Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Internal Conflict Between Character and Player

Everyone's run into that moment. You know, the one where your character wouldn't do something but you totally would? Or maybe vice-versa?

In a recent podcast (which I assume will be posted soon), Mickey told me all about some of the mechanisms that are used at Madrigal in order to mitigate these internal conflicts between player and character, and I must say, I was blown away. Something that wasn't even on my radar before that conversation is now very prominent in my field of vision.

The big example Mickey gave me was "the plague." If a player isn't feeling well or doesn't want to go on a module due to OOG circumstances, they might say something like "The plague has taken me." That is a sign to all the other players that while the character would definitely go, the player isn't up to it. The plague exists as a concept in the game, so there's very little break in immersion. And what might be more important, other players cannot refute or "dog" that person into going, because he or she has the plague!

So without stealing any thunder from the podcast, I'd like to talk about some important points to remember when trying to implement these conventions into your game.

1. Everyone Accepts the Rule
Obviously, if someone says they've got the plague and someone else tells them to tough it up or starts trying to convince the player that they should go on the module, the convention doesn't actually save immersion. All players need to understand that conventions like this shouldn't be challenged or discussed. If players aren't going to be willing to do that, then your game might not be the kind of heavy immersion game that would benefit from mechanisms like this.

2. Build It Into Setting
These mechanics should fit somewhere in the setting, so that they can be discussed IG and so that all characters understand the meaning. This trick can also be used in reference to use of various pieces of anachronistic safety equipment.

For example, Babylon (Knutepunkt 2011) used airsoft equipment which required face protection. In that game, the world was known to have poisonous gas/airborne viruses that characters had to protect themselves against. So whenever fighting was going to commence, sirens went off indicating that the air was contaminated, so players put on their masks.

Osiris Sanction uses this mechanic to explain all the laser tag equipment on the players as well as why players don't really feel pain. All of the fighting in that game takes place on a surreal data network, where a person's avatar is very close to their real self.

3. Empower the Player to Control the Character
Now, these mechanics are designed to give the player the comfort level they need at a LARP. So when you're designing these systems, try and find ways of actually empowering the player to invoke the mechanic, rather than the system or the character. I know this might seem like a no-brainer, but some games would rather put those controls in the hands of the staff running it rather than an individual player.

Simply put, you have to trust your players to use these mechanics appropriately, and just deal with players that you think might be abusing a system. This is definitely one aspect of the game that shouldn't have to be micromanaged by the staff.

What do you think? Does your game use any concepts like this? Do you think they would benefit from having a mechanic like "the plague?"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

If Wishes Were Donations

So I'm totally going to steal an idea that came up at the WAR All-Staff meeting last weekend. I heard this from one of the attendees, and I'm not sure to whom to give the credit. So whoever you are - great idea! I'm actually embarrassed I didn't think of it.

Create an Amazon wishlist for your game (or even for your PC).

There you go. Now, some of you may already do this, so we might be behind. But an Amazon wishlist is a great place to keep track of all the things you need and want for your game. And there are ALWAYS things that we need and want!

If it's on the internet, you can add it to the wishlist through their Universal Wishlist button. You can set the quantity and rate each one by priority. In the notes section, you can detail out any more specifics (such as color, etc).

Maintenance is super easy as well. Items purchased through Amazon (and they have basics of almost everything themselves through their third-party sellers - though the prices may not be be best) come off automatically. Items that are available on other sites can be "reserved" so that other people know not to get them. The owner of the list can make updates, delete items, etc., with ease.

Maybe best of all, you show/link to EXACTLY what you need. Players are more likely to pick something up if you make it easy for them :) And you don't have to keep posting up a thread on the forums - just direct people to the list.

You can even keep a list of dream items for your PC, so that when you come into some extra money you remember just where you found that super awesome thing you've always wanted.

Now, there's still going to be issues, so you may still caution people to be careful, read notes, and contact you for anything they're not sure of. But all in all, it seemed like a fantastic way to keep track of things!

