We Don’t Want Any Adventures Here, Thank You!

This past weekend I had an extremely good time at the second run of EyeLARP’s Second Breakfast. This was a charming little game set in Middle-Earth, in which the Wild West town and Viking village at EyeLARP’s site stood in for the little village of Frogmore, a hobbit community in the Shire. The basic concept of the game is that it’s the weekend of the Mayor’s birthday, there’s going to be a lovely party, the four extended families of the village (the Thornburrows, the Greengawkers, the Kettlebrights, and Puddlefoots – or is that Puddlefeet?) are engaged in some light-hearted rivalry when it comes to baking delicious pies and/or cakes for the big event, but are all united in one thing: they don’t want anything so exciting as an adventure so any meddling dwarves or wizards showing up trying to coax right-thinking hobbits off on one can move right on, thank you very much.

As you might expect, this was basically a fairly light-hearted, easy-going sort of event, but I think there’s still some interesting points of LARP design which arise from it. In particular, it’s a great example of a LARP which managed to deliver a great event on the strength of pure ambience, after dialling back on more or less every other factor LARPs usually go out of their way to provide.

There was basically no peril to characters, and no real combat, In theory, Second Breakfast worked on EyeLARP’s usual “FilmSim” principle, which includes as a feature a systemless combat system: rather than fighting being a genuinely competitive process, you basically die or get injured when you think that it would make sense or be dramatically appropriate for your character to be. In practice, we were briefed not to expect or initiate genuinely life-threatening combat, and indeed none happened. The biggest outbreak of violence that happened during the second run was a massive food fight, in which a party of annoying dwarves were pelted with LARP-safe “food” (basically sponge balls in different food shapes) to make them go away. EyeLARP’s approach to combat already sets aside their LARP from the vast majority of old-school games which try to make a satisfying tactical game out of the combat system, but still included combat in its function as a cheap and easy power fantasy; Second Breakfast didn’t even have that.

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On Pausing the Game At a LARP

I encountered a situation I don’t remember running into at a LARP this past weekend (Land Without a King, run under the auspices of EyeLARP, as it happens). This was when the entire game was paused in order to deal with a breach of the conduct policy.

Pausing the entire game for this sort of thing is generally more common in tabletop, because it’s vastly easier to pause the game when every single participant is sat around the same table (whether in person or over voice chat). Various safety mechanics like the X-card have been developed for the tabletop context; whilst the X-card can be used in a way which maintains the flow of play (if everyone at the table is happy for that, and if the thing which triggered the X-card is unambiguous enough that it’s clear what content needs to be steered away from), the X-card writeup makes it clear that in some contexts taking a break from play would be necessary.

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