BLOG POST NINE - REWORKING GAME DESIGN THEORY FOR DYSTOPIA RISING: EVOLVED

I am going to give you some warning at the start of this blog post.

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This blog post is wordy as all fucking hell, and there isn't much that I can do to make it shorter. Today we are talking about a design concept that is changing for Dystopia Rising: Evolved that takes an entire aspect of game and reworks the theory behind the initial design. 

So if you would like to read this section, make sure you have some time and the ability to read a few pages of writing on the idea of getting rid of specific role-play requirements for many crafting, production, and interactive skills and instead replacing the minimum requirements with a philosophy, design, and positive reinforcement I would like to call "Involved Roleplay".

It shouldn't be surprised, but the goal for the DR LARP Network is to create a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) Live Action Role Playing game. Part of what make this work is the staff providing props, scene setting, materials, and resources for the environment, modules, and non-agency characters. Part of what makes a WYSIWYG environment work is people investing into the moment, actively role-playing, and becoming involved in what it is their character is doing instead of making a rudimentary gesture so they could produce more little rectangles.

Part of this design is based around the idea of removing minimum requirements for crafting (like sound requirements) and instead just state that we (and the players around you) have the expectation that if you are using a skil... that you are going to act like you are using that skill instead of half-assing it. 

Another part of the design is a culture change that we are starting to introduce with the Dystopia Rising Directors. For years DR LARP has used the pre-existing standard of "do what is right or get punished or told no" as a format of guidance and correction. We didn't invent the idea, and really, neither did the LARPs that came before us. They took it from the system of corrections that we have with the US penal system.

And we all see how well the US penal system is working out for us. 

So part of what we will be doing is working directions of positive reinforcement instead of negative or punitive actions for people that aren't embracing the role-playing of LARP. We do this by having NPCs look to only do business in areas that look appropriate for the commerce they are looking to do (people with resources will sell them at places that look like workshops, distilleries, shops, work spaces, etc) and if given the choice between two equal options the NPCs will go with the people who have put effort into their roleplay and presentation.

Now before someone yells "role-playing police" lets be real clear here. If you want to get your mechanical advantage for what your skill does, all you have to do is try. There is no "minimums" police going to tell you how much your representation of farming rutabagas sucks. Instead, if a rutabaga buyer walks down the street and they look over and see someone waving their weapon back and forth over the ground as their RP for farming... they are just going to keep walking and look for a reputable rutabaga master.

So without further rambling off the rails, here is the pre-edit initial draft intended for Dystopia Rising: Evolved. 

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Involved Roleplay as A Mechanic Requirement

Many times, there are skills in the Dystopia Rising LARP system that require a degree of suspension of disbelief to allow the system design to exist. In a real apocalypse scenario, survivors would not need little slips of paper to say that they have a bag full of scrap. They would carry a bag full of tetanus-inducing rusted metal over their shoulder. In a real apocalypse scenario, survivors might spend all day fishing without catching a single fish instead of knowing that if they spend a certain amount of time and mind points near a viable water source that they will be provided a fish card. Blueprints are in detailed schematics that outline the mechanical design of an object instead of very large item cards that have how a game item works on them. Brewing doesn’t take minutes in the apocalypse. Often you are leaving buckets of yeasty water mixed with sugar, fruits, and plants in buckets for weeks trying to keep the temperature right so that the yeast can fart out carbonation and produce alcohol as waste. 

When dealing with mechanics overall, it is the intent of the system and should be the goal of players to represent these mechanics in a way that breaks realism and immersion as little as possible. To have immersion remain high and to have as few mechanical breaching moments as possible, the following steps should be followed.

1)      If you would like to play a character that is heavily into equipment, materials, crafting, and resources you should plan to have physical representations for all the items that you have in character. Bring genre bottles, feed bags, and injectable physical representations if you plan on buying (or producing for sale) items. Have a genre sack that you can throw props into to represent your haul of scrap, herbs, and produce. If you plan on fighting with unique equipment, armor, or shields be prepared to have physical representations for these items at game for when you have this gear crafted or created.

LARPing relating to Dystopia Rising is a recreational hobby and a form of entertainment. It is not a LARP designed for educational or therapy purposes. With any hobby there are expenses that go along with participating in the hobby. In regards to this LARP hobby, your own costume kit, your camping supplies, your character equipment, the food and drink you would normally need for a weekend out, and the engaging and realistic props that you need to have for items you had crafted or found in game are all parts of the expense of participating in a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) entertainment experience. Fortunately, most props needed for a Dystopia Rising experience are inexpensive to produce (and easy to make genre).

2)      Learn a little about what it is that you are doing relating to the skill you want to use. People who wish to engage in boffer fighting often practice to be better at foam-tag combat, the idea of learning and investing effort into knowing details about your crafting or production hobby is not unreasonable. You in no way need to master or become incredibly versed in these individual hobbies, but having knowledge that will improve not only your own experience regarding realism, but also for those around you, makes crafting and production skills much more enjoyable.

