I’ve been working on a 12 scene beat sheet for line-course LARP games. As part of the process, I decided I wanted to have a 6 scene version, since that is likely to be a lot more appropriate for 99% of the LARPs out there, and I’ll likely use it as well.
For a quick reference, this is a very meta outline for a mod, describing what happens in each scene in broad strokes. It provides a skeleton, and it’s the detail that adds the meat to it.
There’s a few rules I’m adhering to here.
Rule #1 — Any scene must be a full scene. It must include one (or more) of the following:
- Provide a place for PC development
- confront or challenge a PC’s goal/belief
- introduce new world canon related to a PC
- Establish or increase the stakes
- horizontally increase the stakes with complexity
- vertically increase the stakes with severity
- z-axis increase the stakes by involving more PC, or making it more personal to a PC
- Playground elements (i.e. simple fun)
- There’s something “live-action” related to the encounter, which is something for everybody to interact with physically. This is commonly a combat, but can be physical challenge/puzzle. These elements are like sugary foods, they are great in moderation, but you need something in-between them to cleanse the palate.
Rule #2 — Always try to involve the entire subset of players with every scene
I can best describe this rule by the classic violations of the rule.
- The role-playing scene with a single NPC, which will probably be dominated by just a few PCs.
- The puzzle scene that can only be interacted with by a single player at a time.
Without further ado, here’s the first “beat”, Scene #0.
Scene (0) – Pre-Game Conflict Intro
goal(s): introduce the conflict, identify the characters involved.
element(s): role-play, exposition
This doesn’t necessarily need to be a scene. This is the introduction of the conflict. Ideally this is pre-game with email based “lore” about the conflict, and identifying the players that will be involved.
However, without pre-game lore, this becomes an additional scene by necessity. In the common parlance of a world course game, this is the hook scene.
In the context of hook scene, this is usually the single NPC that comes to the camp, has a problem and asks for help with that problem. This does accomplish the minimal goals, but it breaks both rules #1 and #2.
All too often, the NPC is somebody the players have never met, and the conflict is something the players don’t care about. The players play along, since it’s the content, and they want the content. However, kicking it up into a full scene takes just a simple detail. Simply include something from one character’s background.
There is a simple twist to really kick it up a notch, and it has several side benefits. It does require a kick-ass NPC that can adlib.
(1) The conflict of the mod should relate directly to a PC. The low-hanging fruit here is to have the bad guys be the bad guys for a certain PC.
(2) The “Mr. Johnson” NPC enters the camp, and starts talking to people. The NPC does NOT approach to the target PC. When he talks to people, Mr. Johnson may or may not discuss the conflict. Just as importantly, the Mr. Johnson asks about the PC he is talking to, and relationships the PC has with others. Let them infodump a bit, as everybody loves to talk about their character.
(3) Eventually, the conflict leaks back the the “PC that cares”. If not, the Mr. Johnson can prempt the action by approaching that PC. It’s there that the “hire offer” comes. At this point, the Mr. Johnson has hopefully talked to a small subset of players. Assuming you are not targeting the mod for the entire playerbase, this can be conveniently is about the number of players you intend for the mod, as well as the power level of PCs.
(4) The Mr. Johnson should not immediately say “ok, let’s go”. Instead, they should be trepidatious about the motives, virtues and/or skills of the PCs. Mr. Johnson should do an in-game version of the Circle. Ask each character how they know each other. It’s possible (if your game culture allows it) that the Mr. Johnson could take an ST role here and tell folks OOC that it is appropriate to make up something new here.
(5) The Mr. Johnson, now appeased that the players are virtuous and/or skilled enough to tackle the conflict, presents the offer. This is a great place to confront a PC’s goals and beliefs. Are they in it for the gold, the glory, or the good?
(6) Conveniently, this process takes 15-30 min, which gives time to set up the rest of the mod. It’s also a pretty good chunk of content all on it’s own.
Whatever your conflict is, it’s important that it’s small to start with. Not every adventure is about saving the universe from certain doom. If your conflict starts at the top, it has nowhere to go but down.