Why have social skills/powers in a LARP?

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LisaJane
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Why have social skills/powers in a LARP?

Postby LisaJane » Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:29 am

Topic Posed on Facebook on Monday the 1st of June by Ivan:
Here's a question; why have social skills/powers at all? I understand having combat skills because that's replicating something that you don't want to be really doing. But social activities are the core of a larp - why turn them into an abstract?
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LisaJane
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Re: Why have social skills/powers in a LARP?

Postby LisaJane » Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:31 am

Robert: A couple of reasons spring to mind:
1. Player skill vs character skill is just as much a thing that needs managing in social as in combat situations.
2. To up-power social characters in a mixed environment....See More

Ivan: Hmm, I can see how that's a valid stance for system creation, but I'd like to see something different. I'm liking systemless games more and more for the reason that they don't "manage" social interaction (which is where I get my kicks). That's a personal preference and by no means the only or "right" one.

Robert: IMO systemless things have two problems:
1. High player RP skill.
2. High GM involvement....See More

Lee: Sorry to step in. Rules are framework. They exist everywhere. We have them in all our interactions in real life. I love systems with no rules because I can use my personal skills in place of the system, but that allows for ridiculousness. Where as...See More

Michael: social skills can be things like languages, literacy, numeracy, culture, ettiquette, backgrounds like contacts, trade goods, favours... they can be as effective as combat skills without breaking into rules calls.

at dantir i was able to interact with a lot of plot simply by speaking a bunch of languages... i couldnt fight for shit. the game supported that, i didnt need to willy slap other players to have fun.

Michael: the problem with a lot of that again is poor roleplaying whete people assume their modern level of knowledge in a fantasy game. thats the players, not the system.

Lee: Agree with your last statement Michael. But if the system supports the player, the player should support the system. The early days of the l5r game with the live action courts was incredible so of the best rp work I have ever seen.

Michael: its a conversation ivan and i have just had, freeforms are a different beast, and the majority of our larp community hasnt freeformed. gotta say though, the one l5r freeform i did attend i saw a lot of rules mechanics being thrown around rather than roleplaying.

Lee: The five or six that I attended had rules mechanics, a class system, a status system, a honour system, individual missions, clan missions and family missions and was still able to be free-form and incredibly elaborate. I could name several different moments that have lived on in my rp memory with great fondness
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Re: Why have social skills/powers in a LARP?

Postby LisaJane » Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:32 am

Lisa Jane: As with most other things in LARP I don't think there is a particular right or wrong, but more what is most appropriate for each game. Players will always have preferences but they will always range widely across the spectrum. In a game system I think it's best that there is consistency and that the system is used to encourage the style of play the organisers want to encourage.

So if the organisers primarily want the characters to fight each other and have very little concern as to whether they role play at all then I think it's ok to leave out pretty much all rules that aren't about combat. (I'm talking game rules not the codes of behaviour type rules like safety and what have you).

Similarly, if you want to focus primarily on roleplaying and have very little concern or desire for characters to fight each other, you can down play the combat and even make it immersion breaking & less "fun" in a LARP by not letting the players really get involved at all and just having it determined by dice, or a pre-established rank.

If you want both, I think you want to try to give both a relatively equal play in the system. However I think even with this as a goal there is still the decision as to whether you want a rules heavy game or a rules light game. Which again there are pros and cons for each and players are going to have preferences along the spectrum of options.

So in a rules heavy-ish where you want to encourage RPing and fighting you want to include rules for both. Now there are many many ways to encourage role playing and it's at that point that you start to ask questions about what type of role-playing you want. The discussion started with a Zeppelin like game though so I'll use that as an example.

I'd put Zeppelin somewhere in the range of medium to heavy rules system. In Zeppelin we wanted socialite type RPing (as well as many other kinds) so we tried to include a "socialite" class that a player could choose to play to the exclusion of all others, or as a multi-class. There was also the option to play a fighter class, as well as many others. We wanted each class to seem equally valid, and be equally fun to play. To encourage this, we tried to limit how much a character not from a class (or someone who didn't spend any points in the skills most associated with a class) would struggle to compete with a player that specialised in that class. So we restricted what you could do without spending points in a skill and also tried to give cool bonus powers* to those who spent lots of points in a skill.

Did we succeed in making socialites as cool to play as fighters? Maybe. Did we succeed in making all classes roughly equal? I don't think so. But that was our aim and I think we were able to get closer to this goal than the LARPs in Melbourne that came before us, which is pretty admirable. Of cause I think it's now up to the LARPs of today to improve more, which is I expect why Rob has posed the question.

Alternatively, if you prefer a rules light system the goal would be to make the combat rules as light as possible so they have a similar weighting to what ever roleplaying rules you include. Let's assume you want a super rules light game, a combat system could be the one hitpoint one damage rule or "if your character gets hit by a weapon, he dies". Now, that's a pretty harsh system and I don't know how many players would want to play in a game like that**, but it is very simple and very minimalist which are very nice qualities in a rules light system.
Now all that said, there are many ways other than rules to encourage a style of play in a game, and each of those need to be equally considered also. It is possible to create a LARP where you use rules to cover fighting, and other elements, like story, NPCs, player briefings or workshops etc to encourage the other elements of the game you want. But you know, that’s a whole other topic.

*Many of our “cool bonus powers” were OOC rules calls. I don’t think cool bonus powers are necessary in a game either, though we felt they helped add to the flavour we were going with. The idea originally sparked from trying to “balance” the mage class, as we wanted to limit mages to a set amount of Mana points they could spend on their cool spells, but didn’t like that mages got mana points, when none of the other classes got them.

**BTW, I’m one of them. I have had many ideas for rules light systems and even got about 3/4ers of the way through designing one before I got distracted with life.
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Re: Why have social skills/powers in a LARP?

Postby Oggie » Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:46 pm

I've been trying to answer this question in my head since I read it and keep running in circles trying to put down a satisfactory answer, so here's my thoughts so far:

The main reason I see as to why you should have social skills/powers in a larp setting is to provide players a framework within which to generate social interactions / outcomes they may not have had the natural ability to have otherwise.

So to try and clarify what I mean, i'm going to discuss a made up social skill - "Host an Event".

By design "Host an Event" would allow a player to designate and run an event in an area of their choice.

Now the argument is, why even have this skill? And it's a fair call - I don't think this skill should prevent players without it from hosting events, but what you can do is design it as a kind of honey pot - i.e anyone who spends time being social at the event may get some small character benefit for the day, or some other thing.

Designed that way, you provide players with a way to actively break the ice with others and get involved in social events in a way they may not have been able to achieve without the rules framework to assist them.

Another similar system that people may have experienced in larps around at the moment are reputation systems, which can provide positive and negative gearing for a social encounter before a player has even entered into it. I think by having social skills be fairly passive like this, helps to merit their inclusion.

Anyways hopefully that rambling makes sense. The issue with answering the question is that social systems could take many forms, but I think as long as you design them with the intention for the skills to be about letting players generate more social interactions, rather than allowing players to control the outcome of those interactions they are worth putting in.


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