Friday, April 12, 2013

The importance of timely registration

In the past I had seen that some events had to cancel their event due to low registration. When they cancelled the event they were met with disbelieve from participants. All said that they would've registered and paid, as would their friends.

Well we've experienced something likewise with Calam now. We've had to cancel our upcoming event as the registration was low. While we knew some people could not come, there was a big questionmark on people who we believe would register, but just didn't.

It's nice that people tell us that they are coming to our event. It's nice that they say on Facebook that they are going to our event. But we can not take that in account if they do not register on our website and pay the participation fee. Only then are we about 99% sure that those people will really attend.

Now most of the time we don't really make a fuss about this as in 99% of all cases we get the number of expected people in the end. But this time it looked a bit too close a shave for our taste. Certainly with the amount of work it would take us to bring all our gear to the remote location (more than 2hour drive (one way) for us, x2 to get all the gear there). And then all the hours to set up the gear to give our players a nice game location. => look for a 10+ hours to get everything there and set it up.

So we've decided to cancel the event. But we gave a bonus to those who registered on time: they get a free event (excluding food and drinks) and custom scenario. All which will take place in my own forest (yeah, first larp there :-) ). That way those who did register on time and already were preparing themselves for the event will get what they wanted and more. A way of saying 'thank you' from us to them, for registering on time.

So, if you like an event and want the organisers know that you'll attend: register and pay on time!
That way the organisers KNOW that you are really attending.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Poort was great

Two weeks ago was the Poort larp. Suffice it to say that I had a great time.

Poort is one of those larps that got me started in the hobby. I still remember my first event, being awed by all the sights and sounds that come with a larp event.

A couple of events back, Poort had a reset, meaning that all old characters had to retire. This was due to their game system where some characters were overpowerful when compared with new characters. It led to a playerbase with little new characters.
While I'm not sure that the current game system will prevent that imbalance over time, it had the desired effect: a lot of new characters and even a lot of new particpants.
The past event was one where there were a lot of new faces.

Although it was cold (5°C) I was playing my Wood-Elf hardcore: sleeping in the wood in my hammock. It was fun :-)

While Poort is still a bit an Old School larp with skillpoints, damage shouting, fireball magic and battleboarding I had a great time. I think it all has to do with what I can expect from an event.
If I know that people will be talking about soccer and computer problems, I'm more inclined to not bother when that happens.
On the other hand if I ever here people talk OOC about soccer or computer problems at a Dumnonni Chronicles event I would really be annoyed!
So Poort was great. If their participation fees will not be raised I'll be there in September, else I'll use the non-spent money for buying more larp stuff :-)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Larp magazine

People who know me, know that I'm the one who always has grand ideas.
I want to own my own larp terrain, I want to organise a pirate larp with real sailing ships and an island, I want to organise a larp in Scotland while travelling the highlands, I want a larp with horses, etc.
One of this grand ideas was to start a new larp magazine: Cloak&Dagger
I even went as far as to create a small proof of concept.

But alas I was never able to get that first magazine out. My main problem was that I had a lot of things on my mind, mainly renovation of my house. While my life hasn't gotten any less busy, I'm thinking of trying to publish at least one magazine this year.
What do you people think. Should I start again, what topics should it mention? Would you be willing to help out (I would make it using Scribus)?

Prices for larps

Two weeks ago I wrote about larp budgetting and prices for larps and I came to the conclusion that larps can be inexpensive and still deliver quality, as long as people keep to a budget.
It seems that this topic is still hot here in Belgium.

Last week Oneiros vzw made it public that they've decided to raise their participation fees for player characters (PC) from €105 to €120 while dropping the fees for non-player characters (NPC) from €55 to €50.
Some months ago this intent was posted on their Facebook page and got a lot of comments. There were a lot of people thinking it was time prices were raised, while others, like me, were against it.
But the ball has been dropped and now the prices for all their events have been raised for the PCs.

