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Posts tagged “Role Play

My First Murder Mystery

I’ve heard a few things about Murder Mysteries that didn’t have me completely sold on the notion, and while I’m aware that quality varies from group to group, when a friend of mine laid out her plans for her own mystery evening it took very little effort on her part to convince me to join in. Honestly I was sold before she was done talking:

A mixed group of actors and role-players are plunged into 1920’s London, given an in-depth character, complete with history, motivations, a full account of the evening of the murder, and a deep dark secret that could throw suspicion upon you, and give you a reason to have desired the death of author Anthony Body. My character was Benedict Andrews, publisher and consultant with no love of Anthony’s drinking habit, but more frustrated by the blackmail. Benedict has been taking the transcripts of aspiring authors and publishing them under his own pseudonym, and Anthony found out. (more…)


Playing Chaotic Good

Meet the Robin Hood of the D&D moral alignment system. Here we find the vigilantes, the renegades, and the rebels willing to stand up for what’s right in a world gone tragically wrong, and most importantly the heroes of freedom. For those who swing towards chaos on the side of goodness and the rights of the people the call to heroism comes when tyrants, slavers and oppressors threaten the people and their ability to live their lives in peace and quiet, without the demands of others to intrude. Sticking up for the little guy has the potential to lead people into trouble, and a tendency to run afoul of the law, but that’s all part of the fun for a CG character.

It’s one of the easiest alignments to play, but it’s worth looking into how to play Chaotic Good well.

Equality & Justice For Most

Law and it’s associated organisational structures have a tendency toward being easily exploited by the cruel and manipulative, and that tends to generate inequality and unfair treatment, and it’s exactly these injustices and inequalities a CG hero might seek to combat, but it’s not a must. It might simply be that a thief is content to leave the establishment untouched, but make a habit of taking things from them to redistribute, or a brutish mercenary might go hunting criminals in the underground with methods that local police might deem unnecessarily violent. You might seek to champion the cause of freedom, or you might just want the freedom to do what needs to be done.

Administration, bureaucracy, and all its trappings can often give villainous sorts more than enough time to wreak havoc while those who are supposed to be stopping them are busy making sure things are done properly, and that kind of restriction can rile a Chaotic Good character. The lawfully inclined may not draw distinctions between one criminal or another, no matter their intentions, and if a chaotic hero goes off on a well-meaning rampage then they may be regarded as playing judge, jury, and executioner. How does your character decide who deserves their attention?

The Problem With Anarcho-Syndicalism

Chaos, and a life without an authoritative force tends to form one; someone always wants to be in charge, and if they’re free to do so then crueller people will vie for the top spots. If you seek to overthrow the ruling force you run the risk of allowing another to rise, and if you live among the fringes of society you’ll often find yourself confronted by the worst of those who rule over society’s dregs. The problem with freedom is that people are free to do whatever they like, for some that steps on the toes of the freedom of others, and not everyone will use their freedom to go about their own business.

This raises some very serious ethical dilemmas for a CG character, at least those who care enough about the fate of the world to engage. Is it enough to keep swatting down villains until they take the hint, or should a vigilante lead by example, making themselves a symbol for all to aspire to. Anyone who has the kind of social impact heroes do must at some point confront the consequences of their actions, and a good person will face up to their responsibilities instead of shrugging it off, that’s for the neutrals and evils of the world.

For Example

People who travel through the Forest of Noon need to watch their step, and be sure not to destroy anything or kill the local wildlife. A local logging company still tells stories about how their trucks suddenly turned into hornet nests, and how their tree surgeons found themselves upside-down, dangling by the ankles from an ivy rope in the branches of the very trees they were supposed to be cutting down. No one knows what’s happening, how, or who could possibly be doing it, and for now she’d rather keep it that way. Let people say what they like about the Forest of Noon, so long as no one hurts it.

A character like Wolverine or Jessica Jones would easily be considered Chaotic Good, as both may despise authority and seek to pursue life their own way without interference they’ll ultimately end up doing the right thing. Despite a gruff and anti-social exterior they are fundamentally compelled to help save lives and protect anyone close to them, or even fight to defend a stranger when the cause is suitably just, and are unlikely to sit by and watch as someone else suffers. Unless they deserve it of course.

A singer has a tendency for writing songs deemed “troublesome” by the Earl, and his penchant for wearing an oversized novelty moustache in mockery of the Earl’s own is rather irksome. And yet every time the Early has the man arrested it seems to stoke some great rebellious fire amongst the people, the King’s guard are overworked by the little insurrections happening daily. Maybe it’s time to repeal the law about singing the damn minstrel’s songs on the street, but how is a duly appointed ruler to be taken seriously when he’s ritualistically mocked by his peons, underlings, and the common peasantry?

