LARP: Rules Bloat- Solutions

Hey, guess who’s back! I can’t promise regular updates or anything, but I’m at least finished with college classes for the semester.

Larp rules

The problem with writing a rulebook for something when you have no rules design experience (and little roleplaying experience) should be evident. Of course, since I was fourteen at the time, not so much. I blissfully sat down at the keyboard and pounded out a fifty-page rulebook for my live-action roleplaying system. Naturally, it had some issues. Thus I have lately taken the time to review it, edit it, and condense it.

I decided I had three main goals for the redesign.

1. Make it something people will be willing to read.

Nobody actually bothered to read the old rulebook, probably because it was fifty pages long. Looking back through it, this was probably a good thing.

2. Make the rules easy to internalize and remember.

Complicated maths and large numbers of spells and abilities resulted in two situations: half the time, nobody used the abilities and lost track of hit points; the other half, play had to be paused repeatedly to explain their effects.

3. Create a high level of immersion.

There is a large difference between roleplaying, and whacking each other with swords while talking about school.


First problem, making the book something readable. For that, I simply started fresh. I decided on a guideline of ten pages for rules. What are the essential pieces of the rules that I wanted to keep? I decided on classes, races, and spells. Following my second point, I realized my level system served almost no purpose; its only effects were increasing health, and providing an incentive to show up in costume. But even so, the leveling system meant long-term players would be massively more powerful than a new player, and should the two need to fight there would be no chance of the newbie winning, no matter their skill with a weapon. Instead, I decided long-term players should have in-game advantages, rather than rules-based ones. After removing the leveling system, I obviously did not need higher-level spells either, and left out everything above what had been first or second level. This left a total of ten basic spells. I have also removed some extraneous classes (Freelancer and mercenary were essentially Warriors and Rogues with different flavor texts, while Alchemists relied on a ruleset that had not yet been clearly defined.)

Next, point two. The previous system had swords dealing two points of damage- or three, or one, largely independent of other weapons otherwise equal- and location-based hit points: three on every limb, and five on the torso. While I liked the idea of a location-based system, the rest needed fixed. It’s much easier for a player who has taken a sword blow to subtract one from a number than two, so I decided to make that the damage dealt by a sword. I also decided that hit points should be a bit lower. Thus the new system: the average character has three hit points on every location, though character class and armor may cause this to vary slightly. Additionally, having condensed my spell list, I have made it so that even a warrior character with no spellcasting can give the spells a quick glance and know enough to take any effects when the spell is cast on them.

This ability to internalize also has a great effect on immersion: if all players know, for example, that a sword does one point of damage, and a spell does three, then when they are hit with a sword or a spell they can mentally subtract fairly easily, eliminating the necessity of damage calls. Without damage calls, it is more similar to an actual battle (or at least as similar as foam-sword combat gets).

And that was it. The rulebook is now ten pages long, descriptive, and simple to remember. I have a few other projects I’m working on- cultural dossiers, and better weapons that look more like swords and less like clubs- but the rulebook itself is essentially completed.