For me it is simple, I believe €120 to be too much money for an Oneiros larp. Yes foods and drinks are included, but as I've stated in my previous post, you can have a larp where players pay €80 (including foods and drinks).
I've run the Manticore larp with Oneiros vzw for all it's events and we could easily have lowered the price to €90 and still make a healthy profit for the organisation.
I believe that if people really want they can lower their prices and still deliver the same quality.

On the other hand I understand why Oneiros raised their PC fees. They have a lot of material and they need to rent a big place to stock it all. Such a place costs a lot of money and they've noticed that each of their events has less and less participants, meaning less and less income for the organisation. Also their Manticore and Caege project have stopped so that's less income from those events.
I just wonder if the price increase will not scare off people. I mean, I'm already one person who will no longer participate at Oneiros' Poort events, just because of the price increase.

As far as I know all larp organisations in Belgium have as goal to promote larping. I don't think that can be achieved by having a high price tag. UNLESS you get a lot in return for the money.
I would pay more for a larp if I know that the experience will be really good. I mean, I spent up to €110 euro extra to go larping in the UK. Making my total pay (excluding food and drinks) for the Empire larp to 173 euro. Of course the price get's lower once someone accompanies me to the UK. But that's still a lot of money to go play in the UK.
But for me it's worth it because the game delivers what I want in a larp: IMMERSION, VISUAL REALISM, GREAT ROLEPLAY.
As far as I understand I won't be getting extra value for the €15 price increase I'll have to pay in the future. So for me it's no longer worth it.
Also as a larp organiser (Calam and Manticore) I know how much a larp costs and I know that you don't need to ask €120 to go by.

It is my believe that this price increase will actually harm Oneiros as they will loose more PCs than they will gain NPCs making the net result a loss.
I hope for them that I'm wrong and that they'll keep their public, but I don't have high hopes for it. I've analysed their participation lists from the last years and I see everywhere one constant => less and less participants for most events. So increasing the price is not what brings more people in. Especially since there is so much larp choice here in Belgium. With more than 20 larps a year to choose from.
But still, I'm sure that for some people €120 is not that much for a larp and I can understand them. But for me it's too much for an Oneiros larp. And as said, the Heroquest larp in the UK has higher prices than that and still keeps on going.

So in the end I think that a participation fee can be anything as long as you have enough people willing to pay the price. I hope for Oneiros that the future will prove me wrong.

ETA: also look at the medium age of the PCs, they're all getting older. High participation fees make it more difficult for students to participate as a PC, meaning that these people will go to a larp that has lower fees.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Immersion in Larp

I've been talking a lot on how my larp experience have changed after attending the Dragonbane larp.
A year later I also went to Knudepunkt in Denmark, where I was even more influenced by how we can improve Larps over here.
Since those days I've been sold on the immersion thema and done my best to introduce it in my games.
With the new Empire larp in the UK upcoming the team, under leadership of Matthew Pennington started to look into how they can improve their game. The below video is one where Matthew talks about immersion.

It's a great watch/listen for anyone new to the term immersion in the larp world.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Farewell to Alcharion

I still remember the day when I entered the local game store and saw some friends huddled together. Seems they were having a meeting to start a new larp, Alcharion.
Since that day a lot of things have changed to their original concept (as far as I knew), but they nevertheless caused a lot of good times for people in the larp community.

So it was with some sadness that the last event of Alcharion was held last weekend.

I hadn't participated in about 5 years, as I had grown out of how Alcharion was run. Although for years I had a great time at Alcharion, I was ever anxious for their next event. But at one time I went to Dragonbane, which forever changed my look on larping.

So when the last event was announced and friends asked me to come over, I knew I had to adapt my expectations. And well, I wasn't disappointed. I still got the look and feel of the Alcharion that I knew from years ago.

