Monday, 11 September 2017
Monday, 10 July 2017
Now, I've been larping for "some time" and I've worked more often than not in my life, earned an alright wage and rented.
I can afford may be one game a month if I'm lucky.
Every other person, with the exception of my partner, that I know seems to fill every Friday through Sunday at a larp. Some even go from Thursday instead of Friday.
A couple of things confuse me.
Firstly, the Cost.
These other folks I know are in national minimum wage jobs just like me, or on a selection of govt benefits.
I've got a loan repayment also going out of my wages every month, and I have a kid.
Even when I didn't have those things I couldn't afford to larp every weekend, travelling from one end of the country to the other, usually by public transport and not cadging a lift, even then I wouldn't be able to afford it.
Seriously people where does this money come from?
Am I missing some trick here or something?
Just what the hell.
The other thing.
The commitment required.
Maybe it's the style of games that they attend that make the difference, the "big event" games with triple digit numbers of players.
Now, I run a small game, thirty or so active players.
The behind the scenes stuff is a second job for me.
One I don't get paid for either.
I make no money from the game at all.
It's not run as a business.
But as a ref I'm on all of my players social media profiles.
I know all of them pretty well, same as I know their characters pretty well.
Indeed it's been shown a number of times in the past that I knew their characters better than they did. Go figure.
I wandered off track there for a moment. For good reason.
See in my game when players start to drift from the characters goals, methods and such I notice it pretty quickly.
Often I'm able to steer them back to where they wanted to be.
They got lost due to what I see as Commitment Issues.
They've got a half dozen or more other larp systems on the go at the same time that they're losing track of what each system is and who each character is.
All the plots start to get jumbled up.
I've had it happen at my game.
A player convinced that I ok'd an action.
They got confused with the other system.
How many systems do you play, perhaps even run.
Ever had that problem?
As a ref in a small system I also notice the lethargy and, well let's call it what it is, the laziness.
Big systems take up a lot of people's time, understandably so.
But when you start turning up to other systems not bothering with the physical requirements, the right kit and costume and even the right mind set.
That right there is not on.
You're not only doing the players who turn up as they should a disservice but you're also telling the gm's that you don't really care about the thing you're at.
And that right there is well out of order.
I've seen a lot of games fold over the years because of the mental rot that sets in when players start to over commit to many systems.
When you start to commit to a few systems at first it might be fine, different settings and rules to learn, maybe even a few players from those other games you attend so that's all cool too.
But have you noticed that you tend to hang out with mostly the same people regardless of the system, that over time a lot of all your different characters start getting the same mannerisms because it's what you're comfortable with.
And besides you're surrounded by mates and they all do it to right?
Your characters in all the systems start to blur together.
You start to lose track of plot.
Plot that other people are involved in.
Plot that others are working hard for and on.
Plot that you can't really be bothered with, because you're thinking about that thing from the other game that was pure bants and well cool cos all the gang was there..
Ever noticed that?
Maybe there are times you can't be bothered because you're shattered from that thing you was doing last week, and hey its not like any one will notice if you're not there.
I mean it's not as if you're part of plot or anything right? Others can coast along with you not there right?
Stop being such dicks to the rest of the player base.
Ever single thing that you play requires 100%.
If you can't do that then maybe step back from it.
There's a huge chance that your greedy playing style is holding others back from having a better game.
Thursday, 18 May 2017
I know a lot of people who larp.
I myself have larped, it's why I write this blog.
But I've recently been thinking about something that is in most systems where active combat is a thing.
The health pool.
Call it what you will. The thing that shows when we are alive or dead.
Seeing as most larp is essentially based off of Dungeons and Dragons what many People see is that you are either healthy or you are dead/dying.
Anything above one hp means alive.
Zero usually means unconscious and below zero means dying.
It's not really very realistic when you think about it.
But do we really want it to be realistic?
We're meant to be hero's aren't we? Everyone knows that Grog the Barbarian can suffer injuries that would fell a normal man...
