Ritual of Bonding

This post was something I kept in my pocket for sometime.  I mostly forgot about it, but also have been struggling with some social anxiety at game.  In typical fashion, I finally say “fuck this anxiety, do the thing”.  My rusty brain dredged this up, thinking, this should be something in-character.  I wanted this to be IC so I have an excuse to do this at any time during game.  I think I have a good IC reason my child-elf Gaeden to initiate it now.  I’m writing this as more of the script I intend to go off of.

Would you like to come perform a ritual of bonding with me and some other friends?  I warn you, it can be hard for some people, maybe even dangerous.  I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

Gather around, please.  Form a circle, and go ahead and sit on the pillows.  Try to sit next to people you know, as that can help with the power of the ritual.  It’s not critical, in fact, it’s important that the ritual always include somebody new.  Bonding means nothing if everybody already is bonded outside the ritual.

As we start this ritual, allow yourself to relax.  Take a deep breath in, and let it out slowly.  Take in the people in the circle.  Include them in your awareness, and try to think of yourself in each of their places.  Think of what they could be thinking or feeling.

<pulling out ritual athame>

I cannot remember much of my life.  I do remember that it was very hard for the effendal to form meaningful relationships.  Almost everybody in your immediate family or homestead was much older or younger than you.  They were alien, as you were strange and unfathomable to them.

You could only find peers from other families or groves.  This ritual, the ritual of bonding, was a way to come together with your peers, and form a lasting bond.

I will begin the ritual, and then I will pass this knife to you on my left.  In each case, you will face the person on your left, and join your free hand to one or both of theirs.  You need to look them directly in the eyes.  You can hold the knife three different ways.

If you hold the point down, you are announcing that you will be speaking of the Past.  You must speak of an event in the past between you and the other person that was important to you.

<ooc>This event becomes canon if the person on the left agrees, but they are welcome to veto it, with a “no, but”. In other words, this is a collaborative experience, and both players need to be on board.  Once there is agreement, the event becomes canon.</ooc>

If you hold the point up, you are announcing that you will be speaking of the Future.  You must speak of an event that you want to happen between you and the other person.

If you hold the point towards you, you are announcing that you will be speaking to your Heart.  You must reveal a truth about yourself that has been kept secret.



Approaching Role-Playing like I approach fighting.

Fact #1

I have a lot philosophical ranting about LARP fighting.  I can go on forever talking about, and I love getting technical either about techniques, weapon styles and meta-tactics.  I just love fighting, and I love codifying fighting as well.

Fact #2

I’m a mediocre role-player.  I used to be abyssmal, especially in table-top.  I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way, but I can struggle with it.

What I want to do:

I want to develop a “role-playing” style, much like a fighting style.  The more I think about it, the more I think “hey, the concept of a stance – how does that translate into role-playing?”, that excites me.

I feel I can become a better role-player on this journey of dissection.

The analogies between fighting and role-playing seem to be something that I can build on, but the first thing that really needs to be defined is the win-condition.

Win Conditions

Fighting Win Conditions (for PCs)

  • The NPCs are dead
  • The NPCs are really dead
  • The NPCs are dead and/or fleeing
  • The NPCs are dead, and we didn’t spend a lot of resources accomplishing it.
  • You held off the NPCs while some of your guys did the MacGuffin.

In addition to all this, it’s not a win if it’s “dirty” — i.e. you had to cheese your way through it (either fighting cheese or rules cheese), and therefore made it unfun for the NPCs or your fellow PCs.

Fighting Win Conditions (for NPCs)

  • You got the PCs to have fun beating you, and you had fun along the way.

I have a bunch of old posts about this specifically.

Role-playing Win Conditions

  • Convince
    • Either you convince somebody of something (“sell me this armor for X gold”) or you allow yourself to be convinced of something (“yes, I agree that all humans must be eradicated”)
  • Share Story
    • Either you bring somebody else into your story, or you allow yourself to be brought into somebody else’s story.
  • Share Lore
    • Either you impart knowledge, or you absorb it.

Like the fighting win conditions, these cannot be “dirty”.  You must be cognizant of what is important to somebody out-of-game, and try to cater to that.




Post-LARP post: Dystopia Rising Camper, April 15, 2017

I had gone to DR games before, but only for a short bit of NPCing.  This time I finally went as a player.  That me with the bone crown and the crap on my face.


The folks at the game were amazing.  I played a hard-to-love character, and I did have a  handful of people that knew me from other games, so they were welcoming.  However, there were TONS of people I did not know before this game, and they quickly got into RP with me.

