Monday, December 16, 2013

the Hithus Blacksmith

Continuing the new player introduction to races and guilds, here is the Hithus Blacksmith. This has been interesting because each race and guild can be swapped with every other, but Hithus have an especially colorful character that require some creativity to play in the civilized world in any guild...

Hithus is you. Strong, sleek, quick. Love the hunt. You proud Hithus.
Hithus come from suffering and struggle. Sturthis pick out soft and bad; take away to dark places, make sorcery on them. Twisted and crushed, hardened and stretched. Chewed up and cast out. What left pushed into jungle of death. Jungle of death filled with hungry mouths, bad water, sickness and rot. Many die, but Hithus stronger, smarter. Hithus survivors. Hungry mouths become meat for Hithus, become skins to protect Hithus, become trophies of great hunt. Hithus learn ways to turn bad water into powerful drink for great health. Hithus make tools, weapons, take from jungle what needed. Hithus stronger than Sturthis. Hithus overcome! Hithus conquerors of jungle of death!
Hithus now strong nation! Cities across jungle with good roads, safe. We sojourn out of jungle and find strange lands! Find humans, but they are too salty. Some sell to Sturthis, but also take back as slaves. Learn human talk. Learn many things from humans.
Also find Alfar, taste much better, but they hard to catch and very angry. No good slaves. Have strange powers make Hithus act crazy. Best stay away.
Dwarfs look tasty but very smart. Stay in groups, very hard shiney hides, hard to catch. Also very hairy.

The Blacksmith's Guild

You are a blacksmith, having been apprenticed as soon as you could wield a hammer. You proved you were not afraid to sweat and work hard, and your aching arms became strong, your strikes to the steel keen and precise. You now enjoy a great demand for your work from soldier to hunter to adventurer alike. The great demand for blades makes the Blacksmith's Guild one of the most powerful and influential of all guilds. Any shortage of weapons to young adventurers means you can name your price for your work. Those that complain about your costs don't appreciate the hard work that it takes for every blade.

  • The Tradesmen's Guild may resent your success while their work is not demanded as highly. 
  • The Military College may resent your prices but they're funded by Nobles and Merchants, so they can afford it.
  • The Merchants want to undercut you with cheap imported junk from the foundries of big city-states. Success can be such a burden.
  • The Church of Saints does not often require weapons, but they have enforcement duties to see to. Strength sometimes calls for steel.
  • Magisters are also uncommon customers, but when they are, they always demand the highest quality. 
  • Goldsmiths are good to know. When a Noble needs a weapon only the finest will do. A Goldsmith buyer who comes to you first, is a good friend indeed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Dwarven Cleric

Continuing the new player introduction to races and guilds, here is the Dwarven Cleric.

In ancient times the Dwarves were formed on the World Anvil a the center of the world, by calloused hands of the Maker, and imbued with the Maker's gifts, the sacred talents of creativity. Your people have built and explored the world from within, taking the very stone around them and made it into glorious temples. You're fore-fathers pulled the metal from the stone to make their tools, coal for heating, gems for their beauty, particular soils for pigment.

You are a Dwarf. You were raised in the comfort and safety under the mountain. In your protective helmet which you wear at all times, you learned what all young dwarves learn, the basics of tunneling, identifying different kind of rock, where its usually found, its properties and uses, basic smelting or steel and firing and vitrifying of clay. You are familiar with the animals that make their home in the earth, and the useful roots found closer to the surface. The length of your beard shows your age and knowledge of these things.

You are a Dwarf, one of the true people of this world. Your people have ventured into the Space, where they are no longer held safely in the womb of the world, and found strange people of many kinds. The soft humans with their simplistic crafts and uninspired art, they are focused on pursuing personal riches rather than creating works of epic beauty that will remain when they are gone. Alfar have a strange sense of art, but it is fragile and can not last the eons. Sturthis are find their art in esoteric study, which has its beauty, if it wasn't focused on attaining power alone. Dwarves are surely the most enlightened of peoples.

the Church of Saints

You are a cleric of the Church of Saints, supporting the spiritual needs of the community with your council of moderation, good work, and accepting your place in the world. You teach that each guild has a role to play in the social order, and to stop outside of that roll though greed and ambition has led to the downfall of men, unrest within families, blight and ruin. You bring mercy and healing to the sick and wounded with blessings and miracles from the saints and protection from spiritual and supernatural sources. It is proper to ask for donations to the Church among those who are having success or are wealthy.
By sacred law, none outside of a guild may pursue business reserved for that guild, and it falls to the Church to judge and enforce that holy order. Most guilds appreciate the work of the Church of Saints that assures their protected livelihood, but there are often questions of law and challenges by arrogant ambition.
The Noble Court is often the biggest challenge to Church authority, given their broad powers to establish city laws, and influence over others. You must not allow yourself to be swayed by their money and power.
It may come to pass that martial strength is demanded to enforce Guild Law. The employ of military officers and soldiers may be required and is acceptable to bring ambitions back to proper place.

