[In the Lab] X.O.K.O. – SageFight as a Scott Pilgrim LARP

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Huh. You know what? #SageFight could be an engine for a Scott Pilgrim LARP.less than a minute ago via Echofon

So yeah, about that…

Tentative Title: X.O.K.O.

Inspiration: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Premise: Epic love and silly fights among the youth of an unnamed city. Each player’s character is trying to be in a relationship with another character, but is thwarted by their exes. Each player is assigned to another player as their love interest. Each player also has two other players who are their exes. (So, in total, you have pre-existing relationships to three other players.) No one can fulfill their romantic ending until both people engage in two fights. (I’m sure I’m missing some serious bugs in the logistics of this relationship map.) If you have already done your fights, you can team up with your SO to complete their fights.

Situation: A big going-away party for a mutual friend. All the characters’ baggage and lingering history will be settled tonight. Other party guests who are not involved in the drama will serve as timekeepers and referees during the fights.

Names: In the spirit of “Knives Chow,” “Ramona Flowers,” and “Scott Pilgrim,” every character has name like that. Find random objects in your house, add a normal first name to that. Julia Pen, Graham Book, Quinn Cup, Emily Bat, Kevin Curtain, etc.

Structure: The game begins with a few minutes of free RP, but quickly the fights begin. A fight begins with one player calling out a character’s name and challenging them to a fight. (For example, “QUINN CUP! I CHALLENGE YOU TO A FIGHT!”) The challenged player responds by deciding the type of fight, of which there are several including Duel, Melee, Clan vs. Clan, etc. (For example, “I ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE, KEVIN CURTAIN! A DUEL!”)

One Fight at a Time: Only one fight happens at a time. When a fight is over, neither of those players may be called out until another pair have had a turn to fight.

Power-Ups: Somewhere in the middle of all this, it would be cool to introduce a number of meta-fight coupons like “GET A LIFE: Turn in this coupon to re-do a fight.” or “IN A MINUTE: Turn in this coupon to postpone a fight.” or “MY WAY: Turn in this coupon to set the terms of a fight when you challenge someone else.”

BOSS BATTLE: I love the idea of all this drama leading up to an epic boss battle of some kind, between all the players and a big baddie’s gang of minions. Dunno what those minions would be doing in the rest of the party though, so it might not work.

There are plenty of logistics to work out in general. As Graham notes below, when fights actually matter, the stakes are raised. However, I hope this is mitigated somewhat because everyone is trying to achieve their romantic ending by engaging in two fights. It’s simply getting into those two fights that matters, not necessarily winning them.

This is one of those odd projects because I’m not so much into LARPing, at least insofar as I’ve experienced the “LA” in boffer LARPs or the “RP” in Vampire LARPs. Boffer stuff feels so cumbersome. Speaking in-character is sooo awkward. (Again, these are all my own perspectives.) This comes close to a happy middle ground for me, at least in my head.

Sent these ideas to other people and they came back with a lot of good advice.

Quinn immediately tossed out a bunch of ideas:

–An achievement system (most duels, last one out, first one out, win a 2 versus 1)
–XP system (maybe just a ticket punch system for duels won, withe XP letting you purchase perks)
–perks sytem (modifiers to a combat, that let you alter the rules of a combat in some way)
–factions and faction goal system (a few sides to the conflict and allow players to chase overall goal to increase faction reputation)

And HM posted a TON of ideas on the official SageFight page. This one seems to have potential:

Ninja Vanish: pose — legs together, standing straight, arms down, wrists crossed in front of waist, head bowed; effect — you are invisible and cannot be touched. On the next ‘fight’ freeze, you may exit the scene without losing.

Graham cautioned about transitioning SageFight into a game where the stakes matter:

Who determines when a move has ended? Let’s say that I accuse you of moving, suddenly, after your move finished and tapping me on the back of the hand. You thought you were just completing your move. How do we resolve that?

What happens if I am very tall? Can I avoid fights simply by holding my hands in the air?

I run up to you when you’re having a conversation with someone else and tap you on the hand. Did you just lose a fight?
What happens if I am very tall? Can I avoid fights simply by holding my hands in the air?

I run up to you when you’re having a conversation with someone else and tap you on the hand. Did you just lose a fight?

These questions probably sound stupid, but that’s the problem: there’s a difference in perspective. When you make fights matter, either to a narrative or to a competitive player, the rules start to matter too.

Kevin advised stepping away from past LARP models:

LARPING in America has gone on undeveloped since people started doing it in the 70s. Seriously, there has been zero innovation. People are still using the first draft of thirty year old rules. It’s like the dark ages.

Europe did the opposite, it evolved the form so far that it’s another activity entirely, and now is unrecognizable from it’s origins. Just another beast entirely.

I think the less you avow yourself of those forms the better off you’ll be. And that’s not usually my advise to any creative, but in this case a knowledge vacuum might be helpful.

By contrast, Emily had recommended some references:

Neat! It seems like it would make a great mechanic. Esp. since it works for big groups, which can take a long time and be a hassle. Lisa Padol was involved with writing the Ghost Fu game. She’d be another good person to talk to about this.

Julia also suggested GhostFu: The Jade Emperor’s Celestial Tournament:

Check out some of the larp descriptions at Intercon this year. Movement, dance, singing, scavenger hunts, etc., are all possible in parlor larps. I’m working on a larp now about secret societies and cannibals that incorporates food (vegan meat substitutes dressed up as human meat and personalized fortune cookies) as part of the mechanics. Parlor larps are often mechanics light, and improv heavy. There are stricter ones, of course. I played in Vampire: The Requiem based larp that was not quite just the table top game with costumes, but it was close. It was successful if you liked the system, which ultimately I didn’t care much for, but I had fun until the system drove me nuts.

So yeah, this is a huge can of worms. 😛 For me, the toughest part of designing a tabletop RPG is the RP. I can handle the G pretty well, but it’s the fluffiness of RP that gets me every time. With LARP, it seems to be even MORE focused on that fluffy, ill-defined type of non-mechanized interaction.