LARP: Rules Bloat- Solutions

Hey, guess who’s back! I can’t promise regular updates or anything, but I’m at least finished with college classes for the semester.

Larp rules

The problem with writing a rulebook for something when you have no rules design experience (and little roleplaying experience) should be evident. Of course, since I was fourteen at the time, not so much. I blissfully sat down at the keyboard and pounded out a fifty-page rulebook for my live-action roleplaying system. Naturally, it had some issues. Thus I have lately taken the time to review it, edit it, and condense it.

I decided I had three main goals for the redesign.

1. Make it something people will be willing to read.

Nobody actually bothered to read the old rulebook, probably because it was fifty pages long. Looking back through it, this was probably a good thing.

2. Make the rules easy to internalize and remember.

Complicated maths and large numbers of spells and abilities resulted in two situations: half the time, nobody used the abilities and lost track of hit points; the other half, play had to be paused repeatedly to explain their effects.

3. Create a high level of immersion.

There is a large difference between roleplaying, and whacking each other with swords while talking about school.


First problem, making the book something readable. For that, I simply started fresh. I decided on a guideline of ten pages for rules. What are the essential pieces of the rules that I wanted to keep? I decided on classes, races, and spells. Following my second point, I realized my level system served almost no purpose; its only effects were increasing health, and providing an incentive to show up in costume. But even so, the leveling system meant long-term players would be massively more powerful than a new player, and should the two need to fight there would be no chance of the newbie winning, no matter their skill with a weapon. Instead, I decided long-term players should have in-game advantages, rather than rules-based ones. After removing the leveling system, I obviously did not need higher-level spells either, and left out everything above what had been first or second level. This left a total of ten basic spells. I have also removed some extraneous classes (Freelancer and mercenary were essentially Warriors and Rogues with different flavor texts, while Alchemists relied on a ruleset that had not yet been clearly defined.)

Next, point two. The previous system had swords dealing two points of damage- or three, or one, largely independent of other weapons otherwise equal- and location-based hit points: three on every limb, and five on the torso. While I liked the idea of a location-based system, the rest needed fixed. It’s much easier for a player who has taken a sword blow to subtract one from a number than two, so I decided to make that the damage dealt by a sword. I also decided that hit points should be a bit lower. Thus the new system: the average character has three hit points on every location, though character class and armor may cause this to vary slightly. Additionally, having condensed my spell list, I have made it so that even a warrior character with no spellcasting can give the spells a quick glance and know enough to take any effects when the spell is cast on them.

This ability to internalize also has a great effect on immersion: if all players know, for example, that a sword does one point of damage, and a spell does three, then when they are hit with a sword or a spell they can mentally subtract fairly easily, eliminating the necessity of damage calls. Without damage calls, it is more similar to an actual battle (or at least as similar as foam-sword combat gets).

And that was it. The rulebook is now ten pages long, descriptive, and simple to remember. I have a few other projects I’m working on- cultural dossiers, and better weapons that look more like swords and less like clubs- but the rulebook itself is essentially completed.


Elf Ears mkII; LARP worldbuilding

I know, I know, It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy. I’ve done some work on my novel, and a lot of work on the history and cultures of my LARP setting. I’ve also added to the lore. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’ve been on vacation recently to visit family, and I went to a Renaissance festival in Florida. First time going to one. It was a lot of fun, and I met some like-minded people. I also picked up another set of elf ears, this time the long type- as in, six inches. It’s the little things that make life worth living.

As an apology for my long absence, here’s a player handout I wrote about how worship and magic works in the LARP world.

Worship and Magic in Dariad

Most folk in Dariad worship many gods; only clergy and zealots venerate one above the others. For example, a farmer could mainly revere Erisenna and Cerastia, but also pray to Tieran’i or Aelo to keep damaging storms away, Talaira to keep back disease, etc. Any mortal of any race may worship any deity, though their upbringing and morals/ethics make some matches of faith and person unlikely. The highly unusual ones are usually the result of a person searching for the right path, or one who believes a certain deity influenced an important event in their life. Though most faiths welcome any new believers, some do not (or, if they do, rarely) allow certain races, such as orcs, half-orcs, and dark elves. For the average mortal, religion is the primary worship of one deity above-even if just a little above- all others.

How They Worship

Most people embrace a primary deity, and carry some token of that god. Adventurers usually pray briefly to this deity in the morning (if they aren’t in some emergency), as well as in moments of crisis, such as healing a friend. They may offer longer, private prayers at other times- these are usually requests for protection and guidance, and deities sometimes reply with dreams or (rarely) waking visions. These are generally only a feeling of favor or disapproval.

When arriving in a village or town that has an established shrine to their patron deity, many folk attend a service or give an offering. Customarily, this is a coin offering, or something appropriate to the deity. For Cete, hunted game is a good offering, and for Agaron, spoils of defeated foes are favored gifts. Worshippers without these things typically offer information about their doings to priests, or offer to help around the temple. The services asked from them may be anything from “Help move these chairs” to “Help guard the temple tonight”.

A wanderer who stumbles upon an untended or desecrated shrine to their patron deity is expected to cleanse it and pray there or leave an offering. Those in an area with a temple generally attend services at least once every four days.

Every community has a public shrine to most deities, even if it has no temple; the lack of a particular deity in a settlement doesn’t mean that the deity is not honored in the area.

How Magical is Dariad?

Dariad is very magical, as a lot of magic (such as spells, magic items, and permanent enchantments) is always present, and thusly mages too. Everyone has heard of magic, and most city-folk see use or results of magic every day. Many common folk have seen small spells and tricks, such as in the repertoire of traveling entertainers; however, the average commoner has never had magic cast on them, or handled a magic item. Nor have most ever had anyone cast a spell for them, as magic is generally expensive.

Words of Magic

So, I was bored recently, and I decided to revamp the spellcasting for my LARP group. Until now, spell incantations had pretty much been a bunch of nonsense words, but I decided to change it so that mages were actually telling the magic what effect they wanted.

Each spell begins with an activation word that determines the range of the spell.

Fireball would be something like, “þú a Solas”

Solas being ‘burn, fire, conflagration’

‘A’ being ‘small’.

So, ‘One target player+’small’+’conflagration’. + strike (nask)

(I call) a small conflagration to strike that target.

Ice blast is ‘þeír a fu lannar’

Fu= shard

Lannar= freeze, ice

‘distant range’+’small’+’shard’+’freeze’

“(I call) a small shard of ice to freeze a distant target”

Admittedly, it isn’t the best language I’ve ever designed, but then it wasn’t intended for casual conversation.

On the other hand, now players who figure out how the language and which words mean what can create their own spells for use in the game!

It’s snowing wood!

Well, about twelve spruce trees on our property got knocked down by the abnormally heavy snowfall this winter, so as soon as the snow melts I’m going to have all the HGD members here to 1. help clean up, 2. get some of the wood over to the bonfire area so we can burn it as a celebration of summer, and 3. get together the rest of the wood and add to one of our forts, for which I have a new plan sketched out in my head.

Elf Ears

Well, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters today… so to commemorate that, I wore my LARP boots (size 14 medieval warrior’s boots) and my elf ears to school. A surprisingly low number of people noticed. Some people took about a minute to realize that something was odd. People can be funny sometimes.

Anyway, it was kinda fun. I’m not sure if I want to take the ears off yet. Maybe I’ll leave them on until the next LARP meet. Which could be anywhere from now to New Year’s, depending on who can come when…