So review of the year time I guess.
So without further or do the usual suspects, before I get onto my two outstanding bits for the year the three ‘big’ systems I do.
Up first. CP, bloody brilliant. The Tutonian crew made one of the most atmospheric sites for renewal and one of the best site I’ve been on this year. The fact the bushes would start growling at you and the atmospheric posters warning of spies and subversives really set the feel of the black forest. Setting a proper sense of menace in one of the most menacing places in the cp world, with the ‘Muntter hag’ as she was dubbed, was a particularly psychotic menace. The site was used well and has a nice mix of terrain. Just thank god we didn’t have to fight up that bloody hill again.
Another thing worth mentioning the death of Lord Jhereg, it felt epic, was really tough and gave Andy the send off he deserved for all the damned hard work he has put in over the time he has been in the hot seat. Just glad I don’t ever have to deal with that scary arse LG anymore.
Also special mention to the Al Gaia command team who were welcoming, care about the player base and proving that CP has one of the best teams for making sure everyone is having a great time. Even in horrific rain! I was at a point of getting bored with CP, but moving over to the Al Gaia has given it a real lease of life. Competition has really revitalised the CP verse, and the community around the game is very positive and welcoming to new players and old hacks alike. All jokes about there being only three players in the Al Gaia to one side, it’s actually a great place to be and the most fun I have had in the game in a while. It didn’t feel cliquey and it wasn’t about who you knew was more important than what you did. Also no gate guard, hallelujah.
Just guys you need to get the background out there. Seriously you have an amazing game, but it just doesn’t get the exposure it deserves. You don’t need to beat people to death with a Wiki of doom or video’s, but a history, pictures of the races and basic metaphysics wouldn’t hurt. Hell the Al Gaian’s have two damned religious text, the same thing, but worded slightly differently for people from different traditions. That is effort and they look great, but without playing the game you wouldn’t realise how subtle and well thought out some of the background and props are. That and the NPC fight at the end of the first renewal battle……I….well yes, lets never talk of this again shall we?
Empire. It’s a great game. Most people know i’m an evangelist for it, so obviously pinches of salt with anything I say about the last year! Sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea because you don’t have to gate guard (who actually likes that?), but they are continually updating and evolving to make the game better.
Now I could talk about the battle Rhino, but that was just a prop, what really stood out was people. In battle reffing this year I got to see how positive the ref team is. Not one player slagged off in the post battle review and everything was focused on how the game could be better and encourage better play (quick reference sheet with the combat rules as a hand out would do it by the way, it’s the thing I have been asked the most about when my mates talk about the wiki. Players don’t cheat, they just get confused over the rules!). That is a really great attitude to have. Refs that don’t hate players?….never catch on. This is an absolute tribute to a team who put players first, care about their player base and go the extra mile to make sure everyone is catered for.
The civil servant NPC’s not only provide game mechanic function, but also give great flavour to the game, deal with problems better than most people in an environment where most people would punch customers if you were paid to do it. When I say Empire would not be half the game it is without them i’m not spouting hyperbole. Without them it would be people walking up to god to do stuff rather than being immersive. Pay them more Freddos.
Oh bloody kickout monsters chasing us back to the portal every time….that is getting very tired. There is a mechanic for making people get off the field in that portals have a timer on them, you don’t need to make people fight on the way back, it turns every win into feeling like a retreat.
Green Cloaks. A game that’s genuinely fun (not that the others aren’t I just get a stupid grin when it comes to Green Cloaks ). The rules as is are old school and can suffer at times from an old school play style, but it’s fun, everyone seem to enjoy it, there is about to be an influx of well behaved experienced larpers looking for their fantasy sci-fi fix, it’s drama free and full of passion still. A lot of larger games could learn about engaging player community, running fun games and the game is getting better in leaps and strides; also as I write the rules are being streamlined for ease of play as I write this, bringing balance where needed and simplifying things. You’re not going to be wowed by PD’s set pieces or CP’s battles, but you are going to have fun if you have the right attitude. It’s larp the way it should be, you know enjoyable, drama free and fun.
Oh and the new rule updates? Professionally edited to make them accessible to anyone without being confusing, hard to find and simple to use, ahem other systems take note, the passion this team has is really showing through and means they are looking at things that sometimes get over looked because the rest of us say asinine things like ‘but that’s what larp has always been like.’
Right those out the way, let’s move onto the two stand out moments of my year for two different reasons.
The Green Cloaks 98th Kings keep event. First up 5 crew, one ref and one very ill ref who i’m surprised didn’t actually die. You don’t need large numbers to run a god event. Just quality. I need to quantify this, I don’t froth about people in public often. So when you see some compliments bordering on the homoerotic latter I mean them.
The venue was the Chislehurst caves, which were used to really good effect. It would have been easy to just go, ‘hey we have caves’ and not put effort in, they didn’t.
