The 16% Question

Recently there was a discussion about PC’s each doing a mandatory 4 hour NPC shift at the weekend games that they play. Those in support of this (myself included) talked about how this would positively impact the PC/NPC ratio and improve the game by allowing plot teams to have a greater NPC resource that would allow for more crunchies, modules and NPC role-play encounters.

I wanted to take a deeper look at how much this addition would affect things as they played out at an event. One fiddly concept, and I think the key to looking at this, is the idea of PLAY HOURS. A PLAY HOUR is an hour of time that someone is playing the game, either as a PC or an NPC. To understand the impact of the proposed 4 hour NPC shift a straight PC/NPC ratio is not effective, as all PC’s will spend some of their time “on the other side of the fence”.

Below are my findings of this proposed addition. If you are interested in the math please PM me- if enough people want it I will post it as a separate post.

Given a play length of 25 hours at a weekend event, the impact of a mandatory 4 hour NPC shift for all PC’s would be as follows-

At an event with a 6:1 PC/NPC ratio the PLAY HOUR ratio would change to 2.6 : 1 with an increase in NPC PLAY HOURS of 96%.
At an event with a 5:1 PC/NPC ratio the PLAY HOUR ratio would change to 2.3 : 1 with an increase in NPC PLAY HOURS of 80%.
At an event with a 4:1 PC/NPC ratio the PLAY HOUR ratio would change to 2:1 with an increase in NPC PLAY HOURS of 64%.
At an event with a 3:1 PC/NPC ratio the PLAY HOUR ratio would change to 1.7 : 1 with an increase in NPC PLAY HOURS of 48%.
At an event with a 2:1 PC/NPC ratio the PLAY HOUR ratio would change to 1.3 : 1 with an increase in NPC PLAY HOURS of 32%.


I myself was STUNNED at the impact this addition could have. I thought back to events approaching the 6:1 or 5:1 ratio that I had played/run for others. At those events I PRAYED and HOPED for the 2.6 to 1 or 2.3 to 1 ratio this addition would have created. Ohh the things I would have had to do/presented for my players. It is not that these events were necessarily bad (one of them had the best event grade of the year and had around a 5:1 ratio).
And here is the best part about this addition- when you do your NPC time you are still PLAYING the game- there is no loss of PLAY HOURS. It also lets you try out things that you cannot do as your PC as easily. Considering a silly voice- do it as an NPC. What’s fighting with a polearm all about- NPC’s can use polearms. Spellcasting attractive- go huck packets as an NPC. Always thought that make-up would be too much to play in- slap it on as an NPC. And if this addition becomes part of the game culture than you can STILL PLAY WITH YOUR FRIENDS/TEAM- just as an NPC.

So what do people think? Is 16% of PC PLAY HOURS worth a marked increase in NPC PLAY HOURS?

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.
 

jpariury

Duke
There are non-numeric considerations that have me against mandatory NPC hours.

Our Monster Camp is generally pretty involved in what's going on. We have NPC prep packets available ("My Life As An Automaton - Life as a slave under Harkonnian rule", "The Harkonnian Primer", etc., as well as "The Story For This Event"). We've made substantial effort to make sure our NPCs are not just bodies swinging pipe for us, they're playing integrated members of the world. We meet with the NPCs before the event and at the start of the event to try and get them all on the same page for what we're going to be doing. Having a rotating body of PCs come through Monster Camp will reveal too much to the playership, imo, and detriment their experiences.

Part of having an integrated Monster Camp means not having to drop character every time someone gets captured so that we can spoonfeed the NPCs answers. Having a PC/NPC means 1 - they might get pulled for longer than 4 hours, and 2 - they now need to be spoonfed plot info, which means sucking up two resources instead of one.

I'm not averse to pulling PCs for double-hooking a lair card, but the need is measured by what we have going on in town, and how many PCs are trying to do lairs; it's not the kind of thing we can plan for.

Finally, if I go to a movie theater, and I can choose between a theater that requires me to work the soda booth for an hour after my movie, and one that doesn't, rest assured I'm picking the latter, even if it has crappier popcorn.

My need/desire for more NPCs isn't about having more bodies to swing pipes and take beanbags to the eye. It's about having an even more integrated world. Mandatory NPC shifts doesn't accomplish that without reducing the player experience below what I would want to play in, much less ask others to.
 
Thank you for your comments. Here are my counterpoints.

jpariury said:
There are non-numeric considerations that have me against mandatory NPC hours.

