5 Things I Learned About Running Digital LARPs

chariot larp
chariot larp

I’ve helped LARPs (live action role playing games) before and I’ve even run my own – but CHARIOT LARP was my first digital LARP event as a designer or participant. I have a full-scale business plan, but hit setbacks pertaining to technology, scaling, and lack of initial start up capital. Despite that, I’ve managed to run a relatively successful ship. I’ve leveled up my GM skills and I’ve learned how and when to ask for help.

I did have some unanticipated challenges as well as stuff I knew would be tough (but just not the magnitude of the difficulty).

I’ll start with the most challenging items, but will end on stumbling blocks I’ve been able to overcome or redefine. As we prepare to launch a digital LARP schedule and limited tickets, I’m working hard to overcome any remaining issues.

1. 100% Accessibility: Not Always Achievable

Accessibility is a major goal of CHARIOT LARP and the CHARIOT LARP System. I wanted people to access the LARP from various standpoints, despite other marginalizations or difficulties they face every day. By subsidizing a ticket and keeping overall ticket cost low, I’ve managed to do that to a degree. However, there were conflicting accessibility issues.

Discord

Discord is a free tool communication tool. In CHARIOT LARP, we use it for moderated, safe, collaborative worldbuliding and in and out of game communication. Once a haven for the white supremacist community, Discord’s cleaned up its act. We have an experienced admin in our community to ensure safety and accessibility. A big draw of Discord – it’s free, keeping ticket costs down. I don’t have to send participants a file; I just tell them how to use Discord and where to download it.

However, this program is not usable by many people with visual impairments, countering the mission of accessibility in my LARP. We’ve created some workarounds, but this is not as fully accessible as I had hoped. One solution would be to custom design a communication platform to suit our needs, but that is an expensive proposition.

Time and Scheduling

Despite my best efforts, some potential players just do not have the time to make the LARPs at the scheduled times. I’ve tried condensing and reducing sessions, but had the greatest success planning a LARP schedule around a group that was already interested in doing a run (it was Epsilon, the all-female run).

TGI LARPs
Most of the events on this calendar are digital LARPs TGI runs. There are also two blockbuster LARPs on here (attending as player).

You can’t sell a LARP without a schedule, but I can and do offer incentives (such as custom scheduling) to formed groups who approach me with a desire to play a game.

2. The Setting Presents the Most Challenges

As with an in-person game, the setting itself can present challenges. For example, I have a decent computer, but it’s not exactly a streaming set up, making the audio unreliable when I stream the LARP. The digital space at large is full of other challenges – when Google Hangouts, Twitch, or Discord have issues, it affects the success of the game. It’s kind of the digital version of that time a tornado touched down at the first run of New World Magischola – in other words, it’s an unpredictable feature of the real environment.

Sound on a Mac
Mac sound mixing for streaming: this process is my nemesis.

3. It Takes Money to Make Money

I started CHARIOT because I realized how expensive it was to launch a larger game, even one that isn’t a blockbuster. You can’t sell a ticket without a location (in addition to a schedule), which means securing a location. And guess what that means? A hefty down payment – and a big risk.

I started CHARIOT after I lost my job and a friend pointed out that I was in love with my dream.

Doing this digitally is my way of making it work.

However, it still takes investment. I’d love to have a budget to develop and invest in CHARIOT the way it deserves, though I’m lucky to have a lot of bartered help, a background in marketing, and a bit of recognition in the LARP community.

(I don’t have video editing skills, but a generous friend paid to make this happen for the LARP) —

Fortunately, sometimes it takes time to make money. I’m not without skills, and even though sometimes I have a very hard time asking people to buy tickets to my events, I’m pretty good at writing things about it and increasing awareness in my personal network.

4. Customer Service Takes Time

Exactly none of my players have had a major issue (so far). Everyone’s been really patient and realize that it’s a limited staff operation. That said, getting back to people with the respect and attention they deserve does take more time than I anticipated. My biggest challenges have been regarding:

  • Communication about the schedule (time and place)
  • Having the information clearly spelled out on the website so players can find it (my web admin is reorganizing this now)
  • Ticket transfers, refunds, and reissues

Receiving feedback also takes time, but I had the foresight to design this into the game’s session debrief. I’m also moving my event ticketing to a more accommodating website run by LARPers.

5. Customization Adds Value

Of all the time consuming things I do for CHARIOT, customized character creation is the one that consistently takes the most time. This is a feature, not a bug – and player feedback consistently shows that my character creation process is a strength of the game and of the digital LARP itself. I don’t have stringent plot, either – I add themes and connections only after I’ve created characters.

 

I’ll take this lesson with me in the future.

LARP designers: what have been your biggest challenges and surprises when running your LARP? Tell us about it in the comments. Want to run your own digital LARP in our system? Reach out to us at [email protected] 

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About Tara M. Clapper 272 Articles
Tara is a lifelong geek and the founder and publisher of The Geek Initiative. Her interests were forged in an early appreciation for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Jurassic Park," and many historical fiction and fantasy novels. Tara is a game designer, LARPer, and frequent convention attendee. The author of over 1,000 individual blogs, her content has been featured on HelloGiggles, nordiclarp.org, LARPing.org, and The Billfold. She holds a B.A. in English from McDaniel College and has attended many events as press (including New York Comic Con). Tara has a professional background in marketing and publishing. She lives in the Philadelphia area. A Marvel fan, her favorite superhero is undoubtedly Thor. View her portfolio at: tmc.pressfolios.com.

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