Monday, July 5, 2010

Game or Sport...maybe both?

Larp is an odd confluence of concepts. We combine the nerdy wonder of a roleplaying game, with the smash mouth speed western martial arts. This gives rise to some strange dichotomy's of player types, the most famous is perhaps the Stick Jock versus the Roleplayer or flurb as they are known in some circles. Whose philosophy is correct? What is the intention of this game? How can people who run games cater to these two totally different mindsets? Maybe the goal should be to combine the mindsets and run the game to appease the new normal.

I am an unapologetic stick-jock, I do role play but a a large portion of my enjoyment on any given weekend is derived from the skill required to win whatever fights take place. I like the team dynamic of games and the pressure that is put on the foam swinging players to protect those without the foam. So from my personal perspective, a game can get by with a skeletal plot line interspersed with intense fights and the occasional break for Gatorade. This would not please my flurby friends.

On the flip side, there are some plot teams that have no skill with stick at all. They tell fabulous stories but all fights boil down to take down spells because that's the only way they can compete with the high end teams. I have been to events where the whole weekend is based around the translation of some ancient scroll, deep thought and careful planning for a final battle that is over in fifteen minutes. This does not please the stick-jocks amongst us.

The best solution I have found in my tenure as a plot/staff person is to make every team NEED certain skills that only the roleplaying crowd has. Let us set up a theoretical encounter to show this. Team A consists of a fighter( Stick jock) a healer(Stick Jock) and a damage dealing class(Stick jock) they find that they must delve into an ancient tomb filled with horrible(but well scaled) monsters that fight them at every turn. At the bottom of the ancient tomb lies a text which requires knowledge skills to read....Team A cannot read the text, their characters may not even be able to read. This gives rise to Team B consisting of a fighter(Stick Jock) a healer(Stick jock/flurb) and a damage dealer(Stick Jock/different type of flurb). Team B can still fight their way down to the bottom of the dungeon, they have trained their flurbs to be at least decent at the foam arts. When they reach the bottom they can read the ancient tome and complete the module. It is important for plot teams and players to remember, anyone can be taught to swing foam or cast spells, teaching flurbiness is much harder.

What then can plot teams take from this? Stick jockery can be taught. I can take 4 weeks and train someone to be an acceptable team player, someone who will not get me killed. The willingness to roleplay and focus skills on something other than combat cannot be taught. Sure I can take some knowledge skills but I probably will forget I have them or not use the right ones. I can probably make some neat crafts but I have no real desire to do so, so I won't. It is up to the stick jocks to train the roleplayers, and the roleplayers to learn. These games that we love demand the combination of roleplay and martial arts, without this combination they do not have the same draw. It is an amazing thing that such different people can be drawn together by one activity, lets keep it amazing. Stick jocks nurture your flurbs and flurbs be patient with your stick jocks. Plot teams, require both on every team, thus can balance be achieved.

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