Week #4

This week:

  • Blog post about the basic design principles of Pentagram
  • Edits on the E&D policy, need to get it out for a second feedback round before setting it in stone.
  • More work on the Leviathan ticketing system it’s now possibly to buy tickets for multiple people, and then assign them to others, by email address. Appropriate emails are sent as a result.
  • Initial investigations into 3D printing. Yes, this translates as “Alasdair bought and played with a new toy, without much success”, but the reason to buy this toy was make widgets for LARP, so it counts.

It’d be really good to get a UI/UX designer involved with codename Leviathan, because right now, it’s a terrible bodge job.

Pentagram: Design In Public #1

Pentagram is currently planned to be the first serial-form LARP designed from the ground up as a Badgers and Jam game, and I’m hoping a certain amount of thinking in public will be useful both in designing the game, and to players when deciding if they want to play. I’m not going to put massive amount of setting or plot information into these posts at the momement, but rather use them to articulate thoughts on the design-space of the LARP.

A brief summary of the current plans, then. Pentagram is intended to run every other month for a game size of between 40 and 60 people, for 8 hours, something like 2-10pm, in a venue TBD. The setting is a Lovecraftian post-apocalypse, but the game is not intended to be a horror game.

The fact that we’re still venue TBD (and will likely be so for a while yet, there’s a lot of basic building blocks to put in place before we’re ready to do that – I don’t want to book and commit to dates until more of the key prep is done) places limits on the design thinking that can be done, but at the same time, there’s stuff than should be done before the space is booked, so that the space can be booked that fits most of the goals.

So, questions that need to be answered. I haven’t expressly talked about most of these with my co-designers yet, but I will be doing that at our next meeting, and right now, I just want to feel out my answers to them by writing.

  • What feeling do we want most players to have after an average session?
  • What is the theme of the game?
  • What style of game is this intended to be?

That first question is the most important – creating a LARP experience is about creating feelings in people. Obviously, not everyone is going to come away feeling the same after every event, and every event should feel different, but I should be able to identify a default, a baseline, as an aim.

“Tired-but-accomplished” seems like a fair answer. I want people to feel like they’ve done something challenging, something that had a cost, and I want them to feel, on some level, good about what they’ve done. “Tired” might mean physically, mentally or emotionally, and “accomplishment” will vary from person to person, but I want people to feel like they’ve used up resources to do a thing they wanted or needed to do. (Those feelings might be IC or OOC, but that’s the general final emotional tone Pentagram is aiming at.)

I think what excites me most about having that answer is the focus is provides. Despite honestly never having consciously considered it before now, there are obviously loads of reasons why the setting and design we’ve done so far will play well into that – it’s what we’ve been designing towards without really articulating it like that. Having done that now, it’ll help provide focus to the rest of the design.


This one, I have considered and talked about. The key theme is about individuals as part of wider societies. Not Individial vs. Society. “Part of” is the key phrase. I’ll want us to come up with a minor theme or two as well, but the key one needs to be reflected across the whole design.


I am expressly aiming to build a hybrid game here. I want an element of the scale of fest games, in that they can facilitate multiple different modes of play coupled with the social/emotional focus of “parlour” games, and some of the formal experiments of “nordic” larp. I would also like the moon to park itself atop this stick, if that’s not too much trouble.

One of the things I am keenest to try and do is investigate replicating the physical action elements of fest LARP (on a smaller scale) without a component of simulated violence.

It’s not that I don’t intend there to be violence, but I want to to be coded as something other than “problem solving”. The violent elements of most LARP tend to have a tone of “heroic action” (even if the people doing the acting are, by sane standards, bad guys) – that is, succeeding in violence is an act accomplishment. I do not like that message.

Armistice: Lessons Learned

If I had to rank the order of the Badgers and Jam games in terms of success, Armistice would come in second, I think. A long way from being faultless, but also in a lot of respects, the most ambitious game to date.

Uptime System

The system was designed as a halfway house between negotiated play and rules-based, that was outcomes based rather than actions based.

