Review of The Sword Falls

Review of The Sword Falls

Last weekend starting on March the 11th I was lucky enough to be crewing at a Forest Argent game again. This time the first weekend event of 2016. This time round though things were going to be a little different.  You see its been decided that the LARPBook Shows presenters will go around and crew at games. The idea isn’t just to look for review material – it puts three pairs of eyes out there looking out for good ideas. It also means the three of us see different aspects of the event – hopefully that leads to better discussions on the podcast and better information from both this site and the podcast. I don’t see this was being one sided as we do role play quite well together and on this event that did lead to what we’ve been told were some very memorable moments.

This time round the story featured what happens when a monastery in the world of Sann refuses to ally itself to the prevailing shogun. Travellers who wander between the worlds of the “Forest Argent” are on hand. What will prevail? Shenanigans most likely.

So the setting is called Sann and is inspired by feudal Japan. Only in this version there are distinct race groups making up the society. The easiest way to describe this would be a caste system. Each race has a its own niche that it occupies. In fact, that was one of the pleasures of crewing this game. The crew were briefed on the the racial archetypes and we then had the fun of watching the players react first to a very alien society and then to realisation that not all the people were the same.  Come to think of it that’s not just fun – its adding some subtext into the event (cue smiley face).

The game started in Friday night and immediately the crew got to feel what this game would be like – alternating between playing pure bred combatants and strong characters. The opening was a combat in the dark set piece. The players looked resplendent with many of them glowing in the dark with their steampunk inspired “Galvanic”, weapons and accessories.

Once that was over it was time to visit the tea rooms of the monastery and that cued in the first arrival of the Monks. For me that was  special time as I was teamed up with Luke to play a pair of hopelessly drunk Monks who were always only a hairs-breadth away from being dismissed from the pure like due to their obsession with brewing and drinking. I cannot really express how much fun we had with those characters. In case you’re wondering we also remembered to play this pair of rogues somewhat muted the next day as they coped with awesome levels of hangover.

After this opening the game settled into a goodly pace as the players started to understand that both the monestery and Sann had an undead problem (caused it turned out by events at a earlier part of their story). They did the right thing – and worked to correct it. At the same time they were tested by surrounding clans – could they be useful as allies when the Shogun came to the burn the monks out of their home. Whilst trying to figure out Sann honour bound politics and what would happen if the Shogun increased his power base (the down side would likely be an invasion of their own homelands).

This gave The Sword Falls a really different feel to my last incursion into Forest Argent. That game had elements of a fairy story mixed with Lovecraftian horror. This was all honour, politics and combat.

Then again it is good that the same system running a series of linked stories can explore different genres. It helps to keep it feeling fresh; whilst keeping players and crew alike on their toes.

Mean while back at this event there other notable moments. Such as the encounter between the players and the old veterans guarding copious quantities of tea. I must also include a valiant effort to defend against a horde of undead as the worked to solve the zombie problem and the convenient and entirely “coincidental” arrival of a clan who decided they needed to engage the players in games and duals. All excellent moments.

I think you can see that I really had a good time here. I did – I find it very easy to recommend Forest Argent – its about my level of plot, character, mad science and strange magic.

I’d also like to mention that last game everyone was wonderfully friendly. This time round I was starting to really feel like part of the community. This group are fantastic at bringing new people in and making them at home. I know this is a larp trait – but its always awesome when it happens so naturally.

A special mention has to go to the catering team – who kept us all fed and watered – thank you.

Finally I was part of a big crew and everyone worked well together and we were very effectively briefed and managed by game organiser Gideon Lawrence.

If you’d like to learn more about this group here is the website:

http://www.forestargent.co.uk/

And click here for the Facebook Group. You should note that Forest Argent is a part of Wyverns Tales Larp.

 

 

 

LARPCON 2016

LARPCON 2016

A little later than hoped but here is our report on UK LARPCON 2016.

This year set in the Hermitage Leisure Centre – Coalville. The local authority considered it be an overwhelming success – see this article. That though is a numbers based view. What was it like?

