Post-Hauntological LARP

Nothing like starting a project getting out into the wild, past the point where I can make enormous structural changes to make me see all the flaws in it.

Well, nothing to be done now, but I want to note this set of thoughts down so I can try and get some use out of them later.  Sitting on the bus the other day, it occurred to me that with one exception, most of the LARPs, and indeed most of the RPGs in any form I’ve run are broadly hauntological.  And certainly, Restitution and Armistice are extremely hauntological, expressly reaching for anachronistic aesthetics, locked into examining aspects of the present through the lens of the past.

This bleeds through into their narrative design, as well, particularly in Restitution, which was very much about the inescapable hidden past of the setting.  In Armistice, it’s the characters, rather than the setting that are haunted (by their own prior actions), but the same concern with the past is still there.

There’s a reason for all this – it’s to do with laying the seeds of narrative down in the fictional past, in order that the play in the present can contain richer conflict and drama.

It occurs to me that Testament, failure though it was, was exactly the reverse – it was entire concerned with moving into the future by jettisoning the past.  I’d like to go back to that at some point.

While writing this, the notion of a generational game has occurred to me, where the players don’t have a fixed character, but play the scions of various houses at different points throughout history, although I think that might also get pretty hauntological if not very carefully designed.  Maybe start it in the present day?  Mind you that leads to SF type budget-concerns – LARP is not an SF-friendly medium by it’s nature.

Not really sure where I’m going with this, other than adding “run an unhaunted game” to my to-do list.

3 thoughts on “Post-Hauntological LARP

  1. I’ve been toying with the generational game idea myself; I’d like to run a campaign that plays through all of the major storylines of the Shadowrun universe, with characters being replaced periodically, and old ones showing up as NPCs, contacts, fixers, etc. Aside from the logistical problems (do I want to convert all the old adventures and supplements to 5th ed, or play through each of the editions; and I’d have to get off my ass and write that Shadowland web page system) I wonder if players, who, if things go well, become very invested in their characters, would be prepared to detach from them and see them be used by the GM. In my one experience with a long-running larp, even just changing the person running a long-term NPC became problematic; characters who retired from the game and became NPCs, and then came back for one offs or special events, became a big source of argument and at least one continuity error.

    Doing a bit of free thinking of my own, I guess, but that ended up being my problem with Vampire LARP; you take these beings that are supposed to run at a very slow rate of change and have them played by humans who want things now now now. It was frustrating to play a power-behind-the-throne type Tremere when the prince changed three times in six months. How do you get players to bide their time, and set up long term plans that enable that type of generational game?

    1. In Vampire LARP (and indeed, in the LARP I’m currently running, where the average PC age is probably hovering around a thousand years) I’ve always gotten around the “plotting across centuries” issue by setting the game at what is expressly understood to be an unusual period of rapid change, where opportunities must be seized *now*. (As in, it’s obvious IC that the circumstances everyone is in are unusual, not just an OOC understanding.)

      The other option is to run time on something other than a 1-to-1 basis. Have a decade pass between time-in sessions – maybe not every time, but jump the clock forwards at known intervals. Requires much more work from everyone.

      Regarding PC attachment: I would tend to agree – I wouldn’t presume to make a former PC into an (important) NPC. They might be seen in the background, in a way that was agreed in advance with the former player, but I don’t think I’d make them *pivotal* again – their story was done when they stopped being a PC.

  2. Yeah, compressed time was a problem the couple times we tried it, just because people would just try to pack that much more into the time between games.

    My idea for the Shadowrun game has former PCs showing up as rumors and sources of jobs, not as people who show up for the firefights or anything–and even then, at a distance. Generation B characters might hear rumors about Generation A, while Gen C might be able to take them as contacts.

    The larp was a different situation; by the time I stepped in as an interim GM, it had been running 15 years or so, with only one hard reboot, and the accompanying massive power curves and semi-retired demigod PCs. But then Bloodshadows was probably more a Mage game where all the PCs happened to be vampires. It was…odd. Fun, but odd.

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