Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going Camping

This is a pretty common conversation between LARPers and non-LARPers.

"What are you doing this weekend?"
"Going camping."
"Really? Where at?"
"Somewhere down south, don't remember the name."

LARPing is demonized and a lot of us are afraid to admit what we do. A few years ago, I let my co-workers know what I did and let them know I'd answer any questions about it. I haven't received a lot of grief about it. On the other hand, I've got a new boss now who doesn't know, and I totally use the camping line on him. It's hard to explain why I feel I need to.

Some of us suffer from the dreaded facebook circles of Work and Friends connecting, which would out a lot of us. I imagine it would be hard to explain a picture of you in full dark elf makeup to your HR department.

We were discussing this topic after the Exiles event, and one of my friends came up with a brilliant idea.

We, as LARPers, should have a secret handshake.

How amazing would that be! We could find out when first meeting someone if they were a LARPer, or at the very least a LARP sympathizer.

So someone who's got a degree in handshakeology should come up with something, and we should embrace it. Then we'd know who we could talk to and who we'd have to be in "Camping" mode around.

Any ideas?

Monday, August 30, 2010

This Week In LARP - August 30th

It's Labor Day weekend! Celebrate by attending a wonderful 'camping' trip, if you know what I mean.


WAR will be hosting a 2 day event this weekend, starting Friday, September 3rd and going until Sunday, September 5th. This event will be held at Camp Giscowheco at the IG location of Lumberton. The game costs $50 to PC ($30 for players with good NPC ratios) and is free to NPC.

PRO will be hosting a 3 day event this weekend, starting Friday, September 3rd and going until Monday, September 6th. This event will be held at Raccoon State Park in PA at the IG location of Ebonmarr. The game will cost $62.50 to PC ($47.50 with a good NPC ratio) and is $25 to NPC, but these costs include tavern on Saturday and Sunday. There is also a $10 late fee for players who do not pre-register.


Alliance Ohio will be hosting the 3 Day National Alliance Event this weekend starting Friday, September 3rd and ending Monday, September 6th. The game will be held at Camp Tuscazoar. The game will cost $60 to PC ($10 extra without pre-registering) and is free to NPC. In addition, players eating on site will be expected to pay $15 for the tavern.

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 larp.plot.tips@gmail.com, and we'll add you as soon as possible!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Alliance: Part 1- Melee Breakdown

Making the Switch

Back in the spring of '08 some friends and I were shopping for a new LARP to play. International had gotten stagnate and wasn't looking like it was going anywhere, but we needed to feed our addictions. Amtgard seemed very combat oriented with little to no story in their games, the same going for Dagorhir. So we kept looking. Finally one of them said, "What about NERO Alliance?".
Now, at the time, I didn't even know Alliance was even still operating outside of the one chapter in Michigan some WAR players had gone to. After a quick search on Google, we saw there was in fact a local Ohio chapter.
So I said sure, why not. We got a hold of a rulebook and within that night of sitting down and glancing through their "NERO", I was sold.

Class Builds

Going into this, I really expected nothing to change too much in terms of weapon tech (ultralights, coffin/tear drop shields, etc.), tactics, and speed of combat. There were some new skills that I was interested in seeing, but for the most part, a lot of the new skills came off to me as fluff, having limited applications. I couldn't have been more wrong.

*Fighters: While most do in fact use shields, I have yet to see a coffin shield outside our group. The most common shield? Take a heart shape, and cut it down the middle. Ultralights are not the staple either. You still have LOTS of PVC weapons being used. Now there are some huge differences between how Alliance fighters spend their build vs. how International fighters spend theirs. Equal skilled, same build, an Alliance fighter will trash an International fighter. The reason being is Alliance fighters have access to an arsenal of "Prepare to Die" skills like disarm, stun limb, and of course, Eviscerate. They are also better defensively equipped as well with mass parries and ripostes. They do however, normally swing half that of an equal International fighter. In fact, I have yet to see a 20s fighter. Most are 10s with mass "Prepare to Die" skills, parries etc. This type of character build has a direct correlation to amount of healing in game, which I'll go over later in Part 2.

*Rogues: Rogues are your typical mass damage from behind, base damage from the front builds. Some go sword and board. Some use 2-Handers, and some go short sword/long bow. Short sword/bow is an interesting combination. When in melee its very similar to short sword/spear in terms of using the bow to parry. The real benefit comes from times where the rogue is unable to get behind the target. For one, backstab, when used with a bow gains 1 point of a backstab, but no longer needs to be from the rear. For instance, you have a +20 backstab modifier. With a bow you would gain +10. Terminate and Assassinate also lose their positional requirements when used with the bow. This helps remove the problem rogues run into on mods, where normally they get to go sit in the corner with their base damage.

