Thinking Outside the Box

(Part One)

Financial Structuring

In this series of articles we delve into exciting and different approaches for this new age of role playing experience. This series will explore changing the way we think about mainstream LARP, helping people visualise the business side of things, and exploring new concepts while brainstorming ways to bring a heightened experience to LARP. Financial structuring is something that is daunting to most. Most people have or will experience financial frustration and stress in their daily lives, either in the past, present, or future. Running a business is hardly an exception when it comes to financial pressure. It can be extremely difficult to balance your income with your expenses, and some months break-even is the most someone can strive for.

Owning a LARP is still a business, despite the level of commitment and creativity behind it. Although LARP Owners do bring an element of passion into their business, the silent expenses can cut through and cause stress on all levels of game. If LARP content creators aren’t careful, they can easily be swallowed by their liabilities and a game will end before it even begins. It’s an unfortunate fate for a lot of startup LARP’s, and balancing all the structural elements of the business heavily revolves around monetary organisation.
In order to combat this financial complexity and delve into some expenses new LARP planners may not consider, let’s create a mock-up LARP budget and analyse its contents.

**related prices are not fully accurate prices and are a market estimate from related research (canadian currency) Bare Minimum Requirements

Expense Price
Insurance~$7 per person + $465 Premium ($675 for
30 players) (annual)
Land Rental$30 per night per person (30×30) $900
First Aid Kit$30 annual unless it needs to be replaced
Water$10 (5 cases of water)

Recommended Expenses (monthly game rate) / **prices are hard to pinpoint depending on player donations, thrifting, and what an owner may already have (weapons, etc.)

NPC Costuming/Accessories~$60 per game
Tavern (Food)~$10 per person for 2 meals ($300)
Spare Tents/Lodging (NPC/Emergency)~$100 (depending on cabin rentals)

Recommended Expenses (ongoing)

Expenses Price
Advertising~$200 (very varied depending on free
advertising vs convention booths/rate is an
annual estimate)
Website~*$100 annually

It’s easy to see how it can get overwhelming with so many hidden expenses. Even at the core experience, it’s extremely expensive to camp depending where you go. It’s best practice to talk with the landowners to negotiate a better deal based on the number of clients you’re bringing in per month. Now that we have our expenses, let’s add the amounts to see where the break-even line is.

Monthly ExpansesAnnual Expenses
$900 (campground)$675 (Insurance)
$10 (water)$30 (first aid kit)
$60 (NPC Costuming)$200 (advertising)
$300 (Tavern)$100 (website)
$100 (Lodging/Camp NPC)
$1370 x 12 = ($16,440) Annually$1005 = ($1005) Annually
TOTAL ANNUAL EXPENSES >>>$17,445 ÷ 30 players ÷ 12 months
= $48.45 price per game

For the base LARP experience including insurance, land rental, water and first aid, it would be $32.29 based on the prices listed above. Adding NPC special effects and costumes, NPC lodging and a tavern experience would bring it up to $47.62 per person. With the advertisement side of things it sits at $48.45 per person, per monthly game. Keep in mind this budget illustrates an all year long camping scenario, which is very rare. Most games have an off season where they rent indoor spaces or close for a portion of the year. The off season in most scenarios costs less.

The budget can seem daunting on paper and can make creators feel apprehensive, especially with first time planning. When expenses are divided at the end, it can vastly ease that worry and give more confidence to an owner. This is of course a very simple mock-up of what LARP expenses can be. Content creators may want to add or change some of the suggested purchases to tailor to the experience they envision.

Always remember that most people in the live action role playing scene are very creative and hands on people. It’s easy to source artists, hobbyists, tradesmen and writers. Reaching out to those people or already being part of that grapevine can help you network cost effective alternatives to planning your LARP. It’s also good to remember that a lot of the community is giving for the right price. Some are kind enough to donate clothes and accessories for nothing, others are open to giving what skills and gear they have for a discount or in-game rewards.

Other cost effective alternatives to setting up a LARP or cutting down your already high expenses is thrifting, DIY, and sourcing things from local vendors. Unfortunately, there will be costs you will have to absorb without discount, like insurance. As long as you structure a budget and plan effectively, both annually and monthly, the financial stress will be at a minimum.

This article has illustrated a budget that most can follow and tweak however they see fit. At the end of the day most people pay $50 or more per game, which is very close to our mock-up. Knowing the expenses most LARP’s have, what can a LARP add that most don’t have? For an increased cost of each game, can an owner make a profit? Could we pay NPC’s? Would paying people add a motivator that drives plot further and makes people more motivated? Would players pay for a more immersive experience? We will explore these topics in part two of “Thinking Outside the Box”.

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