You see, I've always considered Alcharion the larp where the larp-newbies start out. It had low costume standard, a lot of fights where you always tried to increase the damage you could do, you might find more OOC talk than in other larps, etc.
And there's nothing wrong with that. As there are a lot of people who actually like that kind of game.
Not everyone is a larp purist :-)

With these things in the back of my mind I attended the event and, as said, I wasn't disappointed.

Me at Alcharion years ago
But upon closer looks I did notice some differences. Costumes of all participants were of a higher standard than what I remembered. I saw people who looked their part, from head to toe. On the other hand there were still people (mostly OOC people) wandering around in modern clothes, because they were not yet playing an NPC or such. But I didn't mind this, as it was one of the things I had expected.

Now I won't say that this last Alcharion was the best ever, but it was a good one. And frankly, they did a tremendous job bringing the story to a satisfying end. Especially all the characters from old times who made an appearance was really appreciated.

At the end we, the heroes, got nice a IC thank you speech, along with cava bubbles, snacks etc. All heroes were rewarded for their part in saving the land and such.
Me at the same event as other photo, but in 'disguise' ;-)

So with this I want to thank all those that had a role in making Alcharion the larp it was. For some it was a nice game along the road, while for many others it was the start of new hobby.

I hope that there will always be larp with a low entry level, so that new players to the hobby have a nice starting point. 'Cause frankly, we all started larping with costumes that were pieced together of what we had.

Here is the link to a lot of pictures of past Alcharion events on Flickr:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bugetting a Larp

Everyone wants to make their larp successful and popular. One of the factors that accomplish this is good budgetting.
If the financials of the event are well handled you can lower your registration fee and thus giving your participants more bang for their bucks.

I've always went for strict budgets when I've organised a larp. Always asking: do we really need to spend money on X or Y?
My main rule of thumb has always been: "do we already have something in our stock that we can re-use for the same effect instead of buying/making something new?"
That of course led to the fact that on the Manticore larp we never had a new monster for each event. This while others were able to offer that to their participants.
On the other hand, you don't have to have a new monster each single event. Although I do understand how this anticipation of new monsters can make people keep participating.

The same goes with food, you can spend a lot of money on catered food, but having a volunteer kitchen crew can also bring the costs down and still give people quality food.

A location is always something difficult. I've organised larps on locations that were super-expensive and on locations that were almost free. One of the reason why it's good to stick with your participation fee is that when you choose a cheap location, you save more money. That money can then be invested when next time you go for a more expensive location, without having to raise the participation fee.

So why am I talking about this? Well, some people have been saying that they don't want to attend some Calam larp events because they thought it too expensive.
This gave me a mixed feeling as I've always thought Calam was a larp that gave the most bang for its buck: €80 euro (player), including food and drinks. But then I've discovered another larp, Nara, which offers almost the same for €55. That's a big difference!

So when you compare those prices Calam is indeed more expensive. Until we take a closer look.
Nara's participation fee is without drinks. So if we take €15 for drinks that brings the price at €70, still €10 lower than Calam.
So it's understandable that €10 is a big difference. Although when compared with some other larps at €105 the difference is minimal.
But I've seen that at Nara the price is €45 for NPCs (excluding drinks), while Calam asks €40 (including drinks).
So maybe we are not that different. Players pay a premium at Calam, but our NPCs pay less. This is mainly so because NPCs have to play a role written by the organisation, while players can play however and whatever they want (within the game world).
The reason why Calam has a lower participation fee for NPCs is that NPCs have always been a problem the last years in larps. Events have had it more and more difficult to find sufficient NPCs to fill their game world. Today the price at Calam for an NPC is almost 100% the cost of food and drinks that we provide them with.
Of course one can argue that an NPC is also having a lot of fun during a larp, which I personally hope they have. And that they therefor should also pay more. But sometimes a NPC has to play numerous roles during a weekend, he or she has to die numerous deaths, etc. This all to make the PC feel like the hero.

So in short larps can be organised cheaply (see Calam and Nara) while still providing quality for the participants. At least I hope people enjoy the quality we provide at Calam :-)

On the other hand organisations need their events to make some profit in order to pay for stock-rental, new props/costumes, maintenance of existing props/costumes etc.

