Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sharing Your Site

This weekend we used a new camp for Exiles. We were drawn to it by its promises of bunks (with mattresses!), fully functioning kitchens, running water, and air conditioning.  Yes, the site we had before was not so fancy - for some of you used to deluxe locations, you're probably cringing right now :)  Unfortunately as a small game, we have a small budget, so we're only now getting to the point of being able to afford a nicer site.

Problem is, we can't buy out the whole camp.  As a Girl Scout camp, that means we're sharing with, well, girl scouts.  We've got the main lodges in the center of camp, but they're still there at some of the tents.  And I'm sure we're not the only LARP group in a similar situation. 

So, what to do if you are sharing your site?

First, set some ground rules with the site and any rangers.  Ask the ranger/camp coordinator to tell any other groups not to wander through.  If nothing else, there's the safety issue.  This helps to protect both groups from the actions of the other, since outside groups won't have signed your waivers.
Be clear with your site about what you're doing, and how it might affect other campers.  Most LARPs are up late yelling about strange things (and maybe swearing), and that you might have props and set ups in certain places.  Let them know that you like your privacy (if you do) and see what suggestions they have to help. 

If you're getting people coming through your reserved area, nip it in the bud early on.  Take the issue to Staff.  If Staff can't get a hold of the ranger, or already have, someone should talk to the other group's leader and work something out.  Choose someone who's not scary :)

Try to have someone take a look at the location ahead of time to see if you can use some other, out of the way areas for your mods.  A lot of sites are okay with groups using unreserved camping areas, so you can avoid interruption by taking the action there.

You can also plan more mods inside, if your buildings allow for it, and keep out of the way of oglers.

Make sure and mention to your people that the camp is shared, and ask everyone to be on good behavior.    Know the camp rules and follow them, since you don't want a violation getting you reported and possibly deported. :)

In the end, you'll probably still know the other group is there, and the immersion is going to be broken a bit.  So I guess it's up to each group as to whether or not it's worth it.  For us, it seemed like everyone was okay trading some minimal interruption for air conditioning and showers.  But it may not always be the case.

What do you think?  Are nicer facilities worth sharing?  How do you compromise with sharing a camp?

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Week In LARP - June 25th

This Week In LARP

It's hot outside! Prepare for the heat and drink lots of water.


WAR will be hosting a 2-day campaign event this weekend starting on Friday, June 29th and ending on Sunday, July 1st. The game will be held at Camp McKinley at the IG location of the Trun Woods. It's $50 to PC ($30 with good NPC ratio) and is free to NPC.

NCN will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 29th and ending on Sunday, July 1st. The game will be held at Camp Trinity at the IG location of Syrinx. It's $50 to PC and is free to NPC.

ARGO will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 29th and ending on Sunday, July 1st. The game will be held at Camp Yough (PA). It's $40 to PC and is $15 to NPC.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Randoms & You

I've heard it said that the easiest way to make an event decent is to run randoms every 20 minutes.  For me, that doesn't make my event, and I don't really like randoms at all as a PC.  Usually they are not presented in any interesting way, they can break game momentum, they can roll PCs who just want a break, and as Staff they can drain resources that PCs would prefer to use on mods.  And worst for me, they don't make sense.  Why did a squad of orcs decide to attack superior numbers of armed adventurers in what is supposed to be a well-established and guarded settlement?  I don't know :)

That being said, I think they might be necessary in a lot of games, and can add a lot.  So how can randoms work for you?

That being said, randoms can work to your advantage.  When you have a larger PC group, they're not going to be going on all your mods, and giving them something to fight can help entertain them.  Newer players or players who just like the thrill of killing things can enjoy random monster slaying.  And you also don't want your PC areas to feel too safe - the thrill of danger is part of the draw for a lot of players. 

So, how to do it right?

First, timing is everything.  If you send randoms out at the wrong time, you could derail mods - which most people enjoy much more than any random!  Be aware of what the rest of your team is doing and what mods need to get done.  Don't take resources away from them if you can help it (you can be a one-man random!).  And try to keep an eye on what the PCs are doing.  Ask your NPCs who were just in town, or PCs who are at the shack, how things are going.  Also, if your PCs have set up some major event, like a ceremony or festival, try not to ruin it (unless it's good plot, of course! :) ). 

