Archive for the category “boffer”

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.

6 Scene Beat Sheet for extended LARP mods (Scene #2)

Scene 2 – Complicate That Shit

goal(s): establish the villain, up the stakes horizontally severely
element(s):  role-play, puzzle, physical challenge

This is a non-combat encounter, and it’s goal is to up the stakes horizontally.  The best way to describe this is to give you the typical scene early in a novel or movie.

The hero has what appears to be a simple problem.  

“This mayor hired me to check out that graveyard where scary sounds are being heard from.”

The hero appears to solve the problem.

“I arrived at the graveyard, and sword-punched a bunch of zombies in the head.  Problem solved!”

The hero breaks something along the way, or discovers that the problem is way more complicated than previously supposed.

“All of the zombies went down easily. We could clearly see their eerie green soul juice float away towards that creepy tower up the hill.”


Overlap with Scene #1

This scene can use the same site as scene #1, it just occurs sequentially afterwards.  In the above example, the fight with the zombies is scene #1.  Scene #2 would be something mysterious about the zombies (strange tattoos, glowing gems, , possessive spirits, scroll fragments) for the players to interact with.  It can be obvious the PCs screwed up and made things worse, or left ambiguous for them to argue over.

Introduce the Villain

If there is not a singular villain (the EBG) established yet, now is the time.   The existence of “evil bad guy” is a ring in the nose of PCs they will rarely ignore.  Putting a name to the “face” is just that important.  It’s hard to hate something you cannot name, or a nebulous organization.

example: the Necromancer Evilbadgai possesses the fallen zombie corpses from a distance, and warns that players of their certain doom if they try to disrupt his plan.  The players have to wack-a-mole (err.. zombie) to shut him up, perhaps with other players arguing with them to stop chopping up the zombies because they want to talk to Evilbadgai.

Make this Scene Have Flesh

You will want this scene to take up screen time.  I’ll say this over and over, but treking everybody out into the woods (after hours of driving, costume prep, etc.) for a grand total of 20 minutes of content is not cool.  The same goes for having a scene where only one PC interacts, and the rest play swap the but thumb.  Yes, those other larps you play in do it all the time.  Slavery isn’t cool either, and everybody used to do it.  


The best way to increase screen time is to adhere to Rule #2 from the first post of this series (i.e. make sure every PC is involved).

Whatever your non-combat macguffin is here, make it involve the efforts and interactions of as many PCs as possible.  The resulting complication and coordination will become a content creation machine.

example:  Evilbadgai is able to speak with the dead relatives and ancestors of the PCs.  He has seen them coming for days from his interrogations of the spirits of the dead.  As a result, he is prepared, and will torment and vex them with the status of their loved ones (or enemies) in the afterlife.

Transition to Scene #3

As always, you must have a clean transition to Scene #3.  You very likely need Scene #3 to be in a different site than Scene #2.

sidetopic:  communication channels

Whenever you increase the stakes, you are performing an information transfer from you to the PCs.   You’ll want to figure out how to best do this transfer.  You can just drop a “forsooth, you hear drums in the distance.  It sounds like the ritual has begun.”  In some cases, that’s the right thing™.  How you convey the stakes is just as important as what the stakes are.  

  • Forsooth from the Storyteller (or an ST-enabled NPC)
  • Lore from a NPC
  • a written document

Each of these information channels has strengths and weaknesses, which I’ll wax about here.

Forsooth from the Storyteller
The Storyteller does an info dump.

pros cons
cheapest production cost Usually too fast, so it isn’t content
highest consistency
you guarantee that the PCs get the info
Usually boring, as it is an info dump
Breaks the “show don’t tell” rule

Lore from a NPC
An NPC does an info dump, or is available to be questioned.  The typical here is either the Mr. Johnson, or a captive NPC.

pros cons
This is slow, so it’s content. Medium production cost – you must prepare the script and info for the NPC
 Best role-playing interaction. Worst consistency
The NPC could be killed, the PCs could not ask, the NPC can screw up the important points of information, the PCs can miss it easily
 Can act as your non-combat macguffin itself, rather than the result of the macguffin  Requires a reliable NPC

Written document
You have a written document to be recovered by the PCs.  This is a scroll on an NPC, or a book on a table.

