Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sticking around: The Player In Me

I spent a portion of yesterday evening considering where I derive my fun from at a NERO event. Obviously this was fueled in part by the post and discussion yesterday. After thinking about some of my favorite events ever I came up with a few things that make the game for me, I would encourage everyone else to consider posting what makes the game for them. I want everyone to realize that this is completely personal preference, these are the things that I enjoy.

I am a gamist. I love dissecting rules, finding a way to play that is optimal and then leveraging that into a powerful character. I like to be able to flex my characters build at events, so I prefer that my plot people write heavy combat into events. Some of my favorite events have been the ones that were intentionally, very slightly over scaled. Fighting a losing battle against the odds and pulling through makes me feel like a hero, which is the goal.

I am a strategist. I like working through the way a fight should go before it begins and then executing the plan with a group of competent people. Small fights, dungeon crawls, limited modules, throwing a few of these in my direction at an event will earn a plot team points. I don't really mind if I get outfought in one of these situations, that just means someone was better than me. I do mind if I get out scaled, plot should be able to accurately scale for a small group.

I am a fighter. I want someone in the plot shack to go toe to toe with me. Someone who has taken the time to learn to fight well. I will absolutely seek that person out all weekend, I really don't care if it is metagamey. The quality of the sticking that I get to do in a weekend directly correlates to the fun level of the event.

These are my top 3. I know, I know, why don't I just play Dagorhir? I enjoy the rest of the game as well, but these are the things that make me the most happy. Tabard monsters are fine, I like fog machines and special effects to remove the cheese factor of fighting in a barn, but when it comes right down to it if you run randoms every 20 minutes with a few small modules for me and a couple giant wave battles, I will have fun.


  1. I'm completely opposite of Tim :) Okay, not really, but I'd say that I fall pretty hard into the Nar category. For me, the game is all about the story being told. Even if I'm not in the story, I like knowing that there is some narrative unfolding, and that it's a good one. And actually, in my years LARPing, I've yet to be able to be a main character in any plotlines, but I keep going back hoping I will someday :) Pretty hard on the heels with that is a good fight with interesting mechanics. Not complicated, necessarily, but something other than "you fight guys in tabards in the field" for the umpteenhundreth time. I guess that might still be Nar style, since I am still looking for that storybook feel or an epic battle.

    And I absolutely hate randoms as they're usually done. First, after about the 2nd year of LARPing it's just not interesting or fun for me to fight shock beetles who just happen to burrow under my cabin. Even the part of me that enjoys swinging a stick and such is not satisfied by these often low-level and slack encounters - NPCs don't usually put much effort into making these active and dynamic, let's face it. They need energy for the mods! Second, in most cases it works against immersion and story for me (and often interrupts me just when I got a group together to go out and actually DO a part of the story). Unless they have a purpose, WHY are 7 orcs attacking 70 PCs in the middle of a town/outpost? If you have "randoms", make them have a point - tie them into what's going on with your plot, put a little effort into make a mini story out of it (remember in Big Trouble in Little China when the funeral turns into a brawl? Something like that could easily be a town random attack). Make them fun. So I guess a stick jock I am not - I will probably never get jazzed just about fighting people without something interesting going into the set up of the fight.

    I do understand that other people are different, and I like to staff with people who balance out the other aspects to make a game that all types can enjoy. It may not be my style, but if you like it and it doesn't hurt anyone, then go for it! :)

  2. During my LARP career, I've gone through the cycle of all three creative agendas. When I started playing at 17, I started off just wanting to feel like there was another world I could escape to. My first really immersive experiences were at NERO Neridia. The immersion factor there was so high because Matt Simms ran a chapter with a really dynamic culture. There were over a dozen subcultures and political factions, all of them were believable and nuanced, and all of them interacted with each other in interesting ways. For example, my hawkish pro-war stance ended up getting me connected to an Elven team with entirely different goals.

    My definition of immersion was turned on its head when I hit Mythodea, in Germany, with Noah and Joe V. 5,000 people all trying to impress everybody else - THAT was a world you could really get lost in! And everybody was speaking German, so I *really* felt like a foreigner. I could gush about that experience for pages. It changed everything I think about LARP.

    These days I LARP for the snapshot moment. That is, memorable episodes which I'll carry with me for years. When I'm at an event, I'm constantly thinking, "Am I going to remember this module 5 years from now? If not, what can I do to make it that memorable?"

    I think I'm more in the gamist camp these days. I lead a team at Madrigal with a heavy focus on teamwork and coordinated formations. People get really focused on individual fighting technique, often to the neglect of team fighting technique. House Beacon runs drills on Saturday morning. We like going on overscaled modules and defending the hardest possible point to defend, even though we're relatively low level. We like big game hunting monsters that can kill us in one swing. It's sort of thrilling to be renowned for running a kickass polearm hedge. Plot has started inventing new monster skills specifically to counter our formations. That's a victory in my book!

    Sadly, running plot for like seven years took me out of the Nar camp. After reading enough Joseph Cambpell, and after consuming a certain amount of fantasy plot, I'm kind of plot agnostic. Maybe it's because most NERO plot doesn't go deeper than developing increasingly scary NPCs to kill. I'm way more interested in the individual episodes within a story than I am in the arc itself. Likewise, Madrigal has a great story, but it's so dense and nuanced that it's almost inaccessible. I've been playing for years and I'm only just starting to get a handle on what's going on.

    I really like having a shtick. I role play a really stuffy goody-two-shoes city-boy paladin character, mainly because most people in NERO play more rough-around-the-edges characters who are unphased by uncivilized behavior. I like playing the straight man, the comedic foil that gets really grossed out when a limb gets eaten or somebody belches at the table. I am willing to play my character a little bit naive because it often leads to good shtick. I am honest to a fault, gullible, and uncompromising - great traits for a paladin!

    And on a final gamist note, I'm also with Tim in that I like finding the handful of people at the campsite who can beat the crap out of me without breaking a sweat -- and fight them over and over again.

  3. I'd say I agree with Dan on a lot of points. I like to play for the snapshot moment. I love strategy when it can be applied (and am especially downtrodden when plot makes a fool of me when it comes to strategy, but that's for another post).

    I love having a shtick. In NERO, I play a heavy good character in a world of grey fence sitters, and I'm not quiet about it. In Exiles, I play one of a few characters that is still extremely skeptic about supernatural events, where many characters are completely fine with say, an angel walking around town.

    Also, I love to get my ass kicked with skill. Not with massive though...

  4. I am an immersion junkie...I agree with Karin that it is more about the story than anything else. I love characters that have depth and an interesting story. I understand the limitations of the game, and don't let "random NPCs in tabards" ruin my immersion, as long as they are playing their part well. Combat can be fun, but as I look at it now I realize that I was probably over it a while ago. I love mod areas that are properly repped - tarps are fine, but don't point to a line of weeds and say "that's a wall"...I know we all do it at times, but it should be the exception, not the rule. Run my mod sheets where I found them, not next to the shack.

    That's the kind of stuff that gets me juiced...that and creative roleplaying and character concepts. I agree with Tim that heroism is way up there also...fighting against odds is more important to me than winning though. Defeat me, but make it an interesting part of the story line and it's all good.