Posted on October 23, 2004 by Monica Valentinelli
Book of LARP
Written by Sandy Antunes, Mike Beddes, Jeff Diewald, John Kammer, Ryan Markle, Gordon Olmstead-Dean, Mike Tracy, & Mike Young
Reviewed by Monica Valentinelli
What is “LARP?” How do I design a “LARP?” As a GM, how is this different from tabletop gaming? The book of LARP, written by a team of writers, sets out to answer those and several other questions. Written for the novice or beginner LARPer, the book sets out to direct interested players on all aspects of a LARP game.
A difficulty with having so many people involved in any instructional work, is the flow of language. Surprisingly, “The Book of Larp” was written clearly. One can tell that the project was delegated early in the book’s concept stages. The instructional portion, although written by more than one writer, has just enough humor to add an enjoyable conversational tone to the piece. The style is well-structured and consistent throughout the book. Of special interest is the impartial commentary that appears throughout the book on various topics. For example, when discussing the different LARP systems the book recognizes that while the much heralded “Rock, Paper, Scissors” system of mechanics is convenient and easy to use, there is also a strong potential for a character cheating. Any player who reads the book will appreciate the straightforward style of writing, and the range and depth of topics in LARP available.
The book begins with a definition of LARP and addresses the GM. From there, the book discusses subjects in LARP that range from choosing a room location to picking out lighting for ambience. While it is true that there are little to no subjects on LARP that the book could have missed, the book is extremely difficult to follow due to its layout.
Interspersed between the instruction are several, smaller LARPs. The LARPs themselves are geared toward beginner players. Ranging from a few to several players the sample LARPs could have been set up differently, so that the reader knew the purpose of their placement. The remainder of the book’s layout makes sense. The Chapter headings are clear and easy to follow, as are the sections that follow the headings. The Table of Contents is an excellent reference tool for any curious reader looking for a specific topic.
Beyond the layout, the art and the choice for fonts and headings were poorly chosen. Most roleplayers will find themselves disappointed at the quality of the artwork that takes place throughout the book.
Overall, I thought the book contained useful information. While I was not impressed with the storyline of the sample LARPs, they serve their purpose well. If, when reading LARPs like “Michael Clambino’s Fundraiser” a gamer treats the experience as a learning one, using the samples that are in the book would be invaluable to any beginner. Additionally, the writers should be given credit for writing sample LARPs that cross genre. All sample LARPs are complete with character motivations and props that can be easily photocopied. All the guesswork and set up time is taken out from these LARPs, which will make it attractive to someone who has never played this type of game before.
After reading the different LARPs, I found there was one that was both versatile and seemed like a lot of fun to play. “All the President’s Zombies” is a sample LARP for nine players. Reading it, even the most timid gamemaster will feel confident that they are providing an enjoyable experience for their players. The LARP instructs the GM what to say and when to say it. This LARP also acts as a great set of training wheels because it is a short, timed LARP. Based heavily on government politics and speculation about the appearance of zombies, this game would also appeal to any conspiracy theorist. As a plot device, the game ends with a press conference. This is a brilliant maneuver on the part of the writers. What better way to try LARPing? This way, it only lasts for a set amount of time, and if players don’t like to LARP they are not committed to more sessions.
The Book of LARP is a primer for all other LARP books on the market. Because of this, there really is no comparison to other setting-specific LARPs that are available.
For anyone who hasn’t LARPed before or would just like to try it, this book acts a great introduction to this type of gaming. For the experienced LARPer, the book may be valuable in the sense that it offers a fresh outlook on the game.