Alleged Entertainment

Better Casting Through Science (?)

Casting is a very important part of running one-shot pregenerated LARPs.  Making the wrong decision about which player should play which character can result in unhappy players and make the game worse.  On the other hand, if you can find that perfect player for a role, they can bring up the level of the entire LARP.

If you ask five LARP GMs for the best way to cast games, you're likely to get ten answers.  Some notable ones include:
  • Just give brief descriptions of all the characters and let players pick their top five.
  • Casting is an art, not a science.  Ask open-ended questions and go with your gut.
  • Everything players write is significant, including margin doodles, handwriting, and when they got the questionnaire response back to you.
  • Interview them on the phone or in person.
  • We've developed a complex Excel spreadsheet that tells us how to cast people.
At Alleged Entertainment, we've developed a complex Excel spreadsheet that tells us how to cast people.  What follows is a trip into the dark recesses of that spreadsheet.

First, A Little Philosophy

In order to explain why we cast the way we do, it's helpful to understand the assumptions that led us here.  Each of these points could probably be an essay on its own.  For now, I will simply lay them out with a little bit of explanation.

Dislikes are more important than likes.  In other words, if you're stuck in a position where you're forced to choose between giving a player a character that they're 100 percent okay with but aren't excited to play, or giving them a character that has aspects they'll really like but other aspects they'll really hate, it's better to choose option A.

Impartiality matters.  I always hate it when I see GMs playing favorites and giving awesome roles to their friends just because they're their friends.  It's unfair, especially to newbies.

Players should control their casting destiny.  If you've played scheming villains in the last five games, and been an awesome scheming villain, that doesn't mean you don't want to try something new this time.  We give players a new casting questionnaire every game for a reason.

Good casting is more important than keeping secrets.  Yes, asking players whether they're okay with playing a murderer could reveal that the murderer is one of the characters.  If you mean it to be a big surprise, asking about it on the questionnaire could be a spoiler.  But casting someone as the murderer when they're not actually okay with that would be way worse.

Always give the nuclear option.  Maybe you love almost everything about this character.  They've got a tormented soul, a heart of gold, the chance for redemption, political intrigue, and powerful magic.  This is the character you've always wanted... except that they're a stranger in town, and that will ruin the game for you.  We're not here to judge.  If there's something that will absolutely kill your experience, we should allow it to trump everything else on your questionnaire.

The Infamous -3 to 3 Scale

If there is one feature for which our casting questionnaires have come to be known, it is surely the -3 to 3 scale.  We use this scale for almost every question.  It looks like this:

Every page of the questionnaire reiterates the meaning of each of the options, as follows:
  • -3 means "I will not enjoy the game if I have this"
  • -2 means "I strongly prefer not to have this"
  • -1 means "I prefer not to have this"
  • 0 means "I'm okay either way about this" (and will never exclude you from playing such a character)
  • 1 means "I prefer to have this"
  • 2 means "I strongly prefer to have this"
  • 3 means "I will not enjoy the game unless I have this"
If one were to remove -3 and 3 from the scale, it would be roughly equivalent to the (very common) 1 to 5 scale in use on many other LARP casting questionnaires.  Thus, our scale differs from the usual ones in three ways:

We provide the nuclear options, namely, -3 and 3.  We will disregard everything else in your questionnaire rather than violate these constraints.

We use negative numbers to signify dislikes and positive numbers to signify likes.  Mathematically, this makes no difference whatsoever, but it does help clarify the scale for users.

We provide rigid definitions of what each number actually means, and reiterate them often.  This helps avoid the situation where some people answer near the middle for everything, while others are all over the place, and it isn't clear whether they really mean that or not.


Let's take an entirely hypothetical character named Luke.  He's young and a bit naive, having grown up on a farm.  However, unbeknownst to him, Luke has a great destiny to fulfill.  He's also been lied to his entire life about the identity of his parents.