Almost as consistent as a Storyteller Forsooth.
It can be missed if the PCs don’t search the appropriate location.
 This has the highest production cost
 This is take-away content, to be referred to later by the PCs.
Ergo, the ST doesn’t need to repeat themselves.
 Best method for complex information
 Best method for foreshadowing
(i.e. the most likely to be remembered by the PCs)

6 Scene Beat Sheet for extended LARP mods (Scene 0)

I’ve been working on a 12 scene beat sheet for line-course LARP games.  As part of the process, I decided I wanted to have a 6 scene version, since that is likely to be a lot more appropriate for 99% of the LARPs out there, and I’ll likely use it as well.

For a quick reference, this is a very meta outline for a mod, describing what happens in each scene in broad strokes.  It provides a skeleton, and it’s the detail that adds the meat to it.

There’s a few rules I’m adhering to here.

Rule #1 — Any scene must be a full scene.  It must include one (or more) of the following:

  • Provide a place for PC development
    • confront or challenge a PC’s goal/belief
    • introduce new world canon related to a PC
  • Establish or increase the stakes
    • horizontally increase the stakes with complexity
    • vertically increase the stakes with severity
    • z-axis increase the stakes by involving more PC, or making it more personal to a PC
  • Playground elements (i.e. simple fun)
    • There’s something “live-action” related to the encounter, which is something for everybody to interact with physically.  This is commonly a combat, but can be physical challenge/puzzle.  These elements are like sugary foods, they are great in moderation, but you need something in-between them to cleanse the palate.

Rule #2 — Always try to involve the entire subset of players with every scene

I can best describe this rule by the classic violations of the rule.

  • The role-playing scene with a single NPC, which will probably be dominated by just a few PCs.
  • The puzzle scene that can only be interacted with by a single player at a time.

Without further ado, here’s the first “beat”, Scene #0.

Scene (0) – Pre-Game Conflict Intro

goal(s):  introduce the conflict, identify the characters involved.
element(s):  role-play, exposition


This doesn’t necessarily need to be a scene.  This is the introduction of the conflict.  Ideally this is pre-game with email based “lore” about the conflict, and identifying the players that will be involved.

However, without pre-game lore, this becomes an additional scene by necessity.   In the common parlance of a world course game, this is the hook scene.

In the context of hook scene, this is usually the single NPC that comes to the camp, has a problem and asks for help with that problem.  This does accomplish the minimal goals, but it breaks both rules #1 and #2.

All too often, the NPC is somebody the players have never met, and the conflict is something the players don’t care about.  The players play along, since it’s the content, and they want the content.  However, kicking it up into a full scene takes just a simple detail.  Simply include something from one character’s background.

There is a simple twist to really kick it up a notch, and it has several side benefits.  It does require a kick-ass NPC that can adlib.

(1)  The conflict of the mod should relate directly to a PC.  The low-hanging fruit here is to have the bad guys be the bad guys for a certain PC.

(2)  The “Mr. Johnson” NPC enters the camp, and starts talking to people.  The NPC does NOT approach to the target PC.  When he talks to people, Mr. Johnson may or may not discuss the conflict.  Just as importantly, the Mr. Johnson asks about the PC he is talking to, and relationships the PC has with others.    Let them infodump a bit, as everybody loves to talk about their character.

(3)  Eventually, the conflict leaks back the the “PC that cares”.  If not, the Mr. Johnson can prempt the action by approaching that PC.  It’s there that the “hire offer” comes.  At this point, the Mr. Johnson has hopefully talked to a small subset of players.  Assuming you are not targeting the mod for the entire playerbase, this can be conveniently is about the number of players you intend for the mod, as well as the power level of PCs.

