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Larp Developer's Resource

© 1999-2010 by T. Ford

Table of Contents

This page is dedicated to how to write and run a 3 day 60 - 100 player larp. I've now run four 3 day (24 hours a day) larps. On this site, you will find my notes and advice for how to run a successful larp. Keep in mind that each larp is different and these are just guidelines and suggestions. Anything you choose to do or not do is still your own responsibility.

Part 1 - Creating the Game

What is a Larp?
Introduction and Terminology
What You Need
Creation Process

Character Package List
GM Package List
Shopping Cart List
Suitcase List

Part 2 - Running the Game

Preregistration Responsibilities
A Typical Time-line and Overview
Opening and Closing Ceremonies
Physical Needs

Part 3 - Commentaries

Will I make any money?
Should a GM be at Every Combat?
Tips on Writing Characters
Gender Specific Characters
Larp Time vs. Real Time
Is It Worth All This?

Part 4 - Exhibits

This page will be under construction for a while yet, so check back. Please email me if you have any comments or suggestions for this site.

Sample Character Histories
Dice Bag Cost Spreadsheet

Part 5 - Additional Resources

Larp Email System (software)
Larp Character Creation Database
Histories from "Get Me Off this Damn Planet"
Histories from "Get Me Off this Damn Space Station"
Histories from "Y1K Party"
A List of Other Useful Links


TOC Part 1

TOC Part 2

TOC Part 3,4,5

To Cattail's Home Page

Part 1

What is a Larp?

A LARP (L.A.R.P, larp) is a Live Action Role Playing Game. It's like freeform movie where players are the actresses and actors. While there is no set script, players are given a brief character history, a character name badge, items, currency, and any game pieces necessary (dice, pencil, character statistics). There is no physical contact and combat is done by dice rolls.

The game emphasizes drama, negotiations, trading, mysteries, problem solving, manipulation, and delightful chaos.

If you are asking this question, the Larp Developer's Resource may be a bit too detailed for you.

Introduction and Terminology


I decided I wanted to run a larp after playing in my fourth. I thought, "That doesn't seem too hard. You make some characters, items, and have a plot. Being a GM looks like it might be fun. I'm creative enough."

I suspect I didn't realize the sheer effort that assembling a good larp was going to take. Now a veteran larp GM, I present here some checklists of things you'll need to get done, some pitfalls you can avoid, as well as some useful information to help you design and run your own larp. The usual disclaimers apply, where I mention that this is purely a subjective reference and you are responsible for all your own decisions.


The following terms are used throughout the Larp Developer's Resource.

The fictitious persona the player adopts. Includes history, abilities, goals, and personality. i.e. The god of chaos was a really cool character to play.
Short for gaming convention. i.e. A con is a good place to run a larp.
game central, larp game central
The central place of operations for the game. i.e. The GMs can be found at game central.
Game master(s), the directors of the larp, sometimes referred to as 'gods'. i.e. The GM wrote the characters.
group goal
The overall goal of the game. i.e. The group goal was to escape from the dark ages.
A participant in the larp. i.e. The player was an awesome actor.
Five to seven player goal or activity that exists independently of the group goal. i.e. The chess tournament plot was foiled by the space station getting bombarded.
reg, pre-reg
Slang for game registration, pre-registration. Signing up for the larp. i.e. Did you pre-reg?
stat, stats
Slang for character statistic(s) (life points, strength, dexterity, speed). i.e. The character's highest stat was his strength.
Individual character goal. i.e. The high priestess needed to retrieve the gold statue of an owl to appease her goddess.

What You Need


Lots of creativity
GM team
Computer and printer
Money for things like:

Choosing the GM Team

You'll need:

The bare minimum number of GMs for a 100 player game is 3, the maximum I would say is 5 (able to maintain adequate communication).

I am adamant about the GM team being a team. That's good communication, standing as a unified force before the players, never arguing in front of the players, evenly distributing the work, supporting each other's decisions. I don't mean that there aren't going to be problems. Quite the contrary, because whenever you spend a large amount of time with people, there are bound to be some difficulties.

You can't account for everything. For example, the three people my husband and I teamed up with for our third larp happened to be vegetarians. This didn't come up, of course, when we were planning how and when to get together to work on the larp. They lived four hours away from us, and so it was a road trip every time we needed to get together.

The first weekend they came to visit us. The closest thing to a vegetarian restaurant where we live is the salad bar at the local steak restaurant. Sunday morning, they had to leave. We thought this was kind of strange, because there were another good 5 hours that we could have kept working on the larp. The second time we got together, we went there, and by Sunday morning, we had to leave, because my husband was starving (he doesn't like green things). It was all too clear that we had a problem, and my husband and I finally understood why they had to leave the visit before. Finding foods that were mutually satisfactory took some time, but we managed to work it out.

