Every year at GenCon, I try to make it a point to play in at least one LARP (Live Action Role-Playing game). The main reason, of course, is that LARPs can be a lot of fun — and since they’re production-intensive, I don’t tend to get too many chances to play them.
LARPing is also a good source of inspiration, and for day 28 of the Blogging for GMs project, I’m going to look at 6 ways that LARPs can give you fresh ideas about GMing.
First off, it’s worth mentioning that I’m not saying you shouldn’t play LARPs all the time — plenty of people do, with good reason! I do think, however, that there are a lot less LARPers than tabletop players, so I’m approaching this from the standpoint that if you’ve never tried LARPing before, you can enjoy doing so and take away some useful knowledge for your tabletop game at the same time.
Most of the items on this list boil down to, “Try something new!” — which is one of my favorite gaming maxims, but it can be useful to see some specific benefits of doing so.
1. LARPS involve walking around and interacting with lots of players. This isn’t the way a traditional tabletop game works, obviously, and you might be surprised at how refreshing it can be to shift perspectives.
2. The players drive the story. This is true in some RPGs, but certainly not all — and in most games, everyone interacts quite a bit with the GM, which isn’t always the case in LARPs.
3. You can watch multiple GMs in action. Seeing how 2+ GMs divide up their tasks is quite interesting, and even though some of the tasks are different in a tabletop game, there are enough commonalities to make for a good learning experience.
4. LARPs tend to use props well. Props can be time-intensive to create, but seeing them in action can be just the thing to get your creative juices flowing. (I wrote about props here on TT, in “How Do You Use Props?“)
5. Look for tricks on creating ambience. Whether it’s background music, scenery or even just their choice of locations, I’ve played in some LARPs that did this well — often with minimal use of sets and props. (“Creating Ambience” here on TT covers this topic.)
6. Beef up your improv skills. Gaming involves improvisation by default, but in a LARP you have less to fall back on than in a tabletop game. They often have minimal rules, and in the case of one-shot LARPs (like those at cons) there’s no setting or background info to absorb — which means you spend several hours doing everything by the seat of your pants.
This list is by no means exhaustive — it’s based on my experience with LARPing at conventions, in one-shot games, and not on, say, running LARPs or playing in longer-running games. If you’d like to add to it, I’m all ears!