If we're trying to cast a player to play Luke in our LARP, we want to make sure that that player isn't averse to any of these traits:

  • young characters
  • naive characters
  • characters who don't start the game with a lot of information
  • characters who are highly involved in pushing forward the story
  • characters who have surprises coming to them
In addition, the following traits about Luke may appeal to some players, but are not strictly necessary for playing him:

  • he's good in a fight, if the player decides to get involved in those
  • he can train to unlock supernatural powers
These could easily be translated into a grid of -3 to 3 scale questions.  For example, have players rate these potential character traits using the scale:

  • 18-25 years old
  • naive
  • ignorant
  • plot-central
  • likely to be surprised during the game
  • involved in combat
  • in training
  • with supernatural powers
(Some of these could probably be rephrased better by separating them out into semantic sections, such as "traits" vs. "activities.")

You would then, if possible, only cast people as Luke who answered 0 or more to all of the first five questions.  In addition, you would take the last three into account when choosing from amongst that pool of people.

This distinction between "qualifying" questions (i.e., ones that decide which of the players is eligible for a particular casting) and "scoring" questions (i.e., ones that come into play when deciding between qualified players) is central to our casting method.

Writing a Useful Questionnaire

Knowing that we want to use the answers to the casting questionnaire this way informs the way we create the set of questions.  One naive, but effective, method for doing this is to simply go through the entire set of characters by hand, writing down every distinguishing character trait they have and everything they're likely to do in the game, and turn each of those into a question.

Of course, you'll probably end up with around 150 questions.  Better hope your players are really dedicated, because if not, nobody is going to answer the whole thing.

The first line of defense against this problem is to think about combining similar questions.  For example, you could easily combine "playing an asshole" with "playing a jerk."  Usually it's not so clear, though.  One way to figure out whether to combine two questions is to ask whether someone might conceivably answer positively to one and negatively to the other.  If you can't think of a situation in which they wouldn't, you can probably combine the questions.

It may also be possible to simply avoid asking some of them, particularly if they're not as important as others.  Cutting questions from the questionnaire is a difficult and often contentious process, and usually just comes down to a judgment call.

In addition to the numeric questions, it's important to give space for freeform answers as well.  Sometimes this simply takes the form of a "is there anything else you want us to know?" essay question at the end.  We've also tried asking more game-specific ones, and also leaving blank spaces at the end of each page of numeric questions for specific thoughts on the questions on that page.

Finally, it's usually not a good idea to add questions to the questionnaire just because most LARPs ask them.  If you can't think of how you would use it in casting, why ask it?

Crunching the Numbers

We now have a scale with which to ask questions and interpret their answers with a good deal of precision.  We also have a set of questionnaire responses that we know how to apply to our set of characters.  Now it's time to cast.

The method is fairly straightforward.  For each character in the game:

  1. Start with the entire set of players.
  2. Remove any who answered "3" to a question that this character doesn't match.
  3. Remove any who answered "-3" to a question that this character does match.
  4. From the remaining players, figure out who is qualified for this character.  Start by removing any who answered a negative number on any qualifying question.  
    1. If this leaves you with an empty set of players, try again, only removing players who answer -2 to any qualifying question.  
    2. If you still can't find a qualified player, consider all the remaining players your qualified set. And consider changing the character in the next run.
  5. Score each of the qualified players using both the qualifying and the scoring questions for the character.  Just sum up their answers for these questions to determine the player's score for the character.
Once you've done this, you will be left with separate scored lists of players for each character in the game.  At this point, casting becomes a constraint-solving puzzle.  There are many ways to solve these, but here's how we often do it:

  1. Start by looking for players who only match a single character, or characters who only have a single qualified player.  Cast those.
  2. Every time you cast a player, remove them from the scored lists for all the other characters.
  3. If you see a player who's significantly higher-scoring for a particular character than any other player, this might be a good indication to cast them there.
  4. Oftentimes, we wind up with a "middle group" of player/character matches at the end that are roughly equivalent.  Using freeform answers can sometimes give you inspiration on how to cast this group.  Also, if you know some of the players, this may be a good time to bring in that knowledge to inform how you think they would do with the characters.
Before making any casting decision of any kind, make sure to re-read their entire questionnaire, including any essay questions they wrote.  I really can't stress this point enough.  Do not blindly rely on the casting algorithm.  It's there to help, but it is not omniscient.  If a casting choice goes against something the player wrote under "anything else you want us to know," or it just feels wrong, don't do it!

