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Larpcast 4: Marketing

Join us in welcoming our very first guest to Larpcast; Dan Comstock! Dan talks about the use of social media to market LARPs, recruit players, and build a sense of community. He is incredibly informative and we are very happy he agreed to come on the show.

Below are the websites mentioned in the episode:

www.prweb.com - Press releases

www.westernlarp.com - The Exiles LARP

www.electricsamurai.com - Amtgard focused forums

http://nerology.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/how-to-market-your-larp/ - Dan's Nerology blog post about marketing

http://cramul.us/2010/08/dreaming-larp-magazine/ - The Dreaming

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  • Ed

    Yikes, where to begin? I will preface this by saying that I do web development and Internet marketing for a living….

    Some of the broad strokes you guys painted about websites are a bit off… A parchment background isn’t necessarily bad; it can be perfectly fine as part of a proper overall design (which is where most sites fail). I think it all comes down to whether the site is professionally designed or if it’s just someone slapping something together with a template or something of the sort.

    IMO, the #1 mistake I see is that many LARPs think that forum = website and just assume everyone can find everything in the forums. While forums are a key part of the website, and it’s not a bad idea to duplicate some information there (event dates, locations, etc), they are not a substitute for a true website.

    The Exiles LARP site, honestly, is not that great. Content-wise it is better than most, but the design is VERY dated and does nothing to draw a visitor in.

    This would be my list of keys: 1) Professional quality, modern design 2) Content, content, content! Have all the pertinent information on the site in an organized and easy to use fashion. Like you mentioned, dates, addresses, forms, contact info, and “how to get started” information is key. Information about the rules and the campaign settings is a close second. 3) Utilize multimedia to give people a better idea of your game. Photos and video, when properly used, can really go a long way to helping new people figure out what you’re about, but be selective and use only that which presents the best face of the organization. 4) Keep it fresh! Don’t just throw up a site and forget about it; keep it up-to-date and add new information as often as possible.

    Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) is great for marketing, but I see almost no LARPs that use it effectively. Most just use it as a one-way broadcast of event dates and such, but as you mentioned it is best utilized to engage and network with people. They point you made at the end of the podcast about actually UTILIZING them is a huge key.

    As far as marketing goes, the press kit and local media is great and underutilized. Even more underutilized, at least in my region, is hitting high school and college campuses where you can get into their own publications, with colleges you can probably get some time on their radio station, and there’s always opportunities to post flyers.

    From my experience, though, the biggest roadblock when it comes to marketing is that LARP organizers: a) think word of mouth is enough b) subscribe to the “build it and they will come” philosophy c) don’t realize the time and effort it involved to truly get the benefits, and aren’t willing to invest in that and make it worth someone’s while.


    Apr 4, 2011 at 9:03 am
  • 'Nise

    I sat on a panel at a sci-fi convention last year about LARPing with 1 other person from a non combat form of LARP. She took over the panel and instead of the panel being about “hey LARP it’s pretty cool!” or “Hey there are different types of LARP’s and these are the differences and what each system can bring to the table” it was turned into “These are the things I don’t like about new players in a LARP and what pisses me off.” I kept trying to bring things back on track but I failed. Needless to say NONE of those people went LARPing because instead of telling them about the game in a simple easy manner they were scared off.

    Apr 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm
  • WarGoddess

    I am extremely interested in marketing my LARP more effectively. I started a Facebook page before I knew about group pages, so it is a limited in what it can do to begin with. I have since started an actuall group page, but cannot get most of the players on the original to switch over. I don’t have the energy to run both. I also have a MySpace and Twitter account, but honestly doin’t really get either of them. Can you give me any advice about how I can maximize these social outlets? What should I be doing?

    I love the ideas laid out in this podcast and I will likely try to build a press kit. I am trying to get someone to run PR for me and be my face person for colleges, game stores, cons, etc… it has been my experience that space at cons is a bad investment. Do you have any advice about how I might star this myself with a very limited amount of free time?

