15 September, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 5)

Upon recommendation, I've had a look at the rules for the Amtgard Boffer LARP system, it's got some interesting ideas in it, but it's exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to avoid in almost every sense.

The combat is quick and nasty, 2 hits and you're down (a hit to a limb immobilises it, two hits to a limb or one hit to the torso takes a victim out of the conflict). That means a lucky strike will down someone, more so than a sequence of skilled hits. It does this to avoid complicated hit point issues, then throws in hit points when armour is applied.

The system is all combat and magic (in the core rule book anyway), in indie/storytelling game design circles, some migt say that this leaves the rest of the world as a "fruitful void"...personally I call it crappy game design, it also throws all the burden of storytelling and entertaining players onto a limited group of GMs...that's a one way trip to bored players and burnt out GMs in my experience.

The core rule books basically seem to describe something that is a fantasy equivalent to the SCA. Everything seems weighted toward player skill rather than character skill, and characters mean little in the grand scheme of things...once a player qualifies for a guild or opens up a character class, they may simply start at this level at any layer date, with any later character. I guess this rewards players who keep coming back, but it doesn't do much for new players who seem to have a limited scope in their character options. I don't know what it is that I don't like about this, it feels "almost right", but there's something a bit off-putting about it.

People get into this sort of thing for escapism, so the idea of basing everything heavily on player skill then incorporating the cut-throat politics of the SCA into the mix...sorry, just not what I'm after.

The magic system also looks very "exception-based" and clunky, certainly not the streamlined story-game feel that I'm going for in this LARP system...and certainly not a player driven ecosystem of storytelling. 

A closer read of the "death rules" actually gives me a clearer indication of what the Amtgard rules were designed for. These are the LARP equivalent of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, characters can be killed quickly (at which point they report to a GM, stay out of play for a few minutes, then rejoin the battle). It's all about massive battles, not dramatic cinematic swashbuckling. Flicking further through the character classes, I see that different classes have different numbers of "lives", which is surely just another way of handling "hit points".

For players who just want to go in and whack one another without thinking about repercussions, developing story, or deeper political machinations, it might be fine...but still doesn't feel like what I'm aiming for.

How do I want to do things differently with my core boundaries in mind? But how can I learn from these rules?

I like the idea of rewarding players who go the extra mile, I want to reward players who are pro-active in their storytelling rather than simple passive recipients of the GMs narrative. But I think it might be going too far to allow players to permanently gain access to prestige classes once they've been unlocked. Perhaps players earn points that must be expended on specific exclusive occupations or races (or both), or might be exchanged for bonus experience points on a new starting character. Let's hypothetically say that a player gains 2 Destiny Points per game they attend (and may gain bonus destiny points if they create storylines, secure gaimng venues or do other things beneficial to the gaming group of campaign).

I want individual characters to be more important than the nameless masses, so maybe we do include massive battle rules where lesser characters have only a single hit point (sacrifice a limb to avoid wasting that hit point...thus remaining in the battle...torso hits simply take out a nameless mook). I'm thinking of the idea introduced back in AD&D's Dark Sun, where players start at level 3 because things are tough out in the real world. 

In our hypothetical situation, we might say that a player automatically begins with 5 Destiny Points for a primary character they create (otherwise they may create a secondary character who is barely more than a nameless mook, but they only gain a single Destiny Point for such a character), they may spemd any of their accumulated Destiny points to improve their characters before entering play or may spend such points to gain permanent advantages from mystic effect during the course of play. A player choosing to portray nameless mooks for a session doesn't spend any of their destiny points regardless of what characters or monsters they are requested to portray by the GM, instead they gain a bonus Destiny Point or two depending on the quality of their portrayals.

According to this system, we might say that common occupations, cultures and races have no Destiny Cost, uncommon occupations, cultures and races might have a single point of Destiny cost, rare options might have two points of Destiny cost. Instead of taking these options, a player might spend Destiny Points and choose for their character to start with extra experience points.

(Coincidentally, this is basically the way things work in "Walkabout").

Characters might be able to start further along specific paths of progression by spending more of these Destiny points, basically as a reward for hard work. But I'm not really sure about this bit yet.

Still more thinking to do.
Post a Comment