Forest of Fun

Claire's Personal Ramblings & Experiments

Massive Narratives

Encleverment Experiment Game Design Narrative Roleplaying Games
Massive Narratives

Okay I've found some topics I want to write a lot about, so I'm going to make a compromise and break them into smaller posts. Once they are all done I'll put together a complete article or podcast. First some news updates.

  • Might be some interesting news on the podcast front just trying to get some things sorted out. Watch this space.
  • Encleverment Experiment is going well. Hopefully there will be more info publicly out there in the near future.
  • I'm attending Game Horizon Conference next week, should be good. working on a side project which I will publish more info once this series of posts is done.

Massive Narratives

The first item is all about a phenomenon I have arrogantly dubbed, Massive Narratives. With The Old Republic MMO, EVE Online and many others talking about massive narratives, it got me thinking about ongoing multi-site LARPs. They've at least partially solved many of the problems MMOs are to face.

A LARP is something role-playing geeks have been doing for years. You dress up as a character, arrive at a venue and interact with other characters in a story-space defined by the Story Teller and her team. They can happen be diplomatic styled discussions with cocktails in quiet room. They can be people running around a forest hitting each other with foam weapons. Ultimately they are a group of people participating in a Live Action Roleplaying Experience.

Now let's up the ante one further. Some LARP's are ongoing, i.e. spread over multiple nights or even years. Some ongoing LARP's happen at multiple locations, the biggest to my knowledge being Vampire LARP run by the Camarilla. Putting aside the drama of running a global organisation of bitchy role-players aside there are many other difficulties.

Problem: I am the Chosen One

A LARP involves maybe 12-30 people in one session, with big "meets" going into the hundreds. Globally the numbers expand rapidly. However the precedent set by storytelling, ego-trips, computer games and Hollywood is the chosen few (or one). Players want to be special, however the nature of a LARP means they can't be "chosen". Each player is equally important, the other hundreds of players are not there to serve you.

Solution? Well there isn't one really but there are some good compromises LARPs have found.

Make It Petty & Personal

Human nature can be an ugly thing at times but useful. Petty in-fighting, struggles over small things and little personal battles are great solution. Grace framing Simon for a misdeed brings Simon into disrepute and gains Grace standing. Does the game world in general care, not really, but Grace & Simon will be talking about it non-stop till the next game.

So to solve the chosen one problem many STs set-up situations which result in petty in-squabbles, personal vendettas and the like. Unfortunately computers still need a bit more research before they can handle Desperate Housewives style bickering, but we are getting close. However elements of this already exists in game spaces which don't explicitly support it, by player driven events. The challenge is to promote this behaviour to the point were it can drive the player forward as a primary mode of game-play.

Darius you Villian!

Another Chosen One solution is the personal vendetta and goals. A ST will often at the time of character creation nudge a few things to create a rivially or personal goal.

Now if your Rival is another player you get some great moments but it falls more into the previous category of Desperate Housewives style things. The other problem is if the other player stops playing then it fizzles out. A good mechanic I have used as an ST and seen used is the second degree vendetta. My sire (or family, lord ect...) has a vendetta with another sire. So as a trusted vassal I try resolve the vendetta often directly opposed to players on the other side of the conflict. If a player stops player its a loss but the vendetta can continue. Again the trick is to keep it personal.

Wrapping it Up

The big issue with ongoing LARPs and MMO is a common one. We have a large player base, each player wants to feel important and make game affecting choices, but we want to keep a stable game space which runs for a in-definite period of time.

The chosen one issue is one part of that larger problem. I'll be adressing other elements of the issue with other problem posts

Next time on Flammable Penguins... Problem: Who Shall be King? (Sorting out authority structures)
Please feel free to comment or tweet at me (Twitter: EvilKimau)