The crew of the Serenity in Firefly are almost entirely CG, with the exceptions of Inara, and possibly shepherd Book. They pursue criminal enterprises and illegal transactions that help keep tax revenue out of the hands of the Alliance, and to deliver help where it’s most needed. They stand up to anyone who seeks to stick a boot on someone’s neck whether they’re government or just some Ben Tian Sheng De Yi Dui Rou with a superiority complex.


My DMing Bucket List

One of my favourite discoveries of recent months, the works of Creighton Broadhurst and his group Raging Swan Press have served as an inspiration and a great resource for me to call on in the quiet moments where ideas are running short and just need to be given a push until momentum takes over.

As it stands I am not short of ideas, but after spotting this headline I’m prepared to push a few planned articles back a week. Creighton‘s list and mine will differ quite radically though, I’m not so interested in running famous dungeons or campaigns, while I sit and peruse some of the classics from time to time I’m a firm believer in finding my own style and adjusting as I play, rather than finding someone else’s style and adapting it to my own, and after ten years and forty articles I’d like to think I know my style at this point. (more…)


DMing 101 – Lies 2: Duplicity

 

DMing101

Deception is rarely fun for everyone concerned. Ok, so the longer you can keep the grand reveal from your group the more incredible it may be, but in between there’s a long stretch of frustration because people prefer to know things than be kept in the dark.

Ah, but when someone is in on it, then things get more interesting. Bringing someone into the fold makes for an interesting dynamic, pitches the group against one another in the best possible way, and can make for a few rather interesting story moments that will leave your group exchanging dirty looks at one another for years to come. (more…)


DMing 101 – Choosing Your Rules

DMing101

I use the term DM or Dungeon Master to describe those running role-plays because my preferred set of rules is Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve dabbled in many a game system, discussed others at length, and even made some efforts into making my own. With the explosion of diversity in rules spanning genres, creating worlds or plunging players into worlds they’ve always wanted to explore, but so often you’ll find there’s something missing, or that your chosen campaign doesn’t match up with the rules at hand.

You can alter, add to or even create rules if you’re feeling really brave, but there’s a market out there worth researching, and it’s a fun experience. (more…)


Party Dynamics

I’ve been watching Farscape lately. I love it, I forgot exactly how much I love it actually, after getting reacclimatised to the hastily-made (but still high quality) practical effects, the occasionally hammy acting and rather harshly episodic nature of the first season, it’s a forgotten gem of science fiction that occupies a rather amazing niche filled with action, a rich world and at times some very progressive themes that Star Trek would never have touched. It strongly fits within the “fantasy in space” field of sci-fi, and it got me to thinking about something I’ve observed in other series as well.

In D&D amongst other RPs that you all know, the characters fall into some quite specific roles. In most MMOs they’d be the tank, healer and DPS, D&D gives us the classic four-part set up of Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Mage, along with the variety of extras that add variation to the themes. Others, like Shadowrun, Call of C’Thulhu take the same roles and apply their own themes. They stem from the sword and sorcery genre of pulp fiction styled by people like Robert E. Howard, and the epic fantasy works of people like Tolkien. (more…)


BathLARP

LARP or Live Action Role Play is a booming industry here in the UK and abroad. A lot of people aren’t aware that you can find LARP groups on your door step if you know where to look. I’ve reached out and spoken to some members of BathLARP this past week in hopes to learn more about the hobby.

Why LARP?

Physically challenging, immensely creative and a unique hobby. If you’re one of the geeks of the world who loves the world of role play, then chances are you’d love the transition into an activity that allows you to get out and about whilst still getting your fix of fantasy.

A player will pursue a goal, set out by a games master, whilst performing what is akin to improv theatre. In a tabletop RPG, players will play out their characters, sometimes even going so far as to doing the voices. LARP is a step further then. Create your very own character, get in gear and fight through a series of events to achieve your or your teams goal.

Most areas of the UK have a LARP group nearby. In the South-West, one such group is BathLARP. I’ve been lucky enough to get some time from some of the BathLARP members and even a member of their committee. I was keen to get to know more about the hobby, so in true GeekOut style, I posed some questions to the LARPers.


 

Interview with the LARPers – Members of BathLARP

Interview with the LARPer - Bath LARP

Q: How did you first get into LARP and how long have you been LARPing for?