Luckily, this was only a minor problem. Most problems occur as you realize that time is running out and you have a lot to do yet. After proof-reading characters for ten hours on your Saturday after a long week at work, you can get pretty grumpy.

Choose your GM team very carefully. You should be responsible, capable of compromising, not get offended at every silly thing, and willing and able to do a fair share of the work. The GMs should be people who trust each other and can work together.


You've decided to run a larp. You have all of the things you need. You have a place to run your larp and a deadline. Now you need a plan of attack to get you through the mountains of work.


Create a theme, setting, and overall goal for your larp. Jot down ideas for characters, plots, and subplots. Get excited. This is one of the best parts. Make sure you write down your ideas, not just talk about them. Six months from now when you are stretching your memory after a eight hour stressful workday, notes are a blessing. Write down everything, even the ideas you scrap, because you may decide to use a variation of those.

Get Organized

Who is doing what? Who gets to assemble the combat rules? Who gets to talk to the convention/hotel/pre-registration people? Who is going to write characters? Who is doing the advertisement? Who's going to proof-read all the characters? Who is going to do the shopping? Who is going to be the keeper of the receipts? Who is going to prepare the item cards?

Write a Time Line

One week goes by with the speed of light. One year goes by in the blink of an eye. You need to set yourself a time line. By the end of the first month, you should have a list of character types, professions, plots and subplots. Consider the number of months you have and find out how many characters you need to write per month.

100 characters over 10 months = 10 characters per month, 3.3 per week.

Wow! That sounds like a breeze! It's not. If you are like any gamer type, the time line may quickly begin to look like this:

100 characters over 3 months = 33.3 characters per month, 11.1 per week, 1.5 per day.

That's still not so bad. After all, each character only takes about 4 hours to write, including thinking time, Star Trek time, Babylon 5 time, South Park time, dinner time. 8 hours stressful work explaining to your supervisor why your eyes look like you've been up all night, 6 hours working on characters, and 7 hours of being subjected to nightmares of eager players looking for character sheets. It's not a bad life.

Creation Process

Write and proof-read:


Print, cut where necessary, and stamp with your unique game piece verification stamp.

Assemble characters, items, and information sheets.

These are a lot of things to do. Make sure you've schedule enough time for each step.

General Game History

This information sheet is designed for all players and should only have information that all characters would know. You should include a description of the area, what time period the characters are in, and any other blatantly obvious information the characters would notice immediately. This sets the stage for your game and is vital to have before you start writing characters to exist in that world.

Local History for Indigenous Characters

This information sheet is designed for characters local to the game setting. It should include a more detailed history, a list of high profile characters (such as the local king) with character numbers. It may also contain pertinent rumors that have been circulating (Heard there was a dragon in that mountain, did you?).

Depending on the different groups of characters, you may want to have information sheets for the other character groups. Time travellers would have a different view. Parallel universe travellers would have a different history and who's who list. Aliens might have a menu list of who looks tastiest.


Bleep! Bleep! Ever wanted to be a martian? Here's your chance!

Your advertisement needs some catchy name for your larp, a brief description of the setting, a list of some of the character types, when and where to play, the cost, who to send the check to, and who to make the check out to. Something that makes people say, "Wow! That sounds really fun! Where do I join up?" Most importantly, the advertisement needs some really cool graphics to catch the attention of potential players. Make sure that the artwork is yours to use (no copyright infringements). Depending on where you are advertising, the convention magazine, your local bookstore, or another convention, you may want to include a paragraph on what a larp is.

You will need at least one awesome advertisement for the convention's newsletter and program. This has always been our major downfall. Try as I might, I really can't make something eye-catching AND informative. I suspect it's because I'm too verbose.

If you do not have someone who can create an advertisement for you, find one. Bribe them. Take them to dinner, give them a free ticket to the game, beg, plead, do funny dances while standing on your head patting your feet and rubbing your tummy. An advertisement is the first thing prospective players will see, and will turn off players or attract them.

Making Characters

Breakdown of character types

With 100 characters, you should have at least:

You should have a wide variety of professions, and an equal amount of good, neutral, and evil types. See Step 1 below.

Write the Characters

Character writing is a bit like painting. You start with a base coat, add background, and then add details. It's a process that takes some time and tends to flow in layers. Below is a general procedure, but you'll find that the steps get mixed together into a really intensive task. You'll need to work at this in a style that motivates you best.