Monday, October 21, 2013

the Sturthus Magister

Continuing the new player introduction to races and guilds, here is the Sturthus Magister.

You are one of the proud tribes of the Sturthis, decedents of the Sorcerer Sovereigns of old! Your people are desert dwellers, originating as family groups in the great desert of the east. You are adapted for the dry climate with your  scaled skin, low body temperature, and long layered tunics and turbans.

Your ancestors were the first to establish the tenants of Alchemy, and through intense study and experiment, became the legendary sovereigns of the Sturthis. Ultimately they're unyielding commitment to learning transformed them wholly into the great dragons that flew across the world and destroyed  each other in rage. Some legends are just strange.

Since those times of legend, the tribes of Sturthis grew into the mighty tribal city-states of today. All the tribes kept long established cultural traditions that included ownership of slaves that were taken from vanquished foes. Your own family probably kept them, possibly many, maintaining a slave culture with rules on marriage and children. Generations of young were born into slavery and lived with their families, forgetting the destroyed tribes they once came from.

Only since the end of the Western War has the practice of slavery been abolished, and your grandparents suffered greatly at the loss. The change in social order was difficult, and the tribes have struggled to recover. Yours is the first generation to find success in the new Guild order. Your parents still speak of the new order is bitter tones.
Your grandparents may have told you of humans and what good servants they made. It makes for awkward conversation when you are trying to make human friends and business associates. Alfar were known but seldom slaves, prized highly by the sorcerer caste for study. They were also said to be very dangerous. Dwarves were unknown to Sturthis.
There is also stories of the Hithus, the unclean, living in the feted swamps to the south. They are savage and wild, and should not be spoken to if at all possible.

the Magister's Guild

You are a student in the college of Magisters. You were the second, third, or fourth child of a noble or wealthy merchant family, with little interest in inheriting title or business. Instead you were drawn into the arcane arts of Alchemy, a practice of the Sturthus Magi of the east. Using your family coin for the cost of training and components, you are learning to bend elemental forces for your defense and benefit, and to the service of those who might commission you. However, your new command of the elements is misunderstood and feared by a city that may no longer trust you. Never the less, they all need you.
  • The Noble Court can find use of you for their own political machinations, in court or on a battlefield. Their Goldsmith agents are often the ones to seek you out.
  • The Military may also want your support, but also distrust you as competition for noble commissions or other work for the wealthy.
  • The Church of Saints has a wary eye on you too, due to your potential dangerous and corrupting power.
  • Merchants may employ your service, or you may employ them to attain items of alchemical potential.
  • Blacksmiths and Tradesmen have a working relationship with Magisters, needing to enchant their crafts with your arcane secrets.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the Dineh'ih Merchant

Continuing the new player introduction to races and guilds, here is the Dineh'ih Merchant.

You are of the Dineh-ih tribes, plains nomads following the migrations of herd animals. Your tribe lived off the land, learning the ways of animals and wisdom your ancestors. Most tribes were wiped out in the Great War by foreign armies that were mad with blood thirst from killing each other. Those Dineh-ih tribes that survived have taken in refugees and released slaves that fled across their plains.
The Sturthis, lizard people of the eastern desert, were known for enslaving other cultures for centuries. Within the last 100 years, with the emergence of Guild Law, they dumped their enslaved people in the desert, homeless, with no memory of a culture outside the one within Sturthis city-states. There were very few Dineh-ih tribes left, but your elders welcomed strangers in who were also lost and afraid. The New
People of your tribe no longer remember where their origins, having been born into slavery, and their children are your friends and neighbors, all your tribe.
You were born to a tribe that had been decimated by other nations' wars. The tribe changed dramatically in your lifetime. Old ways were lost, new ones found. You are probably too young to have been owned yourself, but your parents or other's parents, the New People, may have told you about it. Taught you old songs and dances learned in the slave dens of the Sturthis lords, told you the stories of their escape and hard journey out of the desert.
The Celestine and Harkorian people all look the same to you. Both of them speak with great pride of their nations, but do nothing for the benefit of their people. They focus on their own gain at the cost of their neighbor as if they have no  connection. How are they even human beings?
Alfar are a strange spirit people with one foot in the world. They come from wisdom one moment, and foolishness the next. They are tricksters.
Dwarves are almost unknown to Dineh-ih, burrowers that shun the sky have little in common with us.