A plot that not only showcased the monster crews rp ability, but also their prop building skills, an ipad used well and Charley’s art ability (any Larp groups looking for an insanely talented artist of a professional level, we have another one in our midst.). Also the use of monster you need to use hard skills to avoid? More of that please in games.
However the real star of this was Steve Clark. This is a guy I have known from when he snuck onto a cp battlefield before he was old enough (finally publicly grassed on you at last.) and have seen him become one of the best rpers I know, and a bloody good human being. The plot he put together was human, subtle and didn’t rely on big monsters. There in fact was no big bad at the end. He used a conclusion that finished the plot, but didn’t involve having to slay the dragon/boss/kick out monster. It in fact relied on people um….role-playing. Fuck you Steve I don’t do this game to role-play, I’m here for the lammies and to prop up my fragile ego.
This is the kind of game I want to play. The combat was solid, the scares were creepy and with not cheap jump scares. There was an emotional core to the game which felt human and not forced amateur dramatics ‘cause emotional role play is SHOUTING.
Just saying this, but I whole heartedly recommend people try and nick him for their systems. He won’t go, because he isn’t the kind of person to dump people for greener pastures. But you can always give it ago. Unfortunately I feel unclean for being nice about someone, so i have to add that he gives literally the worst reach around I have ever had. You know, like a lobster trying to peel a banana.
Now onto my second stand out moment. Norseman. Please, once again, don’t come to this game and spoil it.
What do I like about this game? A story that changes on the fly based on the players. Story added on the fly based on what the players want. This is collaborative storytelling at its best and I mean its best. Cam and Josh are running a game where ego over their plot doesn’t exist. They are doing something exciting, very different and more in line to what I would call really immersive rp and where the players are just as valuable to the development of the plot as the writers. That moment when myself and Colin were asked ‘What has happened to your caravan’ and the inclusion of holy land ninjas in the game…well played, well played.
Next the combat…All I can say is I’m glad to be treated like an adult. This is full contact Larp combat (the blows are still pulled obviously). Larp optimised combat styles don’t really work. Tappy tappy while hiding behind a kite shield does not cut it. This is a game where you have 1 hit, more but don’t take the piss in armour. Monster crew and player fight to stay alive and no one is counting hits before pulling out. This leads to people using full dramatic blows, reacting to hits like they just got hit, no one gaming the system (cause no system or calls.) and no one using meta to optimise. What does this mean? Well, brush up on your hard skills, learn to use a shield properly and I felt safer here than any other system I play. A good example was the use of Boresnouts and watching a skirmisher run round the back of a shield wall only to receive a shield to the face. Both parties laughing about it after. The only injury? I twisted my ankle walking (cause apparently I can’t be trusted to walk) and someone cut themselves cutting wood.
When you trust people, they tend to reward that trust. This is the credo Eyelarp seems to be building their games on. I felt safe, even when shoulder barged away from the last weapon in training. Training that let the ref team let us know how to fight safely, the behavior they expected and showing rather than telling how to use weapons so they don’t look shit. ‘I know this is practice, remember when you are really fighting, if you get hit by a Dane axe you will be knocked to the ground if manage to parry it, and I’ve even seen shield broken by them’. Much better than paragraph 2 saying ‘smash call with two handed weapons break shields and knocks you over.’ All of it delivered in game, IC. More importantly the refs, and I use that term loosely because of the way the game runs, don’t worry about cheating, because you really can’t. If you don’t take your hits, everyone is going to see it. Social pressure is a great thing. More importantly in a game where you decide when to die why the hell would you cheat?
Then you get to the players….my god what a bunch of welcoming people. People who didn’t bring their new characters into the game for an hour and half to make sure some stranger they had never met who were arriving late could join them. Players who made sure everyone else had a chance in the spot light. No one boggarted the limelight and made everyone watch them. I love you and I don’t know half of your real life names, yet you made me and my friends incredibly welcome.
Then you get to the village, it looks amazing. But more importantly it feels like a real village. The players and crew really have committed to making an ic environment that feels both immersive and fun to be in. Yes it looks beautiful, but the commitment to stay in character, to make the rp human and not over the top makes it feel more real than any amount of money spent on set.
All in all Norseman’s, and I imagine all of Eyelarp’s games, are immersive, fun and drama free on the ooc front. The downside? Player places are limited to 60 and if you nick mine I will cry or post something passive aggressive about you. They do however have a couple of new games this year. Including the Excalibur inspired Land without a King (which i damned well want to play, but am at a thing). Might be worth getting into that early before those places disappear. Oh and this Christmas? They ran a game of the Nutcrackers v the army of the rat king. How cool is that?
So yeah my stand out moments from last year where a shonkey little player event and a 60 person game where people were nice to each other. My one regret, not making Zapfest, that said I’m hoping for Carwars the larp from that lot some time soon….
Last thing obviously all of the above is my opinion, an opinion informed by having some great people to play alongside. The players make or break a game and I have been really lucky to have some great people to play alongside….shit said something nice again.