Step 1

Make a list of character numbers and each character's profession, and whether each player should be good, neutral, or evil. Remember to balance good, neutral, and evil close to 33.3% each. You might also include a general idea of the strength of the character stats and balance these. Remember that you can always change these as you go along to fit some new idea. Do this first, completely. Once a character has an associated history, do not change the number of that character.

Step 2

Make a list of plots that can involve 5 to 7 players each. 10 of these is probably good. 2 of the players for each plot should probably be non-essential to the solution of the plot. For instance, if one plot says, collect all 5 triangle gems, then in order for that plot to be successful, whoever or whatever has the 5 gems is essential to that plot. A chess tournament, however, has one essential character, the player who is in charge of setting up the chess tournament and running it. Then you could have 7 non-essential players, whose goals would include joining and winning the chess tournament.

The number of plots directly affects:

Plots should be completely independent of each other, but have the ability to overlap characters. So, a character can be involved in the chess tournament and the origami competition, but the two events have nothing to do with each other. There's a lot of brainstorming in this step.

Step 3

List the characters associated with each plot.

Step 4

List the character contacts. Each player should know 3-5 other characters, spread out across plots. Thus they have a choice for which group they want to align themselves with as they play.

Step 5

List the character goals. Characters should have 1 to 5 goals. I like to do 3 goals per character. I always figured that if a player got one thing accomplished, they could go home feeling successful, and it didn't limit them to dependency on any one other character for success.

Step 6

Write the histories. New players will need more detail and some character traits to fixate on. I like to give a nice background event in that character's earlier life that can be interpreted in a couple of ways, so that the player can read it how he or she wants to. They can be angry and bitter about it, or happy that they learned something. A more experienced player might want a character that they can warp into whatever they want to be. We had one player who was identified through the entire larp as ?. He was involved in all sorts of things (quite a few he made up) and his history really didn't matter.

50:50 seemed to be a nice split of detailed characters to general character histories.

Use the character contacts, goals, and plots to flesh out the character histories. Remember that if you put in #5's history that #23 is a really good friend, you also need to modify #23's history to say that #5 is a really good friend. This is a key point, and while tedious, complex, and generally a pain, it's something that can make or break a game. If one player goes to another player and says, "Hiya, eldest sibling, how are you today?" and that other player responds, "Who are you?" both players can get frustrated and it produces bad synergy. Next thing you know, the players are telling their friends that the game was not designed too well and they'd rather go to dinner and a movie. Inevitably, you'll miss something or make a mistake, but it's much better to have only one or two isolated instances that a GM can clear up with an apology and a warm fuzzy.

As you write the histories, make notes about any special items that a character may have.

Step 7

Fill in the character stats. Be sure to balance everyone. Maybe they have a super speed, but don't hit so well, or maybe they hit really hard, but don't move too fast. Both of these would have a fighting chance against an average character. Balance is a tough thing to do, because you do want some players to be a bit better than others. For example, an assassin would be better in combat than a healer. I think of it a bit like this: 5 ordinary characters should be able to take out your best character. I've never liked the idea of a blood bath. If one character ticks off enough other characters, the other characters ought to be able to work together to take him down.

Step 8

Make a list of general skills (horse riding, swimming), a list of special abilities (see in the dark 30'), a list of spells (if you have them). Write the instructions for each of these. (i.e. Fireball - Can only be cast once a day, affects 15 feet radius, centered on the caster, but does not affect the caster. Does 3d6 damage.)

Go through and assign these to characters. Keep in mind the balance of the characters. Do not include any instant killing abilities without giving the opponent a chance to run away.

Step 9

By now, you are so tired of writing characters, discussing them over dinner, sleeping and dreaming about them, and checking those character contacts that you are crazy. This step is where you take a break, and do something else useful. Like generating item cards, weapon cards, armor cards, combat, rules, what to say at opening ceremonies.

Step 10

Review, proofread, edit, check contacts, check contacts again, add another plot or two, review, proofread, check contacts, proofread, check balance, check specific items to character list. Until you pass out from nausea.

Step 11

Repeat step 10.


Weapons, armours, and general item cards are an important part of your game. Give them interesting names. Add descriptions of what they do or how to use them. Weapons should have a damage value. Armours should have a damage absorbtion value. They are pretty straight forward. You want to make sure that the text fits on the item card and that the item name is big enough to read from a couple feet away. Make the format of the cards consistent (i.e. name of item at the top, damage/armour value below, then description). The card itself has to be big enough to stamp with your game stamp.

