Challenges of aiming for a philosophical roleplaying game

In terms of design, I have two main goals: the first one being coming up with an interesting individual experience, and the second one, being to enable the players to collectively create a compelling narrative.

This is a real challenge: ultimately, no matter how much I like the contemplative and introspective universe of Tarkovsky, I still want this game to be playable.

Creating an interesting individual experience

Many great larps are written using a bottom-up approach; which means, going from the character, to their social group, to their society, to their universe. This helps creating playable characters : they are relatable and they have social connections. (see Erik Fatland’s lecture on playable characters)

My issue is that I started with settings that I thought were relevant to VR and interesting intellectually and artistically.

Those settings are: a few strangers with clashing philosophical views are going on a tiring journey to get their desires fulfilled in some mystical place.

For the game to be interesting, compelling, and relevant to everything I just explained, my characters needed therefore to be built around conflicted desires and wants.

Consequently, what was at the very root of my design, was the creation of inner conflicts that are universal enough to be relatable, and thus, playable.

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The game is for 6 players, presenting twice the same archetypes in two different groups (the guide, the artist and the scientist), but with different life stories and immediate desires.
I thought mirroring archetypes was interesting, as it follows on the idea of eternal recurrence: although they don’t go through the same ordeals as their double, the characters still struggle in similar ways and find themselves on the exact same path.

Enable a collective creation

The second challenge is to allow the characters to connect to each other. The power of Larp is enrooted in human connection, but again, my plot is about a bunch of strangers, with no common history and no private jokes

In order to allow players to get breaks from debating philosophy with strangers, I added a system of flashes to the design. A flash is either a flashback or a flashforward to explore the backstory of the characters, and to allow the players to connect on a more intimate level.

At the moment, those 6 characters stories have the form of characters sheets that the players get to read before the live action game.

For VR I intend to turn these character’s sheets into individual short movies that will display the key elements of the characters’ backgrounds.

Theses movies will be the introduction to the game and the only 360 video part.
It will also be the only passive part of the game.

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