Balrog as its affectionately known is older than it looks and was played years ago well ok before the year 2000. That makes it more than half the age of the hobby. So in LARP terms – Long Ago.
It then went through a period of Hiatus but was restarted in 2005. Balrogs original creator and group of LARPers who decided that the Gathering (UKs Biggest Fest LARP), was just not for them. The reasons where varied but all boiled down to the fact that they wanted a game on August Bank holiday. A game that had scope and a lot of plot. A game that could expand. That brought Balrog back into life.
The system is focussed on playing high fantasy. The basics are straightforward enough to follow and character creation is straight forward. In play the calls follow a common sense logic – so even if you’re no familiar with Balrog you can still pick up the game and get into it. This doesn’t mean to say the rules are lightweight. There is enough depth in them for anything – its just that common usage is easy.
A favourite inclusion is that weapons and armour can become damaged. This means quieter periods are often full of in character repairs and patching going on. So if you are in a slow part of the game you are going to wonder – have you missed something and also can I repair my kit before the next big thing happens.
The world is Yarm and Yarm is shaped like a doughnut. During an event this generally doesn’t matter but between games – this topology can make for some interesting travel plans. Yarm does not exist in isolation. Yarm exists as part of a connected multi-verse of worlds and travel between them is possible and does have an impact of the plot. You don’t have to understand all of the cosmology. Just that other places exist. People and things do travel to Yarm and nothing can be assumed to be what it is.
Like many fantasy world Yarm is full of races. Whilst you get the usual scattering of elves etc there are also all kinds of beast-men. Of the non human races my favourites are probably the icemen- proud, fierce, troublesome and blue (btw never call one a smurf!).
The plots are always deadly serious. The style is fun. The awesome ref team and the players themselves all want to have fun. So whilst the plots are big, world threatening and on a scale that really needs campaign play there is also an injection of humour. Making for game that has both moments of fear and also crazy laugher.
I mentioned campaign just now and that is critical. Balrog games are critical moments in a larger scheme of things. They are parts of a story that has been played in LARP over a period of years. The campaign also reaches beyond the event into an annual PBEM (play by email). Although being part of the play by email campaign is not essential or mandatory it is beneficial. Its used to flesh out the detail of what happens between events. It contains opportunity for character growth and for perhaps developing the play style for your character.
PBEM is also used to help acclimatise new players. Joining an ongoing game that has been going for a long time can be daunting. This method of allowing character interaction and conversation before a game means that characters have relationships before the players ever meet up in person . That is a huge boon.
Unlike some systems Balrog does not play often. There is a single 4 day event every year. Currently this played at Barnswood Scout Camp near Leek in Staffordshire.
How To Get in Touch
Balrog maintains its own website and Facebook group. You can find these at:
Photographs of Balrog in Action