the Merchant's Guild

You are a merchant, a buyer and seller of goods in the market. You have your finger on the pulse of the economy, learning who is looking for that special product and who has excess goods to sell for the right price. You know the value of buying low and selling high, and what price the market demands. When you travel the trade routes to other kingdoms, you're able to sell the local wares and return with goods that are unavailable from local crafters. With good trade strategy, you can accumulate great wealth, enough to rival some nobles.

  • Blacksmiths and Tradesmen are important to keep good working relations with for the best trade deals. Importing products that compete with local carters can strain those relationships.
  • The Military College requires arms and equipment often, and there are always demands not supplied locally. Sometimes a trade of goods for military services can be an advantage.
  • The Magisters can produce magic items that demand a high price, but also require costly components. A good arrangement can create great rewards.
  • Bards and the Church can be good customers, but also need benefactors and donations. The value of coin is in the favors and good will it can buy with the under valued in town. 
  • The Noble Court has the most wealth, and require the highest quality. They, and their Goldsmith purses are the greatest customers for the best merchants.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Harkorian Military Officer

Continuing the new player introduction to races and guilds, here is the Harkorian Military College.

You are most fortunate to be born of the Harkorian Empire. You may not be a citizen, like the children of senators or high ranking military officers, but you still hold the distinction of birth to the greatest civilization in all of history. Harkor was the strongest of early cultures, that defeated and annexed their neighbors, cities and customs to build the most educated, richest, most powerful empire in the world.
All of the kingdoms of man would be under the fatherly embrace of Harkor, but for the Sturthis invaders, those soulless lizards, who's hordes threatened from the eastern deserts. Their powerful magic, that would have decimated the weaker kingdoms, required the full force of Harkor's advanced military might. Great walled keeps were erected along major roads, and advancements in siege machines and warfare were made to meet and throw back Sturthis might. Surely all humanity owes Harkor their thanks for holding back the murderous desert fiends. Although those days are behind, they are not forgotten. Sturthis may have given up their secrets to Alchemy, and ceased their attempts to wipe us out, they are cunning and should not be trusted.
The Celestines would have been Harkor's greatest conquest once, and are worthy and proud. It is a shame that they will never be able to call themselves Harkorian.
Dineh-ih are simple savages by comparison, unruly and dirty. They were small obstacles in the last war and barely adequate servants. Little has changed.
Dwarves are a strange new people with excellent weapon crafting knowledge. If such skills could be learned from them, we would be the stronger.
Alfar are the strangest of peoples, bizarre in their customs, with weird powers just at enigmatic. They should be treated with caution.

the Military College

You are a soldier. Not one of those front line peasants that join an army for the guaranteed food, clothes, and a chance to plunder. You are an officer in the Military College, studied in strategy and battlefield tactics, leadership and command. You train in various weapons to master as many as you can. You've learned from recounts of the greatest battles of the Great War. Now your hope is to be commissioned to train troops for a noble house, or better, to lead them into battle as part of an army like the old stories. In time you will earn your own awards and accolades.
Even without an ongoing war, Nobles require armed guards for their households or when traveling. A successful merchant house will need the same. It can't hurt to make sure they know you are competent and ready.
The Church of Saints also can bring work as they enforce Guild Law and may need force to bring down the heretics.
Blacksmiths and Tradesmen provide the tools of your trade at a price. Its good to have a friend among them, especially one that may be in need of defense in a dangerous world.
Magisters are a big problem. They are powerful forces in ways you can't be, and compete for noble favor and commissions that your work deserves. At the same time, a strong Magister is good to have at your side in a pitch battle. Also they can apply their arcane powers to equipment that would make you a greater threat to enemies. Politics is not so easy as battle strategy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Celestine Tradesman

Returning to my plans of writing short introductions for our races and guilds, I present the Celestines and the Tradesman's Guild

You come from the Celestine Kingdom, a land rooted in legend, magic, and chivalry. Your earliest legends tell of the Dragon Age, when the land was ravaged by great flying horrors with a appetite for treasure and destruction, when heroic knights would test their bravery on the hills to return as Dragon Slayers, or not at all. To this day cities a built away from hilltops, and formal oaths and challenges are made at high places. Many a legend also speaks of the Alfar, magical folk who could bring good fortune or deadly danger in equal measure. Tales of their rewards for virtuous heros and punishment to greedy and wickedness are popular. But the greatest epic of all is the story of Queen Celeste who, outnumbered by Harkor invaders, led her army with guile and cleverness that won the kingdom our freedom.