I was really impressed by the costuming.  In my previous forays, I didn’t get to see the really nice stuff, and I focused on the weapons/armor.   My initial impression was that the costuming was ugly and the weapons seemed low-quality home-made.

Getting to spend more time in the player base, my impression changed on the costuming. The theme takes some getting used to.  I’m used to pretty costuming, and that is not the ascetic here.  However, the effort and detail is obvious and awesome.   Look at the guy in the picture next to me. *

The local DR community seems to have a thing against store-bought weapons.   I don’t recall seeing a single store-bought weapon while there, which is

There’s no shortage of tradeskill/crafting actions to do, and it appears to consume a good portion of most folks larp-time.  I started in tard-mode with no trade-skills, but still had no problems filling my day with RP and meeting people.

It was also fun to be in fights where everything could one-shot me.   I had to bring my A-game to melee, and I still got dumped by point-effects.

*I have never met this guy in the photo.  I might play a whole year and never meet him.  The game has 150+ participants, and there’s probably dozens of new and returning players each game.

There’s a VERY interesting angle to think about here socially.  The other Socal LARPs are not this large, and I’ve been able to learn the majority of players after a few events.  I will probably never be able to do that at DR.  What does that mean for the character of a LARP?



“machine-gunning” in boffer-LARP

There’s a lot of ideas out there over the years on how to deal with “people hitting too quickly” in boffer LARP.  This is called machine-gunning, drum-rolling, etc.

“90 degree rule”

IFGS had the “90 degrees” rule to deal with the issue.  The weapon had to retract to at least a 90 degree angle for a swing to count.  It is fairly simple, and it’s pretty easy to know when somebody is not complying.  However, you could not determine if it was fair if you were being struck from behind.

afaik, the 90 degree rule is locally used by RR and Wyrd to this day.

There’s two cons to this system.

Con #1:  The 90 degree rule promotes the “newb rush” from florentine.

The newb rush works as follows:

  • Body rush your target, taking 0-1 hits on the way in
  • Hammer your opponent because you have superior arm position or shorter weapons.
  • Profit

Con #2:  The 90 degree rule favors weapon skill.

If you are skilled with the 90-degree rule, it doesn’t slow you down in the slightest.  You learn to work with it.

Lots of folks would say “wouldn’t this be a pro for you Scott, since you are a stick jock?”.  I say it is not.  There are too many barriers for people deciding to get into foam murder, and a system that favors the veteran fighter is a Bad Thing™.  It’s not a huge thing, but it’s a con.

“1 second rule”

Different variants of this rule exist, but they mostly boil down to “You can attack only once per second”.

There are often exceptions for florentine.  There are often not exceptions for feints, or clarifications for blocked blows.

Locally, this is used by DK & ET.

This is a pretty good system.  The “one second rule” could use clarifications for feints/blocked attacks (i.e. feints don’t count against the timer, blocked blows do).  Because of the lack of clarifications on blocked blows, you are highly motivated to do the “bounce and tap” technique.  This is performed by striking the weapon/shield, and then striking the body clean with a short retraction.  Most folks will take that hit, since it felt “clean”.

Unfortunately, both DK & ET are not combat heavy games, and they are very heavy with no-hit binaries.  In way the pendulum is swung too far in these games to allow everybody to participate in melee at the expense of combat length/robustness.   That is clearly a Good Thing™ for them, as their player bases are crazy enthusiastic.

“3 swing rule”

This rule states you can take 3 swings and then must disengage.

This system is used by TM and DR locally.

I am a huge advocate for this system, as it finds a great middle ground for allowing all levels of fighters to participate.

The only draw back is that the newb-rush is alive and well.  Both games have many “flo-bros” using short weapons, and body rushing to get their hits in.  The disengage requirements are rarely enforced in the heat of battle.

<theory>Why these all might be failing</theory>

I think these all are making the incorrect initial approach.

Why are these rules in place?  In the order of importance from least to most, here’s my take.

  1. Safety
  2. Realism
  3. Enjoyment

Safety  — This is a concern, but a minor one.  Striking somebody very rapidly isn’t a direct safety concern.  It’s the fact that no limitations to strike speed promotes unsafe fighting behavior (charging/hugging/other douchery)

Realism —  This is usually the reason stated when people talk about machine-gunning rules.  “You cannot swing a real sword that fast and still do damage”.  That’s true.  However, nobody wants realism.  They want verisimilitude.   They want it to feel real.

Enjoyment — This is the reason NEVER stated, but it is the most important.  I’m crazy good with combat numbers and doing math in my head (10+ years of IFGS with armor subtractions will do that).  I did more combat NPCing than anybody I know.  Here’s the truth – I rarely had the numbers right.  It wasn’t possible with all the crap hitting me.  I did the best I could, and felt horrible when I screwed up.

