Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Game Design: Looking Through Lenses

I've always been a sucker for game design and try to read everything I can get my hands on. One of the presents I got for Christmas was a book I've been lusting over called "The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses," by Jesse Schell.

Even after just starting this book, I can tell you that it's amazing. It is a text book (which means expensive, long, and boring), but what is really great is that they teach you to look at your game from specific points of view - something I think many game designers lack the discipline to do.

I could easily design a game that I think is fun, but what about other people? What would be the main goal of various rules? What about a theme?

This book provides 100 different lenses in which you should analyze your game, complete with the questions you should ask. Lenses include:

Lens of Fairness
Lens of Economy
Lens of Reward
Lens of Punishment
Lens of Griefing
Lens of Simplicity/Complexity

And many more. So for all you aspiring game designers out there, I would heartily suggest that you pick up this book and use the lenses it gives you.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What To Do In the Off-Season?

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I was at the in-laws house for Christmas, where internet is a scarce commodity (and water is too, apparently). The family survived by playing game after game of Dominion for warmth, or something like that.


Around this time of year, I never know what to do with myself. With no games in the near-near future, I have a little bit of time to work on some of the projects that should have been done a long time ago.
  • I plan on making some Steampunk gear for Exiles, as I will most likely play a Technologist when my current character bites the big one. Technologists are a prop-heavy class, but I think it could be a lot of fun.
  • I need to go over the reps I have that need to be repaired, and throw away the ones that have been far past that point for some time now.
  • Work on a new costume for a new character. This is going to mean some scrounging, some modifying, and some sewing. Also, said character is going to need some new boffers.
  • Get the minimum stuff required to attend a Wastelands game. Essentially, this means Airsoft eye protection as well as a boffer or two that are a little more modern than what I've got.
  • Start writing up some plot for the game (possibly games) I'll be running.

So what kinds of stuff do you do in the off-season?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Death: The end and the beginning

Death as the archetypal spectre, scythe in hand, looms over the game of larp with palpable gloom. All who play larp can attest to the adrenaline rush inherent within a death defying situation. We play the game for moments where the real falls aways and we are immersed in the moments of fantasy, fear is one of the most powerful propellants to those moments. Yet we as plot runners must be careful, because death can also turn players away. The loss of a favored character can drive a person to a new game or away from LARPs completely. How do we balance these two opposing end points? How do we maintain the immersion while tempering the loss?

It is important to begin with why death is essential to the structure of a good LARP. Realism, within the confines of a fantasy world, dictates that actions must have consequences. These consequences can be large or small, but in the end there must be a final consequence to deter rash action. Death is the generally accepted manifestation of that consequence. The permanent loss of life and playability of a character is the ultimate end point for any series of bad decisions. So realism as defined here is not the same as realism in a novel, we are merely discussing actions and consequences, good actions gain rewards, bad actions lose something ending in death.

Abstractly then, when is death appropriate? It is appropriate when it was predicated by a series of bad decisions. In the game of NERO, it is highly unlikely that you will permanently die without making bade decisions along the way, multiple deaths and buyback provide a safety net from accidental death. So if death is appropriate when led to by bad decisions, how do we make other situations harrowing? NERO handles this through multiple deaths as stated before, it could also be handled by alternative consequences. Look at the comic book heroes who are not inherently death proof, the Punisher, Batman, etc, these characters fail from time to time but they do not always die. Sometimes they are captured, sometimes their identity is put at risk. Plot runners should take note, death is the final consequence not the only consequence.

When will death lead to player dissatisfaction? When it appears inevitable and unwinnable. No module should be designed in such a way that it is unwinnable. There can be fear, a dark period where the heroes are unsure if they will pull through but they should always be able to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Victory should be a handsbreath away and they should succeed or fail on their own actions and decisions. This is why it is so important to have experienced staff and plot, on the fly scaling can make an encounter feel right on the edge much more cleanly than prescaling can. A classic example of this in media is the original Star Wars trilogy, A new Hope ends on an upbeat, then their is the dark period of Empire and finally the poignant victory of Jedi, victory is always in sight but the decisions of teh main characters decide the ending( I am such a dork)

So then what is death? It is our final stick, the big motivator, it drives the players to make accurate, concise, timely decisions. We as plot must be careful to not under or overuse it. Underuse leads to a story that feels unpressed, overuse leads to player disatisfaction. Death is your greatest tool ladies and gentlement, keep its edge sharp with constant reminders but do not dull it on menial tasks.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Paradoxically Delicious

All the games we follow in Ohio are over for the season, so we'll be holding off on the Week In LARP posts until 2011. You'll have to hold yourselves over by repairing reps or watching movies like Army of Darkness and The New True Grit.