Today a woman still maintains her court of love for the benefit of her people and is well loved by knight and peasant alike. She is the first queen to reign under Guild Law from the start, and has proved an adept ruler in a quickly changing world. She maintains relations with our close neighbors, the enigmatic Alfar. Rumors have it that the Alfar diplomat is even her lover! 
Dwarves have also visited the Celestine court, and their crafts are wonders in their own right. The sight of Dwarves is becoming more common, although the often keep to themselves. 
Dineh-ih are often met traveling through Celestine cities for trade. They are also known for begging or petty theft, and may be invited to travel on if they are seen as problems.
Harkorian merchants are common, but their patriotic rhetoric makes them less welcome.
Lizard men, Sturthis or Hithus, rarely travel so far, so when they are seen they attract much attention. Most people can't tell the difference, or even know they are two different peoples.

the Tradesman's Guild

You are a tradesman, following the craft of your father or mother. You've been trained since you were very young knowing that one day the family business would pass to you. Your pride in your work will hopefully bring you a reputation for quality in time, but for now you pay your dues. If you're able to attract some noble's attention, perhaps you can finally be recognized for your art!

The Tradesman's Guild is possibly the weakest of the guilds, a collection of artists and artisans that would have no influence at all alone, but together demand a voice amongst the guilds. Though not as in demand as blacksmiths or entertainers, the leather goods, quality tailoring, woodworking and other skilled trades are needed commodities for soldiers to nobles. 

  • Goldsmiths services are for the benefit of nobles. You're better off buying a locked chest. But when goldsmiths are doing a noble's shopping, they must be well treated!
  • Blacksmiths are glorified tradesmen who's work get more credit than they deserve.
  • Merchants are good for buying up your inventory, but they don't pay what you're worth.
  • The Church of Saints are at least there to defend your right to your trade without unlawful competition. Its good to make regular donations to them.
  • The Military College often calls for leather armor, banners, or siege machines. Otherwise best to stay clear of them.
  • The College of Magesters are a strange lot, powerful and dangerous. What they purchase could be any strange thing. Again, better stay away.
  • The Noble Court demands only the best craftswork. If they commission you, and like your work, you could find yourself a wealthy benefactor for good
Thanks for reading. Please tell me what you think. Would you be interested in playing this character? Does this give you enough background to jump into a game with some base idea of your place? What else would you want to know?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Market without Money? How do you even do that?

Mab in the Fairy Market by Julia Jeffrey
I've written regularly about writing our game, Mystic Crossroads, and running playtests with varying
 success. I have not, however, shared much of the actual game as I write and develop it. Since I really need to focus more on writing for the game and new books, I'm going to start sharing bits here. I hope you find it interesting.
Last game I recognized a real problem with the Alfar, the elvish race that by their nature do not use any type of human currency. Without currency players really didn't know how to trade, or didn't have things others wanted. I didn't think this would be as big a problem as it was, and it caused the economy to halt just where plot needed it to flow. I can't say more while these plot lines are still active, but it was frustrating. I saw I needed to get something into place to direct players better. I just passed this to my players in hopes that new actions will follow.