Our Monster Camp is generally pretty involved in what's going on. We have NPC prep packets available ("My Life As An Automaton - Life as a slave under Harkonnian rule", "The Harkonnian Primer", etc., as well as "The Story For This Event"). We've made substantial effort to make sure our NPCs are not just bodies swinging pipe for us, they're playing integrated members of the world. We meet with the NPCs before the event and at the start of the event to try and get them all on the same page for what we're going to be doing. Having a rotating body of PCs come through Monster Camp will reveal too much to the playership, imo, and detriment their experiences.

Part of having an integrated Monster Camp means not having to drop character every time someone gets captured so that we can spoonfeed the NPCs answers. Having a PC/NPC means 1 - they might get pulled for longer than 4 hours, and 2 - they now need to be spoonfed plot info, which means sucking up two resources instead of one.

I'm not averse to pulling PCs for double-hooking a lair card, but the need is measured by what we have going on in town, and how many PCs are trying to do lairs; it's not the kind of thing we can plan for.
jpariury said:
My need/desire for more NPCs isn't about having more bodies to swing pipes and take beanbags to the eye. It's about having an even more integrated world. Mandatory NPC shifts doesn't accomplish that without reducing the player experience below what I would want to play in, much less ask others to.

More the bolded. I best see these shifts being used for staffing modules, providing "local color", NPCing wave battles, hooking modules. Things that are NOT integral to the plot. Full weekend NPC's would still be the ones doing all the information sensitive stuff. I want more bodies to swing pipe/take packets/yodel/run poker games so that the NPC's in the know can make an even more intergrated world.


jpariury said:
Finally, if I go to a movie theater, and I can choose between a theater that requires me to work the soda booth for an hour after my movie, and one that doesn't, rest assured I'm picking the latter, even if it has crappier popcorn.

To extend your movie metaphor, I have too often shown up for a movie and it seems like there are troubles with the screen and the sound keeps clipping in and out- I am CLEARLY not receiving the full impact of the Director's vision. I would LOVE the opportunity to go up to the projection booth with a few friends and run that machine for a bit- especially because I can still see the movie, albeit from behind the camera. And I hope that when there are not enough projectionists to keep all the screens running that someone else will take care of it too and I can sit in the comfy seat.
 

phedre

Squire
Here's a major difference between the style of play on the coasts: lair cards aren't big on the EC, nor is double-hooking (hooking 2 mod groups and using them to NPC for each other). Wave battles aren't as frequent on the WC.

It drastically changes the way NPC resources are allocated.

What works for one play style isn't always going to work for the other. I think Ray is asking how to fix the problems that are more prevalent on the EC, like getting more bodies in for wave battles or multiple mods going on at a time.
 

jpariury

Duke
RuneBrighteyes said:
More the bolded. I best see these shifts being used for staffing modules, providing "local color", NPCing wave battles, hooking modules.
I'm not averse, but I do have reservations.

When we're Doing It Right®, our NPCs are costumed and make-upped to properly represent their creature type or character. We try and do away with "What Do I See?" as much as possible, and I've come to really, really loathe hockey-mask monsters. It simply feel cheap.

This isn't a non-intrusive requirement. Players spend a not-insubstantial period of time putting on their creme coats and charcoal powder. They spend hours getting their pouches to sit just so, and having their shirt blouse perfectly. Heck, my wife takes up the better part of a four-door sedan to for her kit and regalia.

Our modules are integrated. To be honest, many of our lair cards are too, so while it's not a big deal to have someone double-hook as a Giant Ant, it can be much more so to play a Harkonnian slaver, or something specific to the weekend plot. Even our lair cards give explanations not just for what the NPCs are expected to do, but why they exist there in the first place, and those clues are often important to the weekend.

"Local color" is reserved for the full-time NPCs. When we're Doing It Right®, if we send in a merchant, that merchant has a background, a place where they came from, and a goal specific to advancing the story. Characters that hook modules are integrated with the world we're creating/representing. We don't tend to do "popcorn mods". Even our wave battles have a story-driven purpose, goal, and background.

To extend your movie metaphor, I have too often shown up for a movie and it seems like there are troubles with the screen and the sound keeps clipping in and out- I am CLEARLY not receiving the full impact of the Director's vision. I would LOVE the opportunity to go up to the projection booth with a few friends and run that machine for a bit- especially because I can still see the movie
I hear ya, but I'd rather go to another theater where they're Doing It Right®. Alliance is not the only larp around, and if we aren't pushing ourselves to Doing It Right®, there are other venues for our time, effort, and money.

Again, if we're crunched for resources, I'm not against asking some people and pulling bodies on an ad-hoc basis. But making time-slots as a requirement to participation? No thanks.
 

