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LARP: Live Action & Real Problems

Module-ation Part II

by Jason Hosler
Jul 15,2005


LARP: Live Action & Real Problems

by Jason Hosler, Raging Gargoyle Games

Module-ation Part II

To continue with our topic from last time, Modules: a Simple How-to Guide...

This time around we will focus on two basic elements of modules, Traps and Walls. Traps are defined, for the purposes of this article, as any normally static element of a module intended to harm or dissuade explorers or warn defenders of an intrusion. Traps can come in the phys-repped or unphys-repped styles. It is my opinion that you should always phys-rep the trigger of a trap, or at the very, very least give the players some type of clue to let them know the trap is coming. The easiest method I've seen done to make traps is to design noise based triggers, typically a trip wire of fishing line (or invisible thread)attached to a mouse trap. This style of trap gives the observant players an opportunity to notice the trap before it's set off, and if properly skilled, even disarm the trap.

Another cool trap that I've seen utilized to great effect is to place a number of upside down plastic plates under a peice of tarp or a carpet to represent pressure-plate traps. The plates, similar to the mouse traps, give off a loud trigger noise when set off. Normally, modules with traps will have to have an out of play guide to inform the players of exactly what happens when the trap goes off. This way your trap effects are not limited to the simplicity of the phys-rep. One of the key elements to hiding a trap so that it's not immediately obvious is proper placement of camoflage. The simplest form of camoflage in a module setting is usually walls.

The two most common forms of quickly setup walls are tarp and flats. Tarp is usually black 4 or 6 mil plastic stapled or taped between two supports, or hung off of a rafter. When buying tarp for use as walls, you want to pick up as thick and study plastic as you can. Module wall tarp will take a lot of abuse, and the thicker plastic is heavier so it isn't as likely to move in the wind currents created by nature or passing players. The thicker plastic can also be stapled, torn down, and then restapled without becoming useless shreds for a much longer time. It is also possible to find thick white/translucent plastic. This is very handy for creating ice walls or similar vision distorting barriers (magical walls of fog or smoke, some types of forcefields, etc.).

The other common style of wall is the standard theatrical flat. A flat is typically a frame of 1/2" thick wood with a heavy canvas facing on one side. Flats can be quickly connected via screws or fixed with legs so that they will stand independantly. Flats are great to use if you must do your module outside of an existing building, because they allow you to quickly simulate a building, albiet roofless. The flats can also be easily painted and repainted as occasion demands. Paint tends to flake off of plastic tarping, but will stay on canvas until it is purposefully removed.

A clever device the prop master for our game came up with was a set of wheeled cubes, one flat to a side, each painted with a different back ground. This allowed us to have a quick setup for a passageway, a wooded glade, and an underwater cave. It was said to be one of the best effects in the event when one of our players, skilled at finding and opening secret doors, was able to actually cause a section of wall to slide open to reveal the hidden passageway behind it. The frames are also anchored in such a way that we could staple tarping to them as movable supports.

When setting up the walls for your module you should make sure to plan out where you need what before you start actually putting up walls. There have been many modules that I've started working on only to find that, due to poor planning, I need a sharp corner six feet away from the nearest support. Very little is as frustrating behinds the scenes of a LARP than being almost done with a module design that needs to run in the next hour and having to go back and redesign it from scratch.

As you can see, walls and traps can add a lot of atmosphere and cool effects to your modules. The main thing to keep in mind when developing or planning your module is not only does it look good, but that it won't take the entire event to setup and take down. If you have any ideas of how to simulate other effects (fog machines are your friends) please feel free to post them below. Everybody benefits from an exchange of staging magic tricks.

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