Judith: I first heard about LARP through my sister – she used to be part of a Vampire: the Masquerade group in Bristol – but although I was aware of the Bath University group (BLADES) I didn’t join until my final year for various reasons. I’ve been LARPing ever since – which is eight years and makes me suddenly feel very old! That said, I’ve met LARPers who have been in one system or another pretty much since LARP took off in the UK, which is over 30 years at this point.

Louisa: I have been LARPing for around 6 years now, though I had my first go at LARPing 2 years before that. I was introduced to the hobby by a friend who was a LARPer already and knew I liked dressing up and reading fantasy novels.

Greg: I first got into LARPing as a Fresher at university of Bath. I saw a bunch of people in costume advertising the society, at first I was too nervous to approach them and walked past. Almost immediately afterwards I thought “what’s the worst that can happen” and turned around to introduce myself. I’d not been part of role playing as a hobby before that at all really but it looked like a laugh and I could certainly use the exercise. Since then I’ve been hooked! It’s far more immersive than tabletop games, has improved my confidence no end and I’ve met some amazing people! I graduated a few years ago and have been LARPing for seven years in total now and still love every minute of it!

Doug: My first LARP was on October 12th, 2003, so that means I’ve been LARPing for 11 years, 9 months, 17 days and this evening…

Guard Captain Gerrard Knight

Guard Captain Gerrard Knight

My first introduction was a few days before, at the societies introduction days during Freshers Week when I came to Bath Uni as a PhD student. Walking along the main concourse, I saw two people fighting each other. In broad daylight. With weapons. I remember my first words well:

“Excuse me…sorry for saying this, but what the hell are you doing?”

I was answered by a very enthusiastic guy dressed as a highland warrior (who is now a professional stuntman) who invited me to Google ‘Blades Bath’ and come along to the first game on the Sunday, and it all went from there. I showed up (I say showed up…I hid out of sight until I saw someone else dressed oddly) wearing a green t-shirt, black tracksuit bottoms, a pair of belts strapped across my chest like braces, and for some reason I still can’t quite work out, black shoe polish under my eyes as war paint. I was rocking the look.

I had an idea of what I wanted to play (one of my Everquest characters brought to life), the more experienced players helped me translate MMORPG stats into LARP stats, and away we went. We fought goblins, a couple of skeletons, and almost bricked it when we came up against an ogre…but we won!

Q: What does having a group such as BathLARP mean to you?

Judith: For me, it’s a community where I know everyone is as bizarre as I am. In a small system like ours we all know each other fairly well and look after newcomers to the group – we know who can help with various aspects of the game, from kit to combat to role play. There’s also that sense of shared history, both Out of Character and In Character – you’ll often hear war stories of The Day My Character Did Something Heroic/Stupid or That Patrol Where Something Really Weird Happened told in the pub after a game.

Louisa: I love being a member of BathLARP! When I was new to the area it helped me make friends and I’ve always found it to be a really welcoming group. I also love the fact it’s weekly, so I get to do lots of LARP!

Greg: Having a group where I know and trust the members is really important to me. I’d have never been able to get into the hobby without BathLARP and the members have been supporting me in upping my game since turning up at my first session with pretty much nothing to the point that I’ve made some of my own armour and own more kit than I could ever use. The sense of camaraderie within the club is really important to me and I count it’s members among my closest friends.

Doug: BathLARP (and its Bath University equivalent – BLADES) has been a constant in my life for over a decade. When I came to Bath, I was still coming to terms with advanced and alien concepts such as ‘friends’ (a strange thing that I experienced as an undergraduate in Bristol, after a school life entirely devoid of such things and filled instead with all the malice that children can visit upon one another), and ‘independence’ (I had spent all three years at Bristol in halls of residence, so it was still quite new to me). I knew I liked the fantasy genre, but the idea of actually being it – putting on the kit and running around a forest hitting each other – required some very welcoming people to avoid making me feel horribly out of place.

Sergeant Jorael Starke

Sergeant Jorael Starke

I have met some amazing people, had some crazy arguments, defended my opinions, learned to patch up some of the gaping holes in my understanding of social interaction, and been educated in a variety of social issues in which my understanding was sorely lacking. I also met the most utterly perfect, utterly beautiful, utterly magnificent individual ever to grace my existence, and just under three years ago, I was lucky enough to marry her. BathLARP made it possible.

I am really, really glad I pushed through the apprehension, bit the bullet and stepped out of hiding on that first morning back in 2003. Look at all I would have missed had I not!