Is that why then a great many systems are instead going fir the low hit approach?
Who needs to be doing maths whilst fighting a group of villains intent on killing you?
Isn't it easier to say "get hit twice in the location and it's damaged, take more than five damage at all and you're ko'd and have two minutes for the medic to stop you from dying."
But then why bother being heroes.
Or is it more heroic for anyone to die a senseless death from a bad ricochet.
Is realism in health the new heroism?
Sunday, 23 April 2017
Saturday, 28 June 2014
It's fair to say that we all come to this lovely little hobby of ours to have fun, we all want to be rewarded for investing our time and money, not to mention our emotions.
And more often than not we're well rewarded for our efforts, we clap fellow players on the back, laugh and joke and chat on facebook and forums, develop real friendships out of our fun little hobby.
But what about those folks who run it?
How often does a player say “cheers for that, I had a blast, fancy coming for a pint after the game?”.
Sadly not as often as it could or should happen.
~It's a Hard Life~
Being a Ref, Story Teller, Games Master, Dungeon Master or what ever you happen to call them can sometimes be a bit lonely.
Ours are not the praises sung online, we're really nothing more than something in place to help the Players have all the fun.
Which can be very annoying to say the least.
How many hours do you think a Ref (for sake of simplicity we'll use just this word) spends crafting the epic adventure you've just been on?
There are those who can off the top of their heads run a Linear game, a simple one shot thing which doesn't connect to the major world plot in any way other than it exists in the game world as a whole.
And bravo to them, I truly envy that sort of Ref for how easy they have it.
For the sort of games where there is a constantly evolving story however a Ref needs to plot and plan for a long lot of hours.
As an example i'll describe what I do for Camarilla Invictus.
It has a healthy player base of around 30 people, sometimes lower and sometimes higher.
I run just 11 games a year, once a month with December being the exception because I understand that people need time to shop, drink, eat and be merry at work parties..
So, 11 games doesnt sound like a lot does it, how hard can it be to have 20-30 people in a room playing vampires...
~Stage 1: Player Submitted Actions~
After each individual game I receive a 2-3 page document from each player detailing what they will be doing in between games, this is known in our system as a Downtime. During a Downtime a player advances personal plots, goes hunting for blood (harder than you'd think in this day and age..) and also advances the over all Game Plot which affects the whole setting.
So, each month I have to read 40-90 pages of info from players. I normally allow them 7-10 days to send them in to me so I have time to read them all and process them.
Once i've received a Downtime I have to read it over, usually a couple of times, and I often have to IM a few players back with queries about some of their actions (they're currently allowed up to 10 distinct actions) and what skills or abilities they are using.
We have a specific format for Downtime Submission which some players keep forgetting to use, which makes reading them even longer and throws up more questions than it really should.
~Stage 2: Player Downtime Replies~
Once i've read all the Downtime submissions I then have to do a reply for each and every one of them, so I have to reply to 20-30 2-3 page documents, which then become a 3-6 page reply per person, depending on how well they wrote their downtime actions and whether some of their actions need little more than a stamp of approval on them as they are just confirming some things they done during the Live Action part of the game.
After i've replied to each and every document I then have to re-write some of them because Player 1's actions may effect Player 7's actions, which in turn means that Player 3 may have some actions which now Don't work how they should because of other players..
After i've cross referenced each of the Downtime replies I then double check them for any inconsistencies (and yet they still creep in some how..).
Well, all that sounds pretty straight forward yes? I just reply to every ones Downtimes and thats it job done!
Oh if only...
~Stage 3: Paperwork & Spreadsheets~
Once i've replied to all of the Downtimes, figured out how successful the actions were and whether there has been any reward, gains and losses I then have to go through each of the replies once more, and update a half dozen spread sheets which record what Influences people have, how much XP they have and they have spent, whether a local Influence Resource is now maxed or burned out which caused further plots and problems for the players and several other things besides.
