Thursday, June 30, 2011

Origins recap: Tim's Perspective

I agree with most of what Bill said, I am just going to add a few things from my personal thoughts.

1. Rising Versus was friggin fun. I have to admit that their scenarios never quite got to me, not enough epic for my tastes but their rules held up really well in a battlegame type format. I immediately started thinking about how I could turn some of the ideas into a NERO module, as did another plot person who I run with.

2. Terrorwerks- The production value was really high, I could do without the hand holding. They basically send a couple of NPC marines through with you telling you where to go, I would rather have those marines be more people that I get to shoot. Overall I still had fun with it, but I wish that the challenge could be cranked up. I guess I felt about the same as Bill but I wanted to voice it again.

3. The vendor hall- I did not notice any real issues with it, it seemed suitably awesome. My wife and i got about 6 new games to play and I bought a copy of Magic Realms quite possibly the most complicated board game ever made, which I am super stoked about. The new latex swords that are coming out of all the vendors are really nice, really really nice. Softer foam with more durable latex covers, yes please. I almost walked out with a new sword but decided to wait until closer to the time that I get to PC again, read who knows when.

4. Morton's list- those people are friggin weird. Some dude was crouched down by the side of the exit to the escalators, I almost stomped on his face.

5. I wish someone would run a full on boffer type larp scenario that wasn't geared towards new players, it seems like there should be enough people there who play the foam fighting games to justify some sort of advanced dungeon crawl experience. Maybe with some sweet sweet Accelerant rules set. Perhaps I will see about doing that next year, how awesome would that be?

6. I hope to see you all at next weeks Lumberton event, it is going to be a true season finale with all that statement entails :-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Origins 2011 Recap

Note: I currently don't have access to the plethora of cards that I received, so I will update this post when I get access.

The Place: Origins Game Fair 2011
The Time: June 22nd - June 26th

I got a chance to go to Origins as a press member this year for the blog. It's a really great opportunity to get a chance to dig in and rub elbows with some of the brightest minds in LARP. I'm going to start by talking about the LARP aspects of the con, and follow it up with some general information and opinions on the convention as a whole.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Streamlining Formal Magic in NERO

Note: Origins Recap will be coming later in the week. Stay Tuned!

I really have a love/hate relationship with how formal magic is done in NERO.

On one hand, I think that the power level of formal magic rituals is where it needs to be.
- 5 minutes to 1 hour is a pretty good time window (although I would prefer a max time of 30 minutes).
- I like the openness of the roleplay.
- I like the high stakes event it often presents.

On the other hand, I hate the logistics of formal magic.
- I hate having to have an OOG marshal present, breaking immersion for something that is supposed to be heavy on roleplaying.
- I hate how clunky it is with what all is needed rules wise (at least, until I get a pocket formal rules book).

I understand the importance of making sure everything is done correctly. I understand the need of having a formal marshal monitor to make sure a backlash doesn't happen. I just don't want to have to grab an OOG marshal to cast a nothing formal magic like a simple enchant, mark (on a willing target), or any other non-plot related magic spell. And I don't want to have some man/woman hovering over me with a white headband on watching over me like a judge on American Idol.

So I'm trying to find a way to remove the need for a marshal for every spell. I think I have an idea based on changing the way Auto-Success and Dark Territory work.

Auto-Success would no longer require a formal magic marshal present, as there's no way for something bad to happen.

The worst case would be if the formal caster took damage or stepped outside the circle. In those cases, the formal magic would be interrupted, but nothing would be lost. Perhaps lose the formal levels required for the casting, but the scroll and components would remain safe. The reason nothing terrible happens is that the caster is not releasing the full extent of their power, and therefore they have greater control over it.

Auto-Success would not be possible on several formal magics that involve:
- Agressive actions (DFMs on unwilling, Marks on unwilling, Obliterates, etc)
- Actions which already require plot input (Dream Vision, Delve History, High Horoscope, etc.)
- Anything else plot might deem important to monitor (defend the ritual modules, etc).

The reasoning behind this could be that a caster who acts against another's will has to put more effort into the casting. Additionally, information delving topics might require more effort. Whatever fluff works.

