Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LARP as a team, or Winning at LARP

Many fantasy novels and stories focus around the concept of a lone wolf. A hero, singular in his pursuit of justice, with no friends or companions to assist him. I am going to come right out and say that this is a horrible idea in a larp setting. There are a number of reasons for this, but when you boil them all down you come to an inevitable conclusion, LARP is a team game. Roleplay, combat, treasure and fun all increase when players play with each other.

The lone wolf as the basis for a character feels like positive roleplay. It is a concept, somewhere to begin. It is archetypal, there are many characters to base your actions on. It makes players feel powerful when they accomplish objectives all on their own. LARP does not lend itself to the lone wolf for roleplay, because larp is largely a collaborative game. In order to make others in the story aware of your roleplay you must interact with them. Brooding in the woods by yourself may sound like fun when you consider it at home. It may be fun to say in a tabletop game that your player broods in the woods between sessions, but when you get to an event and immediately head for the woods to brood you miss out on all roleplay that takes place, if you do not head to the woods to brood then you have no opportunity to express your character concept. This divide is almost impossible to cross, you cannot both express a lone wolf concept and be involved in the fun collaborative rolplay that separates a larp from a combat game. In essence you give up the best part of coming to the game for your character concept or you give up your concept for the game.

The lone wolf does not function well logistically. If you consider a normal event that you attend, the plot and staff personnel are generally outnumbered by the players. At an excellently staffed event you may have a 2 player to 1 NPC/staff ratio. This means that every NPC must entertain at least two players at any given time in order to maintain constant entertainment, we literally do not have time to entertain lone wolf characters. Generally plot people will try to make some accommodations and run small things for people doing things on their own but there is absolutely no question that playing alone wolf character will limit your interaction in the logistical portion of the event. Combat effectiveness wise a game cannot be scaled to allow both teams of characters and lone wolf characters without breaking a portion of the suspension of disbelief or breaking the overall power level of the game. If every character could function by his or herself without the need for supporting character, most tactical encounters would be impossible. One of the primary tactical resources available to event runners is resource allocation questions, how many ____ do we need, do we have enough____. In order to make these questions viable, every character cannot have every _____ , therefore lone wolves will never have all of the resources necessary to participate in a module designed for a team. You can scale every module to the composition that is present, but that also removes the tactical question of resource allocation.

In a game with a crafting system it will always be easier to collect the components necessary to build things with more than one person looking for them. More people= more treasure - a greater variety of treasure = build more cool stuff. Lone wolves will never have as many collectible resources available as team based characters.

So what do you give up to play your lone wolf character? You give up on the roleplay, the combat, the logistical focus and the treasure distribution...Sounds like you might as well NPC!


  1. I think it's important to do your own thing via your char's plot, but also to include others to share in it as well. Decide what your goals are and approach plot with them. Perhaps do the roleplay/communication with plot one on one (possibly even between events) and do the actual battles with a group. Everyone wins. Your lone wolf char can have any number or reasons for seeking assistance.

  2. Sure sure, the roleplay is tempered by the mechanical aspects, that is an option.

  3. Now I want to play a lone wolf. But only because you said I couldn't.

  4. Are you saying Scarab takes up too much of plot's time? I consider him kind of a lone wolf because I have no "team" I hang with though I do talk to people and work with others to accomplish goals I can't do by myself. And though I'm sociable and get along well with people I still consider myself kind of a lone wolf. Perhaps it's just my definition of what it takes to be a lone wolf. And yes, I have been told I won NERO so /shrug.

  5. You're not a lone wolf... due to the fact that you work with people.

  6. Cedarlock: Seven years of my gaming life, bearing as many as five artifacts at any one time in addition to typical */day magic items, components enough for a healing pool or two, LOTS of roleplaying (mainly with NPCs), a touch of combat here and there, and lots and lots of walking. The lone wolf concept can work if you want it to and you can still come out with a character that people know, you enjoy, and happy with where plot has taken you.

  7. See Tim, from some of the text I thought you were speaking of the team mentality. Where people have these teams they role with at events. If that was the case then I wouldn't fit into that catagory. Though most encounters are easier with more people. However I don't always agree with the more treasure...

