On Friday I ran a 17-player LARP. It was a prototype, so it had flaws, but here is a report on it.
The game was built to test the viability of putting social dynamics into rules. The way I approached this was to make it so that each character had a variety of situations - some social, some not - where they gained power. This required me to have to give each character four powers. Unfortunately, a normal LARP does not require players to have that breadth of capability (or, more accurately, use that breadth of capability frequently), so I had to think of a different way to do the LARP. Something other than the standard "run around solving things and occasionally getting in a conflict". Something which requires the players to use large numbers of powers every five minutes. Therefore, I obviously needed to up the tactical complexity without limiting the socialization.
I chose to make the LARP largely a board game (and, in this case, a large board game). It bore a strong similarity to a miniatures dungeon crawl or old time squad war game. It was STRICTLY cooperative - for the first time ever, I did not put in any conflict between players, or even any theoretical reason for them to conflict. I was hoping this would give them a feeling of camaraderie and allow them to focus on forming cooperative relationships. It seemed to work.
Like dungeon crawls and squad games, the big element here was "table talk". The magical ability to plan out your moves with a player three hundred feet away behind ten stone walls. The ability to come up with complex schemes in one five-second block of "board time" and give long speeches as bullets swarm towards you.
I made all the players psychic, and therefore they could all talk to each other regardless of distance. Also, telepathy works faster than the "real world", so they could do a lot of talking and planning even though each turn on the board was only five seconds long.
I decided to do this because I could make the table talk the method of socializing, and give the board-game avatars most of the powers which were fueled by socializing. I also let the avatar's situation provide fuel for some powers, and let some powers affect the table talk.
For example, one player charged up a teleportation power if she remained silent for five minutes. Another player charged up a useful but weak combat power by laughing. Several people charged their powers by convincing other people to do their plan, or getting thanked, etc, etc. On the other hand, some people could charge powers by being in the dark, or killing an enemy, or getting wounded.
I also added a memory element - they were all amnesiacs, and over the course of the game they recovered not only their own memories, but discovered logs of what had happened in the previous weeks and years. Obviously, the reason they were amnesiacs is because there was a telepath on board looking to grab all the scientists. Them being scientists, they gave themselves amnesia to give themselves time to escape. This meant that the more they learned, the more danger they were in. This wasn't made clear enough because we didn't have enough GM coordination to handle monster attacks. All the monster attacks were desperately half-assed, through no fault of the AGMs.
As you see, it wasn't all light and sunshine. The map was too large, 17 players was about twice too many, and I ran out of prep time so many of the planned features were scrapped. Still, it went pretty well and there is definitely a core of fun in there, and that's what a prototype is intended to discover.
At some point, I'll run a similar game, but I want to make it more social. I'm thinking about making it high fantasy, and reversing the time scales. IE, every fifteen minutes of real time would be a day or week of board time. And maybe giving players control over multiple avatars...
I love designing games. It's too bad they're such a pain to actually RUN.