What do you think? Do you use something better?

Note - I just tried adding some items that weren't from actual "stores." I was able to add a page called "spell packet construction" that showed what type of spell packet I might actually want. So even if you want things that you can't actually buy online, if you can find an example of it on the Internet it looks like you can still add the page to your Wishlist. Just make sure to have clear notes!

Another Towel is Thrown

Quick note: I just found out that Wastelands (the post-apocalyptic airsoft LARP here in Ohio) is calling it quits. The head of the game is stepping down and ending the game, and as far as I know no one is picking it up.

LARP is a tough business!

Friday, January 20, 2012

YouTube Friday: Documentary and Nature Magic

Because it's Friday, I've got to throw up a video. This is a documentary from Brighton University about LARP, and despite the less professional quality of the video, I think that the people in the video sound like average, everyday people who happen to LARP. I love content like this.



So I've promised to talk about the pros of the Nature Playtest from WAR/NCN. So here we go!

1. Straight Forward Goal
A lot of playtests don't have a clear goal when they're submitted. Goals are important, because it lets everyone start on the same page. If someone submitted a playtest with a goal to improve production skills and in the text unbalanced melee combat, I would know that I could change the melee combat part without affecting the goal of the playtest. Additionally, if someone submitted a playtest to make hoblings better, I know that I could drop the playtest right away, as the goal of the playtest doesn't fit the balance goals of NERO.

Nature magic had the goal of adding another school of magic for two reasons. First, it added additional variety to magic in the game. Second, it targeted some common fantasy archtypes that didn't really exist in the game at the time. This is why the animal spells were adopted into the core rules by National.

2. Balance
Undertaking a new school is tough. There's so many things you have to worry about. How many takedowns are in the school? Does it obsolete something? Are there worthwhile spells to cast at every level? Is the formal magic worth it? What about Cantrips?

Other than a handful of mechanics (most of which I mentioned in the earlier post), the system was actually pretty balanced (before the last revision). And that's after having played with it in one form or another for almost 4 of the 11 years I've been playing.

3. Completion
Some playtests don't handle all the collateral damage they create. They tend to have glaring errors that leaving gaping holes in the rules that are up for interpretation. As a whole, Nature Magic is complete. It covers battle, cantrip, and formal magic. The new effects that are used are included in the playtest. There's very little that is up to interpretation.

Don't get me wrong, Nature still has a way to go before it could become a National Playtest. It's under a particularly high amount of scrutiny, due to the fact that it adds a lot of effects and is a new build purchased skill, rather than a playtest that modifies an already existing skill. But hopefully people can take away some lessons from this when writing playtests for 9th edition.

And yes, we'll be setting a way for people to submit playtests. We just have to get it through the proper channels.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Favorite File Sharing

We talk a lot about what YOU can do to improve the LARP experience at your game. But a lot of running a game is working with a team. How you interact with them can make or break the event - unless you have a small game and super metabolism, it is almost impossible to run a great game by yourself. And one major element to getting everyone on the same page is sharing content.

What's the best way to manage content between people? Well, my favorite so far is Dropbox. I'll tell you why. :)

So I started using Dropbox at work. It is a free service that allows you to download a folder onto your computer. Within the folder you can make additional folders and share them with other people. If you want to share each of those folders with different people, you can. Everyone has to download Dropbox onto their system for it to work, of course.

The documents (or whatever) inside can be edited by each person you invite, as long as they're not protected. Otherwise they would just view the documents. Each person can just open, edit, and save - and Dropbox will update it to each shared person's system, like you would have on a network. In fact, that might be just what it is, but I'm not computer savvy enough to know the specifics :) Documents you protect are still protected, and so on. And your material is also backed up online, at the Dropbox site; so if someone's drive crashes or people quit, the material is still there.

Now, the free service is only good up to a certain size, so this may not work for those sharing large amounts of images, videos, etc.

