Well, that didn’t go so terribly well, did it? I kind of stopped writing here as the real work of getting this LARP together started. I have, over the intervening months, had Many Thoughts, of course, and I probably ought to catch this blog up on them, but it’ll take a while.
So the short version is that we’ve pretty much settled on a system, and a world, I’m currently writing the gazeteer of the fictional London that the game is set in, and we’re starting in a matter of 6 weeks, and no I’m not panicking at all, why do you ask?
The slightly longer version is that what we’ve evolved is an urban fantasy game, with a rules-light system that determines outcomes, rather than strictly simulating actions and events. In terms of some of its basics, the setting owes a lot to White Wolf/Onyx Path (who are pretty much the kings of modern urban fantasy RPGs, at least for setting), in the sense that a character is made of their supernatural axis (the kind of creature they are) and their political affiliation (the kind of things they believe) and then powers are stacked on top.
Interestingly, I found that the narrative focused, rules-light system enabled me to produce a vast array of power-stunt type options much more easily that I’d been expecting, because the rules themselves took care of the game balance part – for example, in a contest between someone with mind control powers, and someone with mastery of, I dunno, mystic shadows, it doesn’t matter how the two powers stack against each other in some weird set of dice rolling designed to simulate a “real world” – instead the rules let us determine who is going to win (get what they want) in any given conflict, and then it’s up to us as players to explain how that victory came about, rather than debating tactics beforehand, and working out modifiers, or anything like that. Buying the stunts can have some effect on what options are open to characters, certainly, and they can modify the likelihood of outcomes, but I don’t need to spend ages trying to “balance” powers against each other in the same way as I have in previous systems. I’ve found it very freeing.
Anyway, if you’re at all curious, the early-stage website is here. It’s a bit of a wall of text at the moment, until I have time to finish breaking it down into a better navigation structure, but it’s better than nothing for now.
In the meantime, here’s an example of the kind of thing I’m writing up for the Gazeteer of fictional London. It’s actually proved a lot harder to do that I found writing the Gazeteer for my previous game, but I think I’ve finally cracked an approach. I’d be focusing on places, to the exclusion of people. (I’m not actually sure why), but having cottoned on to that error, I think I’ll do a bit better now. As so we get things like the following, which is some of the content about the broad category of:
In much the same way that the police are not entirely unaware of the presence of the supernatural in the world, neither are the more organised parts of the criminal fraternity. Members of The Fleet Company are known to have particularly extensive ties with various forms of organised crime in London, but there are number of independent operators who are known to have a certain amount of supernatural pull of one sort of another.
The Blackshaw Family
Earnest and Ryan Blackshaw are the current heads of a criminal gang that stretches back three generations – Earnest having inherited his mother and grandfather’s minor talents in the field of illusion, and put them to the traditional family use – hiding things that one might not wish others to see. The Blackshaws have been involved with various illegal activities over the years, but are currently widely supposed to control a substantial portion of the illegal arms trade in London – if you’re looking for knocked off firearms of almost any sort, they’ve probably passed through Blackshaw hands at some point.
Mr Raum is a people broker. If you need to accomplish something, he can put together a crew to do it. The price? That varies. Sometimes, it’s a cut of the proceeds. Sometimes it’s a favour, later. Sometimes – well, surely there’s no truth to the suggestion that Mr Raum deals in souls, is there?
It’s not wildly original stuff, but at this stage, it doesn’t need to be – the point of the gazeteer, and these characters, is to provide a toolset for us all to use as we tell a more original story against the backdrop they provide. So instead of focusing on shoving in the most original ideas I can think of, what I mostly do is spend time thinking about the sorts of things that we’re likely to need as we tell that story – so a soul-brokering heist organiser might very well come in handy – either because we want to do something involving soul-brokering or a heist of some kind. And at the point that happens, I’ll sketch in Mr Raum further, to make him more thematically relevant, based on the characters who are approaching him, and the context in which they’re doing it.
It’s an interesting way of writing, one I had forgotten how much I liked. It’s as if everything might be Checkov’s gun, but I won’t know what is until the game is played…