After you've got a cast, do one more sanity check.  Read through the questionnaires for each player again, out loud, and think about them in light of the character you gave them.  Seriously.

Casting Matters

On that point, at least, I think most LARP writers can agree.  And if something worth doing, it's worth thinking about.

This numbers-driven way of casting is not for everybody, or every LARP.  I personally don't use it for every game I write.  And like every system, it has its strengths and weaknesses, and being aware of these is key to successfully applying it.

Regardless of how you choose to cast LARPs, I hope that reading this has inspired you to consider how best to cast.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Wow, you have discovered some truisms that social scientists found out as well (and they had the benefit of research grants). Pretty cool.

    "Dislikes are more important than likes" (from the book Nudge) They found risk and aversion had a greater impact over positives in driving choices. This becomes especially important when attempting to steer people away from something. If gas guzzling cars are to be avoided, then adding the 5 year's worth of gas costs as line item on the sticker will have stronger impact than the $2000 back from the dealer.

    "Impartiality matters." (in Sway) There's a fairness bias that drives behavior and the definition of fairness varies from culture to culture. People will often walk away from an beneficial opportunity if they feel it isn't fair. I got a smaller piece of cake, then I will not eat you cake. In Switzerland the government found that offering financial compensation after a chemical spill created more angry people than just apologizing. The compensation triggered the fairness bias.

    Books of interest perhaps...

  2. Things used to be Alpha ZXT like that, unfortunately different elements made sure they wouldnt stay that way. Congrats on the article ;)Ive been trying to Acquire entry to this website for a while. I used to be using IE then after I tried Firefox, it labored just effective? Simply needed to deliver this to your attention. That is actually good blog. Ive a bunch myself. I really admire your design. I do know that is off matter but,did you make this design yourself,or buy from somewhere? Anyway, in my language, there usually are not much good source like this.ive begun to visit this site a couple of times now and i have to say that i find it quite exeptional actually.

  3. Helpful stimulating to Alpha Shred see content from other writers and study a little something there. Let me apply certain of your content on my blog on hand mind. Natually Ill give you a link time for your web page. Appreciate your sharing.Wow, this was very fun to read. Have you ever considered submitting articles to magazines.

  4. Thanks hi Alpha ZXT everyone, my itemize is wiener and i honourable require to say that this is an fantabulous blog accumulation and i real recovered it utile, would it be alright if i submitted posts to this blog virtually topics i recovered newsworthy?Do you by any chance have a top posters page to honour your best blog commenters?regarding the number of inputs it looks like this site is very fashionable.

  5. My partner and I Action Fuel PRO really enjoyed reading this article, I was just itching to know do you trade featured posts? Im always in search of someone to make trades with and simply thought I might ask. That is a funny video clip germane to that has something to it.

  6. Have you ever ever considered including extra movies to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I simply learn by
    Geniux your complete article of yours and it was fairly good but since Im more of a visual learner,I discovered that to be extra useful effectively let me know the way it seems! I love what you guys are always up too. Such clever work and reporting! Sustain the great works guys Ive added you guys to my blogroll.


  7. Thought I would comment and say great theme, did you make it yourself? Looks great!Precious writter, Thankx for producing this
    Alpha ZXT important material. I found it handy. Kind regards !!Many thanks pertaining to giving this kind of good content material on your website. I discovered it on the internet. I may check back again if you post more aricles.Wonderful article thank you.You may think that Im so horsefaced I might try to chew a watermelon through a wire fence.

