One of my ongoing quests has been to help make the Tyrran setting more coherent and tangible. NERO’s main advantage over other games is that we have a gigantic collaborative fantasy setting with over 40 dramatic locations in the world that you can visit.
But in reality, it doesn’t feel like we’re all playing in the same world, does it? You play in one or more chapters in your region, and the rest of the world is kind of irrelevant. Think about it: are you worried about undead taking over the chapter on the other side of the country? You don’t care — it has no impact on the game you play. You rarely hear news from chapters outside your region.
One of the ways that I want to combat this is to establish a real setting guide. I want to capture all the information about our setting in one place so you can see how your chapter fits into the world context.
In 2006, I wrote a manuscript for the Guide to Tyrra, a big book about the Tyrran setting. Part of the goal was to compile and index the hundreds of pages of history, race packets, and other documents hosted on nerolarp.com. I also wanted to document the setting as it exists now and chronicle recent Tyrran history. A lot of drama and real-life chaos has happened in the interim, but the book is slowly inching towards publication. (quick side note: biggest factor delaying this publication? lack of budget) I gotta tell you – it was really challenging to write! In part because it’s hard to find all that info and put it in context, and in part because of a weird philosophical problem: When we’re talking about an imaginary world, what makes something true? The source documents for our setting contain numerous contradictions. Whenever you declare something as true, you end up alienating the people who believe it is false. For example, does anybody know anything about the NPC Kingdom Dar Khabad? Is it one of the “three sister kingdoms” or has it joined the kingdom of Evendarr? Is it ruled by mages? mercenaries? A king? Even basic information about Dar Khabad varies dramatically by where you’re playing.
Originally, I had intended on including a lot of chapter-specific information in the Guide to Tyrra. I wanted to have two to five encyclopedia-style pages about each chapter. That would really bring the setting to life, wouldn’t it? This proved to be a very daunting task. Some people were amazingly helpful, others went out of their way to be counterproductive. Seriously, people actually worked to make sure I’d fail at this task even though I was basically trying to publish a commercial for their game. There’s also this catch 22 that some people want me to prove that I’m trustworthy before they participate, thereby hamstringing cooperative projects and ensuring their failure. Long story short, the Guide is now focused on general setting info, including material on races and world history, but does not include much geography or chapter specific setting info.
One of the things I realized is that there are more efficient ways of capturing that chapter-level creative output than relying on a single contact point to index all of it. Luckily for us, technology exists for exactly this purpose: The Wiki.
There used to be a NERO setting wiki called Tyrrapedia. It eventually shut down for a variety of reasons, but it did succeed as a proof of concept of how this medium could be utilized.
I am creating a NERO setting wiki, another Tyrrapedia, and I want to go about it in a slightly different way. You won’t be posting as your character, you’ll be posting as a scholar who is studying the region you’re writing about. That scholar has visited the region, and he knows most of the stuff that you know out-of-game — except secrets and information you should really find out when you’re actually playing the LARP.
Why not just post as our characters? Lots of reasons. My character has an agenda and he is biased in certain ways which counter the goal of an information wiki. And by making Tyrrapedia a theater for politics and personal character goals, we would be setting the stage for edit wars. That strikes me as incredibly lame… an edit war is something that exists squarely in the 21st century – if I engage in one, what exactly is my character doing? When I tell people about this, do I say I traveled thousands of miles to a scholarly institute where I spent a few hours crossing out information that other people had written and plugging in my own notes? It’s a stretch.
The scholars who are writing the Guide are NPCs. Therefore we shouldn’t have to worry too much about player-characters who will be disruptive, wikiturf, editorialize, or portray events in a personally favorable way. And if they do, we can always moderate it.
I want Tyrrapedia (and the setting it describes) to be a true product of the NERO community. Chapter staff members will be able to moderate their own pages and make sure that their setting is presented how they’d like. We’ll also be open to players writing about the setting and filling in all those little details which make it come to life.
Part of this will involve coming up with policies which will settle the inevitable disputes. Here’s an example of the types of inconsistencies that will occur: a few weeks ago at Ravenholt, I was walking around my manuscript for the Guide to Tyrra. I showed it to Jade Marston, a veteran NERO player who wrote the bulk of the NERO Sarr Race Packet. I thought she’d be thrilled because the section in the Guide on Sarr is very closely based on the published race packet. But she was actually quite frustrated. She said that when she wrote the packet, she decided that Sarr have the same lifespan as a human. But at some point, somebody who was editing the packet decided that each clan of Sarr has a different life span. Some clans have long lives, others only live to age 10.
I’m not sure who made this change. My best guess is that the original race packet was modified to jive with information that had been established somewhere else in the country. Jade was really frustrated by this – she’s been playing her NERO character for longer than many Sarr’s lifespan. She feels responsible for this data and asked me to change it to the “correct” lifespan.
This is the really frustrating thing about standardizing conflicting information. If I were to modify this piece of information to match Jade’s intent, it will alienate the hundreds of NERO players who have Sarr characters and have been roleplaying a short lifespan. But if I don’t change it, I’ll have stepped on the toes of an author who cares greatly about that information. There’s really no way to satisfy everybody, so the best I can do is to satisfy the most people. This is par for the course when collaborating with this many people – no concept survives untouched.
And this is why wiki is the perfect format to collect information on a collaborative setting. If there’s incorrect information on the wiki, you can correct it yourself. If the community is working together on the setting, we can establish consensus and work towards a coherent description.
Assuming everything goes fine on the technical end, the new incarnation of Tyrrapedia should be launched in the next few weeks. We will be accepting applications for moderators. I would like to get as many NERO members involves as possible — so long as they are interested in cooperating and can roll with the daunting challenges of this project.
And in the end, if we succeed, we will have made our giant 40+ chapter setting much more tangible and accessible. It will feel like you’re playing in one corner of a large fascinating world ripe for exploration. We will have captured a lot of data which currently exists only as an oral tradition. And we will be standing atop the largest and richest setting guide of any existing LARP.