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I am looking for a LARP rules set that allows me to run a relatively small (in the order of magnitude of 20–25 people) game with the following parameters:

  1. It works with a steam punk aesthetic.
  2. It runs in an evening, but can be extended to multiple similar event if the first one is a success.
  3. It can in theory be held in a flat that would normally be able to house a party of that size.
  4. It is accessible to beginners: People who have never LARPed before, and even people who have never played role playing games before.
  5. It tells me, who has never run a LARP, how to make it a good event.
  6. Players can create their own characters without much difficulty, and have incentives to have ties to other characters.
  7. The risks to players involved in the game are minimal. I have no experience in weapons safety. Therefore, pantomiming fights with (boffer, accidents happen) weapons should be okay, but using any kind of being hit by anything as a resolution mechanic would not be.
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DramaSystem LARP

I recommend the LARP adaptation of the DramaSystem found in the companion book Blood on the Snow. You will need both that and the core Hillfolk book - though it is possible that you could use just the SRD.

My experience with DramaSystem is as normal tabletop - but in most of our play, it evolved organically into the Nordic-style semi-live play also described in BotS, just because of the nature of the game. Because the system is diceless and focused on interpersonal interactions instead of combat, stealth, or other procedural activities, the jump from tabletop play to LARP is as short or shorter than any other game I know.

Let's take your points one at a time:

It works with a steam punk aesthetic.

DramaSystem works with any setting you want, as evidenced by the multitude of series pitches available already. Two of the pitches in the core books, Clockwork Revolver and Rust are steampunk-themed already. Adapting any setting you like should be easy (and fun!).

It runs in an evening, but can be extended to multiple similar event if the first one is a success.

Blood on the Snow contains suggestions for how to run in a 4-hour con slot or other time-constrained setting. The system itself is designed for serial play.

It can in theory be held in a flat that would normally be able to house a party of that size.

Yes - you only need enough room for people to move around and talk with each other.

It is accessible to beginners: People who have never LARPed before, and even people who have never played role playing games before.

The mechanics of the DramaSystem are very simple to begin with: Someone wants something from someone else. The two involved parties talk. Either the wish is granted or it isn't. Some tokens change hands. Repeat.

It tells me, who has never run a LARP, how to make it a good event.

The whole LARP section of Blood on the Snow is devoted to that topic.

Players can create their own characters without much difficulty, and have incentives to have ties to other characters.

This is true of DramaSystem in general, but largely at odds with finishing in a single night. One of the instructions for one-shot games is:

...the GM team pre-makes the characters and situation. Assign the characters or have the players choose who they wish to play...

Now - if you have an entire day, or a 6-8 hour span, you could use the extra time to make characters. As far as "incentives" to have ties to other character, DramaSystem is all about their ties to other characters! Characters exist in a web of tension and unresolved wants. It's not a game about hitting things on the head until they stop bothering you, it's a game devoted to creating HBO-drama-series-style experiences on-the-fly.

The risks to players involved in the game are minimal. I have no experience in weapons safety.

DramaSystem is focused on dramatic goals - not procedural ones. But it does include a system for resolving procedural challenges based on tokens and playing cards. The LARP section explains how to use it in live-action play.

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Ex Arcana

The latest, most well developed, most extensive skein (setting) for the CHRONOS live-action rules set is a steampunk-wizards-in-the-modern-day game that's easily used in a 19th century setting. The game requires the use of the CHRONOS and Ex Arcana decks--yes, this LARP uses cards for character creation and resolution--but poses no risk to participants. It can accommodate a group of players of varying size, and does have decent advice for game masters as to how to run their first game or a continuing chronicle. It's meant to be easy for new players to pick up, and I find that after the first combat or two, the system becomes second nature.

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Blood and Tears, Simplified.

I have tried this yesterday, using a modified version of John Wick's Blood & Tears system. The modifications, and the reasons thereof, are given below.

  1. It works with a steam punk aesthetic.

Apart from changes made in order to simplify the system, satisfying this point needed a considerate amount of thought. By default, Blood and Tears (and Houses of the Blooded, from which it derives,) plays in the world Shan'ri, which has certain properties that are not obvious in a technologically-advanced version of the 19th century. We solved this by choosing some ill-defined Pacific colonies as the setting, which solved quite a few problems a pure re-skin had.

  1. It runs in an evening, but can be extended to multiple similar event if the first one is a success.

The game started in the early afternoon, and ended in the early evening when people had encountered and overcome obstacles, made deals, and were slowly getting physically tired. It should run equally well for 4 hours in an evening.

While the event came to a conclusion and many threads of plot were resolved, the characters have reason to meet again, so playing a next event is not a problem. (In fact, the players have asked for it.)

  1. It can in theory be held in a flat that would normally be able to house a party of that size.

Two give space for private conversations, the LRP of a dozen people did take up about as much space as the (quite tight) party of roughly double the size the previous night, but over all, a lounge accomodating two groups sitting on opposite end and a more private separate room were sufficient for this size, and it seems to scale well.

  1. It is accessible to beginners: People who have never LARPed before, and even people who have never played role playing games before.

The Blood & Tears system tries to allow access to the full complexity of the underlying Houses of the Blooded table top rpg. We used the basic resolution mechanic (offering style, pulling in aspects) and magic system (defined rituals) of B&T, and the duel system as far as compatible with the major change, but instead of creating characters according to HotB and then permitting 5 advantages to be available at the party, we just allowed each character to have roughly 5 aspects of variable strength representing anything from B&T aspects to weaknesses to vassals.

Both the player who had never role played before and the players who had never LARPed before got the rules immediately, engaged them and enjoyed themselves.

  1. It tells me, who has never run a LARP, how to make it a good event.

John Wick's advice was helpful in running the event, both in the preparation as well as in the actual making-up-plot-on-the-fly-while-there. Some portion of the positive feedback for running the game was due to following his advice on how to use style to make the game fun for everyone.

  1. Players can create their own characters without much difficulty, and have incentives to have ties to other characters.

This is not true of the basic Houses of the Blooded plus Blood and Tears system. However, reducing the knobs to “choose 5 descriptors, stick some numbers on them to say how strong they are” enabled us to prompt players for initial ideas and then let them make their characters on the spot before the game, within only half an hour for all of them.

Connections between characters are still easily established after the game has started, but encouraging people to spend style on such statements is helpful.

  1. The risks to players involved in the game are minimal. I have no experience in weapons safety. Therefore, pantomiming fights with (boffer, accidents happen) weapons should be okay, but using any kind of being hit by anything as a resolution mechanic would not be.

The resolution mechanics are based on handing over style tokens. Duels are first scripted by the players using style tokens, mediated by a GM, before they are pantomimed for the other players. It is not necessary to physically hit the player in order to injure the character. (In fact, the rules state “no touching unless agreed on”, and for other physical interactions – like hand kisses – give explanations on how to play them out in theatric style nonetheless.)

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