Let’s start by saying that it was a lot of fun. I got to talk and spend time with friends old and new. The large number of traders allowed me to buy some things I needed immediately and plan for future events later on this year. Having a large trader hall – effectively a LARP market is without doubt a good thing.  Beyond this there is a lot more going on at LARPCon.

First of all there was a programme of talks. The best attended being on diversity in larp (I missed this – partially because I didn’t get to the start and partially I didn’t want to grind my own axe – I’ll speak more on this in LARPBook at future date), and  sex crimes in larp. This however clashed with being the captain of a starship.  The fact that we could have booking clashes is a great step forward. It means the programme for LARPCon is growing  and that is definitely a positive point.

So let’s talk about being a Starship captain. This year Penarth and District Wargames Society build a bridge using the Artemis Starship Simulator. 5 PCs provided key bridge positions with their view of the action and decisions are made by a captain who only has what his crew tell him to go on. It is a lot fun. I was in a 1 hour session and the time just flew by. It was also a pretty immersive experience. This to me is a pointer to future were it becomes easier and easier to build things that help us suspend disbelief.

Going back to the main home hall we also had game organisers alley. A long stretch were event organisers milled and talked about their upcoming events. I loved the buzz that held here all weekend.

Staying on the game front – this year saw test runs of Paranoia – a LARP version of the classic tabletop RPG game. I had a chat with the organisers and at this point they are trying to secure a suitable bunker to run it in. Personally – I really hope this happens as I was and am a massive Paranoia fan

Were there any down points to this event? Yes there were. The wrestling programme – though consistently watched did cause a noise nuisance that drowned out people trying to talk about LARP. The other problem was that wrestling ring itself though a novel setting – didn’t really help the larp awards. The seating stands though did. So this was a mixed blessing – it was easier to watch – but the ring or rather its ropes became a bit of barrier. There was also a bit of a management problem this year where a certain illusionist stayed on stage for too long. Sorry Crap – you make me laugh but an hour was too much when we wanted the award ceremony.  The good news is that LARPCon has already run its own event feedback and it looks like changes are coming in for next year.

So 2016 gave us a good and growing convention. A few problems true but these can be overcome. I know that I will be back next year – and I hope to see you there too.

One Weekend Two Eras and a lot of LARP

One Weekend Two Eras and a lot of LARP

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be part of the latest weekend by Twilight Realms. I’m saying part of as I had a couple of  major NPCs to play and was also involved in some of the game preparation and reffing. So this cannot be a review as I am utterly and completely biased. Instead I’ll give you a photo gallery and talk a little bit.

First up on the Friday night was Sound Mind. An excursion into 1920’s horror set at a will reading in a remote house where all those who wanted their haul would have to stay the night. So far that doesn’t sound original, but then that’s not as important as the characters and what happened. The members of the family due to receive their share of the old matriarchs will were to diverse. From bright young things, to near communist miners through to professors with a glint for gold in their eyes and over to gentrified folk. I think that any larp with good characters is going to work – and in this case the theory rang true. That was just the players. The NPCs included a man who thought his family lived in his boots, a crazed young maid and a racially confused butler.

The game was played out with a rule-less system. Something that to my mind always fits horror.

The second event was the third instalment of the new  low fantasy campaign world set in a time of a powerful church and a on going crusade by the people of Meritain (not unlike Anglo Saxon England) and the Nordlander (not unlike the Vikings). As is often the  case there are some high level NPCs but also as it not unusual – everyone makes a difference. This game was a new departure in that only the start was set. As this was a PVP siege with the question of who would win. I’m not going to spoil future stories by talking about the outcome -but the story that led there was great and all the survivors have something to thing about. I’m getting to like this world and hope there is more in the future.

I think its important to say that these were small games – less than twenty participants but that fitted the site well (we were using Oakraven Field Centre in the Forest of Dean).

So to finish up here are the pictures.

