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Start a larp 9: Trends

As one follows any larp community for a longer amount of time, they will certainly notice some trends appearing. Like in any other hobby, people in larp communities tend to do stuff a certain way. So if you're starting a new larp in an area where there are already several established larps, you basically have two choices: to go with the trends or to go against them.

These trends can be many things. Perhaps it's the themes of the larps covered, perhaps it's the structure used, perhaps it's how plot is written, and perhaps it's what is expected in larps in general.

There are a lot of larps out there in the world, and many of them are vastly different from one another. Even if you wanted to limit it down narrowly to the most popular genre - fantasy larps featuring live combat with foam swords - you would be surprised by how much variety is out there. Where do players begin? What are the plots about? How is the plot delivered to players? Just a few of the examples of this that I've personally seen are:

  • Any background plot is just an excuse and "flavor" for the battle taking place
  • Players are static, and plots are brought to them externally by organizers
  • Players are being led linearly through the encounters
  • Players are static, and several of them are being pulled through linear encounters
  • Players drive the story in a self-motivated way - they chose that faction, role-play and mindset
  • Players are given hints and elements by organizers which they play out to drive the story forward together
  • Players are given a relationship web to other characters that drives the plot forward
  • Players are told to do something at a certain time (at some trigger point)
  • Competition for the limited number of resources
All of these (and more) can be used to build larps - either by themselves, or in combination with other plot structures. If you've been following your local scene for a while, you'll probably notice trends - moving from one of these structures ("how things used to be done") to another ("what players want now").

Same thing about rule systems. They change over time, varying in complexity and design. In some places, you'll have fantasy rules spanning over 200 pages - in others, they will be covered by a single acronym - DKWDDK (Du Kannst Was Du Darstellen Kannst - a German acronym for "You can what you can show", a mechanic-less playstyle focused on providing a good show for others and quite popular in Germany and elsewhere). The larp scenes will also have "how things used to be done" and "what players want now" variants of that.

But these are all trends - in which, for the mainstream larp population, the past is viewed in a negative light, and the current trend as a positive. If there's a local larp scene that you're aware of while creating a new larp, you basically have three choices:
  • you can go with the trends - that's the easy option as you can count on the existing larp population
  • you can go back to the old style and try to redefine it
  • you can go against the trends and strike a new direction
All of these can be good choices - it's important to realize there's no universally-accepted best way to do stuff. Also, all of these work differently with campaign larps than they do with one-shots - a distinction which itself might be a trend. Each larp style will have people who would be interested in playing it. So, that larp style that you always wanted is out there to either visit or create.

Whatever you wish to play, there will be others who probably want to do it too - more differentiated scene will probably mean more people whose interests match the larps offered. However big or small financial investment you can make, there are others who would want to do it the same way. Previous articles in the series can give you more information how to do it, and there's plenty of other advice about creating larps that can be found on the web. You can also ask on the forums if you have any questions, and me - and others - would be happy to answer them.

So yeah, you can do it - run or start a larp.

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