37. Larp organisers get only part of what you pay – we can change that

I organise larp events for an international audience. I also participate in international larp events. The most recent of these was Dracarys, a Game of Thrones larp in Italy. It cost me 156€, if I remember correctly, and that number could have been lower if I hadn’t chosen the costume rental option, and the ticket option where I supported the larp with extra money just because.

The experience cost me more than those 156€. A LOT more.

The price is never the price

I had a flight to Milan, that cost roughly 300€.

I missed my flight there, adding an extra 70€ to the price due to being one minute too late after having hickups at the self-service checkin counter.

I was lucky enough to get pickup from the airport, and didn’t pay for that, but on the way back to Denmark, my transport guy had to do emergency dragon driving, and I went by train. Around 30€ extra. And another 95€ for the taxi I had to take, because the train connections would have meant missing the flight.

In Denmark, the transport back and forth from the airport was a ridiculous 3 euros each way, but that’s because Copenhagen has a metro that goes directly from our office to the airport, if you factor in five min of walking. Luxury to boot!

In Italy, I also ate a few meals on the road. Nothing fancy, and they didn’t cost me more than 15€ in total, but it all adds up. To just around 700€, in fact.

And I’m not including costs for costume parts brought from home, the medieval boots I’d bought for the occasion that stranded in Abu Dhabi (where they still are!), or the wages I paid to my Polish costume team to make an epic Warlock robe for me.

It doesn’t end there, though

Then there’s the less-obvious costs. I went on Thursday morning (or tried to!) and was back Monday evening. That’s three vacation days for most people. For me, it’s three days when I’m not at the office. Now, I sadly don’t make a nice wage (I own a larp production company, and while that’s awesome, it’s not exactly well-paid. Yet), but three days of my time also cost something. And that’s leaving aside the fact that I also usually work Saturdays, so that’s four days taken out of my normal work schedule.

~700€ and four days of work.

For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that I make the same as someone working the counter in a supermarket. That means roughly 1.800€ after taxes pr month (give or take), for roughly 20 work days. Let’s call it 90€/day and not be anal about it. Precision isn’t important right now.

That comes out to just over a thousand euro for my adventure as a Warlock of Qarth. Totally worth it, by the way, but that’s not the point here.

~1.000€ vs 156€

The point is that the organisers got 156€ of that, some of which had to go directly towards my costume rental, and couldn’t be spent on the larp. I don’t know how much that was, but for the sake of the argument, let’s say they got 150€ for the larp, and just borrowed me some costume parts they already had. That’s best case on their part.

This leaves us with them getting about 15% of the money I spent. One hundred and fifty euro to craft an experience that cost me over a thousand. That’s really not much.

What if I’d paid them double that? My total expenditure would have grown by 15%, but their available funds (from me!) would have doubled. But wait, it gets even more skewed. Because some of their costs were hard costs, and subject to certain minimums. The location price was set already. Transport costs for the team wouldn’t have risen by me paying more. There are other larp organising costs that can’t be budged one way or the other, and remain stable.

What would that extra money mean?

But – again, for the sake of the argument – let’s pretend they used 50% of their budget on fixed costs, like the castle, insurance, transport costs, and so on. This probably isn’t the real number, but it’s close enough for jazz. If we accept this 50%, then by spending the paltry 15% more, I wouldn’t just have doubled their budget for cool stuff (food, fire shows and dragon skulls!).

No, I would have tripled it!

I can already feel the Dracarys organisers salivating at the thought. I can feel the mental orgasm the scenographers just had. Three times the money. What they couldn’t build with that!

For 15% extra for me. Or ~23% extra if I’m not counting the cost of my four work days.

23% extra for 200% extra.

Really.

It’s not rocket science. It’s just simple math.

But triple isn’t really true

And you what the worst part is? The really crazy thing that some of you probably have noticed already, and have just been waiting for me to point out.

The price for the larp for those who didn’t choose costume rental and support-the-larp tickets wasn’t 150€. It was 88€.

And then the 15%/23% I’ve talked about wouldn’t give the organisers 200% extra to play with (still supposing the 50% on fixed costs ratio).

It would have given them 350% extra to spend on awesomeness, give or take.

Now, I know there are those who will try to pick the math apart. I know there are those who will say (rightfully so) “What about the Italian player, who used an old costume, lives nearby and drove there in her parent’s car? For her, it’s a completely different equation.”

And that’s right. It is. And for Dracarys, that’s super relevant. Most (~90%) of the players were Italians, and the experience cost them much less than it cost me. Had the price been doubled, it would have meant a much bigger increase than 15%/23% for them. I am fully aware of that.

Yet they also have jobs. They also have transport costs. They also spent money creating costumes and props, and I’m sure some of them held preparatory meetings in their groups, where pasta was consumed and vino was drunk. It all costs money.

So should we just give organisers our credit cards?

I’m not advocating that we should just start throwing piles of money at larp organisers. Ok, I am, but that’s because I’m an organiser myself and now that I’ve seen a life-size dragon skull that talks, I want something equally awesome. No, what I’m trying to highlight is that when we look at what an experience costs us, we need to look at all the costs. It doesn’t matter if it costs me 100$ to experience a Sleep No More show in New York. It costs me quite a bit to get there in the first place!

This is basic logic.

But where it gets tricky is that the organisers, who stage these experiences for us, don’t have that money to play with. They only get their share, and often that share isn’t great. A survey done at College of Wizardry (arguably one of the priciest larps on the planet at this time, and one people travel far to participate in) revealed that participants spent an average of 2–3 times the ticket price on things besides the ticket. On average. Some players spent 6–7 times the ticket price in total – and those numbers are all excluding the cost of vacation time.

Not only does this place an enormous burdens on larp organisers (“Deliver an experience at X value for much less than X busget”), but it also leads me to wish for change. It’s change that’s already happening, but it’s not happening nearly as fast as I’d like.

Let’s give organisers a bigger percentage of the total expenditure we have, when going to their larps. Let’s not give airlines, train companies and random truck stop kiosks our money, but instead give it to the people whose experiences we travel to be a part of. I know we’re used to paying for flights, car fuel and train tickets and McDonald’s burgers on the way to the larps we attend. But maybe we should pay a little more to the events that make us make those journeys.

Summing it all up: more means a lot more

My decision to go to Dracarys wouldn’t have been much impacted by a price that was 100€ higher. But those 100€ would have made a world of difference for the organisers. And whether the practical solution is doing as they did and offering “’luxury tickets” without much extra luxury attached (I gladly paid the extra money to support them) or something else, I’d like to see more money going to larp organisers compared to the money that goes to everyone else.

Because if the Dracarys organisers could give me a huge, talking dragon skull in a castle for the money I gave them, who knows what they could have done if they’d had more than four times the scenography budget?

I know I’d like to find out. Especially for 15% more.