House and Character Preparation for a 4x Larp

Hypothetically you’re joining a 4x larp. You’ve collected a number of friends, formed a house, and have decided what the general outline of the story for that house is… But what are the Houses from a rules perspective? Why are they formed, and what do they accomplish in game?

OOC

The game system uses a House structure for a number of reasons. Organizing players into houses speeds logistics, as some of the basics of event check in can be preformed by members of the house. The training of individual players is a responsibility of the house. The creation of gear and garb is much easier on any individual player, when they have the support of others. The House structure also creates a foundation for storytelling.
The House system is not designed to facilitate individual storytelling. This game system recognizes the House as the basic unit of character in the game. This is vastly different than all other larps and table top games, where the focus is on the individual player’s history and story-line. In a 4x larp the game system is going to run the world, it’s up to the Houses to manage their individual story-lines.
This de-emphasis of the individual in larp is nothing new to game systems outside the United States. It is a big departure for most American players. It might take players some time to wrap their heads around the concept. That being said, role playing the individuals story is encouraged if not required. The responsibility to the individual falls on the House that person is a member of, not the game system.

Social Structure

In many larps players are free to make up titles and claim any social rank. This freedom causes a lot of problems with verisimilitude, because the game doesn’t feel real when everyone is ‘the child of a baron’. The social structure of the House system creates a foundation for a few players to earn a title, but the majority of players will mostly likely not have a title. Granted there is nothing preventing House from creating titles. Additionally the social structure is going to tie into the magic and monster systems.

The key to this system is the House. Each House is a group of players whose persona work together to tell a common story. They share a similar background and come from the same place. Players are encouraged to give their persona a unique background and tell a story with their actions, but from the game systems perspective individual role play is a nice bonus, not a requirement. The goal of this flexibility is to allow players who are there to fight to get into the action, and players who are there to role play to build their stories. Stick jocks are welcome to play characters who fade a bit into the background. The generic House Guard role. Role Play enthusiasts are encouraged to step up.

Higher social rank is bestowed upon the leader of a House who can recruit more players into their house. This is good for the game as it encourages players who are interested in political power to recruit. It also rewards players who recruit naturally. From a game system perspective a larp needs to grow, and making that the responsibility of the players themselves, and rewarding them for that, solves two problems at the same time.

Title

As Houses increase in size the persona who leads that House is bestowed with greater title. The ranks will look something like the following table.

[Insert table]

Heraldry

A House can be created with at least 2 persona, but when a house reaches 5 members they must create heraldry. It is expected that the players will actually craft a banner which bears the Houses heraldry. This banner becomes important as a symbol of the house, visual recognition on the field of battle, and is used for the magic system.

Heraldry, Tabbards, Belt Favors and other such identifying insignia, are also used to prevent confusion during game play.

Actions and Battles

Before an event begins Houses take actions. Those actions translate into battles which the members of the house actually fight. By selecting which kind of action a house takes, and where, the house can determine what kind of battles happen at the current or next event. The Marshalls may throw in an unexpected twist, but the House gets to choose where and how it will engage the game world.

Workers

As this system does not focus on the individual, any given player is not expected to play the same character at all times. One particular player might be their own PC in the first battle of the day, and play as a Worker for the House in the next. Workers are not heroic characters. They are the farmers, armorers, blacksmiths, and other working people which support the House. They often have skills which are useful on the battlefield, and any grown person is expected to be able to defend themselves. They may be limited in skills, but they are not necessarily weak.

The real benefits of workers are the resources they acquire during Battles. A House may choose to field workers instead of regular PC’s. The workers must survive the Battle. When they do it represents the Houses efforts to grow food, capture materials, or gather resources. Workers are an abstract way to represent the hard work done for the House.

Workers can be captured, and their tabbard must clearly indicate not only what house they belong to, but also what job they do. Opponents must be able to at a glance, in combat, know whether they are fighting a Worker, and what type of work they represent. The number of workers a house can field is strictly limited, so this clarity also helps the Marshalls keep track of how many workers are present in any given battle.

Resources

… {WIP}

This blog post kind of got away from me. It’s been a couple weeks in writing and it’s still not done. The main reason it’s taking so long is the sale of my Condo and purchase of a house. Bear with me as life takes president over larp. If you notice something that doesn’t make sense or something that needs clarification please let me know via Twitter, G+ comment or on the FB group.

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