There are a lot of things I take for granted when it comes to LARP. I assume that everyone knows these things, regardless of their experience level. Of course, this is not always true, because not everyone is into the same aspects of the game as I am.

So imagine a time when you started your first LARP. You were a newbie and didn't really know what was going on. Now, imagine that you can go back in time and give one piece of advice to your past self. What would you tell him?

  • Bring extra socks, a warm sleeping bag, and an air mattress?
  • Try and remember names and write everything down?
  • Stay away from the guy who wears all black?
  • Bring your own Toilet Paper?
  • Remember to drink water, eat food, and sleep?

What do you think is the most important piece of information for a new player?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review Ring Mesh Chainmail

Today I am going to take a quick look at a product that I have owned for around 5 years. Ring mesh chainmail, whoever thought this stuff up was brilliant. It is essentially a butchers mesh shirt made from stainless steel welded rings. The resulting masterpiece weighs less than 3 pounds, looks like a mithril shirt and lasts for a very long time.

Style: These shirts are really cool looking. The chains are welded and the pattern is a machine weave so you will never see a handmade shirt that looks this good. There are no alternate patterns or colors and you cannot anodize stainless steel very easily but for plain jane chain mail this is definitely a 5/5

Functionality: The use of a chainmail shirt in larp is really just to get you armor points and look cool. These shirts do both. If you plan on wearing this shirt to a knife fight you should realize that although it will probably stop slashs, stabs are gonna kill you. Overall if you get the right size this shirt is a 5/5 for larp. Remember that chainmail does not stretch like a shirt, order a size up.

Durability: Zero tears after over 100 larp events. have not popped a single link. Perfect durability. I actually tried slashing at it with a cavalry sabre, no links popped. 5/5 on durability too.

Value: Now the sticky point the short sleeved shirt is 172 bucks, that is pretty pricey. Still look what you get, an almost permanent interchangeable costume piece that has mechanical benefits. For me it seemed like a value but since you can make your own chainmail for way less, I am going to give it a 3/5

So overall you get (5+5+5+3)/5 for a total score of 4.5 I highly reccomend their work but you may find yourself priced out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

YouTube Thursday: NERO 9th Edition

A little birdie told me that they're giving 9th edition another shot, and they're getting pretty close to a release. This is pretty amazing news, but I was still skeptical.

That is, I was skeptical until I watched this video.

It's got Joe V talking about the changes that were made since the draft, what they kept and what they dropped, as well as some major changes to how melee combat will work.

Of course, it was posted in yahoo, which I'm not sure how to embed the video. You'll just have to click the link.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Social Networking

Social networking has been "the thing" for the last decade. As Seth Priebatsch showed us, it's time for us to step up and start using the foundations of social networking for benefit. Since we're LARPers, we'll assume benefit means spreading the word of LARPs and getting more people to attend.

But Bill, I've got a facebook page and everything. That's enough, right?

No way, Josè (or whatever your name is).

We need to start to use these social networking tools to affect the game. Draw more attention to the game. Make it look like everyone is having fun, and that it's easy to get into.

There was once a game called "The Dreaming," created by Dan Comstock. It was totally awesome. Some of you have played it or heard of it. I know Tim ran it for a group of us, and it was totally fun.

But the big part of the game was that you post all the information up onto one main site, where everyone can see it. That way, you can effectively interact with everyone in the game, regardless of where they're playing it.

More games should be like this. We've always had people who submitted things for plot credit or for character background, but they never got anything out of it (except for rare cases where people payed money). What a waste!

Imagine, if you allowed players to write up stories, poems, and backgrounds based in the game world, and you gave them IG credit for it! Obviously, you'd run into issues like having someone review everything for continuity sake (avoid god-moding and poor writing) and capping the amount one person can earn from this over a time period (to prevent players with more free time from getting an edge on busy individuals). And then you made it public knowledge, and posted it for everyone.

You've just built your world, without actually doing anything other than awarding imaginary points for an imaginary character.

Can you think of any other ways to make social networking work for your game?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Off-Season Rules Revision

After this weekend, pretty much every game will be in its off-season. Plot teams will change, camp sites will appear and disappear, and most importantly, rules should be revisited.

One of the biggest problems in any game is the stagnation of the rules. There is always something you can do better - you just have to do it. But in order to find out what those are, you have to take a step away from your creation and listen to the players.

Blizzard did.

World of Warcraft started out as an imperfect game, yet has become the biggest MMORPG in the world. They did so by listening to their customers, implementing UI functions that people created with addons, streamlined parts of the game to make it more user friendly, just because that's what the customers wanted. It's also important to note that what the customer wanted has changed over time. That's why you can't be content that one system of rules will work forever.

I encourage every game to have some sort of survey where the players can discuss the rules, list what they like, list what they don't like, and so on. That way, if there seems like an overwhelming number of players that dislike something, you can change it. This is particularly true if you're using playtests.

