Archive for category Miscellaneous Tip
Guest article by LIAM
This past weekend I ran the last major encounter in my stint writing plot for NERO Hartford. It was essentially the final fight against the first end boss of the campaign. It was a relatively elaborate encounter, involving a split field (based on level), and four self marshaled tasks for the PCs set around the field which dramatically affected the dynamics of the battle. The battle lasted for over an hour of straight combat, and the villain was defeated….without one single hold being called!
Now, I’m not going to say it went perfectly, but I did put a lot of preparation in to make sure it went as smoothly as possible. The players involved in tasks around the field were briefed before the encounter, and knew exactly what they had to do and what would happen (meaning no marshal standing over them). All OOG mechanics were reinforced in a notes section on the IG scrolls they were using to perform their tasks. An air-horn was used to signal the field effects making it unnecessary to call a hold to explain the change.
The most important preparation happened just a few hours before the fight though. During a moment of downtime I had an opportunity to sit down with a good chunk of the players. My exact words to them were “If any of you call a Hold, there had better be a compound fracture involved”. While this is obviously hyperbole, they knew my expectation. I have little to no tolerance for superfluous holds. I personally think they should be limited to medical situations ONLY. It should become the goal of all staff and players to run a game with no holds (which also means trying to run a safer game with less injuries).
Holds destroy immersion. You are wrenched right out of the game and brought back to the real world. Staff can do many things to avoid these situations. NERO in its first year always included a guy in an orange headband marked “MARSHAL” carrying a clipboard following the party and narrating huge chunks of the encounter. It was like playing half table top/half LARP. I have really grown to dislike this style of play.
My friends and I ran a NERO sub campaign in the mid-90’s called Kyrandal. One of our major principles was to never include anything in the game that we couldn’t rep in a reasonably realistic way. We had really grown to hate the phrase “What do I see?”, and wanted to run a game where this was never heard. (Cue to an old Ravenholt event where a kid who wasn’t more than 5’6” came running through the trees as a “9 foot tall T-Rex”).
I can’t stand hearing, “Hold, marshal, do I recognize this guy from the October event in blah, blah, blah?” or “Hold, marshal, I have 10 levels of Kobold Lore, do these look like Kobold droppings?” I have learned a great deal from Dan’s entries and the LARP Ohio blog how to create encounters with as little of an OOG component as possible, how to get in front of these problems and brief the party ahead of the encounter, or have envelopes prepared if an applicable skill would provide key information.
One of my favorite ideas of Dan’s is to include a marshal who is in fact an IG confederate traveling with the party, and explaining OOG mechanics or answering questions in a IG way. I don’t want to digress too far into a discussion of what helps or hinders immersion, but the two topics do go hand in hand. Many of the principles which help create immersion, and remove the need for an OOG marshal, help prevent that most offensive of all four letter words, “HOLD”.
Gather round, yuenglings! This manual of ancient polearm lore has been passed down since ancient times. The polearm style, an often misunderstood weapon style, takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. With the help of this guide, you too can be a mobile, untouchable killing machine.
Part 1: Footwork
Footwork is absolutely critical for polearm fighters. When your enemy is at maximum range, a single step can make the difference between a hit and a whiff.
- Keep your weight balanced between your feet. This makes it easy to step forward or back. If somebody swings for your foot, you can pull it up quickly without losing your balance.
- Always be ready to jump back. Make sure the people around you know that you need some room behind you to fight effectively.
- When your enemy advances at you, he will put his right foot forward. Strike as he steps. If he’s guarding his foot with a shield, go for the shoulder instead.
- If your enemy steps forward while taking a swing at you, step back while swinging at his sword arm.
- In many cases, stepping to the side is better than stepping backwards.
- When strafing or circling around your opponent, move towards his shield side. This forces your enemy to attack around his shield, which reduces his reach.
Part 2: Offense
Whenever you attack, you telegraph a vulnerability to your opponent.
- Be sensitive to this weak point and correct for it in advance. For example, if you swing low, be ready to pull your weapon up and block your right shoulder. Make this part of your attack motion.
- Polearm style relies on speed and precision. You should only be hitting with the top six inches of the weapon. This is a “lightest touch” style – use your wrists and forearms, not your biceps.
