NELCO 2014: GM Services

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”.)

Colorful ideas.

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.

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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 2014: GM Services

  1. idiotsavant23 says:

    That’s some good ideas. Here’s what NZLARPS does:
    – regional gear libraries, with weapons, costumes, tavern gear, set-dressing, and other odds and sods. Which means games don’t have to invest in their own gear or needlessly duplicate the same resources. The gear tends to be built up from previous games, and includes first-aid gear.
    – financing and front money. Which means students can run weekend-long games without worrying about where they’re going to get the thousands of dollars needed up front for venue deposit and catering costs (the price of this is that we keep the profit – joys of being an NZ non-profit org)
    – budgeting assistance and institutional knowledge: slowly developing, but we’re building resources like standard budgets, how-tos and venue lists etc to help people plan events.
    – advertising: NZLARPS markets larp at the local geek-culture expos (get a stand, turn up in costume, hand out business cards and flyers to anyone who take sone). We use this opportunity to point people at the various games and campaigns, regardless of who runs them or whether we’re involved. Larpers tend to play a variety of different games here, so growing the pool benefits everybody.
    – I guess Diatribe counts as well, though forums everywhere seem to be being eaten by facebook.

    Obviously you’re a different organisation with different local needs, so YMMV.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I’d love to hear more about how the libraries work — for a long time, we resisted this kind of thing because we didn’t have storage, but NEIL might be renting a storage locker soon, so this kind of thing becomes more of a possibility. I know some LARPs give other LARPs their gear when they’re done (Clockwork Skies inherited Endgame’s stuff when it closed.) But it doesn’t go back and forth much during games, as far as I know.

      We used to do some amount of advertising at conventions, but our largest event (Intercon) is currently bursting at the seams. We seem to have dropped off all advertising until we figure out a larger hotel. NELCO could use more advertising, though, I think. …Maybe we should be finding more ways to involve the international community remotely with NELCO? Hm. I think I’m having a brainstorm here.

      I think Intercon briefly had boards — I think the primary intention was to help people organize rides and find hotel roommates, but nobody used it. Facebook works fine for that, I guess. (I do like checking Diatribe now and then, though!)

      • idiotsavant23 says:

        How the gear library works: we used to use volunteers for hosting it (someone’s garage or spare room, for a while a garden shed which moved around people’s backyards), and Wellington still does that. Auckland has recently moved to renting storage, but its expensive and we’ll see how that works out. People running games just contact the gear officer and pay a fee. Transport is done by volunteers, though Auckland has a trailer which is used to cart stuff around for big games. There’s some indexing, so people know what we’ve got, but that’s an area we could do better. The biggest problem we have with it is making sure that everything is in the right boxes.

        Gear bought for NZLARPS games goes into the pool, there’s some donations, and every so often we have a gear day to make something specific. The regions tend to have irregular cleanouts and maintenance sessions as well.

        Most of the gear supports campaign larps, though we can do a pretty good theatre-style setup if we need to (e.g. we managed to do a very impressive set for “Dance and the Dawn”). For basic theatre-style, all you really need is cups / wine glasses, water jugs, a couple of plates, tablecloths and a cashbox; you can fit that in a single plastic storage container and not need any real hassle.

      • idiotsavant23 says:

        Advertising: is it within NEIL’s purpose to advertise other larp events (e.g. Festival, SLAW, standalone games, campaigns), and could they cope if you did?

        NELCO: Looking at Knudepunkt and Wyrdcon (and even KOLA), the way to involve the international community more seems to be to either put the talks up on YouTube, or have an associated book (even if its only PDF). That way people can view and respond to the discussions, while internationals could directly contribute to the latter. But this obviously is a whole new layer of hassle.

        (A book doesn’t have to be academic. One of things that looks good about NELCO and Precon (from the timetables and what I see of stuff afterwards) is that there’s a strong practical focus. Keeping that would give you a distinct brand compared to the more academic events).

        • Fair Escape says:

          Well, I guess all of the events advertise for one another — we put ads in the con booklet, and we do plugs at con wrap and leave flyers and notices on boards and such.

          We have started video taping panels and presentations, and as of an hour or so ago, I can say they’re making it to the web.

  2. idiotsavant23 says:

    WRT the gamebank, one of the problems with the rpg.net scenario list (which effectively serves the same purpose) is that things keep falling off the web. So a permanent repository would be good. Bonus points if games can be tagged, and its searchable by genre, number of players, length, gender ratio etc.

    • Fair Escape says:

      Yeah, we often direct people towards the gamebank, but it’s tough with all of the dead links. I’d really love to see a searchable system like you described. Part of the sad thing is we have a bunch of LARPs from the Small Games writing contest and the Iron GM games that I think are supposed to be available for free online, but… they aren’t. They’re sitting somewhere waiting for game bank, I think.

      • idiotsavant23 says:

        NEIL has webspace. How had is it to do a static page (e.g. http://sdc.kapcon.org.nz/ )? Or just use google drive or dropbox etc? You can do all the whizzbang database driven searchy stuff later.

        (I’ll try and do another dead-link cull and search for alternative versions of older games later…)

        • Fair Escape says:

          That would be a question for the more tech-oriented people on NEIL, but I think the hard part is actually collecting all the LARPs — I’m not sure what format they’re currently stored in or where.

          …Are all of those Kiwi LARPs available for anyone to run?

          • idiotsavant23 says:

            Anything on the Kapcon SDC site is available for anyone to run – that’s the point of the thing. As is anything on the rpg.net wiki, though obviously that’s not kiwi-only.

            There’s been 2 kiwi larps published in the last 2 month (“Face of Oblivion” and “Quiet Day at the Library”), and I know of three more which are making their way through the process ATM (“Shell Beach”, “Boats Against the Current” and “Argonautica”). Which is one reason why we haven’t established a local gamebank – a strong culture of publication.

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