I've found so far that it combines the sharing capabilities of Google docs (Yahoo! doesn't allow shared editing, the person who uploads the file has to manage it) with the easy-to-organize system of Yahoo! groups. I haven't been impressed with the organization system of Google docs. It does allow sharing, and for small amounts of files where you want multiple contributors it's great (although I know it doesn't work for all emails, as my work email can't use it). But once you start getting into using it for a content library, or for things like your character sheet database, I've gotten frustrated and been unhappy with their options. Maybe I'm doing it wrong :)

I didn't have those issues with Dropbox, though. It was intuitive for a Windows user like me; it's just like another folder, so it's wonderful for keeping everything organized so I can stay sane. :) So far for me, Dropbox has all the things I want, and removes the negatives.

I haven't been using it for long, but I encourage people to give it a test drive and see what they think.

Or maybe you use something even better?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pause for the Cause

I was going to talk about the positive aspects of a Nature Magic, but I wanted to stop and talk about SOPA/PIPA. The "Stop Online Piracy" and "Protect IP" acts were "designed" to protect copyrighted material online. However, the bills put a lot of control in the government's hands to censor the internet, which could severely hamper first amendment rights online. If you're concerned about these rights (which you should be), contact your local representative and let them know!

One of my favorite Nerd Rappers, Adam WarRock, did a song about SOPA. It does have some explicit language though, so you'll have to go off-site to watch it.

Tomorrow, we'll be back to talking about running around in the woods, dressed like wizards.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

NERO: Developing a Playtest

I figured I'd do a little talk about developing playtests for NERO, since it's one of the major jobs for National Rules right now, and that there's some talk about the Nature Magic Playtest in WAR.

As it stands, the Nature Playtest gives some examples of things that should not be included in Playtest submissions. Even though the system as a whole is a decent idea, there are a number of small details that derail the objective of the system. This post will use examples from Nature Magic on what not to do. Next post will be on the aspects of the Nature Playtest that are beneficial and would make for a good playtest.

So without further ado, here are things that you shouldn't do when writing a playtest.

1. Violate Core Concepts without that being the Goal of the Playtest
Nature does three things that are basically in gross violation of core concepts of NERO.

First, the Cocoon spell states that you cannot refuse touch casting. That rule that allows refusal regardless of the situation is in place in part to curb uncomfortable and unwanted physical contact. Cocoon basically allows other players to continue to touch a player while they are essentially helpless, causing an uncomfortable situation for players who don't want to ruin immersion, but don't want to be touched.

The second instance is from the Natural Carapace Cantrip, which is the only in-game effect that actually varies based on class. All distinctions between the various classes are intended to be off-board.

The third instance is the Revival ability (cantrip and formal) which prevents players from resurrecting normally, which is a pretty significant part of the game.

Now, if the goal of the playtest was to reduce the chance of death, then Revival might be appropriate for that playtest (but still might not be accepted if that goal isn't shared by National). But that's not the goal of Nature. Nature is supposed to add more choices and add an archetype that isn't currently represented by the game.

2. Add Excessive Effects and Complexity
Adding effects to the game is something that should be done slowly to prevent players from having to remember more effects. Nature has at least four new effects to 9th edition and a new damage type. These can be overwhelming for new or traveling players who don't use the playtest. Simply put, there's too much going on.

Mend could just as easily be cure light wounds without causing too much trouble. Entangles could just be made into physical pins/binds/webs (with the spell level brought to the appropriate point). Pestilence is too complicated. Petrify is very close to another effect, so again, it could be a physical imprison instead of it's own effect.

Those small changes would remove half the complexity from nature without a lot of substance/balance changes. So when there's an effect that almost works for what you're going for, use it. Additionally, don't use flavor as an excuse to add complexity where it's not needed.

