Stages in Design: Trading Pawns (I)

So, “Trading Pawns” is the Amber LARP our family group is offering to run for ACNW, and it’s based off several ideas of an event in the Merlin series, of all places. I figured I’d write a little about the design here.

While I’m the major planner behind the LARP (I haven’t done a big one in far too long) I’m working with Chuck, the LintKing, and Chuck’s boyfriend (who I need to pin a moniker on, other than “Burly, Dark, and Handsome,” which is how I referred to him last night.) They can’t get into my mind, so I need to write a lot down. That means I have to create a whole GM book so they’re starting with the same knowledge.

What goes into a GM book? Well, I am going to point you to that very post on my regular gaming blog when it’s finished, but for this, let’s talk about the set-up.

First there’s the hard numbers – the statistics. In this case, because it’s Amber, I have ranks and I have actual numbers. The first page is the ranks, and I have colour-coded them for quick reference as well. I have the actual numbers in the back reference pages because they’re only really for me to check out how I spaced them as I set everyone up for the same number of points. There are some definite “clumps” of points depending on which attribute is a character’s focus, but the ranks are what the other GMs will be looking for if they need to compare things in a hurry.

Next, in conjunction with that is the list of items. These should be represented with physical objects – if we can’t get actual replicas to play with, they will at least be brightly coloured cards. In the book there will be the quick list (where they start in play, what they can do) and then a second set of pages organized with the large description and their fine points.

Then spells and powers are set up the same way. A spell in one of my LARPs will always be a one-shot item. You will cast them by giving them to a GM who will destroy the card (I’ve always wanted them on flash paper, but…) and explain the results. Some sorceror characters will be able to design spells “on the fly” and we’ll have extra cards available for that, but “on the fly” and sorcery in Amber are not really synonymous – although lynchpins can count as items.

Then a basic character and player list.

The next tab talks about timing and instructions. There are instructions for the GMs to give to players, and there is timing that everyone knows about – it’s replicated in the player books in brief. Then there’s GM events. GM events for this game are oriented first around the GMs’ particular NPC. Each GM has a particular NPC to play (that is developed in whole in case we get extra players who need a character as well – we can adapt on the fly) and then there’s a list in the book about other NPC characters (and hints on playing them as well as their secrets) who can show up in the game. There’s also a page of “complications” broken down to each GM to add to the story if necessary, such as rumours, or minor events that GM can handle exclusively.

The next tab is the reference tab and it has my “Tolerance List” which describes initial tolerances of one character to the next. It also has what the initial house allegiances are, and some of the obvious initial plot items are and how they’ll resolve if the players don’t interrupt.

The final tab is the character list in depth – it has all the details that each player gets privately, in alphabetical order for easy reference.

Each player gets their stats, their backstory, some roleplaying hints, their immediate connections with other players, their goals, the game timing, and a card with their name on the front and some details on the back. If they have spells/items, those will also be in their packets.

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