"Although the Alfar do not find value in the coin of other kingdoms, that does not imply that they don't have commerce. The Alfar have thriving marketplaces and bazaars where the strangest and most unusual things are traded. The manner of these exchanges are seldom understood by man, in part because they don't understand the magical nature of Alfar boons. None the less, humans can find themselves trapped in an Alfar debt that can cost them dearly.
You must understand that Alfar business is conducted both through bartering, trading one good or service for another, and through a system of "gifts", favors, or boons. Direct bartering is much preferred for its lack of entanglements; a simple business exchange. What Alfar find value in can be mysterious, and sometimes grizzly, but the trade can be clear enough.
Often direct trade is not of convenience, or an agreeable exchange can not be found. Often an Alfar will instead offer a gift. "Take this as a gift, freely given," is a common phrase, imitating human manners, but filled with subtext. This is not a gift, however. It is an exchange for a favor, a boon, owed to the giver that they may call upon as they require. This completes the human imitation of manners, a Alfar parody, but one taken with all seriousness.
When a boon is accepted, the giver should make a note of the gifted item on an index card as reminder, and have the receiver sign it showing their acceptance. The giver will keep the card as a reminder, and if lost, it is forgot. This is not a component card, and can not be stolen or exchanged like commodities.
Such a boon is nothing to be taken lightly. Part of the Alfar's magical world, a piece they apparently carry with them, enforces such boons like a court of law never could. You see, so long as one owes a boon to another, they may not take direct action to do them harm. An attempt to attack the debtor will cause the attacker to be shoved to the ground without touching the target, or if setting snares, or applying poison, the attacker will blunder his own work, unable to control himself. He may still defend himself, but at what a terrible disadvantage!
Further, when the boon is called in, it cannot be refused. So long as the request does not put the person in mortal peril it must be fulfilled. When a boon is repaid the index card documenting the boon is torn in half and given to the boon-bound.
Narborough Hall Fairy Fair
Such things are well known the the Alfar, and taken as common knowledge. In the Alfar court "gifts" are given and received regularly. It would be impolite not to accept such a gift, and earn the giver's anger, so it must be accepted. Therefore nobles attending court make certain to have gifts to exchange, so as to keep their debts at a minimum. However, when outside of Alfar court, refusing a gift is somewhat less a social faux-pas, and is only likely to displease the giver.
Boons can not be owed both by one person over another, and the other over the first. Such debts cancel each other, regardless of what they are. Multiple boons may be owed by one person to another, however. Often saving one's life will enact such a debt, or repay one. Boons can be made between any person and an Alfar, but only with Alfar. The magic only seems to enforce boons with Alfar, like an extension of themselves and their world."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Full scale event planned for ZPG Games

Full scale event planned for ZPG Games
Since the goblins have been a bit antsy as of late we put them to work on our first full weekend event. The event will be the first weekend in November to give folks time to prepare and to give the goblins time to work on the props and planning for it. For anyone who plays Mystic Crossroads this is a great time to hang out with other players and have a full weekend immersive event. For those who have not played, or have not done LARP before this is a great introduction and no experience is needed.

We will be camping at Palmetto State Park just south of Gonzales, Texas. Your fee $40 fee includes entrance to the park and the event, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and breakfast on Sunday. It also includes a copy of the Mystic Crossroads Field Guide that you can reference during the game and keep
Here is a link to the page with ticket info and registration forms:

Also, here is the link to our email address if you have any questions:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Intoduction to the Alfar and the Noble Court

Continuing my new player write ups, I present the Alfar and the Noble Court.
You are of the Alfar. The first people to set foot on this world of Lluris, the Alfar are the most beautiful and varied in their form. Pooka and Boguns, Elves and Ogres, all are part of the Alfar courts. Alfar are the wisest of people, recognizing the true value of virtue and experience, promises and honor, over possessions that humans hold so dear. The imagined worth of coin and currency is lost on Alfar, who discard such pointless unattractive baubles.
As Alfar, you have learned to use their innate powers to dictate the seeming of things, a power called Glamour. Alfar use Glamour to change useless items into the tools they need, and to dictate the perceptions of others as naturally as humans take to digging in dirt. Strangely, the holding of iron, or metals containing iron, will rob you of your Glamour.
Your stories tell of when the Dwarves were first birthed of the mountains, only to look to the sky with fear and disgust and return to their stony womb. But just as the mountain hides its treasures, the rough and stoic Dwarves have great hidden talents in craftwork and design that prove their worth.
The Sturthus, the reptile men who rose from the desert, are vicious and heartless. They arrived after Dwarves, with a hunger for power over others, each other, and the elements themselves through Alchemy. The have long hunted Alfar to drag to their slave markets as servants or as subjects of their magical experiments.
Humans are the newest of races, and most interesting. Some are noble and kind, other craven, the powerful are weak, and the destitute strongest. Their greatest virtues have been taken up by some Alfar, where others hate humans for their greatest faults. They are an entertaining puzzle.

You were born of privilege, from a family of noble title, with a duty to maintain a province, or fiefdom, and the well being of the serfs who work the land for you. The taxes you collect from your fiefdom allow you a guard for defense of your land and self, a comfortable life among families of title, and to invigorate the economy of this, your city of residence. The city folk are not your subjects, but they owe you their respect for your position, patronage and protection of this town. The other guilds are here for your benefit as you require them.
1. The Blacksmith’s guild builds the tools of the workers and soldiers. If you require them at all, it is for a piece of extraordinary quality for your display.
2. Goldsmiths are generally safer for keeping your accounts against theft. They are also needed as jewelers to maintain your display of status.
3. Bards handle the kitchen work, and proper entertainment of guests. You may also employ them to write ballads and poetry about your exploits, or your loves.
4. Tradesmen make your garments, maps of your property, sundry other things. Ho hum.
5. Merchants are the ones to find those quality items you can’t get in this simple town. You usually have to pay in advance so its good to have an established relationship.
6. The Military College trains your sheriff, or master of the guard. Soldiers can be found anywhere, but good leadership must be trained.
7. The Church of Saints is your best resource because they keep the other guilds in their places. It's like a town guard that you don't have to support.
8. The College of Magesters are the pampered sons of nobles or merchants that just didn't fit in the family. Some still put on airs like a noble, but they only need a reminder of where they stand.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Introducing the world of Lluris