I know that Wastelands already does an end of the season rules revision. How about your game? If you run it, have you listened to your players lately? If you're just a player, have you voiced your concerns to the ownership lately (or at least tell them that they're doing a great job)?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Week In LARP - December 13th

Last Week In LARP

Did you attend a LARP event last weekend? Let us know how it was in the comments!

This Week In LARP

Don't let the snow get you down, unless you're in traffic right now. And if that's the case, maybe you should put down the phone and put both hands on the wheel.


NCN will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, December 17th and ending Sunday, December 19th. The game will be held at Camp Muskingum at the IG location of Hudor. It's $50 to PC ($40 if you pre-register on their forums) and is free to NPC, but any players attending for free need to bring $2 for insurance.

ARGO will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, December 17th and ending Sunday, December 19th. The game will be held at Camp Bucoco in Pennsylvania at the IG location to be determined. The cost is $50 to PC ($40 if pre-registered) and is free to NPC, but all players must pay a $10 clean-up deposit, which is returned if you do, in fact, clean up.

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, December 10, 2010

Keyword Fun

I get to see the keywords people use to get to the site. It's part of Google's plan to rule the word and have all the information. That, or it let's me know if I'm getting to the site with keywords I want them to use.

Sometimes, the keyword searches are very specific and... odd. I thought I'd take the time to address some of the specific searches that people made.

yo dawg I heard you like blades
Really? I heard that about you. In fact, here's a picture of bladezz holding some blades, so you can look at blades while you're looking at bladezz.

magic weapons larp rule 7
LARP Rule #7: Thou shalt not make a magic weapon that looks like the buster sword from FF7.

can you make larp weapons out of wood and a pool noodle
You can make anything you want. But I wouldn't suggest that.

the economy stupid game
The economy is only a stupid game when you're losing.

how thick should the foam be on a full contact larp sword
If you're going for full on contact, you'll want at least 1" of foam on all striking sides, and you won't want any part of the striking surface to pass more than 1/2" through a 2.5" ring (to prevent eye damage).

crisis core larp weapons
See LARP Rule #7

riddles using attain
How does one attain greatness? Answer: Vanquish thine enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women.

movie with 3 larpers
Transformers 2

larp stupid
Is that when you can't tell the difference between a lightning bolt and a slow spell?

http://www.penny-arcade blamination
I think you need to learn how to use search

Thursday, December 9, 2010

YouTube Thursday: Foam Weapon League

Alright, I admit it. I used to watch professional wrestling. It's no big deal. I never pretended like it was real, but the people were still athletes and still got you cheering for your favorite wrestlers.

Anyways, out in California, a group of people created the Foam Weapon League, where players take on personas, much like professional wrestlers, and duke it out with foam weapons. I know, "So what, we do that all the time."

Yeah, but not like this. Each person wears a harness with "Blood Bags" on various portions of the body, and you defeat your opponent by breaking those bags, spilling the red contents everywhere.

I don't know the rules about it, but I do know that I would love to drink some beer and go watch this. Someone should bring the Foam Weapon League to Ohio.

Edit: The link above is for the facebook page. The official page is

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Costume Exchange

Sorry about not having a post yesterday. Between being in the middle of god forsaken nowhere and the release of Warcraft: Cataclysm, I didn't get a post up.

Anyways, this one has been brewing in my mind for a while now. I've seen the costume room that WAR has, and I must say, it was spectacular. They've collected a lot of great specialty costumes to represent unique NPCs or monsters over the years. Pretty intense.

However, almost no one ever sees that costuming. If a sweet looking robe was worn by a naturalist 5 years ago, they might be hesitant to bring it back into game. Maybe no one is there to do the daunting task of upkeep to make those costumes ready for actions (washing, ironing, folding, etc.) Maybe there just isn't room to transport everything to the site.

It really is a shame that we don't see more of it. But I've figured out a way to at least eliminate the issue with unique costuming.

Create a Costume Exchange.

How awesome would it be to put a costume up on a site for trade after it's been used at your game? And in return, you get a costume of someone else's, ready for action, for free.

Kill the big bad? Send the costume out east for them to use as a completely different monster. Major noble die? Make a trade with someone out west for a costume for your new, dastardly noble.

Now, I know there are going to be some issues with costume quality, but what do you all think? Do you think it's better to trade costumes after their used, rather than having them collect dust for years?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Week In LARP - December 6th

Last Week In LARP

Did you attend a LARP event last weekend? Let us know how it was in the comments!

This Week In LARP

Snow. Srsly?


NERO Cincinnati will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Friday, December 10th and ending Sunday, December 12th. The game will be held at Camp Friedlander at the IG location of Beronis. It's $50 to PC ($40 with pre-registration) and is free to NPC.


