Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LARP Plot Tips: Incapacitate Mechanics

A group of highly skilled characters are investigating a slavery ring. The slavers tend to use many traps and poisons to keep enemies out of their camp and to control slaves. Time is of the essence, as the daughter of the mayor of the town has been kidnapped and if she's not recovered tonight, she'll be gone forever.

This module is designed to be the major battle for the night. All the high level characters and big political players are involved, and are expecting a knock down drag out fight. However, a mere five minutes into the fight, and every single PC is incapacitated and the NPCs don't know how to handle the situation. Why did this happen?

Some staff member thought it would be funny to send farting goblins into town, and because of the sheer number of goblins, the town ran out of counters for the poison. Sounds crazy, I know. But this very thing has happened before.

Mechanics are very important, especially when it comes to abilities that can incapacitate. In this Larp, (NERO Intl.) there are three major forms of incapacitation that people need to counter - Death Effects (Life counters), Blood Effects (Purify Blood counters), and charm effects (Awaken counters). Players as a group have a max amount of each counter that in a given day.

Let's say that the town has 30 of each counter and the event is scaled to reflect that. The kidnapping module mentioned above is intended to use about 20 of the Purify effects in order to be successful. The plot team should be aware of this and careful not to force the players to use more than 10 purify effects the rest of the day. The staff and plot members should be using more charm and death effects during the rest of the game day in order to preserve the purify spells for later.

Communicating and controlling these incapacitate mechanics is important for a few reasons.

1. You won't have to pull punches.
In the module mentioned above, the plot now needs to find a way to react to what has happened. Either they kill everyone or have them escape somehow. If everyone dies, the players will figure they had no chance and this leaves a bad taste in their mouths. If you let them escape, this mod that you had beautifully scaled to get their hearts racing now appears to have had a safety net and the players yawn at the fact that they can't die.

2. Players will continue to take counter effects.
If you make sure you use 90% of each counter, they will see value and continue to take the counter effects. If all you ever use is blood effects for 3 events straight and charm effects are never used, players will stop taking the counters to charm. If that happens, you may find that the next charm encounter you run will have no counters and scaling will be difficult.

3. Incapacitated players are not having fun.
Incapacitate effects are scaling tools. They slow combat down and make battles more difficult on the higher levels. They give reasons for players to use a plan and to stick together. The effects themselves are not fun, and when used frivolously, players will get discouraged. Use them when it fits and when the players have counters. If you're just trying to make something dangerous, don't use incapacitate effects as a crutch.

If you want your event to feel more dangerous, use means that the players can try and battle with skill and cunning. If your danger factor is that every necromancer is throwing 10 death spells, then players will consider the plot team cheap and will be less likely to come back or bring others to your game.

Good luck!

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