*Scout(rogue/fighter hybrid): Nothing too special about this class. In comparison, scouts are your typical rogues who also take profs. in International. If you want to be able to do decent damage from the front as a rogue, you go scout instead. With access to evades, dodges, and second only to fighters with hit points and armor caps, they make for a good front line fighter as well as filling the rogue flank role when needed.

With avid PVC use, 2-handers viable with their 1 1/2 prof. scaling, and fighters having more skills to spend build on outside of profs., Alliance combat is right where it needs to be in terms of speed, scaling, and attitude. "Twitch" fighting is a rare sight, and stick jocks are even more rare.

Part 2 will be covering magic as well as the Adept, Scholar, and Templar classes. Look for a post late weekend.

Anderian Update

If your looking for the actual rules, unfortunately they will be unavailable until the event. If you register on the site, you will be able to see the build charts to play around with character concepts before the Sept. 24th event.

If you’re interested in Alliance, check us out HERE or on Facebook

For more information on Anderian.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

YouTube Thursday: Building the Game Layer

So I added this google followers app just to make it easy for me to get feedback on readers. But it also has the added benefit of showing me what other blogs my readers read, or in this case write.

The Ruthless Diastema Games Blog follows a teacher and his desire to implement gaming into education. He's got a lot of great stuff that is very LARPy, although obviously it can't have a lot of boffer in it (since it's for the classroom). He also digs into some of the theory behind game design, and I absolutely eat that up. If you're a gamer interested in theory, you should check it out. Even more so, if you're a teacher.

Today's video is one he featured on the blog in regards to how gaming and real life intersect. Seth Priebatsch gives a lecture at the Annual TED Conference about how the previous decade added a social layer on the world and this next decade is about building a Game Layer onto the world.

It touches on seven game dynamics (he only covers four) that are powerful for manipulating players (for good or evil). This is a great reminder of what techniques can be used to make games fun. Now, if you're in marketing, then this could mean even more.

Edit: As a note, the video itself is only 12:20. There's a big commercial afterward that you should feel free to skip.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Puzzles, riddles and tricks

The genre of fantasy, most notably epic fantasy, is riddled with puzzles and riddles, traps and tricks. The primary use of these is almost always as a foil for a character who relies to heavily upon his sword or his spells. Using this concept in larps has always been a bit troublesome because while a riddle may be fun for the people trying to solve it, the remainder of the audience is bored. Enter the massively multi player online game, in many of these games, riddles and tricks are built into the fight. Things must be accomplished in an order which has a discernible pattern before the fight can be won. This sort of choreographed but unscripted fight lends itself perfectly to a plot team with enough coordination to pull it off.

A simple example: The players are fighting the dread octopus of the deep. The octopus has 10 tentacles, each of which can fight separately, the tentacles are only vulnerable if the body is stunned. The body must be dealt 200 points of damage to be stunned then the tentacles can be attacked, the body cannot be destroyed until all tentacles are destroyed. Tentacles regenerate after 10 minutes. This is sort of like the classic hydra fight, except that the pattern is slightly different. In this case the entire fight needs to be completed in ten minutes or less or the tentacles regenerate. This requires a certain type of tactics and coordination from the players that it is often hard to engender with a normal larp fight. The players are forced to think, to act quickly and decisively and to make the most use of their skills. An interesting thing to note about this example, the fight IS the riddle!

Another way to accomplish this same end is to create a requirement that must be done at the same time as the fight without being disturbed by the fight. The classic NERO example is the combat ritual whilst a battle takes place. My favorite trick fight of this type that I have created is the one that uses the electronic game bop it. One player must play the bop it while everyone else fights, every time he makes a mistake and starts over the monsters become more powerful. The fight ends when a certain level of the game is reached and all of the monsters are defeated. This is a highly stressful situation. Everyone knows when the mistakes are made and everyone knows that the monsters are getting more powerful, the one person in the room who is working on the game is going to be sweating bullets. Everyone else is just hoping to live through the next wave of monsters. Using a system like this in conjunction with proper scaling is a great way to make a combat encounter both stressful and fun.

The hardest trick encounter to scale and write is the one that involves an intelligence challenge. A riddle or a puzzle can be very easy for the person who wrote the encounter but nearly impossible for the players who are involved or vice versa. With this type of encounter it is important to have the person running the encounter be intimately aware of the nuances of scaling. Sometimes, if the puzzle is going very quickly it is appropriate to upscale the fight, to make the situation more challenging. Sometimes it is appropriate to downscale the fight or pull the take downs from the cards so that the situation remains tenable for the players. A good tip is to always have a friend try out any puzzle or trick that you plan on using before using it in a game situation.

These kind of trick fights can make encounters that are scaled lower, challenging. They can make simple room fights into interesting modules and they can let people who would not normally be involved in a combat module get involved. The best source for this type of thing is the boss fights in mmorpgs, they are full of awesome ideas and mechanics that you can use to make your game more fun!

Let me know what you think about this guys.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Curious Case of Zombiac

Now, I will start by saying that I am not an Amtgard member. I would be, if there were a group around here, and Tim and I are unsure that we want to take on the effort to start one. But I definitely stalk on their forums.

Zombiac is a player who got super excited and started posting tons of stuff to the forums, a fair amount that was admittedly lousy content. He expected everyone to give him praise when he asked for opinions, and flew off the handle when people criticized/trolled him.

Just like all great forums (ArenaJunkies or Elitist Jerks for WOW) he was completely and utterly obliterated. Let this be a lesson to all the kiddies out there. The internet is not just rainbows and butterflies. If you ask for honesty (or even if you don't) people are going to let you have it. I was particularly amused by the brutal deconstruction in this case, so if you consider yourself a connoisseur of that kind of abuse, I definitely suggest you give these a read.

Here are some tips when it comes to forums at LARP.

1. Stay on Topic
You'll want to respond to everything people say, but then the topic will fall apart. If people keep trying to drive it to another topic, kindly ask them to start another to discuss the new topic. Don't try and fight those fires.

2. Don't Feed the Trolls
Many people troll for various reasons. Even I troll when I'm bored. As a general rule of thumb, take a few hours or an entire day to respond to non-constructive criticism. Trolls thrive on constant reasponses, so starve them.

3. Shrug it Off
Your feeglings will be hurt. Text is imperfect at portraying inflection, and besides, people are mean. It takes thick skin to shrug these attacks off, but you have to do it. Sharks smell blood in the water and will go to town on you if you let it get to you.

4. Use the Search Function
Don't be the guy/gal who repeats topics. Watch and make sure this is not already being discussed. However, you also don't want to be the one that brings back a year old topic. Use common sense, if you have it.

5. Don't Take it Personally
If someone doesn't like a particular idea, it's not the same as them not liking you. Again, imperfect portrayal of emotion might make someone's "That doesn't work but nice try" into something that looks like an attack on your character. Don't take anything personally.

These rules work for any forum, not just LARPing ones. But forums are very strong for quick discussions about concepts, so use them.

I wonder if ancient Rome had trolls in their forums...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Webstats, Contest, Attention Whoring, Oh My!

So I've got this counter on the bottom of the page that is run by www.statcounter.com, which gives me some good feedback about the health of the blog. It gives me information such as how many page loads I get, how many unique visitors, how many returning visitors, search engine keywords... blah, blah, blah.

But what is most interesting is search engine hits I get. Most of the recent ones were searching for larp ohio blog, but one in particular from the UK caught my fancy.

"Avatar Live Role Play Equipment"

If you're looking for L.A.R.P. Equipment, I'm sorry that I couldn't be of more help. We'll endeavor to get some in the future. But maybe Mr. Costume can help!

Anyways, I appreciate all the vistors we're getting and all the great feedback we're seeing through the comments. In fact, if this keeps up, I think we might have to have a give-away.

Let's make a deal. If we've got 4000 unique page views by our 100th post, we'll do a contest and give some gear away.

Not sure what the contest will be yet nor what the prizes will be, but it's going to be awesome. So tell your friends and start linking this blog on forums - especially you Alliance players!

Edit: For the record, unique page views are tracked via the counter at the bottom of the page. So that needs to read at least 4000 before the 100th post is up. I expect it to be about a month and a half, but it might be less, since we've got Russ contributing now.

Edit 2: I just realized that we're now on the first page if you search for LARP Blog. Good job!

This Week In LARP - August 23rd

Put down the Starcraft 2, and pick up a boffer weapon and a rubber band gun this weekend!

NERO and Alliance

There do not appear to be any NERO or Alliance games in the area this weekend. If you know of a game that's nearby, please let us know and we'll post it!


Exiles will be hosting a 2 day event this weekend, starting Friday, August 27th and going until Sunday, August 29th. This event will be held at Sycamore State Park in Trotwood, at the Group Camping location off of Snyder Road (see sidebar for specific location). The game costs $40 to PC ($35 for new players), but I'm not sure what the cost is to NPC. If you're interested, feel free to ask on the forums.

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 larp.plot.tips@gmail.com, and we'll add you as soon as possible!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Alliance: An Introduction; National Event; New LARP on the Block?

Most of you probably know who I am, but for those who don't, a quick introduction. My name is Russ. I'm 25 years old residing outside Pittsburgh, PA. I've been involved in LARPing since Oct. '99, first starting out in NERO International with ARGO and PRO then switching to Alliance (formally NERO Alliance) in mid '08.

After briefly talking to Bill about covering the Alliance portion on this blog, I sat in traffic on the parkway outbound thinking about what exactly I was going to put in this first entry. Originally I was just going to do a write-up of what exactly Alliance is, but decided against it. Most likely that write up will be a posted mid-next week. Instead, I opted to cover the two biggest things currently going down in Alliance, both of which take place in the local Ohio chapter.

National Event

September 3rd-6th is the weekend of Alliance's National Event. Now I usually don't look forward to National Events because rarely are they ever held locally, but this year's is different. Ohio is hosting the expected 150+ attendee event over in Dover, OH at Camp Tuscazoar. Looking at the pre-reg post, people as far as Seattle and Oregon will be there. For more information, check out Ohio's site or the National Event site.

New LARP on the Block

You may or may not have heard of this new thing in Alliance going down on the weekend of the 24th this September called Anderian. Anderian is an Alliance alternate campaign currently being written by Chris Conley of Steel City Alliance, and from Alliance Ohio, Scott Edwards and Mike Webb. The campaign will be cross chapter only between Pittsburgh and Ohio, possibly moving to other chapters at a later time.

Anderian is taking place in a world completely destroyed and controlled by evil, comparable to that of the Ravenloft, Warhammer Fantasy and other dark fantasy games. To quote one of the writers, "The bad guys won". That’s how it was quickly summed up to me. Being the good guy here is defiantly going to make you a minority, though completely welcomed. Expect noble corruption, un-just laws, murder, necromancy, betrayal and some very pissed off gods.

Wait you said gods? Gods/deities/religion doesn’t exist in Alliance, it says so in the book! Wrong. This is an alternate campaign, which is using the Alliance rules as the core with changes made by the writers. One of which, and probably the biggest, is the implementation of gods, religions and pantheons. Most, if not all fantasy novels, games, have some form of deities, and pantheons, and it only made sense for an Alliance campaign to take the final step to add further depth to the game. At the moment there are a total of 37, ranging from the righteous, paladin-like god of Gentric to Halag, the god of murder with many "neutral" gods like Moiriana, goddess of magic. With good and evil gods of course comes another degree of conflict, something the staff is really pushing for. They want players carrying out "holy wars" for their god, even if it means against other players.

With the revised set of rules, also come two full new schools of magic: Druid and Shaman. The druid casters will fill a more hybrid role, being able to cast both earth and celestial spells. In addition, the druid will gain "Aspects", creature transforms that will be a template on top of their current PC skills. These transforms range from Aspect of the Hawk, with a mere +30 body +1 prof and 1 evade to Aspect of Natures Guardian which lets them transform into an elemental of your choice (fire, ice, stone, lightning), each one with unique abilities. Rounding out the druid school are a few "tree abilities" like Tree Meld, Tree Teleportation and Mass Tree Meld. Next up are Shaman casters. Easily summarized, shamans are your ultimate support class. Like druids, they will gain celestial and earth spells, but their real power lies in the "Buff" line of spells they receive. Shamans gain a number of "Buffs" ranging from armor increases, weapon damage increases to flat out immunities to certain effects. Now each of these can be single target casted onto a player, but their group support comes from Ancestor’s Circle. Ancestor’s Circle is a level 1 shaman-only spell, which creates a RED, 6' radius circle on the ground. The shaman may then cast any of his/her spells tagged "Buff" while in the circle with any players within the circle when the "Buff" is cast gaining that buff. Going against spiders? No problem. Your group gets in the circle, shaman casts Buff: Binding Immunity and your whole crew is now immune to their webs for 10min. Add in that they can cast Ward, Suppress Magic, and assorted other spells, I see this school doing very well with a team around it.

If you opened another window or tab to check out the druid and shaman schools, then you of course saw some spells tagged as 10th level spells. These spell slots are reserved strictly for those who choose to go Scholar as a class. These spells will never be in items, scrolls or anything outside of casting from memory. These spells are some the schools most potent spells (read: Teleport), and are intended to give the pure casters something special and unique. While Earth is currently the weakest in terms of 10th level spells, expect some changes for them soon.

The last mechanic changes that I'm going to touch on are the new fighter additions. Fighters will be able to purchase Evades now based off Weapon Profs. Spell Parries are no longer formal magic and are bought with build. Body can now be bought with build for ALL classes with no cap. Newly added Armor-Savvy gives a damage reduction to that player at 1/all per purchase capping at 5. A minimum of 1 damage is always taken, but now that orc swinging 10s is only hitting you for 5s. Anger is the new "taunt" ability being put in as well via the "Prepare to Die" line.

That’s it for this half of the week. Expect something around Thursday touching on the differences of Alliance and International from mechanics, tactics, and game play changes.

If you’re interested in Alliance, check us out HERE or on Facebook

For more information on Anderian.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scaling: The soft science

The amazing thing about scaling is that almost no one will know if an event is scaled correctly. A properly scaled event is as difficult or easy as the plot people running it intend it to be. It allows for the full schedule of modules to be run with the skills and resources that are available to the players. It takes into account randoms, module scaling and wave battle scaling and rolls them all into a suitable difficulty and action level for the event. In this article I am going to look at the old way scaling was accomplished, the new way that I am using as well as some thoughts about module and random scaling.

The old way was fairly simplistic. A register was taken at check in that listed levels of characters and build totals. Randoms were then scaled between plus and minus five of this average player level. Modules were either scaled for the party that showed up or they were pre scaled with a set difficulty. Wave battles were generally guesstimates, plot people went into town and felt out the players to see what they had left and then scaled accordingly. This method of scaling is imprecise. It works OK if the plot team has experienced people, with good a good sense of how the game works but it falls down when staff people take over portions of the scaling. The ability of plot to set the difficulty of a weekend is an important environment tool that is largely lost when this method of scaling is used. If you do decide to use this scaling methodology, it is important that you sit down with your event register and look at some statistics. The average player level is a poor measure of the over all breakdown of an event, the range between high and low is equally important. If you scale towards the middle for everything, and the range is very large, the high level players will never be challenged while the low will be getting destroyed. The average and the range together give you a more complete view of your players.

The method that I use is different, in a few ways. At the beginning of the event we still take an event register but I also do my ow calculations. If you have access to the players database in your chapter, it is important as a plot person that you have a decent grasp of the skills available to your regular players. You should be able to say for instance if a particular player is life capable and if they are how many lifes to they have(generally, with 1 or 2 blocks) You should know the general block size of celestial casters and you should know generally what peoples transforms look like. The plot person, or the head of plot , can then use this information to schedule their event. I take for instance the estimate of how many life spells there are in the game, I subtract 1/4 and that is the total number of death effects that can be put into game. This does not account for item lifes or bleeding out PCs but none the less it is fairly accurate. To insure that plot is controlling the deaths that go into game I remove all death effects from random cards, this way only modules or wave battles have death effects. At a basic numbers level, I look at a standard 50 hit point swinging 5 damage monster as the equivalent of a level 10 character in a wave battle. Adding packet attacks increases its abilities to a level 15, every +5 damage increases it by 5 more. Takedowns on the card are +5 each and defenses are +2. Using this I can scale my wave battles to the APL. Monsters that only fight should be the default for all wave battles and randoms, they are fun for everyone to kill, they can be fought by newer players and casters can use their takedowns. The total number of these monsters should be between the number of players and the number of players times 2 for every wave battle. Using the above numbers but adhering to the death effect limitation you should scale the monsters in the wave battle to within + or - five of the APL. Ifthe range between high and low is more than 10 then the wave battle should be split into high and low level monsters. Randoms unfortunately are usually homogeneous and should be set within + or - 5 of the APL alternating between the high end and the low. Using this system and limiting the death effects allows you to more accurately gauge the effects a wave battle will have on resource consumption plus it gets you out of the trap of always sending in packet monsters the scaling favors sending in larger fighting monsters over packet monsters, which is more fun for everyone involved.

A couple of things can be done to make this even better. One, all monsters should have a target aggressor, meaning that they should be either a caster monster, a fighter monster, a gas monsters or a rogue monster. A fighter monster should have lots of body and spell defenses but swing for a reasonable amount of damage. A caster monster should have a reasonable amount of body but no spell defenses and swing for more damage or swing a carrier which makes them fighter averse. A gas monster should have a metabolism and the carrier or damage mentioned above and some spell defenses. A rogue monster should have a threshold which makes it easier to kill swinging higher damage as well as similar setup as the fighter monster. Breaking down your randoms and wave battles like this allows everyone to feel special at some time during the event which is always the primary goal of plot.

Scaling the big bad guy for the weekend or the module is always complicated, you want to make it a good fight without killing everyone. Some important things to note. The big bad should be able to control the fight, moving people around and stopping the blanket beatings are the ways to stretch out a fight. Killing everyone will stretch the fight out but defeats the object of fun for everyone. I know everyone hates fear but for crowd control it is one of the best in the game, it gets people away and keeps them away allowing you to focus on other people. Knockdown is another great one, it lets the big bad move away or get some damage in while everyone recovers.. Controlling the fight with abilities like this will make for a more enjoyable tactical situation than the death storm that I occasionally see at some chapter. Remember that your big bad still has to fit within the takedown list written above, you do not want to make it impossible to get a life spell, only very difficult.

The closer you push your players to the point of resource exhaustion the harder the event will feel. In between game actions and things that were not accomplished the event before should drive the scaling for the event closer and closer to that 3/4 takedown level and drive the wave battle and random scaling closer to the high end. This way players begin to feel a connection between their actions and how hard they are forced to play. This kind of feedback, drives the feeling of a connected world and that is the end goal.

Next week I am going to take a look at some alternate mechanics that can be used to make fights feel harder without actually changing the scaling. Let me know what you think about this, I hope it is helpful.

A Plea for Summer Armor Rules

I am usually saddened to hear that we're going into Summer Armor rules. I understand the need for it. This is especially true when a few specific people are playing who will wear their heavy plate armor until they pass out unless we MAKE them take their armor off.

I am saddened by the fact that people will try to keep Summer Armor running far into the night when it should no longer be an issue. That's bad, but usually a plot team can deal with that by making it clear that they're going off Summer Armor. Even then, players cry when they hear it's off as if they didn't know.

What really saddens me is the fact that so many people who use their armor as costume do not have an alternate costume. I have absolutely no chance at immersion if you're wearing a t-shirt and roleplaying with me.

So to all you people who use their armor as their costume, please invest in a simple tunic or tabard. They're pretty easy to come by and not to terribly expensive. In fact, you might even be able to purchase one from a local seamstress.

But seriously, get something to cover up your shame.

Edit: Oh, and let's work out a system of armbands for the type of armor you're wearing. I am sick of seeing a bunch of A's. I know people will say "but I can hide my armor so it shouldn't be visible how many points I have!" Tough shit. It's a trade-off for not having to wear your armor.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

YouTube Thursday: Exiles

There is a lot of bleed-over in the players who play NERO and the players who play Exiles. Still, there are a lot of people who are unaware of Exiles.

Today's video is a short commercial for Exiles. Here you'll see one of the owners and one of the players in a shoot-out. I'll drop their names if they want me to.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top LARPing Movies

A while back, I asked you all about your favorite pump up music to listen to before LARP. I figured I'd take the next step and ask about the movies you like to watch before LARP.

Let me note that these movies don't actually even have to have anything to do with LARP. They just remind you of LARP. Here are the top 5 pump up movies for LARP.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lessons Learned August Lumberton

The Lumberton plot team last weekend braving temperatures which no man should suffer, let alone run around in, produced their third installment of the season. I am going to look at some things that we did well, and some things that we need to work on, anyone who attended please give me your responses to the event. If you didn't attend, what were you doing?

I am going to begin with what we did well, since it makes me happier. Pacing, I believe is amongst the top two most important requirements for a good larp event. Stuff has to keep happening to keep everyone entertained, downtime is the bane of roleplay because as roleplay stretches further, it becomes thinner. We nailed the pacing right on the head. I have never once at an event heard that to much was going on, but I did at this event. The nobility of the town that we were running were literally making life and death decisions in the 20 minutes of time between major events, it was awesome. I scheduled the event with the rest of the plot team but the real winners here are my staff team who kicked butt getting people into the field.

The second most important part of a good event is module design. Creating modules that do not get stale and are properly scaled is hard. I think we nailed this as well, we varied the types of modules we ran sufficiently that even the simple ones seemed different. I wrote some of these modules but the other plot people did just as well with this, I was very impressed.

We also had a really great continuous story which has been unfolding throughout this season and seems to be drawing in players fro a multitude of groups. We managed to target each and every group with some special plot and we even got newer players involved with a fully scaled continuous module. All in all I would say we had way more strengths than areas of opportunity.

That being said there are always ways to improve. The one that I heard the most was actually also one of our strengths, the pacing was hard. This was partially due to the slightly lower turnout than the previous event and partially due to the intense number of NPCs that we had. I am not going to make a conscious effort to slow down the events, I think that is counter intuitive, I will however begin splitting my wave battles between different areas of the camp, this may make the action seem more spread out without actually reducing the intensity.

Roleplay modules was another suggestion, I must admit this is not my forte. I have a hard time viewing a strictly roleplay module as very interesting. I may have to speak with my other plot persons about having them step this aspect up more while I continue to focus on the combat/puzzle modules.

Traps and other skills, again this is not my specialty. I did however pick up a new highly creative and manually dexterous staff person who may be able to help me out with this. Traps are generally a losing proposition in larps, they take to long to set up. There may be some modularization possible, bringing prebuilt trap boards or something of that nature, I am going to be looking into this between this event and the next.

All in all I believe that we ran a successful event with a minimum number of hiccups. Most of the reviews that I have received have been positive, mostly on the extreme end of positive. What did you guys think?

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Week In LARP - August 16th

With the end of summer drawing near, we've got the best ways to get as much LARP in as possible!


NERO Cincinnati will be hosting a 2 day event this weekend, starting Friday, August 20th and going until Sunday, August 22nd. This event will be held at Cub World at the IG location Framlingarhalan. It will cost you $50 to PC ($40 if you prepay) and is free to NPC. See the sidebar for directions.


Bloodlines will be hosting a 2 day event this weekend, starting Saturday, August 21st and going until Sunday, August 22nd. This event will be held at Camp Burnamwood in Kentucky. I am not sure what the cost is, but if you are interested, you can try on their forums See the sidebar for directions.

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 larp.plot.tips@gmail.com, and we'll add you as soon as possible!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cultivating Player Perspectives

We've touched on this topic with a few other posts and has been on several forum topics, so I think it's time we gave this it's own topic. I hear a lot of players talking about what they would want in their game to make it more interesting and challenging for the players.

The problem is that it takes time to cultivate your players to think a certain way. You can't simply change the standards on them overnight. You have to make a slow, methodical change. Not only that, but you have to do it in a constructive rather than a destructive way.

I started thinking about this topic in regards to whether or not you should give players false information as plot. I think any hardcore gamer would agree, that false information (that can be detected) adds an element of information filtering to the game, which should make it more fulfilling.

But what if your players aren't wired for that? What if they've been playing the game for two, three, or even ten years, and never once had to deal with false information like this. They take everything at face value, because that's the game they're used to.

This is a paradigm shift. If you want to make this change, you have to do it slowly. Not only that, but in the early stages of this progression, you should only be using positive reinforcement. You should be rewarding those who filter the information (in a public way), but do not punish those who don't. This is where most people mess up when introducing a new idea.

If you punish players for something they weren't expected to do before, they will react with the opposite extreme. In the case above, punishing players who fail to filter the false information will cause them to be weary of every bit of information you give them, often requiring 3-4 sources before they do anything. This slows the game down and adds essentially no value.

After some time where you've been giving rewards, you'll get an idea for who gets it and who doesn't. From that, you should be able to make a decision as to whether this paradigm shift should stick or not. If no one gets it, it wasn't meant to be.

Another place where this comes up is monster statting. I think we can all agree that we want our players to fight smarter rather than brute forcing every module they go on. Often times, plot teams will give every monster decent defenses against everything - very little weaknesses or strengths. Then, they send out a monster with a specific weakness that is very strong against everything else. They expect it to be an obvious weakness, but the players don't figure it out. Why? Because that kind of thinking has not been cultivated. They're not wired for that.

However, if you start sending out monsters and every one has a weakness of some sort, players might start to pick up on that. Start out with broad weaknesses, and then narrow those weaknesses down. After a sufficient period of time, you can start to add narrow strengths to the monsters, showing the players that it's not only smart to exploit weaknesses, but in some situations it greatly increases overall effectiveness. Then, once you've worked that into their brain, you can start dropping mind bombs on them, forcing them to make tactical decisions, rather than brute forcing everything.

I tend to get a bunch of questions from people on how to introduce a new concept or idea to a game, and the answer's always the same. Start out by rewarding players who follow the new idea, but don't punish players who don't. That should give you a feel for whether something will stick or not.

Lumberton courtesy of me

I am running an event this weekend, the one on the sidebar called Lumberton. With the help of my fellow plot and staffers we will be endeavoring to bring you the ultimate in LARP experiences. Mention this post and I will...talk to you about LARP.

For anyone who comes make sure you check out Harry's Magical Empoium it is pretty cool.

Happy Larping

Thursday, August 12, 2010

YouTube Thursday: Rising Instructions

I mentioned Rising back when I did my recap of Origins. While the game itself wasn't a terrible rule system, I was not particularly impressed with what they did. They charged a crazy amount to play (almost 4-5 times more than other LARPs), and the production quality was very low. In addition, the creators were (ex?) NERO players, and gave us a bunch of grief since we were from NERO. I was actually scoffed at when I asked if there was supposed to be an ammo tag in the ammo box, despite the rules I was given telling me that *GASP* there would be a tag in the box.

Anyways, I do give them props for creating an instructional video for their game. Despite the fact that this game is very simple, I feel an instructional video like this could be used for practically any LARP game. Might be a project worth trying.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The case for high end content

Games tend to thrive upon progression. If we look at the most successful fantasy game franchises of the 20th and 21st century so far, we see a pretty constant thread, progression. Continuing growth and development of characters through equipment, levels and story. With this formula flaring at us from behind the computer screen, how is it that LARPS have not caught on to this need? The lack of high end content in LARPs leads to player stagnation and eventually, player departure. Lets look at a couple of ways that LARPs could continue their progression without Beverly hampering others fun, and what they would do for high end players satisfaction levels.

One concept that can be easily ported from MMORPGS is the "Raid" Mechanic. Difficult modules with skilled NPCs and repeatability can be built into your plot lines for groups to try out. They can be given story incentives and treasure incentives and set free. There are a few requirements for this concept to work properly; the "Raid" should always be the same, every plot person should run it the same way this allows for measured success against others, the "raid" should always be appropriately challenging, if it is intended for high level players lower level players should not be able to complete the tasks required, the "raid" must be appropriately treasured, preferably with things that can ONLY be found on that particular module. If these three things are implemented, a high end repeatable module with unique treasure can allow for players to measure themselves against other high end players, it can be self rewarding and if it is challenging enough it can increase player turnover, these are all great things in a larp. The downside is of course that once the raid has been in the field for awhile, a new one must be added to continue challenging players, the old one may still be essential as well for those players who are not yet ready to move to the new one. This can be a plot intensive solution.

Character development is another avenue that can be actively pursued in larps. An argument can be made that players continuously develop in most games but as the experience yield curve maxes out the advancement is almost to slow to notice. Another argument would be that not all advancement is through skills some can be through roleplay and that is true, but players who do not get plot based roleplay advancement will feel left out. Mechanics are non partisan they do not play favorites and that is their importance in games. Implementing character advancement outside of the experience curve can be challenging, one way that NERO handles it is through transforms. Transforms allow for advancement beyond a characters level but only effect game balance in specific instances. They can be written to be as powerful or game breaking as you desire as long as you are also willing to put the time in to scaling for the transform powers. An important note, if you are using transforms for high end development of characters, there should be places that you can go in your game world were transforms are always useful. Combining this with the raid concept above, in your high end repeatable modules, the spending or configuration of your transform should be essential for success. This allows for the extra power granted by a transform to not be superfluous but rather an integral part of character development. It removes it from the "pretty neat" and adds it to the "totally necessary" category. There are other ways to handle character advancement as well, retirement incentives are one that has been discussed a lot, for a team that can scale well allowing high level characters to continue playing provides incentives for lower level players.

Equipment advancement is the simplest form of end game. There is absolutely no reason that new and better equipment cannot be added to the game and taken into account with scaling. The equipment can be made available only through the aforementioned high end modules and can be essential for the completion of the harder modules. The equipment can be linked to the transform advancement, items that are specific to certain transforms or items that enhance certain transform abilities. NEROs scare of item hoarding was met with a shotgun approach of expiration dates and an item limit cap, the item limit cal alone would have been enough to accomplish the goal. Itemization, the proper selection of items for members of a party and team, is a huge part of every roleplaying game and it is missing in NERO. It is missing because we have a very limited number of items available so everyone gets whatever we have available. This is not optimal for high level players.

By implementing some combination of these three things into your LARP or NERO game, you can better entertain high level players. The track record of a system like this is strong 10 million people play World of Warcraft, and it uses a high level system very much like this. The best solution would be to implement something like this on a national scale allowing for high level competition throughout the game. The training and logistics would be complicated but the rewards for the game would be staggering.