  8. Thank you Marcia - indeed this is one of the most painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms/infections, ever. I hate those
    Action Fuel PRO times when I feel one coming on, can't seem to decide whether to stay or go, and thankfully recedes, but not before making me miserable.I am glad you highlighted this! I remember the last time I had to go to the gynae with a UTI - I hated her snarky attitude. Worse still, she had a student with her and there I was, literally shrinking into myself.

  9. Someone I work with visits your blog regularly and recommended it to me to see too. The way of writing is great and also the content is
    Alpha ZXT top-notch. Thanks for that insight you supply the readers!I too have a good website a small internet site on fashion,i hope we can have a take a look at each other website.Besides i can share hell lot of matters about my fashion information with you in the event you wish.

  10. I harmonise with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your approaching updates. Action Fuel Pro
    Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantastic clarity inside your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to remain informed of any updates.!very nice inf0 keep up the work! thanks

  11. Nicely done! - I looked at the Wiki on this and it did not have as detailed info - thank you!Jacked Muscle Extreme I totally agree. What are your criteria? Lately Ive been following Damon Vickers, a finacial luminary from Seattle. If you havnt read his book about one global currency, you should get your hands on a copy. I believe that people dont really know the magnitude of the situation we face today. To have a top strategist like Damon Vickers, who called the market plummet in both 2000 and 2008, publicly express the fears of many of the approach of a one world government is fantastic.

  12. Thank you so muchJacked Muscle Extreme
    Just wanted to let you know that its not showing up properly on the iPad. Just thought Id let you know and other iPad users, that using your RSS feed is the way to go. Boat SeatsThis is a remarkable post by the way. I am going to go ahead and ookmark this article for my sis to check out later on tomorrow. Keep up the excellent work.

  13. I had this article saved some time previously but my notebook crashed. I have since gotten a new one and it took me a while to come
    Action Fuel Pro
    across this! I also really like the template though.This is a remarkable post by the way. I am going to go ahead and bookmark this post for my sis to check out later on tomorrow. Keep up the good quality work.

  14. If you might e-mail me with a couple of strategies on just the way you made your blog look this excellent, Cleanse FX Id be grateful.Hello there, awesome web site. All of the issues you created on were quite fascinating. I attempted to provide in the RSS feed to my news reader. Thanks.

  15. I used to have a website on this subject, but it got spammed to death. Formula 41 Extreme You seem to be better at fighting off the spammers than I did! Well done!I really enjoy this theme you have got going on on your web site. What is the name of the design by the way? I was thinking of using this style for the site I am going to construct for my class project.

  16. This is this kind of a fantastic resource that you are providing and also you give it absent for free. I adore seeing web sites that understand the value of offering a top quality resource free of charge. NeuroFuse It?s the old what goes around comes about routine.Well I sincerely enjoyed reading it. This article offered by you is very useful for proper planning.

  17. That is some pretty fascinating ideas, but Ive got a question for you. I have a Wordpress site, however my design is rather boring. Yours looks genuinely great though and I am wondering if it is a premium theme? Im just contemplating acquiring one, but I genuinely like yours. Cheers!Cerebria
    As a contractor, I address some of these issues are a regular basis thanks for making sense!
    these days. these days say something ideas.
    I am blown away at how interesting the stuff is on this web page. I have saved this page and I truly intend on coming back to the site in the upcoming days. Keep up the fantastic work!
    Pity is akin to love.

  18. I found just what I was looking for. Zauberkunst and Zauberei for u. Youve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. ByeCheers regarding the post and I find yourself being back to read a lot more! Just looking at some blogs, seems a reasonably nice system you happen to be utilizing.Brainfinity Im currently making use of Wordpress for some my blogs but Im not happy with it up to now. Im searching to alter 1 of these more than to some platform similar to yours (BlogEngine) like a trial operate. Anything in particular youd suggest?Hello. fantastic job. I did not picture this.

