Thursday, May 17, 2012

Assemble! Grouping up in LARP

So, hopefully you all saw "Avengers" at least once by now - if not, make it a mission! :)  My second viewing got me thinking.  Movies, like LARPs, only rarely have a group as the main focus.  There are some books that involve groups, often getting killed off one by one, but they still usually focus on one main character.  In a book or movie, that's because you want your audience to relate to your characters, and it's harder to do that with multiple protagonists.

But in LARP, where your audience IS your character group, why aren't awesome PC groups more common?  Well, most everyone wants to be the main character.  The groups PCs tend to join are usually NPC groups, where they are chosen for the Fellowship, or passed the test to be the Warden, and enter into the ranks of the elite. But they get to have all the attention from that group, since they're the only PC.

I can't argue too much with that - it's awesome to be the hero :)  But there's certainly a case for a PC group instead.

First, by forming a unit with your friends, you have a built-in reason to hang out with the people you like.  Maybe you want to get away from them at games, but if not, why not share your adventures with people who will appreciate it?  The stigma at LARP is "I don't care about your character" - but your friends will!  You can share your awesome moments and experiences with people who share your enthusiasm for that cool game moment.

A group also allows you to more mobility.  As an individual, you usually need to attach yourself to other people in order to go do things. But if you've got your group already in place, you are set for action.  You can set it up with a mix of classes to ensure you're ready for anything. Usually 2 fighters, a healer, a combat caster, and a utility rogue/templar is a great combination.  But try it with whatever works for you!  An all mage group who can pull it off will be that much more legendary :)

And let's talk about style!  Don't groups who coordinate look pretty awesome?  Everyone proudly wearing the symbol on tabards & shields, a banner flapping by their camp... One person wearing a uniform probably just looks like a costume.  Multiple people look pretty badass. :)

As you get higher level and more powerful, you can turn your group into its own epic force.  The group will go on mods together, and have those stories to tell that others will repeat.  And as a big plus, they'll be more active and visible than any NPC organization.  This will ingrain your group into the general consciousness much more than NPC groups that are only around for a plot or personal interaction. 

As you build your organization, if you want people to look at is as an elite force, you can make membership difficult, so it's a privilege to join.  You can take people based off of their combat, their knowledge, their cunning, their baking prowess, whatever!  Build up the group and they can be a legend in the game, and you didn't have to rely on NPC favor to get it. Contact Plot to let them know your intentions, and they can tailor things for your team to suit your goals.  It's a plus for them as well, since any mod for one of the group will (hopefully) entertain the whole unit :)

And you don't have to give up individuality.  Like our Avengers, each member can be unique.   Each character can pursue their own path, and it's a lot easier with help.  As the characters' stories are told, they just add to the atmosphere of being a hardcore unit.  You've got the only known survivor of an alien race?  Your healer is the chosen of the Fae Queen?  Your rogue is an assassin for the Emperor?  And they've all come together to form the Badass Patrol?  Pretty awesome if you ask me.  :)  All of that individuality can go into making the group that much stronger, and you still get the benefits of having support.

So think about it.  Maybe for your next character idea, get together and form a group! 

Have you seen PC groups that work?


  1. I think a LARP where groups were the focus might be a neat thing. You could still play an individual and be like a mercenary for other groups, or play both sides, but build the LARP to make groups the focus with group oriented goals, mods, and rewards for groups creating them. Maybe some manner of increasing political power for your group as you reach goals which gives the group some added benefits?

  2. This must be a regional thing. In the North East, forming a team is the norm when people contemplate playing a LARP. Obviously not everyone does and there's LARP to LARP variation, but the default standard around here is that PCs will form teams and plot will run cool team based stuff to support it.

    In NERO, i've been part of several teams and now have a noble court team in one chapter and am part of an adventuring team in another. In Madrigal I have a team of about 15-20 people. I used to be part of a 8-10 person team in Endgame. And so on. When new LARPs start up, one of the first things players around here do is start talking to each other about making a team for the new game.

  3. We definitely have them, but usually it's something formed a bit more randomly. Friends usually gravitate together, noble houses go out on the same mods, and that kind of thing. I haven't often seen a purposeful group created, which I think is a different animal. There are certainly some examples though!

  4. This is a really interesting difference between the Northeast and the Midwest, as Mickey pointed out. Knowing what I know now, I don't think I'd enter a game without being on a smaller team/working towards a larger team. In Madrigal, my husband and I entered with a larger team, and eventually split off in to our own-- if the original team, though, hadn't shown us the ropes, I don't think we would have done very well. In Mirror, Mirror, we entered as a team of 3, then quickly joined another team of 3 to form an Order. In both cases, staying with a team has worked really well for us.
    That's really interesting, though! I had always assumed teams were the norm.

  5. Groups are indeed a good idea. I've seen the light and dark side of grouping. The down side I've observed is when factionalization becomes negative due to competition (unfriendly rivalry), and the players start keeping clues and plots to themselves to exclude other groups.
    But the benefits I've observed are rich indeed. Players helping each other out, role playing with a shared history and shared experiences in game, and working together toward goals.
    The concept of an adventuring company is timeless and awesome.

  6. I'm a fan of groups, but I have likewise declined group membership in the past (I like to feel like I have a "vote" in what a group does, rather than being part of the supporting cast for a few big personalities), have seen the good and bad aspects of groups in LARP.

    *They give game runners a way to write targeted, engaging plot for many people at once.
    *They provide a framework for very involved, engaged players to pull others along on adventures.
    *They give their members a sense of belonging.

    *They can create the appearance of favoritism because it is easier to right tailored plot for a faction than it is for every single solitaire.
    *They provide a power advantage for those in them vs. "solitaires" and smaller groups (through specialization, coin pooling, etc), and dare I say, players who are less well-networked with the game runners.
    *They can drive a sense of alienation of exclusion in those who've not joined a faction.

  7. Another few:

    *They drive pathos as people jockey for position in the group.

    *They create drama, as PC-PC contests tend to produce winners and losers.

  8. Didn't realize we were the minority! Maybe it's different at the games I haven't played, but at the ones around here an organized group isn't the norm. It makes sense that it's more common in other places, since there are lots of benefits. True about cons, though. Thanks all!

  9. It's tricky. Pre-made groups definitely have a large advantage in a LARP setting due to the fact that the organizers HAVE to design plot that takes groups to tackle. Not enough time to design plots for every individual, except in the smallest of games.

    But with pre-made groups, you run into logistics problems. What happens when half the group fails to show? What happens when someone moves, and there goes your main healer? What happens when they need NPC's, and your front line needs to pull a shift? It rarely stays nice and neat.

    And then you run into the problem of expansion versus exclusivity. You would be surprised how much resentment a tight-knit, professional group can generate among onlookers... But opening it up means taking a gamble on folks you didn't plan for, who don't always have a good stat setup to work with your team...

    I feel that it's better to let groups develop organically. Start as a solo, and see who you work best with. (And more importantly, who you have fun working with!) Sure, you don't always end up with every niche filled, or you get some duplicate specialties, but even those can be strengths if you use them correctly.