LARP: Is it all about the Journey or the Destination?

In my experience there are two kinds of LARPers, those who are there for the journey and those who are there for the destination.  Let me elaborate;

  • LARPers who are there for the journey are there for the experience and to enjoy the story that their characters are on.
  • LARPers who are their for the destination are only in it for the end result, how much experience do they get, how much treasure, can they skill up, etc.

Now I’m not saying either way is particularly right or wrong (I’m definitely in it for the story) but it can cause a potential conflict between Player and GM when their aims for their characters are at polar opposites.  When I (and others) were writing the Player Handbook for the Goldrush LRP system it wasn’t really designed with character advancement in mind, this wasn’t a table top game where you get XP for every monster kill in the hunt to advance to the next level.  The skills players selected would be the building blocks of their character but shouldn’t define it, that’s what their character briefing is for.  In an ideal world the player writes their character briefing first and then picks the skills most relevant second.  I’d never intended to issue XP points to any character post game so it was a bit of a shock when someone asked when they would be getting XP as it hadn’t been a part of my LARP life for quite a while (even damage calls seem a bit old hat now).

I’m not saying this is a wrong approach, it’s just not mine.

Characters on a LARP need to be batting on a roughly even field in terms of skills and abilities, if you start allowing XP advancement then what happens three or four games down the line when a new character comes in where some characters are so far in front in terms of skill?  That’s not going to go down well, it may be OK when there’s a thousand players on the field and/or there’s a significant character churn but when your event only has twenty to forty players it becomes an Out Of Character problem.

So how do you reward characters that have played on every game?

My view is through story.  This is where the journey part comes from.  We are assuming that the player has written a decent enough character brief (writing a good character brief is a whole other article in itself).  As a GM you need to take what they have written and work it into a narrative that fits within your story, unless they’ve written something so completely off kilter that you need to go back to them with major changes but that’s a rarity in my experience.  The players need to feel like they are part of it the story developing around them and that their actions directly impact what is going on as part of a continuing campaign.

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