11
\$\begingroup\$

I am part of a GM committee which organizes a yearly 3 day LARP near my hometown and it has been going on for quite a while. The setting is a custom made low-magic fantasy world, and the rule system (also custom made) is on the more combat-heavy end of the spectrum for European LARPs.

The core story used to focus on two or more groups (shires, cities, factions) who were essentially at war with one another -- and the players could sign up for either of these groups with their registration. During adventures/quests/battles the players would mostly be in their groups (fighting against other groups), but during meals and the final feast (down time) everybody is sitting/living/eating in the same camp.

Now the issue I was observing considers how some players may take the hostility between their respective in-game factions to far, and let it 'shimmer through' in their interactions with players from other factions -- even during down time.

Examples of such behavior would be taunts exchanged, being sore losers, 'bad vibes' -- and in rare occasions overly aggressive combat (which triggered us to step in once or twice).

It is well established in psychology, that inter-group conflict can develop if groups of people -- especially in antagonistic circumstances -- are allowed to exist for a long enough period of time.

So far our solution was to essentially heavily change and disturb the available factions/groups every year or two, to avoid players becoming 'too attached' to their team. This has the advantage of mixing up the players and the groups and triggering new alliances and affiliations. The obvious disadvantage lies however in the heavy disruption of the story continuity, making it difficult to continue overarching plots from one year to the next.

What measures could we take -- organizational or story-whise -- to avoid in-character hostility progressing to out-of-character hostility while still keeping story continuity up and changing factions only slightly?


An afterword. So far the mentioned 'hostility' has not yet become a serious problem, at least not serious enough to merit us taking players aside and discussing the matter with them (which we will of course do, and have done in situations which called for it). But it takes careful planning in battles and combat scenarios to keep the different factions from 'heating up' too much. Also the camp vibe has suffered at times, which is something we would like to avoid, as it is valued by players, NPCs and GMs alike.

The rules of the LARP are very clear in terms of 'play fair and don't be a douchebag'. This receives special attention because we play our LARP without referees, i.e. the players are responsible for adhering to rules and GMs only intervene in very rare cases.

We have around 80 players, maybe 30 Staff/NPCs and 5-10ish GMs.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have any of the GMs attempted to post/enforce a policy of, well, not doing that sort of thing? Like a "Any aggressive behavior/abuse during downtime, even couched in the pretense of being 'in character', will not be tolerated"? \$\endgroup\$ – Sandalfoot Oct 29 '14 at 21:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sandalfoot So far it was never quite bad enough that it would call for action on our side, it was mostly the general mood which suffered. Also the 'wrongdoers' are not easily singled out. \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Oct 29 '14 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you ever find a solution to this? \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Tomes Dec 16 '14 at 3:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DerekTomes Not really more than is listed in my question and the few answers. The problem is to keep up fights and adversity without it letting get too far... \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Dec 16 '14 at 14:17
7
\$\begingroup\$

Both massively multiplayer online RPGs and live-action RPGs face this issue with player factions. In some cases, players identify very strongly with their factions and directly oppose others, in which case strong intergroup conflict can develop. However, in other cases there is hardly any conflict at all, even if the backstory sets up factions as foes. For example, my experience playing the City of Heroes MMORPG was that the hero and villain players hardly clashed at all and often associated as friends in the “downtime” zones.

Several game elements supported this friendly rivalry:

  • While the backstory set up the heroes and villains as foes, they rarely interacted that way in gameplay. Except for a handful of PvP zones, the players mostly dealt with their own problems, not the players from other factions.

  • Even in PvP play, the game wasn’t always set up as hero-versus-villain. The game included zones and arenas where players could play free-for-all or hero-versus-hero.

  • The game ran regular special events where enemy factions could team up toward a common goal. For example, on Valentine’s Day, heroes and villains could team up on special missions with unique rewards that you could only get by cooperating.

  • The overall story arc included common enemies like space aliens and parallel universes, which set up the factions as allies or rivals rather than enemies.

