How I Design a LARP (part two: Character Relationships & Goals)

Disclaimer:

Someone I know chants, “My process is not your process,” and that applies. This series is called, “How I Design a LARP,” not, “If you don’t do it this way, you’re WRONG.”

I am always open to questions and suggestions, but I’m writing this down so future (and current) co-GMs have a piece of my mindset and method to my madness.


This, like the rest, is not a stand-alone step. Inherent to it are such things as location and time. For example, my rule is that I always plan for at least two goals per character, but if I’m doing one of my New Year’s Eve LARPs, that may be too many for the time limit. If I’m doing an all day LARP, I want three goals, and at least two of them need to be impeded by other characters.

Goals are always (always!) a matter of connections between other characters, though, in my LARP workbook. I start by putting together what I dubbed a “tolerance chart” (from the racial tolerances in the Unearthed Arcana book, if you must know.)

(characters) Shiro Jo Talia Budapest Emidor
Shiro Jo 0 + +
Talia 0 + +
Budapest + 0 +
Emidor + + 0

This sets up the original scheme of conflicts. (A “0” is neutral.) You will note that everyone has two people who like them (a “+” is “positive”), and everyone likes two people – but that while Shiro Jo likes Talia (best be on the safe side with a Chaosian assassin who is pregnant with the heir to the Throne) Talia can’t stand Shiro Jo (no, really, no one can stand Shiro Jo.) That balances the situation and gives me leeway to write a story in each of their character packs from that perspective.

This also gives me a chance to make some goals: Shiro Jo might want to impress Talia, or get her on his side to assassinate Emidor. Emidor, on the other hand, kind of tolerates Shiro Jo. Doesn’t understand the animosity Jo has for her…

With fifteen people this process gets a little harder…but while you are using this to set up your groups of initial knowledge, maybe not everyone knows each other, or has a set opinion. This is great when you have a political game – maybe (in Amber terms) there’s a Rebman embassy and so the fishfolk know each other, and some of the simple fisherfolk but they don’t know anyone from the Moonrider contingent. (Or do they? Muah ha ha..ahem.)

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