(4)  The Mr. Johnson should not immediately say “ok, let’s go”.  Instead, they should be trepidatious about the motives, virtues and/or skills of the PCs.  Mr. Johnson should do an in-game version of the Circle.   Ask each character how they know each other.  It’s possible (if your game culture allows it) that the Mr. Johnson could take an ST role here and tell folks OOC that it is appropriate to make up something new here.

(5)  The Mr. Johnson, now appeased that the players are virtuous and/or skilled enough to tackle the conflict, presents the offer.  This is a great place to confront a PC’s goals and beliefs.  Are they in it for the gold, the glory, or the good?

(6)  Conveniently, this process takes 15-30 min, which gives time to set up the rest of the mod.  It’s also a pretty good chunk of content all on it’s own.


Whatever your conflict is, it’s important that it’s small to start with.  Not every adventure is about saving the universe from certain doom.  If your conflict starts at the top, it has nowhere to go but down.

Martial Arts experience in LARP

There’s a common question on LARP forums, with the basic phrasing of this–>

Will my experience with X translate to LARP fighting?  [For X insert – fencing, HEMA, SCA, martial arts, etc]

The simple answer to this question is no, it won’t translate.  In fact, it will likely frustrate the shit out of you in the short term.  

The slightly longer answer is, if you’re the best fighter at your SCA club or Amt/Bel/Dag park (or similar endeavor), you’re going to be pretty good at LARP.  You will need to be careful not to use the illegal stuff, and you’re still gonna get pwned by some skinny kid with half a neckbeard who looks like he hasn’t worked out a day in his life.

  • All of these styles involve hitting people hard.  LARP is about hitting soft.  
  • Most of these styles focus on only hitting first and then stopping.  LARP is about hitting more often than your opponent, not necessarily first.
  • Most of these styles involve hitting people in the head and groin.  LARP isn’t down with that.   
  • Most of these styles don’t allow partial blocks, and instead use powerful blocks.  LARP usually has pretty generous blocking rules that allow for no power or stability needed behind a block.
  • All of the weapon styles use weapons about twice the weight of LARP weapons, and with half the spring of LARP weapons.  LARP weapons as a result can strike, parry and riposte incredibly faster.  
  • I can almost guarantee you’ve only practiced in well-lit areas, with even footing, and plenty of room to move around.  LARP will put you in a dark rocky ditch surrounded by thorn bushes.
  • All of these styles involve very short bouts against single opponents.  LARP will have you fighting for hours against dozens of enemies.

The even longer answer is that there are aspects of all these styles that translate, but the simplest way to say it is “if the martial technique involves your arms, it doesn’t translate”.  The stuff you learned with your arms was designed for hundreds of years as a means to kill other people in real life.  This is the primary problem with the fencers/kendo people.  You might have success with the techniques at first.  The powerful attacks, body rushes and head fakes put people on guard against real physical harm, and you are landing blows as a result of their fear.  However, all of these are Dick Moves™ in LARP, and hopefully somebody corrects you early.  These are also a great way to get targeted every time by spell-casters and archers who conveniently find you every combat.

Here’s what does translate.

  • athleticism – being a fast runner, having mighty lungs and bearing a strong arm are going to go a LONG way in larp fighting, no matter where you get them.  Martial arts teaches you breathing as well (as in, don’t forget to do it) which is a key lesson.
  • footwork and body mechanics – These will translate to a degree, but will take some serious (but very fun) reworking.  
    • The TKD reverse punch has the same footwork and body mechanics as my fast/sneaky left leg lead, right hand leg shot.  
    • The florentine “pop-over” is very similar to a front leg thrust kick/roundhouse kick/spinning back kick combo.   
    • A good (fast) fencing lunge still works for everything below the waist, but you have to modify what you do with both hands.  The sword hand needs to cut, not thrust.  The off hand needs to guard rather than balance.