Dark Territory
Dark Territory would be pretty much the same as casting in Dark Territory now. Requires a marshal, and has a harsher rules regarding failures and more intense consequences when failures happen. Change some of the percentages to make dark territory magic more likely to succeed, since all the PvP magic should have a better chance of success (except Oblit, which can remain at the old values since it could never be cast out of dark territory).

I would suggest 40% Success, 40% Flaw, 10% Fail, 10% Backlash. The 20% failures could be dropped if it's deemed overly damaging to PvP.

Players who are identified as abusing the non-marshal'd style of magic would get a warning at first, and if they continue to abuse it would lose the ability to cast with Auto-Success. Not really any different than we have in the rules currently.

- Less formal marshaling when it's not necessary
- Makes casting in Dark Territory more enticing (than the standard 50% failure rate)
- Does not diminish PvP formal significantly (if failures are removed).
- Generally improves the formal magic casting side of the Formal Magic skill (by making it more accessable.

What do you guys think?

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Week In LARP - June 27th

Last Week In LARP

Did you attend a LARP event last weekend? Let us know how it was in the comments! Also, did you want to see who won the Anniversary contest? Check it here!

This Week In LARP

Fourth of July means fireworks and beer. And possibly LARP.

Except I can find no LARP

I guess the expectation is that people will be participating in other things on the 4th of July, so you guys get a pass this week. But maybe something next week, eh?

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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Intentions and reality

I had intended to write a post today about plot and plot teams but I was overwhelmed with ridiculous work. So here is a placating link. This game is a flash based mmo shooter based loosely on fantasy rpgs. You should try it out it is pretty fun. Just get past the simple graphics and focus on the gameplay.

Realm of the mad god

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jugger Ohio Open Tournament

We've done a few posts about Jugger in the past, and even had suggested putting together a team. All that fell through, but that doesn't mean that you can't live out your dreams of a professional Jugger player.

Jugger Ohio, a group that's been operating out of Marietta, OH, is hosting an open tournament on August 13th. Registration requires $25 for a team of 5-8 players. I'm not sure what is being offered as prizes, other than being the most bad ass juggers around.

There are no events I can find that operate on that weekend, so there's no excuses. If you think you and your buddies are tougher than everyone else, then be there.

I may go there to film more than play. But it falls on the same day as MC Frontalot in Pittsburgh, so I'm on the fence.

Convince me!

And for more information on Jugger Ohio, hit up their facebook page here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June Lumberton: Lessons Learned

Hello all, last weekend I ran a NERO event with right around 100 players. I just wanted to go through some of the things that I thought went well, some of the things that still need work and maybe a few ideas for the next event.

What went well, a lot went well. I was very pleased with the pacing of the event. We set out from the first plot meeting to run a hardcore, smash mouth event and I thought we did just that. I was also pleased with the scaling of the event, we had some deaths but never did I feel like the deaths were purely stat based, tactical decisions were very important. I thought that some of the module design was pretty cool. On Friday I did a 3 phase fight a la World of Warcraft. The main boss started as a single NPC, morphed into a multi NPC Hydra and then split apart into a group of smaller NPCs. I also designed a portal closing module around matching different nodes to other nodes in a field that was well received. I thought we walked a good line between straight up face beating and interesting design. All in all I feel like the good outweighed the bad.

What do we need to work on? Well for starters we had a real issue with plot targeting. I thought that we were doing ok with it because it seemed like most mods were town mod but a friend pointed out the error in that. The town mods were predicated and concluded with roleplay with a select group of players while the rest of the players just got to hit stuff. For me, thats great I really just want to hit stuff but for others this was a serious imbalance in plot targeting. I hope that anyone that reads this understands that it is never my intention for anyone to have a bad time, sometimes my view is just different from other people. We also had a major issue with production, we didn't get the production from Friday done until 10 pm on Saturday. There were all kinds of reasons but I am going to suggest a fix rather than a "Everyone just needs to work harder", statement. Preregistered production should be mandatory. There should be a five dollar charge for not preregistering your production. Plot people have things to focus on from the minute they set foot on site and they need their staff to start helping them right away, even at an event with enough NPCs there is still too much to do. Owners who come to play the game don't really want to do production, even though they have a larger stake in the success of the game as a whole than the plot people. The only viable solution is to put the onus on the players, send us your production before you come to play, you will get an envelope at check in with your stuff. Otherwise you pay five dollars and wait for us to get to it. I heard some vague complaints about not enough roleplay opportunities, by that I assume that they mean diplomatic or intellectual plot, we will try to add more of that in at the next event.

