A KapCon LARP Manifesto

Some time ago on NZRaG I tried to summarise the desiderata of a "KapCon LARP" (50 - 60 players, 3 hours, theatreform), in the style of a Scandanavian LARP manifesto (minus the art-wank). here is the result for future reference.

On Diatribe they have a number of discussions about various Scandinavian LARP manifestos, such as Dogme 99, which lay out their authors view of an ideal LARP (or at least, make a rhetorical case for a shift in a certain direction). So, here's my broad vision for the KapCon style social LARP. This is presented as an ideal to aim at, rather than necessarily a description of reality - though I should note that "Flight of the Hindenburg" came a lot closer than some of the others.

1. There is no "main plot"

"Main plots" suck. Oh, they're great if you're part of them, but if you're not - and the majority of players fall into this category - then you are just a bystander, watching other people strut their stuff and Be Important. Fun should be equally distributed. Rather than a "main plot" and a number of minor plots, there should be lots of plots, all of roughly equal importance.

2. Everyone's a star

Characters should not be categorised into major, minor, and mook / bit part with different levels of expected involvement and writer attention. Instead, everyone should get roughly the same level of attention from the writers, and the same level of plot involvement. We play these things for fun, not to be furniture in other people's dramas.

3. The players make the fun

Like it or loathe it, that's what happens. The writer's job should therefore be to make it easy for them. Chekhov is famous for saying that if you hang a gun on the mantelpiece in Act 1, you have to fire it by Act 3; in a LARP, given the lack of direct plot control, the writers are essentially reduced to hanging guns. If there's only one gun, people fight over it, and if you don't have the gun, life sucks. Lots of guns, and you get a metaphorical bloodbath. So, make sure there are a lot of big, shiny, sexy guns on that mantelpiece, and make sure there are more than enough to go round. Then throw in a few knives and hand grenades for good measure. The players won't pick all of them up, but if there are enough weapons in the room, the mayhem will be entertaining.

4. Keep it simple

Rules and mechanics get in the way of LARP and force people to break character, so they need to be kept to a minimum. Skill contests between players should likewise be minimised. If it can't be dealt with by showing someone an index card, don't do it.

5. Combat should be minimised

Related to the above, nothing forces people out of character like an extended session of beating off while someone is beaten up. So, don't do it - or if you have to, keep it very simple indeed. As a medium, social LARP is very good for encouraging in-character interaction, and very bad at handling combat or anything requiring special effects. Play to its strengths, and minimise the weaknesses.

Last Updated: 25/07/2009.

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