How I Design a LARP (part three: Bits and Pieces and Props)

You’re running a LARP. HAVE PROPS. And I don’t mean shoutouts – I mean tokens or other representations of important items.


Someone I know chants, “My process is not your process,” and that applies. The series is called, “How I Design a LARP,” not, “Any Other Way is Unworthy.”

Ask me questions, because I’m sure I am missing something integral to the way I will be running these, and I need good co-GMs who understand my whimsical ways.

Bits and Pieces and Props

You’re running a LARP. HAVE PROPS.

No, seriously, I don’t care if they’re stickynotes, small rocks, specially-marked pennies, or poker chips. If you have a physical item to keep track of in a LARP, you want to have a physical representation of it.

If you’re trying to get Mohammed to the Mountain, it would be very awkward for your co-GM to be giving the Mountain to Fatima in the corner of the room. Retroactively proclaiming the Mountain a Molehill is not exactly good LARP practice.

[substitute “Excalibur” for “Mountain” and “Arthur” for “Mohammed” and “Modred” for “Fatima” if you want a close-to-real-life issue I experienced in a LARP… forgiven, but a good example]

This goes for any physical component, and really, goes hand in hand with Location. Honestly, if I had the opportunity, I would always have actual props (not just representative tokens). It makes significant change in intensity that adds to the look and feel.

A small add-on to the rule for look-and-feel props is that it has to be fair – don’t make a small teddy bear represent the sword and an alarm clock represent the crown of lost Ys. Really, you don’t have to be tricky. I saw a flashlight duct-taped to an alarm used as a bomb once – not a single player really investigated it, even though it was, in retrospect, pretty darn obvious.

(Keep a listing of them beforehand so you can get them back at the end – it’s not that people aren’t honest, it’s that when you’re tired after the final scene, you don’t want to have to remember everything.)

Keep your character guide with the props you pass out at the beginning.

Remember that props can be characters, too. They should have conflicts assigned to them. If I’m giving the Queen of Ys three blue stones, she should be wanting to keep or give these stones away – they need to have movement (“Location AGAIN?”) or they’re just dungeon dressing. Dungeon dressing is all fine and dandy, and I appreciate the effort, but if something has the potential to be misleading, your players may be spending too much time following red herrings and you’ll have to adjust your plot.

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