MKing

Scout
Ray, what I think more EC chapters need to do is put into place the 3:1 that Xroads ran with and look at what the WC is doing, someone posted what their set up was .... and try to work it from both ends...as Lauren put it there are very different styles on the Coasts, what works on one side may not work on the other...

I have played in Larps that have ran different things when it came to NPC...

1) Everyone had to do a NPC shift for the weekend from a 2 to 4 hour shift, side note some of them let you opt out by paying more $ for the event.
2) All players started with 3 event "points", each event you PC'd you would use 1 event point. After 3 events of PCing you had to NPC, but doing so got you 3 more event points. This would need to be worked on...points per Chapter or do they "transfer" this way you could NPC one chapter and PC in another...
 

evi1r0n

Baron
So I staff in Seattle and only have Oregon to PC. I run plot and play a ton of NPCs at the Seattle events. I go to OR to play. I find I don't have any downtime at my games in Oregon. Sacrificing the little PC time I get throughout the year would be a major bummer to me. Plus I really don't dig just playing extra things to kill. I use the time I PC to play at my own pace and enjoy the game away from the frantic go go go in monster camp. The go go go has everything to do with being on plot, we have great ratios.

In Seattle we have a NPC guild. We also tend to post the goings on for the weekend all over monster camp so any NPC can be caught up to speed. I don't want to have to start policing those things if I am going to have PCs in monster camp all weekend. Sometimes having PCs in monster camp is a pain. You can't talk about things openly about the goings on of the weekend. We only allow PCs to play certain monsters and we don't want to have to start hiding the other monster cards, to avoid accidental peaking. We have a pretty solid ratio and when we need help for that extra umph we have many people that are willing to doublehook NPC for us, anytime we need it. Having a forced shift just isn't necessary for our chapter.

I don't think we need to force people to NPC to have a good game. I don't think it would add much of anything to the current game I am running in Seattle.

One more point. NPCing is free. PCs pay to play. Having to "work" a shift while paying for a game, doesn't seem like a good sell for the game. Sure there are some games in our area where that is practiced but they are half as expensive as us and they run a VERY different style than us.
 
How bad would it be to charge $10 more if people don't want to pull a 4 hour npc shift. Or charge $10$ less if they were willing to npc that shift? That seems like a pretty reasonable 'soft'please incentive that leaves it somewhat up to the individual

Thanks very much for doing out the math on this so clearly Ray. A policy like this would virtually ensure a ratio that was never worse than 3:1
 

MaxIrons

Squire
Oregon Staff
Marshal
Dreamingfurther said:
How bad would it be to charge $10 more if people don't want to pull a 4 hour npc shift. Or charge $10$ less if they were willing to npc that shift? That seems like a pretty reasonable 'soft'please incentive that leaves it somewhat up to the individual

Thanks very much for doing out the math on this so clearly Ray. A policy like this would virtually ensure a ratio that was never worse than 3:1
The psychological problem I see in that is classism and divisiveness amongst the game population. Don't get me wrong, if you bring it up to your chapter and they're psyched about it, by all means DO IT. I just have reservations about it and would be very much against it in the two chapters I play in.
 

Avaran

Baron
Dreamingfurther said:
How bad would it be to charge $10 more if people don't want to pull a 4 hour npc shift. Or charge $10$ less if they were willing to npc that shift? That seems like a pretty reasonable 'soft'please incentive that leaves it somewhat up to the individual
I think it would entirely depend on the players in the chapter and their reception of it. You can have the best idea in the world, but if your people/players don't respond do it positively all you're doing is hurting the game.

Personally, I'm like Ron; I have two chapters in reasonable (for me) driving distance; I am on the plot team in one and I PC in the other. I'm not really interested in NPC'ing on a mandatory basis in the chapter where I PC, I get enough of that experience elsewhere -- I'm totally open to double hook as long as it's not a constant, regular, or even forced thing. Once in a while, sure! All of the time? Probably not.

Even if I didn't staff in a chapter, I wouldn't want to have it be a requirement.
 
So call me Biggee Smalls...

So it sounds as if ratio is NOT as big of a problem on the WC, and I am PSYCHED for you guys. Out here on the right coast things are not so sunny.

I am so happy that WC games have shared their structure with NPC Guilds and how they run camp to make people psyched to NPC. I hope all games take a look at this and try it out. Is there a National NPC Committe? There should be.