So thats where I came down on this weekend, I thought the event went really well with some fairly minor exceptions. Please let me know what you guys thought about it, or about my overview or whatever really. You can be honest I can take it :-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Week In LARP - June 20th

Last Week In LARP

Did you attend a LARP event last weekend? Let us know how it was in the comments! Also, did you want to see who won the Anniversary contest? Check it here!

This Week In LARP

Happy Belated Father's day to all you fathers (and soon to be fathers).


The Origins Game Fair, the annual gaming convention in Columbus will be held this week starting Wednesday, June 22nd and ending Sunday, June 26th. It will be held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH. For more information, visit the website.

As a note, yours truly will be there on Friday evening and Saturday, rocking a totally bitchin' press pass for, you guessed it, the LARP Ohio blog. Expect a review post on the blog next week.


PRO will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 24th and ending Sunday, June 26th. The game will be held at Raccoon State Park (PA) at the IG location of Vindale. It's $30 to PC ($20 with a good NPC ratio) and is $10 to NPC. I do not know what edition of Rules PRO is using.

NERO SWV will be hosting a 1-day event this weekend on Saturday, June 25th. The game will be held at Camp Cherokee (KY) at the IG location of Stoneforge Highlands. It's $20 to PC free to NPC. This event will be using 9th edition rules.


Einherjar will be hosting their June battle this weekend on Sunday, June 26th at Plum Creek, South Side in Medina. Weapon Check starts at Noon and fighting starts at 1:00 PM. It's $3 and minimum garb rules apply.

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!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

And the Winners Are...

Thanks go out to everyone who sent in their information for drawings last week. I've had time to process the results and have come up with the list using a sophisticated method to determine the winners *cough*excelrandfunction*cough*. And here is the list, with the order of the winners!

1. Michael Jones - Free WAR Weekend
2. Eric Kociecki - Free Cinci Weekend
3. Mark Henry - Free WAR Gameday
4. Ben Mathis - Free NCN Weekend
5. Chrsitine Bair - Free Cinci Gameday
6. Vincent Errico - Free WAR Gameday
7. David Jurns - Free Exiles Weekend
8. Tera Boster - Free NCN Gameday
9. Angela Kroger - Free Cinci Gameday
10. Mark Mora - Free NCN Gameday
11. Sarah Canton - Pass
12. Jordan Selch - Free Wastelands Weekend (New Player)
Alternate: John Siemon - 10 Free Rads (Wastelands)

Congratulations to our winners!

Here's the way we're going to do this thing.

I'm sending an email out to all the winners to let them know that they've won, and each person will have 24 hours to pick their prize before I move on to the next person. Once a person selects their prize, I'll move on to the next, while editing this post with what that person selected.

In the case that the people at the bottom of the list do not want any of the remaining prizes, I have selected alternates to receive prizes, who will be contacted separately.

For reference, here is the list of prizes (which will be edited as prizes are selected.

- Free weekend at Cinci - Taken by Eric
- Free weekend at NCN (Non-transferable) - Taken by Ben
- Free weekend at WAR - Taken by Michael
- Free weekend at Exiles - Taken by Dave
- Free weekend at Wastelands (New Player Only) - Taken by Jordan
- Free game day at Cinci (2) - Taken by Christine, Angela
- Free game day at NCN (2) - Taken by Tera, Mark M.
- Free game day at WAR (2) - Taken by Mark H., Vincent
- 10 Rads at Wastelands (Non-transferable) - Taken by John

Friday, June 17, 2011

YouTube Friday: Senegal's Finest

I felt it would be appropriate for me to put up a Dagorhir video, seeing as Ragnarok was this week. Unfortunately, the internet is filled with terrible videos that either involve slow music that doesn't fit the situation or slow motion video... 10 minutes of slow motion video.

Anyways, found this little gem that has an upbeat song and some good fighting, so props go out to the guys in Senegal.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Crawl Area

I have found that one of the most useful concepts at an event is a well planned crawl area or two. The idea behind this is to have a place, that all local players are aware of and that travelers can easily find, in which a set series of encounters take place. These encounters should start at at a low difficulty and get increasingly more difficult as the encounters go on.