3)      Steer your character sheet purchase decisions based on what you find enjoyable and are willing to do, not based on what your character finds profitable or useful. If the idea of sitting and engaging in physical activity that is appropriate for farming for 12 hours seems completely unenjoyable… then don’t do it. Your character does not need to be the most efficient production center possible to be involved in the production game. In truth, the more crafters and resource providers create the lower the standard market price for these items often drops. Having a glut of supply often reduces the demand for a product, which in turn lowers the price. Choose what it is that you want for your experience and dictate your character growth and time investment based on what it is you want for an experience. There is no core mechanic for characters dying due to being poor, unfed, and unsheltered in Dystopia Rising because the ideas of actually starving, staying out in the elements, and having my clothes and sleeping materials taken away because my character “doesn’t have a job” is outside the scope of what this LARP defines as enjoyable.

4)      Each crafting or production skill has a roleplaying duration requirement attached to the skill. Crafting times are attached to the process of producing prints, items, or resources with an average between 10 and 30 minutes of roleplaying the creation or production time attached to each item. Roleplaying requirements and production times relating to the action of crafting items, cooking, brewing, farming, fishing, forging, metal working, mining, and other skills and activities are intended to create immersion for not only the person using the skill but also for those who interact with or observe someone using a skill.

Pantomiming for minimum engagement is not part of the spirit of the rules, and instead is the "minimum" of the rules. With this in mind those who want the minimum rewards for their skills can feel free to do minimum efforts. Non Agency Characters looking to trade, buy, sell, or engage in plots relating to certain skillsets will favor engaging individuals who invest into the spirit of the rules and reward those players with additional opportunties. Players using skills that require “Involved Roleplay” should have props, be willing to be actively engaging a simulation of the activities they are looking to perform, and act as if they truly were in the moment.  Actively engaging your environment, using of props and tools, engaging those around you, having appropriate sounds and motions, and performing labors or activities that actually visually appear to be a character performing the REAL ACTIONS need to be taken.

Some examples for a few skills:

Farming – having herbs, produce, or realistic fake representations (for multiple use) combined with farming tools, bags, and props to represent having not only an area set for farming but also doing labor to produce resources. Farming should not just take place wherever there is a swath of land that people regularly hang out in unless you can create a believable role-play space that looks like a farm. Communicate with fellow farmers at your game and your game Directors to invest in making a shared farm role-play space at your game. Games regularly invest in props, decorations, and scene setting to make their play space better. If you can work with your staff to communicate what areas have the most interest, what props get built for the game becomes much more efficient. 

Fishing – Having a somewhat realistic fishing pole does not require much in the way of effort. A strong branch that has had the bark taken off of it, a spool of cotton twine attached, and some eye hooks put into the branch and you have a fly fishing pole. If you plan on buying a fishing pole you should consider one that is wood or more “rough” or “rustic” in design instead of buying a modern fiberglass rod fishing pole.

Printing – Blueprints are complex schematics with instructions included on them. While a typewriter is a great start for prints that are just text, only the blue “item card print outs” of a blueprint are text. Real blueprints should have drafted images, notes, and scale measurements on them. Since printing takes time why not spend that time with a straight edge, a compass, and some pencils sketching out what you think a blueprint or recipe for each item should look like.

Tinkering / Forging – There isn’t a minimal sound requirement for crafting, however the crafting and repairing of objects is neither a stationary or silent thing. There is sanding, hammering, forge fires, grunting when metal is being bent, screws that just won’t thread for some inexplicable reason, grinding of sharpening metal, the effort of cutting up strips of leather, and a thousand other non-repetitive motions. Having a bin of real scraps of metal, screws, bolts, thread, leather, or real crafting projects in your Tinkering / Forging workspace is incredibly helpful for involved roleplay. Also consider actually crafting an item at your work bench. If you’re making a non-mechanical item, actually create the physical representation of that item as part of your roleplay.

Cooking / Brewing – Cooking and brewing requires not only props for the process of production, but also requires physical representations to carry the finished product on your person. For the preparation roleplay, having containers of inexpensive herbs, pots of water, and a realistic cooking / brewing work area sets the scene for great Involved Roleplay. Your goal is to make an experience for yourself and others that is a truncated version of the real experience. Having brew buckets, cutting boards, pots, pans, and the ability to produce smells appropriate for cooking and brewing is the majority of the battle for cooking and brewing.

Once the items are complete, you will need to have physical representations and card sleeves with you to your “Post Office” (or other logistics area where cards are produced at your game) to be provided your item cards (in addition to equipment used, resources, etc.). Standardized empty bottles for brews and small burlap bags for food can be purchased for pennies each both online and at many crafting stores.

First Aid, Medical Assistance, Medical Genius, Medical Procedures – Learning a small amount about how the body reacts to trauma is a good start for medical related roleplay requirements. While actually treating wounds is not the goal of any in-character medical skill, the goal is to represent the process convincingly much in the same way that it is done on TV or in movies. Medical procedure roleplay is about producing a medical drama scenario that not only the person using the medical skills is involved in, but also one that the person being tended to must be involved with. Medical procedures in Dystopia Rising do not work like health packs in video games or “countdown while touching” scenarios you find in some combat sports. Dystopia Rising is a live action role playing game. To produce realistic medical procedures consider having props that look similar to medical tools (but won’t cause harm), hidden containers of fake blood for your hands (and the patient if they are inclined), cotton fabric that has been cut into strips to work as bandages and wraps, as well as other personalized items that really communicate the skill of bedside manner (or lack thereof) that the player being operated on should expect and react to.