top of page

The Wizard's Desk

The Wizard's desk is a blog space where our staff and creative leads offer their insight and experience on engaging with DrachenFest US! We're excited to share what we can, so pull up a seat!

Camp Leadership in Depth

This is the first in a series of blog posts about camp leadership at DrachenFest-US. We'll dive into the deep end of each role, and talk about its responsibilities, risks, and the power it has to create fun gameplay within each camp. We'll also share some tools for "plot makers" of all kinds. The text posted here will be made available to leaders as handouts.

This series covers:

  • The Councilor

  • The General

  • The Spymaster

  • The Head Diplomat

  • The Champion

A well led camp feels like a town with its own larp plot. The most successful camps have learned to play well together, forming bonds that transcend the game. Camp Leaders build the relationships and spaces which help this happen!

Change in Selection Process

We heard your feedback that having rapid-fire campaigning and elections for each position on Wednesday night within each camp was chaotic--in many camps, a lot needed to happen in a very short time. This year, we'll try a different approach:

If you’re interested in a leadership position, approach the Avatar or their sidekick sometime on Wednesday and state your intention. Your camp might instead have a book or list that you'll sign to indicate your interest. You may be given some kind of test or task. You can get started any time on Wednesday.

Before midnight on Wednesday, the Avatar (and the other camp refs) will select the camp leaders for the year. They will formally present themselves to the camp on Thursday at the camp's morning meeting. (exception: the Champion is usually selected by a camp tournament early on Thursday)

Some leadership roles might have an alternate selection process–Blue camp might have a free democratic election for their councilor, whereas Shadow camp may choose an Archmage by seeing who has the best response to an open ended riddle. If the previous year had no clear consensus about method, Leaders will be chosen by avatar fiat.

Camp Leadership positions only last for a year. We don't want the camp leadership to become an "old boys club", so you can't hold the same position two years in a row. But previous leaders can act as advisors!

Leadership Overview

If each camp is like its own larp, the camp leaders are some of the key “organizers” of that larp.

Camp Leadership is a time-intensive job. If you volunteer for one of these roles, plan to make it your main focus throughout the festival. It is reasonable to recruit a second-in-command or a set of helpers to assist you.

The Camp Leaders enable certain types of play within their camp. Each one is in charge of a “play domain”, leading that type of gameplay by example, modeling the camp behavior & attitude, and proactively communicating hooks and play opportunities within the camp.

Camp Leaders (especially the council) also play the very important role of validating play within their domain. This means building upon each other's concepts and narrative, & plugging them into each other. To 'validate' something is to make it important! 

  • Help build camp story by utilizing camp enterprises, resources, and subgroups. Get your camp to play together.

  • For example, if your camp has a messenger enterprise, make sure groups in your camp use them to send messages–even if other options are available!

  • If thief players within a camp want to pull off a heist or a sabotage, or they have some rogue specialty (highway muggers, poisoned wine dealers, etc), that can become plot! The Spymaster supports them by helping them come up with activities, guiding them towards relevant opportunities and other players, reinforcing their concepts, and communicating their plot to others. The Spymaster might offer some ideas for a camp scheme or heist and delegate responsibility for important tasks or plot milestones.

  • If a group of soldiers form a fighting unit, with its own uniform and slogan, the General treats that as an important and unique resource. They might ask that unit to do special tasks and give public recognition for their efforts. The General helps build their plot by working with them to develop goals, narrative, theme, culture, or introducing them to people that may want to participate–either as supporters or antagonists!

  • Take the time to recognize camp crafting projects and other creative endeavors, explain how these projects fit into the camp story. If a camp has an armorer, direct people with broken armor that way, and in your next speech to the camp, thank them for their work. Validate their efforts by making them visible and important to your camp story: “Our victory yesterday is being immortalized on a belt.. When we march into battle tomorrow, our enemies will see that belt on our Champion!”