I read this recently

I immediately pocketed it in a folder for “there’s so much LARP commentary here”.  I ended up play Dead of Winter at a party this weekend, and some of what he was talking about finally grokked.

ROLL-MOVE or MOVE-ROLL when it comes to LARP

Most tabletop games (i.e. the root of most LARP design) are Move-Then-Roll systems.  You declare “I attack the orc” then roll to see if that attack was awesome or failboat.

LARP doesn’t have the space for a die roll.  However, I’ll posit that it’s the opposite, and it is effectively a Roll-Then-Move system in feel.  In a LARP, you have so many choices, but you almost always half the information on what is possible.  You know that you can swing that nerf-sword.  Often you have a pretty good idea if that attack will connect.  That’s the half you have.  You are almost always missing the other half, which is what the effect of that sword attack will really be.  The information flow isn’t there until you hit the guy enough for them to drop.

I think that’s a very important observation, the lack of information on “the other guy”.  Any measures that can fill in that gap are a Good Thing™.


Again, this was interesting in the context that dice don’t create the illusion, but the GM.  In most cases for my table-top GMing, I scare the players with meta-knowledge.  The fact that I as a GM detailed something makes them pay attention.  If it appears dangerous, they notice.  It isn’t the information itself, but how it is delivered.

In a LARP context, most people are scared by the meta knowledge.  In this case, folks will very often pay attention to the NPCs in a combat.  If an NPC has a custom costume, they know effort went into that guy, and he’s probably a problem.  If the NPC is played by a notorious stick jock, and it’s the final battle, that guy isn’t going to be a pushover stats-wise.

There’s some LARPs out there that convey this information overtly with armbands.  I think this is great, and it’s great for story.  Yes, the immersionists will claim that a “red/pink/+52 headband doesn’t scare me.”  I get that.  However, they need to realize that it’s LARP.  They need to add the details in their imagination that that isn’t a goblin, it’s a huge giant with a 10′ club.

GNS Theory for LARP – part 4 – Realist

My previous posts have talked about the segmentation of LARP players, and placing their desires into neat little boxes based on the venerable GNS theory for RPGs.

I think that light-combat LARP needs to add R to the GNS. R is for Realist. LARP isn’t like other games (either table-top (TT) or CRPG). A TT game that is heavy Narrative is great.  Gamist players will either move away from it, pull it in gamist directions, or take it over. A computer game can be low narrative (Diablo) or high narrative (Mass Effect) and still have heavy gamist elements.  In other words, in other gaming mediums, it is easy to pick a corner of the GNS triangle and still be awesome.

Light-combat LARP cannot adjust to do this, because it needs a large group of people to work.  That’s the Realist part of the story. You can’t have those amazing Gamist or Narrativist moments without a large enough player-base to support it.

Because you need a large group there will always be members of the group that are coming in with different desires. Some of those desires are Gamist and some are Narrativist. A lot of people want the Social aspects of LARP, which doesn’t fit in a neat box. A lot of people want the combat, which can overlap with Gamist, but really can be it’s own thing of physical enjoyment. A lot of people differentiate their Narrativist desires. Some want to emphasize their internal narratives, some want to build small stories with just their RL friends, and others want to be at the center of all the plots they can wrangle for themselves.

As a result, I think everybody, players, plot and NPCs should be a Realist.  More importantly, they should proselytize the Realist attitude. The attitude shift should be “I recognize your desire to have X as valid, and will try to accommodate you. Help a bro out and give me Y when you can.” No more of powergamers looking at “rp’ers” as lesser creatures, and vice-versa. I believe that it’s this credo that can act as a coherent social contract of light-combat LARPers.

“The only wrong way to LARP is when your enjoyment is at the expense of the enjoyment of others.”

