One part of being a welcome community to queer players is designing fantasy settings with a structure that normalizes queerness. You don't need to be making a specific commentary on queer stories to be inviting and open to queer gamers. To kick off pride month, we're talking about how to normalize queerness in your games!
For most of their lives, responsible and generous larpers have been told don’t be too much in the spotlight. Share the stage. Play to lift others. It’s not about you, it’s about EVERYONE. We spend so much time coaching generous play, it’s given most of us a complex around those times that we do enter the spotlight. However, every story needs a hero. Most good tales have main characters and supporting roles. Just because you are taking the spotlight in a story, doesn’t mean you can’t be a supporting role to someone else’s. Even more so, in a good larp, there are so many stories going on that there is room for MANY people to be in the spotlight at any given point in time. It’s important that we stop chastising ourselves for taking up attention while in scenes in at a larp. Spotlight play, done respectfully, can help enhance everyone’s game and not just your own.
In early April 2019, I had the pleasure of being invited to cover Hanging Lantern’s event “Real Royalty” written and designed by Natasha Borders, Jeffrey Steele, and Benji Michalek. The game was a dark fairytale incorporating stories and inspiration from the world’s most famous, classic stories. From a designer’s standpoint, Real Royalty was an amazing and fascinating game. While not everything worked and the experimental mechanics certainly could have used more playtesting before going live, the fact that the Hanging Lantern team was willing to try so many experimental things meant that Real Royalty helped push freeform mechanical design forward dramatically faster than any game I’ve played in the last two years.
Processing negative feedback can always be challenging for players or organizers, but we can take feedback in and defend our games without putting other games actively down.
I recently attended Eskhaton by Reverie Studios. It was talked about as a horror game, but in truth, it was a game of modern day cults and the end of the world. The characters and cults were the horrors, not the things being horrified. It was interesting to walk on the other side of that classic gaming genre. Here is a full review of the things that worked, what didn't, and what we can learn from this engaging, dark experience of an event.
A basic part of any literary analysis is identifying themes of characters and story. Learning your characters own themes is a great way to help highlight a narrative story and steer your character into deeper tales even in non-narrative gaming.
As much larping goes in the direction of freeforms and one-shots, design documents have become an essential part of larp design, but still aren’t things discussed much in the greater North American community. I’d argue that EVERY larp could use a well written, ten page design document which sets up the basic play style, themes, player expectations, and any other must-haves. For those unfamiliar with a design document (and for the purposes of this blog because it actually could be defined a lot of other ways), I consider it an essential guide to any given game which introduces the players to what they should expect in the larp, how they fit in the game, how to interact with the world, and main themes of the story. A player should be able to click on a game’s website, open the design document, and know within a few pages if this game is for them or not.