This is perhaps the easiest part of the process, after all i'm just combing through data already presented to me and picking out what changes need to be made to the spreadsheets which define the world and whether there are things I need to add to the players character sheets..
~Stage 4: Rumours~
After the Downtimes & Spreadsheets I then have to comb through each of them and pull out tidbits of information which other characters may hear about, this tidbits of information in CI are known as Rumours, and each player gains a set amount based on what Influences they hold over the mortal world.
With our player base being what it is and the diverse levels of Influences each character holds I sometimes have to generate a further 50-60 pages of rumours.
I try to make all the Rumours different for every player, which is quite hard when you think about it, but thankfully i'm able to reword some of the Rumours a little differently, give one character a rumour about a drug dealer they know and another player a rumour about a drug dealer seen in their area and a third player a rumour about some one who was beaten up a local druggie for debts.. Rumours in our game are used like a form of currency, players can trade them with each other so that they can eventually piece together some part of the World Plot and work with it, against it or totally ignore it if they wish to do so..
However because CI is set in a darker version of our own world and times I also comb the local press for interesting news stories and from time to time work them in to the game as well, that way it helps to ground the characters in to the same reality as the players themselves live in.
~Stage 5: Damage Control (aka Spreadsheets pt2)~
This is little more than a quick double check that I have all the right info in the right place, and that sheets are updated which serves as a nice segue in to the penultimate part of the process.
That said, every month some things do still slip through the net, a player may not of had their new skill recorded or if they've lost an Influence they may not have had it recorded on the relevant spreadsheet..
~Stage 6: Keeping the World Turning...~
Once all the Downtimes are done, the Rumours created I then have to open up some other documents on the computer and update the world as a whole.
I keep tabs of things done, NPC's interacted with, plots generated by players which effect the world and world things which effect the players.
Camarilla Invictus is an evolving world, every action has a reaction in effect.
No matter how small an action might be there will always be some form of reward or consequence.
~Stage 7: Informing the Players~
Once all the downtimes are read & replied to, the rumours generated and the world edited so it doesn't blow up I then spend an evening informing the players the results of their actions.
Through out every stage of the process i'm also always available for the players to contact me, which can sometimes slow up the whole process if one or two players insist on asking the same question a dozen different ways trying to get plot leaks from me or try and metagame with out being seen to metagame.
Sadly now and then mistakes or errors crop up, usually from where i've been chatting to players, lost my place in the process or forgotten to go back and update a highlighted bit of info..
Thankfully such mistakes are few and far between, usually one or two players contact me to say “Heya XYZ isn’t on my sheet... any reason why...” and i'm always upfront and honest with them, and they almost always have the updated information within the next hour (though usually within the next 10 minutes.. because I take pride in what I do)
~Why Do It?~
It is a lot of work, and CI is a very cheap game, we only ask for a small amount of money, either to cover the location costs or to build up a little bit of a kitty so we can use a bigger & better location with less over all cost to the players as a whole.
It can be a full time job with all the hours I put in to it at the end of the day, but I don't earn a wage for what I do, if I were to charge players for the time I spend keeping the world running i'd charge then CI would cost each player £10-£15 per game they attend.
Thankfully I'm blessed with a very patient partner who acts as my A-Ref and takes some of the work load off of me, she often tends to the Spreadsheets helps with the Rumours whilst I deal with the rest of the workload for the game.
It is a lot of hard work but I find it very rewarding to do.
I love being able to shock and surprise players, give them what they think they want and turn it in to something monstrous which they talk about for months after, even now in 2014 players talk about things that happened in 2012, some even talk about what happened in 2008 in whispers of fear and awe.
It makes me swell with pride after every game, seeing the look on their faces when they realise what's happening in the game around them and knowing that I personally am having that effect on them with what I throw in to the game.
However, there are times when I want to walk away from it all.
A player takes an action done against them by another player in game and turns round and blames it all on me, after all i'm the guy that writes the replies to the Downtimes..
