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Background

I am co-organizer of a yearly fantasy LARP. Over the last five years we have built up a story and setting, which came to a cataclysmic end this year. We all decided that this story arc is done for, and that it's time for something new.

Therefore, for our next event we plan to reboot: we'll have a time and location break in our setting, with new factions, motivations, conflicts, etc.

Question

What are the main considerations and requirements we need to think of when designing new player factions for our upcoming setting?

From the top of my head there seem to be a lot of requirements and considerations, some rather obvious, some conflicting with each other... As this will probably be the basis for our story development over the next years, we'd like to get it right from the start (or as right as possible).

Examples:

  • If factions are similar to each other (say, in terms of the available characters/roles/classes/whateveryouwannacallit) that makes balancing factions against each other more easy for us.
    --> E.g. if one faction has all the mages and the other all the warriors it's not gonna work out great.
  • Factions which differ strongly from each other might make it easier for players to pick 'their' faction and to identify with it.
    --> E.g. if three factions are virtually the same but with different color flags/outfits that will probably make for a fairly boring setup.

Detail Info

  • Our LARP is set in a high-fantasy medieval-like world.
  • We're on the more combat-heavy end of the European LARP scene, i.e. contact fighting with foam weapons, etc. and its based mostly on DKWDDK (some magicks being an exception).
  • There has always been a strong focus on PvP historically, although there are NPC factions (this question is not about designing these though).
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closed as too broad by Thomas Jacobs, Miniman, Christopher, Tritium21, Oblivious Sage Oct 5 '16 at 14:13

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This sounds like there will be PvP going on, do I understand it right? The LARPs I organised always had mainly PvE plots and PvP was only player driven. \$\endgroup\$ – Umbranus Oct 5 '16 at 9:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would certainly depend on the kind of setting an rulesets you are using. From your mention of mages and warriors I assume this to be high-fantasy, yes? If in practice the actual actions between warriors and mages aren't that different, it won't hurt to keep them segregated. \$\endgroup\$ – Weckar E. Oct 5 '16 at 9:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Other than this deepening of information I unfortunately have little to add as the only LARPs I have been active in for longer were either WoD (which effectively has preset factions) or were entirely factionless. \$\endgroup\$ – Weckar E. Oct 5 '16 at 9:09
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Factions need themes and culture rather than class restrictions

In the LARPs I've played and helped organise the base races can differ (and often make a majority of the faction) but the factions themselves don't have that much effect on the abilities and classes (especially magic) of the faction, this is primarily for game balance and to stop certain factions becoming overpowered or popular.

Players will want to play as much diversity in nearly every faction as possible and restricting factions to certain class types will give them a major disadvantage plus the players will want to get around it anyway to be "the unusual one".

To make the factions easily identifable work in themes from well known real and fantasy factions; like the Vikings, the Mongols, the Dark Elves. These give the factions an easy to understand culture and clothing style, Mongols aren't going to be wandering around in heavy plate armour very often for example, this culture is what underpins a factions identity.

So breaking this down; factions need:

  • A unique culture (distinct from other factions) that players can easily identify with
  • A clothing or faction style - Vikings look very different to Orcs!
  • History - Add in names and culture, steal from existing ideas and tweak them shamelessly - it will save a lot of time
  • Small modifications. Factions should give "nice to have" bonuses (if any) but nothing game breaking or defining otherwise there will be a massive slew to a particularly favoured faction bonus
  • Organisational structure - this is a key item to help identify a faction. A Romanesk Republic is going to organise itself very differently and have different ranks from a Mongol horde.

Take a look at the Lorien Trust for examples of easy to identify factions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point about players wanting to be "the unusual one". "Hey, I'm the only River Dryad Storm Mage in the Forest Kingdom of the Elder Mountain that has levels in rainbow evocation magic, I'm special!!!". \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Columbia Apr 10 at 16:50
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Design factions around different playstyles

Many people enjoy LARPing for completely different reasons. Some like the story, some like to fight each other and some just want to socialize and hang out.

By designing your factions in ways which make it obvious what their focus will be during the LARP, you can have people pick the one which appeals most to their preferred playstyle.

Keep in mind that you will need at least two combat factions. When you only have one, there is nobody for them to fight. You might also consider going up to three. That way they will automatically balance. When one is considerably stronger than the others, the two weaker can band together. When only one is weak, the other two can leave them alone and focus on each other. In order for that to work out, you will have to design the combat factions in ways which are not completely ideologically incompatible.

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Here is my proposal on the subject :

Factions

How / When / By who / Why was it created ?

It is an important point, it will define what was the initial goal of the faction. The goal may not be the same today but it add an history and highlight the initials members.

The Scarlet Guard was created in response to the events of the Scarlet Night in the 24th year of the third era, when demons came from the underworld to corrupt and destroy. The first members of the Scarlet Guard were the dwarven guards of Levenfeld, who swore to protect their city.

Here, you got the context, the initial member and the initial goal. It brings an idea of how it will evolve.

Global information & defining characteristics

Is the faction good or evil ? What do they seek now ? Is there ranks in that factions ? Who is the boss ? What is special about them ? all those questions will be the one that the players will ask before (or after) joining a faction. An answer should be ready.

The Scarlet Guard is considered Good, their actual goal is to prevent any problems that may lead to a situation similar to the Scarlet Night. The faction is organized as a military organisation. The actual General is Telfic Silveraxe, the champion of the city of Horvic. Most of the members have already met demon encounters and absolutely hate them.

If the player agree with the goal and ideology of the faction, its here where he'll make his choice.

Joining in

More often than not, you cant just show up and sign in, you often have to demonstrate certain skills or complete certain mission to join the faction. That information should be available to the player so that he know if he can or cannot join the faction at all.

The Scarlet guard only accept people who already fought demons or was exposed to their atrocity, that way, they are sure that you have something personal against them. Additional, you must not have serious crimes on your record.

That information can also give you an interesting starting quest for your players.

And more !

Seriously though, there is so much we can say, but the subjects I highlighted earlier are absolute bases for me. Adding more information will certainly help player to do their choices.

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