The Larp Domino Effect

This article discusses some of the pros and cons of this larp domino effect, in which content from one area of the game spreads throughout the fiction like a wildfire as the result of emergent play. In larps where the content is “seeded” by game masters through the character sheets or delivered via non-player characters throughout the larp, such a result may be desirable. But, in larps where a particular tone or theme is central, such emergent play can derail the emphasis of the design. In extreme cases, the larp domino effect can potentially upset or even trigger other players, if “surprise” content spreads throughout the larp without their consent.

The larp domino effect is neither positive nor negative at its core. I discuss the ways in which organizers and players might either use it to their advantage in order to stimulate play, or work to contain it as needed. In addition, understanding and discussing the domino effect can help us strategize ways for larps to accommodate multiple styles of play, such as participants who enjoy “hardcore” violence versus those who prefer more philosophical, social play. The article advocates the use of zoning in these latter cases, in order to help contain sensitive scenes to specific locations and players when necessary.

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