Second, scaling is still important.  If you're sending out goblins into a town that's all above level 20, it's probably not going to be as fun (unless there's plot or you do something interesting).  And if you send down a horde of death knights and there are only 2 people awake, that can make for grumpy PCs.  Again, ask people what the town atmosphere is like and scout it out. If you're not sure if people are around, try starting out with something small and work your way up to the big guns if needed.  Also, make sure that your NPCs aren't out to kill people. Always make sure they know the limits you want on the encounter and how tough they should be.  No one likes to resurrect from random spiders :)

Make it worth their while.  PCs hate it when they get through a fight and the NPC doesn't have treasure.  Don't over-reward, but make sure and put appropriate treasure on the monsters.  You can then use this to even out treasure distribution for your event as well.  If you have the space, put a couple random minor magic items on the occasional kobold, and people will be more interested in engaging them!

Spread the love - alternate where the randoms come from and what they're doing.  If you do the same thing every time, you can get those types of folks who just sit and splatter the NPC as it spawns before anyone else can get to it.  Especially if you start giving out good items here and there.  Changing it up can help keep more people entertained.

And finally, my favorite point.  Try to make the randoms make sense.  A pack of wolves isn't going to attack a town under normal circumstances, so think about things that might.  You can really use this to your advantage to reinforce plot lines.  If there's an evil druid plot, maybe they are sending their new twisted tree creations in to test their strength.  Maybe the goblin army has suicide bombers trying to destroy morale.  Or the mad alchemist is sending minions to plant poison distributors.  Or the ancient elder dragon's presence is driving the forest creatures mad.  Not only are you entertaining people, you're fleshing out your plot lines!

If you run out of those ideas, try "hook randoms."  These are mini encounters that take place within eye/ear shot of town. They're not just monster x attacking the PCs, but they can still be of any level, and the entire town can engage.  Example - a traveling merchant runs in saying orcs attacked his wagon on his way to the tavern. Something that requires basically no prep, and you can run it in town.  You're adding a little bit of extra depth to the random to have it make sense and be a little more exciting to the PCs, but you can use the exact same resources and monsters.  All you need is a little creativity and a few minutes of planning to figure out an idea that will work.  This is basically putting hook mods in Staff's hands from time to time.

Don't forget that role-play NPCs entertain people too.  Not every random has to be for fighters!  Your role-players and puzzle-solvers are also waiting around town for their next mod, so send in a strange merchant, an old story-teller, or some other engaging NPC.  These tend to entertain smaller amounts of people, but can be very welcome to those PCs who don't like killing poor, defenseless bugbears all day :)  You can use random time to put in an informative NPC for your plot line, or to engage a character's back story.  Or just for fun.  To get a little wider appeal, have them do things like host impromptu contests (riddles? singing?  stories from the PCs?). You can even use these types of characters to help recharge a drained PC group by selling or giving out supplies or recharges - for the right price. 

Purposeful randoms can be a great chance for Staff & NPCs who had some wacky ideas that don't quite work for plots or mods to use them!

In smaller games where PCs can go on more mods, randoms may not be as necessary.  In these cases, if the PCs aren't modding, they're probably resting or refreshing and randoms can actually hurt more than they help by draining resources on both sides of the table.  But then again, you can use a few of these ideas to bring danger into the town - instead of hooking a mod, have it happen there! 

What ideas do you have for making random monsters fun and useful?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Week In LARP - June 18th

This Week In LARP

Sorry for the confusion regarding the NERO Indiana event.  I was going off of the NERO Cinci cross-chapter events, and thought it was this week.


The Exiles will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, June 22nd and ending on Sunday, June 24th. The game will be held at Camp Rolling Hills (Lodges) at the IG location of Silver Springs. It's $40 to PC and is free to NPC. As always, this includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday.

NOTE: THIS GAME IS BEING HELD AT A NEW CAMPSITE. Well, at least new to Exiles.

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 15, 2012

Update on LARP Ohio

I know you all deserve an explanation on why posts from me have been so scarce lately.  Since the beginning of this blog, I've endeavored to have a post a day (with the occasional fallouts).  That's quite a grueling pace for a casual blog, but I felt it was worthwhile.  I had a lot of things that I wanted to say, had an itch to write, and really enjoyed it.

But the truth is, I can't keep up with the grueling pace anymore.  It's bad enough to post every day when you have a lot to say.  But it seems I have already said most of what I wanted to say.  Between this blog and my writing on, I've done more than 400 posts on the subject of LARP.  That's quite a brain dump.

