Friday, 30 January 2015

Crewing and Monstering


In my experience the vast majority of LRP game worlds are populated by the player characters and by NPCs (None Player Characters). The second group are played by some form of crew. At some games players are encouraged (or required) to take time out from playing in order to fill this crew role. Other players do the same for them. Sometimes crew are dedicated, and NPCs can appear briefly, or be regular recurring characters who are there as often as players are.

ladybird on a nettle leaf


I really enjoy crewing events. A lot of people do. I enjoy taking time to be something different. Some people are less keen, feeling that it infringes on their play time. There is a certain requirement to crew. If you’re playing a game where players regularly take time out to crew for other players as part of the system, then you should probably be doing the same.

Good monstering requires a few things. In my experience monsters are responsible for providing a base layer that the system will add to to make it fit the brief (unless otherwise discussed). For Alone games (no longer need to speak of this as if it’s entirely in the past, Yay!) we ask people to wear head to toe black (often with gloves). The kit they wear over is fairly tight fitting so we recommend thermals for warmth. For fantasy games the basic requirement is a long sleeved top and long trousers that don’t look utterly modern. This rules out jeans, combat trousers etc, but plain black jogging trousers or yoga trousers work very well. For the top, we prefer an ic style shirt, but can usually find a way of covering a plain long sleeved t-shirt.

Making opposing forces visually distinct reinforces the sense of difference, and can be used to create nice visual effects. CP ran a battle where a wave of bright red clad monsters broke over a ridge. The visual impact of the hundreds of people dressed in bright red was much more than if they’d been dressed in more mundane costume. They used plain red tabards (rectangles of red cloth with a head hole in the middle). Empire have invested in a large number of orc masks and armour, as well as writing a detailed brief outlining what barbarian orcs look like. This enables people to bring their own monster kit, or use the stuff pd provide. A pile of shirts/trousers in a variety of colours cover up the worst costuming sins and also provide a colour branding to the army to give it an identity and let the players know who they are fighting.

For zap fest we had a near zero budget for monster kit. Fortunately we have a workshop full of stuff from past games that we can work with to run events. We needed a few monster races, and we used a couple of sets we had (lizard people and bird people) to create these. They looked like something out of a 1950s b movie, but that was fine because they were playing as characters in a 1950s b movie.

Crew also include roles such as referees and technicians who deal with elements like electronics and props. We try and build these in. For example at Alone they are robots who have maintenance roles on the base, and at Zap Fest we gave them wardrobe coats and they were the stagehands (an idea stolen from rockets and ray guns I believe).

Crew are important. We expect a lot from them. We expect them to turn up (50% of those who initially say they will don’t), we expect them to be responsible for the enjoyment of our players. We expect them to play a range of roles and to be adult and sensible about what they’re doing and why. We expect them to help us with setup, and with running the game, and to some extent with take down. They’re our team, and they’re amazing. In return we feed them, We allow them sleep (4 hours a night), we may give them some utterly mindless roles, but we’ll also try and build in some roles that are interesting to play. We’ll listen to their suggestions and if we’re sitting up all night rewriting plot we encourage them to join us.

LRP in the UK runs on its crew. A lot of them are also players, most of them are amazing people and they tend to be utterly bought in to making the game run well. They want a deep immersive world, and they want the system to be around in the future. The crew are the best part of our hobby.