LARP Mechanics Help

TL;DR: I’m re-configuring a LARP system and I’m running into some issues. I spell them out and then ask for you advice.

I’m a big fan of Blood & Tears, the Houses of the Blooded LARP rules. I’ve run the game at numerous conventions and played in it a handful of times. I really like it because it’s simple. The system is, more or less, bid Style points to do things. That’s it. The whole game is bidding. I appreciate that it’s lets you easily gauge how “interested” or “important” an action is to someone.

Except the system has one key piece of… strangeness; the character sheet. Since the core mechanic is so simple (“Spend Style points to do things.”) fitting in the character sheet feels awkward. Let me explain in detail.

Your character sheet is a series of Ranked Advantages. The Rank gives you bonus Style when you Invoke them. The rules aren’t clear on if the bonus Style goes to the other player or not. Or if the Style spent to Invoke the Advantage goes to the other player or not. No matter what it leads to some behavior within the system that feels fidgety. Let me break this down with an example.

I’m playing and I have a Cunning Virtue of 4. I walk up to you and say, “Isn’t it true that I know you’re secretly bedding Lord Fancypants.” I spend 1 Style to Invoke my Cunning to offer you 4 Style. If the Style goes to you then I have to call over the Narrator to get the Style points to hand to you. Does the 1 Style I spent to Invoke also go to you? If so then if you accept you get 5 Style. If not, you get 4 Style. If the Style doesn’t go to you, then you have to pretend I’m offering you 4 or 5 Style points but you’re really only getting 1. Which stinks, so I assume you get the 4 or 5 Style points. In fact, when I’ve ran the game in the past I’ve always erred on the side of giving out more Style.

If the game escalates to Insisting (something I’m not a fan of in general since it destroys the game’s sense of player cooperation and quickly turns into a PvP fest.) it’s really powerful. I can Invoke and get 4 or 5 Style and now you need to bid 5 or 6 Style to say No and it only cost me 1 Style point. Pretty sweet deal. Also, pretty dick move.

My issue with all of this is that the Narrator must be involved. Any time anyone spends Style the Narrator has to run over and deliver Style points. When you have a few dozen people all spending Style the Narrator’s job quickly becomes Pez Dispensing Style points.

The game is so player driven that this one point seem to run counter with everything else in play. I’m just not sure how to solve this issue, beyond throwing out the Character sheet.

My first idea was to have Invoking earn you Style points. But that still requires the Narrator present. My second idea was to give Players a second token that they can cash in later for Style, kinda like an IOU. Which adds a second layer to player management that seems cumbersome and is ripe for exploitation.  My third idea, and the one I’m currently favoring, is to throw out the entire traditional trait driven character sheet and make the Character sheet not interact with the Style mechanic at all.

I’m just not sure what the best solution to this dilemma is. Of if this is even a dilemma. Maybe that should be the Narrator’s role in the game. Hovering over every single character interaction. Doubtful…. Hopefully some one else has a genius idea, because I sure don’t. If anyone has any insight or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

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8 Comments

  1. You have another problem that you didn’t mention, too. The last time I played this with you at Gen Con it was very easy for a few active players to amass a metric ton of Style to the point where it was meaningless. The economy gets funky at that point.

    Let me chew on this for a while and see if I can give you any suggestions

  2. The facilitators should definitely not be needed for every single interaction. Players should be able to engage the system unsupervised as much as possible, and more importantly, breaking character as little as possible. I’ve struggled with this too. I posted to your G+ about how I hadn’t previously considered the “you only pay the target what you actually spent” method, which I think could work. I can see how you’d feel it was unsatisfying, having played so long with the “pay the target the full augmented amount” method, but I think it could work just fine- the maximum someone can get from a single Advantage is 5 (and you can always flatten that curve to, say, 3, if you wanted), and that’s rare, so figure an average spend to be in the 1-3 range. I think this could curb the inflation problem that seems to have plagued everyone’s runs of B&T. No idea what John’s original intent was, but clearly it needs tweaking.

    • The biggest issue I see with the Invoked don’t give Style method is that it diminishes the temptation that large Style pools create. For example, if I invoke something and offer you “4” Style and someone else offers you 4 actual style it makes the second offer far more tempting. It also encourages Insisting, since I’m paying less, you’ll less inclined to take my meager amount, but I’d force you to spend more to say no.

      • A fair point I hadn’t considered, as I was coming at it more from the mechanical end rather than the social bribery end. Hm. I still kinda want to figure out a way to make it work, purely for the “not needing facilitation” angle, which, frankly, is a huge consideration for me. I feel like it’s either that, or leave vats of point tokens laying around for people to mooch from and just trusting everyone.

        On the other hand, at least in the B&T setting, having players yell for servants every so often is totally setting appropriate…

        • At the end of the day I think there needs to be a certain amount of facilitation involved. Style simply can’t hand out itself. There might be a solution in players creating IOUs to pass back and forth, then cashing them in with the GM when everyone has the time, but I don’t think you can get away from having a facilitator.

          Alternative idea, appoint a few trusted players as Style Banks. In the Houses context, maybe have a few Counts or Dukes at the party that have a style pool for distribution.

          • Ah, well, on that note, I totally plan to have a bevy of Servants, so that won’t be an issue. I’m not masochistic enough to do it your way. And also having more Servants aids verisimilitude.

  3. Also my impression was that Insisting should be pretty damn rare, and was perhaps also meant to cut inflation, as it’s one of the few ways to remove points from the game.

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