Similar in structure to “Describing Game Mechanics”, NELCO (the New England LARP Conference) also hosted a brainstorming session, focus group, and presentation on “GM Services” (also called “Horizontal Services.”)
To offer a bit of background, NEIL stands for New England Interactive Literature, and it is the organization behind Intercon and NELCO. and our official goal is, as stated on our website, “Encouraging LARP (Live Action Role-Playing) throughout New England and beyond.” In practice, pretty much the only ways we’ve fulfilled these goals is by putting on Intercon and NELCO, and running various smaller programs through it, such as the Iron GM competition, the BYOG (Build Your Own Game) program at NELCO. (Intercode, the program behind our website, gets used for other conventions — I think that counts for something.) And though Intercon, we offer GMs things like a location to run a LARP, a player base to draw players from, a system for signing up, and some amount of support for running their events (such as tracking down players who stop responding to contact from GMs.)
But we could always be doing more, and the “GM Services” events at NELCO were designed to try and answer the question, “what else can we do to promote and support LARP in New England and beyond?” And what other ways can we help out GMs running LARPs at Intercon and other events?
I joined the brainstorming sessions. Everyone was encouraged to offer ideas, and no idea was considered inappropriate for being too outlandish, too expensive, not useful enough, etc. All suggestions were written down on post-it notes, color coded to categorize the ideas into different groups. (I wish I could recall the categories — I think some of them were “services”, “consumable resources”, and “reusable resources”.)
After the brainstorming session, some people took all of the ideas and began discussing them in a focus group. The ideas were prioritized based on what seemed the most useful to the LARPing community and what seemed most doable, using a voting system to tally support for each idea. The end goal was to create a framework for recommending ideas to NEIL. And at the presentation, the organizers of the event shared the results with everyone.
Some of the most popular ideas to come out of this included a lending library of things GMs might need to run a LARP, such as props, costumes, LARP weapons, set pieces and room divides, multimedia technology (for lighting, sound, projectors, etc.) available for GMs to borrow, creating a system for a pool of available NPCs or assistant GMs, funding and grants for LARPs, anti-harassment training for event and LARP staffs, guidance for boxing LARPs, information collection and sharing on venues and other resources such legal and insurance information, and a transit shuttle between public transportation and Intercon’s hotel.
Thus far, none of the ideas seem to have evolved beyond this stage. We had some very promising leads for some of them — for example, some member of Intercon community offered to help put NEIL in contact with organizations that offer anti-harassment training. Personally, as a member of NEIL, I’m hoping to be part of the drive to make some of these projects come to light. The game bank, in particular, is a project we’ve had on the back-burner for a long while — and I’m hoping to see that become a priority in the near future.