  8. The fact that it works for a few does not mean it is best for the game or for most players. The team mentality is the way NERO was designed, it can work with people who just work together as well. When you spend some time playing on an actual well organized team where most of the players are level 15-30, you will see what I mean. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

  9. It may work for you, but it puts a ton of stress on plot. I know there were at least three major plotlines that go "cowboy'd" by cedarlock and he simply never got to them.

    I know now to avoid giving critical path objectives to lone wolves (have at least one other avenue/hook). But the biggest source of burnout for plot is writing pages of content that never hits play.

  10. Bill: Not to cause disruption, but let's flipside that.

    As a PC, my biggest form of burnout, is to have put a lot of time and energy into understanding a problem, researching how to fix it... then taking it to the other PCs (Be they town/nobles/whatever)... and having their instant answer go "let's hit it with sticks right now".

    I realize that "hitting things with sticks" is the quickest, easiest way to entertain all the PCs... however I find it quite an irritation to know that will always be the answer, no matter now much RP/subtlety/finesse/thought I put into something.

    So... don't give people like us who want to "cowboy" it, as you put it, a chance to. If you don't want the game to be played that way, tell us. Don't give us hope that there is something other than hitting with sticks in our future. Being honest for five minutes would be better than stringing us along for five events.

  11. Don't confuse alternative characters with lone wolves. The problem wasn't that cedarlock was doing things the wrong way. The issue is that he got all the hooks and instead of passing the ones he wasn't doing on to others, he left them in the mud.

    Players that have an objective and work towards it by themselves are fine. But keeping things for the sake of keeping them is a problem.

    And yes, people resort to hitting things with sticks far too often.

  12. Stephen, you mistake the meaning, this does not mean that the only solution is hitt stuff with sticks. However, most solutions will involve SOME hitting with sticks because it entertains the maximum number of people. If every plot was solved by one person then only one person would be entertained by the plot. I think alternate solutions are awesome and generally if they are presented consider them and allow them to interact with the plot/mod/whatever.

  13. "I know there were at least three major plotlines that got "cowboy'd" by Cedarlock and he simply never got to them."

    "The issue is that he got all the hooks and instead of passing the ones he wasn't doing on to others, he left them in the mud."

    -- What is this, a personal attack or are you calmly airing grievances? The lack of tone in pure text is such a trap.

    I have never, to the best of my recollection, ever intentionally left a plot in the mud because I personally wouldn't have time for it. I have not made a conscious effort to cowboy a plotline for the sake of my own gratification or saved something for later rather than pass it along when I was too busy.

    I've been on the dishing-out side of plot for far too long to go dumping other people's hard work out of spite, malice or apathy because I know what that does to the game as well as to that plot person's creative effort.

    If you could cite examples of how I have burned you in the past, Bill, I would gladly discuss further what happened as I can recall it.

  14. This is a calm airing of grievances. I know that none of that was done in malice. I think it was a case of sheer volume of hooks that hit Cedarlock, simply because the number of proactive characters during that time was quite low.

    What it ultimately comes down to is when plotlines rely on a critical path, a hold up is very possible. Critical path issues don't only arise with lone wolf characters - I know a ton of teams that tend to drop the ball when it's in their hands. Unfortunately, as Stephen made clear, Lone Wolves either have the critical path or someone else with the hook is going to beat it with sticks. I could (and perhaps will) do an entire article on the issues of critical pathing in plotlines.

    With the experience I have now, I am sure that many of those plotlines could have benefited from additional points of presentation, but I was simply too green to know of a good way to handle the situation.

  15. Bill,

    Lessons learned on all of our parts, I suppose. It doesn't matter all that much now, though, because I've divested myself from everything plot related with Cedarlock. With nature magic back in full swing, the biata's work is done, so that character can collect dust during my sabbatical. In the meantime, I can try focusing more on trying the teamwork aspect that is the real point of this thread.

  16. I wish I read this when I first started playing, I'd have known to give up far earlier than I did. "Not part of the right team, not part of plot" had been my experience more often than not.

    Although I did eventually find some plot people who did buy into the idea of "all paying customers are paying customers", but then they would move on...or I'd perm :P