Larp vs Battle Game

We all live busy lives. Larps for adults should adjust for that. Not every player wants a fully immersive 360 degree environment. Certainly there are plenty of player do want that and here in New England there are plenty of those larps available. If you’re a classic larper, who wants that kind of larp, then perhaps skip this post. But if you want a larp that gets to the good bits quickly, then read on.

There is a type of game, popular in the U.S. midwest, which is very similar to larp but with a focus on fun combat. Somewhat like table top RPG’s have a different focus than table top war-gaming. Both are compelling types of games, but they do very different things. Similarly Battle Games are the ‘table top war game’ of the larp world. Recently I’ve been reading “Battle Gaming: The New American Sport“. It has made me rethink my hobby in the present and thinking back to a game from the past.

Years ago I played in a game system which was a half step away from the Lightest Touch Hit Location boffer larp in New England, AKA The Realms. This break away game that I played in billed itself as a solid hit, hit location larp. There were a lot of innovative game mechanics, which were tons of fun to play. But a lot of new players came into the game confused. They expected ‘hit point larp’; they expected NERO levels of character plot involvement. The players anticipated the game system ‘writing plot’ for their character. Over time the game moved away from telling the stories of individual characters and moved towards a House structure. Which was amazing for group combat, but terrible for telling the stories of individual players. I can see why players were confused, we weren’t setting the correct expectations.

In retrospect the game might have been more popular if we had used the term ‘Battle Game’. Players would have had either a better idea of what to expect, or fewer preconceived notions of what the game should be. We had an example of battle games nearby, we could have found and used the term. Unfortunately the local Amtgard chapter was a fairly poor example of a battle game. Their combat was lack luster as no one actually used group tactics. Their garb was weak, and role play terrible. All in all they gave us a bad impression of battle games, which was probably not representative of Amtgard nor battle gaming.

Until recently I’ve been thinking about a 4x larp… But considering what the concept is meant to emphasize as fun, positioning it as a battle game might be a better idea. Setting player expectations is really key to hosting a successful larp. It’s very easy to assume that what your community calls ‘larp’ is the same as what other communities call larp. In reality there are many different styles of larp. The fastest way to disappoint players is to inadequately describe what your game is about ahead of time.

In other news, The Boston Dungeon Bar Crawl is coming up soon. I am looking forward to wandering around Somerville Ma dressed like a mage. It should be a blast! It’s a public event, you can come to! Provided you live near Boston and read this before Oct 10th 2015.

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