LARP Memes

Here are some dumb images I made:

I love coming up with names for “moves” you use at LARPs. For example, “The Barnacle” is a move where you stand next to somebody that’s about to go on adventure and hope they bring you along. The above image is the “Majestic Seagull”, which is when you gracefully swoop in and search somebody else’s kill.




This one will make sense to anybody that’s ever been in a tavern at a no-alcohol LARP.

Few things in this world fill me with more joy than watching somebody pretend powdered lemonade is a fine ass Elven wine.



One of the best thing about being high level is getting to “babysit” a bunch of newbies on an adventure and just dicking around like you don’t give a fuck. If the Fellowship were a LARP party, Gandalf would have done a lot more eyerolling and patting people on the head.



(A bit of explanation may be necessary for the above image: In NERO, you can only use five magic items at once. And an item can have a maximum of five magical effects. So if you’re loaded up on items, and you find one that only has one or two effects you are expected to react with disgust. Under no circumstances should you give the item to the group of newbies with zero items standing 15 feet away) 





Here’s the trick to being good at LARP riddles” The answer to the riddle is probably one of the following: time, shadow, death, flame, wind, a coin, the letter e, nothing. If you memorize this list, and the half dozen riddles in The Hobbit, nobody at a LARP will ever stump you.




It’s expected that the farmer who sends you on a quest is probably more powerful and evil than any creature you will face on that quest. I’ll let you guys decide whether the above farmer is actually a vampire, superlich, or is just an ungrateful prick.




Hey dude, do you really need six people to find your missing gimlet? Or is six the maximum number of people you can kill with a single swing?



LARP and Journalism

Hi Nerology! Long time no see. I’ve been working on a ton of stuff for NERO National, as well as a few cool side projects that I’ll share more about if people are interested. One involves a 24/7 adventure system that I’m working on. Another involves putting together a consulting group to support LARPwrights and people making films about live games.

Today’s post, however, is thanks to Zoe, who writes the excellent blog CollabNarration: A Collective Narrative. Between CollabNarration, LARP Ohio (with Bill Tobin) and Rob Ciccolini’s new blog Gamesthetic, a nice little LARPwright blogging community is popping up, no? (As a quick aside, what I love about all of those blogs is that they serve the LARP community as a whole.  There’s some really juicy stuff on those blogs no matter what game you play or run.)

Yesterday, Zoe posted her initial reactions to Lizzie Stark’s new book, Leaving Mundania, and invited we blaggerz to continue the discussion. So here’s my response to Zoe’s points

First, I don’t think our hobby is terribly opaque. After a year and a half of LARPing, you’ll gotten a pretty big taste of what it is. Your third year of LARPing isn’t going to be packed with new surprises. Maybe a few. But at that point, you already have concrete expectations for the games you’re playing. While there is a deep rabbit hole of LARP theory and dramaturgy which you could spend years studying, all that stuff is not necessary to appreciate the medium as a player. So I don’t think that you need a long LARPing career behind you before you should feel comfortable writing about it.

If anything, isn’t our hobby better served by having “outsiders” advocate it? I think a voice which says “This is what it looks like through a newcomer’s eyes” highlights the genre’s accessibility, makes it easier to take the plunge and attend your first game. If her target audience is LARP outsiders, that’s the frame through which she should present her observations.

On the taxonomy of games: as to what is a LARP or what is not a LARP… These categorization exercises are (IMHO) the least important/interesting parts of LARP academia. It reminds me of my metal-head friends arguing about whether a particular song is “post-rock” or “post-metal”. It has little bearing on anything except people who think those categories are real.

Moreover, I have to speak up against the characterization of LARPers are a “stigmatized culture”. I think that’s a tad melodramatic. It’s not like we’re trans-gendered or handicapped or systematically oppressed. We have an unusual hobby, which we do in private. Some people laugh at pictures of it on the net, but so what? People on the net laugh at everything. I certainly don’t feel stigmatized.

There were some kids at the last Madrigal event who drove by the campsite honking their horn. That’s is the most push back I’ve felt in over 5 years. And those were a bunch of stupid teenagers, I didn’t lose any sleep over it. After that, they probably went home, played pokemon, and shouted racial profanities at XBox live.

But more to Zoe’s point – do I think broadening the definition of LARP threatens the integrity of existing games? I don’t think so. There’s already a wide spectrum of subgenres of LARP – we happen to play a “light-touch boffer fantasy weekend” style game, and I don’t see how our integrity would be lessened if “full contact historical reenactment” was in the same tent.

Our hobby needs no protection against diffusion – it’s not a cultural heirloom we have to preserve. All of us – narrativists, simulationists, gamists, social butterflies, full contact jocks, RP hams, reenactors, Jugger players – our hobbies are remarkably similar. We like getting outside, seeing our friends, being in a imaginary place, surrounding ourselves with quirky like minded friends, and cooperating and competing towards some imaginary end. The more styles of LARP I play, the more I’m struck by the similarities across genres. Dagohir players and SCAdians may not identify with the label “LARP”, but there’s no question in my mind that in the big scheme of things, we share a tent.

Anyway, I still have yet to read Lizzie Stark’s book, but I’m ordering it right now. I want to thank Zoe for drawing our attention to it and kicking off a very interesting discussion.


Calling a Hold ruins the moment like your grandparents walking in on you having sex

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”.


