This part of the page will be written from the point of view of the editor, who has organised several letter larps through the years. Hopefully in the future we can gather other organisers’ stories and advice here as well.
I first got hooked on letter larping a little over a decade ago and, when a few years passed without another letter larp for me to attend, I and some fellow enthusiasts began creating our own larp in this genre. Since then I, together with various other lovely people, have created more larps, and my thoughts and advice below is thus based on a variety of experience collected during many trials and errors.
Trials and successes too, of course.
Budget and participants
As stated on previous pages on this site, letter larps are very practical because they are not limited by location, neither in how difficult it is to get there, nor in how many people fits in the location. A letter larp also differs from most traditional larps in that it is not quite as limited in terms of the economic costs. Unless you wish to send out physical information/newspaper etc., or set up a paid website, there really aren’t any expenses to speak of for the organisers. It is therefore very easy to let the larp be a free project where players only pay for their own materials and stamps. Because you don’t meet physically it is also easy to allow for any number of players, providing you have a platform practical enough to handle a large number of participants. Because of this I have always opted for providing free games where anyone is welcome. There could be benefits to choosing other alternatives, such as having a budget to send out props, or having a controlled number of players so that you can more easily write the characters and relationships, or control what is happening.
It is worth mentioning though, when speaking of control, that an organiser must drop the ambition of having full control of the situation pretty quickly. In our first game we asked our players to send us photographed copies of their letters by e-mail so that we could keep track of what was happening, and thus more easily toss in new plotlines. This plan didn’t last long, partly because far from every player followed the instruction, and also because with a hundred players there just isn’t enough time to read every letter. There will always be players you never hear from during the larp, making it impossible to control exactly what is happening in the fictional world. It is even possible for people to join the larp without you ever finding out about it, which I have learned over the years. Control is thus out of your hands, at least partly.
Because of this lack of control, and because this larp form is new to many people it is important to give out clear information from the start.
I once organised a small letter larp with basically only one A4 worth of information, created a facebook group and pretty much said “this is the setting, go”. Not the best way of organising a larp. Though it did work surprisingly well for a number of people, it does exclude anyone new to the genre and places a lot of pressure on the players to come up with plots all on their own. It is certainly interesting to know that it is possible to pull a larp off with such minimal effort (because, let’s face it- most larpers are amazing and creative people who can fend for themselves without hesitation), but it is important to remember that this does exclude a lot of people and will not work for everyone. This is especially true for letter larps since it is a fairly new and not well known genre. It is therefore fair to presume that many of your players will be novices and thus might need clearer guidelines to understand your vision and method.
To conclude, it is important to make sure your information gets across clearly and preferably thoroughly.
What I have found so far is that you make a larp with nothing more than information (both practical and story), and some kind of forum for the players to plan, plot and connect in. For the first part we have so far used websites, pdfs or documents depending on the larp, and they all provide individual pros and cons. For player forum we have so far used internet forums or facebook, and once again they definitely have both pros and cons. With modern technolgy there is a sea of options to choose from when deciding how to deliver information and communicate. Besides forums, websites and facebook there are e-mails, google drive, pinterest, chat rooms etc- the sky (and your imagination) is the limit, so to speak.
What’s important is that you try to anticipate what will be the most easy to navigate for the players, and which allows for the most practical way of communicating.
Herein lies probably the biggest challenge as a letter larp organiser, because many plots simply don’t work for the format. Imagine a very classical plot of “find item X”- in a normal larp you could actually go around looking for it, and once you have it you can show it to others, or try to use it. In letter larps such plots fall flat pretty quickly. Just imagine the exchange.
Player A: Dear sir. Do you happen to have the magical cup? Kind regards, Madame A”
Player B: “Dear Madame A. No I do not. Sincerely Sir B.”
Player A: “Dear sir C. Do you happen to have the magical cup? Kind regards, Madame A.”
Player C: “Dear Madame. Yes indeed I do! Best wishes, Sir C.”
Player A: “Dear Sir C. Fabulous! Could I have it?”
Player C: “Sure! Uhm…. what now?”
Player A: “Uhm… It sure is sunny today, isn’t it?”
This is of course an exaggerated example, but the fact is that many plots are just very difficult to keep going in a letter larp. My experience is that the best plots are those that somehow get people talking, and keep them talking. Plots concerning relationships, rumours, emotions, etc. are great for this form of larp.
Keep the fiction alive
Try to find some way of providing your players with new things to talk about, as well as keeping them aligned with the setting. One method we have used is to have a regular newspaper in the setting e-mail to the players. Here plots can be introduced, as well as discussion topics and a general atmosphere. With the newspaper it is also possible for the players to write articles concerning their characters or plots they would like to create.
We have also toyed around with having “events” happening in the larp which people can choose to attend with their characters. For one such event we wrote plots for the visitors which were then e-mailed to them after the set date for the event, and for one we created a facebook thread where people could write what their character did during the event. The idea is to breathe some life into the fiction and give the players an opportunity to have med other characters to further develop their relationships, or give breeding ground to rumours.