When deciding the size of the item card, keep in mind that eight items per page uses a lot more paper than ten items per page. I tend to do a nice 3x4 matrix on the paper. You also want to leave yourself a good half inch margin between the text and the edge of the card. Don't make your margin less than a quarter of an inch though or else cutting will become extremely frustrating due to how exact you have to be.

Combat Rules

Combat rules are extremely important. They need to be clearly written, simple, and explicit. Leave no room for interpretation problems. In the past I have left the design of the combat system to my husband, who is good at figuring out that kind of thing, while I actually write them or rewrite them as the case may be. You need to test your combat and balance it. Test it again. Have someone who is dumber than a box of rocks about role playing combat test out your instructions (without your help). Take notes on where your tester has difficulties, and rewrite those steps. Test your combat again. Use a variety of situations. Combat rules should also include a list of hotel non-combat zones, such as the hotel's restaurant.

General Game Rules

This information sheet is designed for all players. It should explain things like the "no real physical contact" rule, especially in reference to combat (which is done by dice and talking, not kicking each other). It should also have a note that GMs reserve the right to remove a player without refund should that player cheat (flagrantly misusing combat situations) or disrupting the game outside of the spirit of the game. It should cover the fact that character to character romance has nothing at all to do with the real players acting out the part of the characters (see my commentary on romance).


Decide what you'd like to have for badges. These need to be sturdy, easily turned over to designate "off-line" and attachable to costumes without too damaging the costume. I've used the assemble it yourself plastic badges with slide in cards, and I've seen neatly laminated badges. I'm told the end cost is about the same, both in funding and labor.

If you buy the plastic badges with cards, look for the kind that come with their own perforated badge card sheets. These can be found at office supply stores. Having bought packages of ten before and tried to fit normal paper to the plastic badge, I really recommend those perforated sheets.

Badges should have the character number printed very large. You should be able to see the number from at least 7 feet away. If you are allowing players to create their own names (which is what I do), leave a blank for them to write it in. Print names for any named characters.

Sometimes badges also have a seemingly random bunch of numbers and letters at the bottom of the badge. These can denote special things about the characters to players who would recognize it. For example, you might make all disguised aliens have a 'A' as the third character of the random sequence, and tell all the aliens that so they can recognize each other. Another good use for this is to specify characters who can talk to or see ghosts. Actually using these alphanumerics are a bit difficult to set up, but adds a nice element to the game.

Information Sheet for the Dead

You need to decide how you are going to handle dead characters. Even if you write an entirely peaceful larp, where everyone supposedly likes each other, someone will get killed. It just seems to be the way of things. I don't recommend giving new characters to the dead, because you may run out of characters, and players tend to get a bit confused seeing the same person in different roles. Of course, you have to then think of something for the dead to do. Give them a new goal. Give them a new social group (you can only talk to the holy people who have the ability to speak with the dead). You might even give them invisibility at will and the ability to move through material things. You may also want to provide a way for the dead to come back to life (I hear you have a resurrect spell?). Either plan on telling the newly dead this information or write up a brief information sheet to hand them when they show up.


Died, did you? Should have been more careful, I guess. Made a few more friends than enemies. Maybe next time. Welcome to the world of the dead. Your life is by no means over, and you may even find a way to wreak revenge on those who killed you. As a ghost, you now have a number of new abilities, while you have lost most of your mortal ones...


Your game needs currency. Currency should be difficult if nearly impossible to duplicate. A bad example of currency would be cereal which would not only crumble, but would be easily acquired. A good example of currency might be specially dyed model wagon wheels. Depending on how many different types of currency you have (5 blue = 1 green), you should plan on having an average of four pieces per character. More than that, while nifty, tends not to be cost effective.

Red herring

This is something we have incorporated in all our games. It's something that seems important to players but has no effect or use whatsoever for the game. One game, we used those little furry pom pom balls that you can get in quantity at art stores. Someone started a rumor that they would double if you put them in your hair, so we had some players try wearing them. Our last larp used an idea as the red herring. We killed four key characters at opening ceremonies and laid out their bodies in the shape of a M. Or depending on where you were standing, an E, 3, or W. It had no relevance whatsoever to anything. Not only does your red herring give the players something else to play with, if your game needs it as it develops, you can always make the red herring useful.

A Map of the Hotel and Corresponding Game Areas

You should include in your character package a map of the hotel that has been marked off as locations for your game. For instance, the pool could be Lake Madrain or the local sewage pit. You'll also need to mark non-combat areas like the hotel restaurant, convention presentation rooms, movie rooms, and maybe even a hallway the hotel wants to keep clear. Larp game central should be a landmark of the setting (like the town hall, temple of the mystic overlords, or the pub).

