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Wow, so it's been way too long since our last episode! We had some technical problems and I apologize for some lingering echo, but hopefully those are on their way to speedy resolution and we're coming back strong. Today's episode is about continuity of information for a game. How a staff preserves their game even as the staff members change. With special guest Ryan Strippel of Exiles!

http://www.westernlarp.com/

Mickey and Bill

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  • 'Nise

    One of the things I liked for collecting knowledge is a wiki site. If you have 10 years or more of running games and you’ve been writing all of this stuff down then you end up with a massive amount of data. Having a good summery and then having something that is searchable by topic and link documents makes it less intimidating for a new staff /plot member.

    One of the other things that I liked when I was doing staff was visiting other chapters and IG locations to NPC and see how other staff teams ran their game.

    I also have to give major props to Exiles. I staffed (rather I fetched and carried for Benson and NPCed) and although I had a great time and I think we ran some great games all the credit and the majority of the work was shouldered by Benson because most of his archive wasn’t available to me. The changeover and the new plot teams have been wonderful and I think the quality of the games has remained constant or (sorry Benson) sometimes improved slightly because of having more minds to come up with the plots.

    Plotlines aside one of the other things that a LARP MUST do is write a monster manual or have a monster generating mechanic. I’ve played in a LARP where the stats were not constant or written down and that made the pace drag, it made encounters and mods into arguments, and the game suffered as a result. I’ve also run games where we didn’t have a monster manual (WAR 12 or so years ago in the Forest of Myst) and I was lost as to how to stat monsters. Sending out an encounter would take half an hour or so because we had to reinvent the wheel every mod.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:36 pm
  • Mike F.

    I think that in this day and age it is inexcusable for a game to not have some kind of document repository and database for plot documents. Game should also require plots to be run to be written down before the event.

    I’ve seen some very slick web sites set up to manage all this information for a game, but unfortunately they seem to be rare. To many games won’t even use something as simple as google docs to record information.

    I would be cautious about trusting player notes on in game events. Whenever I review player Post Event Letters for the game I staff I find instances where a player’s description in no way matches how an encounter went down (at least according to my memory). It amazes me how players will always write things to place themselves in the most favorable light. I suspect most of it is a perception issue. You remember strongest what you were doing in a fight or an encounter, not what others are doing.

    May 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm
  • larpcast

    “I would be cautious about trusting player notes on in game events. ” Totally agreed. But in the absence of anything else, it’s sometimes better than nothing. Even if it simply reminds you how things *really* happened.

    And I also consider it ridiculous how often games don’t use simple technology to keep records. Actually, I kind of want to do a podcast about technology and LARPs now, and talk more about google docs, wikis, Skype, and all sorts of other things that seem so useful and yet are resisted so strenuously in a lot of LARP circles.

    -Mickey

    May 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm
  • Stephen L.

    First!!

    Jun 1, 2011 at 2:00 am
  • Stephen L.

    Ooorr… not…. ~kicks my cashe~ Umm… carry on. ~shuffles~

    Jun 1, 2011 at 2:01 am
  • larpcast

    It’s a weird quirk of the site, probably somehow tied in to paid subscription level, that it takes awhile to update numbers of comments and hits and the like on the main page.

    -Mickey

    Jun 1, 2011 at 6:24 am
  • Ed

    Having the documentation is key, yes, but all the documentation in the world isn’t worth a dime if staffers refuse to utilize it. One of the worst staff transitions I can remember at a LARP centered around an owner and several staffers who not only ignored the institutional memory that was documented but went so far as to publicly make it known to players that they didn’t care how things had actually been established, they were going to do it their way and if that conflicted with the past you (as a player) just needed to “get over it”.

    @Mickey - A technology episode would be really cool, but don’t forget that technology itself isn’t the magic bullet that some people think it is. You still have to have a foundation of a plans and processes to utilize the technology successfully; I think that’s the point of failure in many instances and what turns off a lot of people.