We've had players leave the game in the past and try to discredit us, every system has that in all honesty, but as we're a Small game and group many of us become good mates and it hurts to hear mates say such things.
There are times when several players may complain about another players Out of Character Actions, and as a Ref I have to be the person that tells them off, and once in a rare whilst I have to ask players to leave the game because of the massively disruptive influence they are having on the game as a whole.
Being the Ref of a game isn't all fun and sunshine, you can lose players who were mates because of how things turn out in game for them, you can gain players who make characters but then never turn up despite all the promises under the sun of “i'll be there next game...”.
It can be a thankless thing to run a game, but when one player in the game says “thanks” that's all I really ask for.
So, i've outlined what it is I do for Camarilla Invictus, which has only myself and an A-Ref.
Other systems use a lot more Refs for all kinds of things.
Some small systems, with a similar player base size as CI have a larger number of Refs, each overseeing some aspect of the game.
Harlow by Night for example has a Rules Ref, an A-Ref, a Boons Ref and a Rumours Ref, all of which perform a small selection of duties.
Labyrinthe has a Ref and an A-Ref for each 'Dungeon' they run, a Games System Manager who over sees the Rules adjudications, a Ref for their Online/PBM setting (Heroes of the Empire, aka HotE) and one who oversees something known as “Yellow Papers” where players can request new abilities for a small fee. They also have Refs that over see a selection of different Campaigns.
Empire, Odyssey and the like all use a Team of Refs who keep the world turning, some focus on character creation, others only on Crew.
Wasteland also operates a small team of Refs who handle everything in a similar manner as I do for CI, however they also have people who source props or make them from scratch, something i've recently ventured in to myself..
The Refs are the behind the scene people, often over looked and forgotten.
They're they guys and girls who strive to make sure that everyone has as much fun as possible regardless of the length of the events being run.
The work they do is 90% unseen by players, the paperwork, the data sifting, the props sourcing and building, the event writing itself (Linears don't write themselves..), the rewriting of plots when specific players are unable to attend or the sudden mad dash to get crew for an event..
It's tough to be a Ref it really is, but it's rewarding if you can pull it off.
So, after the next event you go to, make sure you offer a little thank you to the fine folks that run the game, your thanks will go a long way!
Written by Nick Sands, who's given up trying to find the Perfect Battenburg and has decided to hunt for the Legendary Tiramisu of Doom...
There are many genres of games for us all to try out and enjoy, everything from glorious mass battles to zombie hunting in old army camps and more besides.
One thing you should always take in to consideration however is the size of the game.
How big is its player base?
Why so I hear you ask, well really at the end of the day not everyone is suited for the very big games where you have hundreds or thousands of people all playing at the same time, just as not everyone is suited to the smaller games, where the player base is little more than say twenty or thirty at a push.
~Bigger is Better~
There are some who claim that it's only the big games that are worth going to, after all they're bigger, which means more will be going on, more plot, more drinking, more fighting, more chance to back stab another character and make off with all their loot.
For some the “national” sized games, such as Empire or Odyssey are the only thing they enjoy.
They get to be lost in all that rich lore, another face in the sea of faces all partaking of their hobby.
After all, if so many people go to the game of that size it must be the best thing since sliced bread yes?
~Good things come in small packages~
On the flip side of that however are those who feel lost at the big games, and they find that they're more in their element at the smaller games, they feel they can connect to the plot a lot more, or have more of a chance to shine if there are less players present.
A small game often has less personal rivalries in it, they can be very welcoming and always happy to meet & greet new players to their small group.
A small game may be small simply because of its geographic location, after all players may only be willing to travel so far to play a game of a specific genre.
It may be small purely because it was designed that way, and that if it grows to much it would become something the people running it no longer recognise or wish to have connection to.
In today’s society however it cannot be said that a game is small due to its advertising, given the way social media works and word of mouth trickles info out there is always a way to get the word out about the game.