Be Nasty With a Boffer Polearm

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, 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)

Hedge Clippers

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.

High Road / Low Road

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.


Socialist Monster Design

today’s article is a guest post from Dan Burke. If you’re interested in submitting a guest article, hit me up!

Socialist Monster Design OR  Everyone Gets to Play

We’ve been talking about total game participation.  This means everyone from level 1 to level 50 gets to play.  Some of the ideas that have been bounced about this, such as transforms on lower level characters have been posted up here.

On the flipside of that would be monster design:  This is the portion of the game which drives the actions of the player base at a logistical and tactical level.  If the story keeps putting out creatures which encourage players to stick themselves in golems…or get silver weapons…or do more damage…that comes back to how the creatures being used to push that plot were designed.

Having been around since the end of 6th edition rules and the introduction of 7th, seeing how monster design has shifted to be more inclusive over time is a good thing, but some of us are still on a crusade to eliminate ‘you can’t play this game’ moments.

A good example of things which have fallen to the wayside would be “Old Threshold”.  Originally this was a skill which said “if you do not swing more than X, no damage is dealt”.  On monsters this was a pain in the butt, as it essentially eliminated lower level players from participating.  These creatures typically were also high body so casters had to overdo it to achieve anything or flip into bind-o-mancy.

These days we have more forgiving mechanics in monster design, specifically “Minimal” and “Damage Cap” .  Rather than saying “You do nothing” if you do not break that magical X amount, you do a minimal amount of damage.  So it’s something versus nothing. The other end of this is Damage Cap, which is to say that a monster will only take up Y value in damage, with exceptions within the rules for overkill (slays, assassinates).

There are still a few places where “you don’t get to play” applies.  A noteworthy example would be “Magic to Hit”.  Magical weapons are a rite of passage in NERO.  You made it, you’ve been adventuring long enough to either luck into or maybe if you have a team, build your own magic weapon!  Now you can fight death knights!  How many months or years were you hating life that you would, at best, get 3 swings in with an Enchant Blade spell?

Consider if Magic to Hit monsters were made instead to “Cap 5 VS Non-Magic Damage”

Suddenly a magical weapon is the preferred weapon to use again this creature, but you can still inflict some damage.  This is not something to be applied to ALL instances obviously, a boss monster should not have a gaping weakness to slays just because.  Where “Cap VS Non-(damagetype)” would shine is on field and woods encounters where you cannot predict scaling.  It would allow for the use of ‘Cool’ monsters, without the fear of removing a portion of the player base from participating.  In a module situation (or for an appropriate Boss monster) using the standard “Magic to hit” would be fine.

Where else could you think of places that would encourage more participation without sacrificing the quality of experience for all levels of players?


Building a Boost Transform

A Boost Transform is a hook for a single low level character to get involved in modules scaled for a higher level party. Here’s a quick guide to building one for a specific character.

Boost Transforms can be conceptualized in other forms than as an enchantment which turns a character into another creature. This framework can just as easily be used to create Boost Artifacts or Boost Boons (granted by an NPC). Technically, the Boost can be treated like a Curse of Transformation. (9th ed rulebook p90)

The goal of a Boost Transform is to provide about enough power to let a player face the enemy NPCs on fair terms. It shouldn’t make him the toughest character there. But it should give him a unique trick, a way of supporting his allies, or a cool moment.

A Boost Transform can be measured in terms of how many effective levels it adds. Calculate the level difference between the party and the low level player they’re bringing. If a level 8 character is tagging along with a party whose average level is 28, you can build the Boost Transform with a budget of about 15-20 levels.

Add a certain amount of defense based on the Boost Transform’s level. For each level, add a point of body, physical armor, arcane armor, dexterity armor, body points, or a mix.

For fighters, the simplest route is to add a strength bonus. A quick rule of thumb is to add 2 point of strength for every 3 levels. (roughly equivalent to granting 2 profs at 15 build) If the other fighters on the module can drop a monster in 4 swings, then a boosted fighter should be able to kill it in 5 or 6. A level can also be spent on a parry/slay, 1-3 physical weapon attacks (ie “physical strike flamebolt (20)”), or the ability to swing 10s as a critical attack.

For scholars, the basic idea is to make sure that they can throw a lot of spells without expending all their resources for the weekend. One method is to allow spellcasters to treat the adventure as if it’s a full day of spells. After it’s over, their spell pyramid will return to what it was before they began the module. Another method is to add a pool of of 20 healing or elemental damage per level which they can cast in increments of 5 or 10 at a time, similar to the element’s fury cantrip. You can grant a few times-ever spell-like abilities such as Dragon’s Breath or Cure Mortal Wounds, or allow the caster to regain a certain number of spell slots by meditating after each encounter during the adventure.

Templars Boost Transforms combine the building techniques for fighters and scholars.

Boost Transforms for Rogues are built similar to fighters, but substitute assassinate/dodge and waylay, for fighter skills and grant twice as much backstab damage as you would strength.

A Boost Transform’s stats are clustered around a theme. This often reflects a role in combat such as melee, ranged attacks, healing, buffing, debuffing, or ambush. They usually also incorporate a setting flavor such as golems, fae, necromancy, celestial magic, earth magic, tyrran forces, lycanthrope, or one of the elements.


NERO LARP Rulebook (9th edition)

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