- Feinting against a shield fighter makes him waste a lot of motion and breath. Feint for the foot to make them lower their shield, then go for the shoulder. Even if you’re not fast enough to land the hit, you’re making them spend their stamina faster than you.
Part 3: Defense
- Footwork, footwork, footwork. The best defense is to not be there when they swing. Polearm is a very mobile style – if you’re getting hit, it’s probably because you’re standing still. Be a moving target.
- Scorpion Stance: Scorpion stance is a defensive posture. It’s a good defense against somebody moving directly towards you. Turn your shoulder towards your opponent and make your body as narrow as possible. Hold the polearm blade down, keeping your body behind the pole. One hand should be high, by the butt end. The other should be about halfway down the grip. Keep your legs wide and your posture low. From this stance, it’s easy to block your entire body and thrust at your opponent’s feet. You don’t need too much motion to block, just lean away from the attack and your polearm will already be in the right spot.
- If your opponent lands a few hits on you, switch stances so they have to re-learn where your vulnerabilities are.
Part 4: Dirty Tricks
Pythagoras, the Father of Polearms
Pythagoras was a philosopher and mathematician who invented many of today’s devastating polearm techniques. He is known as the Father of the Polearm style. The Pythagorean theory of polearm maximizes reach by NOT attacking along the hypotenuse (longest leg of the triangle).
You have the greatest reach when you are attacking straight forward. When making a low attack, you get another few inches of reach by ducking.
(tip of the hat to Ted Marston)
In a line fight, a polearm is a weapon of mass destruction.
- Pair up with a shieldmate who will block for you. If an enemy draws too close, step back, adjacent to your ally’s shield.
- Don’t focus too hard on the person you’re engaged with. You can make an attack of opportunity against anybody within your reach. Swing when they swing.
- In a line fight, or if your opponent is engaged, you can often step back without giving your enemy an opportunity to advance. Stand a step out of reach, with your left foot forward. Step forward and swing, then step back.
Here’s a teamwork technique—
- If you and an ally are engaging the same target, call either “high road” or “low road”. This indicates to your ally that you will be aiming at high targets (arms and shoulders), or low targets (legs and feet). Your ally will take the opposite height.
- Coordinate your swings so that you are attacking at the same time.
- Your opponent cannot block both spots at once without entering into a totally defensive posture. And he cannot win the fight without attacking.
The Byronic Hero
Named for Sir Byron LeVolant, notable dandyman and braggart, this is a two hit combo which is designed for duels against shield fighters.
- Start with a low leg sweep. This telegraphs to your opponent that he should attack your shoulder.
- Be ready for the incoming shoulder attack. Pull your sweep up into a high block. For maximum style, this should look like you are curling a barbell.
- As you block, step back and strike your opponent’s extended sword arm.
- If you time it right you will have hit them twice while they have only swung once.
Back in 2006, I played a gigantic German LARP with Noah Mason and Joe Valenti called ConQuest Mythodea. We stayed with this Sicilian order of paladins called the Ordo Solis. They had a great attitude which I wish I could bring into NERO.
The head of this giant team explained to me that they got kind of bored with the one-sidedness of many RPGs… you have a Dungeon Master or director, and he comes up with a story and scenario. In his story, the players are both the characters and audience. As a player, you’re mostly limited to responding to the plot being run for you. But eventually you may want something that the script can’t offer. You often need to find rewards outside of the plot.
The Ordo Solis solution is to create a team (with like 40+ people) which has its own internal hierarchy, its own quests and missions, its own rituals and customs, sub factions, a unique religion … basically an entire paladin culture. If they go to a bad game, they’ll still have an entire weekend of LARP plot which they can feed each other. Once a year they go on a week long in-game camping trip – with no hierarchical plot or scripted combat – just because they have so much fun being part of the group.
The more I think about our form of theater, the more I think it’s wrong to put a small group of staff members at the nucleus of the game. When a staff member gets burned out and hits the eject button, there’s a big hole left at the chapter. NPCs disappear. Plot threads get cut. The game suffers for the absence.
Each chapter is really two organisms – a business and a community. You need the business end in order to rent the campsite, buy the props, make sure there’s food, print the tags, update the characters, all that jazz. But I think the game’s content should be more of a product of the community.
