The survival of non-remunerated larp organizers

Organizers often feel that they sacrifice themselves in exchange of… nothing.
After more than eleven years as a larp organizer I do not consider myself better than the newcomers, but there is a quality I have proven to posses and they still not: I am a survivor.
Why have I survived and so many others have not?

The day comes when you decide to organize your first larp, you don’t want nothing in return, you just do it. More larps follow and problems build up. Slowly you get weary and you finally drop off (to come back or not) for reasons such as:
  • Boredom for doing “always the same”
  • Mistakes (yours or from others) that lead to a bad player experience.
  • Participants that demand without providing nothing in exchange (as gratitude or help)
  • Participants that had a good experience but still put ahead larps of supposedly worst quality.
  • Trouble to achieve participants.
  • Last hour drop outs and breached promises.
  • Others take credit for your ideas and work.
  • Loss of money, time, personal relations, professional success.
  • Lack of quality: Effort/result.
  • Organizers´ friendship in danger.
  • Not enjoying your own larps.
Larp is my passion, but that is not the only reason why I continue organizing them. Even with all this devotion I quitted “forever” two times already. No, what has kept me afloat is to know what I need and how to get it. And it is:
  • Enjoy my own larps
This is key and can vary for each organizer. For me this means being able to “play” my own larps. A low profile character1allows me to take part in the larp. Not watching it from the outside, but deep in the inside. Something only granted by a minimum of play.
  • Organize only with those compatible
I do not talk about friends. Friendship does not shield you from problems during larp creation, and what is even more important, it can end with your friendship2.
Being able to organize with someone today does not guarantee it in some years. I always compare a larp organization with a rock group. You do not earn money (for the moment), but surely provides some “fans”, the group members have divergent progress and over all boosts egos.
Let things clear inside the organization from the very beginning. And if problems between you recur, cut off at the root. It does not matter how good your larps are, that bad atmosphere will be transmitted to the larp and will set all to waste. If you love the ideas of one organizer but you cannot organize with him/her, stop the collaboration (with an adequate distance from the larp) and assist to his/her larps as a participant.
  • Quality comes first
Quality will define the satisfaction you will feel after the larp. From one to ten in effort/result, which larp is better for the organizer? One that requires an effort of 8 and provides a result of 8? or one that requires 4 and provides a 7? Always within a good experience for the participant an organizer has to weight the required effort.
Vital is the reuse of elements and the print&play. Any “play and burn” larp that happens just once is condemned to oblivion or in case of being a master piece to legend. Does it worth the effort? For me not anymore.
  • Lose the less possible amount of money and time
Nobody is gonna thank you if after a larp you have a 300 euro debt, fail a course, lose your job or have couple problems. So don´t.
Give the larp the price it has (not all costs worth/can be reduced) The people that criticise the larp price will do so if it cost 100 or 203Your larp is not expensive, they just have different priorities4. Also if due to the lack of budget your larp is shabby you will be criticised by all.
Be realistic about the time you have. If there are important duties that will suffer be more humble in your approach. There are formats that allow you to write larps quite fast5. A larp that ties you six months to a chair is a resignation letter.
  • Organize only if you can take credit for the effort or if no one does. If not organize by yourself.
Acknowledgement is vital. Being anonymous is good at the beginning, until with the years you meet people that know your work but not your involvement in it6. Include credits in your larp so this will not happen.
Another option is a group without a public face. The credit can then go directly to the organization name. It is an almost impossible utopia, but it will avoid internal wars for the glory.
If the problem continues, why don´t you organize alone?
  • Money first
It is sad, but word is not enough. If you reserve a spot due to friendship you will most surely lose a friend soon. The only way to avoid your effort being undervalued is money.
Participants have to pay in advance. If in the last moment someone that did not pay cancels the one that will receive the debt (due to fix costs) and bad reputation is you. If your larp has 0 cost give it a symbolic price7.
On cancellation you can give part of the money back, but never the total or you can encounter participants that request a refund because they found something “better” (check this post for additional information regarding this topic The reassons behind a larp fee)
  • Know the expected attendance
Start small, be realistic. If other larps are over 100 participants it does not mean that yours will too.
After some larps your ratio of attendance will start to be clear.
Also if you change the setting to a not conventional one be aware that numbers will fall critically. You should not worry, a smaller larp has cons but also pros.
  • Accept your larp not being chosen
Do not expect people to choose your larp in front of others, even if they loved your last one. Take it easy, there are many reasons why people may not sign up. Different tastes, friends that assist to this other larp or just desire to try something different.
  • Shield yourself and be neutral
There are those who demand, harass or even “attack” the organizers before, during or after the larp. Do not let yourself be intimidated or down. They may think that with the money provided for lodging and food they have also pay for your full dedication.
Treat this kind of participant in a correct way but never allow their demands to consume your time and with it the experience of others.
Do not let them take away from you the will to continue8.
  • Assume and learn from your mistakes
Accept constructive criticism, everyone make mistakes. Learn and improve but do not let your mistakes get you down.
If no-one finds errors do it yourself. But at the same time remember that the excess of perfectionism can lead you to undervalue your own effort and success.
  • Always change
What does not changes dies. If there is something in your larp that works but bores you, change it9before it bores others. You will hear complains and you will make many mistakes in the way but you will learn. And even more important you will never get stuck. The larp world changes fast and if you do not follow you will fall back.
Of course this is just my personal opinion, but after so many years in which I have witnessed the rise and fall of so many larp groups I feel that my words carry some certainty. So listen to my advice: Survive.
1 This character has to be secondary not to coerce other participants and to allow the organizer to disappear when required for other matters.
2 How many friendships have been broken just by sharing a flat? Organizing a larp is even more stressful.
3 To later go on a trip to Thailand or spend a fortune shopping.
4 There are exceptions, those in real need for a discount. Learn to distinguish this cases carefully or you will get fooled.
5 I have two larps that took me 30 and 5 minutes to write.
6 This can even happen by accident, there are those that take the credit even without wanting to.
7 In our society we have been taught to respect according to prize. Also this small amount will cover photocopies, last minute problems, help buy long term material, etc.
8 Quite funny, the ones I did normally encounter have never organized a larp.
9 Remember to always give participants a clear larp description to avoid confusion.

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