Turn your LARP into a simmering PVP deathmatch

Back in my days of running WoD LARPs, we felt pretty strongly about casting player characters at a variety of power levels. The elders on screen would actually have a reasonable amount of extra XP to back up their in-story role. I still feel like this is superior to the modern way of representing age (which is that it increases your potential might, but in the short term actually starts you out at least missing the points you spent on the age-related background and the younger PCs didn’t).

The trick is, you don’t want this to be a pure benefit, as the players that didn’t get the bonus XP feel rightly cheated. So our technique was to start the more powerful characters with other characters that would start play hating their guts. Every elder stepped on some people to get where they are. Ultimately, the younger PCs didn’t enter play with targets on their backs.

But we never mechanically formalized it. This system popped into my head as a way to do so. It should result in hilarious murder hijinx.

Step 1: Unfair Bonus XP

PCs (chosen arbitrarily by the staff or awarded randomly) get a certain number of ranks that translate into bonus XP. For example, in modern MET, at chargen you might get 50 XP per rank of age. You may give guidelines that each rank of age should equal a certain number of years active, for verisimilitude.

Step 2: Hatred

For each rank of age, generate instances of Hatred: [That Character]. This is a formal merit that goes on the character sheets of other PCs. Work with those PCs to decide what the elder did to them that caused the hate. These might be PCs in rival groups, and might even be presumed allies that the elder wronged inadvertently (or by being a domineering jerk that is mean to underlings). You might give the elder a vague idea of who hates her, but she probably shouldn’t have a definite list. You should basically work out with her the kinds of awful things she’s done to get where she is, so she’s not completely blindsided by thinking she could never have done the horrible thing someone accuses her of.

Hatreds should mostly go to younger PCs, but a few can go to other PCs with age just to keep the more powerful characters at each others’ throats.

A good number of Hatreds per rank of age is three. For example, a character with three ranks of age has nine people with Hatred for her.

Step 3: Consummation

If you have Hatred for a character and are in the room when she dies, you get a big chunk of bonus XP.

This amount should be a little more than evenly dividing the bonus XP from age (to account for some characters with Hatred missing out). For example, if you’re giving out 50 XP per rank of age and three Hatreds per rank of age, everyone with Hatred gets 20 XP for being in the room when the character dies.

(Notably, there’s no special bump for dealing the killing blow, to keep your conspiracy from falling into chaos early because they’re bickering over who gets to hold the knife. They’ll often need to work together pretty well to bring down the more powerful character.)

Step 4: Weregild

Every character that got Hatred XP from another character’s death themselves generates a Hatred that is awarded to an ally of the deceased. Now the allies get bonus XP for killing the guys that killed their friend.

This Hatred doesn’t show up until the next session, because you don’t want the conspiracy to just turn into an abattoir all at one go. You want one big murder scene at a time. Allies have to go and seethe about their friend’s killers for a while before getting bonus XP for payback.

You can award the Hatreds to the people that make the best case that they miss their friend. You might even give out several matching Ally merits to people for each rank of age, so you know in advance who’s going to get the weregild right. Importantly, being someone’s ally doesn’t have a direct mechanical incentive while they’re alive. You’re not losing anything if they die. You actually profit almost as much as the killers for their death, because now you have someone you can kill for bonus XP.

Do try to award the ally status to less powerful PCs whenever arguable, just to keep a canny elder from getting unstoppably powerful because all her friends are dead.

Step 5: Enjoy the Perpetual Murder Machine You’ve Created

The amount of time this takes to slaughter your entire cast is directly related to how strong your in-story “No Killing!” rules seem, and how much additional plot you have that grudgingly makes people leave their enemies alive until a bigger threat is dealt with. But it should certainly give you some extra free time as a staff, since now players can entertain each other with their murder conspiracies for hours and hours of game time.

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