Union is a linear system. One weekend a year it braves a full weekend long event. Me and the other two gents who make up the head ref team have been working on it for months but ceaselessly over the last week.
Before I left to site I had a post in mind. Something catchy. ‘We are the three soldiers. We are every mastermind you’ve ever faced. Every trap you’ve ever triggered. Every ward in your way. We are the friends you make and foes you vanquish.’
This weekend could not have proven me more wrong.
We put our hearts, souls and mind into writing linears. Documents that tell people how to act and where to stand. However, there are agents beyond our documents. There are living and breathing people who fill out every roll. People that frequently took my writing to a place better than it had any right to be.
So: to the Prince of Sirens and his conniving servants, to Judge Farsight and her eerie ways, to the cackling eyeless in the night, to the trolls that lumbered and the lurking Monks of Whispers, to Lucky – may she rest in peace – to the Scorned themselves, to our monsters in all your roles. Thank you.
Moreover, our players breathed life into our world. They struggled, thought and dared this weekend. And, driving home, I was blinded by the Sun and I got to think of what they’d achieved. Light Bringers – you magnificent band.
So: the most important lesson I learned writing and running a weekend with two dear friends? We are not just three soldiers. We’re an army. As players, monsters, logistics, caterers, committee and refs we are a Union. And we’re a damn fine one.
To everyone who helped and attended our weekend: thank you. We hope you had an excellent time.
At your finger tips you have a world of dragons. You have the ultimate sand box. Somewhere safe where we can come to. Where swords and wizard robes are allowed. Where we can be kids and run away from it all.
You can have villains and they can be bad. They can be awful. They can hurt us and hurt out friends and they can steal what we love.
But when bringing them to life: take care with us. We are here to run away, after all.
The ways they hurt us should be with foam swords and trixy acts. They should make victory hard and make us angry. Sometimes you stray off this path. You bring them just that touch too close to our lives – our real ones. A death of a father, a disorder or fear, an expression of worthlessness, an observance of failure.
Victories cost you very little to give us. Sometimes we need them.
So we have a mission statement for our home Larp: everything on the stage. The idea that anything important should happen in uptime. For the L in Live to mean anything everyone should have to react to the best moment on that stage. No preparing yourself for the news the army has destroyed your home. Only panic, action and reaction.
There are limits to this. Certain things we prefer prepared – mainly rituals and, if you know you’re going to have to give it, a good speech. On the most part this rule governs anything that should be an emotional reaction – those explosive moments that define and mould a character.
So, to another world now: a tale from Outcast LRP. The ex-Baroness of Solaria (the realm of Knights and gallantry who are loyal worshipers of God of the Sun and winds, Sol) has a pair of demon tainted twins (in a world where demons are indisputably bad news). A savage monster broke the lines and managed to bludgeon a child (they’re plastic dolls, don’t panic). They were magically healed and, because of the way the Gods love children in this system, the spirit of the land ruled the kid was healed. Excellent, if you ask me. Canonically it made sense and there is still the opportunity to mess about with the fun of SHE GAVE BIRTH TO DEMONS.
In Downtime in Outcast you can submit a written action to the story team. These are useful for staging off screen wars which you would be unable to physically represent. Unfortunately in downtime the refs of the world decided the Babe would die of brain damage. The player appealed against this. Thankfully, in my opinion, the refs did overturn this initial call. I like this for many reasons. Largely because it makes sense but also hugely because I had a monster role coming up at the next event and an opportunity to make this much more interesting…
The Child of Sol, a child foretold to be great bastion of the Gods on earth, had been captured and was due to be wed to a demon. The heroes busted her out and fought Gwethyr, the demonic fiancee, to a bloody standstill. When back at camp it turned out the Child of Sol was tainted with demon magic now as well. Any attempts to remove it drew out the worst in her and it seemed that, despite being in a wedding dress, she was not out of fight just yet. Her insanity seemed to increase over time and as it peaked her fiance burst back through the nearest gate to our heroes and another ruck ensued. The heroes managed to get the better of the Demon Lord this time with a young knight binding his soul to the cause of killing him. He shattered his soul, life and legacy in order to do the same to the demon lord.
Queue a bitter sweet rejoice. The Demon Lord dead but with it a hero. The Child of Sol saved but inexplicably still tainted demons. As Sir Francis of Sol began to talk of strength, sacrifice and the noble efforts of the Knight the Child and her sister, the Baroness, were embracing on the outside of the circle. She had her twins with her. Due to her being kidnapped the Child has never seen them before. She asked if sometime in the future she might hold one. The Baroness was shocked as her sister was known to not be maternal and gladly passed her one and they listened to Sir Francis speak.
