Relational Character design in a 4x larp.

Applying 4x to combat larp changes the perspective of play. Most larps focus on the individual player/persona combination as the fundamental unit of game play. Scenes, mods, plot lines, story what have you is all based on individual characters concepts. For this larp we’re going to take a step back and have the House be the basic unit of character recognized by the game system. So lets take a look back at Relational Character Design in Larp, and use that to build the foundation of character creation in a 4x larp.

This concept uses a Fiasco Style creation system, where the characters are created from their relationships not from their stats. Each player is still in control of a single persona and still fleshes out that character concept. This borrows the setup portion of Fiasco to create the house and the character relationships, but leaves resolution to the larp event.

Character Creation

Take a look at the current rules and steps for this method of character design. At first it might seem like you need other players in order to get a house going… However while play testing it becomes obvious that you can just as easily sit down and come up with a compelling house by yourself. One with a story that just might surprise you. If you only have one or two people as founders of the House, feel free to pretend you have a few additional players. As you add new players to the house, they can either take up those existing ‘NPC’ roles, or they can go through the process again to help generate House persona.

Stats and powers change significantly when the House becomes the basic unit of character. Individuals usually need a spell book or a character sheet to keep track of their spells, abilities, curses, magic items, etc. Spells, powers, and NPC’s are instead recorded at the House level. Generally Heraldry is used to record this information, and having visually impressive heraldry becomes as important for the House as garb is for the player. Large banners, flags, belt favors and other physical signs of the Heraldry of the house are greatly encouraged. Although representing game mechanics, the Heraldry itself should be a physical object present in the game.

There is something fundamentally inspiring about the House you fight for. The color of the banners that mean home, and company is an inspiring sight at the lowest point of battle when all hope seems lost. Modern brands hold powerful sway over our psyche. Nations use flags as modern heraldry to inspire citizens. This game seeks to tap into that element of awe and inspiration while forming it’s magic system. The heraldry of the house should speak to its power, it’s strength and be an emotional as well as mechanical symbol of the House.

Having the House be the basic unit of character means that persona can be more fluid in a 4x larp. Although every player might participate in combat, their Player Character or persona may only be present for 1 or 2 rounds in a given day. A House may choose to field a worker, or a monster instead of that particular persona. Your persona might have story reasons to be elsewhere, which means it would make more sense to play as an NPC or House monster. As play is broken up into discrete rounds, it’s easier to play as multiple persona in the same day.

Persona Death

It happens to all characters at some point. They die during combat and cannot be recovered. This will happen in 4x larp as well. Most 4x strategy games have methods of using resources to field more troops. Most larps use game mechanics to return players to the field in good health. Spending resources to build up important structures and recruit powerful allies will help players avoid death for longer. As long as the House still stands, some measure of the dead character may continue. When the game system starts up these effects might be simulated by consumables like scrolls and potions. But long term the resources players acquire will be spent to heal the injured and resurrect the dead.

If a persona is dead at the end of combat, but there are other living House members present to carry them home, then they are not ‘Lost’. With powerful magic, or benevolent healing that persona could be returned to life. Persona who cannot be recovered, perhaps they were thrown overboard at sea, or fell in a volcano, or were capture by the enemy and sacrificed to an elder being, are considered “Lost”. At present there is no way to return a Lost persona. That may change over time depending on how much persona turnover players experience. Ways to recover lost persona will be implemented for game mechanic reasons and not for plot reasons.

At some point though, persona will be permanently killed. The most common way for this to happen, as envisioned at the moment, is for the persona to be captured by a ruthless enemy. Or to be dead on the field of battle at the end of a round, with no way for the House to recover the corpse. Imagine a game of capture the flag. But in addition to being captured, players can be killed. Where they die might be pretty random. A player might die on the opponents side of the field.

The player will most likely get back up at the end of the battle, and play an NPC. They could even play as a Worker for their House and gather resources. Which means that although that player suffered a loss in terms of plot and story, the house has not suffered a loss in terms of effectiveness (unless the persona was really powerful).

House Death

If everything can end, what does it mean for a House to end? There are a few ways a house could ‘die’. All members, including the leader, could be dead at the end of a battle, with no one willing to return even one of them to life. If that occurs that House will fall. Fallen Houses stay in play, and could be captured by other houses, or even NPC’s. This might ultimately mean little if players haven’t become too emotionally attached to their House, but as the point of the system is to invoke the emotional connection we all have with symbols, it might be a real emotional experience.

As Houses grow over time and gain resources, they can spend resources to purchase structures that prevent the loss of houses by paying NPC’s to guard their home as they venture out. For the moment that system has not been fleshed out, but the ideas are present. There could also be a Coup de ta, but that isn’t the end of a house, just the end of it’s autonomy.

There are many other things to consider in the creation and end of characters in a 4x larp. But that’s where we’re starting. Keep checking in as things get fleshed out.

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