ST 313: Small Versus Large Venue

Mind’s Eye Society includes many types of games, with a broad range of game sizes – from as few as 3-5 participants, to over a hundred at the largest venues. Both small and large games present unique challenges for an ST.

In small games, much more of the plot will need to come from the ST side through NPCs and external events. This is because the smaller number of PCs tends to result in less interpersonal RP and while what is there may be deep and complex, there remain fewer PCs to speak with. Players will likely be looking for something to do more often. Thankfully the ST to player ratio is higher in a small game, so the ST is more likely to have the resources available to handle this.

Large games allow players to interact with each other on a greater scale, so the major events of game may will come from player interactions rather than the ST side. This depends on the venue as well. Vampire venues tend to require less external plot to keep an active game than Werewolf or Changeling venues. The ST should be prepared for groups of players who want to seek out external plot, but it’s not likely that 100% of a large game will be focused on any one thing at a time.

Handling Small Games

Keep players focused. A small game can often feel like a tabletop session, leading to less formality and more out-of-character joking. This can be a special problem if someone’s house was chosen as the game site. Suggest that players use open areas or a backyard if the weather and site permit, or else try to find a different place to play. If the players in a small game enjoy this style, some of it should be allowed,  but don’t allow a small game to go off the rails this way. Encourage players to pay attention to what’s going on, and to leave the scene if they need to handle something out-of-character. Smaller game scenes can often grind to a halt if something comes up (a player needs to take a phone call, etc) – don’t let this happen! Keep the scene moving and try not to get bogged down in discussion with a single player, even if the game is small.

It’s still a LARP. Unfortunately, small sessions can easily lose out on the immersion of a live-action game. STs should encourage players to show up in costume, and remind them to keep out-of-character discussion to a minimum when in the middle of a scene. Set up an out-of-character area (if the site allows for this) so that players who need to be out-of-character for some reason don’t distract the other players. STs should also encourage players to speak to each other in-character at all times.

Keep the game connected. One of the great virtues of the MES is its nationally-networked games. The game can and should be impacted by things happening in other MES games of that enue – the STs may need to work to make this happen. Even if the players can’t travel, the VST should report their actions up the chain and find ways to network into the larger game. This can include NPCs who have traveled from another location, actions from nearby games ‘spilling over’ into the local game, or use of national-level plotkits. An ST should always remember that the game is a piece of a larger story, and handle approvals and in-game actions accordingly. As an example – a major Masquerade breach happening in a small game should be reported so that all the PCs in surrounding games notice, and may become involved.

Handling Large Games

Hire enough staff. No single ST can handle a large game alone. STs should aim to hire enough staff to have one aVST for every 8-10 players, at minimum. For especially large games (such as Featured Games), extra narrators can be hired to play NPCs or run scenes. If a game is consistently large, the ST should hire permanent aVSTs to help with handling downtime actions and the creation of plots. Having a large enough volunteer staff is essential to both keeping games active and avoiding ST burnout. Don’t be afraid to call for more volunteers any time resources are stretched thin.

Get players involved. In a large game, groups of players will form naturally. They have ties, are working toward the same larger goal, or else simply prefer to play more with their friends. STs should not allow this to ‘leave out’ less-connected players. The methods STs can use mostly involve:

  • Plot distribution – make sure that there is enough plot, with enough variety on skills required.
  • Spread the plot evenly such that all players ‘get a crack’ at it – if a group of players tends to keep their plot to themselves, seed more of it to others.

STs should make note of any players consistently ‘left out’ and hand them plot seeds, or else find a way to make them important in a given plot so they can more easily connect to the game.

Handle downtimes and approvals smoothly. In a large game, STs can end up with a huge volume of downtime actions to keep track of and respond to. The volume of paperwork can seem overwhelming – this is another reason to hire staff that can help. STs should attempt to make each downtime mean something, such that each player feels like their downtime actions have value. If necessary, this can include a ‘downtime counter’ – requiring a certain number of devoted actions to ‘unlock’ a plot thread or other piece of vital information. STs should also be adaptable – if the players are consistently looking in the wrong places during their downtimes, drop hints and clues or else move the plot. Players can feel very discouraged if the response to a downtime is ‘you don’t find anything’ without some sort of breadcrumb to tell them where they might want to go next.