Leading Emergent Plot

Within the camp, Leaders often act as “quest givers” and "plot builders" for other players. When a job needs to be done, or players need something important to do, leaders can guide them, give them “plot”. This helps define the camp's ongoing story and direction. When giving tasks to other players, some of their main tools are setting goals, stakes, and milestones.

Whenever possible, connect goals to the camp’s aspects and other ongoing roleplay. A goal should feel important! Show how this goal fits into larger plans and goals, connecting personal efforts to camp objectives and narratives.

  • Steer away from overly personal goals like gaining personal power, or getting paid.

  • Also, keep it feasible, and steer away from overly ambitious & huge goals like winning the competition, forming a permanent alliance, or becoming Archmage of the magic guild. Things that take multiple days (or events) to finish may be too big.

  • Great goals create gameplay or experiences for others: they might develop lore, add to what we know about the world, drive consent-based antagonism, build group identity, or create cross-faction collaboration.

  • The best goals create enduring plot frameworks and structures. "Your goal isn't just to become an official camp paladin, it's about creating a path that others can follow to become official paladins too."

Define the stakes of this adventure - up front, let people know what we stand to gain or lose from this mission. As leaders, you can help people to define their individual stakes: how much risk do you want to take? Do you want to put your life on the line? How far are you willing to go? if you succeed, what does it mean to you?

  • Stakes that are too intense (death, camp failure, etc) make players feel obligated to participate. In a consent-based roleplay space, incentives are better than consequences. (Plus, camp leaders can't actually boss everybody around, they should instead lead by inspiration.)

  • OK stakes include gaining knowledge/insight, political capital (camp/group reputation/etc), dragon eggs, influencing a lore concept, getting recognition for efforts (ie show & tell), oaths & friendships.

  • Great stakes might involve the core roleplay premise of player groups. (You're a group of performers? Great, we're trying to impress someone, and a performance would be perfect..)

  • Excellent stakes involve changes to roleplay or concept (with the player's buy-in). Will this quest change who you are? ("We're mercenaries, but if we find a leader that inspires us, we'll swear off our old ways and fight for a cause instead.") These usually need to be suggested by the person affected.

Big goals (like “Create a formal treaty with another camp”) should be chopped up into smaller narrative milestones. These are moments of substantial "plot development" (marking the significant beats of a plot) that are produced by player effort. Each milestone should be recognized and celebrated. They're also an opportunity to modify the stakes. Milestones usually have a number of possible ways they could be accomplished--they work like a creative prompt!

  • For example, a task for a camp diplomat: 1. Determine the camp’s current needs and motivation, 2. Establish diplomatic relations with another camp, meeting their ambassador and creating a communication channel, 3. Set up a meeting to discuss possible treaty terms, make an offer.

  • The milestones for a heist could be: 1. Gather information about the target, including strengths and vulnerabilities, 2. Gather resources (tools and people) that will be needed, 3. Host a group planning scene, 4. Do the job!

As a quest giver, when someone completes a task and returns to you, make that into a "scene". Give them space to tell the story of what happened. You can accept and validate their efforts, or send them back out to do more. Make sure to celebrate each success!

Lead Confidently

For each role, there are a set of standard ‘to-do’s’ which will get the leader properly seated, and kickstart the camp's roleplay energy. 

If you’re struggling with your role, talk to your camp referees! Your In-Game and Out-of-Game refs are a great resource for leaders. They also need to know what's going on in camp (on both an IG and OOG level), so get in the habit of swinging by the referee stand and giving an update. (and that goes for everybody--not just leaders!)

Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers. You’re the ringmaster, not the main character. This isn’t about ruling your camp, it’s about shining the spotlight. If you need direction or inspiration, talk to your fellow camp members and previous camp leaders.

Player leadership is one of the core elements of our “play to lift” philosophy. At DrachenFest, we celebrate failure just as much as success. Even the camp’s darkest day is an important scene in their story. You’ll help the camp use this energy in positive, collaborative ways to build an incredible shared experience.

288 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page