Friday, 26 June 2015

Mad Props

I miss having a printer, although I don't think I ever produced anything quite
this pro.
A friend recently posted on her blog about game props, which are things that I have missed creating since I stopped playing tabletop and pub LARP.

I used to do a particularly good line in newspapers, first with MS Publisher, then just in Word or Open Office, churning them out for Isles of Darkness games long after people stopped paying attention to anything but the crossword. A key lesson for anyone hoping to use props and in-character news to plot drop: Be sure that your game and your PCs are such that someone reading about stuff will be inclined to a) care and b) do something that c) isn't hiding. Not that hiding wasn't necessarily a fair reaction in some cases, but it became a grind trying to get anyone involved in anything. "Why should we care?" was the question often asked, and "because I spent all this time writing plot and making newspapers" didn't seem to satisfy.

It's kind of surprising that it took as long as it did for the
internet to fill with motivational poster parodies. My goal for
my next post is now to work in a 'Keep Calm and...' variant.
Social LARP is a bitch for motivations, and while I miss the people I don't interact with as much, as a GM I'm much happier working in a more mission-oriented milieu. Social games are basically a stewpot of characters with intensely personal motives all of whom want you to provide something that will appeal to them in particular, even though they may not have told you what those motives are and may not, in fact, play regularly in their game. I don't think it helped that more than once people got stung chasing plot that turned out to be a trap, or just more than the people who went off could handle. I hear the post-reset IoD is doing better, and I suspect this is not unrelated to the fact that it is new. Everything is exciting again, everything is possible, nothing has been written in the expectation that some titan might turn out to deal with it and wherever the PCs go, they are probably the first to have gone there.

This also means that props like documents and newspapers aren't just plot drops, but a way to explore this new world and see what is happening beyond the social space. At the arse end of a six year chronicle, no one really wants to know what's going on outside their well-defined and well-described spheres of interest and influence, but with a new game, characters are looking for niches and opportunities. It's an exciting time to be a propmaker.

Seriously; so much envy.
But that's the IoD. My current jam is Conflict Resolutions 40K game, No Rest for the Wicked, for which I have volunteered to do some rather more virtual propmaking in the form of wiki writing and setting creation. This includes an expansion on the original sector map to fit in everything that has been mentioned in game, although having seen the picture of the actual map, I am filled with shame for daring to aspire to rewrite it.

In the end though, wikis only partially fulfill my need to create props, but then again one of the advantages of LRP is that you get to do costumes. I have a bunch of stuff to do for No Rest, including but not limited to:

  • Sewing a cassock - probably this weekend - which my girlfriend is then going to embroider.
  • Transforming a cool little belt buckle into something slightly more tech looking.
  • Modding my Nerf guns to look less like orange plastic (major future project).
  • Adding annotating bookmarks to a borrowed copy of the Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer.
But what I have been working on already is my core accessory for every character - the notebook. Each of my characters has a notebook, partly because I need to write down reminders, but also because I find it helps to focus them. I had a flip-open book for my werewolf cop, a little black book for my social fixer, and a fat book in fancy binding for my serious academic. What began as a purely practical choice to keep separate notes for each character evolved into something approaching my LARP signature.

This I'm kinda good at.
For No Rest, I have a handmade notebook I bought in Edinburgh years ago for a PC who died before he got to use it, which needs to contain his collection of scriptures and sermons, as well as scientific notes on various flora and fauna (including half a dozen uses for toad sweat) in addition to any space for in-game notes. I'm really quite proud of it, and desperately hope I don't get greased my first game out.

Props matter, in tabletop as well as live games. Thinking about it, I ought to do more for my online game. Since I don't need to print anything I can just prep the documents and mail them out. I enjoy making them, and it tends to be more accessible than a simple description. If you're running a game, you should give serious consideration to providing props. They're not for everyone, but if you enjoy making them then your players will love getting them.