This map gives a mental image to players for where their characters are physically, and helps players to utilize the whole hotel for the game. It lets the GMs mediate exploration in various locations. It also works as an extension of the game rules for non-combat zones.


I don't recommend doing this until the week before the larp or the very last minute, because inevitably, you will find something you need to add. It's a bit like a resume. Never make 100 copies of your resume. 20 max at a time, because you WILL find a typo the next day, and would have to reprint them. The sooner you print them, the more likely you are to have to go back and reprint them when you think of something else that needs to be added. The flip side of that is what to do when your printer dies after five character sheets, and you are leaving in less than 12 hours for the hotel.

Double sided or single sided character sheets? I've done them both. The first year I had fantastic character sheets that players could fold in half 3 times. On the cover of the resulting pocket-sized booklet was their character number and a place for them to write their own names. If they opened it, it listed their character statistics. Unfold it again, and there were character abilities, and the combat rules. If they opened it the last time, they could read their detailed character history. The players loved them. We had one complaint that the text was too small to read comfortably. My complaint was that I could only print one at a time, turn the sheet over, and print the other side, and hope I didn't put the paper in backwards accidentally. It also took forever to format precisely in WordPerfect.

I now make the general information sheets double sided and depending on how much time I have, I'll do the characters. It's much faster with the characters in a database and formatting one character and then all are done.

Stamping and Cutting

All of those really nifty item cards need to be printed, cut out, and stamped. Leave yourself a nicely spread out 16 hours to do this. Invite friends over to socialize. Put them to work. Stamp the item cards BEFORE you cut them out. It helps later on if you keep things sorted as you work. You'll need several pair of sharp scissors, plastic baggies, and bandaids for the inevitable paper cuts.

The only good part about this step is that you can watch movies and socialize through this stage, and it doesn't require a lot of mental concentration. (Braveheart? Oh, that was a short one. Is it off already? Anyone for a Star Wars Trilogy run? Hey! Don't get pizza on those!)

Game Mail System

Your larp will need to have some sort of mail system so players can leave messages for other players that are not available. Generally this is done with numbered envelopes and lots of scrap paper. GMs then do the task of filing and retrieving mail (while reading the messages, of course). You'll also need to think of a way to logically implement this system in your time period. Our last larp had "a little message boy employed by the local lord named Emmanuel". Emmanuel, in addition to his normal tasks, would take bribes to give false messages, give any messages to the local lord and lady, and also, for a small fee, hold items to give characters.

I once created an actual database email system for players and set up my pc as "the only operating message terminal on the space station". While it worked fine for the 40 players that braved the ice and snow storm, if we had had a full complement of 100 players, it would have made the line waiting for the pc way too out of hand. On the advice of the convention personnel, we also brought with us the numbered envelop backup system, just in case the pc died. Luckily the pc lived, and the email system worked really well and was a nice futuristic touch for our space station. I would not recommend this, however, as it was a lot of extra work, especially considering the terror of the mouse or keyboard suddenly breaking.

Decorations for Larp Game Central

Larp game central is your home. It should include things to augment the game setting like signs or posters, artwork, relics, as well as function things (like tables and chairs). You should leave space for news announcements. Have some quiet music going to attract people who walk by but that does not interfere with players trying to talk. Make it a place for individuals to congregate.

Final Assembly

I wish this step were as simple as stuffing things in the right envelope. It's not. This is usually done the evening before the larp in one of those crazy "Are we ready?" moments of doubt. Make sure each character packet gets the die, pencil, folder, envelope, or bag, general history, the game rules, and their history/skills and abilities sheet. That's the easy part. Put the correct local history with each character. Then comes the currency. Who is rich? Who is poor? Then comes the special items. If you've carefully kept everything sorted through the stamp and cut stage, you should be able to find the special or unique items fairly fast. Put the right item with the right character. Weapons and armours should be extremely rare, except for maybe giving some to the merchants (with a promise that there will be a shipment the next day or something). Check each character packet. Keep them in order.

Character Package List

GM Package List

Shopping Cart List

Suitcase List

You might wonder why I put this here as it seems logical enough. That last few minutes as you scrunch yourself into your car with all your things, you always feel like you forgot something. I encourage you to write your own list and check it against this one, and then USE IT. Of course you may not need everything below. Use your own discretion.

Personal Affects

Game Affects

Even as I look over this list, I'm certain I've forgotten something. It's your job to figure out what and email me so I can add it.