3. Consistency with Other Skills
There are some serious consistency issues with Nature. Regenerate operates differently and is a different spell level from an identical spell. The moving of bind effects from key attack levels 5 and 8 causes some imbalance with regards to takedowns. Armor buffs are not congruent with other magic schools.

Rules are a lot easier to follow when they follow a pattern. Additionally, some of the things that you think are a minor change (reducing entangle spell levels by 1) might actually cause a greater imbalance than expected. In general, try and keep the bulk of things identical, if possible.

What do you think?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Camps for Sale!

Sorry to bump Bill's post, but I have a quick follow-up to my post. It seems like the Girl Scouts are selling some of their camps in Ohio. I believe they're all in the northeast, but there are 5 that will be going up for sale. Now's your chance to get that camp you've always wanted! I mean, how expensive can they be, right? :)

The camps are: Camp Crowell/Hilaka (Summit County), Great Trail Camp (Carroll County), Camp Lejnar (Lake County), Camp Pleasant Valley (Seneca County), and Camp Sugarbush (Trumbull County).


YouTube Friday: Knightmare!

This video was shared by the Grand Expidition UK on facebook. They're a group that gets people from the UK to attend the two big European games (Conquest of Mythodea and Drachenfest).

This particular video was uploaded by Corridor Digital, who has a bunch of videos where they act out video games in real life. And this one is no different. As an added benefit, there are two possible endings!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Perfect Camp

I'm involved in booking camps for the 6th year now, and it has been a pain every time. Thankfully, a kind and innocent fellow LARP blogger is helping us this year :) But still being involved, I can still see that it's a huge hassle. For those who have never been involved - you don't know what you're missing :) Fees change, reservation policies change, you want to find a new camp, you can't get dates. Ugh. Sometimes I'm amazed we have as many LARPs as we do, just from being able to find a place to play!

It's not easy to find a camp with the facilities you need, at the price you can afford. But that got me thinking - what do you really need in a camp? It's different for everyone, I think, and every game. What makes or breaks a camp for you? Is it running water? A full kitchen? Beds? Heat?

Obviously the camp needs to have facilities you can use to run your mods in the weather you're playing in - so at least something with a cover. If you run in winter, have heat of some kind. You should have at least a latrine (other women may be able to do the woods thing with more ease, but not me, thankyouverymuch! :) ). And of course if you stay overnight, somewhere to sleep out of the weather.

For me, I also ask for at least 1-2 buildings with electric, and we need a partial kitchen to prepare food. I also want privacy - even if it's at a park, I don't want it to be in a heavily traveled area or right in the public eye. When I'm getting away from it all, I don't want to look over and see a family on a picnic snapping shots. :)

Now, for as long as I've been playing, I've heard starry-eyed LARPers talking about how if they won the lottery they'd build a camp just for the game. So when you talk about the perfect camp, what would you have? We could go crazy and have celebrity chefs and a spa, but I'm more wondering what people would really like at their LARP location that would actually add to the game and be within reason.

So what's in your perfect camp? Or simply, what do you wish your camp had now that it doesn't?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spotlight: CollabNarration

I didn't have a proper chance to welcome Zoë into the fold when her blog originally came out. I was taking a little break *coughstarwarscough* at the time, but her blog seems to be moving right along.

And you know what's great? You can add to it, too!

Her blog, CollabNarration, gives LARPers a chance to submit stories to the site. I think it's a great idea. We tend to lack a central forum for LARPers from different games, and even when that happens, people don't like surprise walls of text.

So, now we have a place where people can put their stories (in-character or out-of-game) for others to enjoy. Much better than a common forum, because people know to expect a wall of text, and flaming is a little more difficult when someone can just delete your comments.

I know the best part of LARPing for me is the stories, and I know that I plan to submit some stuff to CollabNarration once I get a little more free time *coughstarwarscough*.

Seriously, though. Check it out, throw those people who have posted stories some support in the comments, and if you're brave enough, submit some content of your own!

Friday, January 6, 2012

YouTube Friday: T.A.S.C

Happy New Year!