In Belgium our hobby is facing a decline in attendance for each event. This is mainly due to the abundance of larps we can choose from. Where in the past there were maximum 6 events/year in whole Flanders there are now easily more than 20 events/year (check Larpkalender for their, not yet complete, overview of 2013).
Participants have become more picky, rightfully so, because they have more choice. So we all need to do our part in keeping our participants happy.
Some do it with low prices, some with very high quality, some giving exclusivity(1), etc.
But here in Belgium there is a thin line. One bad event can be enough to loose a lot of participants.

Anyway, no matter what type of larp you offer, budgetting is something important for any larp to survive. Bad budgetting can lead to negative financial results and/or people feeling cheated in paying too much for the delivered quality. The main question to ask yourself while budgetting your event is: "Do we need this, will this make the event better?"

Happy larping.

(1) Heroquest larp in UK charges up to £500 (5 day event), but has only 10 PCs and a lot of (non-paying) NPCs, making their PCs really the feel of a band of heroes on a real adventure.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A lot of tidbits

2012 was, for most of it's part, a great year for me in larping.

We had for the first time 2 Calam events which were in general well received. I furthermore attended 4 UK larp event (3 Dumnonni Chronicles events and the last ever Maelstrom event), having a blast at each of these.
Next I attended Conquest of Mythodea in Germany and lastly 4 larp events in Belgium (2 of Poort and 2 of Saga)

Man, seems I did 11 larps last year :-)

Saying goodbye to some events

While I had a great time on most of these event I was sadly very disappointed in one. A larp that used to have very high standards in decorating an ugly modern building into a nice in-character building. The last year those standards just were not present. I'm talking about Saga, an Arabian Nights style larp that was really one of the best in Belgium.
At their last event the best decorated area was one done completely by players, any other decoration was almost non-existent. If that was the only thing missing I might still continue, but for myself I was really bored and even thought of going home while the event was still going on!
I never really felt myself part of the game the last 2 events. This in contrast to the past where I was very often really highly immersed in the game. Combine this with the fact that I do 10+ larps a year and you can understand that I'm no longer going to Saga.
This really saddens me as I have very good memories of great roleplay at their events in the past. But sometimes you have to make a choice. And since the last year didn't live up to the standards I came to expect from it I have to say goodbye to some very good memories.

This year I'll most probably will also say goodbye to Conquest of Mythodea (CoM). The reason for this is that I only go to CoM to meet some friends, have a good time, do some shopping and enjoy the atmosphere. I'm not going there for the roleplay. Although I still make sure that I'm part of the game. But the thing is that (a) I have to take 3 days of holiday for this event, (b) it's a bit expensive considering what you get in exchange for your money, (c) it's a long drive and (d) I'll be going to more UK larps this year.

New events in 2013

While I'm saying goodbye to some events I'm also going to a new one. I'm talking about EMPIRE.
This new larp is a product of Profound Decisions, the company behind the Maelstrom larp I attended a couple of times.
I've been following the news of this new larp over the past year and it looks really promising. They really want to raise the standards of UK larping and go for high immersion, high costume standards, high roleplay standards, light rules, etc.
I've planned to go to their last 2 events of the year (July and September).

For the rest I'll keep going to Poort and Dumnonni Chronicles. And I'll keep organising Calam.

Larp kit plans

With Empire coming up this year, I'll be needing to make some new costumes.
This year I'm planning to make:
  • new leather armour for my Wood-Elf at the Poort larp
  • brigantine + new costume for my Empire - Marshes character
  • new tunic for my bard at Dumnonni Chronicles
  • chests and chairs for DC and Empire
If I have time left I'll also try to make a new portable IC tent that I can carry on my back during a larp.

Anyway, 2013 looks like a very promising larp year for me. There will be one Big Goodbye to CoM, but in return I expect a blast at Empire.

Keep larping