The Circle – a pre-game “ritual” for LARP players

I’ve adapted this OOG ritual from a “new campaign” mechanic that worked very well for me in table-top.

As will be obvious shortly, this is something best suited for small groups of players.  For world-course players, I believe this will be a great tool for small in-game groups, especially those that are adding new members.

Everybody forms up a circle facing inward.  It’s probably best to have people sit, since this might take awhile.  Determine one person to start.


On each person’s turn, they look to the person on their left.  Then they state one of the following “THE PAST” or “THE FUTURE”:

The active player describes an event that occurred between the active player’s character, and the character of the player on the left. 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.

Active Player <Ragga>:   Ragga met Thorna on the road, and flirted with her.  It didn’t turn out well.

Left-hand Player <Thorna>:  Hrmm… I think Thorna would have flirted with Ragga 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.

Active Player <Ragga>:  Awesome!  That totally happened!

The active 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.

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

Left-hand Player <Thorna>:  Yep, shy flirting with threats of violence sounds perfect.

During the circle, it’s okay for the players and the GM to make suggestions.  However, do this only if it is somebody’s turn and they are drawing a blank on what to suggest.  The GM, being privy to the plot, has a lot of power here to suggest some very telling interactions.

GNS Theory for LARP – part 3 – Simulationist

The core goal of simulationist play is for the game to feel “real”.  Understandably, very few LARPers in light-combat games view themselves as simulationist.  It’s a much more common view in the medium-combat games (Amt/Bel/Dag), and those games address the simulationist view more directly systemically.  Nevertheless, there is a simulationist satisfaction provided by the verisimilitude of LARP in contrast to table-top and CRPGs.  The senses of accomplishment and immersion are one of the core strengths of all kinds LARP.  Much like Gamist and Narrativist, every LARPer wants a bit of simulation in their game, and most will claim they want immersion when they express that.

Immersion is Collective Illusion
Immersion is usually defined as “there’s no shit pulling me out of character.” Most immersion snobs (and you know them) have this correct. It’s hard to be immersed with OOC talk and elements of the modern world in plain sight. However, the snobs only have part of the answer. True immersion happens when everybody buys into the illusion, drinks the Kool-Aid, and loses themselves. It’s a collective effort, and worth making OOC efforts to get people into character. I’ll write more about that in a future post.

If it can be done safely and cheaply, it should be done “live-action” rather than with a call or tag.

The failure to abide by this edict is the biggest pain point I have with LARPs, or the decisions made by LARP designers.  I think they are missing the value of simulation in so many cases.  The power of an actual phys. rep. instead of a tag is underestimated.  The satisfaction of overcoming a physical or fighting challenge is miniscule if you simply use a verbal instead.  My best war stories involve “and I ran across the field and did X”.  This is primarily why I don’t have a great appeal for “nordic” style larps, and posit that they aren’t very “live-action” as they are missing the “action”.  LARP is strongest when it has live-action and role-playing.  There’s plenty of other venues that do those activities alone, and do them better.

Have enough verisimilitude to not broach credibility, and not much more

Now, the other aspects simulation can vary within the rules of each LARP.  Medium and Heavy combat LARPs are definitely very Simulationist.  The light-combat LARPs I prefer tend to be minimally Simulationist.  Light-combat LARP needs just enough verisimilitude to not broach credibility, and often they do not want more than that.  In order to accomplish the narrative and gamist goals of light-combat LARP, the simulation needs to decline.  We want a guy that can throw fireballs, and those fireballs don’t light clothes on fire, but they do kill orcs.  We want a gal that can get hit with a spear in the chest twenty times and still keep fighting. We want the blows to be light, the weapons to be light, and the combats to last a long time.  These are non-purist Simulationist desires.

The Simulation is decided by rules, not Plot

The amount of simulation, by necessity, is decided on a holistic scale by the rules design, not by the plot/storytellers.  Yes, plot can breach the underlying logic of the world, but in general, they do not, and the simulation level stays static.  This is an important observation, since it means that as storyteller, you have only two levers to play with on the macro scale, the gamist and narrativist features of your game.

