I design eLearning, and we talk a lot about gamification, open badges, and designing scenarios. The scenarios are very close to LRP game design. You’re trying to get people to think about what they’re doing and to practise applying skills in a situation as close as possible to real life. It’s the first step in teaching people how to react in order that they don’t have to think too much when they see the real situation, and it gives them a chance to make mistakes without people dying.
Gamification is more of an issue. Whilst the scenarios make training more effective, games and badges are also used to encourage people to participate in training. There are many reasons people participate in training, but before drawing them in with the promise of a game or of a badge based reward we need to be sure it’s appropriate. With LRP, the theory is that people are playing the game because they want to play the game. This suggests the badges and rewards aren’t so appropriate. It leads to a player base who are goal focussed and those goals aren’t necessarily things that will improve the game.
LRP is something people should be involved in because it’s interesting or fun.
When you’re running an event the more quality interaction you can get out there the better. you want to be playing your players off against each other. You don’t necessarily want them to have an easy time. Each NPC (Non-Player Character) can add to that by interacting with different players, and by having a coherent agenda. If they’re trying to sell something to the players, then they need to get different prices from different groups. There should be an awareness that the item is on the field and a chance for players to offer more, or to mug the NPC. There needs to be interaction between players even if it’s through a third party.
If you give the players a chance to do something they should have to work for it. It shouldn’t be easy.
I don’t want to have to get a ref. This weekend I was given a lammie. I was in the monster tent, and just handed it by another member of crew. There were several possible things that could happen as a result of getting this lammie. All of them included getting a ref at some point. That seems like overkill. Whilst I can see that refs might be useful for things without a clear outcome, designing them in as a normal part of the game is awkward. To oversee a ritual effect when it’s not a standard result is fine, but in general trust your players. Cheating isn’t the issue people see to think it is.
Getting a ref isn’t a sign that you’ve done something cool or special. It’s often a sign that the game is badly designed.
There seems to be an opinion that refs should be there for cool things to happen. That’s fundamentally not true. Refs should be there to deal with safety concerns. They should be there to enable crew things to happen. Designing them in as something that most players will need to interact with in order to play the game seems like a bad plan. If you have to get a ref you have to stop playing for a bit. No one goes to a field in Warwickshire because they want to talk to someone wearing a yellow and black coat.
The most interesting thing about events is what happens in the field. If you’re focusing on things that aren’t happening in that field then you’re focussing on the wrong bits. There is always a way to make things more in-character. Definitive answers kill game, and players shouldn’t expect absolutes.
People will do a lot for points.
Reddit and Facebook both run on the ability to generate imaginary internet points for people, and to give people a sense that they are closely connected when they’re not. We run the risk of bringing this into our games. The people who win at LRP are groups who spend their time doing things. They talk to people, they find plot and they manipulate the game into going their way. They are aware of other peoples movements and they are involved in what is going on because they’re out hunting things down all the time. To them, getting a ref is a frustration.
Most large systems reward people for playing over time. The longer you play the more points you get and these can be spent on new skills. In some systems players who’ve been around for a while can get skills that a new players can’t. The first option is preferable to the second. Special things should be the result of in game action, and I they’re not things players have earned just by being. Also they can be removed as well as given. Having something removed is a reward for the player. It’s a sign they’ve interacted.
Working at the car wash LRP…
Games should be hard, and life should be interesting for the characters. We don’t run games that simulate sitting in an office 9-5 Monday to Friday. That’s what a lot of us do every day and whilst there could an awesome version of a game that starts in an office, the part that makes it awesome is the zombies invading the building.