Also, almost all adjudication of machine-gunning rules falls on the defender.  The defender is forced to call “you are hitting too fast”, or “you aren’t disengaging”.  This is really unfun to be forced to either do this adjudication, or get killed.

That’s why I’m thinking the paradigm might be better if the “one second rule” was applied not the attacker, but to the defender.

My thought is that as a defender, I am expected to take only one attack per second, regardless of how many attackers I have.   I can choose to take more if I can process it, but I’m not required to do so.

This takes the onus off of the defender for adjudication.

I think this would greatly increase the “drama” of a big bad NPC fight.  All the PCs would still wolf-pack him, but they would know that if they all started to hit him that a lot of their hits wouldn’t count.

I also think this would greatly favor the non-veteran.  Don’t get me wrong, the non-vet is still going to die to the stick-jock.  However, the non-vet will get more screen time, as it will take the stick-jock MUCH longer to kill them.



LARP FAQ — How can I make my favorite LARP better?

I love this LARP thing, how can I make the games better?

The best thing you can do is to not be a PC, and volunteer in some fashion.  That’s the answer you probably did not want to hear.  Figure out what you are good at, and contribute that to the game you love the most:

  • Fighting as an NPC
  • Roleplaying as an NPC
  • Performing Plot/ST duties
  • Making costumes
  • Making props
  • Making weapons
  • Cooking meals
  • Providing physical labor (setup, takedown and cleanup)

All of these things must be done, and contributing more than your mandatory NPC shift is a rewarding way to give back to the people you love.  

How can I make games better and still participate as a PC?

You can make the games better by improving the experience of your fellow PCs.  There’s two ways to do that, both of which attack elements that reduce the experience for your fellow PCs.

#1 Reduce OOC chat

When you see another player talking OOC, there’s a great way to indicate this, and not break character.  Approach them and tell them “You look thirsty, you should drink some water”.*

This is an IC way to curb OOC talk.  You will likely need to explain the signal with OOC talk the first few times, but hopefully it catches in your group quickly.  Suggest it to your plot team to include in their “listen up” or other documents.

Variant:  You can say to the OOC offender “I heard somebody talking about you in <the place that is not here, but is close>.”  This is a cue for them to go to that place, and role-play with people there.  That person can use the “Build Story” gesture when they get there (see below) for lack of anything else to do when they arrive.

#2 Reduce Downtime

Downtime is the bane of fun.  If you google “downtime in LARP” you’ll see a bunch of pages that tell you to bring a game to play to pass the time.  That’s straight up bullshit.  Nobody drives 2 hours into the woods and spends $500 on a costume to play Viking Tiddlywinks.  Those games remove you and the other players from role-playing and/or action.   Those games also suck.  We have better games, like Pac-man, naked Twister, and um.. LARP.  Here’s much better options, from worst to best.

  1. Volunteer for an extra shift as an NPC.
  2. Fight / practice with other PCs.  Very few games have mechanics for “practice” weapons.  Who cares? Make that shit up with “Forsooth, I have procured safe practice weapons and enchanted them with bouncy magic.”
  3. Make up your own plot between you and another player.  I posted something similar for a pre-game ritual, but this is a process that would occur during the flow of a game.  Among the common calls such as “Clarify” and hand signals, such as “hand on head”, I think something should be added that can only add to games.  I call it “Build Story”.  

The “Build Story” gesture


This gesture is presenting an open palm, face up, and saying something like

“I heard a rumor you were talking about me.”
“I cannot help but notice you looking at me strangely.”
“Haven’t we met before?”

The meaning of this gesture/overture is “I would like to create a pretense to role-play with you.”

Both participants can then work it out.  The participants should probably take an OOC sidebar, especially if they don’t know each other characters well enough to just start rolling with it.  This is fine, just do it discreetly without disrupting anybody else’s IC mojo.

The two of you decide collaboratively about something either in the past or the future of your characters.


One player describes an event that occurred between the two characters. This event becomes canon if the other person agrees, but they are welcome to veto it, with a “no, but”. In other words, this is a collaborative experience, and both players need to be on board.  Once there is agreement, the event becomes canon.

First Player <Raggorn>:   Raggorn met Thornus on the road, and flirted with him.  It didn’t turn out well.

Second Player <Thornus>:  Hrmm… I think Thornus would have flirted with Raggorn first, but it was lost in translation.  Perhaps they both are into each other, but the culture shock is in the way?  And when I say culture shock, they are too busy trying to one-up each other.