So if your ratio is 2:1 already the returns you are getting for a 4 hour NPC shift are diminished as compared to chapters that run at much worse ratios. So I can understand why there would be a lack of enthusiasm for what is seen as an unnecessary addition.

jpariury said:
I hear ya, but I'd rather go to another theater where they're Doing It Right®. Alliance is not the only larp around, and if we aren't pushing ourselves to Doing It Right®, there are other venues for our time, effort, and money.
I believe that Doing It Right® is only possible with a reasonable PC/NPC ratio. On the EC this is sometimes/often a problem.

phedre said:
What works for one play style isn't always going to work for the other. I think Ray is asking how to fix the problems that are more prevalent on the EC, like getting more bodies in for wave battles or multiple mods going on at a time.
So I clearly need to talk to Lauren before I post something- you game for that?

MKing said:
Ray, what I think more EC chapters need to do is put into place the 3:1 that Xroads ran with and look at what the WC is doing, someone posted what their set up was .... and try to work it from both ends...as Lauren put it there are very different styles on the Coasts, what works on one side may not work on the other...
I love what Crossroads did, and at the same time have this critique about it- I would not have included staff as NPC's for the purposes of the ratio. I would have pushed for a 3:1 + staff. Staff ALWAYS has things that they have to do that suck up hours of time.
That and some sites require a certain number of players to come PC so as to pay for site rental (so owners/donors do not have to).

MKing said:
I have played in Larps that have ran different things when it came to NPC...

1) Everyone had to do a NPC shift for the weekend from a 2 to 4 hour shift, side note some of them let you opt out by paying more $ for the event...
So pretty much the proposal. The "buy out" option is interesting and I have seen it done before- it was pretty expensive at around 1/3 of the total event cost- I myself was leaning more towards a set up/clean up for four hours option as opposed to money. Or a NPC one event a year and not have to do the 4 hour shifts option (given a 6 event season NPCing one event trades 25 PLAY HOURS for 24 PLAY HOURS spread over 6 events). This is based off of my view or LARP as a community club (with expensive overhead) as opposed to a business.

MKing said:
2) All players started with 3 event "points", each event you PC'd you would use 1 event point. After 3 events of PCing you had to NPC, but doing so got you 3 more event points. This would need to be worked on...points per Chapter or do they "transfer" this way you could NPC one chapter and PC in another...
This led me to my "run three concurrent campaigns at one chapter idea. Play 2 NPC 1". It did not have traction before so I assume it wouldn't now- even though for me it would be ideal.

I guess my thought is that by having all players that show up at a game to PC take a 4 hour NPC shift you know that the pay off in terms of NPC PLAY HOURS will be directly balanced with how mnay people are playing your game.


Now here is what I am curious about- out of the EC peeps that I see responding to this who would do it? Why or why not?

And does anyone know how to create a poll?
 

MKing

Scout
Well, when I was playing CT, I spent 1-2 hours Sat morning, 1 hour Sat Nite and another 1-2 hours Sun morning doing Kitchen work..so if that was still going on I would not want to do that AND a 4 hour NPC shift...but If I was just PCin and not doing Kitchen then hell ya I would do a 4 hour shift...question would it be a full 4 hours at one time or could it be switched up like 2 2hr shifts...I would crunch Friday nite for a few hours and then again either Sat or Sun morning...depending on if there was 'Stuff' I was needed for...
 

evi1r0n

Baron
So if it isn't a problem in the whole Alliance, I feel this is something that should be addressed on a local level. Not an issue for us, may be for you. I would oppose an Alliance wide forced NPC policy but would totally support something on a local level it were needed. :thumbsup:
 
I am thinking that 2 2 hour shifts is better overall. I would also include kitchen time as a shift- mostly because I like to eat.
 

Mike Ventrella

Duke
Owner
Moderator
HQ Staff
Lately we've been doing really well in the HQ chapter as far as NPC ratio goes. That's mostly due to a group of college kids from nearby who show up in groups of 20 or so.

Anyway, I really dislike forcing anyone to NPC. We reward people who do NPC and who volunteer to take time on a weekend to NPC for a while. And I think giving NPCs fun roles and treating them with respect makes a big difference.

Besides, forcing someone to do something they don't want to do is going to give us unhappy NPCs and unhappy NPCs will not be good NPCs.

I'd hate to pay to play a game and be forced to NPC for them. To me it would be like going to a restaurant, paying for a meal, and being told I have to wash dishes afterwards.

I have no problem with individual chapters doing this if they want.

(Ray asked me to comment on this, by the way. Maybe he's regretting that now.) ;)
 
Mike Ventrella said:
(Ray asked me to comment on this, by the way. Maybe he's regretting that now.) ;)
No regrets! What has your ratio been? Is that putting you guys at HQ into the consistent 2 : 1 category? Are there any other people who can give some more info about their numbers?