If you’re a PC at a weekend, and you have an idea for an encounter or character or something that would make the event more fun or interesting, I think you should be able to walk into NPC camp and get the resources to execute it. If the staff is willing to work with players who want to improvise, then you may get an event where everybody is entertaining each other — instead of waiting bored in the tavern for the next NPC hook to come out.
Part of our model is that when you pay to PC, you expect that you’ll get to go on plot and modules. And this makes many people assume that running plot and modules is labor, it’s the crappy job that you do when you can’t afford to PC. And I think that’s a bad attitude – a lot of people would have fun running plot, but we mystify it and make it opaque. We treat staff like an elite club, the wizards behind the curtain. There’s this myth that staff members need to be A-Game NERO players who commit to running years of plot. I think it’s okay for anybody to try their hand at running something, even if it’s something really small.
I’m surprised that more people don’t know this: the people who have the most fun at an event are the people who entertained others.
Up here in New England, if you line everybody up and point to somebody at random, there’s a good chance you’re pointing to a former staff member. A lot of chapters are having trouble finding staff members because everybody’s so jaded and burnt out. Of COURSE people don’t want to sign up – permanently staffing a chapter is a HUGE commitment! It takes a lot of work, a lot of time, and you sometimes have to meet absurd expectations.
I like to imagine a game where the event cost isn’t paying for the staff’s performance, it’s paying for access to this really exciting community where everybody’s entertaining each other. I envision a tradition of plot/NPC reciprocity. Maybe a player would say to his friend, “Tell you what, I’ll come in for an hour as your long-lost brother if you’ll play my apprentice during the feast.” Or: “That guy over there looks really bored, let’s come up with a quest we can give him.”
I’m sure we could come up with some kind of incentive to encourage players to take an active hand in making the event fun for everybody. Maybe that’s a better way of maxing out… instead of turning in silver at check-out, you have to create content for others during the game. If you run a module or encounter, you get the participants to initial your card. If you get three sets of initials, you’re maxed out.
In the D&D 4th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide II, there are a lot of great notes about collaborative plot. If a player asks the DM, “What’s the nearest town to the west of here?” the DM should be comfortable saying, “You tell me!” — and then building on the response and weaving it into the ongoing story. It’s okay to give your players some control over the plot and the setting, it makes them feel invested, like they own it too. This attitude of collaboration turns an RPG plot into a true group storytelling experience rather than a one-way transmission from director to audience.
Food for thought.
Medieval Combat Sports (MCS) have existed in recognizable form since the 1970’s and since that time existed primarily on the fringes of society. It attracted nerds, geeks, and social outsiders. It shunned the bright light of public attention as the sport itself had a similar social outlook to that of its members who often avoided attention. This was seen as a positive to many members who specifically wanted to be identified with a counter-culture or rebellious, niche activity. Indeed most people participating MCS still view it as a niche activity. That view, however, is incorrect.
In a recent survey of 3300 people (representing a statistical cross-section of America) 33.6 percent of them were aware of Medieval Combat Sports. Surprisingly, one out of every three people sampled not only were aware of it, but were able to identify it based on the terms ‘Medieval Combat Sport’ or ‘Live Action Role Play’. Awareness was highest among males aged 16-20, with a remarkable 51.6 percent of the population sampled being aware. Awareness was lowest among the under 16 age group with 18.2 percent being cognizant of the sport. Males tended to be more aware of the sport than females at 42.8 percent awareness to 30.8 percent awareness. Culture demographics were remarkably surprising with only a 7.1 point spread between the most aware culture (Amerindian 38.5 percent) and the least aware culture (African American 31.4 percent). This is incredibly surprising given that non-Caucasians have a very low representation in MCS. In fact, Caucasians have the lowest awareness rating of any culture other than African American at 33.6 percent.
Looking at the question of how people become aware of MCS yields more interesting data. The largest single contributor to awareness was television at 25.6 percent. Furthermore it is interesting to note that a mid-sized MCS group, Dagorhir, had a spot on the Discovery Channel’s ‘Wreckreation Nation’. This looked like a correlation event, but further research discovered that only 10 percent of the people who were aware of MCS were viewers of the Discovery Channel, and that almost everybody who reported ‘television’ as their method of awareness had seen a local news piece done on a local group. Either people didn’t associate from the ‘Wreackreation Nation’ spot or they didn’t remember something not local to themselves. The second largest contributor was word of mouth from friends at 21 percent, and word of mouth from family at 9.1 percent. Combined word of mouth was 30.1 percent, edging out television for awareness efficacy. Internet awareness was a surprisingly low 9.4 percent with live demonstrations, print articles, movies, and radio making up the difference of awareness with an even spread.