    My website needs an overhaul and I plan to just scrap it and start over eventually. I want to go with a slick flash site that has message boards as well as all the current info, organized in a useful manner. Can you give me any avice as to how I might accomplish this on less than a shoestring budget?

    And lastly, my players DESPISE the idea of having their picture taken. They flip out at the mere mention. do you have any suggestions as to how I might get pix and video of events?

    Apr 4, 2011 at 6:54 pm
  • Noah

    @’Nise: I’ve seen this pitfall many times in person, at conventions, in rulebooks and also on web sites. Some people have a tendency to fixate on the “problem players” or recurring problematic behaviors at their game, and rather than encouraging productive behavior, they harp on and on about what NOT to do. The Nero rulebook was riddled with this issue in previous editions, and one of my absolute favorite parts of 9th edition is the fact that Mickey ripped out almost all of those “nega-examples.” We don’t need to give players ideas for how to use a rule WRONG, we just need to carefully and explicitly define how to use it RIGHT.

    I particularly liked Bill’s comments about not trashing other games, especially games from other formats, in order to puff up your own. I read a really good article online about how the marketing for the new MMO called Rift could have been much more effective if they didn’t play up the “THIS AIN’T YO PAPA’S WoW!” angle. The main tagline in most of their ads is literally, “We’re not in Azeroth any more.” But most of their target audience LIKES being in Azeroth and thinks it’s pretty cool, so that doesn’t actually accomplish the goal of endearing them to this new product.

    Apr 4, 2011 at 6:55 pm
  • WarGoddess

    Oh, and I love what you guys are doing. I accidentally closed the window halfway through the podcast and when I logged back in it wouldn’t fast forward to where I was. I didn’t mind listening over again, but it would be nice to be able to fast forward or rewind.

    Apr 4, 2011 at 6:58 pm
  • larpcast

    I don’t think there’s much we can do about the fast forwarding thing, but I will double check. In the meantime, if you download the podcast you’ll be able to play it easily enough and all normal mp3 players have those sorts of controls in them.


    Apr 4, 2011 at 7:04 pm
  • Jyn


    What I’ve seen some games do, that was relatively successful, was have a photoshoot/video day separate from events, at some sufficiently IG-looking location. That way, people who don’t want to be in pictures don’t have to show, and those who do can try to look their best. You can offer brownie points/CP/whatever your volunteering-reward-of-choice for attendance.

    Apr 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm
  • Ed


    For the website, I would actually advise against a “slick flash site” for several reasons. First of all, they’re harder for the search engines to index, which cuts off a potential avenue of people finding you. Secondly, as mobile devices continue to gain in popularity, led by the iPhone and iPad, you need to keep in mind that many of those devices (and those two in particular) do not support Flash and thus would not be able to view your site. That said, Flash can have its uses in the areas of a photo gallery or including video, but even there you have other options…

    As for accomplishing it on a shoestring budget, the first thing I would suggest is ask around your playerbase and see if you have anyone with expertise who would be willing to do it. But don’t just take their word for it; treat it like you were hiring someone to do it and check out their work on other sites. If that fails, there are websites such as elance.com, guru.com, and ifreelance.com (to name a few) where you can post a project and have freelancers bid on it. You can even consider breaking it up into smaller projects (especially if you identify someone who has some skills with web development that could update and build on a site template if you gave that to them) and do them as you can afford it.


    Apr 4, 2011 at 8:17 pm
  • larpcast

    Ed’s right, I’m sure there are NERO Mass players with the skills you need.


    Apr 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm
  • WarGoddess

    I thought of the phone thing and figured I could do a scaled-down , bare-bones version for phones. Would that work? I have my heart set on a book and someone has offered to design it for me.

    Apr 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm
  • WarGoddess

    I actually have some people with film creds who are willing to help me out, because I’m the Mama. A seperate film day would be the best solution. I could get a photographer there and get it all done in one fell swoop. I’ll see if some of the local parks will let me shoot there.