TOC Part 1

TOC Part 2

TOC Part 3,4,5

To Cattail's Home Page

Part 2 - Running the Game

Preregistration Responsibilities

Once your advertisement goes out, you'll start getting letters with checks, and depending on what information you provided, phone calls on your answering machine, and/or emails.

You need to carefully keep track of who has paid, who hasn't, which character you gave to which player. Keep it all in one location, so that any of the development team can handle these. Keep track of what promises you've made to who.

Return phone calls and answer emails. Save all correspondence, and make sure you answer any mail. This alone will eat a great deal of your development time.

Not only is this common courtesy and a show of professionalism, it gives the players something to get excited about. Never give the player the full details of their character until the larp, but some general tidbit of information. For instance, one of our email discussions (summarized) went something like this:

Player: I'm interested in playing in your larp at Evecon. I plan on being full time, and I want to be involved in the overall goal of the game and as many plots as I can.

GM: Ok, we have several parts that fit that. Would you like to be good or evil? Notorious or discreet? We have things like nobles, healers, militia, a scientist, a trollop, perhaps?

Player: What does a scientist do in a pre-science era?

(At this point the GMs looked at each other and laughed hysterically, because players don't miss much, do they?)

GM: A scientist does what a scientist does. I can't really say more than that, except that it's involved.

Player: OK, I guess I'll take the scientist, but I need to know what kind of costume to bring. Do I have to dress in a white coat and stuff or can I be a bit of a medieval noble?

GM: I put you in the slot for our scientist. As for costumes, it really doesn't matter. Dress however you like. As a time traveler, you can wear whatever you like, I suspect.

And that's all the information I gave. I did not mention that her time machine had crashed and she was stranded, and that she still had some goals to meet.

A Typical Time-line and Overview


The first hour of registration is a bit stressful as there is usually a line of about fifteen to twenty players eagerly waiting. Prepare your GM team ahead of time. Decide who gets what function. Have one person in charge of collecting the money. Have one person in charge of interviewing the player and picking a character for them (this person should intimately know each character). Have another person in charge of sifting through all the character packages and giving the correct one to the player. I think our first registration got so muddled and confused that a couple of people played without paying. If you are organized and work together smoothly, each doing their own function, you'll find that the line goes rather fast, and players don't have a chance to get frustrated waiting. (Waiting 20 minutes for each person in line in front of you gets annoying really quickly.)

Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies

Introduce the GMs. Go over the rules and combat. Do a brief sample combat. Mention that players whose characters die need to come see you. Explain the mail system. Make any general announcements (such as currency values). Answer any questions. Set the stage for the larp. Your larp should have some main event occur at opening ceremonies (like the discovery of 4 dead bodies).

Closing Ceremonies

Thank the players. Describe the goal, plots. Pass out awards. Have players say the types of things they were doing. Answer questions. Listen to any suggestions for future games. Closing ceremonies always takes longer than you have. If you set aside one hour, you'll be rushed getting everything in. An hour and a half would be just about right, if you planned for about 20 minutes.


Events keep your larp going. They can be scheduled or unscheduled, involve lots of players (combat competition) or just be something that happened that players would notice (that volcano to the north erupted). They give your larp a sense of depth and reality, while giving the players something to participate in or discuss.

Your larp should have some main event planned about midway through that can involve about 50% of the players (dance, competition, poetry reading, royal audience). It gives the players something to look forward to, discuss, plan for, participate in, and can affect how things proceed that afternoon and evening.


During the first day, Friday to Saturday morning, players will be grouping themselves, finding allies, enemies, and working on their personal goal. Saturday, these alignments will shift as players start to get some things accomplished. This is when the bulk of the weapons and armour should find their way into the game. Players should be able to trade for things. By Saturday evening, players should be working on the group goal, avoiding or joining combats, and generally causing chaos. Saturday night is generally the best and most dangerous time to play, as groups have formed and are doing what they think needs to be done. Sunday morning, GMs will be busy working with players trying to get their last few tasks done, or trying to do something. By Sunday at 1 p.m., players should have succeeded or failed the main goal of the larp.

It is the GMs' responsibility to make sure that things keep moving, and that players have enough to keep them busy. GMs need to be versatile and have the ability to completely change the goal of the game if necessary. They should be able to introduce new elements, make sure the pieces are in the game for players to succeed. Over the course of running the larp, things the players do affect how the larp is going to turn out, and you must be willing and able to adjust your perception of how things should proceed. You may have spent three weeks figuring out how that space ship is going to get off the planet and some player may come along at the beginning of the game and blow it up. So you have to work with what the players do.

