Archive for the tag “LARP”

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?



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

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.

6 Scene Beat Sheet for extended LARP mods (Scene #6 and Overview)

goal(s): wrap up details, foreshadow further events
element(s):  roleplay, paperwork

Resolve the Conflict
In this last scene, we clean up any niggling details.

  • Your Mr. Johnson hands out the promised rewards.
  • Mysteries that were unresolved get clarified.
  • The players divvy up loot.

The key to making this scene work is having an NPC present, nominally your Mr. Johnson.  This can be logically difficult (why is the helpless diseased villager who hired us in the middle of the Forest of Death?”).  This can also have a production cost (i.e. the villager is needed in Scene 1 as well, and in a multi-team format, might be problematic).

The other tool here for “tying up everything” is a scroll or letter.  This puts something physical in your player’s hands, which is always welcome.  You can combine a letter with the “hand-wave” travel back to civilization, and resolve all your loose-ends.

Allude to a conflict in the future.  If you villain escaped, give your players a hint about the villain.  Where or how did the villain escape?  What is the villain’s next step?  This kind of information will get your players champing at the bit for the next episode.

RECAP of the 6-Scene Beat Sheet

Scene 0 Introduce the Conflict
Scene 1 Warm-Up Bandits
Scene 2 Complicate that Shit
Scene 3 Ambush them in the Dick
Scene 4 Jack of All Trades
Scene 5 Final Fight with EBG
Scene 6 Resolution

From the North Pole, with Love (Part 4)


Don’t worry, we’ll be going over all this with examples at the start of the game.


Your hit points are decided at the start of the game based on your costume effort.

Show up in blue jeans, and we lend you an elf hat = 2 hit points
You make an effort = 4 hit points
My costume is balls deep on this elf thing. – 6 hit points

You represent your hit points with candy canes.  When you lose a hit point, you eat a candy cane.  Delicious pain!

If you lose all your hit points, you are unconscious.  If and when you are restored to health, you have no recollection of any of the events that occurred in the room before you went unconscious.


Some elves are skilled at healing with wrapping paper and ribbon.  A healing elf can wrap up an unconscious elf with paper and ribbon, restoring the elf to 1 hit point.  The elf doing the healing should do a thorough job (i.e. the healed elf should be embarrassingly wrapped).   If the healed elf takes damage again, that elf should rip off the paper and fall unconscious… again.


Scattered about the house and backyard are envelopes.  Any elf can see and interact with a white envelope.  Only certain elves can see or interact with orange envelopes.  If you are one of those elves, you should roleplay no knowledge of orange envelopes.

Some envelopes will have instructions on them.  You must follow the instructions on the envelope if you choose to interact with the envelope.


Some envelopes have 3-d puzzles involved.  These are cheap chinese knockoffs, rather than sturdy elf-made puzzles.  Please don’t brute force the puzzles to solve them.  The puzzles and the envelopes related to them cannot be moved more than 5 feet away until you solve the puzzle.


There are 2-D puzzles that are major plot elements or treasure troves.  You must collect and place all the pieces of the puzzle to get the effect stated on the puzzle.  2-d puzzle pieces can be stolen.

From the North Pole, with Love (Part 3)

This is related to the Xmas LARP I’m running this year.


Card Mechanics

Don’t worry, we’ll be going over all this with examples at the start of the game.

Your packet will include 5 playing cards.  These cards will be used to resolve the elf-on-elf conflicts of this game.

You can do the following with a card:  [ATTACK], [DEFEND], [DISTRACT] or [STEAL].  Some elves may also perform the [DETECT LIE] action.

There are four general rules to all the cards:

  1. A card can only be used once in the same room.  It must be claimed and taken into another room to be used again.   Some cards are exceptions to this, such as weapons, and will say so on the card.
  2. The “loser” of any conflict keeps all the cards used.  Some cards will be exceptions to this, such as weapons and elf-jitsu, and will say so on the card.
  3. Most cards cannot be stolen or removed from you, even if you are knocked unconscious.  Some cards are exception to this, such as weapons and armor.
  4. The defender, win or lose, has the “initiative” to initiate the next conflict.

[ATTACK] – Present your card to the elf you are attacking, and describe the awesome way you are attacking that elf.  That elf may DEFEND, but if they do not, the elf you attack loses 1 hit point.  Some weapons may inflict 2 hit points of damage.

[DEFEND] – You use a card to DEFEND when subject to an ATTACK, DETECT LIE, DISTRACT or STEAL.  The card you play must either:

  1. Match the value of the card you were attacked with.  (e.g. You are attacked with a 9 of holly, and you defend with a 9 of christmas trees.)
  2. Beat the value of the card you were attacked with, but match the suit.  (You are attacked with a 9 of holly, and you defend with a Jack of Holly.)

If you do DEFEND, you cancel the effect, and the “attacker” keeps both your card, and their original card.  If you do not DEFEND, you keep their original card.  In both cases, the cards cannot be used again in this room.

[DETECT LIE] –  Present your card to the elf you think is lying.  You must indicate the statement that you think is a lie.  (e.g. the elf states “I’m not a member of K.R.U.S.T.”)  That elf may DEFEND, but if they do not, they must honestly indicate if they were lying with that statement.  Remember, the loser keeps all the cards.

[DISTRACT] –  Present your card to the elf you are trying to distract, and describe the awesome way you are distracting that elf.  That elf may DEFEND, but if they do not, that elf loses the ability to DEFEND against the next STEAL played on them in this room.  If you are are DISTRACTed, you should role-play it appropriately.  Remember, the loser keeps all the cards.

[STEAL] –  Present your card to the elf you are trying to steal from, and state the item you are trying to steal (e.g. “The puzzle piece”).  You must be positioned behind this elf.  That elf may DEFEND, but if they do not, that elf loses the named item.  If you state a vague item (e.g. “The puzzle piece”.. but the elf has 4 puzzle pieces) the victim gets to choose one of the items that fits your description to be stolen.  That elf does not know they were stolen from until they leave the room, and should role-play this.  If the elf does DEFEND against the theft, they are immediately aware that you tried to steal from them.  Remember, the loser keeps all the cards.

Special Situations:

Leaving a room:   If there is an elf that is trying to ATTACK, DETECT LIE, or DISTRACT you, you may not leave the room until that conflict is resolved.

Tag-teaming:   Elves are HUGE fans of pro-wrestling.  As such, whenever an elf has initiative (see above), they can tag an ally instead to get the initiative instead.

Teaming up:  Elves are HUGE fans of pro-wrestling.  Only one elf can ATTACK another elf at a time.




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