 

Review: Forest Argent – You Can Run

Review: Forest Argent – You Can Run

I was lucky enough to attend the Forest Argent event “You Can Run”. I crewed the event and this isn’t so much a what happened,  as I’d have to talk about goat love potions. This review is more a feel of things and how well the event played out.

Lets get started with what Forest Argent is. It’s a heroic larp with strong fantasy and steam punk roots that is run by Wyverns Tale Larp.  The idea behind Forest Argent is simple yet clever. The Forest Argent is a fey / otherworldly place where people from different places, worlds and times can sometimes access. Fall into or be allowed to access is perhaps the best way of putting it. It connects up worlds.  These worlds tend to have either strong roots in a particular time and genre. However it is not modern day. It is Gothic, fantastical, and imaginative. I keep thinking that this is a world that I could see Doctor Who visiting although I stress that is not part of any of the materials.

This particular event “You Can Run” had a Victorian setting. It featured a secret agent who in his youth had had a bad experience. He was being hunted by cultists trying to summon Old Gods. In addition a cult of Hunt was in the area celebrating the The Beast. A god of the hunt who every night chased a ghost on the hill. To make things more complex the players were being target by an otherworldly race who also wanted the secret agent.

Lets just say the players had a quite a bit of plot to sort out, and they did. Although there were a few dead-ends – especially the scary one featuring Goat love potions.

The Forest Argent system itself is typically UK. That is it allows for combat. It allows for audacious fantasy combat whilst having enough depth for character development. In fact there is a part of the game where characters have to make sure they can maintain their social standing. This means that players always have to be thinking about what they do and the character back story in order to do well. A great idea. I shouldn’t really expect less. The man behind Wyverns Tales is a master story teller.

So was it any good. Absolutely. I was never bored. There was plenty to do and both players and crew where great to be around. The story line I mentioned earlier had at its heart a folk tale from the venue used by the game. To me that added a lot of depth especially during the night combat sequences.

I did note during the game that a lot of attention was being paid to keeping people safe. This was done in a way that was transparent to the players yet obvious to the crew. Just the way things should be. One nice touch for example was during night sequences no go areas where marked off with glow sticks.

To give you an idea of how things looked. Here is a gallery:

Warcraft Live 2015 Review

Warcraft Live 2015 Review

We haven’t had a post from Ivan Zalac from a little while – but this one is gold. I suspect the subject matter will pique some interest. It is a review of a World of Warcraft inspired LARP. Its not the first computer game inspired LARP I’ve heard of (Fallout always seems popular as a LARP), but it does sound fun.

Here is Ivan’s review:

“You guys have Warcraft larp?!?” was my first reaction when I heard it several years ago from Hungarian players. Considering that I spent a significant portion of my childhood playing Warcraft 1, 2 and 3 and a lot of time playing World of Warcraft later on (here’s a shout-out to all my guildies from Final Equilibrium, EU-Aggramar, you guys rock) I knew I also want to visit this larp, eventually.

So after meeting the GM in person on Demgard and a few days of consideration, I decided to attend this year – see what’s it all about, so I signed up for Warcraft Live 2015, the sixth larp in the series. The storyline of the larp was set during The Burning Crusade expansion, and I built myself a blood elf costume – from a red robe and armor that were just laying around my larp collection, and the GM had a Blood Knight tabard to go with it. Perfect. I had some elf ears to go with it (cheap ones, now I regret not making better ones) and I made some fake eyebrows using a braid of my own hair which I had cut off over 9 years ago – yes, I had long hair once and I still keep that braid in my drawer, it gives me strength.

Warcraft Live is played on the same terrain as Demgard – in Tatabánya, Hungary. But it’s a smaller larp, there were about 25-ish of us and therefore the use of terrain was much more concentrated towards the central parts of it.

Rules are minimalistic, the “trust system” as Hungarians call it which is very similar to the German DKWDDK way of playing. The only thing that is covered by mechanics is the use of magic, as there exists a mana system. Characters get their spells from GMs – the list is not public, so there’s a surprize element in game. The way of casting and effects are not too closely defined, which leaves room for playing and interpretation – but you will get a few core abilities of your class. As a paladin, I could heal, rez and decurse (but sadly I had neither Divine Shield nor a hearthstone).

