How to Foster an In-Game Community

The players of a LARP are a unique kind of society. In addition to their out of game friendships, they belong to a complex in-game network. This community of characters is often known as the “town”. Many people play significant roles within the society. Being socially acknowledged as a blacksmith, healer, sherrif, or outlaw can be very rewarding. As an added bonus, the sense of being a “town” seems more real as these roles become prominent. The LARP directors can encourage the development of this network by making it a part of the game.

Relationships – Characters form relationships whenever they interact. Whether their interactions are cooperative or competative, their relationships are intensified by undergoing stress together. You can encourage interesting relationships by providing a variety of challenges which will cause the players to cooperate or compete in different ways.

Build Roles though Roleplay – Give players the opportunity to demonstrate their role in a meaningful way. If a character is cartographer, create scenarios where other players must rely on her maps. If someone plays a tavern keeper, give him rumors and news he can share while other characters sip drinks in the tavern. In short – make people’s character concepts a part of the setting by weaving them into the game.

Traditions and Holidays – In ongoing LARP campaigns, customs and rituals create a rich sense of local flavor. They’re also a great way to let players experience your setting.

Local slang, a certain way of greeting each other, or a particular style of costume are things which make a place feel like home. Create a list of customs and make sure the NPCs are familliar with them. Ultimately, whether the players adapt them into the society is up to them. If an idea doesn’t seem to take, don’t push it too hard.

Holidays also lend to the community’s versimillitude. A holiday should have an activity that everybody can participate in, something that they come to expect every year. Feasts, anniversaries, spring hunts, and other celebrations should be incorporated into the weekend schedule.

Encourage Talents and Crafts – LARPing is an interesting hobby, and LARPers tend to have other interesting hobbies. Encourage people to bring their talents and crafts to the game. Give them opportunities to showcase their dancing, leatherworking, storytelling, and musical talents (to name a few).

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  1. #1 by Daniel Burke on September 10, 2009 - 2:30 pm

    A followup having just completed an event, about this idea of ‘culture’ versus ‘game’ within NERO is something I’ve been thinking about. Not to paint NERO as a cultural environment as adversarial to NERO as a gaming space, but the two seem to move apart from one another. In a sense if you are participating in the ‘cultural’ aspects of NERO you are not participating in the ‘gaming’ aspects of NERO, ie – Killing monsters and acquiring stuff.

    Putting this all in context to the event, it was the first time my girlfriend would be attending a NERO event, or even a LARP. She has however been working at various Renn Faires for many years, an environment where there is essentially no ‘game’ (beyond convincing people to buy your wares) but extremely high culture. As part of coming down to NPC, she wanted to know if she could bring her fire breathing gear to entertain people. After clearing all this with the chapter and campsite, she asked me if there would be musicians there.

    And it struck me how long it has been since I’ve seen a musician at NERO. At best I’ve seen the odd guitar player, sometimes a violinist. But I’ve never seen a drum circle like at a Renn Faire or an SCA event, let alone the whole bands worth of instruments that would normally descend on those places. Her performance went off wonderfully, and people enjoyed it but didn’t seem to know how to quite react initially. They did not understand that yes, they SHOULD be hooting and hollering and making noise at the pretty girl lighting herself on fire for their amusement. In essence, people we’re not quite ready to be ‘entertained’ outside of hitting monsters and taking their stuff, but quickly warmed up to it, and even spent a lot of time role playing with her afterward.

    “How cool would it be if we could get people to be, if not always engrossed, at least ready to engage in NERO as a culture rather than a game?” I thought to myself.

    Expanding on what Dan has said above, not only showcasing talent, such as with the Fire Breathing exposition, but teaching talent. Classes are a major component of SCA and Renn Faire type events, from making chain maille or weapon construction (blacksmithing IG) to the basics of circus performance.

    Taverns should have games present, backgammon, chess, decks of cards, dice cups. A tavern in any game is a place of social gathering, not just a spot where people come together to eat twice an event, or wander through when the dehydration gets too bad. Places where it is possible to play the game as a culture, without having to be gaming the game, for lack of a better term.

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