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.

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