View Full Version : Free "Parlor LARP" booklets available for download

07-07-2010, 07:02 PM
Note: I checked with the Mods and got permission before posting this.

An old friend of my family's is one of the creators of a series of "Parlor LARP" (more on that in a moment) games published by a small game company called Shifting Forest Storyworks. As a memorial to their chief playtester, who passed away recently, they are making the booklets for all their old games available for free as PDFs. Here's the link:


(I was not asked to post this link and actually haven't heard from this friend in years, I'm sharing this just because I thought some Dopers might be interested.)

So, what's a parlor LARP? It's sort of a cross between a traditional live-action roleplaying game and one of those murder mystery dinner party games. All the Shifting Forest games are designed to be played and completed in a few hours. Most call for 4-8 players, and generally have non-gender specific characters. There is a set plot with several possible endings. A lot of the information about the characters is predetermined, but players do have some room to personalize their characters. The emphasis is on roleplaying/improv, but there is also a combat system that handles both fighting and social conflicts.

I've never played any of these games myself, but I've been reading through the booklets and am interested in trying one as soon as I can get a good group of people together. There's a variety of themes and settings available. Some strike me as being much better than others, and many have some rather silly or over-the-top elements I'd want to tweak before running, but I think these could be a lot of fun as both a change of pace for people who play long-running LARPs or an introduction to LARPs for people without much roleplaying experience.

Left Hand of Dorkness
07-07-2010, 10:43 PM
Interesting--I'll take a look! In the 90s, I ran a couple of one-night LARPs with my friends, one a homebrew take on White Wolf's stuff and the other a complete homebrew set in a mental institution with mad scientists, psychics, FBI agents, and sociopaths. These games were for 50-60 people, however, and took several months of intense work to write. The idea of a smaller LARP is intriguing.

07-08-2010, 04:08 AM
I write and play those style of LARPs locally (usually ~25 people, so between the OP and Left Hand's in size.) So thanks for the link. By "traditional", do you mean the NERO-style continuing game systems, often with boffers? Because we only have the other kind here (interactive theatre-style, it's usually called) even if the game is recurring (usually only one evening, though)

I'm co-writing a steampunk-ish LARP right now. Very prop-heavy, with working gadgets and animatronic creatures! Set on an airship travelling to a meteor crash site in a very alternative 1910. Is it Martians hitching a ride on Halley's Comet? Or crashlanded Imperial German Zombie Viking Jetpack troops! Rayguns and Aether generators! Tesla shoots down alien ship over Tunguska! Ford-Wright competes with Edison for Airship secrets! Lost scions, illicit lovers, assassins, spies! Sinister Cultists and forbidden knowledge! Tentacles! Top Hats! Missing Mad Scientists. Steam-driven automatons. Discover the power of Professor Plimmington's Crypto-crystalline Clockwork and Coherence Cogitation Contraption. And just who is that urbane, yet mysterious Brain-in-a-jar in the corner?

07-08-2010, 09:47 AM
I write and play those style of LARPs locally (usually ~25 people, so between the OP and Left Hand's in size.) So thanks for the link. By "traditional", do you mean the NERO-style continuing game systems, often with boffers? Because we only have the other kind here (interactive theatre-style, it's usually called) even if the game is recurring (usually only one evening, though) I didn't mean anything special by "traditional", just that most LARPs allow players to create or customize their own characters and that the plot and ending of the game aren't fixed. (Well, they can be, but that's the choice of the person running the game and not an inherent characteristic of LARPs.) There's also usually some sort of character stats involved and a combat or conflict system. On the other hand, murder mystery dinner party games usually have pre-set characters, fixed plots, a single "correct" ending, and no stats or combat/conflict system.

These Parlor LARPs fall in-between, as they have a fixed backstory and some fixed plot events, several possible endings depending on what the players do (some of the booklets look like they railroad the players more than others, though), pre-set characters with room for customization by the players, and a fairly simple stat and combat/conflict system. I do think a weakness of these booklets is that the conflict system isn't explained that well, and the notation is kind of confusing. I had to read quite a bit before I could figure out exactly how it worked. But it seems like it would be easy to change or drop the system if your group preferred to play a different way. At least one of the Shifting Forest games, A Little Magic (plot involves setting two characters up romantically), does drop the conflict system and says everything should be worked out via roleplaying.

The ability to choose the sex of your character is a huge improvement over the murder mystery game box sets. This has been a source of annoyance for everyone I know who's ever played one of those games. A lot of people aren't comfortable playing a character of the opposite sex, and getting together a group of interested friends isn't easy if you're restricted to X number of women and Y number of men. It's funny because years ago when we were all teenagers one of my sisters wanted to do a murder mystery party game, and the same friend who went on to create the Shifting Forest games was one of the players. The group was almost entirely female, but the game didn't have that many female characters (it might not even have been 50/50), and one of the included female characters was such a bimbo that none of the girls wanted to play her. One guest's younger brother was eventually bullied into taking the role! Luckily for him it had already been decided that everyone would just wear their regular clothes and not bother with costumes.

Several of the Shifting Forest games do require that a particular character have a past or present romantic relationship with another character or NPC, so players who want their characters to be their same sex may discover that their character can't be their same sexual orientation. But this could to some extent be avoided by careful role assignment and changing the sex of NPCs, and of course players could just be asked if they minded playing either a character of the opposite sex or a different orientation.

07-08-2010, 04:16 PM
Our style is pretty much exactly like Shifting Forest, only with greatly pared-down conflict resolution, which can vary from larp to larp. Characters usually don't have stats, just abilities. The writers will usually customise the sexes etc to whoever signed up.

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