NERO’s primary advantage over other LARPs is its gigantic collaborative setting. Every NERO chapter represents a location somewhere in the world of Tyrra (specifically, the continent of Avalon). Your character can travel all over the country, experiencing Avalonian culture one kingdom at a time. In this post, we’ll talk about things which bring Tyrran culture to life.
Avalonian culture emerges from the reference points which each chapter shares. If you’re a knight in Ravenholt, people in Therendry understand and respect the trials you went through to be knighted. You can meet members of a healer’s guild in almost every chapter. All the Evendarrian chapters share a King. During a NERO weekend, you’ll hang out at a tavern, go on adventures, slay monsters, find treasure, and participate in plotlines. When you talk to other NERO players, you’ll have similar experiences no matter where they play.
Over time, each chapter also develops its own distinct culture. In one chapter, nobility is treated very formally. In another chapter, necromancy isn’t such a big deal. Somewhere else, goblins are actually kind of friendly. This is cool because it gives players something to reference when referring to places they visited. The distinction between areas gives each location its own unique flavor.
I encourage people to develop local cultures – so long as it doesn’t vary too far from Avalonian coherency. By cooperating with other players, you can create traditions or fashions by which your chapter will be known. Here are a simple few things which can really bring a local culture to life.
- Slang: develop greetings, nicknames for certain races, or other local expressions. When people travel to your chapter, they’ll notice that people talk differently there, much like how slang develops in the real world. For example, in Greyhelm, people greet each other by saying Salud. In the Sutherlands, a gold piece is always referred to as a crown and a platinum is called a tenner.
- Fashion: try to get as many locals of possible to wear similar costume pieces. Perhaps people from the Dragonlands tie their wrap pants at the calf. Perhaps people in the Hinterlands tend to wear long scarves. Maybe there’s a particular pin, badge, sash, or amulet that denotes you live in Tyrangel. Perhaps a particular style of mantle or half-cape is preferred by the people of Ravenholt. Everybody who fought in the war of against the archlich honors the fallen by wearing or carrying a beaded bracelet.
- Weapon Design: encourage people in your chapter to adapt weapon construction customs. Maybe swords from Kaurath have a particular style of cross guard. Or Voltan shields are of a certain color or shape. The people of Hawthorne’s Bluff like a short gold tassle to hang from their weapon’s pommel. All visitors are welcomed by being given a tassle for their swords.
- Gestures: people from Elan salute by bowing at the waist. People from Greyhorn salute by putting their fist over their heart. People from Ashbury shake hands at the wrist. People from Nevermore always kneel on their left knee.
- Holidays: Once a year, everybody in Dragonaire celebrates the Duchy’s founding by giving gifts to one another. In Whitestone, it is traditional to plant a flower or tree during the first autumn event. In Avendale, there is a public hunt in the spring, in which a stag is released into the woods and chased down by the locals. Whoever fells the beats (without killing it) may sit at the noble table at the feast that evening.
- Food: Develop local favorite dishes and serve them up in the tavern. If possible, utilize food which theoretically could be farmed in that region.
Building on a Foundation
Although a chapter’s plot team manages the basic information about a game’s setting, the culture is sustained by its players. Each of us is responsible for highlighting or accenting what we think is cool about playing there.
Whenever possible, enrich the setting by participating in it.
- Pass on information about the setting, referencing it in your stories and conversations. For example, if you’ve heard that Avendale City is a very well-to-do place, you could tell a story about the ritzy tavern you visited while you were there. This helps everybody develop a similar impression of the area.
- When you give an account of something that happened, build in more detail, enriching the setting through retelling. In LARPs one is often asked to pretend that a barn is actually a cave or a spooky dungeon. When you tell stories about the cave, add details which make it sound like you were really in a cave, such as the temperature, the darkness, or the odd smelling mold. You may not have had an authentic cave experience, but vivid descriptions help others imagine you did.
- Don’t be afraid to start any of the above flavor suggestions. And be sure to participate when others try to start their own.