LARP character retirement

Forced character retirement is the normative in Socal larps.  For those unfamiliar, there’s two parts to this concept:

  1. You may not have a character over X points.
  2. When you reach X points, you get a retirement story arc that makes your character go bye-bye.

Forced retirement is marketed as a means to mitigate and/or remove the large power difference between characters.  This marketing is effectively false, since the power ranges in these games is very broad.  Characters half-way to retirement can be absurdly more powerful than those starting (if they build to do so).  As a result, content that is not silo’d is hard to make a “spike” challenge, and therefore is usually only “attrition” challenge.  Attrition challenges are kinda boring.

However, I do not think the marketing “lie” is a bad thing, since forced retirement does accomplish some other hidden goals that have value.

The biggest of benefit is the introduction of the concept of a character arc early to people.  The game I came from had no concept of character arc, and players needed to discover it on their own.  Many never discovered it, defining their characters, but defining them without the meta-agency to say “this is where the character is going”.

Another benefit is the churning of the IG social miasma.  Yes, people are going to be friends with their OOC friends, and shun people IG for OOC reasons.  Nevertheless, there tends to be cliques, structures and legends that surround certain powerful characters.  The removal of these characters makes room for other folks to take the limelight, or find new niches in the player base.

I come from a non-retirement larp tradition myself, with characters being “eternal”, so I have some insight into the contrast.   I think both models are viable, and give differing benefits.  Perma-character games have drama issues with character death, certainly.  However, there’s definitely an appeal, much like MMOs grant, of ever-ascending advancement.

term definitions

[siloing content] Making content for a specific group of like-leveled players.  (i.e. this mod is for newbs, this mod is for demi-gods)

[spike] A challenge that threatens to dump folks because it is high numbers.  The classic example being high damage NPCs, NPCs with overpowered CC, and brutal traps.  More nuanced versions include severe tactical advantages (ambush, slopes, barriers), or special effects (the NPCs have a catapult, the NPCs have special one-shots).

[attrition] A challenge that wears out player resources, making them less able to respond to later challenges.  The classic example is low level NPCs with multiple respawns.  More nuanced versions include NPCs with low damage, high mitigation.  Also included would be poison/disease that probably won’t kill anybody, but requires precious resources to cure, as well as any other mechanics that eat up daily resources (trap detection/removal, informationals, etc.)


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