Starting a new group: an advice thread

Starting a new group can be daunting, especially for new players.

Old hands, what advice would you give?

Enthusiastic new players, what questions do you have?

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I think you need to start out with two things, the first thing is a bit of confidence. As you said it can be daunting but like with many things in life, if you just go for and show some determination, you can find that things work out better than you expect. I’ve seen many times when people have given up who are so close to the end. If they had held on a little bit longer they would have completed what they were going for. You may start off with very few people in your group but if you keep talking to other people and looking around, that group will eventually grow.

The second thing is a clear idea of what you want your group to be about. Think of a group almost as another character. If you don’t have a rough idea of what your character is like and what they want to achieve then you will find it will be harder to get things done. It is the same with a group. It also means that people won’t expect one thing and get another, disappointing them. If it is just a group that is there to give you an anchor, let people know so they don’t think you are all going into battle together. If it is a battle group, let people know so they aren’t surprised when they are in a shield wall facing a war rhino or find that they are the only one left back at anvil. You also need a common goal or something you all do together otherwise there is no real point in having a group.

Once you have set it up you need to looking into a certain things. I personally think you need some kind of communal space in anvil so you can sit by a fire during the evenings. It can get very cold and most people will want somewhere warm to be and you don’t want to have to borrow another groups area as you may find your group is swallowed up by theirs.

It is also good to have a few resources. This can be anything from phy-reps to contacts. You are going to feel a little bit more like a group if you can exert a little bit more influence on the world than a singular player.

As a leader you need to try and do just a little bit more than everyone else. If you go into battle together, you should be doing the speeches and making them feel confident. If people are bringing food, try and bring some as well, just to show some willing. Organisational skills are important. If all of these are difficult for you then look into giving people roles to do this. make sure you work closely with these people and listen to their counselling, sometimes a good leader isn’t the one making all the plans but the one who makes sure it all falls into place. You should also be ready to deal with any OOC problems, people will be more likely to consider you to be the leader OOC of the group if you are leader IC, however everyone should try and help with OOC problem.

If you aren’t going to have a leader, make sure there is a clear voting system and tie breaker. Not having a leader probably wouldn’t make much sense in certain nations like dawn so bear that in mind.

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(sorry, bit of a wall of advice. Nothing is mandatory, happy to answer questions).

  1. Assuming it’s not a singleton group (ie, you going by yourself), you have a group of friends to form the IC group with. Ensure you stay friends throughout this process. I reccomend many of the next steps be done in person, with tea and cake. :slight_smile:

  2. Decide, as mentioned above, on the overall purpose of your group, at the start (things will likely change). Ritual team, combat group for quests and battles, social hub, group with some other aim (trading, religeon, politics, whatever), or something else. Note that there’s nothing wrong with having a group mainly as somewhere to store your kit while every member scatters to do their own thing. But a shared interest is a good idea. Doing something together and IC will bind the group and bring more fun.

  3. Decide on the IC stuff. Starting with nation, which you may already have picked. This is where several prospective groups fall apart, as people want to do very different things in different nations. This is not necessarily a killer: a couple of small groups with ties to each other can also be fun, and a nice starting piece of fluff. Example: “We are from the Marcher town of Aigh, and these guys are from the Navarri striding of Beie. Corwyn here settled down from the trods to the Marchers, and works in our town. Elsie there is my sister, but she wanted to walk the world and has joined the Navarri. They bring us news and carry some of our goods across the Empire. They are always welcome in our town and lands, at our table and hearth. And at Anvil, we’ll camp and drink and sing together…”

Assuming nation is sorted, you’ll want to have a good look at the nation fluff and backstory, and pick out a province to come from, and an appropriate name. Everything else is optional (although some nations may also want insignia, colours, and so on).

