Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's Wrong With NERO?

I figured since I still have this outlet, that I can use this to express my distaste with what's going on at NERO, and the reason why NERO is having such a hard time.

And surprisingly, it's not Joe.  He might be a catalyst for what happened.  But the problem is with the NERO player culture.

Yes, the players.

NERO has been running, in some form or another, since 1986.  That's 27 years. Let's talk about things that happened in 1986.

- Ferris Bueler's Day Off hits Theatres
- Falco's "Amadeus" hit the music scene, and Run DMC introduced white kids to Rap music with their hit "Walk This Way", available on cassette!
- Compaq releases the FIRST 386-based PC
- Bethesta Softworks (makers of video games) was created.
- Phones were attached to walls

Now look where we are today.

- Ferris Bueler's Day Off is considered a classic.
- What the hell's a cassette?  We operate on DVDs and devices that are smaller than a cassette, yet are capable of storing thousands of songs and playing them at the same time, with no fear of skipping!
- Our computers have 4 cores and literally more than 10,000 times the processing speed and memory of their 386 breatheren
- Bethesda has come out with Duke Nukem Forever (named because it felt like it took forever, after the original game's 1991 release), and has moved on to complete other projects as well.
- Cell phones allow people to stream movies, navigate roads, talk and text a number of people, and are fairly ubiquitous at this point.

Simply put, we do not live in a world governed by the same rules we had in 1986.

Now, it's not as if we're playing the same game as we used to.  There have been some changes to NERO since it's formal debut in 1989, including things like base 5, memory after death, and obliterates that aren't quite as obliterate-y.

But functionally, this game operates very close to the way it's always operated.  All changes to the game have been band-aids on a system that is extremely old.  There are studies out there regarding mental capacity that didn't exist back then.  There are lots of other LARPs that have succeeded and failed since that time, with plenty of lessons to be learned.  Stuff we could all learn from.

But we don't learn anything, because we, as a culture, aren't interested in learning anything.  NERO suffered for a long time based on a couple of things, but it can probably be boiled down to this simple analogy.

Everyone is a victim.

We've grown into a culture where everyone's got a right to have a say in everything, and compromise is completely out of the question.  Joe has done a lot to drive away talent helping the game, but so have the chapter owners and the players who belittle literally hundreds of hours of work without even reading the changes.  And we're somehow fine with people who are downright rude, as long as they're only being rude to national staff.

People say it a lot, but I don't think they really understand the implications of this statement.  NERO is a game.  Have you ever played a game and changed the rules in an attempt to make it more fun?  And when you found out that the new rules weren't as fun, did it somehow ruin the original game for you?

But we can'd to that to NERO.  Our culture HATES change.  Even if someone wants to try something, they must be taking something away from you.  Better kick and scream as hard as we can.  We have some players that will go so far as they can't even be bothered to platest something.  What kind of macho bullshit is that?  That's like a kid saying "I like swiss cheese, but I refuse to try cheddar because I can tell it's awful."

I'll also point out that it's a game that probably isn't doing too well, if the rumors regarding the economic state of national is to be believed.  Yes we keep talking about the success of the game, because individual chapters may experience some limited success.  But have you ever thought about how much of that success can be attributed to the mechanics of NERO?  Probably very little.  Successful chapters have friendly staff, tell good stories, and try and give players what they want.

But I think the culture is even worse that one might expect.  I think this culture has a need to be a victim.  This is the same culture that has been screaming about getting 9th edition rules out for over 10 years, and then when it finally came out, complained that things changed.

Our culture insists that Joe is somehow trying to destroy the game.  As misguided as Joe may be, I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to run the game into the ground.  But this culture needs to be the victim. OH WOE IS YOU.  If it was really that bad, then why are you or your chapter leaving national and playing/running your own game?  There's plenty of games out there that are as successful as NERO.

I am fully convinced that NERO isn't going to succeed (re: grow) because of this ridiculous culture.  You don't actually want it to grow.  You want to be able to claim the victim card.  You want your word to mean something, even if you didn't actually do any investigation into what other LARPs are around, what worked for them, and what didn't work for them.  You like to hold onto your ideas, and rather than looking at things in a rational way and try something different in order to stop the game from hemorrhaging players, you insist that you run a good game and that is somehow tied to these archaic mechanics that are sorely outdated.

So I'll leave you with this parting message.

Dearest Nero Culture, you're a fucking disgrace.  Do us all a favor and get your act together.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

In-Game Holidays

Happy Day after July 4th!  Hopefully everyone got all or at least part of the day off to stand outside and sweat by a BBQ watching fireworks :)

Thinking about the reason for the season, as it were, got me thinking about holidays in other worlds.  People as far back as we can figure have had their own celebrations.  They've had special days that commemorate events, nature, the seasons, deities, and whatever else was important to them.  It follows, then, that your created world could have the same thing!

Due to scheduling, it's not always possible for a LARP to set aside a certain date for your holiday. But there's no reason why your world can't have a, say, mid-summer festival.  Or really any type of festival that commemorates a certain event around a certain time of year.  PCs, you could even start this off by recognizing a previous event you were a part of (Happy Day of the Dead Lich everyone!).  Then keep doing it at the same time every year.

This can add a lot to the in-game atmosphere.  Holidays are something that gives a people an identity, as what you celebrate says a lot about you.  Look at Americans - we've got quite a few days that others don't specifically share, like 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day; and that says a lot about what Americans have valued as the holidays were created.  Some days may be wild, some may be somber, but it can really help build your world and your NPCs.  If you only run a few events a year, these holidays could even be the reason for the gathering.  Rather than referencing the last "market day" or whatever your group uses, you could instead talk about what happened at your harvest festival, or last Dragonslaying Day.

