LARP Workshops aka Build Your Own Game Seminars

A LARP Writing Workshop, colloquially known as a "Build Your Own Game" (BYOG) Seminar, is not a LARP. It is the process of writing a new LARP, from scratch, in a compressed period of time. Typically, there's a signup sheet for players beforehand, who may not have any idea about the game being created for them.

Over the years, this has produced some surprisingly good games. I've been involved in the following workshops:

Date

Workshop Details

March 1998

Co-facilitated a workshop at Intercon the Thirteenth with Jim "Wombat" White, which led to the very amusing Miskatonic Regional Elementary. I helped with the brainstorming, but didn't do any writing. I got to make a great cameo appearance in the game, too!

June 2000

I participated in a workshop as a writer at Intercon 15.5, which led to the highly successful Collision Imminent!

June 2002

First workshop not at a convention, run with Michael McAfee and "Uncle Don" Ross. This produced Temple of the Crimson Moon.

November 2003

Assisted Mark "Justin" Waks, who ran a workshop at Brandeis. This produced The Rising Flames, which I got to enjoy playing.

July 2012

Ran the workshop at NELCO 2012. This produced The Barbecue.

August 2013

Ran the workshop at NELCO 2013. This produced The Night Queen Princess Fluffykins Passed.

July 2014

Ran the workshop at NELCO 2014. This produced This Time For Sure: Boris Badenov's Gulag for Unrepentant Children.

August 2015

I participated in the workshop at NELCO 2015, run by Gaylord Tang. This produced A Second Chance for Wings.

August 2016

Ran the workshop at NELCO 2016. This produced Adrift on the Starry Sky.

Recently, I've been running workshops annually at NELCO. Late at night, it can look something like this, taken from NELCO 2013:

The NELCO schedule runs (roughly) as follows:

Time Activity

Friday

8-10 PM

Give the So You Want to Write a LARP: LARP Theory 101 Seminar. Cameron Betts recorded a video of the seminar at NELCO 2014.

10-11 PM

Brainstorm ideas for possible LARPs. There are no bad ideas. All of the ideas are written in Post-Its™ and stuck to a whiteboard in no particular order.

Saturday

10-10:30 AM

Cluster the brainstorming ideas into groups. There are almost always some ideas that seem to fit together. There are also ideas that don't fit anywhere.

Clustering works by having everyone go up to the whiteboard and move Post-Its™ to wherever they think they belong. Post-Its™ can be moved more than once. Where necessary, it's OK to duplicate Post-Its™ and put them in more than one cluster.

10:30-11:30 AM

Consider each significant group in turn. Is there some concept that fits the group? Brainstorm specifically for that group. Are there plots, ideas, genres, and characters that fit within the group? Is there a story you can tell based on some or all of that group of ideas? This always results in more Post-Its™.

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Break for lunch.

12:30 - 1:00 PM

Now that you're refreshed from lunch, talk over each of the potential games present in the clusters. Which game does the group want to write the most? Pick one.

In these compressed timeframes, it is often easier to write something humorous.

1:00-2:30??? PM

Brainstorm the chosen game further. What are the triangles that make up the game? What are the things that characters will have to do during the game? How do these things come together to form plots and dilemmas in the game?

Assign the triangles, To Dos, and other bits to character archetypes. This defines the size and shape of the game.

2:30??? PM - sometime later in the PM

Write characters. Create backstories. Share information with the rest of the team. Check the consistency of everything.

Sometime later in the PM

Take a break for dinner, and give yourself a chance to relax.

Sometime later in the PM - sometime later in the Sunday AM

Go back to work. Finish writing characters. Check the consistency of everything as you write. As you realize there are things you need to add, like bluesheets and items, add them to the whiteboard with Post-Its™ of different colors.

Make sure you stay well hydrated.

Sunday

Early in the AM

Stop. Take a break. Stand up. Stretch. Go to the bathroom.

Slightly later in the AM

Do a complete consistency check, comparing every character to every other character. Is everything in sync?

Later in the AM

Print the game. As you do, write up what you do for the next run of the game. By thinking about this now, you're actually doing another sanity check of the print process and the game.

Even later in the AM

Pack the game, stuffing the appropriate bits into the appropriate character packets. As you do, write up what you do for the next run of the game. By thinking about this now, you're actually doing yet another sanity check of the print process and the game.

The sun is probably up by now in the AM

Take a break. Take a shower. Get some breakfast. Are there any props you can get to help improve the playtest run?

11ish AM

Take a look at the list of players who have signed up for the game. Cast them into the roles that you think will be best for them and for the game.

Noonish

Hand out the character packets. Run the game, despite the sleep deprivation. Scribble any notes about possible improvements for next time, but be sure to enjoy watching the players do interesting things with your characters.

Afterwards

Do a game wrap, but don't ask for feedback now. Listen to the good things, because you've been hard at work for a very long time. You've created something interesting, but the game probably needs more work. Postpone asking about the things you need to fix until at least a week later. Bask in the afterglow that you've written a new LARP in a very short period of time. Then get some sleep.

This time can be compressed a little, for workshops that run outside of a conference or a convention.

There are also more subjective notes about what happened during the writing process of The Night Queen Princess Fluffykins Passed, This Time For Sure: Boris Badenov's Gulag for Unrepentant Children, A Second Chance for Wings, and Adrift on the Starry Sky.