Participation is where the niche appearance begins to reassert itself. Only 2.8 percent of the population sampled had participated in MCS or LARP activities. Over the course of the thirty years the activities have been active, and the numerous groups available to choose from, this does not seem like an impossible number when extrapolated out into the general population. Most of these are likely people who participated only at a large convention such as DragonCon or participated for a brief while and then never returned. Clearly there are not currently 8.4 million (2.8 percent of 300 million Americans) active MCS/LARP participants. On the other hand, 42.6 percent of the people sampled have an acquaintance who participates in MCS or LARP activities. This is instructive as it suggests that those people who play do so openly, which is a large break from the fringe, secretive behavior seen in the past.
Taken together, this data yields insightful analysis. First, MCS is no longer a fringe activity. With 33 percent market awareness it is beginning to compete on a stage similar to that of other extreme sports. It isn’t there yet, but it is inevitably moving in that direction. Second, MCS is not reaching anywhere near the full potential of recruitment and retention available. With 3 percent of the population already having shown itself willing to participate in the activity it is clear that there exists sufficient interest to grow into the tens of millions of participants. With low barriers of entry and a diverse group of activities within the category there is no reason that MCS/LARP couldn’t achieve 27 million participants in the US alone once 100 percent market awareness is reached. What is made clear right now is that MCS/LARP is doing a poor job retaining and appealing to interested parties. With an estimated 40 thousand active participants, MCS is currently retaining only .5 percent of total participants. If retention and involvement was raised to a mere ten percent the sport as a whole would break one hundred thousand active members in two years. With corresponding improvements in market awareness the million member mark could be reached in as little as ten years. Further, reaching out to minorities is a must. MCS has the highest recruitment base among almost the lowest awareness group. Hispanic, Asian, and African American outreach programs need to be developed and implemented with a quickness. That alone could double the size of all MCS groups with no further improvements in awareness or retention. Minority outreach programs, local media involvement, and word of mouth campaigns combined with modest gains in retention can yield immediate and impressive results in growth. Groups should utilize those programs to direct potential new participants to social networking tools such as Meetup.com, Facebook, and Twitter in order to create an open and appealing appearance to recruits.
Clearly MCS/LARP is at a turning point. It has come out from the shadows and moved into the limelight of public awareness. It is time to walk forward bravely into the light of day and welcome all people to join us in our pastime with open arms and encouragement.
Today we’re going to talk about some of the main ways to get new players for your LARP.
The Myth is that all you need to do is run a great game and people will play it. If you run a really fun LARP, players of other LARPs will come play your game too. There are LARPers all over the country, and when they hear about your chapter, they’ll come play, right? WRONG! You cannot sustain your chapter on “traveling players”.
The Truth is that LARPs must constantly recruit new players. This takes a variety of strategies. Your game does not sell itself — no, you must actively sell it or it will grow stagnant. Use Internet and face-to-face marketing. Use local media and to a lesser extent, other nearby LARPs. You must also be willing to reinvent your game in order to make it more marketable and accessible to new players.
Low Barrier of Entry
Before you can do any marketing, you have to examine what you’re selling. There are a lot of hurdles which keep people from joining their first LARP. Your job is to remove or circumvent a lot of these barriers.
Before a player PCs at their first LARP event, they have to go through all of this stuff:
- Find out about the LARP
- Learn the LARP’s rules (this may require a rulebook purchase)
- Come up with a character
- Buy or create a costume they think will be appropriate
- Buy or create a boffer weapon (which they may never have seen before)
- Request an entire weekend off from work / significant other / other hobbies / real life
- Invest another modest sum of money on the event ticket
That’s a lot of commitment for a hobby you don’t even know if you like yet! For a player to complete all of these, they have to be really sure they want to play. And in a lot of cases they won’t know that until they get there.
Do anything you can to remove items from this list. For example, have costumes and weapons on hand to lend, rent, or sell to new players. Give new players a free first event. Introduce them to a team or guild so that they already know some people when they arrive. You want to be able to tell a potential customer “Just show up, we have you covered for your first event.”