As plot, I've always loved using holidays (maybe a bit too much) as inspiration for mods or other encounters.  If anyone remembers the 3-legged turkeys at Ashton around Thanksgiving, I apologize :)  But holidays can give you great ideas for mods where you need them.  In spring, maybe some potions at your Festival of Love got out of hand.  In the fall, maybe different groups need help harvesting.  After going to a lot of events, they can run together, so giving something a theme can make that game memorable. 

You can also use it as a reason to have games, contests, and other events.  Staff doesn't need to set it up, they can work with an interested PC to help it come up.  These can be contests of skill using in-game and out-of-game skills. I've found it's good to have both, so that people who are good at one or the other can still participate!  And don't leave out non-martial talents like art, baking, or performance.  This is fun for the players and also helps Staff take breaks as the games are going on so they can concentrate on other mods knowing the PCs are occupied.

I will say that this sort of all-out fair can't be done too often.  Every one of your events can't have contests of strength, as that can get boring - unless, of course, you've got a fun plot reason.  A town of barbarians may regularly see who's stronger to determine leadership or something. This could even evolve into a ritual of some kind - but I digress :)  In general I think the character that was the strongest at the June event will be the strongest at the July event, so in LARP time doing this once or twice a year makes more sense.  I think the specifics about running a game-day festival could be a whole new post, so I won't go into it more. 

You can also support the theme in other ways.  Have someone make a special Midwinter treat that you only make that time of year.  Give out little trinkets that represent the holiday.  Come up with traditions for your NPCs to mention, and even incorporate them in game.  Example:  If you have a day of remembrance, bring in one of your NPCs to lead a candlelight vigil, make a speech/toast, add new names to the banner of the fallen etc. This specific example double-dips, since it goes back to the post about remembering fallen characters (see what I did there)! :)

But what do you think?  Does your game have any regular festivals?  How can it work for you?

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Week In LARP - July 2nd

This Week In LARP

Happy 4th of July!


WAR will be hosting a 2-day campaign event this weekend starting on Friday, July 6th and ending on Sunday, July 8th. The game will be held at Camp Giscowheco (WV) at the IG location of Lumberton Shire. It's $50 to PC ($30 with good NPC ratio) and is free to NPC.

NERO Indiana will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, July 6th and ending on Sunday, July 8th. The game will be held at the Nameless Creek Youth Camp. It's $50 to PC, but you can save $10 by pre-paying and $10 by tent camping. It is free to NPC.

If you've got a game running this week and we didn't mention you, either drop a comment here or shoot an email to, and we'll add you as soon as possible!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sharing Your Site

This weekend we used a new camp for Exiles. We were drawn to it by its promises of bunks (with mattresses!), fully functioning kitchens, running water, and air conditioning.  Yes, the site we had before was not so fancy - for some of you used to deluxe locations, you're probably cringing right now :)  Unfortunately as a small game, we have a small budget, so we're only now getting to the point of being able to afford a nicer site.

Problem is, we can't buy out the whole camp.  As a Girl Scout camp, that means we're sharing with, well, girl scouts.  We've got the main lodges in the center of camp, but they're still there at some of the tents.  And I'm sure we're not the only LARP group in a similar situation. 

So, what to do if you are sharing your site?

First, set some ground rules with the site and any rangers.  Ask the ranger/camp coordinator to tell any other groups not to wander through.  If nothing else, there's the safety issue.  This helps to protect both groups from the actions of the other, since outside groups won't have signed your waivers.
Be clear with your site about what you're doing, and how it might affect other campers.  Most LARPs are up late yelling about strange things (and maybe swearing), and that you might have props and set ups in certain places.  Let them know that you like your privacy (if you do) and see what suggestions they have to help. 

If you're getting people coming through your reserved area, nip it in the bud early on.  Take the issue to Staff.  If Staff can't get a hold of the ranger, or already have, someone should talk to the other group's leader and work something out.  Choose someone who's not scary :)

Try to have someone take a look at the location ahead of time to see if you can use some other, out of the way areas for your mods.  A lot of sites are okay with groups using unreserved camping areas, so you can avoid interruption by taking the action there.

You can also plan more mods inside, if your buildings allow for it, and keep out of the way of oglers.

Make sure and mention to your people that the camp is shared, and ask everyone to be on good behavior.    Know the camp rules and follow them, since you don't want a violation getting you reported and possibly deported. :)

In the end, you'll probably still know the other group is there, and the immersion is going to be broken a bit.  So I guess it's up to each group as to whether or not it's worth it.  For us, it seemed like everyone was okay trading some minimal interruption for air conditioning and showers.  But it may not always be the case.

What do you think?  Are nicer facilities worth sharing?  How do you compromise with sharing a camp?

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Week In LARP - June 25th

This Week In LARP

It's hot outside! Prepare for the heat and drink lots of water.


WAR will be hosting a 2-day campaign event this weekend starting on Friday, June 29th and ending on Sunday, July 1st. The game will be held at Camp McKinley at the IG location of the Trun Woods. It's $50 to PC ($30 with good NPC ratio) and is free to NPC.

NCN will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 29th and ending on Sunday, July 1st. The game will be held at Camp Trinity at the IG location of Syrinx. It's $50 to PC and is free to NPC.

ARGO will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 29th and ending on Sunday, July 1st. The game will be held at Camp Yough (PA). It's $40 to PC and is $15 to NPC.

If you've got a game running this week and we didn't mention you, either drop a comment here or shoot an email to, and we'll add you as soon as possible!