    Apr 4, 2011 at 8:40 pm
  • Ed


    The problem with that is then you have two separate sites to maintain. That greatly complicates keeping everything up to date, and then forces you to make choices about what to put on the mobile site.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “I have my heart set on a book”, though. It does give me a little pause, though, because when I hear things like that it is often the case that someone is trying to recreate an interface or experience from another medium on the web rather than using best practices. Even when done well, things like that which seem cool at first often grow cumbersome over time to actually use.

    If you want, contact me through the National forums via PM (Kier) and we can talk in-depth about this without cluttering up the comments.


    Apr 5, 2011 at 7:20 am
  • Daniel Burke

    One of the ‘best/worst’ websites I’ve come across for LARPs would be the Knight Realms page: http://www.knightrealms.com/index.php

    In terms of design its actually quite good at a number of things, it uses some basic security, it puts the information directly in front of you to “sell” the game. Which is to say ease of access, clearly labelled links without using zany fonts, the colors sell the setting without being too ‘busy’. I love how it gets you to photos, videos and showcases the social aspects of the game.

    When you get to digging through the rules and races it becomes more cluttered and thats where it flops a bit for me. There are better formats for distilling large amounts of info that do not require going through dozens of links. I like Wiki’s for that reason you get a nice index right at the top.

    As much as I love the Accelerant system, the webpage: http://madrigal.accelerantgames.com/links.html


    The NERO National webpage is somewhere in the middle ground, not great design, but it does get all the information there. Forums are forums, at this stage its just a matter of what ’style’ of forum works and keeps things clean.

    I do think Dan’s been onto something for some time that social media is a great way to embrace the player base and help promote the LARP. Somewhere lost on Myspace was a page for Avendale I think…it actually was a good way to keep players up to date, and Myspace was awful. Facebook has SO much power in terms of being able to promote, being able to inform the playerbase about IG/OOG/Rules.

    If even more powerful tools like stuff in the google suite could be adopted in ways to make production ’self handling’ just have players submit a google doc, send back a digital signature and have them print their own…theres a lot of potential there, and I’d love to see it used to distribute the onus of ‘running hte game’ onto the players as a means to distributing the weight of keeping things running. It dodges the issue of the ‘cult of personality’ and lets many ‘administrators’ handle the functions of approval.

    Apr 5, 2011 at 7:40 am
  • Dan C.

    @WarGoddess - you asked about the best way to use twitter to promote your game.

    I’m not a twitter expert, but I think the most important thing is basically producing a stream of information to keep interest up. Try to make a few posts per week. Don’t stress about them, they just need to remind people that the game still exists when they’re not playing it. If facebook is like being at a party, twitter is like standing in a crowd making smalltalk.

    Things you might want to post:

    (1) announcements and reminders about upcoming events (2) recaps of favorite moments (3) little bits of in-game lore (4) links to people on the net who are talking about your game (5) when you update the website, link it up (6) links to websites, videos, movies, TV shows, etc, that remind you of your game’s narrative or atmosphere

    Apr 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm
  • Ed

    Dan’s pretty much dead on about Twitter.

    To carry it even a step farther, though, don’t look at it as a purely one-way communication stream. You can use it to ask questions of people and get direct feedback. Another idea that can be fun is to throw out trivia questions for people to answer.

    And don’t be afraid to comment on tweets from your followers, either! That is the sort of thing that really helps to separate you from a lot of the masses and can help you spread the feelers of your networking there.

    Apr 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm
  • Brad Gardner

    Love the pod cast, very informative.

    Another thing that often sucks about LARP marketing is event teasers. The teaser should tell me, as a potential new player to your game, why your next event is going to be cool and why I should be excited about coming to your game.

    Most teasers are overly vague. Unless I’ve been playing your game for years I have no idea what the heck they are talking about.

    One example of a good teaser was a video teaser a NERO chapter did. The chapter planned some kind of dragon encounter and did a video with their dragon phsyrep / costume in a mock battle with players. As a potential player I don’t know what the plot line is but thought of a dragon fight at the event gives me something to look forward to.

    Another example was an amtgard event which promised to recreate the d&d module Keep on the Borderland. I remember this module and that was enough to get me to want to go. It suggested a structure of the event without soiling all the surprises.