Then you can start firming up character concepts. Try not to have a group which is completely self-sufficient. An IC reason to search for things in the field makes for a lot more game: EG: “We need to find this magic item for Alexia. We have plenty of cash, it’s a fairly common one, someone must have one or have made one on the field. Go asking around. If there’s one spare, see if you can buy it. If there’s one in use, see if we can buy it off them. And see who can make one for next time. Right, meet back here in two hours for dinner and we’ll see what we have…”

  1. Social contract. This came as a surprise to me, but it’s a good idea. Working off “what do we want from the group”, this can include useful points such as:
    (a) Everyone contributes something to the group. Cash or time or food or help with tent or whatever
    (b) details on recruitment of new people
    (c) your thoughts and agreements on PvP, internally and externally. This can be important. Common stances are “knives in” (stab each other up freely), “knives out” no internal pvp at all, and “everyone starts loyal”. This means that the PCs are loyal to the group and each other at the start, but things can change during play, allowing for all sorts of interesting game.
    (d) Who is in charge, IC and OOC. For organising the group and looking after any jointly owned things. Try to strike a balance between being “Bob and his minions” at one end, and “I’m doing all the work while everyone else has fun” at the other.

  2. Logistics for the field. Transport? What sort of on-field presence will you have, or will everyone be travelling and camping OOC together? Who’s taking tents, who’s bringing food, what IC and OOC plans do you have? Tying back to 3), what sort of costumes and props will you need, and who’s bringing them? It might be an idea to have a meeting, IC, OOC or both, when everyone is on site, to help organise stuff.

  3. As a new group, and maybe of new players, have a quick look at what intro stuff you need or want. There are a lot of meetings, Q&A sessions, and demonstrations on site on Friday. Heck, there’s also some practice battles available. Going on these as a group may help get you grounded, make new friends, and ease you into the game.

  4. Try not to get too insular. Take your group and visit others. Your neighbours in your nation. Other groups in other nations. Groups with similar purposes (“Dammit, you lot specialise in that ritual as well!?”), Imperial organisations (such as Conclave, or Synod, or Hunters Hall). Go as a group, and reach beyond the group. It will make you known to people, and build you a place in the game.

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  • acknowledge the out of character labour that’s going to go into this. Try to share it out in a way that doesn’t burden a small number of people.

  • talk frankly about money. People’s budget for LRP varies wildly and what one person thinks is a reasonable amount to chip in for tent hire, for example, might put someone else in an awkward position.

  • talk about how much conflict you can deal with in your group. Groups are often a safe space where you can rely on someone not double-crossing you, but have that conversation. Some groups have a code of conduct too. It may seem like that shouldn’t need to be said but the fact they exist tells me that it is a good idea.

  • have a reason for the group to come together IC at least one during the event. Mealtimes, singing, religion time, rituals, whatever it is. Share what you are doing with your group mates and help each other out!

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Who is in charge IC and OOC do not have to be the same person, in fact I think it works better when they are not as it avoids conflating IC and OOC issues.

Make sure other members of your group are having fun. If they are having fun, don’t stop them and demand they do something else. If they are not, don’t just boss them around into things you think would be fun for them, make sure they get a significant say in it.

Decide whether your group allows internal PvP or not, and if so to what level. In a game of political PvP one person’s idea of PvP can be very different to another so boundaries need to be very clear. If you go for the stricter end and believe someone has violated an ooc group rule, this needs to be dealt with carefully as there is a lot of misinformation on and off the field. Don’t just take rumours as proof of OOC guilt.

Seriously, group tents are OP.

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Some excellent advice here, especially with regards to OC issues such as budgeting, logistics and social contracts. It can be very easy for these kinds of things to fall by the wayside as people get so caught up in the IC designs and decisions.

I also want to second this:

It’s very easy for the IC leader to fall into an OC leadership role as well - maybe they’re used to taking charge, or maybe they’re the one who has provided a lot of the background/IC stuff like tents, etc. It’s fine if this is how the group wants to work, but it can lead to some clashing of interests further down the road.

And this may seem a bit far ahead to be thinking about, but when it comes to OC logistics and resources, it’s good to think about what might happen if the group splits at some point. If everyone has been able to put in for something like, let’s say, a group tent, then it belongs to the group and if someone leaves then they can be paid back their portion easily (if they want reimbursement). If however one person is putting in a LOT more than everyone else and then they decide to leave…what happens? Do the rest of the group need to find the X-hundred pounds to pay them back? Do they take the (in this example) group tent with them? It may seem a downer, but it’s just something to consider with regards to OC organisation.