At the end of the eulogy the night was quiet. Sir Francis asked if any others would speak. The Child of Sol took the floor. Walking slowly away from her sister she spoke of family. The honour to hold her niece, the be reunited with her sister and father. Then she spoke of cost and the dead knight before her. Next she spoke of abilities. How this man that was just a man defied demons and bested Gods. Finally she spoke of their enemies: of demons, of flesh crafters and of Gods. (This last bit was a new idea. From being chosen of the Gods I was now calling them enemies. It’s almost like I’d been waiting 2 hours for the right moment to announce that I’d gone rogue.) Intentions announced the Child took this moment to welcome any who would join the Army of Man and teleported off twirling her mustache.
And carrying the baby. Queue a brilliant emotional response from the Baroness and declarations of War.
Now: what is the net change outcome from the Baroness’ perspective? The difference between death in downtime and the abduction of her babe in uptime? In both she loses a kid.
Well, there is hope – I haven’t killed it when she last saw it. There is an enemy she call still fight – not some spod demon but a named and dangerous villain for her to drive against. Also, there was a chance to react, for people to rally around her in comradery and people who secretly hate the demonic babes to not stop me. This is why we do things on the stage. Real life isn’t a well edited series of perfect responses. It is a messy, honest and glorious story. Let the actors misstep and forget their lines. Tell a sincere story on that stage.
(A quick aside here: the fact I was a traitor is not the cause of my excitement. The Mother and baby were. I should have a new blog up soon called ‘No More Heroes’ please check that out for details)
Every get stressed at LARP? And not the good type of IC stress – but the crippling ooc nausea that comes from investing in your goal that hard?
Well, I do. Near enough every event I put some kind of strain on myself to be the best at X. I’ve lead people to fight for their lives and I have risked everyone brave enough to contribute while I open up our souls to cosmic powers.
And here we are on the evening before the event that will determine if I can bash out one last trial and put myself in contention to earn one of the rarest skills in the game. I am a little nervous. Now, I will take plenty of ‘me moments’ and I have a guy whos literal job it is to remind me everything is going to be fine but that is not my greatest weapon. Oh no. My top tier tip for keeping your ooc self calm and functioning at events is this: bright pink pants.
When I lead my first Gathering battle as field marshal on home turf. When we went and somehow won a battle on paper we were destined to lose. Pink pants.
First ritual. When I have snuffed out another hopeful to get the chance to be there and a lot of people are expecting greatness from me? Pink pants.
I could go on but I don’t want to sully too many of my greatest roleplay moments with the admission I was thinking about my underwear. Why? I hear you ask. Well, it helps me take a breath and remind myself it is a game and under the face paint and mask I am a real person who needs real underwear. Some people struggle getting into a game but there is another other half of the spectrum. Those, like me, who really live the game: we need help too. Enter what I like to call a grounding device. Something to take yourself out of the moment.
It can be as simple as your ooc keys in your pocket or eating a kit kat and making no appologies for the wrapper. I like the pants and it makes me chuckle every time. That moment of relief is critical.
So, as we enter the biggest LT event of the year and the highlight of my LARPing calanedar I look to everyone of my friends in this boat. Let’s not take it so seriously we make ourselves sad, ill or stressed. Let’s not play such a dark dickhead that we forget the characters around us are real people. Let’s not be so obsessed with perfection that we fail to see the joy in getting to second place standard.
Let’s rock it.
You will have it.
That moment where you dig in. Where you don’t run. Where you don’t stand down or where you do. Where you apologise or shout or are silence. Where you intervene or you don’t.
This is the peak of roleplay to my eyes. That snap second decision where you yield or dig in.
I have the pleasure, year on year, of playing with new LARPers. And every year I get to see it. Their first time where they dig deep. It is the most beautiful overcoming of self and my favourite thing to witness; when an angry man finds their calm or when a timid lass finds their voice. This year in our non combat sessions I have had the pleasure of seeing people dive into our game and hit that exact moment.
Today I saw people moved to tears by a decision. To accept the help of their rivals to make victory easy or to suffer the consequences that came with standing alone. And although some abstained from the decision no one truly was neutral.
The first time I ever lived this sensation was when my old sword teacher was charging me down. I knew I couldn’t outrun him. I could die fleeing or die fighting. I remember the way my ankles tensed. I remember blocking the first blow badly: fists clenched.
Whether it is social or physical don’t let your notion this is just a game subtract from this sensation. There are consequences to actions and when you invest in them the world gains a whole new dimension.
Still bouncing between more things than I know what to do with. Will return to the series soon. Just had to take a moment to share a moment I had last night
A quote from a dear, zealous friend of mine:
I tell myself: never get complacent, Phil. I am dressing up and telling stories. How could you ever get tired of that?
This chap is a bastion of verve and excitement and I think he really hit the nail on the head here. If you’re getting disenchanted with your game or the hobby just take a step back and take a breath. See the wonder and scale in what you do. Take a second to smile at who you do it with. Look at yourself and what you’ve become Larp: if it makes you laugh at yourself, laugh with yourself or even proud who cares? I bet it makes you feel.