There are really two types of classic crawl areas, the random encounter area and the previously mentioned scaling dungeon. The perfect example of the random encounter area was the old valley of Bones in Galavast. Players would enter, a table was rolled on and they had an encounter, if they kept going then they had another encounter etc. Plot protected its time by placing effects on players who stayed in the area for to long. In the case of the valley of bones it started with a disease after fifteen minutes( I think) and worked its way up from there to eventual demise. This is an important idea otherwise high level groups will continue the grind indefinitely tying up valuable NPC resources.

The Scaled crawl as mentioned in the opening paragraph is self limiting. As it gets more difficult lower level parties will be forced to leave or die. Galavast had a great example of this as well, the rat caves. The rat caves were filled with rat men. As the players went deeper they ran into more and higher statted rat men as well as various underdark creatures. The caves ended with an entrance to the underdark, again a great idea. Having an ending that offers players who transverse the entire crawl area some previously unavailable plot is awesome, it tempts players to use the crawl area and sometimes the crawl area becomes an integral mod in a plot line. Consider the rat caves with its entrance to the underdark, if the players need to get to the underdark, they know how but first they need to fight their way through th rats.

Crawl areas are great because they are already prepared, they offer a series of encounters to players who are bored and they usually can be run by only a couple of NPCs. What do you guys think? Anyone have any cool crawls that they run regularly?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Be A Mentor

Note: This is a guest post by Dave J. He's a player of both NERO and Exiles, and has some staff experience at both. Remember, the LARP Ohio contest is still accepting entries. Get your shot at a free game in Ohio.

I have broken Dave's post into three parts, as he's got three main independent points.

Bill and Tim, it seems, spend most of their time talking about either LARP theory (rules, playtests, mods, etc) or running plot. Although this is great info, I think it also behooves us to think about how we, as players, approach the game.

Naturally there are all the standard messages: take your hits, don’t cheat, blah, blah, blah. Not that those are bad things to hear, but I think we can all just agree that we’ve heard those before and have no need to go over them again. I did have a few ideas that don’t seem to come up too often.

Be a Mentor

This is a big deal, and important to the survival of the game as a whole as it ensures a continued player base. Everyone agrees that Plot teams need to run “newbie plot” but the responsibility for new players doesn’t end with them. I know; as a more experienced player new people can be frustrating because OH MY GOD THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. While it is true that they don’t know anything, in a way, it’s actually a plus. Someone who doesn’t know anything is someone who can be taught. As a teacher, let me tell you that people can be molded into whatever you want (shout out to B.F. Skinner! Holla’!), and in LARP we have the added bonus of a motivated person. Nobody comes to LARP saying, “Gosh, this game looks fun. I’m going to go, but my big goal for the weekend is to suck as hard as humanly possible.” New players want to be good at the game, they want to be involved, and they want to be paid attention to (really, those motivations can be applied to just about any situation). If we want to play with good players, we need to train good players.

If you see a few new players sparring among themselves, and it’s apparent that they take their ideas on combat from Japanese cartoons, take a few minutes to show them the ropes. Take a passel of new players modding and stand in the background while they push forward. Push them out of your circle and tell them to kill that 10-body orc. Talk to them out-of-game about costuming, role-playing, and character development.

Remember, if we don’t teach people how to play the game, we have only ourselves to blame when they don’t know how to play it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Starting Your Own LARP Group

Note: This is a guest post from Andrew Seiple, creator and owner of Wastelands. Remember, entries are still being accepted for the LARP Ohio Contest.

Hello. My name is Andrew Seiple. I’ve been roleplaying for about 20 years, and LARPing for approximately 15 of them. I started with Vampire LARP, moved on to NERO, and tried various independent LARPS in and around the Ohio area. A few years back I got the idea that led to starting the Wastelands post-apocalyptic LARP, a game that runs roughly quarterly in the western Ohio area. It’s been a hell of a struggle at times, but it’s been very personally rewarding, and I look forward to running it many years to come. But there’s much to do when you want to start a LARP, and I think that by listing a few things that I had to deal with below, folks who want to do their own thing LARP-wise might get a better idea of what’s to come. This isn’t a hugely detailed list, and I am NOT an expert in this subject matter. But I think that it might be of use, so here you go. On to the good stuff…

So. You’ve got it. You’ve got the idea, the dream, the fever, and you gotta try it. You’ve been to NERO, or maybe tried a little Vampire, or done stick-jock time in Amtgard or Belegarth. You think you know how it works, you definitely know when it doesn’t, and you reckon you can do it better! Or differently, or in some way that hasn’t been tried before. You’ve got white-hot mechanics, or a gimmick that’s fun to use, or a plot that would make the late Mr. Tolkien weep in awe.

