System Design Decisions

One of the things that I am asked a ton is “Why did you design ‘x’ thing this way?”  While I would have to run a seminar to go over many of the design decisions I have made in the past over the number of games I have done design work on or ran, I am going to hand pick a few specific ones for discussion. This may be something I return to on occasion, so, if you have a mechanic design question feel free to reply.  If the question has legs, I'll answer it.


Q) Why do you have weapon damage calls during combat in DR LARP?

A) This is referring to swinging a boffer weapon and calling a number as you swing to denote how powerful the swing is. Overall, I hate weapon damage calls.  Another LARP system I am working on has zero calls. However, damage callas allow for something that is one of the most important tools in LARPing: an economy.  A combat decision for the economic aspect of a game?!  Let me explain.

People all come to game for different reasons.  Some people like to LARP for the physical combat, some people love the intense role-play, some people love the economic design of a world, some people love politics, and some people just like the sense of adventure/fear/etc. that you get from being in another world. However, designing a game that keeps all of these different aspects happy AND causes a higher degree of player to player interaction. Allowing for a scale and effect of combat damage allows a higher degree of crafting ability for the crafter/economic game player to produce.  Given our limited access to LARP related system hardware, which would automatically calculate the immersion breaking mechanical design of damage calls, having players call different mechanical scale effects with a weapon swing provides means for the fighter focused character to NEED the economic focused character.

The other design extreme, to prevent genre break by weapon damage calls, assigns a flat (or near flat) damage to different types or colors of weapons.  This design, while great for mechanical flow of combat, limits the need and want for equipment crafting.  To pick an example, if all swords do 1 point of damage and all guns do 5, what is the point of having a sword or gunsmith?  The ability to create, produce, and evolve equipment across a wider scale forces your combat focus characters to interact with your crafter/economic focused characters and vice versa.

Produce a demand, and there becomes a desire to produce a supply.


Q) Why do you use professions in DR LARP?  Why can't I just take what I want?

A) Actually, it comes back to forcing cross interaction between players again.  A character that can learn all skills and get all abilities eventually has no need to rely on anyone else for interaction.  The character grows stagnant as they become more and more self-sufficient.  Professions limit

Interaction with NPCs, plots, modules, and events are vital in causing player to player interaction in LARP.  Events happen that cause players to go out, interact with other players, and have great role-play.  This interaction causes players to have an experience that they can share and use as an ice breaker with other players.  This allows your players a new wealth of in character interaction with people they do not know, and with any luck, can help facilitate tons of interaction.

Do I think professions work in all LARPS?  Hell no.  Saying ‘LARP’ is like saying ‘board game’… each one needs its own mechanical design that will handle the focus and needs of the game.


Q) Why the big rulebook? Many euro-LARPs have one page rule sets.

A) Mostly because I get tired of answering the same thing over and over again.  You would be surprised the number of really… really dumb questions I have gotten.  Now not all questions, or even most, are dumb.  Most questions are solid and need explanation.  However, some people either never read a lick that you write and just want to ask questions for easy answers OR will ask some dipshit questions just on the off chance that you will give a less-than-common-sense answer.

If I didn’t have to tell people ‘don’t punch each other’ I wouldn’t.  The second time I had to explain to someone that you couldn’t make your car ‘contact safe’ if you promise to drive under 25 miles per hour pretty much destroyed any and all hope I had for the existence of common sense.

Second time.


Q) Why can people pay $20 more a month to get 2 more XP?

A) Truth is that game really should be $65 a head, and, everyone got the same XP.  With the scale of the things we are putting together, the costs of operation, and the budget these events cost the fact of the matter is that a full weekend event should cost more than $45.  However, many hands make light of heavy work.  So, those that can afford to pay more do so and get what would be a standard event.  Those that cannot afford to pay more have a cheaper option, and, get a little bit less in the way of mechanical bonus.

The reason we let people buy back the XP for the events their character has existed (and not any more) is that when people do have more money, if they want to take the full event growth, it should be available to them.

In addition, a game with a higher turnout provides more opportunity for large scale role-play.  With Dystopia Rising, I am attempting to simulate a large part of a survivor settlement.  To do this, you are better having 60 players at $20 instead of 20 players at $60.