Thursday, August 23, 2012

Non-Combatants in LARP in Combat Plot

So you joined a political LARP with full intention of playing a political or social character. Generally, things are going pretty well for you. You have the Disciplines you need to dig up information. You have the skills necessary to justify your schmoozing and ensure your downtimes* land you with all the right retainers and allies to ensure that you can do the favors for people that will land you with the boons (or favours) that you require to move up the status tree and gain some juicy respect from those around you.

But oh look, there's a heavily combat-focused section of the game coming up where there's going to be a lot of rewards (political and otherwise) for those who help resolve this rather violent plot. What do you do?

Well first, pull out your character sheet. Since I'm not currently looking at it, I can only give you an overview of some basic ideas you could use. You do have your character sheet so your best bet is to actively look at your own stats and come up with general things you are good at and then more specific things that relate to the goal. I find the old brainstorming technique of writing down anything that comes to mind without editing it to be a good one. When you review it you can pick out the ones that actually make sense. Getting friends in on the action can also help you see your attributes in a whole new light.

On that note, I have old articles from my Troupe Vampire forum that break down a whole range of things you can do with any particular skill. I think I'll start up a blog series on Friday on it. It'll focus on World of Darkness but a lot of those same attributes (Computer, for example) are in other modern games and others (Athletics, for example) also exist in one form or another in fantasy games.

So on a more general note, here are some basic things you could do.

Infiltration. The combatants may not be so good at stealth. If you're quick and stealthy, you may be able to scout out the area and report back what you've learned. Social infiltration might also work as well, particularly if the issue involves cultists, a hellfire club, or some other group of individuals who might be prone to recruiting. A little trickier for vampires who are more obvious simply because they sleep during the day but still possible in some cases. Just always have an exit strategy in case you're spotted.

Masquerade Duty. This one won't get you much credit in the court but the important people will know what you've done so long as you tell them and they're the ones most likely to appreciate it. Tap into your Police Allies. Give your newspaper Retainers a call. Have your hackers trawl the Internet for any Youtube posts. Ensure that word of the fight doesn't get out. The combatants should be able to use guns or swords to save their own lives without getting hammered by the unwashed masses. Help them.

Driving / Sentry Duty. Good at driving? Maybe you can wait in the Getaway Car and be ready to head off at a moment's notice. Try to have some method of communicating with the combatants, however, so that you can also play the role of sentry and let them know if reinforcements are coming or if the police have arrived on the scene.

Occult Research. Vampires should be well aware that it is no good shooting at a monster that is better damaged by stage and by sword. You'll need to think quickly here, however, as the combatants might not give you much time to do your research. Talk to everyone in the court, no matter how high or low their status, and piece together all of the occult information you can find - especially occult information related to the threat but don't throw away anything as irrelevant at this stage. It may also help to get the Prince or Primogen's backing on this one (though sometimes it's actually better now to - use your political sense).

Fellow occultists may be tight-lipped, knowing how some people mis-use such information, so try to lure them in with promises to keep them informed (and do so) and offer information in turn. If you have a solid reputation than you'll get more out of them so it's a good idea to groom your fellow occultists before this happens. Perhaps get them involved in the occult research (more downtimes equals more results). Then submit all of the gathered information along with your downtimes so the Storyteller has an idea how much work you've put into it.

Even if you're not an occult researcher, you could still gather the information from occultists and give them possible research avenues. If you're polite and respectful about it, they'll likely be happy to get involved so long as you give credit where credit is due. In truth, often times people can get a bit confused about how their characters can help so the players themselves might be grateful that you're helping them get in on the action.

Investigation. Follow the mundane routes. Think about what a private investigator, police officer, or spy might want to know about the threat and how they might gather this information. Who are the cultists? What are they armed with? Do they have sentries? How many? How do they change over? What are their routes? What are their bank account details? What are their names? Do their wives know what they're doing when they're out at night? What are their motives? Obviously this is more useful when people are involved than when non-sentient monsters are, you can still use investigation to track sightings of mythical beasts, figure out the general abilities of a monster through forensic analysis of its kills, or tracking it back to its den.

Keep Your Promises. Never forget the importance of this one. Political games may be all about back-biting and betrayals but don't betray someone just for the sake of doing it. In general, you'll only get to do it once so make it a good one or don't do it at all. This won't be the only combat-focused plot you encounter so be sure that you don't arbitrarily burn bridges by forgetting to give the Ordo Dracul a sample or by spreading that Top Secret information that the Mekhet Priscus gave you under the proviso that you tell no one. If you're the driver or sentry, don't drive off if your character gets bored.

Be assured that if you screw around with the people who helped you, they will remember and they won't help you next time. If you do plan to screw someone over, don't make a promise. Give them a vague assurance or change the subject. That way, while they'll still be cross, you can still say "I never promised I'd do that". It'll only be a partially burnt bridge then and you can always shore it up later with an actual promise to deliver the goods so long as you're known to keep your promises.

*Downtimes are common in persistent game worlds where the time that passes in the real world matches the time that passes in the game world to ensure that multiple venues remain synchronized in time. They allow you to summarise what your character is doing in the intervening time and the Storyteller then makes a few rolls for you and summarises the results of your actions.

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