How to Start a LARP Group?
How to Start a LARP Group?
LARPing is a social hobby, and if anyone can join an event with a handful of friends or play as independent characters, some LARP are made with organized groups in mind, may they be factions, noble houses, guilds, or clans. These LARP groups are sometimes supported by in-game mechanics and are an integral part of the activity's game design, while they can also be a simple natural consequence of a particular event getting big and having a large player base. As a general rule, LARP groups become more and more important the bigger the LARP grows, as more player makes these larger units an almost inevitable occurrence.
LARPing as part of a group isn't exactly like LARPing as an autonomous character. In events in which groups are predominant, they often become the de facto unit of diplomacy, warfare, and influence, with lone characters having far less pull or impact than a whole group can have, even if exceptions do exist. Lone characters will often have to tag along with existing groups or form ragtag improvised alliances to get into the thick of the game, or else they will be limited to watch and remain on the periphery.
As part of a group, a character can retain a good amount of independence, but will be subjected to in-game and out-game pressures to perform some duties, conform to a few key rules, and serve the groups' larger agenda. Everyone has to compromise a little to keep a group up and running, but players can achieve much more together than individually, so the effort is often worth it.
➸ How to form a new LARP group?
The first step to forming a new LARP group is to pick the event you are interested in. After reading the lore and the rules of this event, you should be able to begin brainstorming a general theme for a group that would be fitting for this particular activity. At this point in group creation, you don't have to have a big story or very precise idea in mind, but a general theme will be important to recruit players and set expectations.
Are you creating a rugged mercenary company, an ambitious noble house, a group of joyful thieves and minstrels, or a scholarly guild obsessed with gathering knowledge? Obviously, all these concepts can fit a large array of characters, but some will be more invested in some aspects of gameplay, may it be combat, revelries, politics, or trade. Not all players are interested in the same things, and having a theme allows them to know ahead if they will find their fun as part of this group.
Group members are best recruited from your friends and acquaintances, may they be experienced LARPers or newcomers. You can also extend the invitation to the larger LARP community in your area, but this can prove riskier, as a LARP group requires a good chemistry to work well.
➸ How to make your group stand out?
While it is completely valid to take a casual approach to create your LARP group, putting some extra effort into creating a unique faction will help you get noticed by your LARP community and, luckily, make the play experience of all your members even more interesting.
✧ Group Immersion
When LARPing as a group, it is very important to establish a strong identity, which will help both group members and other players to feel immersed. A major element of that immersion can be attributed to the group's lore and how it tangles with the general setting of the event. If the group is well-rooted in the lore, it will already feel like an organic part of this fictional world and will help the players interact with other groups in a more spontaneous way. More than just a backstory, the group's lore is also the root of its goals and agenda.
For instance, a simple mercenary company can be made much more engaging as a faction if they are exiled soldiers from an ancient dynasty, and hold a personal grudge against their former country's new regime, dreaming of one day returning home and overthrowing the usurper. Adding political motives, religion, or other forms of sympathies and enmities to a group will allow the players to exploit these basic traits when roleplaying with other groups.
✧ Internal Dynamics
A group should also have interesting internal dynamics. It is likely that many characters share a personal history, from which can emerge many roleplay opportunities, from family bonds to shared trauma, or unresolved conflicts. Maybe the group's medic almost died a few years back, and everybody is now overprotective of this character. Maybe the group's elder failed to make good decisions in the past, and is now constantly undermined as an old fool, while still always giving their input. Or it could be that some members still haven't proven their worth to the leader, and may act recklessly in hope to gain their respect. Competing sub-groups, faction rivalries, and dissent over the means to reach the common goal can spice things up inside a group, without making it dysfunctional.
Another way to set a group identity is to have unique customs or rules that apply to the group, as a way to clearly distinguish them from the ones outside of it. These codes of conduct, taboos, special greetings, or small gestures can make a big difference for immersion. You can also go big and invent your own expressions or even some words!
✧ Visual Identity
Finally, the power of a clear visual identity cannot be understated in LARP. From a strong iconic clothing style to a color theme, a particular symbol or accessory, or even a uniform, it should be easy for anyone looking at your group from the outside to have at least a vague idea that you belong together and aren't just a random gathering of strangers. For some ideas about visual identity, you can give a look at our Inspirations page for LARP character creation. You can also consider customizing some LARP accessories to have your group's symbol visible on your outfit.
✧ Group Gameplay
A LARP group is more than a strong identity or an immersive atmosphere. Behind each character stands a player, and this player is there to have some fun as part of the hobby. A group's gameplay is how the particular needs, interests, and goals of the players are taken into account to create a fun experience for everyone during a LARP event.
Planning a group's gameplay isn't that different from thinking about game design as a storyteller. It's all about laying the groundwork for a particular type of play and creating a good framework so everyone can participate and enjoy their event. Important aspects to set up when deciding a group's gameplay are the group's goals, leadership, and teamwork.
Aside from the general agenda advanced by the group, it is important to have a few achievable goals that can directly be advanced during the game. Those can be associated with quests and storylines provided by your LARP's storytelling team or decided by the group. Goals can vary in scope from things such as securing an important political asset, to befriending another group, organizing a feast, leading a raid against your enemies, or assisting a member on a personal matter. Even if your LARP group prefers a more relaxed approach, having achievable goals makes for a more compelling game experience, even if you fail while trying to achieve them.
Each goal will generally have someone acting as a leader on the project and dispatching responsibilities to their teammates, according to everyone's strengths and motivation. For a LARP group to work at its best, everyone needs to feel like they matter, and everyone should be involved in some goal or another. The role of a group's leader isn't to hoard the information and the spotlight, but to share and spread it, at least if the fun of their team is something they are interested in.
Speaking of individual contribution to the group, it is important for the group to work as a team, with complementary specialties and traits that allow everyone to shine a little. Even in the likelihood of a group that is very limited in scope, like a witch coven for instance, each witch should have some kind of niche, may it me healing, potions, mind control, or rituals and ceremonies. If many players have exactly the same thing to bring to the team, it is easy for one or more of them to feel overshadowed or like they are easily replaceable.
However, this doesn't have to be related to the characters' sheet and various abilities. It can be purely a roleplay distinction. For instance, in a team of fighters, one could be the superstitious one that is very knowledgeable about monsters and the occult, while the other is business savvy and likes to make deals.
➸ How to bring new players in a LARP group?
Once you have a group well established, new players may be tempted to join in. It is the role of the existing members to assist these players, not only to help them integrate the group well, but also to protect the group's established lore and identity from being diluted by adding in characters that are ill-fitting with the theme.
It is not because a player is new that they don't deserve to be well integrated into the group's lore and common backstory, even if they are joining years after the older members. The same care should be put into adding these new members into the web of character dynamics existing in the group. Have your new player be the ambitious cousin of your general, wanting to prove their worth and maybe surpass them, or the respected but odd village shaman that first introduced your healer to the herbs and remedies. Do not funnel new players into de facto subordinate roles, but set them up to shine if the opportunity arises.
Of course, new players will need some help to integrate smoothly, may it be guidance with their costumes, so they fit the group's visual identity, or with their backstories and character creation. Sometimes, it might be a good idea to have a mentor dynamic in place, so the new player follows a more experienced one that will guide them and give them things to do during the LARP. The mentor doesn't have to play a character of higher status. They could be a peer or even a servant introducing their master to the lay of the land. The idea is to avoid having a player left alone and clueless in a new environment.
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