Your chapter’s web page should explain everything in about 10 seconds. When somebody arrives at your web page, they should instantly understand the following
- this is a live fantasy game involving costumes and boffer combat
- where in the country (state and city) your game takes place (a disappointing number of LARPs hide this info somewhere on their Registration or Event Info page)
- why they should commit the time and money necessary to learning more
The average person decides whether or not they’re going to read a website within 5 seconds. Attention is a precious resource in web marketing, so learn how to construct an elevator pitch. The challenge is to present the complete idea of your chapter in a very brief, compelling package. If a potential player has to dig around on the website to find out what the game is about, or where it takes place, or why it’s fun, you’ve already lost them.
The key here is to give your potential player an image of what it’s like to play your game. You need to communicate what experience you are selling them. Pictures and video are worth a million words. Large blocks of text only repel people. Show them the look on the kid’s face as he opens a treasure chest. Show them the fear of being followed as you walk through the woods at night. Show them the parties around the campfire, the noble procession, a ritual being cast, the visual and emotional touchstones which people associate with your game.
After you’ve given them a taste, give them the opportunity to move a little deeper. This is when they find out the event dates, the cost, what to bring, details about the story, et cetera.
Social Networking is a big deal these days. It is an extremely cheap and easy way to market your game to new people. At the time of this writing, the main network to attack is facebook. Set up a facebook page for your LARP. Create a facebook event for each of your events. Invite everybody that’s associated with your group or fan page. Allow them to invite their friends.
Any time you create an ad or teaser for an event, go back to your elevator pitch. You need to tell people why this is the event they shouldn’t miss. Or why this is the perfect event to start playing. You don’t just have to tell this to people, it also has to be true!
Your LARP’s social networking page, if maintained, can become a powerful marketing tool. Keep discussions moving, make sure everything sounds welcoming and inviting. This is a great channel for people to invite their possibly-interested friends.
Face to Face Marketing
Most of your new players will come from your local area. Think about it – the easiest people to recruit are the ones with the lowest barrier of entry. They don’t have to commit to a lengthy road trip and a weekend of camping with strangers in order to find out whether or not they’re even going to like your game, they just have to drive up the street on a Saturday and take a peek.
Set up local character creation days, module demos , and meet-and-greets. For most LARPs, a local college campus the ideal place for recruiting. If possible, make contacts with the local gaming club and give them a bunch of coupons or vouchers. Put up fliers and posters in that area. Optimally, these should match the visual style and branding present on your website.
At these sessions, be warm, welcoming, and positive. Don’t spend too long talking about the rules, (because that’s boring) or the things which might suck about the game. If asked about these things, be honest and concise.
Have a bunch of hand-outs ready too. A hand-out is a one-page commercial for your game. The pitch should drive the reader towards the website or the next event. It should definitely include at least one picture.
Tip: If somebody says they’re interested but they can’t afford it, the best response is a variation of, “Come be an NPC – it’s free, and you get free food.” This incantation works like magic on college kids because (a) it requires no investment (b) free food rewards them for showing up.
At a Demo, you’ll run a quick module. Have a bunch of pre-made characters ready, and include text on the character sheet so people know what they can do. The goal is for them to be able to read their sheet and then understand how to play that character. If you give the players setting info, it should be no longer than one page – you don’t want to overwhelm them! All the info you give them should be relevant to the module they’re about to play.
A module is a good thumbnail of the various rewards that LARP offers. The players should get a taste of action, teamwork, problem solving, and treasure. They should experience what it’s like to think on your feet to overcome a challenge in real time. If they walk off the module saying, “I want to go on another one!”, you’ve hooked them.
Combat demos are easy too – bring a bunch of weapons and give people a chance to try out the combat system. Don’t just set up one-on-one sword duels. Be sure to include some team combat so people can experience what it’s like to set up a shot for a rogue, or harry a nasty monster with a spell. Teamwork is a big part of LARPs, and it’s part of what keeps people coming back.
At a Workshop, your goal is to get potential players prepared and excited about an upcoming event. Have a member of your plot team there to talk about the setting, and help people create characters which will fit into your plotlines. At the end of a workshop, potential players should have some goals or hooks they can pursue at the upcoming event.