Or hell, maybe you just want to play a kind of game that isn’t out there yet, and no one else will do it.

For whatever reason, you’ve decided to start your own LARP.

Buckle in, because it’s a bumpy ride…

There are a few things that you need to look at. Call them basic concerns… These are topics that should raise tricky questions, time and again. If you’re not prepared to handle them, then you may want to reconsider running a LARP.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A shot across the bow...

After a few conversations with some people that I respect very much, I am going to reword my previous post. Lets try this.

It appears that National has finally decided to reign in some chapters that are using variants. This has been made evident by an owner posting on his own board and confirmed via several other anonymous sources. In my opinion nationals response is premature, not because they are not contractually in the right, rather because I would prefer they have some new content in place before dismissing all home grown content.

The link that I previously posted seems to, after further examination, paint this as an assault against a particular region of NERO. I do not think this was the intent. I will not pretend however, that certain owners responses to a request from National for a membership fee, did not inform national's sudden decision to enforce the variant section of the contract.

How does everyone feel about National's decision to enforce the contract? Should they have waited until they had an alternative to offer?

The Week In LARP - June 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

Celebrate the LARP Ohio anniversary by, well... LARPing!


NERO WAR will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 17th and ending Sunday, June 19th. The game will be held at Camp Giscowheco at the IG location of Lumberton. It's $50 to PC ($30 with a good NPC ratio) and is free to NPC. This event will be using 9th edition rules.


Ragnarok started on June 12th and runs until Sunday, June 19th. The game will be held at Cooper's Lake Campground (PA). A weekly pass is $55 for ages 18+ and $35 for ages 3-17.

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, June 10, 2011

Anniversary! Prizes! No Tuberculosis!

Today, we're celebrating the Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary for the LARP Ohio blog. Sunday will be 1 year for the blog, making it official that this blog lasted at least 10 months longer than expected.

We've had our ups and our downs. Discussions a plenty. Maybe an argument here or there.

Tim asked me "Now that you've done a year of LARP blogging, what do you plan on doing next?" To which I responded, "I'm going to Disney World." But seriously. I am. And I leave on Sunday.


So, here's some statistics for the blog.

Posts: 254
Posts/Week: 4.875 (pretty close to the goal of 5 per week)
Views: 35,000+ (since Google started tracking it in July)
Comments: 1025+
Quantity of Rock: Too much rock for one hand.

But seriously, none of this could be possible without the support of the local players and especially the local games.

The local games,
The ones who are going to give you stuff,
For free,
Free stuff,
Free stuff for you,
Get it?

We're giving 12 prizes away, courtesy of the local games. 12 prizes! Total value is worth more than $350! Interested? Better read on!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Class ism: Why don't we have more classes

Everyone knows the basic fantasy role playing party. A fighter, a wizard, a rogue and a cleric make up the classic party around which much of the genre is based. NERO accommodates this concept and even lets you have a few options within the basic framework. The Templar class, the only hybrid class in the NERO system, allows players to play as a fighter/mage. Multiclassing to round out the edges of a party has been a mainstay of fantasy role playing since D&D advanced and I think that it allows for extra flexibility in character creation which can only be a good thing when players are trying to espouse a specific character concept. In my opinion more options should be added to the class system, new content will invigorate the game. There are several options for increasing class dynamics, I will take a look at them and then hopefully spark some discussion.

The simplest option for more classes is to add the other hybrid classes into the game. Those classes being fighter/rogue and rogue/scholar. This is basic multi classing. Accomplishing it would be as simple as emulating the templar build costs. No new skills should be added, no new math would be necessary. These two additional classes would change the class dynamics significantly. The vanilla rogue could now have a backup celestial or earth tree, the fighter can now be an evasion fighter focusing on dodges at the cost of extra damage. These concepts could allow for better character concept fits for players and would not increase scaling difficulty, I see no reason not to implement these classes immediately.