One of the goals we have for this year is to design a simplified Airsoft LARP. There will be some form of advancement, but it's just a way to be in-character while airsofting. Should be totally fun.

So today's video is a short Airsoft game run in Germany. Love it.

BTW, we don't endorse playing without a full face mask when using any kind of gas/electric airsoft guns with > 300 fps.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

4 Health Myths at LARP

Well, it's a new year. Millions of Americans have made a resolution to lose weight, and I'm sure lots of LARPers are among them, including myself. While I'm probably the last person to give advice on weight loss and healthy eating (general disclaimer: talk to your doctor and do what's right for you), I have identified some wishful thinking. Heck, I've had these thoughts myself. LARPing is a good thing since it IS activity, just don't let misconceptions stand in the way of the benefits! Here are some myths I've heard from multiple people:

1.) I don't exercise, I LARP. Yes, it's true, getting outside and moving around is good! And that alone might be a step up. But if you want to lose weight, or even maintain a healthy weight, moving around 1-2 days a month isn't going to cut it. Usually you need to exercise 3-5 days a week to lose weight.

When you break down how much "exercise" type activity you do at a LARP, it's not as much as many think, at least for most PCs. We go on an average of maybe 7 mods? And how many minutes of exercise are we doing on those mods? I'm talking actual activity - is it 10 minutes per mod? I'd guess it's less, but even being generous, just doing LARP is probably not going to get anyone in shape.

2.) I need those cheeseburgers because I'm LARPing. You need to make sure your body has enough fuel - what that fuel is is far too complicated for me to even try to talk about. But having fuel doesn't mean over-eating or eating bad foods. You should still eat right, and in correct amounts, for your body and the activity level.

I was always surprised about not coming back from events minus a few pounds - in fact usually it was the other way. But then I started counting up what myself actually ate - and I see plenty of other people doing worse. Food tends to be grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, and other un-lean meals - and people eat them in multiples for every meal. Plus snacks. It's usually way more than we need - and part of that goes back to #1 where we feel that we do more exercise than we are. Figure out how much you should eat for your body and how much exercise you do and try to stick to it.

3.) I can't eat healthy at LARP. Some people use the usually greasy foods of the standard LARP tavern to indulge. If you want to stick to a diet, it is possible to reduce the damage, or even avoid it. One of the easiest ways to fix that is to bring your own food. Pick up some oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, chicken breast for other meals, fresh veggies or nuts for snacks (or whatever is good for you). A lot of LARP cooks will grill up what you bring, sometimes for a small fee.

Even if you don't want to shell out for your own food, you can adjust the tavern food to suit your diet. Cut down on the snacks around meals, and the size of your portions. Avoid unhealthy additions where you can. Just paying attention to what you're eating can help keep you in fighting shape.

4.) Being hardcore means ignoring my physical ailments. Everyone wants to be the hero. Some people seem to think that being a hero at LARP means ignoring common sense, for whatever reason. One of the biggest things is hydration. Water is best, in hot or cold weather. And if you need caffeine, tea or coffee is better than pop. Not only does it cut the sugar, but the buzz is better (no sugar crash). And take care of yourself. That means taking time out for any medication, taking care of injuries, and resting when you need it. Sure, heroes get bloody, and chicks dig scars - but no one actually wants you to bleed on them. And nothing ruins immersion (and a game) more than bringing an ambulance in.

Good luck in whatever your goals are this year! Do you have any suggestions, or corrections, I missed?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And We're Back!

It was nice to take a bit of a break during the holiday season. Let's be honest - when Christmas and New Years both fall on a weekend, it makes LARPing kind of difficult to pull off. And that isn't even considering the weather.

Things are still slow, so I may hold off on "The Week In LARP" posts until I start to see some real events on the horizon. Maybe I'll even get that calender working as intended, so people can have more than a week's notice.

Let's hope 2012 will be as good as 2011!