Hard skills and celebrating others success.

Just so we are clear i drink responsibly at events.

So the Larp awards nominations came out, how did I know? I could hear the rage of a thousand Facebookers grinding their teeth and crying at the unfairness of it all. How it’s obviously rigged, how they are single handily destroying the third worlds chances at developing and how the awards have pushed up the price of their favourite frappachino. Can’t wait to see the reactions when the winners are announced. With only a few more days to go I see the post awards bitterness looming down on the world like a truck full English footballers returning from the world cup to find out they cant quite afford that second Range Rover.

I’m thinking of posting the best of the ‘why such and such shouldn’t win’ the week after so we can enjoy them all, through the medium of an old school Eagle comic photo story. That or maybe the world will surprise me and people will just be happy for people who did a thing….I guess I’m doing a picture heavy long post filled with hate then.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today; nope today I want to talk about something hard and in your face.

Yep hard skills.

So why bring this up? Well recently I have seen a couple of posts on that beautiful and intelligent piece of technology known as the internet, that at their core accuse people who are slightly charismatic of having an unfair advantage…..

I’ll get back to that in but a mo, but first up let’s look at this interesting argument through my visor of hate.

We have rules based skills to create game balance, constrain people from being good at everything and to make the game ‘fair’ (not that you can trust a bunch of adults not to cheat and/or not create Mary Sue characters, i mean what would refs do….). This is out tabletop roots coming through rather than our cops and robbers in the playground, and there is a place for them.
I can’t read mind, exorcise spirits, A-Team up a battle tank from pasta and a shoelace or use basic grammar. So I will need skills to simulate that. Depending on setting, genre or indeed plot those rules serve the experience rather than acting as constraints. Those skills are there to allow players to explore things you can’t actually do cause real life doesn’t let you fly and apparently the use of LSD doesn’t either. These soft skills are needed to make that superhero thing works or hunt dread things from beyond time and space.

In pvp games you need solid, unexploitable rules that are simple and say exactly what players can and can’t do. Nothing says larper more than ‘bang bang your dead’ followed by ‘No I’m not, my =3 cock ring of protection stopped that bullet’ followed by a ref saying show me your lammie so we don’t get into silly petty arguments…oh wait…we do.

Those soft skills are needed.

Game balance on the other hand is a false idol as life is going to be unfair. Some people are better than others so the moment combat kicks off, the person with the mad sword skillz is gonna win nine times out of ten. You can use skills ‘soft skills’ or rule based stuff to even this up, but the reality is that practice will make you better and developing those hard skills will allow you to ‘win’ more fights. Is this cheating? Well no. In the same way I’m old and unfit and young fit people aren’t cheating. These are what we traditionally think of as hard skills.

In the words of the speaker I could tell you how a couple of friends of mine were told off for decimating the monster crew on a linear systems final encounter. I could tell you it’s because they were just plain better. I could tell you how their hard skills were better than that system is used too, needless to say they won’t be going back. You certainly wouldn’t penalise someone for being good with a sword.

So why would you try and penalise someone because they are good with their tongue? Just like your insert inappropriate family member here is.

When it comes to social interactions, cons, being able to play an instrument and all those other skills that can give you a leg up how do you balance it? Make people pay points to be able to use a lute (yes most larp spooks play instruments)? Make people only con if they have the skill? If you see a yellow armband you have to believe what someone says to you? Make people have cake licences? No. In the same way you won’t say to someone who is good at combat, could you fight a bit shitter please ‘cause it’s not fair. Sure they might be limited in the weapons they can use due to rules constraints, but within those constraints you would expect them to fight to the best of their ability.

Now here’s the rub, what do you with people like me? The terminally shy, who can burn water and owns a bass rather than plays one with any talent. Not much, unfortunately the main problem is that the only way you can do this is by forcing rules on people. Trust me no one is going to believe that my muffins are master crafted after they have tasted one. Oh and making people applaud my singing because I have a skill is I believe against several international laws.

I as a player need to be able to look at my skill sets and the games I play and make informed decisions and people running games need to cater to all their customers, or let them know what to expect at their games. Personal responsibility, I know it’s not popular in our post x-factor everyone can succeed world, but if I wanted to be popular I wouldn’t open my mouth. Hell if i spent less time on the internet complaining I might actually be able to improve something in my limited skill set.

The thing is there are systems out there that use dice rollers or other mechanics for resolution of this kind of thing like the apparently awesome Deadlands in London (hoping to pop along at some point as I love that world.). This is a thing, wanna be awesome at something you suck at? This is the way forwards (or practice.) even my culinary skills should do ok if based on random chance.

What I’m not going to do is go to a system with my lacklustre baking skills and complain its unfair that other people bake better than me so they have an unfair advantage therefore the organisers need to fix the game so I can succeed because damn it it’s the majority of people who need to change to suit me….

So here’s my tuppence. If someone is using charisma to win at a thing (and don’t get me started on people who want to win at let’s pretend….you haven’t lost that badly at real life have you?) and you don’t want them to because it’s an unfair advantage, you don’t get to use your hard skills. So sack cloth kit unless you bought it, because making kit is a hard skill. Everyone fighting in slow mo, to give people without mad fighting skills a chance. Only food from the infield vendors, cause….well you can see where this ends up going. A field of gray where people don’t excel and put their all in, but a constrained in their creativity. Why try your best when people will just criticise you? Better to not rock the boat for fear of complaint or piss taking? Well fuck that girls and boys, I want to play in a vibrant interesting field where people aren’t scared to put themselves out there, try their best and fail without some snarky bitter vet commenting, rather than hiding out of fear from the many vicious knives in our community.

The future of homogenised larp.

The future of homogenised larp.


To quote Infinity (geek points if you know it), ‘It’s not your list it’s you.’ Or in this case it’s not the game, it might just be you and your attitude.

Maybe you should look at other peoples talents and successes in and out of the field with a positive outlook and celebrate them rather than using it as an excuse to tear a strip out of a fellow human and use that hate to prop up your fragile ego? Maybe look at others succeeding and go I can do that?

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