Goverments within fantasy LARPs
I am currently creating a "Government 101" class for Realms of Conflict and realized that there is a basic flaw within it when it comes to administration. A usual Feudal society goes with the King or Monarch at the top, then to Dukes, Counts, Barons, Lords and finally vassals. Each one dividing up their areas for the lower to work them. The level at which players of a LARP encounters is the Lord of the region, the Mayor of the town and then the vassals or townfolks.
A Lord's or Mayor's duties were to take care of the area. They were to make sure things ran smoothly. There would often be people who were appointed to take care of the various 'categories' to keep a place running. There would be the Sheriff who was in charge of the defense of the town, the farmers who were responsible for feeding people, the tax collector who collected the monies, the guilds who created the items needed in day to day life and the laborers who were responsible for making such things as homes and other buildings. The Mayor would find out what was happening, where resources needed to be allocated to and make sure things worked for everyone to make their lives as comfortable as possible (theoretically).
The problem is that an adventurer is autonomous to all of this because they perform the duties themselves. Their fighting skills defend them, they bring their own tents or have housing available, collect monies from everything they kill, bring their own food and so on. They are, in essence, their own Mayor and vassals. As such, they don't have any need to follow the laws and ways of an area.The question then is what type of ruling system works with adventurers? They don't fear arrest because no game owners would stick a player in a room for their entire game. They will give them shelter and food if they have none and they normally won't bring down the wrath of the powrs that be and kill the character outright. Do LARPs need a special governmental style invented just for them?It's late and sorry if this stuff rambled but I promised myslef I'd get it out before the end of the year.
Re: Goverments within fantasy LARPs
You are correct in saying that in order to have law you need 2 things - you need for the follower to recieve some benefit from following law which is great enough for them to give up absolute freedom to gain that benefit, and you need a fair way to take away that benefit when the law is not followed.
The basic model for law is that people can't, or don't want to, take defend themselves. So a government defends them and in return gets to make laws and enforce them.
However, in a LARP, it is in the best interest of the game not to have an effective outside defense force. Because if the town guard takes care of all the bad guys, the players have much less to do.So the classic societal models just plain don't work. You have to do some more creative things if you want to get some of the benefits of societal simulation.
One route is to create a law structure and enforce it with modified penalties. Long term jail obviously doesn't work as a penalty. However, 15 minutes in the stocks makes for a fun penalty for law breaking. (I've received this punishment before. It was amusing. However, if you construct stocks, consider just making leg stocks that allow you to sit. I had to bend over for several minutes and it made my back ache.)Fines make for an effective penalty, especially if you have some sort of nasty secondary penalty if you can't cough up the fine, like a period of endentured servitude (which shouldn't last more than a couple games).
Another element to game society that can work is to create some positions of authority with specific roles and responsibilities. Hold an election to fill the roles. Have an NPC ready to run for each role, so none of them will be left open. But, of course, the NPC should be a worse choice than pretty much any player character. However, this sort of thing only works when you are willing to have a certain level of PVP in your game. If you are playing a "we're all one big party of friends" game, then town politics won't add anything. You just need to put in place an NPC government full of good and bad guys for the players to interact with and get missions from.
Ideally this could all work together at the same time. You could have a player-run government with player-written laws and player-delivered punishments. However, don't expect that such a thing would come together very quickly. It would need a lot of prompting from staff and a lot of hand holding to get it to that point.
One of the biggest thing that staff can do is to reinforce the societal aspects through NPC interactions. If you have a land-owning system, then have NPCs consistently treat land owners differently than normal folks, so people will have a reason to want to spend their hard earned money on land rather than a glowy sword. If players put together player-run guilds or participate in staff-run guilds, then give them extra plot and other rewards for doing so. And continue doing so consistently over time, not just for 1-2 games. Again, it goes back to the basic Pavlovian reward system. You have to consistently give them something for doing what you want and take things away for doing what you don't want.
(By the way, a fun flipside to institutionalized law is institutionalized corruption. If you have NPC-driven law, have one or two that are known to turn a blind eye if you drop some coin their way. Or if you have PC-driven law, have some NPCs with deep pockets show up and try to buy their way out of being punished.)
Last edited by Rob McDiarmid (2009-03-04 13:38:52)