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Though having IC tents and an IC camp of your own is advantageous for many it is not necessary. Whether you are a new player or an old hand don’t think you have to have IC canvas in order to have a functioning group.
and IC camp helps to create a space where your group can come together and talk, share resources or relax in quiet periods (rare as they are). They are also useful for simply keeping track of each other because you know there is a single place they will return to. If you don’t have or want to have IC tents then look at ways that you can recreate those benefits.
Pick somewhere that will act as your base. Many nations have IC space that is set up especially for those smaller groups or individuals that don’t have their own space - ask on the nation boards of FB groups about using those spaces. Some may ask for a contribution toward tent hire, or ask for specific help in set up and take down.
Some small groups may ask other larger groups if they can share their tent space or if it’s ok for them to sit in their more public areas when needing some R&R time. Asking in advance is key and again offering to help with set up and take down or tent chores like tidying or keeping drinks topped up is good practice. You may also consider using IC bars/tea rooms/coffee tents. Keep in mind that all IC bars apart from the main bar are player run so if you plan on spending a ot of time there then treat them as any other IC group as previously. However designating a tea room/bar/cake seller as a designated meeting spot is a less formal arrangement and can be useful. Knowing that you’ll all stop into a certain place where you can sit and refuel at an arranged time of day means you have the opportunity to talk, socialise and plan as a group in relative comfort. Don’t forget to abide by the rules of the premises though and make sure to throw some IC coin their way like any other customer.

You can of course also use the other public spaces like the main bar or the Hub. These can be great places to meet up together since you have access to so many other players and things going on. Just make sure you aren’t hogging the space and let other people sit or get in when needed.

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Establishing OOC rules is important, and not just in regards to IC things, like knives in/out and organising camp set up. Make it clear what kind of things you do not tolerate in the group on an OOC level, so nobody is shocked if you have to kick someone out for an OOC reason.

It’s also important to give members a say in who can join the group. You don’t want to end up in a situation where someone brings their friend along and joins them to the group, only to find out that OOC, for example, they make someone already in the group uncomfortable, or have bad history etc. in the real world.

These probably sound a bit serious and fun-sucking, but it’s better to have things like this thought about before some sort of OOC disaster occurs (if one ever does!) and you’re left stressed as you try to sort things out.

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On group PvP - sometimes it can help to define what you mean by internal conflict, and what parameters and categories are acceptable.

For instance, drawing a distinction between doing each other harm politically; (IC!)-physically; and behaving in a way that may cause other group members big EMOTIONS and ANGST. (I am totally cool with option 3. Others might be happy with all of them or none of them.)

Example: I’m aware of one group which had a ‘knives out’ policy which seems to have been interpreted by one proactive ex-member as relating to physical harm or direct political harm to individuals, whereas their actions arguably caused the group as a whole some political harm. As a result, I reviewed our own group contract and it was amended to be clearer.

This might look like a whole load of paperwork and aggravation for something that is ‘friends in a field having fun’, but setting clear agreed boundaries and expectations supports deeper and richer interpersonal play, without damaging OC friendships, further down the line.

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I’m gonna split this into two posts, as they are very different areas. Part one is on OC discussions to have with your mates and ‘social contracts’.

When I started larp it never occurred to me that groups might have rules for the players involved, but ever since I encountered them I’ve been a big fan. They set out what the expectations are very clearly, so anyone joining knows how you play and thus you avoid acrimony later. The example rules I set out below are the most common ones I use, and you can infer what some of the options are by thinking about the opposite to each of them, or variations.

