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All the World's a Stage: Would a WoW LARP work?


I'll admit I have been known to participate in LARP. (I know, it makes me a horrible person, and I assure you that I'm amply ashamed of myself.) If you're not in that highly elite group of roleplayers who dress up and talk in funny accents, I'll explain for you. LARP stands for Live Action Roleplay. In this sublime RP, you physically act out the majority of your character's action, wear costumes and otherwise go for the deepest immersion possible.

In my own time as a roleplayer, I've had the good fortune to LARP in vampire games, changeling games, steampunk games, fantasy games and even cyberpunk games. I think I've LARPed just about everything you can LARP. And with relatively few exceptions, I've loved it all. If you want to have a good time, there's nothing like standing around in the woods pretending to be a sparkly vampire or an elf.

So, if you're like me, you'd be interested in playing a World of Warcraft LARP. It wouldn't be the first time I've written game rules out of virtually nothing, so I spent some time wondering about the challenges we'd have to overcome to successfully run this game. I saw four main issues. I should say that I don't consider any of these problems insurmountable, but they are issues any gamemaster would need to address.

Some races can't easily be LARPed

One of the primary reasons to LARP is to fully immerse yourself in your character. You're looking to subsume yourself as deeply as possible. Part of that deep immersion is costuming. LARP costuming can be rich, involved and vastly rewarding. An important dynamic in that costuming is makeup, since it allows you to portray fantastic beings or impossible races. So it stands to reason that it's important you be able to costume or wear makeup to take on the roles of the LARP's races.

While most of the Alliance races don't take much makeup to achieve immersion, the Horde races could be a little more problematic. Blood elves are viable for costuming, but that's where the easy cosplay stops. I guess you could wear various undead or zombie style makeup to represent the Forsaken, and maybe some green body paint will get you by if you're playing a troll. But, really, the alien postures of orcs, trolls and tauren would make costuming incredibly difficult.

More importantly, if you're LARPing one of these three races, you need to be able to wear a representative costume and interact with other players. Some kind of body suit might get you looking like a big anthropomorphic bull, but you're still going to have difficulty talking, touching or actually roleplaying.

Warcraft is an adventure story

I consider a successful LARP to have at least 30 players. Thirty players is usually a decent number of characters, motivations and goals to get the game rolling under its own power. If you have too many short of that number, then the game tends to become a more complicated tabletop roleplaying game. So, if your game is going to be successful as a LARP, your game master is simultaneously tending to the needs of at least 30 people.

The reason that is a problem is that Warcraft tends to be an adventure story. It's about heroes going out into the world and doing heroic things. These heroes lead armies and nations. They battle gods and demons. They are epic and dynamic.

By contrast, LARPs tend to be rooted in a single location. It's just part of the method. Thirty or more characters come together to interact, plot and do whatever those characters do. Again, if the player base is much smaller, you're really running a series of tabletops.

While I'm not saying it's impossible to have adventure in LARP, that genre of story just isn't built into the format. As such, I question whether a Warcraft LARP would have the same feel as the tabletop or video games. It would take a skilled game master to make the LARP feel adventurous.

The rules are all about combat

Again, I point out that LARP is mostly about social interaction between characters. Conversely, the problem with most of the World of Warcraft spells, powers and abilities is that they're all about raw combat. This is for obvious reasons, of course, but it leads to making your LARP all about kicking butt and taking names.

Surprisingly, LARP rules for things like lightning bolts are easy to come by. Check out the video at the top of this post, for example. Representing fantastic powers is almost run of the mill for roleplayers. The problem is building on the in-game abilities to expand occult and mental powers, the kind of things you might do in a purely social game.

Do priests get any kind of telepathy? Can they read my mind? Do druids do anything but throw heals and shapechange? Can either of these classes consecrate holy ground? These are the kind of questions that a game master should anticipate. Players choose their classes and races to use these differentiating abilities, and if the only way to use their class is by combat ... the game master will quickly find himself with a game full of fighting characters.

The internal tension isn't automatic

Most World of Warcraft LARPs would probably be based on a single faction, or else the player characters would be locked in constant combat. The problem with this setup, then, is that there aren't many internal politics built innately into the character classes and races. Sure, there's some conflict, but player characters won't launch into scheming or social interaction based on those classes. It's not like either the Horde or the Alliance are happy-go-lucky bunnies without any angst at all. Bur the prestige positions, opinions and attitudes don't generally lend themselves to automatic conflict in game, especially at the PC level.

A savvy game master will work with players while the characters are being created. As you go through that roll-up process, the game master should write conflict and goals for each character. Once the LARP itself get rolling, these conflicts will turn into game motion.

Again, all four of these obstacles can be overcome. But if the LARP would be successful, the game master and players would need to be aware of the challenges and plan for them.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

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