I would love it if there is no need for this fix.
 

RavenSis

Newbie
There are so many better, non-intrusive ways to get a good ratio. Two options which quickly come to mind: You must NPC one event in order to get three PC event credits (i.e. you have to earn the ability to PC by NPCing), a strict ratio of PC to NPC (like at Crossroads). Even when it comes to writing modules and encounters at Crossroads, we kept a strict 1:3 ratio, to support our policy.

I guarantee any chapter which made it mandatory for me to hop fence each event wouldn't get my business. When I want to PC, I want to PC. I like being able to be immersed in the storyline, and sometimes I need a break from staffing or being a fulltime NPC. I PC for one of the three chapters I regularly play. 2:1 NPCing to PCing ratio for my involvement with Alliance. To make it mandatory for me to NPC the one chapter I get to PC? Not something I'd be happy about.

Now, I'm blessed that my main PC is a low-makeup race. Hopping fence if I choose to is relatively easy. I would never ask any of my high-makeup race friends to have to get completely clean in order to pull a four hour shift, just to get right back into makeup again.

Not to mention the sheer logistical nightmare this would be. As kitchen staff in Caldaria for two years, we had sign up sheets for folks to help us in the kitchen - folks would sign up, not show up to the shift, and the same people would have to do the work anyway. Nothing ever runs on time, both PCs and NPCs alike lose track of time, and trying to keep up with who contributed and who skipped out (especially if you're having to factor in event cost to all of that) - it would be a nightmare.

Yes, ratio is an issue at some chapters. There are SO many less complicated and better ways to do so than to break up someone's game time.
 
I would prefer a "NPC one event then get to play 2 or 3 events" structure, but I felt that doing 4 hours of NPCing at a weekend (in my head including stuff like kitchen/logistics) would be less intrusive.
 

Aggravain

Fighter
Owner
HQ Staff
If I may ,


Math is awesome. Human nature tho isn't an equation.

I do very much enjoy the ratio option. I also think (and know) many larps lose players in favor of others due to mandatory services.

Here are my thoughts. Yes a ratio is awesome. Yes it means there is a ton more things to do. Yes I believe it's a very good "best practice" to hop fence and help out. It provides experienced players and gives you a break from some stressfull times. I'll be honest tho. If you said Kyle I need you to pay 40 bucks for gas, x amount for food, buy this garb prep yourself for this story and a condition for you to give money to play is you HAVE do to x amount of hours. I would go tell you a few choice things.


HOWEVER... If you provide incentives, if you create a culture where this is expected, rewarded and respected. the game changes . At Hq the major teams and baronies take turns hopping fence as a team. HQ then rewards with gobbies, magic item picks and plot. Simple rewards that cost nothing and it provides fresh experienced players and are an awesome amount of fun especially if you do so as a team. It also allows exposure to players whom may not npc normall to do so. This "best practice" has recruited 3 writers for our plot team in this year alone. In addition it sets the example " Oh sweet so and so hopped fence there's going to be some cool stuff".


This helps with the ratio. I work with people and build teams for a living. Asking is always better then telling. The feeling of "being a part" of something gives you an investment in the culture and chapter. I would then attempt a ratio via reward and appreciation and establish a culture of doing your part for your friends. Rather then " I'm gunna charge you more to not do this" again. Ask don't tell. Reward don't reprimand. Thats a good way to lead, develope good customer service relations with your customers " they can hang with plot and stuff and can even talk that may resolve some stresses.



This may all seem like poorly spelled gibberish I just think when you provide a entertainment service and then require people to "work" it thats a bad form. I would instead say rather then making people go see a movie and then scrape gum off theater seats, instead set up a reward system and make it special.. to the point where they are excited to come in and mop up the soda spills in the theatre because then they can watch the coming attractions.....metaphor.. it happened..



So yeah that.



Kyle
 
Perhaps, instead of requiring players to spend time NPCing, give them IG or OOG incentives to put in that time.
IG incentive: every three weekends where they put in a 4-hour shift, they get a magic item pick.
OOG Incentive: 10% more xp for the weekend if they put in a 4-hour shift.

You'll get fewer players hopping the fence than if you required them to do so, but more than you do now (and thank you to those of you who do hop the fence from time to time).

Also, every time you get a new person to NPC their first event, you get gobbies/a free monthly blanket. Not only does it increase the NPC ratio, it encourages people to bring in new customers.
 
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