Thursday, September 29, 2011

Would a Club LARP Work?

We had a nice discussion last night at our gaming group, in which Tim gave his vision of how a LARP group should be run - as a club.

Now, we're not talking about the NERO, "Is it a club or is it a business?" debate. We're talking about a full fledged club, more like Amtgard. Only more expensive/more exclusive (local rather than national).

What if you had a group of about 50-60 people, and each person paid a certain amount up front to be a member of this club (for the sake of things, let's say $100 dollars). You would then know exactly how much you have to spend and could have the group vote on where to spend it, aside from events. It is a LARP, after all.

There would be no profit - only a game treasury which could be spent on events for its members. Clearly, it would be a labor of love, but ideally it wouldn't fall too much on one person's shoulders.

On the other hand, events themselves would be free (or at least very inexpensive), as opposed to the pay as you go method of most LARPs running today.

So, if you were given the opportunity to participate in a club like this, and most events were included in your dues fee at the beginning of the year, and you had a partial say in where the money goes, would you join?


  1. I would totally join, but I'm a LARP spag already and am predisposed to these things.

    One obstacle is that growth is hard with a fixed budget.

    Another is that there's little incentive for (to use for-profit lingo) "good customer service" . I've played non-profit games that have a "if you don't like it, don't play" vibe. (Usually the result of an inner circle of players who are satisfied with the status quo.)

    There's also the issue of the REAL WORK that running, recruiting, and taking responsibility for a LARP entails. That's a lot to ask of somebody who's just doing it for the joy of it!

  2. I'm very interested in this sort of experiment. All of the games I've played in, to date, have been run as dictatorships, usually by one person (or a 2-3 person cadre, either flat or hierarchical). Having direct democracy in how the game worked would, I think, at least be novel, and with the right spirit among members, produce a more balanced game.

    Like Dan C., I'm a little dubious about the notion of the up-front fee working out, but for a different reason: many people seem reluctant to spend that much on LARP fees, despite it being roughly the cost of a video game or current table-top RPG rules set. Personally, I would gladly pay for multiple events in advance if it were seen to help a game I was committed to (so long as pre-paid fees did not expire, were not tied to particular event dates, and would be re-funded, if necessary, under some sort of mutually reasonable limited terms). I think that the requirement to pay refunds to disgruntled members would maintain the customer service ethic that Dan worries would be lost.

    I understand that some NERO chapters around the country charge in excess of that, and are successfully run for-profit, but I lack experience with such so can't really comment. Most of the games I have seen are run in a quasi-non-profit mode, with GMs using funds to pay for personal equipment (radios, boots) and expenses (e.g. food and gas). I've been a strong, vocal advocate of transparency and record-keeping in my local LARP community (much to the chagrin of some LARP organizers).

    One question I have is in the implementation: would there still be functional roles, like GMs/referrees, "plot people", and weapons/safety marshals?

  3. @Dan

    I agree with most of your points. Without a set means for advancement, a lot of volunteer positions seem like unnecessary work.


    I know that some NERO chapters charge more than that, but I also know that camp fees in New England are outrageous compared to the wonderful camps we've been blessed with (I'm talking on the order of $3-$5k for a weekend. Yikes!) I don't believe that any games really run "For Profit" for real, at least not in the US.

    I am fully of the belief that a "for profit" game needs to utilize a large player base to charge vendors for attendance (Conquest of Mythodea style). But that also requires having a huge player base, enough to make them the product, not the customer.

    And in this club atmosphere, I expect there would still be some functional roles, but each member of the club will probably have more responsibility when it comes to marshaling/safety. And plot would probably be rotated in/out over time.

  4. Bill: for a game that is actually run this way, (and on their own land), you might look into KANAR in Michigan.

  5. That said, I have heard many complaints about "run as a club" situation, there, e.g.entrenched power base preventing rules changes that would effect characters and mis-management of their land (with regards to taxes, mortgage, etc). That is all just gossip from web forums (e.g. Shade's LARP List), though. Likewise, these problems may have more to do with their specific situation than with the concept of a member-owned, pre-paid club, as a whole.

    My experience with their game was very limited (I speak in past-tense because I am unlikely to return), and sadly, bad. The one time I ventured up there, the Rogue Marshal (and player of a very high-level Assassin) used a power on my whole group that knocked us all out, then robbed us, and finally left us for dead. I don't recall the situation, but it wouldn't surprise me if the (in his own game) GM dictator member of the group failed to show the level of deference that the Marshal expected of new PCs.

    This left a bad taste in all of our mouths, and has really re-enforced the notion that GM delegated roles (e.g. class/power Marshals) ought not be filled by active PCs.