You want to join a Thieves Guild but there isn’t one in your larp? Here is a rough outline of a game taught to me at Bicolline’s Grand Battle in 2017. I’ve never seen these rules written down, so this is what I can recall of the rules as they were taught and practiced. You can adapt and formalize these rules for almost any larp to run your own secret thieves guild.
Each player needs a pair of wooden clothes pins to play. Modern clothes pins can be acquired cheaply and decorated to better fit the larp. Personalize your own to make them go with your persona or go the extra mile and make some ‘hand carved privative‘ clothespins. With some power tools and scrap wood (pallets for example), you can make your own. Don’t forget to put your name on the pins, so they can be returned to you.
Who is playing?
Visually indicating consent is important to signify who is ‘in’ play and who is ‘out’ of play. Place your two clothes pins somewhere on your person. While you are wearing them openly, you are consenting to having them stolen by fellow participants. And theirs by you. Anyone not openly displaying clothes pins on their person, is not participating in the mini game. Which should be everyone else attending the larp, or anyone who has already lost their pins.
Before starting everyone should agree on what constitutes the correct way to display their pins, and incorrect ways to hide pins. Some amount of your personal pins must be visible as a visual signal of participation. It would be unfair for a player to take other peoples pins without openly displaying that they are participating. Pins that have been taken and can be scored should probably be concealed till the end of the game. Other peoples stolen pins cannot be used to indicate that you are playing. Concealing stolen pins will also prevent other players from getting confused and take pins that are rightfully part of your score.
If a player has both of their pins stolen, they are out, and cannot take any additional pins. But as long as a participant has at least one of their own pins to display, they can keep taking other players pins. Any player who takes a pin before they discover that they’ve lost both of their own (they didn’t notice they were out) should return the last pin they took promptly. It might be difficult to figure out exactly when a pin was taken or went missing. So they should return their most recently taken pin and not be expected to return more than that.
Starting and Ending
Duration is up to the participants, but the game should never be played during combat. Ideally players shouldn’t be bringing their pins to the battlefield. It’s too easy to lose a pin and disadvantage yourself. Initial duration could be a couple hours during a feast or at night, for the first few runs. But for experienced players the game might play out over a full event. As players get better at protecting their own pins, and detecting potential pick pockets, the duration might need to be increased to accommodate the players increasing skills.
There are a couple different ways to score. And it might be wise to give prizes or titles for different aspects of the game. Each player should turn in their stolen pins to whoever is running or judging the game. As a good beginner goal the player with the highest number of stolen pins wins. A secondary prize for a player that can keep their own pins.
These simple game mechanics can be a great framework for many different larp structures. All of which can be run entirely by the participants. It doesn’t have to be an ‘official’ part of any given larp rules. By running in secret, among the rogues of the larp, you get an extra layer of theme. Keeping this out of the official rule book will also force role playing because new players will need to keep their eyes open in order to discover the game and participate.