Post-LARP post: Dying Kingdoms Day Game – October 10, 2015

This game was the first appearance of the first LARP PC I’ve played in 10 years.  I was really excited to bring Mattos, and this game was great for it.  I was very pleased with my costume and armor (pics later when they show up).  As I usually do with a new character, I didn’t have much about him developed, and let that evolve in-game.

There were several (6+) new people starting LARP for the first time, and I took the time to role-play with them (as well go OOC to explain stuff that needed it).  I always like doing this, and I made several new friends out there.

DK is the anti-Sizzler when it comes to LARP.  There isn’t a lot of plot-driven content, but the content (both Plot driven and player-created) that exists is good.  This game was no exception.  My character’s involuntary distaste of elves certainly got the attention of those characters, or at least their amusement.  I was actually pretty busy role-playing in the Stormcrows camp, and never got the chance to interact much with the “old-hands”.

We’re all looking forward to the camper in a month!

Any Hit v. Any Block in LARP boffer mechanics

There’s two basic hit mechanics for boffer LARPs.  They do not have any set name that I’ve come across, so I’ve named them “Any Hit” and “Any Block” for ease of use.

Any Hit

Simply put, this means that a hit it legal if the weapon makes contact with the body.  A partial block doesn’t count.  

This seems to be the normative for medium combat LARPs (Amt/Bel/Dag), with those games having the caveat that the hit needs to be “hard” enough. These game tend to promote “blow through”.  This was also the rule in IFGS back in the day, with some caveats (mostly dealing with machine-gunning behavior, and frowning on blow through in a vague way).

Any Block

This system says that any amount of a block makes the hit invalid.  I was happy to see this spelled out recently at a Twin Mask event.  I suspect it’s the unspoken normative here in Socal light-touch games.

The Biggest Problem

There’s quite a few LARPs out there that don’t nail this down in their rulebooks.  This is egregiously wrong.  It’s probably the most core mechanic to boffer larp, and leaving it ill-defined just sucks.

What do I think is best?

For the longest time I was an “any hit” advocate.   I felt it was cleaner.  In retrospect, I think it was something I wanted to exist as a stick-jock with a fast wrist, since the rule benefited me more than most.

Nowadays, I believe in “any block”.  I believe that is is cleaner (there’s less argument about a “block” if any block works), and it also deals with slide-downs and bounce-offs.  I believe it is also better for the game in general.  If more hits are blocked, then the fight lasts longer.  Everybody getting more screen time is better for the game.

Acknowledging hits

There’s also variation in the systems out there on how to acknowledge hits.  I think this can be broken down into three broad categories.

No Acknowledgement

There’s no requirement, social or otherwise, to indicate that you were hit with foam.

This method is definitely quieter, but that’s not a huge benefit, since it allows people to flurry at you with more numbers.


This is usually a fuzzy requirement that you are supposed to indicate you were hit by roleplaying the pain.  There’s problems with this, namely that when I see you RP pain, I will almost always pause to see if you are RL hurt.

Explicit Counter

Every single blow needs to be answered mechanically.  This is the ideal, but is problematic in any system that allows (or needs) more than one hit in a short amount of time.

What do I think is best?

I love explicit counter, but it just doesn’t work if you allow more than 1 hit per second.  That kind of slow combat is only really applicable to very low-powered games, with everybody only able to take a small handful of blows.

My suggestion — Implicit Hit

If something doesn’t hit you, you need to say why, otherwise the attacker can assume the hit was legal.  For example, call “blow through”, “cloth”, “hand”, “flurry”, etc. to indicate that it wasn’t a legal hit.  Otherwise, it should be assumed by the attacker that if you don’t call a block or a mechanical counter, then the attack landed.

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