HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL ALLIANCE LARP PLAYER
(Note: This is the first part from a chapter from the Alliance Rule Book and is © 2005 by Michael A. Ventrella.)
Most new LARP players are not new to roleplaying gaming but are new to live roleplaying. The two are similar but with one major difference: In a live roleplaying game, you must take the initiative to be successful.
In a tabletop game with a gamemaster guiding you, you usually are given options. The game begins when the gamemaster starts the adventure. If things slow down or the players can’t figure out what to do, the gamemaster will throw in clues or a fight or something to keep things interesting. And the gamemaster is always there to make sure the players aren’t bored.
In our game, there is no gamemaster. You have to find the adventure yourself. If you can’t figure out what to do, no one is going to come along and whisper clues in your ear. Just like in real life, if you get involved and take an initiative, you will go much farther than if you just sit around and wonder why nothing interesting ever happens to you.
Believe us, there is plenty to do at one of our events, and a lot of fun out there just waiting for you—but you must find it!
Having the proper attitude and understanding about the game will increase your enjoyment of the game tremendously.
This is a game where you get as much out of it as you put into it. You are as much of a part of the direction and feel of the game as any NPC. If your attitude towards the game is “I am here to be entertained by the NPCs” then you’re not going to be having as much fun as the other players who know that they are as much of the show as the monsters.
Don’t go into the game with the goal of winning, because really there are no “winners” in the traditional sense of the word. You should go in with the goal of creating a believable character and reacting as that character would to the other players and the NPCs. The goal of the game is experiencing adventures, and not “killing all the monsters and taking their loot.”
This is not a computer game where you, the hero, go through dungeon after dungeon, gathering treasure and working your way up in power, never having your character’s experiences affect his or her personality. Our game is all about telling a story. It’s about creating characters that affect the story and who are affected by the story. The fun is in not knowing where that story will lead.
Some players tend to get bored when there are no monsters to hunt and kill. Don’t let that happen to you. The game doesn’t stop when the NPCs are resting or preparing for the next encounter; there is never a reason for your character to say “there’s nothing to do!” As you play, you will meet other players who will have the exact opposite claim: “There is not enough time for me to do everything I want to do!” These are the players who understand what the game is about—they have followed up on every piece of information out there, are talking to other players, are staying in character and interacting with PCs and NPCs, have written to the Plot Committee with their character histories, and realize that you get out of the game what you put into it.
Above all, remember that this is acting where the audience is also the cast; the more everyone puts into it, the more fun there is. For some people, this means finding a group of staunch allies to hang out with in the hope of becoming rich and famous; for others, it means becoming the best individual in town at something so others will seek you out. Imagination is the magic behind it all, and it’s one of the many things that gets stronger with use.
Remember teamwork. It is practically impossible for you to be the hero all by yourself. In order to accomplish any great goals, you have to make allies and work with others. They will have skills and information you don’t have. The game is designed to promote complementing characters working together to solve problems.
Look at it from a practical matter if nothing else: The Plot Committee is trying to entertain all of the players at the event, not just you. Therefore, plots are almost always written to involve as many people as possible. Information and clues are spread out and quite often, if there are modules that need to be performed in order to achieve the final goal of the weekend, they are set up in such a way to make sure that one group doesn’t monopolize them and go on them all at the expense of the other players. Further, modules almost always require a certain number of players to go on them because it would be impractical and a waste of resources to have an adventure for one player that uses up a number of NPCs and marshals.
Similarly, realize that if you decide to play a character who does not work well with others, you will limit your possibilities in the game. If you decide to be a lonely and mysterious dark elf who distrusts all other races and stays to himself, then you won’t have the same opportunities as someone who is outgoing and speaks to everyone.
It’s a choice you make based on your character concept — just don’t get upset if it looks like people and plotlines are passing you by. Once more, think about these things before you create your character and you will have a much better time.
Know your limitations. Many of these things you will do in the game require real life skills that, to be honest, you may not have. You don’t roll dice to see if you have the charisma necessary to pull a great con, the dexterity to hide in shadows, or the intelligence to figure out the secret code. You have to actually do it.
Don’t create a character who is the world’s greatest bard if you can’t keep a tune. Don’t decide to be the world’s sneakiest thief if you constantly trip over your own two feet. Don’t work towards becoming a knight if you have no leadership skills.