First Player <Raggorn>:  Awesome!  That totally happened!


The first player describes an interaction they would like to happen in this game.  This has the same rules as the “past” above, requiring consensus from both players.

First Player <Raggorn>:  That last game we never got around to resolving our attraction.  I would like us to start flirting this game, but nothing more.

Second Player <Thornus>:  Yep, shy flirting with threats of violence sounds perfect.

In both cases, the players then can leave the OOC sidebar, and use your new canon to roleplay that downtime into oblivion.

This blog post has some ideas for character story/relationships.

Obviously, this gesture won’t catch on unless you make it work for your LARP.  Until then, you’ll have to be more overt and ask people to step aside OOC, and make your proposal.

*Full Disclosure, the “You should drink some water” cue is not my idea.  I read it in one of the hundreds of larp rule sets I’ve devoured.   Unfortunately, I cannot recall which LARP that was, otherwise I would give credit where it was due.

Thrusting Weapons (101) for Socal Larps

What games can I thrust in?

Thrusting is not allowed in both Twin Mask (TM) and Dystopia Rising (DR).

Thrusting is allowed in Dying Kingdoms (DK), Empty Thrones (ET) and Rendallir Remembered (RR).

What consitutes a thrust-safe weapon?

No latex weapon is thrust safe.

DK/ET require that the weapon tip cannot fit in an eye socket and have 1″ of open cell foam. This is a minimum requirement, and I highly recommend at least 3″ wide tip, and at least 4″ of foam (mixed opened and closed cell) between the core and the tip.

I have a thrust-safe weapon, how can I thrust safely?

There are two primary ways to hurt somebody with a thrust.

    1. You thrust them in the face/throat.
      solution: Avoid thrusting to the sternum, shoulder or collarbone. These thrusts are likely to get blocked up into the face, especially by newbs. Very tall people may get away with downward thrusts to these zones, but newbs will still manage to block the thrust into their head.
    2. You thrust them in their center of mass as they lunge at you. The target’s entire bodyweight goes into the thrust.
      solution: Thrusts should be quick jabs, with none of your body weight behind them. They should be done with a loose arm, and a hammer/”ok” grip (only thumb and forefinger gripping tightly). This will allow your arm to move backward if the target lunges into the thrust.
      A pistol grip on the weapon requires that you grip the weapon tightly, and constricts your forearm and elbow. A pistol grip is great for many other shots, and definitely gives you more precision with your thrusts. However, it causes issues when the target lunges into the thrust.

Forced Character Retirement in LARP (addendum)

Wow.. it’s been two months since the last post after a good long stretch of regular posts.  I had work bust out with dual-wield responsibilities, and I’m only now pulling my head out from that.

Anyway, I’ve had some further thoughts on the retirement, albeit tangential.

The normative here in Socal is to reward folks that perform non-player volunteer work with some kind of reward points.   In most cases, these reward points act identically to normal character build points.  Volunteer for us, and you can be a more powerful character, faster.  Sounds like a great deal, and it’s a lot cheaper on the wallet (as volunteer work typically is free, or has a nominal charge).

Nevertheless, these character-applicable rewards are a punishment when combined with forced character retirement.  In return for volunteering, you get less story.

Now, some systems here alleviate this by allowing the reward points to be applicable to non-advancing goals.  Get gold, influence, downtimes, etc.  That’s one solution.

I’d promote another.  Those reward points are not counted towards your retirement cap, or at least the reward points that are sourced solely from volunteer work.  Games are just better when there’s a small cadre of npc-only bodies, and there should be a motivation for that, if only as a turn-taking incentive.

Forced Character Retirement in LARP

Forced character retirement is the normative in Socal larps.  For those unfamiliar, there’s two parts to this concept:

  1. You may not have a character over X points.
  2. When you reach X points, you get a retirement story arc that makes your character go bye-bye.

I come from a non-retirement larp tradition myself, with characters being “eternal”, so I have some insight into the contrast.

Retirement is marketed that it accomplishes two goals.

  1. Forced retirement mitigates the power disparity between old-timers and newbies.
  2. Forced retirement makes sure that the story screen time doesn’t center around the old-timers.

Both of these marketing bylines are lies.


In the first case, smoothing the power disparity is not accomplished, at least not here in the 5+ LARPs resident in Socal.  Characters that are half-way to retirement are absurdly more powerful than starting characters, both vertically and horizontally.   As a result, content that isn’t silo’d (i.e. most of the content) is a cakewalk for the folks past the halfway point.  The resulting “mishmash” of content is error-corrected on the backend, by making death nearly painless.    Even worse, forced retirement systems often give insane “retirement benefits” to characters, giving access to powers unattainable on the first playthrough.

