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We have a LARP group which is composed of experienced players but has a major drawback, it has no leader. It kinda works for the group, but every decision which needs to be made yields lengthy discussions until a consensus is reached (if at all).

Now we've made the decision to force the group to choose a leader to ease...well, playing with them in the future (from a GM and NPC point of view). Also we think it would help the characters and the players in the long run if they could gather behind a leader. The problem is, how can we force a group to choose a leader? If possible we'd like to completely refrain from using out of game telling and instead force them to do it in game.

The group is composed of players with partly much experience in LARP. The characters are Elfs from the ElfQuest Universe and are vividly different: We have a few peace loving characters, some intermediate and some aggressive. In DnD terms, I think we can put all players in the Lawful Neutral and Neutral Good alignments. The background of the group is that they've been driven from their old home and are looking for a new one ever since.

We (as the GMs) have some experience but could not really come up with a good idea on how to force them to choose a leader. Every action we'd take (especially out of game telling and "pushing a champion") to force a leader would, most likely, be rejected by the group and not what we'd want in the long run.

Does somebody have an idea how to force such a group to choose a leader? More generic advice is very welcome as well (I'd even read a few books about psychology or game mastering if somebody would have recommendations).

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Honestly, I don't think its your place to 'force' them to pick a leader. You might ask them to pick one person to act as a Caller (the player who tells you what the group's actions are), but forcing them into a hierarchy that they may not want is intruding on their role-playing, imo. –  GrandmasterB Mar 10 at 17:44
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Are you sure you need them to have a leader? If you need them to make decisions more quickly, then introduce penalties for making them slowly (for an in-game example, the next batch of bad guys arrives anyway. For an out-of-game example, limit the time they're permitted to spend role-playing amongst themselves in non-action scenes while everyone else waits for them). If they want to act by consensus and can think of another way to solve your problem (which you've made their problem), good for them. –  Steve Jessop Mar 10 at 18:05
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... and for that matter, my experience is that if the group wants to act by consensus then appointing an "official leader" doesn't help anyway, because the leader just consults the group. You still need to introduce some mechanism to force the leader to make a decision quickly. –  Steve Jessop Mar 10 at 18:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Get A Spokesman

Have someone come to town who wants to speak to a spokesman for the area. You could use a few different things, such as a merchant wanting to speak to someone about setting up trade, or a leader of a nearby tribe who just saw these Elves and wants to negotiate with them, or even a bad guy coming in to issue threats.

No matter what you use, the NPC in question should make it clear that talking to an entire committee is too cumbersome or beneath him (depending on who it is). He is only interested in speaking to a representative who can talk for the entire PC settlement. If they want to deal with the NPC at all, the PCs will have to pick someone to speak for them.

From there, you can let the situation organically grow and see if that turns into a leadership position. If it does, your job is done. If not...

Force The Issue

If you can't coax them, you can act more forcefully. You can try this a couple of different ways:

  1. Have random attacks start happening with increasing frequency. See if the PCs wind up with a defacto leader organizing them in combat (assuming your LARP has combat, you weren't specific on that). If they do, then you're done.
  2. If they don't organize themselves, have someone come in from a group that's also being attacked by whatever is attacking them and want to team up to fight against them. That person is going to want to talk to a leader.
  3. If that doesn't work either, simply have an authority figure come in and appoint someone. Maybe the land they moved into actually belongs to some kingdom but is generally unused. When the king hears some people moved in, he wants them under his authority so he appoints an official of the crown, who becomes the leader.

But Do You Really Want To?

Is this actually a problem for the PCs, or is it just a problem for you? I mean, if they enjoy doing things by committee and the disagreements that come from that, why do you want to force them out of it?

In my experience LARPing, leaders would appear naturally in groups when they were wanted/needed. If one never did, it was usually because the people involved were pretty content not having one, and trying to impose a leader on them was a great way to create resentment. That can be fine itself, if you want them to try to undermine that leader. But it doesn't sound like you want to create more infighting.

In the worst case scenario, this can cross boundaries and turn into out of character hostility. I've seen it happen: the people running a game pick a PC as leader who the other PCs don't think deserves it, and that leadership position comes with some kind of in game power. The next thing you know, rumors are flying about that person being the favorite of someone that runs the game, and that's why they were chosen. That's the kind of stuff that can lead to people quitting a LARP, even if there's no truth to it at all. On this stuff, perception is reality.

It's really best to just run the game and let the leadership issue sort itself out amongst the players. If they start failing to complete plot lines due to disorganization, you can point out that the problem was disorganization and that leadership would help them, but you should leave the actual appointing of leaders up to them whenever possible. When it's the group deciding to follow someone, the group is a lot more likely to accept it.

In the end, they're really the only ones who can make a leadership position work. It doesn't matter how much you want there to be a leader if there is nobody they're willing to follow.

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When you say decisions take a long time, what do you mean? Are they out-of-character decisions or in-character decisions? In the former case, you just need to be clear it's only to streamline the OOC parts of the game, and that the choice of leader won't affect game play. In the latter case, you have your work cut out for you.

The easiest way is to just pick someone, either the character has the best social stats or the player with the strongest personality. Then just have all the NPCs assume that person is the leader, and in most cases everyone else will just sort of adapt to this as the way things are. To avoid questions of favoritism, you can resolve the leader question as a social challenge - every time a new NPC appears. Then having someone who will step up as leader not only saves time but avoids confusion when different NPCs have different ideas of who the leader is. Problem more or less solved - at the very least, treating someone like the leader hands responsibility for handling the leadership crisis off from you and onto that person.

However, as Tridus pointed out, it may not really be a good idea to force your players to have a leader if they don't want one. There out to be a checkbox for every GMing question on here, "Could your problem best be solved by adapting your game style to what your players expect rather than vice versa?"

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