Bloodlines will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting Saturday, December 11th and ending Sunday, December 12th. The game will be held at Camp Burnamwood in Kentucky. I am not sure of the cost, but if you're interested, visit the forums for 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, December 3, 2010

LARP Gift Ideas

I was going to post a more detailed description on how to form a stance, but Warlord Sports is currently down. So I'm going to talk about the next best thing...


Buying presents for a LARPer usually depends on how crafty they are. Players who sew their own garb and build their own weapons are certainly less expensive to buy for, but they might not appreciate completed goods as much as someone who doesn't make their own gear and garb.

So here's a list of gift ideas for the LARPers in your life.

1. Waterproof Boots
There's nothing better than fighting for hours in the cold and snow and coming in to find that your feet are still dry. It's amazing. You can generally find good quality boots for around $80-$120, but there's also a fair amount of boots you can find in the $30-$50 range. The less expensive boots can't wick the sweat away from their feet, but believe me, it's much better than being drenched in ice cold water.

2. Foam
This one goes out to the craftier types. There are many different kinds of foam out there, and some of them can be pretty expensive or hard to find. Camp foam is always nice, but you can also buy plank foam (#2) or non-standard wall thickness pipe which are hard to find and usually have to be ordered. But do it soon, because those places usually have high shipping costs to start, let alone the cost of expedited shipping.

3. LARP Movies
There are a ton of LARP-ish movies out there to choose from. Either you can try and find a copy of an actual LARP movie (Darkon, Monster Camp, The Wild Hunt) or one of many LARP Pump-up Movies. Watching a movie is a nice thing to do when there's too much snow outside to do anything else.

What other gift ideas can you think of?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

YouTube Thursday: On-Foot Stance

There's a lot of differences between the various boffer games, but one thing remains true to all of them.

A bad stance will make you a bad fighter, and a good stance will make you a good fighter.

Here is a short video of Brennon (Amtgard/Warlord Sports) talking about the On-Foot Stance, which is the most common stance. He's also got a video about the Off Foot stance which you can find here.

This is pretty basic stuff, but as you fight, take the time to occasionally check what your stance looks like. You'd be surprised how often you slip into bad habits. I had this problem a few years back with my grip.

Tim prefers the On-Foot Stance, while I prefer the Off-Foot (but use the On-Foot in certain situations). Figure out which works best for you.

Note: Brennon uses conversational descriptions and tends to drop the F-Bomb. This one's probably better for headphones.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Numbers Crunching: The Game within the Game

Some people naturally play every game on several levels. There is the first level, in which we are with our friends having fun and the second level, where we are determining the nature of the game. The second level is fun for us, it adds depth, it lets us exert control over the game. Many assume that we play this secondary game to be better than others, that may be true for some, but I play this game to make myself better. Analysis and comprehension, understanding and completion the game within a game provides an outlet for out competetive spirit. Within a LARP setting may find these people useful, they are the ones people go to when they want to know how to improve their combat effectiveness. They have built spreadsheets to determine optimal builds, they understand the proper itemization for a fighter and they can tell you why rogue is the best class past level 40. It is important for those who only play the first game to remember that our game has value too.

The first step to playing the secondary game is the breakdown. Every game has fundemantal components, after you remove the fluff, the remaining rules and statistics make up the core of the game. Most games have a value system built in and the most obvious exploitations occur in misvalued skills, abilities and equipment. This is where we look first. A good example of this is spell points in one of the offshoot games from NERO. Spellpoints in this is system are the equivalent of one first level spell per point, they cost 3 experience points, potion making has a mana potion that can be produced with one level of the skill, the skill costs 2 experience and the potion restores one skill point. Fom this example you can see that it is more effiecent to buy a few spell points and a more potion making than to buy a number of spellpoints. The immediate outer game players response is that they do not wish for their character to be a potion maker, they want to be a wizard, the inner game player does not care he will still play as a wizard but have more spells available. Both of these options are correct one just has mathermatical analysis behind it, the other is primarily feelings based.

The second portion of the inner game comes when its players become aware of the physical skills necessary to excel at the game. Some players never get to this point, content with the numbers crunching portion of the inner game. Being the most efficent at a game that involves a physical component naturally invovles physical work. A classic example of this is the players who practice fighting with boffer swords between games, or begin a workout regimine to be better at a LARP game. The physical portion of the inner game usually follows teh mental portion as the players master the game system itself and begin to realize that the mechanical aspects can alo be optimized.

Combining the two parts of the inner game produces the power gamer. The player who bth physically and mentally dominates the game. This player is not naturally a detriment to the game. The game can be equally damaged by an aggressive roleplayer or a pvp player who preys upon the weak. The power gamer is just playing a second game, next time you see one, ask him how his game is going. Maybe he will help you with yours.