So, there's this gang of crooks, right? An' they've just done the crime of the century, nicked 200 million pounds worth of diamonds from the Millennium Dome, you get me? So they all meet up at the guv'nor's lockup a couple of days later to split the loot, and find 'im dead on the floor with his guts blown out, and no sign of the bloody diamonds. Its a bit of a problem, innit? And with everyone still 'aving their shooters n'all, you know its not gonna end well...
That's the basic setup for Diamond Geezers, a ten-player theatre-style larp from Peaky Games. As should be obvious, its set in London's criminal fraternity, as seen through the lens of the films of Guy Ritchie. The result is a cross between Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Reservoir Dogs, with a comedy twist. And its a damn good larp experience.
The game is available through Lulu.
The game comes as a 111-page book or PDF, consisting of 12 pages of GM information, 18 pages of props, and 80 pages of character sheets. There is no art (which isn't necessarily a problem for larps), and the layout is very basic. This is not a stylish product - but it is all there.
The GM's guide has everything needed to run the game, including running notes, a prop list, and an amusing casting questionnaire. The props include item cards for those who don't want to use physical props, and various documents used in the game. There's also a selection of news stories about the gang's activities, some of which are based on real crimes. These provide a shared background for the characters and a picture of the gang's activities.
The bulk of the game - 80 pages - is in the character sheets. A large chunk of this is because of a decision to repeat information such as rules and general background (totalling 3 - 4 pages per character) which would in other larps be printed only once with a note to give a copy to every player. However, it does let each sheet be printed immediately as an 8-page booklet, which includes everything needed to play the game. This makes no difference to run costs - you'd be printing or photocopying it all anyway - but it does mean that the hardcopy version is more expensive than it needs to be. OTOH, if you're using the PDF, it makes no difference at all to cost, and does simplify game logistics a little.
Eight pages of information per character sounds like a lot, and it is (the standard in similar larps here aims at one page of character info, one page of background, and maybe a page of rules, tops). But it pays off, with a lot of detail on each character's past activities and views of the others, which results in a very good picture of their shared history, rivalries, loyalties and debts. A nice touch is that all of the character information is written in the character's "voice", which helps establish the right mood and style for the game, and gives the players something solid to base their portrayal around.
Three of the ten characters are female, with one who can be of either gender. Its not perfect, but its better than a lot of other commercial larps.
The plot is simple: the gangsters turn up to split the loot, only to find their boss dead. Hilarity (and possible gunplay) ensues. That doesn't sound like much, but all of the characters have a reason to stay and argue about what to do next, rather than walking out the door immediately. And the level of detail in the characters means they'll take two hours to argue about it, rather than five seconds. I noted above that the characters have a shared history together; all of that history is going to come out, with amusing (and possibly fatal) results.
Supporting this are some simple rules, which both encourage and limit gunplay while constantly building the pressure. The use of realistic gun props (e.g. capguns) is encouraged. While characters can't kill each other for the first 90 minutes, they can use their weapons to intimidate each other and force truthful answers (at least, provided people don't have special abilities...) The complicating factor is that every character also has a list of people they are loyal to; if someone points a gun at one of them, then the character has to point their own weapon at that someone. The result is that the moment someone draws, everyone draws, producing screaming, tension, and the potential for a messy climax. Which is exactly what you want in this sort of game.
Of course, the characters could decide to sit down, have a nice hot cup of tea, and solve their problems calmly and rationally. But how likely is that?
This is a strong product. It has good characters, enough plot, and uses its character material and rules well to set the desired mood of light-hearted criminal mayhem. The worst that can be said about it is that it requires a lot of reading, and that its not very pretty. But these flaws are more than outweighed by the play experience. And at £5 for the PDF, it is excellent value for money.