~It's not the size that matters~
One thing games of any size has in common are its players.
Those staunch supporters of the system, who love the lore and the rules regardless of how simple or how complex they are.
There's something that draws those players to that game and keeps them hooked.
They go out of their way to never miss a game, and even trudge along in the worst of weather and even when ill.. (Man Flu is nothing compared to Larpers Flu!).
Something else every genre & system has is its haters.
~H8rs gonna h8!~
Sadly, as the internet is fond of reminding us is that haters are gonna hate.
It doesn't matter how good your game is they will find something to complain about.
The worst of them are the ones who have never played the game in question and pour on scorn like there’s no tomorrow, and when questioned about it they will always have an anecdote to hand on stuff they'd Heard, but never seen for themselves, which they latch on to and try to ridicule it as much as possible, and before long they'll turn round and say “we'll I’m only giving you my opinion on it if you don't like it don't listen..”.
Orcs in one system may be green, monosyllabic, big and dumb, whilst in another system they may be based on feudal Japan, deeply honourable and well versed in poetry and arts.
A hater will find something to complain about either one of those types of orcs..
“Oh, yeah typical orcs, just hit stuff and go 'ug smash'” and “Really? Orcs with katanas... their hands are to big to make the armour, they can't lace it up, next you'll be telling me they have a slave race they treat well....” are two such comments I’ve seen online over the years about differing styles of orcs..
No matter what we do in life there will always be room for improvement and feedback becomes criticism and not the healthy kind. It starts to fester and before long some one could be ridiculing some aspect of a game they love playing just because they've been dealt some kind of loss in game recently.
No matter the game size or genre there will always be those who just want to bitch and whine about the system.
If you look at the various facebook groups and forums for the Big Games you'll find plenty of people on there complaining about them for one reason or another.
However, when you look at the small groups you almost never find that sort of behaviour.
Smaller groups tend to be a lot more close-knit, its a different feeling of camaraderie, and no less valid than that at the big games mind you.
~Choosing the right size~
It can often be hard to know what sort of group size you work best in, and its often not until you try both sorts that you learn what lets you have the most fun.
There are those who strictly enjoy the smaller groups when it comes to fantasy games as there is more of a sense of accomplishment when they win the day.
Like wise there are those who feel that being in a small group is to restrictive and they can't play to all their strengths as a person let alone a character.
Neither is one is right and neither one is wrong.
It really is a case of different strokes for different folks and it's not until you've had ago that you can really say what’s more fun.
After all, isn't it all about having a fun day (or weekend if that's your thing) and having some wonderful memories of the game you played.
And if the Haters are getting to you, put them on block online or kill them IC. If you're lucky they might just leave and make everyone happier that way!
Written by Nick Sands, Ref of the nicely sized Camarilla Invictus game, who may have found a good portion of Battenburg and a mug which holds just the right amount of Tea...
Not to long ago (volume/edition) I spoke about character death and retiring characters who've had a lengthy play time.
This is some what of a follow up to that article in a side step fandango kind of way..
There comes a time when the character we're playing takes on a life of their own, and you become heavily invested in them, emotionally and very possibly financially as well if you've bought a lot of kit for them which wouldn't suit another character.
This is great, it means you managed to reach that rare roleplay spiritual plateau where you have become one with what you have created.
And then some big monster comes along and snuffles them up with out even bothering to season or add some gravy. How inconsiderate of that monster right?
Don't they know you scoured the internet for The Perfect Weapon, don't they know that you spent weeks sorting through charity shops, jumble sales and bootfairs for that perfect bit of clothing every one associates with your character?
It's enough to make you cry! You died! Oh no! So unfair!
~Wind your neck in buddy.~
You want to play a game where there's no risk of failure or death?
Go play some computer game in god mode then, go on, shoo, get out of here..
I hear that quite a few MMO have lots of grey critters you can spend all day spam killing for fun!
Roleplaying & Larp are all about risk!