    Apr 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm
  • Brad Gardner

    If I were going to establish a twitter feed for a LARP there would be two kinds of posts: important announcements and in game posts. The announcements would be about when the next game was and would be infrequent. The in game posts would be in the format of a town crier giving info about the town. Each crier post would be aimed at describing one small part of the LARP world.

    Apr 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm
  • Ed


    The problem with using something like Twitter for IG information like that is that it will most likely exclude a large portion of your player-base. Most LARPs have only a portion of the players who visit their forums regularly, and of those only a portion are likely to utilize something such as Twitter.

    I also dislike it personally as it gives an advantage to players who utilize that OOG functionality. While the same could be argued of forums, I have less of an issue with it because of the more widespread use. The exception to that I could see would be if your LARP was based in a setting where technology and such were prevalent, so that something such as Twitter would fit as part of the setting.

    If you were going to go ahead with that, though, I would definitely make two separate Twitter accounts; one for the IG announcements and one for OOG information and networking.

    Apr 6, 2011 at 5:27 am
  • Daniel Burke

    “I also dislike it personally as it gives an advantage to players who utilize that OOG functionality. While the same could be argued of forums, I have less of an issue with it because of the more widespread use. The exception to that I could see would be if your LARP was based in a setting where technology and such were prevalent, so that something such as Twitter would fit as part of the setting.”

    @ Ed : I would make the argument that more people visit their Facebook, where they can get an update by clicking “Join” to their chapter or larp/game of choice than people who ever go to a forum or are even aware of a forum. Sheer weight of #’s is on my side with this one, plus friends who join larp groups on something like FB or Twitter result in free advertising through the viral nature of friend feeds and mutual friends.

    FB has become ubiquitous. Even if you dont use twitter (like me) almost everyone has at least HEARD of it, and people can re-link tweets that are particularly noteworthy/hilarious to non twitter users. If the chapter leads, the players will generally follow, and prominent links and mentions of “Hey want to get your updates automatically to your twitter/email/RSS feed? Click Here!” or just as easily “We have a Facebook group, join >here

    Apr 6, 2011 at 7:42 am
  • Ed

    @Dan: I will agree in most cases about your assertion on Facebook, though I’m seeing more people starting to pull back from LARP groups/pages on Facebook as they try and separate their personal and professional lives (though that does seem to fall along certain age and profession lines).

    It’s my personal opinion that with LARP groups, especially since they are almost exclusively staffed by volunteers, it is best to choose one primary method of communication and then use other venues as supplementary and drive the traffic to the primary.

    Apr 6, 2011 at 8:08 am
  • Dan C.

    Re: Twitter

    Remember that when you’re doing web marketing, you’re playing the role of community organizer, not event planner. That’s the main reason I wouldn’t use twitter for IG posts.

    There is probably also a twitter lesson about posting to relevant local hashtags… like there might already be an #ohiogaming community, for example… but I don’t really know much about that as I’m not marketing any games right now!

    Re: Not making your players self-conscious

    I don’t think this is a reason in itself not to market via facebook. If people are embarrassed about their hobbies, they won’t join your group. That’s really on them. Personally, I hate seeing a larp organizer authorize the stigma by treating LARP like we’re supposed to be ashamed of it. Sure, don’t tag people in photos, but also, don’t do this: http://www.seventhkingdomige.com/nj/index.php/newplayers/whatsanige — it’s basically telling your players that we need to conceal this thing we enjoy doing with our friends.

    Apr 6, 2011 at 8:43 am
  • Ed

    @Dan: I agree about that not being a reason to not market via facebook. It was more just a cautionary point as to why it might not be good to start using it as a primary distribution method for IG information.

    Apr 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm
  • Jon Bird

    Where can I find a game like the dreaming or get the rules to the old one? I would love to play!

    Apr 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm
  • Dan C.

    for the time being, you can find the Dreaming’s rules here: http://cramul.us/mediawiki/

    Apr 18, 2011 at 8:00 am