Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Five or So Questions with Mike Young on A Grandiose Disaster

Today I have an interview with Mike Young, writer and designer of A Grandiose Disaster, a live action roleplaying game currently on Kickstarter through Nathan D. Paoletta. It sounds like a really interesting play experience, so I hope you enjoy the answers I've shared below!

Tell me a little about A Grandiose Disaster. What excites you about it?

A Grandiose Disaster is a horror and disaster movie simulation larp. It’s
takes about 3 hours to run in a house, or at a gaming convention, or
wherever people congregate to play games. First the players work together
to create characters that care about each other. Then they go through the
scenario scene by scene, reacting to the disaster and deciding which
characters live and which die.

I’ve been writing larps for many years and I also perform improvisational
theater, and I think A Grandiose Disaster is the end result of all that
I’ve learned doing these things. The ruleset is simple and easy to learn.
It is designed to facilitate roleplaying, making the players feel heroic
at times and despair at other times. The structure of the scenarios
allows for players to focus on roleplaying without worrying if they are
doing something that might harm their character.

And as a larp writer, I really enjoy how easy it is to design a scenario
for A Grandiose Disaster compared to the traditional secrets and powers
larps I’ve written in the past. I love running scenarios for this larp; it
allows me to sit back and watch the roleplaying unfold. I’m really excited
about how everything really works together to highlight the disaster movie

In A Grandiose Disaster, players create characters that care about each
other. How does this character creation work, and what helps solidify the
emotional connection?

It’s pretty simple. The players get into a circle and form relationships
with the people to their left and right. If there are enough people, then
they get a third relationship too. The relationships can be anything, but
the rules suggest close relationships that have existed for a while:
family members, coworkers, or close friends.

The rules have all sorts of suggestions for creating close relationships.
Players can create a defining event for the relationship giving them
something to discuss and reference during the larp. There are warmups
taken from improv theater that allow the players to roleplay some of the
shared history of their characters to help form a bond. And players can
spend time together discussing the shared history to get as many details
as they want for the history.

What kind of experiences can people expect in the game - are there zombies
or monsters, or are these natural horrors like nature gone wild or

Well, it really depends on the scenario. I’ve been encouraging blatant
foreshadowing in scenario descriptions so players can create character
that would make sense in such a movie. So players know what to expect in
Trapped in a Mall With Some Zombies, and the descriptions of Fire and Ice
and Space Station Omega make it clear that they are inspired by The
Poseidon Adventure and Alien respectively.

How do the rules encourage both heroism and despair for the players?

The player characters each start with one one-use Ability that allows them
to save a life or learn crucial bits of information or do something else
that breaks the rules of the larp. This allows them to feel heroic as they
drag people to safety or keep people from dying.

However, the scenarios are designed such that characters will die, and
that the players must go from scene to scene in order. The scenes become
more and more horrifying and the players must choose someone to die in
most of the later scenes. Since the players have created deep
relationships with their characters, they will often have to choose
someone they care about to die which can lead to horror and despair.

In an ideal game, what would you want players to take out of the game, in
the end?

I want the players, both whose characters survived and died tragically, I
want them to say they enjoyed the experience. I want them to feel like
they have actually survived a disaster movie and that they had some
genuine emotional responses because of it.

Thanks so much Mike for answering my questions! Make sure to check out A Grandiose Disaster on Kickstarter, and Mike's other projects if you like his style.

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