I have written this post a number of times now and it has been difficult how to approach it. I really want to discuss this issue, but I have been worrying about how to broach it without inadvertently hurting feelings. That’s one of the negatives of a close gaming community I guess.

So first with the bomb and then the fallout.

I pulled out of the 2011 Kapcon LARP.

I know that a lot of people are going to say “so what. What makes you think we care?” Well it’s big for me because I REALLY wanted to play in an Arabian Nights LARP. But a number of factors caused my enthusiasm to wane and then a final personal issue with the character basically cinched my decision to leave.

Before I continue, the actual deciding factor was not one that the organisers could have predicted. They could have avoided the problem, but that would have required them changing a formulaic system that has been followed for Kapcon LARPs for a while now.

Which plays into my main beef. While I have enjoyed many Kapcon, there has been a habit of sticking to a formula that works for some but not all players. I had hoped after the brilliant Sanctuary game that we would see more innovation in the formula, but it has gradually drifted back to business as usual.

My first issue that I’m willing to discuss is the survey and character options. I get that organising a LARP is a big challenge. I’ve done it, and it takes a lot of work.

Sanctuary introduced the idea of a survey. This was used to guide the planning of the LARP and to help make characters that suited the players. The key point is that the survey guided creation.

Unfortunately, post Sanctuary, it has been used only as a guideline for casting AFTER the story and characters have been made. Meaning that players are possible offered character choices that have no relationship to their survey answers.

Another formulaic habit is to use character secrets to drive the story. This leads to a reticence to reveal too much about the characters when offering options to a player. So usually you get two or three vague choices that may or may not relate to the actual character offered. On two occasions I have found the character précis and the actual write up have ended up contradicting each other.

In the survey you can list the people you would like to play with. When the options are provided, you aren’t told which character option is in the same faction as the people you opted to play with.

Given that this partially plays into my main issue I won’t talk about in detail, this actually annoys me. I received two choices that did not feel anything like what I had asked for and had no indication of which choice was with the people I wanted to play with – who all had received their characters ahead of me.

I took a stab at the choice closest – but not actually – matching my survey and ended up in a situation that could have been avoided if I had been told a bit more information about what faction my friends were in.

Instead I ended up with a character who had a situation I was not comfortable roleplaying. If the organisers had given me more information prior to choosing, that could have been avoided.

My other beef is that for me, Arabian Nights is a fantastical, exotic and mysterious setting. The material I was provided hinted at this being in the past of the game but that it was going to be just another political LARP with a Vampire Prince – er, Sultan. Etc etc.

Sorry, but removing Djinni’s and other mystical creatures and providing a rumour of a roc spoiled the setting for me. I am tired of mystical = GM. Oh look, the AI’s – sorry – Djinni’s have vanished only to return as guides for the players.


Sanctuary had no problems making PCs who were mystical beings. The GMs were mostly just minor characters.

Al Shir-Ma’s setting comes across as a reskinned Kapcon every-LARP and not fantastical Arabia.

Now I could have gotten past that if my character issue not been the one it was, but that was not to be.

Oddly, and this is a bit irrational of me, the one sentence thanks for my quick response to say I’m pulling out has also aggravated me because I wrote a fairly long explanation of why I was pulling out and it felt very dismissive of my issues as if I never really wanted to play.

I know that there is a long waiting list. I also know that a game that can’t adjust for size might be too tightly written.

Ultimately, this experience has soured my enthusiasm for LARPing in general and especially playing in Kapcon LARPs in the future. I appreciate the work and stress going into Al Shir-Ma and I suspect much of the negatives are more an artefact of years of formula than this single year.

I can only say that next LARP organisers need to take more cues from Sanctuary and the excellent lessons those organisers learned through the process they followed.

Hopefully some great ideas will arise in comments here that we can suggest for the future.