Make sure you communicate with the other GMs. You may say, "Ok, you blew up the space ship. There are fragments everywhere." You don't want one of your team mates saying to another player, "You search the space ship using your stolen key and find these important documents." Keep a notebook and record all major actions. Read the notebook every time you step into larp game central. Do not leave the notebook out where not so honest players can read it.

Post news bulletins for the players to read as they come and go from larp game central. Record any major happenings that players would normally be aware of. If your characters in charge of the news are doing their job, you should be able to leave most of the posting to those players. This not only gives players important information they need about the larp, but provides a place for them to congregate, talk, and observe.

Physical Needs

Eat nutritiously. Eat normally. You don't want to spend the convention sitting in the bathroom or feeling sick from eating too much junk food.

You must sleep. The con flyer will say something about it for attendees, but I assure you that YOU MUST SLEEP. The average con attendee can afford to be a little fuzzy-headed and pass out on Sunday morning, but you have too many people that need you functioning.

This became a real safety issue on our first larp. We tried to sleep, but too much was going on that we wanted to know about and be involved in, that we maybe had 4 hours sleep through 3 days. This, coupled, with running all over the hotel on an effective adrenaline rush, turned us into vegetables. After closing ceremonies and getting the larp room into its original condition, and talking to the stray players who wanted to tell us how fun our larp was, and the stray players who pointed out things we did wrong, we came down off our adrenaline high.

During the drive home, I remember 2 things. One was me falling asleep as soon as we hit the beltway, and waking up in time to tell my husband not to miss our exit (about 30 minutes). He said it passed like 2 minutes. And the other was stopping at McDonalds. We knew we were hungry. When the cashier put our sodas on our tray we picked it up to leave. The cashier stopped us and said we still needed the rest. Then she put the french fries on the tray, and we picked it up. The cashier stopped us again, and said we still needed our hamburgers. She set those on the tray, and said we could take it finally. I think she thought we were stoned. I'm still not sure how we got home safely.

The second larp, we had learned from the first, and set the hotel reservation through Monday so we wouldn't have to drive. We got some sleep, but not much. It took us about 3 hours after we were alone at the hotel before we finally realized that we had enough rest and were bored.

The third larp, we got enough sleep, and left after the festivities. How much is enough sleep? At the bare minimum, 2-3 hours less than you normally sleep, but not less than 5 uninterrupted hours per night. Sleep in shifts, so your larp can run 24 hours. Players like this. I tend to work the 2-8 am shift.


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Part 3 - Commentaries

Will I make any money?

That's an important question. When you are a player, you look around you and say, here's 50 people at $10 a person, so these GMs made $500. Man, they're rich. Well, let's subtract hotel cost for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There goes $300. Subtract $60 for the 20 players who preregistered and only paid $7. Subtract the 100 folders at 17 cents each ($17). Subtract a ream of paper ($4 and usually you go through about 1 and a half). Subtract the cost of 100 dice at 15 cents a piece ($15). And we'll subtract $24 for miscellaneous supplies, staples, tape, plastic name badges, and pencils (this amount is low, but we'll pretend you have some junk already lying around your house).

That leaves $80. We're going to assume you already have your own laser printer and/or copier and don't have to pay for either of those. And I'm going to skip the cost of some kind of currency for your game, as well as any physical items you want to purchase for prizes, special effects, or whatever. Now, let's say there are 3 GMs. So maybe I get a nice lump of $26.67 for my efforts, after the appropriate person has been reimbursed for whatever they bought toward the larp.

Let's do some calculations. I wrote the character histories. If I was really rolling, it took me about 20 minutes per character to get all the contacts right, all the plots cohesive, and made each character as interesting as possible. Naturally some characters took longer and some less. That's 3 characters an hour. So I spent 33.3 hours writing (and this is probably low). Not having timed character writing, I suspect it's more of 30 minutes to an hour per character. Not including time I spent brainstorming, planning, answering emails, phone calls, coordinating with my teammates, cutting and stamping item cards, assembling character packages, shopping for specific things that aren't available where I live, and time I spent staring at my screen wondering if writer's block was an illness that you recover from or a hereditary disability, I made 80 cents an hour.

So, will you make money? Probably not as much as you'd like to think, but it sure is fun. You do not want to charge more than $10 - $15 per character because most gamers barely have enough money to get into the convention. I remember a time when parting with $10 was a serious commitment and it cost me food for one day to play the larp. It was a well spent $10, but I still had to scrounge through several sofas at the con in search of money that had fallen out of people's pockets so I could eat.

Should a GM be at Every Combat?