    Jun 1, 2011 at 6:35 am
  • Bill

    @Ed

    We know there is no magic bullet. We just like to lay out as many resources for people to run a successful game.

    We assume that by listening to the podcast, our listeners are probably interested in making your game (or a game that you play) better. People like that will probably try to take tips laid out here or there and apply them to fit the game they play (as no two games are identical, even within the same rules set).

    Or maybe they’re just bored at work. That’s also a possibility.

    Jun 1, 2011 at 8:33 am
  • Ed

    @Bill - Oh, I didn’t think you guys would believe that. I’ve just seen a lot of it out there, and happen to believe in pointing out potential pitfalls with any resource. :)

    This is also what I get for replying at work (and first thing in the AM), where there are those that think technology is a magic bullet.

    Jun 1, 2011 at 10:24 am
  • Mark A

    Great podcast guys!

    Having staffed a few games, I’ve found that many of the people that are most creative (and therefore the best runners of plot) tend to also be the ones that are not so good about writing stuff down (or more accurately, typing it up and sharing it with others). How do you balance that? Forcing them to write stuff down often alienates/frustrates them, it’s not fair for another staff person to have to take notes on everything other staff person(s) say (I’ve seen that), and it’s unfair to staff members that do take the time to write/post everything for team consumption. Communication is not a core competency of many-a-larper, particularly in written form. I like the concept (as anyone that’s worked with me can attest), but how can you see it actualized considering the personality type(s)?

    Thanks, - Mark

    Jun 3, 2011 at 10:06 am
  • larpcast

    Good question with a kind of sad answer.

    Short term? I don’t know what to do to make people write things down more. Hopefully Bill has some good insight on this.

    Long term, however, is a different story. In the long term I think the only thing that will really work is a culture shift, which is a big part of why I wanted to do this episode. We need to convince people, over time, that writing stuff down is not just a bonus part of staffing, but an obvious and default part of it. It’ll take fits and starts, but too often people organizing LARPs aren’t forthcoming with having it as a basic expectation and then have to try and fix things later. Instead I hope to convince people that when they’re putting a staff together they just include keeping some kind of track of things as a normal default. It doesn’t need to be voluminous prose, bullet points are great, but I think that the more we have people discussing how important it is and the more organizers just assume people will write stuff down, the more we’ll have even scatter-brained creative types doing it out of hand.

    Maybe a pipe dream, but I think we can do it and I’ve seen some LARPs where the staff writes stuff down as a matter of course so I think it’s on its way. It just takes the various LARP communities talking about it. And, maybe a touch harshly, it also takes LARP organizers favoring staff who write things down over staff who don’t. Like anything else, reward the behavior that you want. We’re volunteers for the most part so you can’t necessarily punish the “bad” behavior here, but I’ve seen staffs where the people writing things down were basically made fun of for doing it and that’s just stupid management.

    -Mickey

    Jun 3, 2011 at 10:18 am
  • Bill

    I think Mickey hit it right on the head. Someone who writes fantastic plot but refuses to write things down is not a team player, and it’s up to the team to determine if it’s worth the trouble to work around them.

    I like to think of those people as the Randy Moss or Terrell Owens of plot. Sure, they can do some great stuff with the ball. But for them to function to their peak, other people on the team have to deal with their crap. And there comes a certain point where it becomes more trouble than it’s worth.

    On the other hand, teams that work with each other can be like sports teams. Even without any mega-all star player they can still make some pretty amazing stuff happen.

    Jun 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm
  • Mike F

    I think the keys are:

    1 Technology is a Tool, a very powerful Tool.

    2 Staff Members have to utilize the Tool for it to matter. This is true for just about anything. As Bill said, staff members must be team players.

    This touches on a larger problem, it’s not just utilizing the tech. It’s maintaining professional standards so the game can run smoothly. If one guy isn’t putting his plots in on time, he’s not a team player. If he writing them up at all and just running on the fly, he’s not a team player.

    Tools that preserve institutional information require staff members to be team players.

    Jun 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm