Thursday, September 30, 2010

YouTube Thursday: Shadowrun

I saw this video a while back, but never had a chance to post it. I'm sure you've heard about how European LARPs do things hardcore. Well this is no different. They actually ran a Shadowrun LARP in Switzerland.

The tech behind it was Lazer Tag Team Ops, which, while expensive, has a lot of customizable features for a LARP. But that's not the point. The point is that they're doing it in an indoor skate park, and that they're playing Shadowrun. SHADOWRUN!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Steampunk 101

I know that this is blog focused on LARP, but I have been digging into the maker culture recently, thanks to the heavy steampunk influence in Exiles. One of the tiered personas you can play is a Technologist, who, while weak, can craft amazing weapons and gadgets to give them (and the people around them) an edge.

It's pretty prop intense, so if I'm going to play one (eventually), I should probably dig into how to gear up steampunk style. The nice thing about steampunk is that, when done right, it can fit into any LARP, even fantasy LARPs. So here's a little primer on steampunk and how to make props for LARP.

Despite what Wikipedia tells you, the truth is that Steampunk was a break-off genre of cyberpunk. It's essentially a fantasy version of cyberpunk. The key themes of steampunk are innovation, individuality and frontier exploration.

Enough of the background, there are plenty of resources out there that can tell you about steampunk. What I want to tell you is how to get yourself some steampunk kit that works for LARP.

1. Brown is Your Friend
Generally speaking, if it's not metal, it's leather. For that reason, steampunk garb is normally filled with rich browns. If you're playing a nobleman, you can start using other rich colors, but I'm assuming that you're playing some sort of adventurer.

2. Get Some Gears
It can be a little tough to find large gears for costume, but you'd be amazed at how much you can add to a prop by adding some simple gears and springs to busy up a specific part of your item. You can often find gears that you can use in CD players, VCRs, and old electronics. A lot of the time they're plastic and white, but feel free to hit them with some brass/silver paint. Once you've got the gears, you can make a space, fill it with clear resin and set the gears how you want. Cheap, easy, and looks awesome.

3. Pocket Watches
While it might be hard to find these at flea markets or current stores, there's a whole slew of these coming out of china, which you can get off of eBay for about $5-$10. Granted, these aren't the best quality and you might want to upgrade if you plan on doing some steampunk cosplay, but for LARP it should get the job done (and you won't be heartbroken when you break your $100 pocket watch).

4. Paintball Masks
Now, you might be able to find these at garage sales or have these lying around, but paintball masks can be modded into some pretty sweet steampunk gas masks with a touch of paint and a little flair. This also gives you the ability to set yourself apart from all the goggle folk. Or even better, punch out the eye protection and wear the mask WITH goggles. The nice thing about paintball masks are that they're built to hold up under heavy physical activity. There's nothing worse than wearing a prop that significantly reduces your effectiveness.

So give it a shot and join the steampunk revolution. And if you do (or have in a past), send us some links/pics of your steampunk kit at!

PS - We're 9 posts away from 100 and you guys need to get about 500 more hits to make 4000, and I promise we'll have a contest if we make it. Now's the time to tell your friends!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Geeking Out: The Accelerant Ruleset

I had a serious geek out moment yesterday. I was speaking with the author of another larp blog about a game system and he pointed me in the direction of the online ruleset. I read over it and found that it was amazing, easily the best boffer larp set that I have ever seen. The core rules and effects fit neatly into 28 pages of text. The math is simple and the flavor potential is huge. I love the Accelerant rules set. I am going to go ahead and post the link and then I will look at a few of the things that make it so great.

The first thing I must dispense with is the question I will get, why is the book 179 pages long when you said the rules fit into 28 pages? The answer is that all of the core effects and combat mechanics fit into 28 pages, the rest of the book is fluff specific to the system that I linked. The limited number of effects might seem to some NERO lags as a detriment, I am here to tell you it is not. Having as many takedowns and durations as NERO is a mistake. It heightens the learning curve of the game for vitually identical effects. In the Accelerant system, you can be Drained by fire, or drained by law, these are both drain effects with different roleplay. The fact that the effect and the cure remains the same but the flavor can change even more than in NERO is probably my favorite part about this system.

Low math is probably one of the greatest concepts that has come about ins some recent boffer larp systems. In the past the math for combat has always been fairly high, characters in NERO regularly swing 10s or 20s. In a low math game all swings are for 1s except for special attacks. The Accelerant system is low math, vitality stays fairly low even in more powerful characters, which serves to make combat more dynamic. People are up and down more, more of the combat is decided by special skill use and many of the skills that are used are refreshable after combat. This type of system has several benefits, the lower math makes it far easier to keep track of health and conditions. 5 vitality and 4 armor is far easier to keep track of than 50 body and 40 armor. The refreshable skills allows for a different sort of scaling, a damage over time scaling rather than a total effect scaling. Because a character does not have a hard limit on healing and curative effects, the limiting factor for plot becomes how often players are attacked rather than how many takedowns the NPCs have. This allows for a more action packed game and a simpler feel, faster respawsn and more frequent battles = harder.

This system is very customizable, as you can see from the Madrigal ruleset a great number of classes and spells can be created using the effect,flavor system laid out. These classes can be similar but have a totally different feel based on the flavor of the effects that they use. The same is true of both NPCs and traps. NERO and the other big larp systems tend to have a fairly large number of effects but a small degree of flavor, in this system the reverse is true.

With the combination of simple math, limited effects, a simpler scaling system and great flavor, I believe this ruleset would lend itself to running amazing games. Oh and the best part, apparently the cost is significantly lower than the royalty based cost of NERO international. If I were going to start a new campaign or convert an old campaign to new rules, this would be on my shortlist of rule systems to consider.

Please read through the rules, let me know what you think!

Edit: Tim posted a link to the Madrigal Ruleset, which includes the Accelerant rules as well as their own stuff. To view just the Accelerant rules, follow this link.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Week In LARP - September 27th

Last Week In LARP

There were a large number of events for you to choose from, including a brand spankin' new campaign with Anderian. Drop a review for the event you attended in the comments!

This Week In LARP

Didn't get a chance to get your LARP on last weekend? Don't worry! There's still plenty of LARP to be had this year.


WAR will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, October 1st and ending Sunday, October 3rd. The game will be held at Lewis Arboretum at the IG location of Rockcrusher Forge. It's $50 to PC ($30 with a good NPC ratio) and is free to NPC. Additionally, if you attended the last Rockcrusher Forge event, you'll get half off the normal price! ($25/15 with good NPC ratio)

OGRE will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, October 1st and ending Sunday, October 3rd. The game will be held at Chief Logan Reservation at the IG location of Starlen's Crossing. It's $40 to PC and is $10 to NPC.


There are no local Alliance events this weekend. If you know of an event that might be a bit further away, drop the details in the comments!


Wastelands will be hosting a 1-day event this weekend on Saturday, October 2nd. The game will be held at Owensville Volunteer Site at the IG location of Sanity. It's $15 to PC and is free to NPC, and a $5 food donation would be appreciated.

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!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Last Week In LARP

I've realized that, while useful, the "This Week In LARP" posts have not been very interesting for our readers. That's why I'm going to add a new part to those posts.

In addition to telling you all about the games coming up that week, I want to get as much feedback as possible from players who went to LARP the previous weekend. It could be for any event, regardless of where it's held (I know we have quite a few readers from outside of Ohio).

Here's the format I'd like:

Chapter (if applicable)
Rating: 1-10 (10 being best)
Pros: Things the event did well
Cons: Things the event could have improved upon.

Then, at the end of the year (or every 3 months), we can compile that data and send it to the owner/plot teams, in the hopes of improving upon past performance. Also, it could drum up some interest in some of the smaller, but fun games.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's the economy, stupid!

This is obviously a deeper look into the economy of larp systems prompted by the post on the National NERO boards about the value of coin. Let us begin with the definition of an economy, just so that we are all working from the same starting point. An economy, for the purposes of this discussion, is a system of exchange of goods and services within a limited scope. Economics is a diverse field, we will focus on the micro economic concepts associated with game economies and we will do so without fully modeling the system. This means that I am essentially going to define the currency in play, define the consumable services and then explain how we can make the flow of the in game economy more efficient and realistic feeling.

It is important to remember when dealing with a system like NERO, that there is not a real economy. The currency in play is a few denominations of coins that are made available by the event runners. The amount of coin that is available at any given game is directly proportional to the number of players at an event. The amount that is put into game is based on player level and max out cost, so the economy grows by a fixed percentage at every event and continues to grow at a semi constant rate as long as events are run. The services that are consumable have partially fixed prices, max out, production costs and guild costs are all fixed, they do not adjust with the inflation of the economy. Only player to player and auctions sales are free supply/demand curves. Player to player sales do not remove gold from the economy. So the value of gold will constantly inflate against these supply and demand curves as more and more gold is available. Meaning that a power component purchased from a player may have a value of five gold now, but in 2 years the value may be 10 gold because of the additional gold in the economy. This is the situation as it stands, as long as gold is put into game with no free supply and demand curves that actually remove gold from the economy inflation will continue.

In a standard free market economy all costs are free, meaning that they can move based on the amount of money in the economy. If Country A is unable to pay its debt to Country B, Country A will print more money to pay that debt, which lowers he value of Country A's currency. The cost of printing more money is inflationary prices on goods. The cure for this in a real economy is that the government, or some semi independent agency, purchases money off of the market and destroys it, causing a decrease in the availability of funds and hopefully deflating costs. The NERO economy has been inflating since its inception, it literally has gotten to the point where no amount of lower denomination coins will buy you anything outside of fixed costs. A power component costs 500 copper, that is more than most chapter have at any given event. There are real world equivalents to this, post communist Russia had currency that literally could be exchanged by the cart full for a loaf of bread. NERO needs currency destruction, but not actual destruction, just reclamation. This is where concepts like magic item auctions become very fruitful. Everyone has way to much gold, everyone wants magic items, in our system magic items are a consumable good meaning that they go away, coin is not, it absolutely makes sense from an economic standpoint to sell as many magic items as possible.

I have heard complaints that magic item auctions tend to centralize the items in the hands of the long time players. This is true and is also the way that economic theory works, wealth accumulation leads to economic superiority. Allowing some magic items to be available via random treasure drops maintains the windfall feel that is currently present in the game. With the advent of a more free flowing economy the player who finds that item may be able to sell it to someone else and buy an item at auction which better suits their character, allowing more customization of character concepts.

There are other options beyond auctions, any use for money that is not fixed will remove money from the game. The utility that is provided by a magic item and its durability (Semi durable) make it ideal for the purpose of reducing the economic inflation in the NERO economy.

YouTube Thursday: Mazes and Monsters

Every LARPer should be familiar with the works that helped turn gaming into a demonized hobby. Mazes and Monsters was a terrible film in which Tom Hanks essentially loses his mind because of D&D. It's seriously on par with the Chick Tract on D&D.

While it was focused on tabletop, the actions in the movie are more like LARP, which helps people call us dorkier or weirder than tabletop players. It's a shame. Anyways, if you haven't seen this movie, you should probably check it out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Podcast What?

So, we've thought about it in the past but we're finally going to do a podcast. Nothing huge - maybe 30-40 minutes with a 2-3 topics to cover. It'll be Tim and I, and one more person to be determined at a later date. If it doesn't suck, maybe we'll make it a regular thing.

What topics would you like us to cover? Module/Plotline design? Game Theory? Cross-Chapter Play? Getting more people to play? Going Mainstream? Our personal LARP indoctrination stories? Want us to critique a rule system you've made? Want to hear us eat a fresh watermelon?

Seriously, throw out some ideas. Otherwise, I'll just have Tim talk in his British accent for a half hour. Anyone who's played tabletop with him can tell you that you don't want that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spirit of the Rules

No game has ever been able to define every single rule and every possible outcome using any combination of rules. There's always some grey area that has to be interpreted.

LARPs, being absolutely fluid games with immeasurable possible outcomes, tend to utilize the "Spirit" of the rules more often than tabletop games. We have to get an idea of the goals of certain rules to see what the intended outcome is, despite the fact that it's not actually defined.

Unfortunately, I believe that we have had far too many people make terrible calls for the game under the guise of this "Spirit of the Rules" clause. I think it's important to understand that Spirit of the Rules is not actually intended for the average player. It's a clause intended for use by judges or game masters.

I am a person who prides himself on knowing the rules for games. I have read game design books focusing on goal-oriented design and designing for fun. I have spent the time in the trenches as a staffer, plot person, player, and marshal in two different LARPs. And from my experience, knowing the rules simply is not enough when it comes to interpreting them and making rules calls. In fact, knowing the rules isn't even the most important thing.

The most important trait of a judge or marshal is the ability to admit that you were wrong.

I have seen too many people make a call on something, and when told that they were wrong they would start defending their call like it was a dissertation. Chances are, if everyone is telling you that you're wrong, you are probably wrong. Being able to process input and change your decisions is a necessary skill. Inability to change your mind identifies you as being a biased individual.

There was a big thing about enslavement in NERO. I was a big opponent based on the way it was originally worded as it appeared to benefit cheaters. There was a lot of back and forth, and I gave my reasons for my feelings on the call. After hearing a more descriptive ruling than was posted, I 100% back the decision made in regards to truth.

Mickey was right, I was wrong. I admit that. Whenever players bring up that call to me (since I was staunchly opposed), I calmly explain that I support the ruling and, most importantly, why.

This is a little disjointed, but there is a point to all of this. "Spirit of the Rules" is in a game so that an educated and qualified person, like a marshal or a GM, can make a call on the grey area of the game. It's not intended so that the average player can make rules calls.

The other side point I have to this is that all rulings, not just major ones, should be published, including the methods that led to that decision. Not only does this full disclosure make the game seem like a more professional and tighter community. It also provides precedents and examples that marshals and would-be-marshals can use to help them become better at interpreting the grey areas of the rules.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This Week In LARP - September 20th

This weekend is chuck full of LARP. Pick the one that fits you best!

Due to the large number of LARPs this weekend, I will not be posting events on the sidebar this week.


Northcoast NERO will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, September 24th and ending Sunday, September 26th. The game will be held at Camp Tuscazoar at the IG location of Syrinx. It's $40 to PC ($50 without prereg) and is free to NPC ($2 for insurance).

OGRE will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, September 24th and ending Sunday, September 26th. The game will be held at Camp Lazarus at the IG location of Oasis. It's $40 to PC and is $10 to NPC.

PRO will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, September 24th and ending Sunday, September 26th. The game will be held at Raccoon State Park at the IG location of Ebonmarr. It's $40 to PC (includes food, $10 extra at the door) and is $15 to NPC (includes food).

NERO Northlands will be hosting a 24 hour event this weekend starting Saturday, September 25th. The game will be held at Rolling Hills Cabins at the IG location of Gorgewrecker's Pass. It's $30 to PC ($25 to prereg) and is free to NPC.


There are no local Alliance events this weekend. If you know of an event that might be a bit further away, drop the details in the comments! There is an Anderian Event, using a variant of the Alliance Ruleset. See below for Independent LARPs.


Exiles will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend, starting Friday, September 24th and ending Sunday, September 26th. The game will be held at Sycamore State Park Group Camping Location at the IG location of Silver Springs. It's $40 to PC and is free to NPC.

Anderian will be hosting their first 2-day event this weekend, starting Friday, September 24th and ending Sunday, September 26th. The game will be held at Lewis Arboretum. It's $10 to PC, but it's suggested that you bring your own food.

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!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Managing the Critical Path

There was some talk in a previous post about problems associated when plot hinges on a single individual/group performing some action that falls by the wayside for whatever reason. I like to describe this phenomenon using a term from Project Management - The Critical Path.

The Critical Path in a project is the shortest path from beginning to end. Any task on the Critical Path, called a critical task from here on out, has a direct influence on the completion of the project, and any delay in that critical task will delay the project by the same amount.

When used in Plot, Critical Path Management is a powerful tool. Critical tasks represent objectives that must be completed in order to move forward. In broad plotlines, these tasks can be completed by any player or the objectives can be achieved by several different tasks. Lots of options.

Here's an example of broad plotline with a managable critical path.

Start: Farmer's Daughter is Kidnapped
Middle Milestone: Locate the Farmer's Daughter
End: Return the Daugther

In this plot, there are two broad tasks - Finding the daughter and rescuing her. However, there are many different ways to go about those tasks. To find the daugther you could use tracking, question prisoners, or call in underworld contacts. To rescue her you could pay a ransom, infiltrate the complex, or simply bust down the door. Anyone can do those actions, so there is no defined critical path.

However, there is one possible critical task in this scenario, and that is getting the word out. How do the players find out about the kidnapping? Does the farmer keep talking to people until he gets some people to move out? Does he mention it to the nobles and go back to his farm? Does he post something in the tavern, offering a reward?

If he only mentions it to a single person or a single group, you now have a critical task. You will be unable to move the plotline forward until that person/group does something with that information (form a posse, pass it on to a group of adventurers, or go Rambo on the slavers).

As a plot member, you must know that there will come a time where one of your plotlines gets held up on a critical task. Usually this comes from the PCs with a critical task having too much on their plate, or in a few rare cases, the PCs on the critical path are not present at a given event.

Alas! All is not lost! There are a number of ways that you can deal with this critical path issues, all of which are much better than brooding on whether your plot is good enough or not.

1. Prodding
This is the most commonly used method for moving a plotline along, but I am not a big fan of it. A lot of times, your players are simply tapped or unaware of a method for getting the job done. In those cases, this is just going to stress the players out. If you're going to prod, you should lend them a hand or give them a hint to go with the prodding, lest you push the PCs to actively ignore your plot.

2. Alternate Route
This one is tougher to use while keeping the game epic, but I feel is a much better option than continuous prodding. Give a different group of PCs a different task that can be done to effectively do the same job or make the original task easier. In this case, you don't want the alternate route to be easier than the original task, or else you'll belittle the characters involved in the original task. I would also suggest trying to make the two tasks independent of one another, or else one task may ruin the possibility of the other task. In the case of two tasks, one being combat and the other being roleplay, rolplaying usually loses out, causing disenchantment for the players involved in that task.

3. Back Up Plan
The best way to fix critical task issues is to not have them in the first place! You should always have a Plan B. Back up plans are a lot easier to build into a plotline from the start, as opposed to coming up with one when you get into trouble. Contingency is more than a cantrip.

4. Spread them Out
The other thing that causes these delays is the fact that one player or group might end up being the critical path for multiple plotlines. If you can spread it out, not only will you be less likely to have one of the critical paths stall out, but you'll also have the added benefit of making more players feel special and possibly make their event.

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't have critical tasks. Critical tasks go a long way towards making players feel important. Everyone, after all, wants to be the hero in their own story. You should just be prepared to manage any plotline that hits a critical task, rather than waiting for something to happen. This is something I was unprepared to do when I started writing plot, and I feel like I could have made my life a bit easier.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

YouTube Thursday: MagiQuest

Today's video is a trailer for MagiQuest - a children's LARP that uses infrared wands and motion sensors. It's currently only available in limited locations, but one of them happens to be in Mason, OH.

I'm pretty pumped about this. First, it gets kids interested in LARP, which is always a good thing. Next, the technology they're using could be integrated into other LARPs, and could add some sick effects to the game.

Imagine, if you had to start casting a ritual, and didn't know how long it would take. Now, you would need a marshal around to take you OOG when you complete it, and to count the duration. But with this technology, you could waive you wand at it for a few minutes, and then the effect goes off automatically.

Seriously, I need someone in the Cincinnati area to check this out. Find out how much it is, give it a shot, and give us a review. We'll even let you guest post it.

Great Wolf Lodge
2501 Great Wolf Drive
Mason, OH 45040

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LARP as a team, or Winning at LARP

Many fantasy novels and stories focus around the concept of a lone wolf. A hero, singular in his pursuit of justice, with no friends or companions to assist him. I am going to come right out and say that this is a horrible idea in a larp setting. There are a number of reasons for this, but when you boil them all down you come to an inevitable conclusion, LARP is a team game. Roleplay, combat, treasure and fun all increase when players play with each other.

The lone wolf as the basis for a character feels like positive roleplay. It is a concept, somewhere to begin. It is archetypal, there are many characters to base your actions on. It makes players feel powerful when they accomplish objectives all on their own. LARP does not lend itself to the lone wolf for roleplay, because larp is largely a collaborative game. In order to make others in the story aware of your roleplay you must interact with them. Brooding in the woods by yourself may sound like fun when you consider it at home. It may be fun to say in a tabletop game that your player broods in the woods between sessions, but when you get to an event and immediately head for the woods to brood you miss out on all roleplay that takes place, if you do not head to the woods to brood then you have no opportunity to express your character concept. This divide is almost impossible to cross, you cannot both express a lone wolf concept and be involved in the fun collaborative rolplay that separates a larp from a combat game. In essence you give up the best part of coming to the game for your character concept or you give up your concept for the game.

The lone wolf does not function well logistically. If you consider a normal event that you attend, the plot and staff personnel are generally outnumbered by the players. At an excellently staffed event you may have a 2 player to 1 NPC/staff ratio. This means that every NPC must entertain at least two players at any given time in order to maintain constant entertainment, we literally do not have time to entertain lone wolf characters. Generally plot people will try to make some accommodations and run small things for people doing things on their own but there is absolutely no question that playing alone wolf character will limit your interaction in the logistical portion of the event. Combat effectiveness wise a game cannot be scaled to allow both teams of characters and lone wolf characters without breaking a portion of the suspension of disbelief or breaking the overall power level of the game. If every character could function by his or herself without the need for supporting character, most tactical encounters would be impossible. One of the primary tactical resources available to event runners is resource allocation questions, how many ____ do we need, do we have enough____. In order to make these questions viable, every character cannot have every _____ , therefore lone wolves will never have all of the resources necessary to participate in a module designed for a team. You can scale every module to the composition that is present, but that also removes the tactical question of resource allocation.

In a game with a crafting system it will always be easier to collect the components necessary to build things with more than one person looking for them. More people= more treasure - a greater variety of treasure = build more cool stuff. Lone wolves will never have as many collectible resources available as team based characters.

So what do you give up to play your lone wolf character? You give up on the roleplay, the combat, the logistical focus and the treasure distribution...Sounds like you might as well NPC!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Breaking the Stigma: Public Service

On Friday, I talked about the ways that we can breakthrough to mainstream just like our video game cousins. I believe that the biggest hurdle we have as LARPers is the shame normally associated with our hobby. I figured it might be worth it to do a few posts on ways that we can work towards breaking that stigma.

Of course, this won't be an overnight thing. Hell, it may never break the stigma of LARPing on a national level. However, it could be very easy to break the stigma on a local level, which would help drum up support from local businesses as well as increase the playerbase.

So the first thing we can do? Public service!

LARP groups have access to one of the largest pools of free labor I've ever seen. I could easily get 10 people to help me for 4-5 hours in a soup kitchen if I offered enough imaginary points/experience/treasure/titles to those players.

Some groups (like Alliance Ohio) already do this on a much smaller level. Alliance Ohio holds service days for Lewis Arboretum where they do some work on the camp, and give experience to those who show up. This is great, and I encourage all LARP groups to do this. But this only improves our standing with the camp staff. We need to do more in the public eye in order to change this stigma.

Players: Try and arrange a group in your area to do some public service, and let the owners of your game know. Ask if they'll "sponsor" your work with character experience or some other kind of service reward. Dress alike, and ideally get shirts that show that you are a LARP group and the name of the group. Take plenty of pictures of what you do as proof of the work, as well as good PR for your game's site.

Owners: Support the players that come to you with proposals of public service. Work with them to publicize the public service. See about helping them get shirts, or even design a shirt for your organization (make sure it says LARP on there somewhere).

Hell, if we all wanted to band together in this project, we could get one basic shirt design with a spot for your particular group's logo. That way we could do joint service events and all the groups involved would get credit.

Just food for thought.

Anyone have any stories of public service within your LARP group?
Feel free to drop them in the comments.

Anyone got an idea for a public service shirt design?
Send it to me in an email at

This Week In LARP - September 13th

Just because I'm stuck in San Francisco doesn't mean you can't get your LARP on next weekend.


WAR will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, September 17th and ending Sunday, September 19th. The game will be held at Camp Myeerah at the IG location of Vargus. It's $50 to PC ($30 with a good ratio) and is free to NPC.

NERO Cincinnati will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, September 17th and ending Sunday, September 19th. The game will be held at Cub World at the IG location of Framlingarhalan. It's $50 to PC and is free to NPC.


There are no local Alliance events this weekend. If you know of an event that might be a bit further away, drop the details in the comments!


Triumph will be hosting a 3-day event this weekend, starting Friday, September 17th and ending Sunday, September 19th. The game will be held at Sycamore State Park at the group camping location. It's $30 to PC and 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!

Friday, September 10, 2010

From Shame to Fame

I find it quite interesting that Kevin at LARP Source made a post on the same topic I had planned. Great minds think alike.

Now that Starcraft 2 is out, eSports is getting a lot of play, even here in the US. Players and teams in the US are getting sponsors for, well, playing video games.

I'm not trying to belittle their accomplishments. These players are seriously competing on the highest level, to the point where the common player might have a hard time following what they're doing. But what really gets me is that people are starting to make a living off of something they may have been ashamed about once.

And the biggest reason they're seeing such popularity now is that a few revolutionaries in their field stopped being ashamed at what they did, and instead spread the word.

Kevin asked if we think we could have corporate sponsors for the game or not. I think it's a bit early for that. One of the reasons you get sponsored is that there is going to be significant visibility for the sponsors. Until we can start televising events or creating brands of products, we simply won't be prime targets for sponsorship. Unfortunately, to get these events televised, players are going to have to stop being ashamed of what they do.

In my opinion, the closest path to sponsorship at this point is through the game Jugger. It's close enough to a sport and lacks actual roleplaying, so it may seem a lot less damning than the lightning bolt video. They're putting a league together (USJL) and anyone can start a team. And when you start that team, you have to start telling people about it, telling people that you're a jugger.

We have to overcome our shame, and if it means going through an intermediary like Jugger, then so be it. The only way we'll start to get acceptance as a culture is for people to know LARPers, and to identify the fact that we're not so different after all.

So let me ask the readers. Do your friends know you LARP? Significant other? Co-Workers?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

YouTube Thursday: Blamimation

Alright, this one is a bit of a stretch, especially since it's not on youtube. However, I found it quite entertaining, despite how long it is.

Penny Arcade hosts Blamimations, and it was only a matter of time until they did one about LARPing. I found it quite hilarious. Check this out!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lessons Learned from a season of Lumbertons

Well avid readers my NERO season is over. I have run my 4 events, concluded my story lines and said my goodbyes to my camp. All in all I was pretty pleased with my events. All of them got rave reviews from a number of sources. The goal of the plot that I was running was to get a number of diverse groups involved in a plot line that they would all find intriguing on as many levels as possible. At the beginning of the line, I purposefully engaged the nobility, the army personnel, the scholars and the Gypsy's all in very different portions of the story. I then twisted and prodded each group to get them to all end up on the same page at the end and to gain satisfaction from the same climactic finish. The season ended almost exactly as I wanted it to. I learned some things from my plot line along the way.

The first and most important thing I learned, players will almost always do something unexpected. On numerous occasions throughout the season, I though to myself, why did they do that? At times I thought the players decisions were so far off base that I needed to punish them for their stranger notions. This is the wrong approach. Negative re enforcement to a group of players drives them away from the plot, not from the action. I discovered as the season ran onward that it was far more beneficial to give no response or obfuscated responses to poor actions than it was to actively punish players. The one exception to this was timing. Putting a clock on a module or a plot line is a good thing, it makes the decisions feel more real, I discovered this as well. In the beginning I let the players dictate when things would happen, towards the last event I began forcing their hand, the last event was by far more exciting from what I have been told.

The second major point was that sometimes, players need to win. Originally when I envisioned this plot line I saw it stretching on for multiple years. I saw people enjoying the bounty's of my ideas deep into next season. After the first event I had changed my mind, plot lines never die, they continue on through stories. I decided to make my plot line one for the storybooks that did not write itself into boredom. I ran it as hard and fast as possible. I jammed NPCs into players view and made them important through repetition. I made my clocks into time bombs so they demanded attention. This worked out exactly as I thought it would, everyone grasped the plot line and held on for dear life. This may not be a concept that works for every line but sometimes it is important to have a line that feels like a run away bull. Fast, furious and past you before you have time to think about it. I gave my players a victory, one that they saw the start and the finish of within 6 months and it was well received.

Sometimes, I have found, it is appropriate to intertwine plot lines. My co director and I did this to great effect at the last event. Without going to deep into the story, the plot lines bumped into one another and the tie in allowed for an epic final module in which 3 lines were touched. These three lines all appearing in the same place with the same players led to a very deep feeling about the outcome of the module. So much so that at the end, rather than staggering off to bed, most of the players seemed energized and ready for more! That was at 4 in the morning!

I made some mistakes a long the way. I probably should have better introduced my main villain, as it was he was mistaken for something far more mundane. I probably could have done a better job with my book keeping, many people are asking me for information to inform other plot lines, some of which never got written down at events. Plus because of my design 3 very large and hard worked on modules never even had to be run, for those of you who were there no one ever ventured down the 3 other paths of the prison. I have some things to improve on next year but overall I had a blast this season. I think most everyone else did too!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This Week In LARP - September 6th

So you didn't get enough LARP on your 3 day weekend? Here's where you can get your fix!


There are no local events for NERO. If you know of an event that's a little bit further away from Ohio, drop the event info in the comments!


Alliance South Michigan will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, September 10th and ending Sunday, September 12th. The game will be held at Camp Kiwanis. I am not sure what the costs are associated with that game, but feel free to check out the forums to find more information.

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!

Friday, September 3, 2010


No, this is not a post about The Verve Pipe's 1996 album featuring "The Freshmen." This is a post about the role of the villain and how to implement them into a LARP game.

I think we are all familiar with the idea of a villain from fiction, and you may have even had a number of them when playing tabletop. However, anyone who's run a LARP game can tell you that control is a lot more difficult in a LARP setting. Before putting a villain into game, you need to recognize a few things.

1. Dramatic Exits are Difficult
This isn't a D&D game where you can simply make the blink out or be rescued by mysterious NPCs. Players like LARPs because they have more control over their characters than in tabletop. That might seem a bit counter-intuitive, since you can literally do anything in a tabletop game. But the fact is, the NPCs are just as limited as the PCs in the options available to them. We often express things we can't act out with a three count, but you can still be affected during that time. Three seconds is a long time to be vulnerable.

2. The Players Need to Advance
It might make sense in a story for a group of good guys to get their asses handed to them and walk away with their tails between their legs. However, LARP is not just a story. People are playing their characters, and they don't want to feel immasculated or feeble under any means. It makes them bitter.

3. Eventually, You Will Have to Let it Go
Bad guys can't be around forever. Players get sick and tired of facing the same enemies over and over again, season after season. In my opinion, a two year life cycle is probably pretty good for a serious villain. Trust me, you'd rather have your NPC go out with a bang than burnout over several years, with the PCs saying "It's Sheth again. Big surprise."

So with those things in mind, how do we add a really good villain to the game? Here are some things I like to use with my villains.

Tenuous Diplomacy
A villain isn't a villain unless the PCs have a chance to talk to him. It may be difficult to pull off, but you've got to have a point where some of the PCs have a real chance to talk to him. A lot of times, this can be done while getting newer players involved. Just imagine, a group of low level adventurers are surprised in the dark by a big bad guy who tells them "I have a message for your Baron. Run, scream, or try anything funny and my men will kill your friends in that cabin. Hear me out, and you and your friends get to live... for tonight."

Foiling Plans
You're going to want to do modules that involve your villain, but you don't want him to die. That means your PCs need to have a win, or else they'll be frustrated at spending resources and getting no gain. A good way to give the PCs that win is to have them foil a plan. Got a mad scientist villain? Have the PCs destroy his doomsday device mid construction. Have an evil psycopathic killer? Have the PCs foil his plans for poisoning the water supply, and maybe you'll even find a personal item of his in the process. If the players feel like they're moving forward against the villain, then they're going to be happy, regardless of how many resources they use. This will also give you the seconds you need to make your dramatic exit!

Have a Weakness
I have seen too many bad guys who have been completely well rounded and could only be brute forced down. This is a failure. The difference between a bad guy and a villain is that the villain is personalized. That means they should have ambitions, emotions, and most of all, weaknesses. Maybe your villain is cursed with hubris. Maybe something or someone strikes a chord with them. Maybe they're not all that different than everyone else.

This is already a long post, but let me leave you with an example of one of the best NERO villains I've seen in my days (and not just because my wife wrote/played her).


The biggest trait that made Maeive a great villain was that she was human. She didn't have 1000 body, she didn't have 30 resists/phases, and she couldn't rift for days. She did have a dragon, that I believe she then started to try and breed out, and she was very protective of the dragon. The PCs encountered the dragon and Maeive several times when the dragon was still growing up. She must have had just as many diplomatic encounters with the locals as she did combat encounters, and every one of them was fierce. To this day, I think Maeive still roams the Dragonfire Peaks.

And for the love of me, I cannot remember what made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise when dealing with Maeive.

The biggest thing? The PCs didn't sigh when they heard Maeive was coming. They reacted. Players actually enjoyed the plot, as opposed to them dreading the inevitable battle with Darkblade Shadowscythe, the Undead Golem made of smaller golems. And no, that is not a real bad guy... that I know of.

So next time you're going to put a big bad guy into game, ask yourself if you want it to just be a bad guy, or if you want it to be a villain.

Do you have a villain story, good or bad? Drop it in the comments!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

YouTube Thursday: NERO Chicago at GenCon

Today's video comes to us from one of our readers, Brad Gardner, from NERO Chicago. NERO Chicago ran a dungeon at GenCon as a way to expose non-LARPers to NERO, and I think they did a pretty decent job. When I asked Brad about it, here's what he told me.

"At Gencon 2010, NERO Chicago hosted three different NERO adventures for new players. Players were given a choice between three different 20 point builds: fighter, earth scholar, or celestial scholar. Players were provided spell packets, armor, and an assortment of latext weapons. Below is a five minute snippet of the one of the adventures. Once people discovered the event, it was quite popular. Many people replayed these modules several time throughout the convention. The modules did not feature traps but did follow all other NERO rules. In the video you may see players holding a small booklet. The booklet contained a brief summary of the rules and a one page description of each charater, including spell incants for the scholars."

Thanks Brad!

If you've got an interesting LARP video you'd like to see featured on this blog, send the link and a brief synopsis to

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Knowledge: How much is too much

Knowledge skills, skills that allow characters to know something that their player does not, are pervasive in the fantasy roleplay population. Almost any table top game will have some way for characters to learn something or use knowledge that they do not have to acquire in game. This can be a wonderful tool for the people who run these games. It allows new plot angles to be uncovered, it allows them to expound upon interesting concepts that they have devised and, when the action slows down, it allows them to drive it forward with well placed knowledge rolls. The concept of knowledge skills in a larp game is more contentious. The vast majority of the mechanics in a larp game are live action meaning that we desire as little stoppage as possible. Knowledge skills by their very nature require stoppage for explanation. On the opposite side of the same coin, writing out and distributing all of the information a character could uncover on a typical larp weekend could be a full time job for a staff of writers. There are pros and cons to the use of knowledge skills, in the end however it is always the choice of those who are running the game.

The pros of using knowledge skills are very similar to the pros in a table top campaign. The mechanic that is used in my particular breed of larp is generally a poll at the beginning of a module and then a quick briefing for all applicable knowledge skills, more advanced information can be gained through later interaction with the plot person. A typical example may be, "Plot Person: You see a field full of shambling undead... Player: CO Undead lore Plot Person: They are zombies." This interaction is interesting, it allows the players to be more tactical about the fight that they are about to enter into. In some cases it helps them identify the objective of a module without blindly flailing about for the first several minutes. It also allows for roleplay post module when the players stop to examine their surroundings and ask questions. These all seem like positive things. In addition the plot person is given leeway in what information he provides the players, if he wants to continue stringing them a long in a series of modules he can tell them something that leads to the next module, or he can give them information that helps them solve one of the weekend plots. The primary strength of implementing this type of system then is the flexibility that it allows with the dissemination of information.

The negatives of this sort of system are more subtle. To some players, it can appear that roleplaying is being replaced by these knowledge skills and sometimes this is true. It is almost always a mistake to honor a skill like Diplomat in a larp setting, diplomacy should be roleplayed and not skill based, there are many examples of skills that are like this. Knowledge skills must be limited to areas of study or contact skills, things that enhance roleplay rather than removing it. Some knowledge skills are almost impossible to obtain, this should be handled in some way, a baker should not be permitted to purchase knowledge arcane whosits, how did he come by this knowledge? Which leads into the most damaging part of these skills, time. Knowledge skills eat plot peoples time, they require the dedication of a single resource to entertain a single resource, something that I am generally against. Time is required when determining who can purchase what skills, when the skills are used and when the modules are created, this cost in time must always be balanced against the need to entertain everyone.

Balancing the positives and the negatives is not as complicated as in other aspects of a larp game. Generally, limit the time spent on questions before a module, force all knowledge skills to be purchased logistically between games and only permit roleplay questions post module if they forward the story. More specifically questions pre module should take the form of a poll with a description that takes no more than two minutes from the plot person. This is important, it is boring to stand out of game while someone else gets information. The logistical purchase of skills is superior to pre game purchase because it allows for discussions between plot people, it allows the people who run the game time to determine the impact of a skill. Roleplaying sessions after modules are great for the person getting the attention, it is important that the plot person makes sure that everyone else is being entertained before engaging in an hour long descriptionathon. All of these things seem simple and they are but I have seen them done incorrectly many many times.

In LARP games knowledge skills can be great! They allow plot the leeway to put information in game without having detailed write ups that they hand to the players. They allow for the organic dissemination of information and they allow players to customize their character far more than combat skills do. The dangers are clear, they can drag the game down to a crawl if misused and they can be used as a crutch to replace roleplay. If as a plot person you believe that you can deal with these downsides and mitigate them with proper organization then you should absolutely make use of these skills, if you cannot the game can be fun without them too.

Let me know what you think about this guys!