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21. Thirteen tips for larp organisers, Part III

  1. You can be 100% sure that 100% of the participants don’t read 100% of the information you’ve presented to them. And of those who do read, there’s always something they don’t understand. You can’t be certain who hasn’t read what, or who has read it but hasn’t understood it, but you can be completely sure that someone didn’t get the memo.
  2. It’s ok, though. Larps are pretty robust. Don’t panic. Even if someone misunderstands something rather critical, there’s a good chance that the other participants will help in correcting the mistake — and if they don’t, sometimes the larp can end up in interesting places. Don’t worry about it too much. It’s going to be ok.
  3. Nobody agrees on what “Nordic larp” actually means. That doesn’t keep us from talking about it. Or using it to communicate what our larps are about. If you really want to dive into that cesspool of debate, then I recommend starting with Jaakko Stenros’ excellent 31 min Nordic larp talk “What does Nordic larp mean?”. It’s on youtube, and it’s good.
  4. Location, location, location. You can make up a good reason for why the Emperor of Rome has chosen to hold his gladiatorial games on a field instead of in the Colosseum. It’s a lot harder creating the Colosseum after having decided that the larp is set there. Or, in other words; it’s a lot easier designing a submarine larp if you have a submarine than finding a submarine because you want to do a submarine larp.
  5. Remember the organiser experience for when you’re a player. The best players are most often organisers themselves. Not because being an organiser necessarily makes you a better roleplayer (it doesn’t), but it gives you some empathy for how tough it can be, to run larps. So when you’re frustrated, tired and want to rip the world apart — hang on to that feeling for when you’re playing, and remind yourself about it when you want to tell a tired organiser that it simply will not stand, that the elven goddess is pronounced Ree-Kah, when you’d think rE-kAAH was better.
  6. Do larp design jam sessions often. A larp design jam session is one where you take a loose idea and turn it into an almost-ready-to-go design. Decide on number of players, game length, playing style, meta-techniques, rules, scenography, and anything you can think of. Even if the larp never happens, it’s healthy to put on the design work clothes and get cracking. And don’t worry if it’s just a mental exercise. Those can be quite good. Plus, it’s a ton of fun, and you get used to the process.
  7. Make sure you’ve got some basic multimedia skills. Creating larps requires a vast skill set, and there’s no guarantee that you can do all of it alone. Usually, you won’t have to, since you’ll be working as part of a team. No matter what, I’d advise on getting some basic training in things like web design, layout and photo editing. You don’t have to be that good to make things that look great, and visual presentations sell ideas. Having bottlenecks here can be frustrating, and it doesn’t take long to become just somewhat proficient.
  8. Train your decision-making skills. Organising even the simplest larp requires a truly staggering number of decisions. Should it really be 21 players, and not 23? What if you made it half an hour longer? Do the written characters need to include first names? Do they even need names? Or need to be written at all? What about food? Will toilets function as ingame or offgame spaces? There are so many different things you can tweak and change when creating larps, that decision-making becomes a vital skill. If you’re too afraid of making mistakes or want to discuss everything in committee, you’ll end up paralysed by choice. Make decisions and move on. Maybe even learn a little.
  9. Participants don’t put value on the same things that you do. This is something that can be hard to learn, but is nonetheless important. You may well end up with players who complain about the food (which was expensive and a pain in the ass), but who then accept the price of the larp because of the nice props (which you got for free). If you have open budgets, this gets even more tricky, because you can’t just smile and think “You know nothing” on the inside then. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the participants are wrong — just that they have (a) different perspective(s).
  10. Documentation matters. If you don’t do some kind of documentation, not only will your larp be more easy to forget (for both those who were there, and those who weren’t), it’ll also be much easier for misinformation to spread. You don’t have to do entire books or documentary films. Even a couple of pictures and a page or two about the larp goes a long way. One of the reasons that Nordic larp has been so influential globally is because we’ve worked at documenting our ideas and our larps.
  11. Don’t assume interest has to lead to invitation. When talking to non-larpers, there are some larpers who will take a “What are you doing?” question as an indication that the person asking the question has almost signed up for a larp already, and just needs a little push to get there. This is rarely the case. If people are curious about what you do, explain it to them. Don’t assume that they want to start larping. Quite a few larpers I’ve met have gotten that confused. Don’t be one of them.
  12. “Free” veteran organisers are worth their weight in gold. If you can get your hands on them, having veteran organisers without any clear area of responsibility is nothing less than amazing. They’ll be able to spot problems on their own and deal with them, without you having to worry about it. And when you’re stressing about things going wrong, having someone who says “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” is worth a LOT.
  13. Running a larp can sometimes be extremely boring. Unless you’re busy with something during in-play hours — playing a character, cleaning toilets, writing letters, etc. — organiser duty can involve a lot of waiting around and doing nothing. The reason for this is so that you’re ready and available when the shit hits the fan, but it can be a bit boring waiting for that. So if you find yourself reading a book or watching cat vidoes on youtube during your larp, it’s not a sign that you’re a bad organiser — it’s probably a sign that you’re a good one.

Written by

Director, The College of Extraordinary Experiences & Coach at McKinsey

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