A gear-making session is also a great idea for a workshop. Bring a bunch of boffer supplies and show people how to make their own weapons. Someone who owns a boffer sword will look for places they can play with that sword. And that’s where you come in.
A Q&A Session is the simplest thing you can run. This is simply a booth or panel where players or staff members can field questions about the local game.
Face To Face Tip: Don’t Apologize
We all know that LARPing is an unusual hobby. But we like it and we do it anyway. Own it and feel good about it. Don’t make people feel embarrassed or self-conscious about their hobby. One of the biggest things that will turn players away is to embrace and thereby reinforce the negative stereotypes about LARP.
This means that you do have to be aware of what makes LARP uncomfortable for some people. If you’re having a Q&A session in a public place, don’t do it in costume. If you’re running a demo module, have it somewhere private so that the players don’t feel like people are staring at them.
Above all, don’t make them feel like they should be embarrassed. LARPers are normal people with an interesting hobby. It’s moving out of the fringe – lots of people play role playing games, cosplay, and like spending time outdoors. This hobby just combines all three. If you go to an event, you’ll find that most of the people are pretty cool. Yeah there are a few oddballs and basement cases, but you’ll find that in any hobby.
According to market research, if you had never heard of LARP, local media is the most likely way for you to find out about it.
Your local newspaper is hurting for things to talk about. Believe it or not, what people do for fun in your region is news.
Learn how to make a press kit and create one for your chapter. Send it to your local newspapers and media outlets. This will give them some text and images they can use to explain your game to their readers. If you invite a reporter to your event, have a member of your staff that can walk him or her through the game and explain it in plain language.
One of the smoothest sources for new blood in your game is existing LARPers. They have a low barrier of entry because they are already sold on the live action RPG concept.
The most important rule of recruiting from other games is that this is not a competition. Do not try to “steal” other games players. The other LARPs in your region are on your team to the extent that you are on their team. Encourage your players to play those games too.
Don’t use other games as your primary source for recruitment. Do your part for the community and bring in new blood.
Don’t book event dates which conflict with other local games.
Don’t trash talk other local games. Instead, encourage your players to play them too. In fact, the staff members of your LARP should be playing other LARPs. The friends they make at those games will be more likely to play your game just because they know somebody there.
Encourage foreign staff members to play your game. Give out coupons or vouchers to encourage them to come check it out. If they have a high opinion of your game, their players will too.
An attitude of competition or territoriality is the enemy of recruitment. There are so few Live Action RPGs in this country, we need to stop trying to fight over our meager playerbases. People who run LARPs are all on the same team, we are cooperating to build a world where LARP is a fun, popular and accessible hobby.
There are many stories which take place at LARP events. The staff only directs a fraction of them. The rest emerge from the ongoing collaborative efforts of the game’s players. Like any form of improvisational theater, players can build on one another’s offers using a technique called “Yes, and…“, advancing the story in whatever way is most interesting for those involved.
One of the secrets of LARPing is that the people who are most entertained at an event are the ones who entertained others. Think of yourself not as the audience to the NPCs’ performance, but as a character in a collaborative story in which everybody is the audience.
When you speak with other characters, pay attention to potential offers, hooks that you can build upon. Any time somebody engages the story, don’t just observe it, react to it and create the next narrative element. Your reaction becomes a cue, an offer for other players to build on as well.
Here’s one example of how this technique can be employed to generate plot over a long period of time:
Frederick writes an article for the local paper about a difficult decision his party had to make during an adventure.
Alora likes Frederick’s article, and asks him if he’d mind writing an article which puts her party in the spotlight.
Frederick decides to tag along with her party as a reporter, and takes notes on how the party behaves.
Alora’s party mate Iago, intrigued by the media attention, begins to act like a celebrity.
Vincenzo and Wintermoon decide that they’ll become Iago’s fans. They ask for his autograph and gush over their encounters with him.
Winden wants to be famous too, so he challenges Iago to a competition.
Winden wins the competition, and Vincenzo and Wintermoon decide to become his fans instead…
There’s an awful lot of plot there, and none of it was directed by a staff member. The Yes, And… technique is one of the most basic ways to create your own plot and ensure that you have a fun event no matter what the staff is doing.
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.