There’s a certain class of player behavior in tabletop RPGs and LARPs that often causes issues. It’s when a player notices a way to be really good at something. There are two ways this is done, and they have gained the nasty names “min-maxing” and “rules-lawyering.” But this isn’t actually a bad thing.
I am involved in the Camarilla, which is the White Wolf RPG publishing company’s official fan organization. Among other things, the Cam organizes a global campaign for live action roleplaying, or LARP. This is a “theatrical LARP,” not a “boffer LARP.” We don’t hit each other with foam weapons; instead, we have more social and politically-focused games, and any combat is as heavily abstracted as it is in tabletop roleplaying. The nature of a global campaign raises some very interesting issues in game design.
The Cam is not the only global LARP campaign around; One World By Night is another organization that runs a similar campaign for the old World of Darkness setting, for example. As far as I know, though, the Cam is the largest global LARP around. A global campaign means that local games are connected to games across the US and the world, so that I can go on a trip to California and use the character I play in Charlotte to a Camarilla game there. Events that occur in Alabama can affect nearby locations, and there are periodic conventions where players and characters from all over the world come to play in a single game. This results in all sorts of interesting consequences and annoyances.
I’m going to be running a brand-new LARP of Geist: The Sin-Eaters for my local Camarilla domain. This has a number of challenges, most of which caused by the fact that this game has never really been LARPed before as an ongoing chronicle; it’s only been out for a few months. One of the problems I’m running into is that of the political game, and I’d like some suggestions.
In addition to the regular D&D game I run, I’ve just started up another tabletop RPG campaign using the Geist system. Like many of White Wolf’s “limited series” games (Promethean, Changeling), the concept is incredibly provocative. You died, and in the moments of death, a being “more than ghost, less than god” offered you a partnership. This being, called a geist, shielded you from death and allowed you to survive. You are a living human, but now you can see ghosts, control strange creepy powers, and even travel the underworld. The mood of the game is a cool mix of the macabre (you died, and now you see death everywhere) and the celebratory (you got a second chance at life! Live it up!).
The bittersweet mood, morbid theme, and cool antagonists reminded me of shows like Angel, Dead Like Me, and Death Note. So I decided that I wanted my campaign to run like an episodic, ensemble-cast television show. I also wanted to explore giving players more control over the game, while maintaining primary authorship as GM; tossing a strong flavor of the indie RPG into a traditional system. As a result, I’m using two techniques: Episode Previews and Cutscenes.