Player Driven


The two weeks between the last post and this one have seen me get ready for one larp and participate in it, continue working on the co-alpha and I’s secret project, and start planning another larp with the co-alpha and a friend (and yeah, a fanlarp indeed it will be – but it will be swell nevertheless.)

But what I wanted to write about was not something that’s going to happen months (or even years!) from now, but something I’ve noticed on that same larp I participated in last weekend. It was a larp which took me a week to prepare – which is really not much, since my record is (so far) six months. Still, it proved to be something… special. And what made it so special were, well, the players – with a little help from just-in-time GM input and a lot of flexibility. Not all larps are designed to support it, but those which are make for really, really interesting play.

Some of us call it “player content”, some of us call it “sandbox” or a version thereof, but last weekend I learned that the way it really feels – at least to me – is player driven. Sure, not all of the terms mean the same thing. But player driven, when I use it, means one of the following:

#1 Non-organizer players in active roles. It’s truly a great experience to participate in a larp where your ideas are the only thing that counts. Sure, they might not always work – but sometimes they will, and it will be awesome. Not all of it can be planned, and not everyone can be a player and, also, something else – something more, someone who makes stuff happen, who doesn’t just wait for stuff to happen to them. Still, I really like to see – and be part of something like it – when the main roles in a game are not cast from the very beggining, but appointed according to ingame interaction, storyflow and player involvement. Something (unexpectedly) similar to life – where heroes are made, not cast. It’s definitely worth some further thought.

#2 Recognition of players’ initiative. There are players who presume the GM knows what’s going to happen all of the time – and that the supporting cast should know, too, by association – and will not participate in a quest not assigned by the GM (or, you know, NPCs). And then there are GMs who really listen to what’s happening at their game and accept the best of player inititatives, be it by bending the rules a bit or adding player created content to the lore or taking the story on another path. The experience of improvising and then having your tiny addition added to the main story is an exquisite one, as is the feeling that what you do – even in an artificial environment – really counts.

#3 Collaborative storytelling for the sake of the story. Not strict adherence to rules, not the enojoyment of a select group of players, not competition – but telling a story. In the end, apart from the players’ experience, it may be the single most important thing. (Or it may just be my personal view, since it’s what I do best – you know, tell stories. Well, try, anyway.)

#4 Players who – by their roleplaying, mostly – bring people deeper into play. It doesn’t have to be anyone special, definitely not someone who could be counted as “supporting cast” (though it does help). It doesn’t have to be an experienced player, neither, nor a special character. Definitely not someone with a special destiny. (I’m not that fond of special destinies in the first place – unless you’re Kara Thrace. If you’re Kara Thrace, anything goes.) All it takes is a little great roleplay, a bit of passion and a bit of brave improvization. You are who you want to be, mostly, while larping. Why not be one of the people who drag others into the story, at least sometimes? We are all each other’s props, after all – and I would be the first to help involve others as much as possible. Luckily, most of the people I regularly play with are the same.

In the end, you just have to let yourself be surprised – as a player and GM both. And you shouldn’t be afraid to improvise. Sometimes it’ll work, sometimes it won’t. But why give up before you try?

Who knows, you might become a part of someone else’s special story…

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