I once heard in a seminar that a larp isn't worth playing if a GM isn't present at every combat. I also played in a game once where it was a requirement and I knew that to stay alive, all I had to do was avoid the GMs. It's fairly easy at a con to duck a group of players accompanied by a GM, who are walking with a purpose. I also noticed that the GMs spent the whole weekend mediating combat which is not my idea of a good time. They also needed a lot more GMs to run the game, and consequently had a really difficult time communicating.

If you don't plan on having a GM present at every combat, your combat rules must be meticulous. That is, simple to understand, crystal clear, and without room for abuse. Rules that any neutral player can mediate if the two combatants don't trust each other. At some point, a GM will have to get involved to help players understand the rules, or to mediate rule abuse, or to expedite confusing combats (like ones with 15 or more players). If most combats can be done without a GM present, it will leave the GMs available for more interesting services.


The seminar I attended said that the rules for any romance have to be especially strict, because jealous significant others have been known to haul off and physically punch some pour soul who was just role playing. Our last larp is the only one that had any romance at all, and it only had two couples. I had intended on assigning them to real life couples who wanted to be a team. One couple didn't show up, and the other two players decided they were out to kill each other. I tend to think that romance is a really sensitive issue, and would avoid it in the plots and goals.

Tips on Writing Characters

If you reference another character, only include that character's number the first time you reference it. (i.e. "Your friend, the historian (#23), thinks you should not attempt something so risky. You pondered your friend's wisdom and think you might seek out more advice before going ahead.") This will save you time when you are doing the character contact checking, decreases the opportunity for typos, and will make your life easier.

Work by plot groups, rather than by character number. Write all the time travelers during the same evening and all the aliens together. This lets you memorize character numbers by group, so they are easier to fill in, and helps maintain the character's contacts integrity.

While you are writing a character history, if you make a comment about another character, IMMEDIATELY add a note in the other character that corresponds back to the one you are working on. This helps both consistency and accuracy.

As you work, keep a list of unique and special game pieces and which character they go with. If you write a doctor, include a medical kit in the list for that character. This may sound a bit silly, but when you are sitting on the hard floor at 3 am the day before the larp stuffing item cards into character packages, such a list is a blessing.

Make each character something that you would want to play. New players will need more detailed character histories that include emotional responses to other characters, very specific and easy to accomplish personal goals, and more complex group goals. Experienced players may prefer a list of events that happened to their character, and will like to choose how to react to those events.

A 100 player larp will also average 1-3 children under 10. For these, you'll need a couple very simple characters with simple personal goals that have necessary skills for a group goal. Thus, they can be a part of things, feel needed (not brushed off), and succeed at their goals.

Gender Specific Characters

How many male characters do you make as opposed to female characters? When I write characters, I tend to think of them all as male, and write them to be non-gender specific, so that anyone can play any character. Writing 100 character histories without the words "she, he, his, hers, him, her, brother, sister, mother, father, king, lord, lady" was truly a challenge, but well worth the effort.

If you are doing non-gender specific characters, here are some words you can use to replace "he, him, his, she, hers, her, brother, mother, etc.): your friend, your enemy, the fool, the idiot, the joker, the crazy one, sibling, parent, spouse, your contact, etc.)

Larp Time vs. Real Time

Having played in larps that run 24 hours a day and larps that close each night so the GMs can sleep, I like the 24 hour a day ones. I am an early morning person and I've found that I miss too much time because I get tired and fall asleep, and then when I'm ready to play, the game tends to be shut down. It's more realistic to keep it running, even if it can be a bit of a strain on the GMs. If you run a game like a vampire larp, and vampires can only play at night, make sure you mention that when signing up the players (not all of them are savvy enough to realize that vampires are night critters only). Some people, like me, are day people only, while others seldom see the sun on an ordinary day. Your game will be much easier to understand if you say that game time ("planet time" or "space station time", etc.) is the same as the real time, just in a different dimension, time period, or alternate reality.

Is It Worth All This?

As I sit here picking at the paper cuts I somehow acquired during character registration and pondering the symbolic nature of last night's dream (putting out a forest fire with a large wooden spoon and mashed potatoes), I think running a larp was definitely worth all the work. It was like being on a roller coaster. Shakes your body into a pulp, goes by like a camera flash, and leaves you trying to remember what just happened so you can savor it.

They asked me at work how it went. How can I describe it? A few words wont cover the exhilaration I felt when we managed to avoid a forty player bloodbath, or the stress of relocating game central through character registration, or the anxiety of having spotlights and microphones unexpectedly at opening ceremonies, or the hysterics of the five-legged race. A few words can only leave a wispy tendril of pride knowing that I had a hand in all this, that I created it, and people had fun playing.


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