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Shaping play. Metagaming. Managing expectations. Off-game plotting. It’s all about being your own director: ways you can manage your play experience without ‘cheating’ or spoiling things for other players. Ideally, you’re adding to the richness and satisfaction of their game as well as your own.

Present: Chris, Graham, Hanbury, Michael, Mo, Nick, Rei, Richard, Steve.

After playing two tables of influential scene-shaping tabletop RPG Montsegur 1244, there was a short discussion about steering in a larp context. Mo said that Montsegur foregrounded the player’s task of shaping their own game experience – and of helping to shape the experiences of the other players – by making choices about what scenes to frame, who to involve, and what to do to them.

While larps are most commonly not formally divided into scenes, from each player’s point of view they can usually be considered as a sequence of encounters – so even in purely trad larps or uk-freeforms, players will be deciding who to talk to next, which goal to pursue when, and so on.

And then in Nordic(-style) larps there may be meta-techniques available to help other players steer you. For example, an internal monologue can let you express your character’s secret desires. Other players, hearing, can act upon that new out-of-character information and give you game accordingly. Or eg. a meta room could be used to explore possible alternative futures.

Richard felt that offering and acceptance lay at the heart of improvised games. He raised the meta system in The Monitor Celestra (described by Drew at a meeting last year) whereby players could indicate their willingness to have violence used against their characters by escalating the shouty aggressiveness of their play. This way, no break in the frame was required.

Handing over to Richard:

I think that Nick had it right in saying that, where you are directing yourself (e.g. looking to both raise and resolve your experience) that this can lead to a lot of lonely fun. Engaging the other players in your plot should be integral.

Additionally, it’s better if they engage with their own agency (i.e. in their own way) than merely as a mouthpiece for what you wish to happen to yourself. So I think it is better to say where you want them to push your character (or more generally where you want to play) rather than saying what you want them to do.

Where it comes to conveying where you want to play with your character, I think that the best (and hardest) is to be able to convey this through the character; second-best is through the game (by using game mechanics, say); and least best (though easiest and often clearest) is outside the game.

For me, this comes down to the basics of offer and acceptance. This is impro 101. Where the challenge and complexity is, is in creating the most effective and elegant systems by which I can express my offer of where I wish to play with my character.

More challenging: different forms of acceptance. e.g. if someone wishes to be pushed on their character’s particular addiction then there are multiple different ways to achieve that. Would be interesting to think through the spectrum of different ways to engage with the same subject matter.

This would help with the matter Nick raised of the challenge of balancing making my own offers while at the same time accepting others. If I can engage with their subject matter in a way that also pushes my character in the way I want then it’s win-win.

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