The Wikipedia article you linked talks about strategies for intergroup conflict reduction that correspond well to the methods used in City of Heroes.

  • Intergroup contact theory. The more you bring the groups into contact without conflict, the more you break down prejudice and conflict between them.

  • Superordinate identities. If you can gather the groups under an umbrella identity, like the “humans versus space aliens” story arc above, you foster social identification rather than conflict.

  • Interdependence. The more groups work together and depend on each other, like the Valentine’s Day special event, the more you foster cooperation rather than conflict.

If you want the factions to have some conflict, you can set them at odds for some tasks and missions, but use these techniques at other opportunities to moderate the conflict and make it more of a rivalry than enmity.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good points you are mentioning. In a LARP/RPG setup it might be more diffictult to justify 'missions' where you are working with the enemy... The 'commong threat' might help, will have to see how this can be realized though, with the limited number of NPCs at our disposal. \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Oct 30 '14 at 8:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @fgysin (trying not to turn this into a discussion, but- ), Common missions can take the form of mysteries or puzzles where different factions have access to different "pieces", as long as solving them is rewarding to everyone involved so you don't create a race. Other cooperative missions can require combining enough man-power (or gold, magic casting, etc.) where no faction has access to enough people/gold/mages to complete the challenge alone. Finally, by having dead PCs serve a short time as "wandering monsters" (undead are classic), you gain a common enemy with no additional NPCs. \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Nov 19 '14 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ In some common threat games you could possibly recruit extra players to NPC armies for a mission then swap over. Depends how you are working the game whether this will fit with your approach, but certainly it's something I've played a few times in bigger ( 1000+ player ) systems and it works pretty well. \$\endgroup\$ – glenatron Nov 19 '14 at 17:46
3
\$\begingroup\$

maybe you could do something like throwing an outtime/outgame party, maybe just before you start the game itself. So the people learn to know each other and they see, that the other fraction also just consists of normal players, they might even become friends. I know, that on the Drachenfest, which also takes place once a year, two camps (fractions) who can't stand each other ingame do a party on the evening after the camps are built up and before the game itself really starts. I think, that's a very good way to prevent some things like hostility taken from ingame to outgame.

It is sad that you have to remind some people that LARP still is only a game consisting of players and people who want to have fun together, not against each other, and there is no real winning if you can't play the game with all people together.

Edit: What I wanted/needed to add is, that in this case it is essential that you try to (re)act on the outside of the game instead of twisting your ingame story, background and everything. The ingame hostility is moving out of the game into real life, and since it is a game you play, the action has to take place outgame. This is why I only recommended a outgame party and nothing ingame.

\$\endgroup\$
0
\$\begingroup\$

Something like this is incredibly hard. Perhaps part of the problem is the perspective of the GM Committee.

1) You center the events around a war, perhaps instead focus it around a Festival, Holiday or maybe a Name-Day for a Lord or Lady. Sure there can be political and martial conflict between warring factions but it establishes a pre-tense of general interaction and at least passing diplomacy.

2) Once a year means players may simmer on their character or game events for a year before getting to act out their retribution. This is pretty unhealthy. Perhaps running the event 4-8 times a year would be better since people are more inclined to develop and invest in a persona. This would include a change of perspective where someone would not want to lose their character they've invested months of in game time on.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1) In later years we introduced a neutral city which severs both as the out-time camp as well as the neutral in-time backdrop of most of the stories. But while this gives the players an in-character reason to be friendly and diplomatic, it doesn't really change the group psychology aspect. \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Oct 29 '14 at 21:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ 2) You might be underestimating the effort which goes into organizing such an event. ;) For each of our LARPs (we have around 80 players and maybe 40 GM/Staff/NPCs) hundreds of hours are invested during months of preparation, including building a camp for 120 people with kitchen, facilites, ... \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Oct 29 '14 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't mean to undermine it but I know of multiple games in the states of a magnitude of 30-60 staff with 120~ players. I suggest it as when players play the same character over and over they begin to care more about not starting conflict needlessly. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Oct 29 '14 at 22:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.