I spend a lot of time here talking about larp or my experience trying to manage one, problems I have or that I see. That's sort of the point of the blog. But I don't have deep philosophical observations all the time, and when I do its likely as not dreadfully boring. So, hey! Thanks for reading! But sometimes its been a distraction for me, when I need to put energy into writing the the game or the next book. So check this out. I'm going to post my rough drafts here for whatever I'm doing. Let me know what you think. Tell me what needs work or if it's terrible. I could use the feedback!
Last June I wrote an entry about new players titled Engaging Your Noobs, mostly ranting, but ended with a plan to write up short two page spreads for new players on each race and guild; a quick read to get people into the game as fast as possible. So lets get to it! I'm gonna start posting these here, and maybe later on to promote the game. I just need motivation to keep moving forward. So here's how I'm introducing the world:

Only a hundred years has passed since the world of Lluris was bathed in blood and fire, greed and ambition. The Great War took its heavy toll from every land; fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, again and again until only orphans and the frail remained.
Only a miracle, a message from the Saints, forced the end of war and acceptance of the new law, Guild Law. Kings and warlords alike were forced to disarm and bend the knee to the holy Saints and the peace that Guild Law promised. Even today the Great War and its horrors are retold by grandparents who remember, so their suffering will not be forgotten.
Today a prosperous world of Guilds and skilled trades has grown across Lluris to replace the suffering and ruin that the War left. Everyone can learn their trade and everyone knows their place in the world. But feudal border skirmishes still ignite and there is still a place to win your fortune at the tip of a sword. Marauders must meet justice and overreaching lords my be put down. There is still a place for heros.

There are eight official guilds covering all skilled professions common to the cities and towns across Lluris. Each guild holds a monopoly over their skillset that they protect with secrecy and legal protection. The young are accepted into a guild when they begin to show aptitude, often the same guild as their parents. There are still many people not members of guilds such as farmers, sailors, hunters and trappers or sellswords, but their prospects are usually limited without guild support.
The Blacksmith’s guild is focused on the smithing of steel and its alloys, be it swords, locks, shield bands, or armor.
Goldsmiths are both jewelers and workers of precious metals, as well as bankers and currency managers.
Bards encompass all aspects of the entertainment field including cooks, barkeeping, dancers, and poets.
Tradesmen include all crafters or builders that don’t fit into the previous more specific fields.
Merchants are buyers and sellers of goods who travel from city to city buying low and selling high.
The Military College trains those who would be professional soldiers, officers who lead armies.
The Church of Saints provide spiritual guidance while maintaining the observation of Guild Law.
The College of Magesters study the mysteries of Alchemy
The Noble Court maintain laws, social services and economic health of towns cities.

Monday, March 25, 2013


I had another topic I planned to write about this month, but the game got me excited about something else entirely. Instead I want to talk about villains. 
from ConQuest larp

In regard to RPGs, I make assumptions about villains being recurring and powerful antagonists, but NPCs under full control of a GM. In a table top game, if a player takes on a character that actively doesn't get along with the other characters, undermines the GM's direction, maybe even kills other PCs, that player is a danger to the game and is usually ejected from the group or the whole game falls apart. I've play in some games where "evil" aligned characters are just not allowed. RPGs are social games and adding someone who is antisocial breaks the game.