The feeling of being a part of the game world was very well done. Though some make-up was not as good as it could be, costumes were on point. I recognized many story and character elements from Warcraft 2, Warcraft 3 and of course World of Warcraft.

The event had some logistical issues, which caused the larp to start late. Which actually didn’t bother me too much, because I was late myself, arriving during the night on Friday evening and just catching the event start. The story was set on the Horde side, around the border of Ghostlands and Eastern Plaguelands which mostly focused the gameplay on Blood Elves and Undead – both the Forsaken kind, who are part of the Horde together with Blood Elves, and the mindless (or not so mindless) Scourge, chief antagonists of several Warcraft games or expansions. Several independent (or secretly Alliance) characters were running around as well.

This time, the main threat were the Darkfallen characters from the Scourge. They also had a necromancer with them, who was trying to turn himself into a lich and eventually succeeded, as well as few other undead, including ghouls. There was a decent amount of combat in larp, also helped by the “resurrection” mechanic which ensured most characters would end up living – unless of course they joined the Scourge, ended up in several pieces, or picked up too many nasty curses.

My character – Vyaris Dawnfury – was a member of the Firewing castle military personnel, under the command of Master Falanor Firewing, a senior Blood Knight. The camp also had a group of Forsaken, and underneath it was a tavern with some civilians and a post office – all of it together made our town. After plenty of role-play, encountering the Darkfallen and a few clashes with them, on Saturday morning we also found some stragglers (humans, elves etc) and basically recruited them to fight the scourge on our side.

There were five magical clusters that we would try to capture, take and hold. “Reminds me of the battle of Arathi Basin”, I muttered IC. Basically both us and the Scourge managed to capture enough to get our goals – we got free resurrects, they got their necromancer turned into a lich. During one of the early battles, I lost one of my elf ears and went the rest of the larp without them, which was a bit embarrasing. There were other memorable moments in the game, like one of the humans being brought back as a forsaken only for his former comrade to end his undeath. And many many interesting role-play situation between elves (three blood elves and two high elves which we attempted to convert).

The Scourge eventually proved better at holding several strategic spots on the terrain which severely limited our movement on the terrain between key points. And then they gave us their ultimatum: give them Master Falanor (probably to turn him into a Darkfallen), or die. And they tortured an orc shaman / barkeeper to prove their resolve.

Us elves gathered to decide on the next course of action, and Master Falanor decided that our elven lives are worth far more than those of our allies, so we should leave them. And we did – a Forsaken mage came after us, and shouted with a betrayed look on his face: “Master Falanor, where are you going?”, to which he got the answer: “My friend, you are dismissed.” – one of the best lines on a larp that I’ve heard.

However, while this was a very good IC moment, it pretty much doomed our allies and ensured the quick victory of the Scourge. As it was still early and people still wanted to play, we had a discussion on what to do to save the game. After some consideration, we agreed on a new plan – revisit these same five points to drain the last bits of power from them, which could cause the Scourge to disrupt since no more magic would hold them together.

This led to several more hours of sneaking around the forest, battles and interesting rituals, such as a troll witch doctor who summoned a Darkspear loa of the dead who engaged in a shouting match with a Scourge lich… In the end, we almost succeeded – the Scourge managed to lock out the last magical cluster.

We had some final moments of play with the survivors of our group, and then the larp ended. For me, it was on a very high note – I had a lot of fun. But then again, I didn’t experience many of the negative things that happened, such as the long wait before the start of the larp, and I was always very engaged in-character, while not everyone was, so our experiences varied. Even the resting moments were fun, getting a drink in tavern and watching a peon throw Warcraft 2 lines, or randomly fall asleep and talk to the spirit of his father in his sleep.

