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Writing handouts for Complex Campaigns without continuity errors

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#1 Laraqua


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Posted 17 November 2017 - 03:55 AM

When crafting your own adventures, how do you keep everything straight?  I'm trying to create a complex storyline involving dozens of now deceased NPCs (not all named), multiple projects, decades of timeline, heaps of handouts (written, audiovisual, etc.) and a large building and I'm finding it hard to figure out exactly how to avoid continuity errors, mistaken details (referring to the wrong person in the wrong handout) and plain old getting things wrong.


Granted, this is a bit unusual in that it's a weekend LARP (set in Adelaide, Australia, I'm afraid for all your potential and actual LARPers overseas) and therefore a little more self-directed than your usual tabletop game and with far more handouts, but I'm imagining a lot of the basics remain correct.  How do you error check?  How do you make sure all of the props hang together well enough -- especially when you're even making props for various documents that would normally just be "filler" in a tabletop game?


Especially when you're one lonely little LARP writer.  I'll have helpers on the day but they're not really the error checking dozens of documents sort of people.

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#2 boulash


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Posted 17 November 2017 - 11:29 AM

There are many digital tools around that you could use (wikis, mindmaps, digital boards, OneNote, etc), I'm pretty sure one of them will match your mental processes. If you don't know where to start just ask again, I'll provide some links :).


Nevertheless, you might want to think about the "cone of light" phenomenon : the players are only going to experience a very small portion of the universe you've created, so absolute consistency isn't always necessary. Some things can be left in the dark, developped later if there's a sequel, etc.

I don't have experience in LARP organisation but I guess "invisible walls" are better accepted.


You could check the part about "the players' sphere of perception" fron this book (it's pay what you want) :



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#3 HJ


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Posted 21 November 2017 - 12:25 PM

Set up a spreadsheet of all your various characters and how they interlink, dates etc.


Then while you are writing your props have it to hand so that you get the right names inserted. The major problem is if you change the name of a character half way through.


Try and find someone to proof your stuff. I would suspect that there would be plenty of volunteers on YSDC. Plus for your sanity you might want to consider getting another one or two GMs to help you create the props \ plot etc.


Mistakes are all to easy to creep in (especially when you are trying to write Hathor but Hastur keeps coming out while i type).

#4 tjgreenway



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Posted 23 November 2017 - 03:45 AM

A spreadsheet definitely sounds helpful, but I don't think anything can beat extensive reading of the material and an extra set of eyes.

Granted, I'm probably not the best person to ask as my campaign notes (a mix of pre written and homebrew) are all hand written across four notebooks and three folders (and we're only about ten hours in!), with a hand drawn flow chart linking everything together.

If you do want an extra set of eyes to have a look over things, though, I'd be happy to have a read through what you've got so far.

#5 GBSteve


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Posted 25 November 2017 - 11:30 PM

A timeline is a big help. You don't have to put everything on it at the start, but it helps keep the backstory straight, especially when NPCs are being questioned. It doesn't matter if one gets it wrong and changes their story, but players can freak out a bit at this kind of thing.

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#6 jlynn


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Posted 09 December 2017 - 09:27 PM

Personally, I use a white board and a map nailed to the wall -- I then plot lines of interaction, post post-it notes with details, and generally try to do something like the "plot flow" that was done for the MoN Companion to help keep it straight, and then just do my best.  If it turns out I made an error, I can usually chalk it up during the game to the NPC who wrote the letter, etc. who failed to understand or misinterpreted what was really going on.  If I really screwed up, I ensure a better handout is available next session. 


Of course, I don't LARP -- doing that on the fly might be a lot harder.  But don't you LARP guys have a "staff" of some kind to help?  Playing the monsters, maybe?  Maybe create some blank handouts and have one of them run off something while you're doing something with the players...


At the end of my creation, I try to create a flow chart of the "expected" adventure, and then brainstorm possible alternate paths and nodes that circumstances beyond my control could force us down.  In short, speaking as an old military planner, I try to do it kind of the same way we used to plan a military operation.


Then, I set it down for a while (days, even weeks if possible) and look the entire thing over with fresh eyes.  You'd be amazed at how many things you find when you do that.  If you don't have the time to do that, consider reading your props backwards (that is both in terms of when they'll be given AND the actual physical prop itself) -- again, you'll be surprised at what pops out when you do that.