The next most complicated class concepts are classes that purchase already existing skills at a cheaper cost than the base classes for the cost of other skills. Their are two good examples of this but the one that I will focus on is the ranger. The ranger can purchase archery and two weapon fighting related skills at a discounted rate but has slightly higher than templar body and a prohibitive cost for crafting skills, standard weapon profs and the rogue cost for magic. What would this character look like in practice, perhaps they could purchase archery damage increases at a cheaper cost than any other class, so a ranger might first focus on firing a bow for 10s. Then he can choose to either build a small spell tree or focus on two weapon fighting, perhaps rangers can share their weapon damage between hands but purchase profs at a rate between templar and scholar. This idea is simple because no new skills are introduced to the game, it follows a similar model to the already existing templar class, you pay for decreased costs with increased costs. Focusing the class on another fantasy archetype is key, as is the fact that having a class like this would promote underused weapon styles. The complicated thing would be getting the math right between classes. All games that add content go through an adjustment period where classes are changes and NERO would be no different, a playtest would need to be run and changes made quickly to the class. This playtest would run over the course of one season or a series of events and end in a class that the rules committee felt was balanced, this feeling would be augmented by gameplay experience. Of course there are a number of other options that exist for classes like the ranger, virtually any subset of skills can be discounted and offset by other skills.

The final class increase concept and the one that I think is the most tricky is the class that adds skills to the game. The classic example of this is 3rd edition dungeons and dragons prestige classes. Prestige classes did not just increase iterative damage or allow a character to take another schools skills, they added new skills and changed the entire dynamic of the game. The complexity of adding new skills is much higher than revaluing existing skills, new skills need to be vetted not only for balance against other skills but also for ease of comprehension of the player base. Take for example the Nature Magic playtest that WAR runs, mostly the effects in the package are either repackaging of an already understood effect( Tyrran damage is really just damage), or an effect thats name explains its function(Petrify). Some new effects are added but I think that the designers tried to limit that as much as possible for ease of integration. To take that concept and apply it to a new class with new skills and different costs for old skills would be very complicated. There is a strong chance that a single season of playtesting may not be sufficient. I do not think that this type of addition should be taken lightly, if it is attempted at all.

So there you go, you have a couple of ideas, now run with it, lets talk!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Operation Pick This Lock

Still looking for guest posts for next week. If you've got something you've wanted to throw out for public consumption, no matter the size, send it in to

I've got to give a shout-out to Nathan, who runs plot at Exiles' Silver Springs Camp, for this gem. Got to give credit where credit's due. I apologize in advance if this is something that's supposed to be super secret.

We're always trying to think of alternate ways to do lock picking in LARPs. In some games, picking locks is simulated by, well, picking locks. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ways for players to practice that (although I do remember another guy and I carrying around a set of luggage locks in high school for study hall - yeah, we were those guys). As an added pain, lock picks are less than legal in some states.

Recently, though, I got to experience a really ingenious way to do lock picking.


I know, Operation is the catch all for puzzles and has been done a million times. But before you dismiss this idea, you need look how well the game matches the mechanic.

First off, lock picks are a consumable, IG item. No actual OOG lock picks are required (other than some sort of rep). You can probably carry around as many as you want, but you'll have to find/buy them and having lock picks might be illegal in the game you're playing.

So now that you've got your picks and your ne'er do well character has rolled up on a lock, it's game time. The difficulty of the lock is set by the difficulty of the Operation game*. If it's an easy lock, there might only be 1-2 pieces to remove. If it's a fairly difficult lock, it might require removing all the pieces from the game. The time to play the game obviously translates to the time it takes to pick a lock.

Every time the player picking the lock fails (makes the game buzz), it means that their pick has broken in the lock. What's more is anyone who hears the buzz can hear the lock pick breaking (which may wake someone up from a sound sleep if a cat burgler breaks a pick). If the player has more lock picks, they can continue working on the tumblers from where they left off.

Obviously, you can spruce the puzzle up a bit to make it harder (I am fairly sure that I will regret this). Use metal pieces to make it so that pieces touching the walls will set it off as well. Use pieces that have to be manipulated to fit through the hole instead of being pulled straight out. Find some way to add motion into the mix.

I was really impressed with this mechanic, so I'm bringing it to you guys. It works particularly well in games where there are no rules for lock picking, as it doesn't actually require and IG skills or OOG equipment on the players, as it's effectively another puzzle that players need to tackle.