After the larp ended, we all sat in a circle to debrief, and then it was the off time – to get drinks and have some relaxed fun. Important to mention: for the duration of larp, almost everyone spoke English, except for one guy who didn’t, but overall there was a very high level of English usage despite me being the only person who did not speak Hungarian. The larp – like its’ source material – often did not take itself very seriously, and there were many funny moments, all of which fit the setting while providing some comic relief. Overall, I enjoyed my time on Warcraft Live a lot.

This review was originally published at: http://www.crolarper.com/2015/08/warcraft-live-2015-review.html  with additional images.

With thanks of Course ot Ivan Zalac for letting us use his material

Bughunt – A Nerfed Up LARP

Bughunt – A Nerfed Up LARP

When I was looking at Nerf in LARP last year I got some excellent advice from Ram Ramadam who was putting together his Bug Hunt Game (That’s as bug hunt as in ‘Is this a stand-up fight sir or another Bughunt?’).

Well that game has now happened and reports from the players was that it was excellent. Ram has not sat on his laurels and has been asking the players for feedback so that he can make future games even better, and work out better Nerf gun mods so that things feel more realistic.  This is great as it shows real attention to taking the idea of cinematic Larp and making it both safe and exciting.

What follows are some pictures from the event.

First though a review from Dan Barlow who attended the game.

“Bug Hunt is a sci-fi event based upon the ideas borrowed from nearly any sci-fi/horror film you can think of. Image a universe where Umbrella Corporation owns a planet, and there’s an outbreak of T-Virus. Cyberdyne systems have planets full of prototype T-700’s that have gone rogue. Weyland Yutani Technologies has planet sized research facilities filled with all kinds of xenomorph organisms used as bio weapons. Someone has to make a call to groups of Marines or mercenary companies to clean up when things go wrong. That’s where we came in, a mercenary company paid to come in and clean up an ‘incident’.

The organisers brought together all the iconic movie bad-guys for us to stand off against. From shambling T-Virus zombies to ‘evolved’ T-Virus mutants, rogue T-800 terminators, face huggers, chest bursters, and fully grown xenomorphs. We were also given in-game intelligence about other possible threats that really added a sense of danger to each encounter, with all of expecting the tri-dot red laser sight of a predator to appear at any moment. Ref planted players coming to horrible sticky ends gave us the idea that they were taking no prisoners at this event. I come from a LRP background where danger is present, but players have to do something quite silly to end up dead. The guys at Bug-Hunt did not subscribe to this….and players began to fall quite early on.

The game started on Saturday and was essentially one long linear; this meant if you wanted to have something, you had to carry it with you. Player kit was amazing, from full Colonial Marine uniforms, makeshift armour, a full size, working, SMART gun from the Alien films, and extra magazines. This leant a huge amount to encounters, players shouting for mags as their guns went dry, each squad shouting orders and instructions, and very quickly it felt as we were in our own personal action film.

The linear through the woods was spilt up with room clearance mission at buildings at the site. These were often frantic and bloody affairs with the floor ending up carpeted in rounds. Alongside the creatures came a raft of props, specimens, intelligence reports and biological samples for us to examine, use and keep.

Night began to draw in and most of the players were sporting bandages, this is when they really turned it up to 11. Zombies running in from the darkness, badly lit buildings and the ever present feeling that something bad was just around the corner gave us all something to worry about.

The event ended with a spectacular last stand at the last building whilst awaiting a drop craft to come and get us. Having spoken to all of the players after time-out was called, we each had a death worthy of a Hollywood film, and whilst I was a bit..miffed to have died, after I’d slept on it and chatted with everyone we came to the conclusion that the event ended in the best way it could. Heroes against the horde until the last man standing, with everyone having stories worthy of a spin-off film. Bug Hunt really showed what a LRP game can be without having to spend a small fortune, having large amount of players, or expensive ticket prices. We all thanked the refs and organisers for providing us with a truly Hollywood experience, every single one of us had hero moments, and all of us are planning for next year.”

And now the pictures

If you’d like to know more take a look at the Facebook group for this game at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/104981539567868/

All photos are courtesy of the group; thank you very much.

