- Logistics (i.e. will you have people at the door who can sell tickets and for how long)
- Alliance Demands (i.e. will you need time to alter sheets to remove unselected character references so certain players aren't stuck with goals relating to unplayed characters)
- Game Style (i.e. will significant alterations need to be made to the plot to accommodate a highly reduced player number)
My particular one-shot vampire LARP is logistically capable of selling tickets until the LARP begins but not during it since those on the door will also be coming in to play. Therefore it is possible to sell tickets until the 1.00PM "Registration Desk Closes" time.
On the other hand, my LARP is small enough (30 players) that each character has goals largely relating to other characters rather than simple factions - generally because characters are from different eras so plain old covenant allegiances are more fragile. Therefore I need enough time to print sheets and change goals that relate to unselected characters. While I can *do* this at the last minute, I *can't* wait until the last minute to get these character documents into player's hands. Giving players' draft documents with goals relating to thus far unselected character names highlighted may help, but they will want the complete version at least a few days (ideally a week) prior to the event.
So that certainly encourages bringing the deadline up to a week prior to the game start. Anything less means that players may end up with isolated characters who aren't written into anyone else's stories and while a few players can work with that, many wouldn't find it any fun.
Finally my 30 player LARP crosses a player number boundary. Every LARP has a requisite number of players required to work well in their particular style. Generally small groups work better for plot-heavy, skill-heavy and NPC-heavy module-style play while larger groups work better for self-sustaining games with a strong socio-political backbone.
Think about it in party terms. If you have a six hour party with ten guests you'll get a chance to have a real conversation with each of them but may need to have other activities and things to do to keep everyone entertained for that degree of time. A 6 hour party with 30 players will be largely self-sustaining and any attempt to push that number of people into particular activities will be halting, irritating, and involve many delays. You can do little side activities here and there to entertain small groups of interested party-goers but you shouldn't have anything too scene stealing among those little activities else you risk splitting the party completely.
It is a sliding scale, of course, but until you get between 15 - 20 players you really can't expect the party to sustain itself just based off character clashes as there aren't enough people to cause interruptions, misunderstandings and complications. It's just too damn easy to cooperate and resolve issues in small groups -- which is why most workable teams are relatively small.
At present I have 10 players, which is a tidy number and 33% of total ticket sales, and there is still another five weeks to go. However if the number doesn't increase by much, I'll need to adapt the plot so that a smaller player base will work out - which means creating additional props, puzzles, traps and NPCs. This will, in turn, drop the player limit to 15 as a sudden influx of 8 players would make this new plot style unworkable.
Most LARPs get around this by setting a clear player minimum and then simply cancelling the game if that minimum isn't made. This is a cleaner option as it means you don't need to have successive deadlines (unless you've got a pricey venue, that is).
I'm personally wondering if I can instead throw in an additional deadline ... if we don't get 15 players by BLAH date, then the player limit drops to 15 and we go with the different style of LARP. Of course since most players are a bit nervous about leaping into games that might not work out, this might discourage a number of on-the-fencers and therefore create a self-fulfilling prophecy where we won't get any further players. Who can say?
If the LARP does push over the 15 player mark before that deadline, I can work on the original plot lines and keep things looser and easier to handle for the larger group.
Any thoughts or comments on that? How would you feel if a LARP were to declare that they would drop the player limit and go for a more adventure-style game should they lack the numbers for the other game experience? Would you prefer a simple cancellation? Or how would you work around it as a LARP organiser?