires. Should I make a note of what games have vampires, even ones that don’t have obvious ones or where doing so is a major reveal? I know another who hates religion in LARPs. Should I tell him about every game that has religion, even when it’s not a major plot point?

              I’ve played plenty of games where something has come up that I haven’t expected and don’t particularly like. I shrug and move on. It’s the nature of the business. And I’ve been *pleasantly* surprised by such twists much more often then I’ve been badly surprised. Many of which would have been horribly effected by a note in the blurb saying: “Warning, Genre Shift Present”

              In my experience, the problems that arise from genre shifts are only rarely due to the genre shift itself. It’s not “Oh god, we were at a tea party and Cthulhu showed up”. It’s “Oh God, we were at a tea party and Cthulhu showed up *and now my plot/character doesn’t matter anymore*”. No one likes their plot, character goals, or just character to be thrown out a window. With bad writing, very often once a major shift occurs, only a few characters end up mattering. With good writing, it will often turn out that whatever plots the players were working on before are still relevant, and may be even *more* important now. That’s how to do a genre shift well. (It’s actually a part of that, but that’s a whole other topic)

              I do think, however, that it might be in Intercon’s best interest to inform the GM’s of prevailing opinions about genre shifts, and other such writing “pitfalls”. Obviously, some areas are more ok with them then others, and it’s in everyone’s best interests to know that what plays in NYC may not play in Peoria. But to force GMs to spoil their own games? You’d end up forcing your own Intercon-wide-game-genre-shift, and not in a good direction.

              • idiotsavant23 says:

                “A blurb exists to get players to sign up”

                Yes, but more than that – its not just trying to attract players, but players who will actually enjoy the game. And that’s what makes this particular issue so troublesome: because these GMs deliberately lie, and by doing so they deliberately attract players who *won’t* enjoy their game, who were after the straight historical they were sold, not the mash-up actually planned. Its bad for the players, bad for those GM’s reputations and their ability to attract players in the future, and bad for the events which host those games (because people don’t like going to events where they don’t have a good time). And its bad for the game itself, because larps run better when everyone buys into the concept and is on the same page.

                Blurbs also exist to warn players about widespread content that they may wish to avoid (trigger warnings). “Religion” is certainly on the list of content that ethical GMs should warn people about (though if it is an easily avoidable theme then such a warning can come through the casting survey rather than the blurb).

                Finally, I’m glad you mentioned the correlation between genre-shift and poor design. That’s one of the reasons people want to avoid such games.

                You can signal without spoiling. Saying “This game is a straight historical” is not a spoiler. Neither is “This game is not a straight historical”. Saying either is likely to attract the right sort of players while discouraging the wrong sort, without really giving anything away.

                • Stephen Kohler says:

                  *sigh* I always dislike it when people characterize not giving away twists as deliberately lying to players. And the broad sweeping statements about what this “lying” does to GMs, events, etc. don’t help either. I have empirical evidence that such statements are at least not completely correct. Honestly, this isn’t even an *issue* at my local events, at least not one that I’ve ever heard anyone complain about. (If someone knows differently, feel free to tell me. I can be wrong, after all)

                  And I am….not exactly a fan of the modern “trigger warning” trend. If you feel that the presence of Religion is something that an “ethical” GM should “warn” players about……I guess I don’t know many ethical GMs, then, because I can’t think of any who would consider that worth mentioning.

                  Yes, I know that players often don’t like genre-shift games because they can sometimes turn out to be poorly written. But I think you missed my point. Correlation is not causation; genre shift games are *harder* to write well. But not impossible. People want to avoid them, frankly, because they haven’t played a good one yet. I have. They exist. If more players played them, there would be less of a dislike of genre-shift games.

                  • Alon Levy says:

                    There’s the Dying of the Light approach: the blurb says “this is a game about endings,” and the name is a cultural reference that helps establish tone, both of which point to a major genre shift. But the blurb tells you nothing of what the shift is, and this works, because the character goals are not jettisoned but instead strengthened.

                    As for what you say about people not complaining, at Intercon people do complain about being triggered (and I’ve also seen people complain about RPI culture for being less than sensitive to these issues).

                    At least at Intercon, the purpose of the blurb is not about marketing the game. It’s Intercon: practically all games fill. The purpose of the blurb is to be maximally informative, to make sure that the players know which game to sign up for in each slot and which games to prioritize.

