World Course v. Line Course LARPs part 1

This post is in the context of light-combat, large group, rules-heavy, outdoor  “LARP”, the majority of which is medieval fantasy in theme.  LARP definitely encompasses a much wider range of combat, locale, size and rules complexity.

As a disclaimer, I’m line-course advocate, both as a player and as a designer.  World Courses can be more fun to NPC for, if the production quality is enough for the NPCs to always have constant content.

World Course LARP definition

This is probably what you play/run.  These started in the states with NERO, then NERO-clones, then derivations on that, with Acclerant-clones becoming the norm here in Southern California.  The rules changed, the people changed, but the basic structure of the game remained the same.

  • There is a central hub (a town, tavern, camp) where the players congregate.
  • There is a central hub where the NPCs/Plot congregate; “NPC Central”.
  • Groups of NPCs are sent to interact with the players at the hub.
  • Groups of PCs are sent out from the player hub on “mods” to interact with NPCs there.
  • Typically the events span an entire weekend

There are some LARPs that deviate from this formula.  Some decentralize the NPCs, letting them roam free for the game.  Some have more than one player hub.  Some are PVP, some are not.  Many have NPC shifts, where the players spend some part of the event as NPCs.  However, this is the general formula that the vast majority of these games.

Line Course LARP definition

To put in the context that you are most likely to recognize as a World Course LARPer, a Line Course LARP is a game where the events are entirely a single mod for a small team of players.  The mod has several encounters that usually occur in a linear fashion, hence the name “Line Course”.  Often there are several teams of players, an hour or so apart from each other in the encounter sites.  Players will rarely act as NPCs for a portion of the game, and if they do, it is after they have completed the game themselves.

For those that have experienced them, line courses are very the same structure as the “haunted house” events that pop up around halloween.  The players move from room to room, and deal with a puzzle or NPC there.  They then move to the next room.

The #1 difference

Line courses are a much more concierged experience.  The content is created by staff in a much higher ratio than with a world course game.  In a world course game, the ratio from staff to players is MUCH higher, and as a result, the players are left to their own devices to create content.

Some world course LARPs tackle this challenge by introducing PVP, and therefore the players create a large amount of content in this fashion.  The non-PVP larps flourish when the players are heavy-RPers that create content amongst themselves.  Both activities can be guided by staff, but are not created by staff.

Line course games tackle the challenge by having more staff, more preparation, and more logistical work.  The content is almost entirely staff created, with player created content the RP between the members of the small team.

Pros and Cons 

Pro – World Course (and in the converse, a Con to Line Course)*

  • less production/preparation effort needed for staff
  • less staff needed
  • more players can be supported in the aggregate
  • participants spend more time as players than as NPCs

Con – World Course

  • requires a large site, and the site rental fee drives the price up
  • the content requires work on the players part, and cooperation from fellow players for entertainment.
  • it is harder to shine as a player, or have heroic/telling moments with such a large group all competing for those moments
  • an entire weekend free is hard for people with families or other obligations — it is notable that most LARPers are child-free
  • the free-form nature of the World Course makes them children/teenager unfriendly
  • combat encounters tend to be scaled very adhoc and on the fly.  As a result, players are “punished” for doing well in combats.

next week–??? 

Talking about the mixed blessings of world course.

Talking about what each can learn from the other.


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