*Obviously, you aren't limited in using the off-the-shelf Operation game. The concept behind that game is fairly simple and anyone who can use a hobby-grade soldering gun could build their own version of the system if you really wanted to make it difficult. But as the guys at Silver Springs showed, an off the shelf, spray painted operation can look pretty bad ass.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


While I often talk about the importance of letting people play the type of game that they want to play, I almost exclusively talk about it in reference to people who hate against stick jocks. However, it's important to note that the other side of the coin does exist, and needs to be addressed. A game can be too combat focused.

Over aggression exists whenever the plot team's (or players) put so much combat into the game that characters are unable to enjoy uninterrupted roleplay. This can be something basic, like orcs constantly attacking a tavern filled with merchants, or something more invasive like enemies permeating barriers that should normally be impassible.

When you look at the biggest and best games (like Conquest), you'll note that there are parts of the camp that are non-combat roleplay oriented and there are parts that are combat based. If you want to fight, step into the fighting area. If you want to be a merchant/surgeon, you can do that without fear that you'll get hit by a sword in the middle of a speech or procedure.

While the games we play are often too small to facilitate a separate area, it's important to keep these things in mind.

Make Breaking Magical Barriers Rare
While I have no problem with a big bad guy putting the entire town on the run, invading magical barriers should be a rarity. Additionally, the magical barriers themselves should be rare. The trick is to find the happy medium that allows the maximum amount of safe roleplay, makes it difficult for players to abuse these areas, and maintains the continuity of the game.

Promote Total, Non-Combative Roleplay
A lot of characters want to roleplay heavily, but often have a hard time making ends meet in a game where items/gold play an important role. For this reason, you should give your RP heavy players a reason to not go kill that goblin for the silver it has.

Build Support Roles into Plotlines
Just because a player wants to be heavy roleplay doesn't mean they don't want to be in the mix. But sometimes, it doesn't make sense for them to even attend the same modules as the combat heavy folks. Make sure to include some support roles that happen in parallel/serial to to the combative plotlines. While you can work some stuff into the combat modules (which makes for dynamic encounters), having full on non-combat modules helps make those non-combat characters indispensable.

Non-combatants are players too. The trick to running a successful game is to give both the stick jocks and the flurbs an environment where they can focus on playing the game that they want. While I personally might think that it's a good idea for players to step outside their bounds every once in a while, it's still very important that you don't force players to do that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Week In LARP - June 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

Time to bust out your summer characters, because the heat is here with a vengeance.


NERO Elkins will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 10th and ending Sunday, June 12th. The game will be held at BSA Camp Mahonegon at the IG location of Vilkrist. It's $50 to PC and is $10 to NPC, but you can save $9 by pre-paying. This event will be using 9th edition rules. Thanks Matt!

NERO Indy will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 10th and ending Sunday, June 12th. The game will be held at Columbus Youth Camp (IN). It's $50 to PC ($40 with pre-reg) and is free to NPC. This event will be using 9th edition rules.

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!

Editor's Note: Fun fact - this is LARP Ohio's 250th post!

Friday, June 3, 2011

YouTube Friday: Do You Smell That?

But really, do you smell that? Smell's like something big is coming. For those of you that have been reading for a while now, you might want to glance back and look in the archives for when this all started. Looks like we're getting pretty darn close to one year on this blog. That only calls for one thing. As Rick James would say:

It's a Celebration, Bitches!

Anyways, we're going to be giving away some totally sweet prizes, so all of our readers should get ready for a contest!

In another note, I will be out of pocket the week of June 13th, so I'm putting the call out for guest posts. If you've got something you've always wanted to say regarding LARP, but didn't want to go through all the hassle of finding a readership, setting up a blog, and getting your name forever associated with LARP, now's your chance. Send all drafts of your posts to Keep them clean without malicious content and your post might very well be posted on this very blog.

Finally, since it's Friday, I guess I should do a YouTube video. However, quality videos have been really scarce as of late, so I thought I'd go off the board for a thousand. This video even makes the title of this post make sense!