Q: Across the UK, there are various different groups. Have you ever been to and partaken in the activities of another group?

Judith: So far I’ve played in Curious Pastimes and Lorien Trust – two of the big national ‘fest’ systems – and Winter in the Willows, which was a short-lived Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk game based on Wind in the Willows. Yes, it was as strange as it sounds. These days due to time, money and energy considerations I haven’t really felt the need to stray from BathLARP, but it’s nice to have the option out there.

Louisa: Yes! I played the local World of Darkness vampire game (now sadly come to an end though a new one is planned) and I have been a member of the Unicorns in LT, a creepy borg-like rabbit in a post apocalyptic steampunk winter in the willows game (Winter in the Willows) and a noble lady airship owner in a tiny steampunk system (Clockwork Monkey).

Louisa ready for battle in harsh, snowy conditions

Louisa ready for battle in harsh, snowy conditions

Greg: Yep. BathLARP runs small, relatively short “linear” games. This means that there are at most about 30 people attending the game, they last less than a day (4-6 hours) and have a defined goal to them. The events that I’ve been to most outside of BathLARP are the national events run by the Lorien Trust. These events last for a weekend or a long weekend, have several thousand people in attendance and the plots are sprawling and multi-layered. It’s great to be able to enjoy these two really different forms of the hobby.

Doug: In addition to TL (Tony Live) in Bath, I have been known to do a little creative nomading when it comes to LARP. Nationally, I have spent several years in the LT (Lorien Trust), several more in CP (Curious Pastimes), and have shown up to Maelstrom in the past. Distributed across the UK, I have played systems called White City (which had the best magic system I have ever seen), Arborea Interactive, Crooked House (the best assembled LARP I have ever played), Shadow Wars, and Winter in the Willows (who doesn’t love a ferret road warrior?). Closer to home in Bath, I have played Vampire (rather badly), a horror system called Tales of a Scorched Earth, and I even had a hand in writing my own system, called Elysium.

Q: Are there any other ‘Geeky’ hobbies you take part in?

Judith: I’m also part of a Mistborn RPG tabletop group, and I read sci-fi and fantasy fairly voraciously. Next year will be my third DiscworldCon and I’m probably going to be made to cosplay again – or at least help my partner with his troll hall costume. I also code for fun (primarily the website for BathLARP), write (material for BathLARP), make costumes (for LARP)…

Louisa: I’m part of two semi-regular table top games and one really occasional one (we’ve managed 4 games in three years…). More recently I’ve joined a medieval martial arts class and I sew my own costumes.

Greg: I’ve been known to take part in tabletop role play games, enjoy a wide range of board games and, when I find something my elderly laptop can run, enjoy computer games as well. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy/ sci-fi literature as well, which probably explains the LARPing.

Doug: I have played Everquest (and later Everquest II) since late in 1999, making it probably my longest running geekdom (and also the reason for the first internet connection being obtained in my family home). Before that, I played Magic: The Gathering, but never had enough money to make a decent go of it (anyone who has played on a shoestring against those with money to spend will feel my pain).

Unlike most LARPers, I came into role play from the stage (where I had been since I was seven years old) rather than the table top. My first tabletop role play experience came after I had started LARP, but since then I have played Shadowrun, Call of Cthulu, SLA Industries, Exalted, Vampire, Promethean, Amber and Warhammer FRP (but curiously, never D&D). I also ran a weekly Shadowrun game for six years – at one point, we got into such detail that there was an in character debate between two characters about taking out the rubbish.

Doug gets into the role as Watcher

Doug gets into the role as Watcher

I also like collecting and watching bad fantasy films (plenty of those around), and mulling over such fundamental questions as “Will there ever be the perfect adaptation of Wind in the Willows?” and “Will we ever see an Iain M. Banks movie?” These are questions that can keep you warm at night.

Q: A person has approached you asking for advice on getting into the hobby. They don’t have any friends who LARP, but have some who said they’d give it a go with them. What should these new LARPers prepare themselves for?

Judith: Anything.

From personal experience LARPers tend to be keen, friendly, and enthusiastic, and if you’re willing to join in there’s a good chance that someone will take you under their wing and help navigate you through your first game(s). The key thing is finding the sort of system that follows a genre and style and level of commitment you might enjoy; there are systems out there that cover everything from high fantasy high combat mosh-fests to steampunk politics and horror, from big budget sci fi down to low-budget noir.

After that, what you prepare for could be anything from glorious battle to scheming deviousness to polite society to having the bejeezus scared out of you; there will be war stories and battle scars, there will be camaraderie and friendly rivalry.

