Trickle-Down-Plot or Why Newbies Are Exploitable

Conventional LARP wisdom declares that a veteran player (IE Cool Kid™) is worth a dozen newbies because a veteran can do the roleplay legwork to attract or retain a dozen newbies. As a consequence we allow storytellers to devote a staggering amount of time to insular, in-group, fan-service plot to keep a select few players interested. But if resources are devoted to veterans at the expense of newbies, is that veteran still valuable, or are they worthless?

Trick question: if you have to assign numerical value to a player, the game is already over, and so is your LARP. Go home and abuse your buddies with a good old fashioned tabletop game of Paranoia.



Let’s get down to brass tacks: Cool Kids, Storytellers, and Plot are always interchangeable. Plot is written by Storytellers for Cool Kids. Cool Kids provide the content or drama for Plot. Storytellers become accustomed to watching Cool Kids for that Drama. Drama becomes Plot. Drama becomes the bulk of Plot.

Now remember your first game. Remember asking someone “what’s going on and why does it matter?” Remember being pulled aside, berated, chided or even yelled at for DARING to underestimate the MAGNITUDE of these events, which bore little resemblance to anything of actual importance and instead seemed like the bullshit that is spattered across the cover of People Magazine? Remember feeling left out, awkward or bored by plot? This is the danger of Trickle-Down-Plot: in an attempt to disseminate plot and save time, storytellers generate myopic, uninspiring content that increasingly has to entertain an already bored audience, let alone get them to share with their “lessers.”

We haven’t even touched on the psychology of what happens when a collection of players, so pampered by plot, becomes more and more bored with every new arc and paradoxically seizes all new content for their own. Oh wait. Yes we have. But as a refresher, if you continuously pump plot into the same 10 jackasses due to their seniority, they will become accustomed to it, they will not share, and they will believe it is owed to them. And the newbies, well, the newbies will go hungry. And if they speak out about it, well, they’re just not being positive enough!

The death throes of one of the biggest LARP networks in the world, the MES, could arguably be chalked up to this cycle: newbies are funneled into the game to act as window dressing for the plots of older players, with the promise that they too will someday have window dressings of their own. Storytellers and staff maintain their position through OOC argumentation and backstabbing of the highest magnitude, not through creativity of plot, and the scrutiny placed upon them by equally duplicitous rivals means that they have to invent even more intricate and fan-servicing plots to outdo their predecessors. But none of these plots have any relevance outside of the top-level cabal of players who have been in the game for so long that they’ve forgotten what is gratifying OOC or IC and want gratification both ways, or else.

The proposed reboot, by the way, will fail. Not for lack of honest effort, but for the simple fact that it’s going to be a breeding ground for sexual assault charges and drama.

VT M.jpg
There’s no way a sexualized game about predatory beings could be a breeding ground for sexual predators. You’re just bitter.

At least in Vampire, when you’re dead, you’re dead, no matter how many ill-gotten, unmerited powers or items you’ve squirreled away in your long and bland playtime. What about campaign boffer LARPs, where you can die multiple times? How long does the average NERO character last? They never seem to pull the black marble from that death bag, do they? What a pity, time to sponge up more plot!

Newbies are left in this unenviable position of choosing between three garbage options. They could emulate older players and themselves crusade for spotlight to hog,  they can wait like Godot for content that they can participate in, or they can leave. And option number 3 is deeply troubling, for any game, and for the hobby as a whole.

All of this bitter bitching, however, skirts a real and meaningful question about plot: what does good plot even look like? If intricately constructed personal plot is unintelligible to outsiders, is the inverse worthy? Can you write content that is both broadly accessible and broadly interesting? Are there limited plots that can be written and executed, based on setting and the game’s mechanics?

Are chronicle resets necessary?

For future bitterness, childish insinuations, violent overreactions and self-absorbed tantrums, follow me on Twitter, and please share this and other posts on social media, so that people can sit atop their high horses and accuse me of being a loser, while being deeply troubled by the implications of what I write.


Trickle-Down-Plot or Why Newbies Are Exploitable

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