In addition to that, a lot of my tastes in LARP has changed since I started this blog.  In the GNS Spectrum, I've gone from what I would consider to be extreme Gamist to primarily Simulationist.  However, I think that most of my readership is Gamist/Narrativist, which makes writing for my audience a bit difficult.

Finally, I do think I'm hitting a bit of a null in my LARPing career, and may just need to let the LARP part of my life take a bit of a backseat.  I spent a lot of energy on it these past few years (particularly on NERO in the past 9 months), and I'm a little burned out on it.

So what does that mean to me?

Well, it means that LARP Ohio won't be posting daily anymore.  Of course, with my absence the past few weeks, I'm sure this isn't much of a surprise to anyone.

However, we are not shutting down.

I still plan on doing "The Week In LARP" posts, because I think they're just too helpful, and will occasionally make posts when I feel something is particularly post worthy (or if I have something on my mind).  In addition, Karin will keep giving us wonderful, thoughtful, and relevant posts.  So make sure you come by and read them on Thursdays!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Communication is Key

Okay, so, I'm going to rant.  I know I probably shouldn't, but what's posting once a week on a local blog about LARPing for if not for the occasional venting session?  I will try to make it a little useful, since I think the situation also illustrates some important do's & don't's in communication that apply easily to a hobby situation at LARP.

Here's the story, which you could skip and just skim the main points below :)  For my Hubatron's 30th this year, I wanted to get him something really awesome.  I remembered a leather cowl we'd seen, and ordered it about 5-6 weeks out.  No problem, they said, we're starting work now and it should be there soon.  Great!  It should make it for his birthday!  2 weeks passed, and the birthday, but I'd ordered it hoping to make it to his party later, and there was still time.  I tracked them down - no problem, they said, it will be there!  The week of the party came, and I hadn't heard a thing.  After a few emails and calls, I finally heard from them and they said they had some troubles, and would ship it overnight with a free apology gift and confirm with me in the next 2 days.  Again, nothing. I waited, and tried them again.  And again, after multiple calls and emails, I got a hold of them and asked if they could at least send it in time for the event he was going to in 2 weeks.  No problem, they said, we are so sorry, they said, it should be there.  As you can guess, it didn't arrive.  Only this time I had to tell him what it was so he didn't make himself a new cloth version.  At this point, not only was my triumphant gift late, now it was spoiled.  So sad. :( Again with the tracking them down, and so on, and again they assured me it would be there soon.

Of course, it didn't come.  And despite trying to get a hold of them, they've never returned my calls or emails since.  And I swear, I wasn't crazy mean or anything!!  :)  So now, here I am, present-less, and trying to think of what I can learn from the whole thing that might be useful. So here goes.

-Tell it Straight - I worked customer service, and it's a crummy job, and I don't like applying it to a volunteer situation.  But one thing I know is that you should still be courteous - and to under-promise but over-deliver.  I don't mean lie, I mean set up realistic expectations.  If you are running a game, don't promise your players things you aren't sure you can deliver on.  This goes for players too.  If you're making something for someone, or offering other help, be honest about what they can expect.  Even if it's just that you aren't sure you can make it to the game - if plot is running something around your character, it's good to let them know to have back-up ideas.  Even if you really think you can do X, take a minute to think about it before you set something in stone, and maybe build in a little wiggle room if you're not 100%.  You don't have to divulge every uncertainty, but let people know in advance that they may need alternatives if that's the case, and give plenty of notice so people can plan.  I think it's very easy to forget that other people are planning around you when you're in the middle of things.  LARPing is what we do to have fun on our free weekends, so people may be basing their good time on your help! :)

-Keep Up to Date - Things change, problems come up, and drama happens.  I feel bad that it might have happened to the company I ordered with. :(  And if they'd just let me know, I wouldn't feel so frustrated.  When things do come up, let people know.  Don't make them track you down, that just makes everyone more frustrated.  Even if it's not good news, most people would rather just know so they can adjust their plans.  So the sooner you know you have to cancel that event, or that you can't NPC as promised, the sooner you should send that email to tell people, if you can.  If you don't have time, or aren't up for it because of the situation, try to have someone else do it for you if needed.