  19. Im not pointing fingers at you though, really I think its everyone else that is responsible.My sister bookmarked this webpage for me and I have been going through itAdderin for the past several hours. This is really going to benefit me and my friends for our class project. By the way, I like the way you write.Major with! however I'm owning a few troubl.

  20. internet site into a serious voice in this marketplace. You obviously have a high-quality knowledge of the areas all of us are searching for on this web page anyways and you could potentially even earn a dollar or three from some advertising. I would explore following recent news and raising the volume Alpha XTRM of site posts you make and I bet you'd start earning some huge traffic in the near future. Just an idea, high-quality luck in whatever you do!I was not sure about which website to confirm and then I saw your blog and it really proved to be helpful to me. The content is great and easy to apply. Please post some more topics related to it.Since it can be unhealthy. You will find NO Quick Fixes.

  21. of times now and i have to tell you that i find it quite nice actually. itll be nice to read more in the future! kinda like what you published actually. it just is not that easy to find Super CBD even remotely good stuff to read (you know READ! and not just browsing through it like some uniterested and flesh eating zombie before moving on), so cheers man for not wasting my time! actually enjoyed what that you published .

  22. - getting time and actual effort to make a terrific Intelluxpiece of writing but what can I say I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain anything done.Who are you to unrestrictedly provide something that provides a detailed explanation in regard to ?I had this article bookmarked a while ago but my PC crashed. I have since gotten a new one and it took me a while to locate this! I also in fact like the design though.Our Searching and Selection function has been a massive success.

  23. In theory I'd prefer to create like this also - getting time and actual effort to make a excellent piece of writing but what can I say I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain a thing done.
    Of course, what a fantastic website and enlightening posts, I will bookmark your website.Best Regards!
    Youre so right. Im there with you. Your weblog is certainly worth a read if anybody comes across it. Im lucky I did because now Ive acquired a whole new view of this. I didnt realise that this issue was so important and so universal. You undoubtedly put it in perspective for me.Cognimaxx XL
    This is a very good website. Ive been back a couple of times over the past week and wish to subscribe to your feed using Google but cannot learn the right way to do it very well. Do you know of any tutorials?
    raaj cartilage doumel lochner scaramouche working earliest Blancha generations

  24. Fairly insightful publish. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a very good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this topic clearly and you're the only 1 that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it upEvermax
    This was a definitely extremely superior publish. In theory I'd like to write like this also getting time and actual effort to make a good piece of writing but what can I say I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain anything done.
    I must say, as a lot as I enjoyed reading what you had to say, I couldnt help but lose interest after a while. Its as if you had a excellent grasp to the topic matter, but you forgot to include your readers. Perhaps you should think about this from more than 1 angle. Or maybe you shouldnt generalise so significantly. Its better if you think about what others may have to say instead of just going for a gut reaction to the subject. Think about adjusting your own believed process and giving others who may read this the benefit of the doubt.
    so much superb info on here, : D.

  25. Our water Green Coffee Grano Price weight fluctuates constantly. For instance, once we exhale water vapor comes out. When we sweat, we are sweating out water. There are several more factors which will have an effect on the number of water in our body. Water is what sometimes causes Green Coffee Grano random gains or losses of a pound or 2 in weight which will make you content or sad. It's virtually physiologically impossible to lose a pound of fat in sooner or later. Read more:

  26. PLAYSTUDIOS aims to comply with all applicable standards, together with the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 a lot as} Level AA (WCAG 2.0 AA). PLAYSTUDIOS is happy with the efforts that we've accomplished and which might be} in-progress guarantee 1xbet korea that|to ensure that} our website is accessible to everybody. Learn the way to|tips on how to} win and see the STAX Super four Blackjack Progressive Paytable on the STAX Super four Progressivepage. Raise the stakes verify out|and take a glance at} our exclusive High-Limit Blackjack area, complete with tableside meals and beverage service, host entry, and plasma TVs. There is more room on this pack than you can ever need. I bought this thinking I would use it as a primary BOB, however after putting in all my gear, I realized that this was more of a sustainment pack.