This post is somewhat more difficult to write than some of the others, as the finances were the area of the event that were least successful. How did this happen?
Well, when we decided to run this event, we knew it was going to cost a lot to run. Traditionally, LARP weekend events have been pretty cheap – £35-£50, but then people were bringing tents and doing their own catering. We looked at similar events to ours, which seemed to be about £180 for a weekend. We asked people how much they would be willing to pay, we licked a finger and stuck it in the air and guessed.
We came to the conclusion that if we priced the event at £250 there would be a sharp intake of breath, people would look a bit shocked, but we would probably get enough bookings to make it happen. We considered it was possible that we might price some people out of the market, but we could live with that.
We even had a contingency plan – if we didn’t get the bookings, we would just offer the house to friends to come and stay for a weekend to cover the cost. They could each pay what a room would cost and do their own thing, so we wouldn’t lose the deposit.
As it was, the event booked up within 24 hours, so perhaps we should have had more faith in ourselves and pitched the cost level higher. Maybe next time…
So we had twenty-five players booked at £250 each. That’s £6250 to play with. Well, actually no, and here was our first problem. We had three stooges in the player party. Three characters at some point dramatically appropriate to the plot would die; allowing us to increase the anxiety of the players. They would at this point join the crew. This immediately reduced our budget to £5500 as we did not feel we should ask these crew to pay.
So what were our fixed costs?
Hire of house £3050 (including the lodge for extra crew bedrooms and including Thursday night as this was needed for set up)
Heating £180 (extra on top of house costs)
This left us £2120 for everything else.
We spoke to the wonderful Harry Harrold who agreed to do our catering. Initially we gave him a budget of £40 per head for the players and £20 per head for the crew to cover food for the weekend (total £1200). This was to cover
- Friday dinner
- Christmas Day breakfast, Christmas Dinner and buffet supper
- Boxing Day breakfast and pre-debacle tea
As the financial situation became tighter, this was revised down to £1000 in total. Harry did wonders on this budget and created amazing food for everyone for the whole weekend including 3am club sandwiches with hand-fried still warm crisps! There were some problems such as a car breaking down on the morning of the event, meaning that unexpected van hire pushed up this section of the budget.
This left us with £1120 for everything else.
We had hoped to be able to borrow a couple of Napoleonic uniforms and some maids’ aprons from friends, but when discreet enquiries couldn’t find them (and we couldn’t plaster this all over Facebook in case our players got wind of what we were doing) we had to hire uniforms. Even cheaply done, this cost £252.
We were then down to £868 for everything else.
This was to cover the art department making ghosts and physical effects; tech to support special effects; props; set dressing and the printing/stationery.
Major costs in the Art Department were van hire, the Christmas tree, boxes for Kiera the stuntwoman to land on and for the prop chandelier which killed someone early on in the weekend.
Van hire was a major expense for the whole event. We needed a van with the Art Department equipment, a van with the set dressing equipment and the van with the catering supplies. Total for vans £692.16.
The Christmas Tree was £114, but we felt it was important to have a real one, rather than use a fake one. Brand new boxes to provide a safe landing for the stunt were surprisingly expensive at £149.
For this event the stationery was a significant cost. We sent out a lot of documents in the return packs but also had a paper-heavy plot trail, so we used a lot of paper, but more importantly printer ink, which is really expensive.
As the event was set in the 1950s, there were a lot of props and set dressing which could be bought online. E-bay and Amazon were a great help during the run up to the event and Ian and I bought what we needed at prices which seemed reasonable.
As we were spreading this cost over about six months, and we’d assumed that we were going to be subsidising the event to some degree, we didn’t get too hung up on what everything was costing. We accepted that we were going to be spending some of our own money and were happy to do so in order to make the event successful. Other members of the crew contributed some of their own money as well.
We have included the costs of the tech e.g. speakers within the costs for this event. This may be slightly inaccurate, as if we use these for further events we will not need to purchase them again.
So what did the event cost altogether?
Hire of house £3050
Art Department £907.02
Props and Set Dressing £944.28
Costume Hire £252
Total subsidised by the organisers £2565.69
It doesn’t matter!
To Ian and myself, this overspend really doesn’t matter. Not for this event. The spending was done over a period of eight months, rather than being a large lump sum; it was to support our hobby, it’s something we love doing, and it was to create an event that we could feel proud of. The event was a labour of love, and if we didn’t feel that the event deserved that spend, we wouldn’t have done it.
If you’re a player and you’re now feeling guilty – please don’t. It was entirely our choice – we could have had a much tighter control on the reigns and much more self-discipline. Please don’t feel you need to get this back to us in some form. We don’t miss it. The very best thing you could do for us, if you want to do something, is to talk about the event.
What could we have done differently?
We could have charged our crew for food/lodging, but we felt strongly that since they were giving up their time for free, this would be against the spirit of the event. Perhaps at a similar event you could have playing crew who played characters and were involved in the plot, but paid a reduced rate in addition to the full paying players.
At many LRP events the crew do pay for the privilege, but a number of our crew were coming from the film industry, where even on low budget films it is customary to provide food for the crew and pay their travel costs. We thought we might struggle to get the standard of crew we wanted if we asked them to pay.
We couldn’t have more players because of the number of rooms in the house. For future events it’s something we could consider (although more players means more event prep).
What about the other costs? Was it worth spending £114 on a Christmas tree, or £150 on a jumping out of a window stunt? Well yes, we thought and still think that it was.
Other organisers spread the costs by running the same event repeatedly, which allows them to spread the cost of props and presumably to tie up less time per event. We weren’t happy to do that as the characters in this game were specifically written for the players involved and we feel that trying to adapt them for someone else just wouldn’t work as well. Also we don’t like to repeat ourselves.
We could have budgeted better. Granted, if we knew what we were spending, we might have spent less. If we had kept a running total of what we were spending and realised earlier on, we could probably have reined our spending in a little.
What should we have charged?
£365 per player would have broken even.
What does this mean?
It means that if high quality roleplaying events are going to be run as one-offs, we have to consider paying more for them. The hobby started with students wearing curtains, but we have all progressed beyond that and there are many people in the hobby who have well-paid, successful jobs.
This may mean that some events are well beyond the budget of some players. This is unfortunate, but is the only way that expensive, high quality events can be run economically. As one of our players said “I would rather blow our whole role-playing budget for the year on one of these events than play four mediocre ones.”
We may have to think about these events as an indulgence – when we discussed this after the event, similar special occasions were raised
- a round of golf and a stay at Gleneagles Hotel for a night £600
- 2 nights dinner, bed and breakfast with a spa treatment for two £741
- a day’s NASCAR racing £486
- Theatre and hotel package, London £344
- Tandem skydive £274
Would £350-400 for 3 nights fully catered indoor LRP event be a reasonable price to pay? If Crooked House are to run more events then that’s probably the level we’ll have to consider.