The outcomes based design idea clearly worked, but in hindsight, going harder for negotiated play would have worked better – most times the rules based elements were invoked lead to confusion, and the clear sense that things didn’t hang together correctly. The negotiated elements were new to most players in the system, but seemed to work well, and I think provide a base to work from. I’m keen to try a negotiation-within-boundaries system as a next attempt to to combine a rules-based and a negotiation-based approach.

The wide breadth of powers available within the system worked, for all many of them were never taken – it added to the desired sense that this was a system in which someone could play anything.

Downtime System

The economy didn’t work as hoped. The occasions it was disrupted were super-effective, but the overall idea the economy was trying to communicate didn’t connect. Next time, I’ll be more willing to make larger adjustments, sooner.


This was something I found interesting – several players flagged that they never really knew “what the game was about”. I’ve always been able to describe it as “finding out what soldiers do when the war ends” or “soldiers in an uneasy peace at the end of a war”. But many players were looking for a more narrative answer than that, and the designed-in lack of one was less satisfying for that.

Another experiment was in having the PCs define the terms of the social contract by which the characters operated – the first sessions of the game were, effectively, them hammering out a peace treaty. The general consensus was that they did it too well, and hamstrung themselves when it came to generating conflict later. There’s a reason most systems impose a social code, and leave it full of holes for people to wrangle over.

NPC design was generally praised – they were found to be fun, dramatic, and engaging, without overpowering (except in the obviously designed ways), which was nice, although as with all things, it would not have hurt for me to be more explicit about what certain NPCs were “for” (in the sense that they were “for” anything). No-one had any strong objections to the fact that certain (clearly marked) NPCs operated on a different rules set (geared around the idea that they were group antagonists), as long as they felt those rules were clear.

I’m sure there was more, but this lot represents the macro-scale of my key takeaways of what went right and wrong, and if anyone who played has further feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Week #3

The week:

  • More work on the ticket booking system. LARP ticket booking is annoyingly complex when it comes with pre-event activity that multiple people may need to undertake.
  • Final wash-up from Armistice. Really need to get the notes from that written up.
  • Early conversations about some manufacturing for props for a LARP later in the year.
  • Scheduling for a few months more LARP. Looks like the first official Badgers and Jam game will be a run of The Great After Party in July.

Things may get a little spotty over the next couple of weeks, as I’m starting a new full-time job, and have a reasonable amount of freelance work to do as well, so Badgers and Jam time will be limited, and will probably continue to focus on the coding side of things.

Week #2

This week in Badgers and Jam

  • Wrote up the meeting notes from Pentagram planning session #3
  • Added massively improved user and game management tools to the company master system (now codenamed Leviathan).
  • Implemented some key notifications in Leviathan, and worked on the ticket purchase system.
  • Wrote up some company principles.
  • Blog post on unfocused thoughts on narrative as a system in itself.
  • Informal meeting on another LARP project, which is well-formed but without public-facing name, coming in November.

Some Basic Principles of Badgers and Jam

It’s probably worth setting out what Badgers and Jam believe is good.  What sorts of things we want this company to stand for.  It’ll mean we have something to measure up to.

We believe in the following things:

  • Equality and Diversity.  Our games should be welcoming spaces for everyone.  Not every game has themes or setting or mode of play that is for everyone, but no-one should feel like they’re not welcome to participate to whatever extent they can if they want to.  We might politely suggest that a given game’s content is not designed in a way that will be fun for a given person, but if they listen to us, and still want to play, then they should, at minimum, feel welcome to try.
  • Fun.  If it’s not fun, we should not be doing it.
  • People who work, get paid. We’re not saying we can make a full-time living at this.  But we believe that everyone on our crew should walk away slightly better off for working on a game event.  So we’re going to factor a token payment (and let’s be clear: it really will be a token) for crew into our event costs.  It’ll be the same amount for everyone who works the game, whether they’re the event manager, the game designer, the NPCs or the support crew, but if someone works on the crew for the entire event, they’ll get paid.
  • Listening to feedback.  We’re never going to be faultless.  We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to doing things wrong.  We’re human.  But we hope the the measure of us will be found in how we react when that happens, in how we improve, and how we stop the same mistakes from happening again.