                    • Stephen Kohler says:

                      I don’t know Dying; if the game can handle warnings about the shift and still work, that’s great! If a game can in fact handle the warning about a genre shift and the GMs want to do so, more power to them. In fact, scratch the first part; if the GM’s want to put, in their blurb, that their game has a twist, I have no problems with it. It’s the GM’s choice. I just don’t want to see GMs be forced into it.

                      And I know there are complaints at Intercon about such things; I just….hmmm. Words. And the difficulty of ordering them. Hmmm.

                      I feel that there is a point where, up to it, players can reasonably expect GM warnings about aspects of their game. (For example, I feel that if a game is written to be railroaded, a la Fires on High, that is something that MUST be conveyed to the players) I feel that where this point actually falls is a matter of discussion and even controversy, and opinions vary from group to group. I also feel that the Intercon group (among others) feels that point is further along (I.E. further towards more and more warnings) then I personally think is reasonable to expect from GMs.

                      And yes, I’ve heard that about the RPI culture as well. Different areas, different cultures. I’ve heard people complain that the Intercon crowd is overly sensitive to these issues. (Not just RPI players; that would be sort of redundant)

                      Finally, that’s a very good point about Intercon blurbs; one I hadn’t considered. I’m unsure how that changes my opinion (which isn’t to say it won’t), but it’s a very strong point nevertheless. I still say that Adina’s idea about warning *GM’s* is a very solid one; I’m just very reluctant to take away a GM’s agency to control information about their game.

                    • Chad B says:

                      Respectfully, I disagree. Blurbs are absolutely about marketing a game. Almost all games -eventually- fill, but players are -very- conscious of what games they’ll choose first, and why. Sometimes it’s “I like every game this GM ever writes” or “I need to sign up for this game first because my SO is picking it first and we want to play together” or whatnot, but as often as not it is “I need to play this because I -adore- steampunk” or “That’s such an interesting conept, it might be experimental, but I want to experiment”. And crafting a game that appeals to people as their first choice means you are getting players who are more enthusiastic and are more likely to have and give a good experience to the game. Third and fourth round signups are as often influenced by what games are already full as anything else.

            • Fair Escape says:

              Those are excellent points — I completely agree that there are strong social pressures to see the whole LARP through, and also that it involves active participation.

              And you’re right in that massive genre switches in movies without any hint in the trailers are pretty rare for good reasons. But they do exist, and can even be extremely popular. I think if The Sixth Sense was a LARP, it would definitely fall under the category of “surprise weirdness and/or genre shift”, and the best part would be ruined by a hint in the blurb. I think GMs/writers are sometimes hoping to create a Sixth Sense-like effect for their players. (Which is why one of my friends calls genre-bait-and-switches, surprise supernatural, and “hey it turns out none of this is real” endings “M Night Shyamalaning” a LARP. )

              • idiotsavant23 says:

                But note that with Sixth Sense the supernatural element is right there in the trailer: “I see dead people”. The twist builds on that rather than detracting from it.

                • Fair Escape says:

                  Ah, touche, I misremembered the trailer. It is clear that the movie contains supernatural elements from the trailer. Maybe there’s a better example… I do recall another Shyamalan movie which seemed to be a period piece with supernatural elements, then turned out to be modern and mundane… or something? I’ve forgotten the title. Regardless, some writers/GMs want to try pulling off these big twists and create really engaging experiences. And for some players it works, I guess. (I know of two boffer campaigns that had some significant shifts that got mostly positive results… But I can’t think of a time in which it worked well for me off the top of my head.)

    • Fair Escape says:

      I guess some GMs/writers just enjoy throwing massive curveballs at their players. And I have heard some players express that they really like experiencing this kind of surprise, and having it revealed or even just hinted at in the blurb dulls the effect. My personal experience indicates that such players are in the minority, and that when players are unhappy about this, they can get pretty vocal about it. But I don’t think anyone’s done any official polling.

      • Chad B says:

        I think most players expect and enjoy surprises to a certain extent. Why else have we invented reaction envelopes, time-released information, NPC appearances, etc. But major surprises that substantively alter the tenor and structure of the game can be difficult. It isn’t necessarily genre switching, per se, because I might find out that my historical politic game turns into a steampunk adventure, but if I personally am still able to follow up on and enjoy my politicking, then it is less of a problem than if I go into a historical politicking game and then find out it’s actually a holodeck simulation 20 minutes in and now it is a game of holodeck creations escaping out onto the starship enterprise. It’s about harder to manage things like player agency, and effective segues and plot invalidations and forced characterizations.

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