Friday, November 26, 2010

IBGA's and You

Don't worry, IBGA's are not sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, they stand for "In-Between Game Actions." Since we haven't yet perfected the ability to play LARP 24/7, people are looking for ways to extend the experience. There are often a number of things that characters would want to do which are simply easier to do in writing than acting out.

But how much IBGA is too much?

Ultimately, IBGAs are difficult to control, since they require interaction from volunteers who run the game. I know there might be a lot of things your character might want to do, but remember that there are 15 other characters with things to do as well, and one or two people have to read through all that and comment on each one. It's a tough job.

A lot of games have specific rules regarding IBGAs. Exiles uses IBGAs to help direct the personal plot of characters and gives them goals for the next game. That way, doing IBGAs doesn't give you any actual benefits, other than the possibility for personal plot learnin'.

Wastelands have a number of skills specifically designed for IBGAs, which allow players to follow leads, establish contacts, and acquire goods. However, you have to purchase the skills with karma points to get any benefit, so it's not like players get anything for free.

Games like NERO and Alliance don't have any set rules for IBGAs. Generally, you can communicate with players and NPCs all you want, but you can never actually receive any items or gold or use skills without purchasing a plot submission.

So what should you consider when you are looking to perform an IBGA?

Do It On Their Time
Unless you're paying them for a plot submission, give them time to respond and don't be pushy. These people all have jobs and hobbies that they'd rather attend to than babysit what your character would do. They'll get to it when they get the chance. Only reply to them if you think they might have forgotten you.

Keep it Brief
Spell out exactly what you're looking to do and don't dwell on the descriptions. The easier you make it for your goal to be understood, the faster they're going to be able to respond.

Avoid Back and Forth
You may be interested in having a dialog with another character. This can be extremely time consuming for the plot person. A better choice would be communication via letter, so that you actually put all your points in one letter. If you really need to have a back and forth conversation, pay for a plot submission or something like that.

Don't Bogart Plot
Plot teams can't give special dispensation to characters based on IBGAs. You may have a ton you want to do or be looking for a particular result. If you don't get it after 2-3 attempts, just lay off for a while. For all you know, there might be a number of other players trying to get their stuff done at the same. Give someone else a chance to do something.

There's no problem with allowing players to perform IBGAs or even to give players benefits for doing that. However, if you are going to give benefits to players, you have to make sure that the rules and expectations are equal across the board so no one gets special treatment. The game is a LARP, and most major activities you perform should be done in live-action.


  1. Great points! At NERO Elkins, we do a ton of IBGAs on the forums, but to be honest, I don't know how Eric keeps up with it all. The advice you give is exactly what I would tell our players.

  2. I couldn't agree with your last point any more. I use IBGAs occasionally, but nothing frustrates me more than when my on-site, in-game work gets completely overshadowed by someone else's "email plot." You know it's bad, because I made a nasty little euphemism for it. There have been events where all the focus on email plot absolutely drove me up the wall. Getting extra information, clues and setting up contacts is fine, but when entire noble titles are going out based on nothing but emails, I think that's a step too far.

  3. I love IBGAs... though I don't always feel I follow those guidelines alot, and I feel bad at times. I'm not good at keeping them short. But if anyone ever wants to do any IBGA with my characters from plot side or just some RP I love em... Helped get me through my last deployment overseas, and with another looming just ahead I'm sure I'll be all over the place with IBGA, Plot submissions, and even some online RP moddays... I hate how just about everything expires I have during these deployments.

    My only problem with IBGA or anything of the sort is when it goes too far to the fantasical or D&D type game. Remember this is your a person character and if your not leaping from rooftop to rooftop he shouldn't be in a side story either. My only reserve is combat in situations.

    I'ld like your all's opinion on that last one. I dont have a problem RPing easy combat like gassing down a goblin or setting traps for their patrols. anything more life threating I believe in holding off for mods.

  4. I'm definitely not a fan of adding combat into IBGAs. If for no other reason, there's no real character risk, so someone can brag about killing a troll or something without actually doing it (stuff like this can be considered Godmoding).

    But ultimately, if the plot team is cool with descriptive actions, go for it. I understand it's a pretty important when players are unable to attend events for extended periods of time.

    And we here at LARP Ohio appreciate everything you and other military personnel do and have done for our country. Thank you.

  5. Understanding is the biggest thanks... it's bad enough missing all the action for a year, but basically having my character disappear for a year sucks... I atleast like to stay in the story, even if it's behind the scenes.

    Though this all does remind me... we got some heroic questing Tim, though I guess some recent IG situations could make it tough.

    Which brings up another thought... I have plot in a couple different chapters. I don't like RP that isn't wrapped up enough to explain my attending events, because some I've been involved with you can't just walk away to a marketday. Sure, I know some things take longer in life then they do in emails, such a RPing a week in your characters life over a month or two of emails. But then you have an RP with another plot member or another chapter and things get complicated (this is mainly when overseas because I have all the time in the world before an event). Where do you all think is the line with too much IBGA at once?

    Don't get me wrong though, I love every RP I can get.

  6. I think this was a great article!!! :) I especially like the one about keeping it brief and being clear about what you want!! I like rp as much as the next plot person, but it's really frustrating getting 10 emails into an interaction and still not being sure what the heck the PC actually wants to get out of it. If you have to, put a note on there out-of-game that explains your points - in the FIRST email! :)

    I'd also like to add, from a staff/plot point, to be sure you're being fair and not setting up unrealistic expectations. For example, say one person is really good at getting back to emails, but their co-staff is not so good. So if the team divides up plot as many teams do, then each staff person is only going to be able to answer, in detail anyway, questions about their specific plots or NPCs. If a PC is pursuing one person's plot, they might get all sorts of tips and roleplay and hints and such. But if they pursue the co-staff's stuff, they get 1 email and that's it. It's great that one plot person is so involved, but it's not fair for the PCs who are trying just as hard to get involved in a different plot. They have to go into game with only what they got from the other staff, while the PC on the super-responder plot gets tons of stuff. It's no one's "fault" it's just different styles that set up different expectations. And in order to be fair, it's good to try to be consistent as a team. It's even better if everyone can answer questions about everything in their camp, but that's really hard to do! :)

    And, of course, know when to stop - from both sides of the table. If a PC is getting into territory of impacting too much in the world, it's probably a good idea to allow other characters a chance to interact and to play it out in game. Obviously, it's up to the people involved and depends on the situation, but like the article says, it's a LARP, not an email rp campaign :)

  7. Thanks for the article :) It gave me a lot to think about. My group of friends and I are new to the whole LARP scene, and we've been doing some casual backyard LARPs to get into the swing of things. However, we discovered after creating a Facebook group that IBGAs can ruin a story. Considering half of my friends are still in high school, rumors started spreading like wildfire, and soon enough no one had any secrets.

    And honestly, stories aren't much fun without a bit of mystery!