Review – Neothera Saga Event 1, and gallery

Review – Neothera Saga Event 1, and gallery

It’s been just over a week since I got back from the first Neothera event and I gave it a somewhat awesome dude review on the Podcast whilst also comparing it to Azeroth. Having time to reflect I still stand by those descriptions.

The game is best described as awesome. Awesome comes from metrics such has great balance – the game had downtime (to rest and eat) – but not too much – so there was no boredom,. As players I never felt as if we were being pushed in a direction. We had a job to do – we started doing and as events unfolded we reacted accordingly. There was a feel of real going on here. Neither did we trust or distrust too much. Sure at times we didn’t know who to trust, but it wasn’t overwhelming. At times we felt real danger, even a hint of hopelessness as it became clear that the odds were stiff. Yet never to the point that we wanted to give up.

In short – the game was well balanced.

I compared the world of Neothera to Azeroth simply because it tripped off the tongue. I still think its a good comparison. Both are high fantasy and both have individual idiosyncrasies. There is an availability of technology and black powder in both – and in both it doesn’t feel like a bolt on. Its a proof that when done right you can blend genres. Finally there are cultures borrowed from well known tropes and that is ok as at no time does it feel like wholesale plagiarism. It is what it is – a nod to things we as players will understand.

There is also a need to commend the crew. They really worked their socks off to give us a great game.

As for the players – wonderful group –  I look forward to meeting them all again.

My final thing to gush about are the costumes – for the first outing of the game there was no stinginess. Great costumes had been created. My personal favourite was the treeman! You’ll find him in the gallery.

All the pictures in this gallery belong to Neothera larp and used with permission

Finally here are the links you’ll need if you want to get involved.

http://www.neotherasaga.com

The Facebook Group

So far in this review there has been no negatives. That is almost true. I only have one regret about this game that is. I had to retire from play early due to an old injury problem resurfacing to the point that I had to go home before the end.  I think I should have handled my departure better. So if that caused any concern or offence – my apologies.

Needs and Blight – Event Overview

Needs and Blight – Event Overview

I’m calling this an overview and not a review. I cannot really review this one as I was an NPC on Needs and a Ref on Blight. If I did write a review the temptation to mention the sublime refereeing would be too great.

These events ran over Halloween weekend. Night one was a modern day zombie game (or was it), and second built up a brand new medieval styled fantasy game. The event was a return to action by the Twilight Realms crew – and it really was awesome to get old friends back together again after quite a break in running scenarios. It was also a first outing at running a game in Oakraven Field Centre. So I’ll mention that in a moment.

The game outlines ran as follows:

Needs – A group of psychiatric outpatients at a weekend retreat try a new form of group therapy that includes hypnosis. This coincides with the start of the zombie apocalypse. Into the mix come a desperate family that are trying to stay alive and some very well prepared survivalists. The question on the patients mind though is what is real and is radical treatment.

Blight – A village becomes the target for a coven a witches who are taking revenge for crimes against their members. Battling for survival are a group of people who have been invited on a witch hunt. Invited though by the witches so that all their prospective targets for revenge are in the same place at the same time. This game included the first play test of a new character generation system.

I’m pleased to be able to report that both games ran well and being shorter scenarios really helped in keeping the pacing tight and somewhat desperate. The players found themselves meeting an emotional, and tactical challenge that did indeed seem to work well.

Oakraven Field Centre worked out very well. A small section of action happened underground. We had no problems feeding over 20 people with the kitchen and the toilets and showers all worked out well, Most of us bunked in the main dormitory (with its comfy 3 tier beds), There was some thought that it might be better to have more rooms – but thinks worked out with the main dorm, leaders room and a few people bunking in the area assigned to crew. We have already booked for next March. I also have to say a big thank you to Andy and Paul who made us very welcome and worked tirelessly to keep the wood fire burning – thank you both.

For me this felt like something new and fresh – working with old friends to create some brand new and exciting games. I cannot wait until the next outing.

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