Louisa: Make sure you have really good boots. You’ll thank me later, I promise! Also, be prepared for Weather and layer your clothing accordingly. During the course of a typical English day LARPing you will be hot, cold and rained on at least once. Beyond that, read the rules of the system you’re going to, but don’t worry too much if they don’t make sense. Most LARPers are willing to stop and explain to newbies and a lot of systems will have a new person briefing before the game starts to go over things with you. It can be a little confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it really quickly!

Greg: To have a great time!

In all seriousness I’d let them know when and where we meet, to bring some food and water with them and find out what sort of character appeals to them. I’d then be asking around the club/rummaging through my kit to find costume that will let them be the hero that they want to be. The only thing that you need to have a good time at LARP (especially BathLARP) is an open mind, sensible shoes and something to keep you full of energy all day.

Doug: Something very different. LARP is unlike any other form of role play you have experienced so far, and you may feel apprehensive about the concept, or the way you might look. Please, please, push through that, step out of the hiding place, and give it a try. The chances are you will not regret it, and that you will have a blast. If it turns out it’s not for you, you’ve had a good walk and a day out in the forest.

Be ready to spend the day outside, running around in a variety of different weather conditions. Most LARP sites are in wooded areas, so can be hilly, rocky, damp, muddy and slippery. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty (hard-wearing trousers, but not jeans, are ideal), and stout footwear (walking boots or walking shoes) are your very best friend. Bring lunch, and definitely bring water. If it’s spring, autumn or winter, bring multiple thin layers of clothing – these are better than big, thick layers. In summer, bring multiple removable layers. Just because it’s summer in the UK doesn’t mean it can’t rain at the drop of a hat.

Seekers like Juilin Fortrayre know how to have fun

Seekers like Juilin Fortrayre know how to have fun

Don’t worry about getting hit. In LARP, weapon strikes are pulled, meaning that the only impact is a light tap. If it hurts, the person hitting you has hit you too hard. Full stop.

If you’re coming along to play, it’s a good idea to think about the kind of system you are playing in, and the kind of character you might like to play within that system. The more experienced players you meet can help you make your idea into a reality (which is exactly what happened with me) when you arrive. Alternatively, come along and play a ‘Monster’ for a while to learn about the system. Monsters are the NPCs the characters meet throughout the game – you might be an enemy combatant, a diplomatic envoy, a dead body, a shambling corpse, anything the GM running the game has in mind for the players to interact with. It’s an excellent way to learn about a system without having to create a character to play in it.

Be prepared to be sore the next day. Not because you were hit too hard, but instead because unless you play regular competitive sport, you will be using muscles you didn’t even know you had, and they will be decidedly unimpressed with you after using them for the first time in a long while. This will get better.


Summary

If you’re around Bath or the surrounding areas, cities such as Bristol, then you really should speak to the BathLARP committee. They’re a bunch of really kind people, who are truly dedicated to making fun events for the LARP community. I am enthralled with the response I had for interviews with these wonderful people, who are a very welcoming group.

I’d like to extend my thanks to all four of the LARPers who took the time to answer our questions today. LARP is such a personal experience to people, so it’s truly inspiring to hear from them. Whilst you’re at it, you should check out Louisa’s blog where she talks about all of her geekdoms!

Have you ever done any LARPing before? Have you ever had interest but didn’t know how to get started? Let us know what you think about LARP in the comments below, over on Facebook or on our Twitter page.


DMing 101 – Pure Roleplay

The simple fact of the matter is that anyone can play a game. It doesn’t take much skill picking up a set of rules and start playing by the numbers, even in a game as big as Pathfinder, D&D, Rogue Trader, games that deal with minutia on a fine level, you can learn very quickly how to play and incorporate every little rule into a well structured narrative.

The actual talent is in the acting, occupying, and even becoming the roles you play, and creating living entities from the page of numbers. As a DM it’s a great thing to practice yourself and encourage amongst your players, as it’s this skill that leads to the most memorable moments, and also has some fantastic benefits for real-world application. (more…)


DMing 101 – Dirty Tricks

DMing101

Oh there’s a wealth of powers at your disposal as a DM, deception, impossible odds, the very style of your play is a weapon in the right hands. You have to be careful with how cruel you are to your group, don’t forget that most of them are designed to fight, not chase shadows, or run screaming. Let them engage in the action sometimes, give them a few fair fights to make let them feel useful, but there are plenty of other tricks you can use to keep players guessing and second guessing, whilst still giving them chances to be the hero. (more…)