Again I find larp is a decidedly different beast than tabletop RPG. To think otherwise is a mistake that handicaps a game. Players fall into the habit of inaction, waiting for the GM, or plot, to introduce game hooks from the outside. They follow that line of plot, or they don't and sit bored and are inclined to break character because there's nothing to do or talk about. Even knowing this myself, my group has fallen into the trap. My players get along pretty well, socializing easily in character or out, and would be great table top players. They don't have… no… they avoid conflict with each other. To that extent, our current noble has turned the group into a fascist state and no one has raised a finger against her. It's pretty spooky, really, that everyone is afraid to stand up against her, to break with civility and risk a fight rather than cause the game in many ways to come to a halt.

from Avalon LARP
A more ideal situation would include players who are more keen to start trouble, to see how they can get a leg up on other characters, to be unabashed adversaries, or manipulate weaknesses, to test game boundaries. In short Villains. Already I retract with a sense of danger for my poor game. How far would villains try to go? Would they scare off the few players I have? Would they throw tantrums when their nefarious plans don't work just as they hoped? Mine constantly don't work out as a GM so why should they? How will they feel when they are ultimately defeated after a long drawn out dramatic story? Ultimately villains don't get to win, right? That's the way the stories all go.
Maybe the fault is mine in making the game too safe for the risk averse. Maybe I'm risk averse, but I'm willing to discuss it. I've tried to extend the potential for special powers and wicked advantages to characters that seemed to want them, but they just didn't pursue them like I'd hoped. Should I have made it easier? I want to see how close to the edge I can get without the game breaking. Well… a little closer, anyway.

From Knights-of-Badassdom

And then there came our last game. It was a smaller attendance, but we did welcome a few new players who've had some experience in vampire larp before. In VLarp games, characters are intentionally pitted against each other. Breaking the other characters, and their plots and plans, all the things that would destroy a table top RPG are the fodder of VLarp. Now we may have three players with that sort of experience entering the game, testing our limits, vying for power. Just a few hours showed me they could stir things up, and breathe some new wickedness into the game. Already in my excitement I jumped the gun thinking one wanted to go full out evil, but we're working it out. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next game sets off.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lessons in Planning a Larp Game

I guess this last year I've made another ungenius realization. In short, planning plot and storyline for events is work. If I were reading this I'd think "duh" just like you are, but when you actually start doing it you see its more tricky than one might think. When my creative partner and I started doing this I'd never Game Mastered a table top campaign before. It always seemed overwhelmingly difficult to know everything before the players did, and anticipate and manipulate their actions. When things started rolling with our playtest group I learned quickly there were a lot of the same skills, but with many more limitations.
First, your adventuring party was a lot more than four or five people, and when everyone needs something from you it slows things down. Having two of us helped, but when one doesn't know what the other is doing that can cause more problems. I think one of the unexpected advantages of Mystic Crossroads has been that most interactions don't require GM intervention. The rules covered most player vs. player circumstances so calls for a ref are fewer than other games I've seen.
Second, since you need someone play every Non-Player Character you have to limit your NPCs to the bare minimum. You can pull player away from their own Characters to a degree, but that's not usually what they came to play, and you want everyone to have a good time and get what they came for. That generally means no invading armies of ogres or complex plots to work through, or does it? What we've tried to do is select from the PCs that are already in roles we'd use an NPC for and feed them information that is important for what we hope to transpire in the game. In the best circumstances you get the best of both worlds; all players can be PCs while those supporting NPC spots are filled.
Third, players will never NEVER do what you plan them to do. This is the case in table top, of course, but in larp you're herding a dozen or more cats instead of five. You can only give so many hints about plot hooks. Sometimes the fish just won't bite. We've planned out action packed linear hack and slash adventures with NPC monsters, puzzels and treasure to have players totally ignore it and go in a completely different direction. They hung around town and bartered and bantered with each other and none of our plans were ever seen. I left those games feeling like I'd totally failed, but all the players said they had a great time doing whatever the hell they were doing.
What I learned is not to overcommit to a storyline or single crawl. I can't own the story I think is going to happen, because it will never happen the way I expect. I can't leave NPCs in the woods waiting for PCs who won't show. Instead I have to start the ball rolling and just see what people do. NPCs have to be characters just like everyone, only I get to write their motives and objectives instead of a player. That's when they become "real", making their own decisions and interactions unscripted. There's a point where players write the story for me and I just have to pay attention to what happens and build from there. I have to be ready to change direction and keep a good plot going.
from Shards of Orn larp
This is all really hard to plan out alone. It's a big reason we pulled back from weekly games to monthly, and I was so burnt out by then I still didn't get it together. As this year has started up, I've started doing what I noticed another game group has done for years. On a week between their games their leaders, or plot development team meets just to discuss what happened in last game and where to take it in the next game. Everyone builds on each other's ideas and by game time they're all on the same page more or less. I'm sure other groups probably do this. It makes complete sense when you need many people directing plot, but I'd never seen it. We just had our first meet this month and I'm already more confident about the year than I was any time last year. I'm really excited and I hope things work well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Burnt out Larpers; Our lost Heros.