And do that: feel. Lots and often. Just whatever you do: don’t get complacent.
I do promise to get back to the Fighting 101 series asap. Life is hectic (bridesmaid this weekend- very excited. Also got the job. Hoozar!) This post is a quick ‘I’m alive’. When I have more time I will tell you about this fab homebrew system I went to recently but until then…
Night vision is a fickle beast. She doesn’t hang around if you see the light of life nor does she some back quickly. There is nothing worse than trying to fight while dazzled.You’re unsafe and unsure.
It was when my Ent was trying to keep two beloveds apart, being rended to pieces by the local Slayer, I had a realisation. Red lights are amazing.
Due to the all of nothing of the moment the Slayer had charged me with his head torch beaming forwards instead of taking his normal care to dip it. That said, red light didn’t take out my night vision nor his. Top idea by a top roleplayer.
More about the Buffy Larp I went to and Fightan as soon as I can 😀
Try and define it: a good defense.
You can avoid being hit and lose a fight. The sooner you realise this the better of a fighter and a Larper you will be. Before we go all metaphorical I will kick off with the basics of blocking though:
SAFETY: Block their weapon – not their hand. Blocks tend to be very powerful and if you twat your opponent on the hand they won’t thank you. Just because you’re not on the offensive doesn’t mean you let your common sense tune out.
- Hands on. When trying to block your opponent blade block close to their hand. The wrist generates the movement. The closer you are to it the more chance your block has of connecting. You’re less likely to miss the split second zone you need your sword to be in.
- Stand ready. In the stance post we spoke about getting that sword ready. It is then in the middle of your body and will be a big blockade for blows. If you return to this between every shot then you’re ready to respond.
- No weak wrists. No bent arms. Lock your elbow and don’t let that weapon push through your block.
- Actually block. If your head block is lower than the top of your head: I will hit your head. You don’t get marks for effort, folks. Remember – if you are short these blocks need to go the extra mile.
- Fight with the weapon you’re holding. If you haven’t got a basket hilt sword: don’t block with the basket hilt. If you have a stick remember to keep your hands out of harms way when blocking.
- Ranges: we have a whole post coming on this. Suffice to say – if you don’t want to get hit be stood out of the length of your opponent’s max lunge + arm + weapon length.
- Allies: sometimes people will block for you. It’s okay to be judgmental here: who – if anyone – is going to save your life? If you’re unsure better get those blocks in
- Saw you look! Most people look before they hit. Some smile. Some grimace. Some breathe. (An astute friend of mine pointed out I retract my arm about half a centimeter: we fight a lot.) Check people for tells – it is a lot easier to block a shot you know is coming.
- Best defense is a good offense. It’s over said, I know. If you want someone to back off? You need to make sure they’re tasting foam every so often.
But there is more to it than that. A lot more.
The law of absence. The best way to not die in battle is not be in a place you can be hit. Losing the fight? Run. Run faster and further than the other guy. There may be IC reasons you cannot or will not and that is your dilemma (which you should relish) but this is a universal truth.
Taken with a pinch of salt it will lead you to dodge shots. Do you have to block this shot? If the answer is no get moving. Quick (safe) back steps can get your opponent outstretched and in a perfect place for your counter attack. Side steps are your friends. If your balance is good dodge without stepping. (More on this on my signature move post to come.) Note: don’t jump over weapons. It is not safe.
Eyes on the prize. Imagine walking all the way to Modor and forgetting the ring. Remember you can win every fight but if you lose sight of your objective then it can be for nothing. If it is defending your healer or capturing the flag know what matters and where it is.
This is especially important when achieving an objective can stop monsters spawning. Gank that necromancer and then mop up the skeletons. Save your stamina as that is as much as a resource as your healing potions.
Reputation as a shield. One good win can set you up for hundreds. Let your legend fill the ears of others. Fight every fight with your all because it carves your legacy into the minds of larpers. If you larp with the same people repeatedly you will find certain people holding certain weapon sets can be enough to trigger behaviors. Sometimes it can be avoidance. Maybe it is better to call this ‘reputation as a double edged sword’ as sometimes it can be everyone clubbing together and throwing all they have at you.
If you’re with people who don’t know you show swagger like your balls leave tracks in the earth you walk can be very effective! Like a miller pretending to be a millionaire it only lasts as long as the money does: if you’re found out drop the act and focus on survival!
Anything that generates fear is a great defense. If there are ten of you mob up, shield wall locked, make some noise and close. If you can scare the enemy with the reputation of ‘guys who have their shit together’ you enter the battle with the momentum to change it. If there is only one of you stride like you wouldn’t stop for an army.
So to summarise: Block well, avoid blocking by avoiding weapons, focus on defending what matters and look well ‘ard.
Next time we’re going to look at movement and ranges. Possibly the most important theory for larp fighting.