In the second case, every LARP will always have cliques, and the Socal LARPs are no exception.  Forced character retirement has no real effect on this.  Storytellers will cater to their friends, giving them more content, regardless of their character’s power level.  People make their post-retirement characters often even more connected to existing characters that are their friends.  We’re all baboons, we’re just baboons that dress up like elves and wack each other with foam-sticks.

Nevertheless, I believe character retirement does accomplish non-marketed goals that have immense value.

The “meme” of a Character Arc 


The benefit of forced retirement is the introduction of the concept of a character arc early to people.  The game I came from resultingly had no concept of character arc, and players needed to discover it on organically.  Many never discovered it, defining their characters, but defining them without the meta-agency to say “this is where the character is going”.    Forced character retirement should be marketed as “forced character arc”, since this is the real benefit of the mechanic.

But Scotty, should forced retirement or forced character arc really exist?

No, but there should be a point cap, and there should be a voluntary option to retire when you want to start a new story.  Perhaps, depending on logistics, alt characters could co-exist with capped characters.  However, if somebody wants to play their character another five years at the point cap, let them.

I make this point, because I believe that the value of LARP to a lot of people is that it is a place where they can feel powerful.  I believe that many nerds go through life feeling powerless in so many places.  They feel powerless to find a good job, a lover, a boyfriend, friends that aren’t shits, etc.  However, folks can come to LARP and feel an amazing amount of agency and power.

Making people feel powerful in a LARP shouldn’t be “turned off” without good reason.  I don’t believe there are good reasons (see above), ergo, it should not be turned off.










Post-LARP post: Twin Mask Camper – December 11-13, 2015

Twin Mask once again sets the bar for LARP in Socal.  As usual, it had almost constant content.  Often there were two mods running simultaneously.  This amount of content could be a bucket of fail if the content was pointless.  However, this content is fresh, challenging, and fun for both sides of the fence.

I attended this game as a perma-NPC, like I have in the past.  The previous game had been a stick-jock nirvana, with constant combat in the short time I was there.

This game was less combat, but the fights were still fun and awesome.  I love the system, since it gives me enough screen time as a crunchy to feel like I was present.

However, I got two amazing non-combat RP opportunities in this game as well, and I’m really excited about slipping into these two NPC roles in future games.   I tend to be given the big-bad combat guys, whose interactions tend to be yelling and yelling.  These two new roles had plenty of hooks, and were frienemies of the players.  Perfect!

Last, but certainly not least, I’m learning more names and faces, and making more friends.

The only thing to knock about this game was the cold and the wind.  I was smart and got a bitchin’ reversible cloak.  It wasn’t as hard to fight in as I thought it would be.  In fact, there was one fight that the PCs simply couldn’t hit my arms, and kept hitting the cloak instead, much to their chagrin.

Dreamship Icarus – The World

With the success of my xmas parlor larp, I’ve talked with Jesse.   I’m starting the development of something we can run in our home every few months.  This is the first step.


2022 – First mention of “global heat spiral” is made by a U.S. President.   Global warming takes a previously unimagined spike, increasing global mean temperatures by 10 degrees over the next decade.  The UN previously considered a 3 degrees to be catastrophic, and expected that to occur over several decades, if at all.

Many island nations are lost, and coastlines fall into the sea.  Massive deforestation and skyrocket food costs ensue.  

2033 – Dr. Rica Leon of NASA first discovers the first applications of dream-drive dislocation while performing experiments on Skylab 9.  The dream-drives enable biotic-intelligence enhanced individuals to fold space-time within their enhanced subsconscious.  A new space race ensues.

2044 – First manned round-trip expedition to another solar system by the Bhaozhai 15.  [The Bhaozhai 1-14 missions were never heard from again.]  This success makes the WuXing corporation the highest valued company in the world by a factor of ten.

2055 –  Sky elevators are now common throughout Earth.  These elevators drastically lower the cost to break orbit, creating a new opportunity for dream-shuttles to reach other planets.  The WuXing corporation controls most of the mass exodus from the dying earth.  This results in many planetary colonies being nothing but indentured servants.  They work only to mine ore and grow food for sale at enormous markup to more affluent planets.  All of this results in WuXing becoming the defacto galactic government.

2066 – A great revolution of the “slave planets” rises, and then falls in but the span of a year.  The final blow, the Battle of Hasting’s World, crushes the leadership of the rebellion.

2077 – The current year.  Earth is almost entirely abandoned except to scrap crews and a few subsistence indigents.

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