  1. Knives Pointed Outwards. If someone creates a character in the group, they are expected to (initially at least) be loyal to the group, rather than creating a character with a deliberate intention of betraying everyone. For example, if you are a mafia-style crime family, no-one creates a character who is secretly a militia informant. Some people like an extreme opposite to this with ‘knives in’ groups where an explicit part of the game is that you are competing against each other and might betray each other at any moment.
  2. It is OK to cause trouble for the group. We make this explicit because in some groups players will get sad at you if you do things like, eg, run up huge gambling debts you cannot pay off and people come back to your camp to break your kneecaps, or they commit crimes and suddenly one of you needs to be their lawyer. It is good to know if your group is one where people will be upset if you derail their careful plans by these kinds of shenanigans, or one where they will be secretly happy because everything is exciting. In most of my groups we make it explicit that trouble is perfectly OK, especially because some players might be less mobile - maybe they cannot personally go on the night time mission to raid the palace. But they can be back at camp so when the palace guards come by in the morning they can spin them a tall tale about how some Highguard Archivists did it and ran away.
  3. It is better to do something and regret it than to regret not doing something. Again, this is something we make explicit so we know everyone is on the same page and that caution is less important to us than fun. No-one is going to be OC upset at you because you were a loose cannon who didn’t care about the rules. This is especially important because the characters might get upset, but the players will not, so it is nice to know any anger is purely roleplay.
  4. Stick around for the consequences. This one is close to my heart, and I wish more people used it. If you do something as your character, it is only fair to other players in the game to give them a chance to respond. So do not, for example, murder a senator and then immediately retire your character to avoid justice. It offers no opportunity for your IC rivals to get even, which we think is a bit of a dick move.
  5. A more recent addition as many of us have got older is that we tend to define if our group is ‘family friendly’ and thus ensure anyone joining knows if they will be around small children or not.
  6. Joining process. Most of my groups work on a basis that new members have to be discussed by the existing ones to make sure everyone is OK with them. You don’t want someone else to invite a new player they just met, only to discover it is your ex-boyfriend you had a messy break up with.
  7. Some groups have an overall leader/administrator. I am not such a fan of those, and prefer groups where everyone has an equal say.
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Good point on group ownership of assets. Even if nobody leaves IC, characters die and often don’t go back into the same group.

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Part 2: Group Concepts.

There are lots of ways to design a group, but a really important thing that Empire has demonstrated to me is the value of a tight focus. Due to friends’ characters dying a lot, I’ve been involved in a lot of discussions about group design and we have learned some lessons which work for us.

What we prefer these days is a tight focus. If you look at the wiki there are a lot of obvious character/group hooks, but you can do really well if you find a strong position to take on one of those. For example, one notorious group started out as ‘a chapter of Unveiled in Highguard who want to stop the magical realms corrupting people’. Not bad, but you can take it further. In the design stages, one of the players realised that (at that time) killing heralds of eternals was perfectly legal, so you could simply stop magicians being able to interact with eternals by murdering their intermediaries. That group turned out to be short lived, but the players involved had an amazing time and created a lot of ripples. Critically, they took the Highguard distrust of lineage and dialled it up to 10.

Related to this, I would always, always advise people to create groups which reflect the brief as written. Many people try to escape the tight restrictions of nation briefs, but the best groups (ie the ones where the players have amazing fun and create stories which are told for years to come) are the ones who play their brief really hard. Going to be a Marcher? Then don’t just care about the land a bit - care about it a lot. If you can see a particular nation having a strong issue in play, that can be worth really hitting. It gives you a sense of identity and objectives to all strive for in the game.

It is very normal to have a fairly generic group concept (‘a group of Dawnish questing knights’ or ‘some story tellers from Varushka’ etc), and there is nothing wrong with that. But you can do a lot for yourselves by taking that simple concept and then giving yourself a strong set of narrow goals that you care about a great deal and set you apart from every other group with the same core archetype.

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To put my own points in addition to the very good points raised so fer.
Two years ago myself and a few (6 ish) friends started a house in Dawn as complete Empire newbies (we had Larped together before), we had a small canvas Tarp to huddle under at E1 'out in the sticks ’ of the Dawnish Camp.
Now we are the 3rd Biggest House in Dawn when everyone attends (about 25-30 of us)

How did we do this…OC: A lot of Hard work and sewing in the winter (still happens) by me making surcoats, costumes etc, so we look good and stand out!, a cash kitty (subs at every event, by those who attend, which enabled us to but a proper canvas 12x12 tent, and materials to ‘set dress it’. It cost me personally quite a bit of cash and time, but it’s my hobby, and I love larping with my friends.
IC: we have an IC cash/resource pot and have IC meetings once a year to decide ‘policy’ for the next year.
Most of ALL we welcome new members, run a house FB group, chat and support new players, so they feel part of the house even before they come to their first event.

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