Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Making People Mingle: Part 2

Yesterday I showed you all an example from Final Haven on how you can drive the Zero NPC moment home with game design that fosters a high level of PC on PC interaction.

So now you're interested in trying to put something like this in your game. Here are some things you need to know.

1. Greater Than a Team
LARPs tend to already be team sports. Adding mechanics that require 2-4 people is probably not going to change a whole lot for the game. In order to get people to go outside of their normal group, you're going to have to set goals at a much higher number of people than normally travel together.

2. Competitive Nature
While the system should encourage cooperation, it should also foster a form of competition. Anyone who has played a German board game like Settlers of Catan should have an idea of what we're talking about. To be successful, you need to work well with others. However, as Dan put it yesterday, your success may mean that someone else does not succeed. This is how you create the political aspect of the game, where start making deals to get the support they need.

3. Sky's the Limit
You don't want to build the system to a point where it caps out. Once that happens, people will go back to business as usual. Make it so that people can continue to grow, but like most things, slow down the rate of growth. That way up-and-comers can at least try and compete with the big dogs.

4. Emphasize Players
There are a lot of things in LARPs that higher players can do way better than lower level players. But when we're talking about politicking and gaining support, try and balance the power towards number of players instead of number of levels. Now, feel free to give a little bit more power to higher level players (like Final Haven did), but make sure that everyone has a chance to have a voice and to create sway in your system. That helps it feel like an immersive world where even a new player can feel like they're making a difference.

Get crackin'!


  1. One of my favorite Avendale weekends involved running an "elemental balance" plotline. We put three shrines in the woods. Each shrine represented one of the elemental axises. I think we had light/darkness, reason/dream, and life/death.

    During the weekend, you could find objects which could influence the balance of the elements. You could also use formal components. To use them, you'd have to go to the shrine and make a little speech, and then put the item into a box. This would affect three scales we put in the tavern that would display the current balance.

    NPCs were given different instructions based on the scales' balance. If Reason was winning, the NPCs would be persuaded by logic. If Dream was winning, the NPCs would be persuaded by emotion. If Darkness was winning, they would tend to lie and be deceitful. etc etc

    There were two wave battles that were based on the current elemental balance. For one of them, a sneaky PC decided to champion the element of death. He stole zillions of components and offered them all up to death. We gave him a unit of death imps he could secretly command in the weekend's wargame (

    All of the sudden, there were groups of good guy PCs hiding near the death shrine, trying to find out which player keeps making offerings. People were talking about the cat and mouse drama for MONTHS. And it was completely unscripted!

    How did we do it? We gave PCs a variety of goals to pursue (six elements to choose from, each one had plot consequences), let them pursue those goals in creative ways (there were numerous ways to acquire the target items, from plot to negotiation to PVP), and the resolution of those goals had a big impact on the weekend plot.

  2. Dan,

    You had me at "NPCs act different based on the scales' balance."