We talk about plot submissions, forums, mailing lists, info skills, plus introduce a bonus design diary segment for my new LARP in 2013 and ask our listeners for input on a future review idea.
Mickey and Bill
It seems to me like a big problem with between-game-action systems in a lot of games is lack of deliberate design or forethought on the front end, so it ends up being too open ended. The common thread I noticed about the systems you guys liked is that they were never totally open-ended. I think that has two positive results: 1) the demand on staff is less, because you limit the amount of undesirable player input, 2) players feel more fairly treated, because there’s not a learning curve where people are trying to figure out what kind of input actually gets a good response. When a player writes a 3-page plot submission that’s unusable, no one is happy :/
As a side note, I feel like when staff are asking for written player input (whether it’s feedback/PELs, histories, or between-game stuff), it’s super useful to provide an example of what they want to receive. It might seem like a bit of extra time investment, but I suspect it would save a lot of grief. Guessing games of that sort are really no fun.
I think reviews are a good idea. Because LARPs can be a big time investment, most people don’t have much familiarity with more than a couple of games. So it’d be nice to get a glimpse of the range of different types of games that are out there.
I like the forum speeches idea too.
I really like the Romanlarp forum idea.
Reviews are a good idea, but I’m uneasy about them. With how passionate people can be about games, reviews may spawn horrible back-and-forth rants in the comment sections, and those aren’t good for anybody. Reviews will certainly get listener numbers up, though, and they’ll be a good way to learn about games and LARPing cultures we might otherwise never look into.
I really don’t like paid plot submissions unless they’re for ancillary, personal stuff. If someone wants to pay money to finally pursue the guy who murdered their father, then right on, I say; however, increased access -for OOG reasons- to stories that other players are invested in is distasteful to me.
Another issue to be aware of is when a player has increased OOG access to an NPC, like when a guy lives across the street from the guy who plays the Duke or whatever. The PC and NPC may have a great IG rapport, but this can quickly become an unfair situation. There is a time and a place for such things, like when a conversation *needs* to happen but circumstantial things keep getting in the way during an event, but it’s something a plot staff has to be very careful with.
There’s another type of between-event I’ve been a part of, where a player sends plot an email with something they think plot should be aware of. When I played NERO I didn’t hesitate to send a note saying “Here’s what my character is doing. I’m not looking for a response, but here’s why I think it’s relevant.” How do you feel about that sort of thing?
“How do you feel about that sort of thing? ”
That I’m fine with. I consider it part of good feedback, telling the staff what you’re interested in, with one caveat. If you’re telling the staff what you’re doing, then I presume you’re talking about circumstances in which you’re informing them of actions you are, or plan to take at an actual event. Or, alternatively, you’re telling them about something you’d *like* to pursue in the future. If you’re writing to tell them what your character *is* doing, between events, then you’ve gone too far.
FINALLY!!!!! a New eps!
Heh, glad you like it Jon. We aim for one every two weeks. Which is a long wait, but lining up our schedules across country is tricky sometimes.
I’ll admit up front that I’m biased in favor of Between Game Actions because I use them a lot as a player (especially at games where staff really encourages it), but I do realize they can be a big drain on the staff. But as I’ve said to staff on numerous occasions, I personally don’t mind getting short responses that are pretty much hooks for things to happen at events because I look at these things as tools for players to be proactive and give staff opportunities to shape and advance the story they’re trying to present.
The biggest thing that frustrates me, though, is when staff sets one expectation and then fails to meet it (especially if it is an action I’m paying for). Don’t promise all paid actions will get a response within 2 weeks and then repeatedly take months to send one (in one instance it took me 6 months to get a response, with many repeated promises of “by the end of the week”). If your staff doesn’t have the capability to service the requests, simply don’t accept them and make sure it is communicated clearly to the players.
Where I ever to run a game again, I would eliminate between game actions completely.
From my experience, the development of structured between game action skills/rules were an attempt to add more “roleplaying” skills to a game’s skill set and to provide a structured means to allow players to be proactive in response to plot.
I think that on paper they are not a bad attempt to solve the problems of a game’s skill set being to combat focused and to help remove some of the favoritism inherent in the unstructured approach of “a player sends a email to a plot person” (or even just a phone call or IM that says “I want to do X”).
The Structured approach tends to breakdown in two areas however. The first is workload on a volunteer staff. To many skills in player hands means to much work for what is likely an already overworked staff. If you staff has to answer 20 or 30 requests per event, in addition to writing plot, I find it adds to much work and stuff falls through the cracks. Then either not enough plot gets written or player requests don’t get answered.
Second, I want a game to reward proactive actions taken during game play. If a game has a between game action system of any kind, as a player I use it and I use it to fullest possible extent, but that’s because I aggressively go after plot. I don’t play a passive game. Having “LARP Homework” however is not in my mind what the game is about. I have played in games where my actions during the month between events have made far, far more of an impact on the game than anything I did during the two events. I think this is wrong.
In my mind the best solution are to move things that most between game actions skills and system cover back to the event itself.
Instead of having a Oracle style system where you can divine for action between events, run an event or encounter on a regular basis where players can submit questions to an oracle or act as an oracle. Questions are written and collected during the event. This might or might not require players to find components to fuel the divination.
The strength here is that plot has control on when the questions are coming in and if they use a component requirement they can control the number of questions the players can ask.
If you have a system where your players can submit letters to NPC characters, move it from an online system to where you have a Courier NPC come to town on a regular basis. This way if you want to have letters go out only once a year, structure you system so that the courier comes in once a year.
I love encouraging proactive players. Before there were structured between game action systems you had two choices, either wait for something to happen during an event or write random plot people and hope you can inspire them to support your idea. Neither are desirable situations. But I have found that in most cases, additions of structured between game actions place way to much extra work on the staff of a game and I dislike how they move significant actions from Event time to email.
Looking at your Rome game, I think there are areas that genre that are perfect for moving BGS skills to Event time encounters.
Having a version of an Delphic style Oracle or location that the players can go to to ask questions or gain insight. Would be one example.
On the issues of reviews, I don’t know how I feel about them. I have to agree with Tom B. LARPs inspire some pretty emotional responses. I am very cautious about trying new games even when I have gotten a lot of positive feed back about any one game. That being said, I would suggest instead of doing reviews, perhaps adding some guests from other games that are outside of the NERO/Accelerant pool of players/staff.
If I hear a staff person from another game speak intelligently about a topic I am far more likely to check that game out. If I hear them talk about how much they enjoy abusing their player base and demonstrate that they have no concept of what goes into good game design then I know to avoid that game. Hearing good and bad insight from the people who run a game does a lot more for me than hearing a review of a game.
I personally love In Between Game Actions…
but, of course I haven’t had to deal with a great deal yet on the plot side of things. My biggest issue is that I am in the army and get deployed overseas… apparently a good bit. I like to stay in the story still being over here, and I don’t want to come back after a year long deployment and not be able to hang with my friends because they all out leveled me and I can’t hang in the same combat with them…
Fortunately I have a great deal of people willing to work with me and my situation. Now, I know not everyone is in the same situation as me… but if it wasn’t for in between game actions, I don’t know if I would still be so pumped to play again or even forget about it being pulled away from the real world for a year… Now, if someone is abbusing them… don’t mess this up for me.