-Be Clear - I have to take some of the blame for my situation, because I should have pushed to have things laid out from the start.  When you're communicating, make sure you are as clear as possible with the details.  Say what exactly you're looking for (this goes for props, plot requests, anything), any rewards desired/offered, any time limit you have, and so on.  It is hard, because we are all volunteers, and we need all the help we can get!  But if you need that one prop to look a certain way, or if you aren't okay with donating something with an uncertain reward, then set it up.  Be nice about it, but try not to leave room for misinterpretation that could lead to frustration.

I should also say that, in regards to my above rant-story, I didn't ever pay, so I'm not in too bad a spot :)  Even so, I'm not sure what to do.  Should I wait and still hope that it'll come, or go get something else and risk it coming and having to pay for both?  Make sure if you do get into a sticky situation to lay it out as well as you can so everyone knows what they need to do with whatever fallout there may be.

-Consider an Apology - Like I said, things happen, and sometimes they're not anyone's fault, so not every situation needs a big apology, or any at all.  But if it's appropriate, think about how you could make up for a mistake.  Maybe it's some kind of goblin reward, maybe it's making an extra set of claws, maybe it's offering to do extra NPC time.  Or just saying you're sorry :)  Just make sure you can follow the first point here.  Most times you don't have to do anything extra, but if you offer it, it does make it worse to be told you'll get something more and then not get that either.

Although, I admit, that cowl is beautiful and I still really want it for him :)  All us LARPers are usually willing to forgive any mistakes that are made so we can get back to doing what we enjoy - we should just remember to be courteous in cleaning things up so that no bridges are burned.

Okay, there you have it!  What communications tips do you have?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Week In LARP - June 11th

This Week In LARP

As some of you have probably noticed, I've cut back on posting.  I'll give more information in another post.


WAR will be hosting a 4-day event this weekend starting on Wednesday, June 13th and ends on Sunday, June 17th. The game will be held at Lewis Arboretum at the IG location of Rage Hollow. It's $20 per day to PC Wed/Thurs, and $25 per day to PC Fri/Sat ($10 off per day with a good NPC ratio) and is free to NPC.

NERO Elkins will be hosting a 2-day event this weekend starting on Friday, May 18th and ends on Sunday, May 20th. The game will be held at BSA Camp Mahonegon (WV). It's $50 to PC ($41 if you prepay) and is $10 to NPC ($1 if you prepay).

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 7, 2012

Pre-Registration: Hot or Not?

Our little LARP, Exiles, just launched a pre-registration program before our last event.  There's a whole 'nother series of why and how, but it occurs to me that I've seen such systems come and go in other places and I wonder why?

The benefits for the game runners are that they know who's coming, so they can plan encounters, logistics, and even food.  For the players, they can streamline their check-in process, don't have to worry about bringing cash, and give Staff a heads up that they'll be attending so that everything is ready for them.  All great, things, right?

I've seen games offer rewards for prereg.  Sometimes it's money off the event fee, sometimes it's goblins or their equivalent.  Even better!

But just based on casual observation, it seems that the system isn't used as often as I'd think.  A lot of people don't know until the last minute if they can make it.  Or they can't scrape together the money to pay in advance.  Or they just don't feel like pre-registering :)  The rewards, where they're the goblins or equivalent, are set at a level to be fair, and that fair amount doesn't seem to be enough to really tempt people. Even offering a discount for the event fee didn't seem to work as well as I'd expect where I saw it at WAR.  People just have situations where they can't commit to a hobby in advance, and pre-registering isn't something that works for them.  If they do it, it looked like it was more for the convenience than the reward in a lot of cases, especially if the game doesn't offer that game fee discount (which can be hard to do for smaller LARPs).

On the back end, setting up the system can be a bit of a pain, as it requires a little more effort from your financial person to monitor everything coming and going at all times.  And it might even cause unnecessary work for Staff who prep logistics or plot, only to have the player not make it.

Financially, using something like PayPal incurs a fee for every transaction.  For your average event of $40, it's actually around $2 that is lost.  Add that to any discount, and games can lose a considerable amount.

So then, is pre-registration worth it?  Maybe it wasn't, and that's why games have dropped it! 

I like the idea of knowing who's coming, especially at a small game where every individual can make a big difference to our plans.  But I wonder the best way to make a system effective.

What do you think?  Does your game use a pre-reg system?  Is it effective?  Do you use it?  What do you like about it?

I'm curious to see how things work at other games!!