Reflections on a campaign larp


Rune Priest
So from what I could tell and what the players told me (and others afterwards), the players enjoyed my two freeforms at Consequences. Several players want to find out what’s coming next, and other players (who missed one or both episodes) want me to run them again.

Which has me in a bit of a quandary.

The big idea

So a recap.

I’m writing a series of connected freeform larps set in the same universe. The freeforms are based on the science fiction first-contact novels and movies (and other media) that I have always adored.

Some characters appear in multiple episodes. Some characters appear only once. The games are always written for 13 players (although I’ve managed when Life has interfered). The games are also designed to be independent – you need not play in the previous episodes, but I hope you’ll get more out of them if you do.

The games so far are:

The Roswell Incident: Kind of a prequel. Sets the scene and introduces some of the main themes. This is now published by Freeform Games.

All Flesh is Grass: Based on the 1965 Clifford D Simak novel of the same name.

Children of the Stars: The players grapple with another alien race. Friendly or not?

Messages from Callisto: A mission to Callisto has unsettling news.

The Stars our Destination: The next game, which I’ve started, is set on Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

So far, I have run each game twice – so I have two alternate “timelines” taking place.

Timeline 1 is is an online-only game, started in February 2022. It’s suffered from occasional technical difficulties.

Timeline 2 is a face-to-face series that started at Retcon in February 2023 and continued at Consequences in 2023.

There are a few differences between the two – aside from the differences the players have created. I have changed some character names and alien details (one alien has completely changed from my original ideas).

But I’m keen to carry on with them. The two timelines are diverging, which is both scary and exciting.

(I should also note that while I have a vague sense of where I’m heading with the overall arc, I don’t know how I’ll get there…)

Multiple runs

At a convention like Consequences, it’s common to have multiple runs of popular games. This year, The Ashlight Labyrinth and Incense and Insensibility both ran twice.

While that’s an easy thing to do for a one-shot, that’s a little trickier for ongoing games.

One easy answer is to start each episode with a summary that basically says, “Forget what happened last time; this is the real history.” As I understand it, that’s what Tony Mitton’s Linfarn Run series does.

But I don’t want to do that. I want the players' decisions in an episode to affect later episodes. If the players decide to multilaterally disarm and dismantle the world’s nuclear stockpile, then that should be part of the history going into later episodes.

I guess I could run (say) Children of the Stars twice at the same convention. They could have a common background (let’s say Timeline 2), but I would then end up with Timeline 2A and 2B (or is that Timeline 3 and 4?).

But that’s not what I want to do. I’d rather start Timeline 3 with The Roswell Incident and start afresh.

Playing previous episodes

The other issue is whether players who join the game at episode 4 (say), would like to play an earlier episode. They already know some of what happened in those episodes (because it’s part of the background) – but would playing in an earlier episode appeal?

I don’t know.

I’d like to think that my games are enjoyable enough that they would have a good time playing even if they already knew some details.

And freeforms are often re-run, and players often play them again. At the recent Retcons, I played in two freeforms that I had played previously – in one case, I even played the same character. It didn’t affect my enjoyment – I had either forgotten the details, or deliberately overlooked them.

So, I hope that players will enjoy playing in earlier episodes. (And if it were me, I’d be tempted to push the game in different directions.) I guess I’ll find out in due course.

2-3 monthly campaign

I guess my ideal approach for the campaign would be to run them at 2-3 monthly intervals with a stable of players.

If anyone is in the Leeds/Harrogate/York region and wants to organise such a thing, let me know!

Available for others

A final constraint is that I plan to make the games available for others to play.

So far, The Roswell Incident is available via Freeform Games as one of their murder mystery games (although the main mystery isn’t a murder…)

Next to get into shape is All Flesh is Grass, which I hope to start work on shortly. When that’s done, I’ll make it available on my page. With a fair wind, I hope to get that up in early 2024.

However, making a game where earlier games affect later games presents a few challenges. For Children of the Stars, I anticipated one big outcome and several little outcomes. (And there was another outcome I hadn’t predicted!)

So for Messages from Callisto, I prepared a set of notes for each character based on the big outcome and briefings for the little outcomes. And between the games, I hurriedly stuffed character packets accordingly.

However, as the timeline goes on, that’s likely to become more complicated.

So I will probably provide the game as MS Word documents (rather than a pdf as I might normally do), and highlight the areas that need changing. (It’s that or provide different files for each option – along with really complicated instructions for assembling character packets.)

I am already taking the highlighter approach for The Stars our Destination as I am already writing different sections of the text changes for different outcomes.

To sum up


  • I want to keep the games in their own timelines. I want the in-game decisions to matter. So I’m unlikely to run them more than once at the same convention.
  • I will make them available for others to run.
  • The next game will be The Stars our Destination and is set on Rapa Nui. The title may change (but it’s unlikely). I hope to run that online in the first half of 2024 (Timeline 1), and then in person at Consequences (Timeline 2).
  • I will probably run another game at Consequences, but whether that is episode 6 or something else, at this point I have no idea.
  • I’m not sure when I’m going to start Timeline 3.

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