Enjoy your porkchop sandwiches!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stake of Woah

Note: This is a guest post by Mickey. If you've got something to say and would like to make a guest post, feel free to send it to

There is a real life lesson I have learned that I think is very helpful for a staff dealing with stress; that some people will never be pleased. There are players, fellow staff members, NPCs, campsite personnel, and so on that will never ever actually be happy with what you do. You know the type, always griping and complaining, always whining, always bringing you and your staff down. You’ve tried to engage them in different ways, listen to them, change based on feedback, and yet nothing works. You despair of a solution. But, odds are many people overlook the simplest solution of them all. Stop caring.

It sounds callous I know, after all the person might be a paying customer or a volunteer helping you out so you feel like you *have* to care about their complaints. But the truth is, the simple and fundamental truth is, that you don’t. Not really. As soon as you identify someone as someone who will never be pleased then every second you spend on trying is wasted time you could better spend elsewhere. Rather than throwing your time and effort down a useless rat-hole, spend it on all the other people who are not just energy sinks. The amount of net positive resulting from this is pretty amazing.

See, we all have those people in our lives and our games. We fret and worry and gnash our teeth about how to please people who, at core, prefer to complain than actually have fun. And while we do so we wind up neglecting all the other people who are genuinely interested in a positive experience. Focus on the latter, stop feeding the former, and your games will be healthier and happier. You might lose a player here or there, though odds are they’ll stick around so they can complain more, but you’ll be less stressed and anxious about them.

This is an outgrowth of the 80/20 principle. Put simply, it states that 80% of your outputs come from 20% of your inputs and it can apply in a lot of ways. In this case, 80% of your complaints are usually from 20% of people giving feedback. If you can refine it down and determine which of those 20% are just never going to stop you can probably eliminate 50% or more of your complaint headache at any given event or game. You just have to let it go and stop catering to the vampires of your goodwill. The second, and I mean the *second* you realize that your reactions cannot change the outcome it is time to stop worrying about it. Their complaints no longer have any deterrent value to your behavior if changing your behavior does not stop their complaints.

Anyway, I’m beating a dead horse here, but it’s worth it because LARP staff are often inherently people pleasers (why else spend so much time and effort staffing?) and it needs to be drummed into them that not all people are able to be pleased. Cut them loose and focus on the rest.


Editor's Note: Mickey didn't like his title, so I changed the name to match his reference to Goodwill Vampires. Also, he loves sparky vampires. That'll teach you to change my avatar on the national forums.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The "Zero NPC Moment"

This post is partially based off something that was posted on the NCN boards, and something that I had discussed with Mickey when podcasting.

I know a lot of people think the best plot is intense with combat, intense with roleplay, and probably has some interesting modules to go with it. And don't get me wrong, plot like that can be great. But really, the best plot lines can be identified as those who hit the "Zero NPC moment." That is, the moment when your plot is entertaining the PCs without requiring any NPCs. Zero.

The ZNM is the point in time where your plot drives itself while you don't have anyone in town. PCs are actually talking to each other, comparing notes, coming up with conclusions, planning tactics to come, or writing documents of some kind for political/diplomatic encounter to come. In all of those instances, you get the singularity point where the PCs are perpetually IG, with a focus, while you can give your NPCs a breather or focus on players who might be involved in something else.

Now, the post at NCN focused on how the plot shuts down on purpose so that players can, nay, MUST entertain themselves for an hour by roleplaying (but there are some NPCs that come in, so it's not completely shut down). This is a mistake, and I'll tell you why.

I am a huge proponent of "Everyone plays the game for a different reason, and that's ok". As I've said before, the guy who likes to roleplay super hardcore is doing it has a right to play that way, just as much as the guy who is really only there to hit things with sticks. Forcing players to roleplay is just as bad as forcing people to fight while precluding roleplay.

So what does this have to do with the ZNM? If your plot has reached that level, players will step outside their bounds organically. Stick jocks will start to roleplay, and roleplayers will tense up with anticipation of fighting. Players will stay in game, roleplaying with each other, and their discussions will focus around the plots that you have written. They'll be working on a solution. They'll be mending fences to have everyone on the same page. Some personal RP will organically happen, in the form of "Hey, I didn't know you were into those things, so am I. Let's chill." Most of all, they will be enthralled and entertained for some period of time without any help from NPCs.

I will discuss in a future post with some tricks on how to reach the legendary ZNM.

Note: The entire plotline cannot be a ZNM. Obviously, it needs more. But PCs having a ZNM is a strong indicator that you are doing it right.