With online LARP now taking centre stage due to the pandemic. What is the takeaway? What are the pros and cons? Is online LARP a positive or a negative? Should it continue this way after the pandemic?
First, we need to look at what online LARP is. Online LARP is live action role play done over the internet. It is usually played over programs such as zoom, roll 20, and discord. Games are played in real time though voice, video, or even text.
Now that we have established what online LARP is, let us look at the pros of playing it online. We will start with pros for the players, with the first being that there is no travel because it is done though the internet. This saves the players and game runners money as there is usually less cost in costuming and equipment. This allows people to try LARP at a smaller starting cost to the player. Another pro for players is that they are able to meet in between games, staying connected and can move small plots forward. Community is a particularly important thing at LARP and going online is a tool used to connect and grow your community. Through interactions online, doing tasks together in game allows players both new and old to experience and get a feel for the game and how it plays. This is great for improving immersion. It is much easier to get into character if you are familiar with why and how things run. This also allows both players and plot to find which type of interaction works best for both sides. Not being bogged down on rules and logistics makes game fun for everyone.
Let us go on to the pros for game owners. The first pro is that it allows game runners to test NPCs ((non player characters)) ability to run plot. They can easily supervise what they are doing and help them if they require help. It is great advertising because with the internet will allow you reach players all around the world. The internet is a big place, and it will allow game to draw from players across the globe. Global players can often bring unique ideas and thoughts to the game, making it more diverse and full of new ideas. There is also little cost to run the game online and it can still make money. Money which can be used to improve the quality of the game by buying better props or paying NPCs, making online LARP the most cost-effective way to evolve the game. It also allows plot to get a feeling for their players and learn what they want in game, allowing them to provide a better game for the players. I mention this twice because it is the crux of LARP, a fun experience for both players and NPCs alike.
Here are a couple tips for game owners that I have found help in improving the experience of online LARP. Try to use sound effects, music, pictures and possibly video to make the online experience feel as immersive as possible. Some people, such as I, have Dyslexia and other learning disabilities that make interaction through reading and writing exceedingly difficult. By adding these things, you can make game more immersive and accessible to all.
Now for the cons of online LARP, one being if your plot is not particularly good does not show up. The players will quickly become disenfranchised with your LARP and leave your game. It is hard to get the same feel online as it is in person. There is a special feeling of just hanging out with people in person that online LARP has a difficult time creating. I have also found that if the group is too large it can be hard because people can talk over other people and combat can drag on. So, if you are running online LARP, try to keep the groups smaller. Run about six players to one plot member.
Competition for online LARP comes in the form of video games, dungeons and dragons, and other traditional tabletop games. The game runners can investigate how the competition works. This will allow the game runners to provide a game that fills a void that others are not, making their online experience the best it can possibly be.
So, if we put the pros versus the cons, you will find online LARP should stay around and it is generally a benefit to the game itself. It allows for faster interaction at less cost then traditional LARP because there is no land or insurance cost. Instead of buying props and commissions for a plot people do not want, the plot team can find out what interests their players and run with that. In the end, it allows for more time to build relationships and helps build good RP and trust amongst the community.