It Takes an Army

battle1_Renewal_06 Let's start with a good foundation: writing and running a LARP is not the same as a tabletop or even a theatre show. If I had to compare it to anything, writing a LARP is very much like one of the first jobs I ever took out of college. Writing a LARP is a lot like planning a wedding.

Like most college students who left with an English degree, I was met with a wide array of retail job options upon my graduation. I had a pretty good customer service face, and I actually enjoyed working with people, so it seemed a natural fit for me to slide into an easy retail job while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life. What I did not expect was it leading to a job offer that would drastically change the direction of my life from that point onward: a wedding consultant.

My friends used to joke that I was the angriest person they knew helping people on the happiest day of their lives, and while that wasn't entirely untrue, I was exceptionally good at it. Working with people who were nervous and excited and happy is infectious, and it made me want to make sure their event went off without a hitch. I absorbed myself in details, stretched myself into every direction to make sure caterers and hair dressers and clothing and registries were all organized, and I did it all with a smile on my face that I'd like to think was genuine.

I did that job for about two years and for awhile had the highest rating nationwide in our company. That was in 2010. I didn't realize how much that job effected my life as a LARP organizer until about a year ago.


Where We Fail as Writers


I can't count on both hands the amount of LARPs I've watched rise and fall in the blink of an eye, some of which were amazing ideas -- ones that, by all rights, should have succeeded. The idea was there. The content was phenomenal and engaging. The world was unlike anything that had been presented to the LARP stage before. But then, invariably, something falls apart and a game that should have been skyrocketing into success fizzles away into nothing only a few months in. The question is always the same: where did they go wrong?


The bottom line is as simple as it is uncomfortable to say out loud for many of us: writers are not game organizers. Neither are game designers, or producers, or theatre directors. Separately, all these people have individual pieces of their background that are vital to the whole, but not any one of them can create a game on their own. When a writer creates the IP, a game designer or developer can help them imagine a ruleset that works for it. When the bones of the mechanics are created, a coordinator needs to help stress test and manage the system. And that's just the bare bones -- nevermind the meat and fat of it. Sites, insurance, marketing, answering questions, publishing rules, website and content management, and then all the little details that must culminate into a day or three day event that has to bring it altogether.

I don't know about you, but as a writer that sounds like a panic attack waiting to happen.

That's not to say there aren't talented people out there who can manage everything, but for the average person, you are exceptional at your specialty and you should be allowed to focus on that, with all of your attention. Writers should write. Designers should design. Coordinators should do whatever black voodoo magic they do.  Who knows about those guys.

Just like a wedding, creating a good LARP takes an army, and both of them require someone to collect all the details and make sure they are on track for their special day that everybody is excited about.


Organizing an Army


The day before, and even the day of, a wedding is essentially organized chaos. Did the flower guy show up -- are those the right color flowers? Did the pianist get hit by a bus? Did the bride stain her dress with her margarita? There is no way, literally no way, you can plan for every possibility, but what you can do is create a team that you can rely on who are all experts at their craft and, when things fall apart, can take their expertise and use it to make sure no one at that wedding ever realized anything went wrong.


Running a LARP is no different. A good game organizer is soaked into all those details. They take care of organizing and attacking problems so the experts (writers, marshals, coordinators, logistics, NPCs, players) can all do what they're good at. A good game organizer can take a disaster and mold it into a success using the skills of their team. Panic isn't an option, and isn't even necessary; they know who they can tap and whose abilities can be used to solve a problem. They don't necessarily form the head, but a game organizer makes up the nervous system that connects the rest of the LARP body together.

For creatives, it can be a struggle to submit what feels like artwork into the hands of someone who has to manage your craft. It can be the hardest thing you do, and at the same time, it can be what gives it the largest chance of success. Creating a network of support for a LARP is what keeps it thriving and gives each individual maker within the whole a chance to focus on their individual part so it can be the best that it can be. I wouldn't ask a florist to design a catering menu, and I wouldn't ask a writer to try and crunch logistics numbers for an event. It's never an insult to admit that something isn't your place.

I mean, what else what coordinators use their black magic for?