There has been a shift in focus and the way of thinking in games and in general for over the last couple of decades. People have stopped appreciating hard effort. This sounds quite confrontational, so let me explain. In the olden times games tended to be quite hard and sometimes very frustrating. Merely getting past a certain screen or boss may have taken several weeks of trying and thinking, and this effort gave great satisfaction. This, however, led to games being quite straightforward and simplistic in story. But as games became more mainstream, the portion of players who just wanted to see the story in the game increased, along with the interest of telling stories via the video game medium. So games lowered their difficulty so that the players could experience the whole story more easily.
But I’m not going to write about the difficulty aspect. No, I want to talk about realism versus narrativism. Along with the easification of video games, roleplaying games changed. D&D is the prime example: Chainmail, the first proto-D&D, morphed into existence from a historic miniature battle game. I imagine that realism was The design goal. So, D&D simulated realism a lot, which made the game quite deadly. The legendary Tomb of Horrors is a good example: Fresh players will probably all fail in the first couple of rooms of the adventure.
In that context telling engaging stories was difficult, because the protagonists kept dying. When merely crossing a somewhat strongish stream became a deadly obstacle, the macro events and issues of the story took the back seat. So from these tumultuous times arose the first roleplaying games that focused mainly on the larger story. World of Darkness, with its abstract dot-based game mechanics, took accurate simulation of realism away and replaced it with storytelling tropes. And people enjoyed it. Lately, there have been more of these storytelling games: Shock, Knights of the Round Table, Dust Devils, and indeed Dreamland Initiative.
Keeping that in mind, I’d like to consider meta-knowledge. Most roleplayers (including larpers) dislike meta-knowledge, since it is unrealistic and upsets the coherency of the game world. But I can’t help but feel that this path is unexplored. I’d very much like to test a live action role playing game where the players know about the things their characters will experience in the game beforehand. Let’s say that your character’s girlfriend has an affair with another person and is planning to run away with him in the night the larp happens. You know this, but your character does not. Would it not make the events just before the big reveal that much more bittersweet? Looking at each other and promising to always love and support each other, while both sides are just as aware of the tragic irony of the promise?
I understand and agree that meta-knowledge brings great risks. Knowing about things beforehand might make it easier for some players to avoid bad things, which is the exact opposite of what I want. Some players will want to “win” the larp by achieving their character’s objectives. But this might be combated by giving the characters meta-objectives. “Accidentally reveal your debt crisis to your friend” might be a fun thing to try to figure out how to do. “Proclaim your love under the shadow of the huge oak” would make for a very romantic scene. And, for a grand exit, “Die in a duel with your nemesis at sunset”. This way the game master can exert some control over the events. While I think that many larpers will hate the idea, I believe that this would be an interesting thing to try out and expand the horizons of the way we do live action roleplaying.