This article aims to provide a non-subjective process regarding the various phases and contents of the larp creation. To, by following them in an iterative manner, improve their quality, reduce the amount of work required, avoid the omission of essential phases and in general to provide a common framework.
This article was written in response to the roundtable of larp organizers that took place during EntreRevs 2017.
All hereby exposed resumes what I have learned out of my experience both in larp and my professional life. It is the methodology applied to both Somnia larps as well as my own personal projects.
When organizers of different associations meet, they tend to disagree on which element is crucial in order to organize a larp. There will be those who talk about organization and achieving deadlines, others will mention proper logistics, others vision and design (group I belong to), others mechanics, testing or post-processing…
Which element is more relevant is of course subjective and varies according to the larp they want to create. What cannot be called into question is that those elements obey an order (although in an iterative process) and that skipping/speeding up one of those steps will bring negative consequences (from unexpected errors to extra work and delays)
For that reason, I want to explain the different phases we encounter and their order. All steps require of testing; therefore, I will not mention it in the schema.
Maybe some of you will see it as a process that goes against the creativity of the organizer, but on the contrary it enhances their work as each part is free from last moment modifications that invalidates their work. Also, the fact that a phase is finished does not impede to continue working in previous elements or even adding new ones, if they do not destroy someone else’s work or contradict vision and design.
I will address communication and web briefly, as even if essential, they are tangential to a correct larp creation. Still, I need to clarify that all elements that interact with the participant need to transmit the vision to avoid that they feel fooled, or encouraged to take place in a larp that attacks their comfort zone without their consent.
The different elements and their order are:
Creating the Web
|Development||Mechanics and workshops||Production: material/technology requirements and budget||Comunication II: Advertisement and sign up
Update the web
Costumes, props and technology
Payments and expenses
Maintain the hype
|Changes due to participant request or testing||Logistics II:
Changes after testing
|Pre-Larp||Guide, hand over and workshops||Logistics III:
Transport and assembly
On site modifications
|Comunication IV: Solve last questions|
|Post-Larp||Adapt design, mechanics, workshops, characters, etc with the lessons learned||Logistics IV:
Takedown, inventory, storage, list of future shopping
List required changes
Postlarp questionnaire, pictures, thanks and credits, articles, difussion.
Adapt the web
The essential phase of a larp, when any change is possible.
The crucial elements for this phase are vision and design.
The larp vision, is the focal point, the central part, the base over which the development will revolve around. The vision needs to be solid and any element created afterwards should follow it. The failures it might possess, that require subsequent changes, or components that go against it are a recipe for failure. Therefore, the vision has to be clear and firm and shared by all the members of the organization.
If the organizers disagree strongly on the vision, the discordant ones should give in or leave the project, otherwise this larp is condemned to failure or mediocrity.
The second element is design. This derives directly from the vision and has to be the instrument that makes it a reality.
It is essential to dedicate great effort to both, Vision and Design, since mistakes in them will permeate to the rest for the larp, generate an excess of work and in the worst scenario could only be fixed by the use of brute force (huge amounts of effort to make the larp work at all cost)
Vision and design should be tested by debate between designers seeking failures in the proposed ideas. Not by opposing or denying them but by proposing alternatives in case an element presents weaknesses. It is also recommended to consult Vision and Design with external creators with sufficient experience and critical spirit.
Since the possibilities and requirements of the venue can affect the design (although a good design should allow a location change) and since in the majority of cases there cannot be a larp without a clear location; this should be booked before the next phase.
Personally I recommend to use a location that can reduce production needs to minimum. It will be without doubt money well invested.
It is already possible to create hype and check on possible participants by using teasers. The web should be created at the end of this phase since it is required for the sign up.
The central part of the larp creation and the one that carries most of the work time. The duration of the development will be set by the design, with its capability to increase efficiency and get rid of superfluous elements, as well as the ambition it demands.
The development can be divided into initial and secondary phases, although they are related.
Now it is time to create the mechanics that will take place during the larp, following the design and therefore with the vision as focal point.
I recommend to prepare a first draft of the workshops, for a simple reason, an excess in workshops tend to indicate an excess in mechanics. This way it can be used as an indicator to point out excess of elements.
What we normally refer as “production” should be defined now. It has to be as realistic as possible, following the existing budget. A bad planning will lead to excessive expending and in the worst case scenario to an economical deficit that could destroy the organization.
The larps of high production are becoming the norm, but in no way whatsoever should it be allowed to devour vision and design or that directly high production is used as vision and design.
The development phase is the adequate moment to open the sign up process since the participants can already have a clear concept of the larp and the organization can already know the project viability.
It is essential that communication and web transmit properly what the participant can expect from the larp.
Even though they could have already been outlined, the characters (with their relations if they had them) can be written once the mechanics are defined, to avoid the excess of unnecessary modifications. The characters are a fundamental part of the larp and therefore they should be defined according to design and vision.
If instead of detailed characters, this were created by the participants or by the use of workshops, the organization should prepare now the blueprints required to follow the larp vision.
If the larp presents elements such as plots and similar, now it is time to give them shape, before or during the character creation. I do not recommend to create them after the characters since they can end disconnected from them.
It is now the moment when shopping, costumes, props, technology, etc start, since it is already clear what does the larp seeks, avoiding extra work and expenditure.
This phase is the forgotten one in the larp world and the cause behind many errors of easy solution. A larp has to be finished long before deadline to allow a review of the existing work.
An optimal anticipation is between two weeks and a month, although it can increase if the larp size requires so. Still, organizations should be careful, an excess in its length can lead to unnecessary changes, to shorten up previous phases with the pertinent errors, to let the organizers feel that they have worked at an excessive pace or to let them relax in excess breaking the work rhythm.
Keep in mind that this is another work phase and not a break. Although if there is time enough a short break can be arranged to let them relax and recover illusion and spontaneity.
All that should be performed at the beginning of the larp should be properly indicated, detailed and outlined, with each part aware of their responsibilities to avoid bottle necks.
This requires of an additional work, previous to the one on location. Even though preparing the beginning of a larp can be unappealing, it requires of a minimum amount of work that allows the larp to start without delays or stress and therefore on the right foot.
Therefore the participants should not wait in excess to the handover of materials. Workshops and briefings should have a schematic guide. The responsible for the assembly should have clear instructions, etc.
This phase contains many of the neglected elements in larp. Normally people are content with the dismantling and exhausted decide to take a long break.
Lately the promotional part is gaining relevance which is a great improvement.
But additionally organizers should take detailed note of the lessons learned for future editions or larps.
Also they should write articles and reflections to allow their own learning and of your larp culture.
After this last step we can affirm that a larp is finished. Although currently due to second runs, print&plays and so on, a larp tends to follow their creators for years.