What good is it if you're never challenged?
What do you learn about yourself if you don't have to examine those grey areas you always ignore?
That comfort zone you spend all your time in is all well and good but as a person and a character you don't grow in any way at all other than notching up some XP and adding some more skills to your character sheet!
~Rule 1: It's all about having fun!~
Yes but who's fun?
Yours most certainly, but what about everyone else in the game, aren't they allowed to have fun as well?
What about the fine folks that run the games for you? Are they doing it just to provide a service for you and not allowed to have any fun of their own?
Never forget you're not the only one playing the game.
Don't try and bully other players in allowing you to “win” all the time, you're there to play with and against them.
No one likes bullies, and you can soon find yourself being ostracised or even being asked to leave the system by the folks that run it.
~Failure can be more fun than Success~
What better opportunity to prove your (and your characters) sense of worth than by winning against all odds. That moment when you can fist pump the air after some how managing to survive a session despite being low on health, mana & arrows (or other system specific measurements) is truly a wonderful thing.
It lends you an air of bragging rights, you get to have a bit of an in game Rep, a legend in your own lifetime!
Until of course some one else comes along and does a similar sort of thing and you're forgotten just like last fridays newspaper which doesn't even make it in to the chippy to wrap up a nice bit of cod & chips..
Playing a character who doesn't go out of their way to risk themselves and the things they hold dear is a bit of a lame duck. After all, why are you playing the game if there's no chance of losing something, be it your life, your fathers sword or the multinational corporation you built up from scratch?
What makes a Win situation in a game though?
Is it surviving week to week, month to month year to year?
Does your game have specific quests which are there to be done to gain bonus XP or other nifty rewards?
Do you set yourself some goals which are not related to the games main plot but follow a personal story arc instead?
Is your game all about co-operation or is there plenty of PvP risk involved with the things you might want to do?
Sometimes it's obvious what equates to a win in a game: the princess is saved, the evil warlord and his army are defeated, the wicked witch's curse has been broken.
What about the things which in the short term look like a win but turn out a few months later to actually be a lose?
The princess you saved is actually a doppelgänger who's now ruining the kingdom.. Yay! You helped destroy a kingdom!
The evil warlord was actually fighting to prove the King is a dragon in disguise who ate all of the royal family.. Well done, you just became a tasty dragon snack!
That wicked witch you dropped a house on had a sister who's a lot more powerful and you've just made it personal for her.. Better escape to some other plane of reality because there's nothing you can do to stop the witch, she's just to powerful and has no known weaknesses!
Do you feel a bit cheated, after all you worked so hard to “Win” before and that's been snatched away from under your nose!
In some games there are no clear Win situations, all you can do is hold back the Lose situations.
But what if the point of the game isn't to win, but to struggle, to lose friends and allies along the way, to come under suspicion from others?
Wouldn't that be fun!
~Turn that frown upside down~
So, you're battered, broken and you've lost all your friends and allies, you're a wanted person and the world is now against you.
Now its time to really start playing the game.
You have to beg, steal and borrow, do things that the previous shining knight you once were would have found despicable and killed people for. You're having to learn as a player and a character where the oh so very blurred lines are in society, what makes a man become a criminal or the underdog?
You're stepping outside your comfort zone, and you know what that's the best thing ever.
That's where you can learn the most, that's where you get to find out who your character really is and just what they'd do to win no matter the costs...
Sometimes it's easy to get attached to a character because everything they do is golden and smells of roses, they never fail a skill check, everyone loves them and they know all the best restaurants in town and all the best clubs where all the girls are pretty.
In all honesty that's not a game where you learn anything, it's just fantasy and wish fulfilment and that can be really boring for other people to interact with.
Make sure your games are fun for you and those you interact with.
Fun doesn't mean God Mode Easy...
Written by Nick Sands, ST of Camarilla Invictus, who's on a holy quest to find the sacred Battenburg of Perfection and the Ever Full Mug O Tea!