I was at this convention some time ago now, promoting our game and looking for potential new players. One thing I've learned is to keep a chapter going you always have to be looking for new players. I started a conversation with a gentleman who said he'd run his own chapter in another larp game for some time with great success. He went on about his group and the games they were able to run as I practically salivated. But he went on to say that it all came to an end when the game "owner", as some games are franchises the rights to rules held by some central authority, turned on him and undercut his efforts in some power trip that destroyed his spirit and his chapter. I'd heard that story before, and had similar experience, and its always a soul crushing ending to something you put so much energy into. But I was still riding high on his stories of glory and imagined if I could reignite this guy's love of larp he would be an amazing leader, if I could just sell him on my game! "We're different! There's no franchise, no authority over you! And our game is AWESOME!" But there was no selling him. He'd been burned too badly, he'd picked up his pride and moved on to other things, leaving his love of larp behind.

It kills me that so many charismatic capable leaders in larp have been burned one way or another and never come back. I know larps are full of player politics that can divide and destroy groups. I know how it happens all too well. But we need those people in our community! Effective leaders are few and far between and I feel we need as many as we can hold on to. My question becomes how can we bring these high quality players back into larp? What is it that can renew their interest without recreating the things that drove them away?

I had an opportunity to ask a couple of retired players just this question. Here's what I got.

Lisa T.- "I initially left years ago because the drama-to-fun quotient had diminished enough that I had no interest in going back. This was, of course, a by-product of politics, stick-jockery, and my (at the time) low self-esteem. Provided a more vibrant community and the means to do it, I'd be willing to try again. Probably won't be [previous game], though, if I ever do. I went to check out a park in 2008 with [spouse], and we found the head dude in charge had a tendency to cheat at ditch battles. We didn't go back."

Sounds familiar enough. Leaders who cheat, sport fighting rather than roleplay, and player infighting. I know sport fighting has its appeal, but it isn't for everyone, and I've seen the testosterone fueled slugfest crowd out other options and other players. For Lisa it seems she's just looking for those other options of play in a group that hasn't found the player drama llama.

"Currently for me it's money and distance. I live in Waco, the spouse is in school, we have one vehicle, and till said school is finished, we do well to afford the bills month to month, to say nothing of garb, gear, and gas. I am very interested in returning to it when circumstances allow.
I'd rather not be a half-assed gamer relying on bummed rides and loaner gear. It's not fair to anyone to do that. Moreover, I'm fortunate enough to make my Survival Tokens via remote at the house, but the spouse works weekends, and he needs the car for for now at least, it's something of an obligatory hiatus."

Like my friend at the con, Lisa has moved on and is now invested in other life goals. I know that's the way life goes, and it isn't a bad thing. It's just hard for me still in larp to not wish others still had the time and resources to play with me.

Another ex-player had this to say.

Courtney T- "I would LARP again, but for a few things: 1. When I left LARPing, the community I was involved in was starting to devolve into lots of fantasy-vampire crossover, which I INTENSELY DISLIKE and therefore avoid. It might have been the youth factor (lots of older teens involved), but biting necks and soft-core petting is not LARP to me. 2. Not a fan of SCA, and they're the only ones I know of around here. I like boff weapons only, not the hard stuff. (That being said, I am sure there *are* boff-only communities in Austin, I just don't know of them.) 3. My husband would never in a million years join me, and we spend little enough time together as it is, as we both work regular 8-5, 40hr/wk jobs. If it were a hobby he would also enjoy, we'd be there. 3a. If I went alone, without husband, I'd be afraid of attracting the wrong sort of attention. (This has happened to me before.)"

Courtney touches on a couple things here, those being the vampire larp culture, or Vlarp, which can be overtly sexualized more than stick-jock boffer groups, and young groups of players, that I'm guessing were drawn to this style of larp. I played briefly in a Vlarp game and, though it didn't get me any action, I can see how other groups might be more of a venue for finding dates... or something. More adult players like Courtney aren't interested in that “sort of attention”. Also she is unaware of games that may suit her style that are in the area. This may be the easiest obstacle to overcome. I know there are at least five different boff-only games in Austin! At least one may get her geared up again, and maybe even her husband!

I think what I'm getting from these examples is old players need to be welcomed back. They need to be listened to to find out what they want, and given new options that they haven't played before. Sometimes they just don't have the interest any more and are already busy with new things. I guess what I'm finding is the biggest player killer is real life. It sneaks up on you and demands your attention, your energy and time. People change and what they find important changes. It still kills me that we've lost these players, leaders, and organizers. They were some of the great ones.