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Playing between the larps

Badass larpers of 2002

In almost all campaign larps, the idea of players continuing to play outside regular events has come up at some point. The first time I experienced it was 14 years ago, in the simplest model of them all, quite beautiful in its simplicity: a group of players recruiting new players to help them beat up the other group of characters.

The particular larp in question has been played only once a year, so establishing something more complex was hardly productive. But a few years later, as we got the first full story campaign that had over a dozen small events a year (Ognjeni Mač events in late 2000s), the idea of continuing play beyond the larp events appeared.

Since a lot of people there including myself had experience with old play by e-mail roleplaying games, we set up a similar "tavern play" play by post system, which allowed online RP in a very limited way since there was little that was allowed to happen except small talk and a few harmless actions.

After a few years, there was discontent with limits of such system, and a new system was introduced when on top of that players started doing more serious role-play with GMs, in private messages. A lot of story development shifted there, and players who took part in it were often rewarded by GMs, by getting magical items or steering the plot in some way. On the other hand, this made them much more influential than players who didn't partake in the system (or who weren't as successful). This also significantly increased both the time investment of players who wanted to "stay on top", and GMs who had extra duties now.

This, of course, brought up a discussion on whether something like that is helpful or even necessary. My own observation is that the more often campaign is played, the demand for non-live role-playing between events is more common as well.

At that point, in the larp I ran (Terra Nova) I wanted to keep the focus of my role-play on larps themselves, so while not disallowing such role-play there, I didn't do much to encourage it either, so it basically didn't happen. I remained cautious, but in 2013 I had a good experience with Steampunk larp when there was a battle done boardgame style in between larps. It worked! That's when I began reading about this subject, studying it, and needing only 2.5 years to write an article on this blog about it (yes, I'm that effective...).

I ran into the terms BGA / IBGA (between game action / in between game action), sometimes used in American larps. Some things about them surprised me - such as players on several larps paying more to get these actions - but they seemed a very reasonable, structured way to allow players some role-play and development, in a limited but still significant fashion.

When I read the Vampire ruleset, I liked its' system called downtime actions / influence actions. At that point, I ran a Vampire game called Camarilla Agram, and I decided to support every type of role-play possible in that chronicle. Apart from larping and mentioned downtime actions, people played tabletop style, via Facebook groups, in chats, privately at coffees... in every way possible. This worked for some players, but also backfired a bit - some players didn't want to play outside of larps (and there was a lot of social pressure on them to play), while others found the existing role-play limiting and wanted to do everything. It's a slippery slope best avoided, and so far it's been avoided in my current Vampire game, Noćne kronike. Keeping to the system works well. The Werewolf larp system is also currently in design (Kickstarter link, already funded, campaign lasts until end of February), but it has another cool new addition: Questing system. It's simple and it works nicely. Lots of storytelling there. We tried it at our Werewolf larp, and we like it :)

Painting by Tunde Horvath, at the gates of Silvermoon

Despite the fact I'm more cautious now about such play, I do occasionally have a good experience. Half a year ago after the Hungarian Warcraft larp, our group of players who played Blood Elves decided that we'd like some way to continue playing. Since then we started a shared document in which we're writing our story since the larp ended. With four of us currently contributing our stories - and one player also drawing art of our characters - we already wrote almost 50 pages of a shared story, and it's still going strong. Something written in this manner could be either a story development between larps, or used within a context of a one-shot larp to write an epilogue.

Other than this, I've been into several non-campaign larps. There have been workshops before and/or after the larp, which often determined what happened to characters - often with some form of collaborative storytelling. This is also a possibility, though perhaps tougher to pull in campaign larps.

Have you had any similar experiences? Used any of the system mentioned, or something else that was not mentioned here? Comment below and share your experiences.


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