When a player leaves an event, he or she will have a linear story to tell about their experiences. But do not be deceived – when writing LARP plot, the narrative is hardly linear. Think of an event’s plot as a series of events which players will experience subjectively. Players have unique reactions and perceptions of in-game events. Largely, their character concepts dictate the lens through which they see the world. When you run a LARP for 100 people, you create 100 unique worlds.
The main way in which LARPs trump tabletop RPGs is that they involve realistic experiences. You get to experience the game world through your character’s eyes, but your body comes along for the ride. Our game is meant to be tangible, visceral, fundamentally immersive. It’s real enough to touch. It is a series of events which you participate in, rather than just merely describe verbally.
It’s important to keep this in mind when writing plot. Will the players be doing something exciting? Scary? Dangerous? Intriguing? As a director, it’s your job to craft fun and memorable experiences for all the players. Everything else is secondary to that.
Ultimately the “fun experience” is the only measuring stick for plot. It’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re focused on designing specific challenges. You might challenge your players with a lengthy translation cypher – but do you really think it’s fun to spend three hours translating one character at a time? You may have written a long and detailed history for your game, but if this does not manifest on stage in a memorable or meaningful way, it is wasted. Unwinnable battles and unsolvable puzzles are frustrating, not fun.
One good technique is to imagine a fun LARP experience, and then design a scenario which leads up to it. Sometimes it’s easier to imagine players talking about the event after the fact – what sort of things are they glowing about?
It’s also important to spread out the fun. Make sure you’re not focusing on fun for any one group, race, class, level range, or play style. It’s your responsibility to entertain everybody at the game, not just the characters who you visualize as the protagonists of your plot.
When writing scenarios and challenges, keep in mind that many people will have their own personal take on it. It’s best to build scenarios which encourage this diversity. In your game, the good guys might be defenders of a city, and the bad guys are hostile raiders who threaten the local order. But where does this leave characters who play wild elves, which may not identify with either side? Instead of having every scenario represent victory for one side or the other, create multiple possible outcomes which cater to various character concepts. Basically, you want to give that wild elf’s goals a place within your story too. In doing so, you help create the experience of being a wild elf in a way that the player will remember for years to come.