This isn’t to say you can’t create these characters (after all, we encourage you to be all that you can’t be), but realize that you may not be successful at them. Look at your real world skills and talents, and try to build a character that allows you to emphasize them and improve upon them, and you will not only have your character get noticed in the game, but you will also have more fun as well.
Create a believable character with an extensive background. Unfortunately, many players have very sparse character histories that look something like this: “I’m the bastard son/daughter of Baron So-and-So and I want to regain the land/item/title that is rightfully mine.” (Amazingly, a large percentage of the player population is made up of bastard sons and daughters of some noble somewhere. There must be an unbelievable amount of hanky panky going on.)
A detailed character history is very important for getting the most out of your game. If you wish for the Plot Committee to throw things your way, be sure to put in something they can use. Go ahead, put in that long lost brother, old enemy, biggest fear, or greatest goal. And be sure to give us names—otherwise, how will you know we’re sending out your archenemy if you don’t even know what his/her/its name is?
A detailed history which has nothing for Plot to sink its teeth into may be good for your own roleplaying purposes but will not give you any personal unexpected twists.
Further, sometimes the Plot Committee has a plot that they want to throw at the players and they need a few good “targets.” They will often go through character histories and find interesting ones and then “reward” the players with (ahem) some fun.
Being of a particular race will also help you get plot. Quite often, a racial elder may enter town looking for others of his or her race to lead on a quest. Being a human is good for other reasons (no make up or prosthetics, easy to roleplay) but it won’t help you grab interesting plots that are geared for particular races.
What it boils down to is this: If you want to advance and get the most you possibly can out of the game, you absolutely have to submit a character history!
Be a monster or ten! No amount of advice can guarantee that your first try as a PC will end you up with exactly what you want. Try being an NPC first.
If you NPC, you might end up as a zombie, a sorcerer’s apprentice, a bodyguard, a death rogue, a winemaker, a veterinarian, an ogre, a mercenary spy, a spider, a walnut farmer, or even a statue. Every part you play will give you experience in spellcasting, fighting, disarming and setting traps, or solid generic roleplaying.
We also encourage players to NPC their first event as a way to learn the rules and styles quicker. You’ll have experienced players at your side to help you learn the rules, you’ll get to try different fighting and casting styles, and you’ll learn a lot about how the game is organized. You’ll be doing a lot more as an NPC than as a 1st level PC, so it’s a great way to get that experience you need to help you when you start playing your character.
Your First Event
Set reasonable goals for your character. Some new players come into the game imagining themselves as Conan the Invincible, beating down all the evil monsters, becoming the toast of the town, and winning the affections of commoner and noble alike. Others think they will be the world’s greatest assassin, sneaking through the woods, stealing from everyone, and becoming rich and powerful. When due to their lack of experience they fail to accomplish these things in their first weekend, these players then get upset. “This isn’t any fun!” they think.
In order to get power, you have to be patient. No one starts off the game as a nobody and ends up three days later being appointed a knight or becoming the head of the thieves’ guild. It doesn’t work that way.
The Alliance game gives every character the potential to make a name for themselves. It is not a guarantee. You have to start off small and earn your rewards. All those powerful characters you see in the game started off the same way you did.
You can get a lot of gratification from playing Alliance games as long as you set reasonable expectations from the start. Vow to pass all tests to become a member of a guild. Aim to impress someone important and be hired as part of his or her entourage. Start an adventuring group and make a name for yourself through your costumes and roleplaying skills. Strive to put together all of the pieces of the weekend plot and impress the nobles with the information you have gathered.
Most importantly, have the right attitude when doing these things. Introducing yourself as “the greatest fighter on the planet” or otherwise pumping up your ego will only alienate others, make enemies, and hurt you badly in the long run. Be humble and prove yourself through your actions ... and then when you are powerful and mighty later, you can honestly brag about your skills.
Now don’t take this section’s advice to mean that as a first level adventurer, you can never be involved in the major plotlines of that event. Quite often, it’s not the most powerful characters who get to be the heroes!
For example: One time, an evil leader and his legion of undead entered the town and said that unless the town surrendered to them by midnight Saturday, they would destroy everyone. The high level players immediately began preparations for a great war, but the low level players remembered some rumors they had heard and spoke to some NPC farmers who had come into town, and learned about the bad guy’s encampment. Some low level spies checked the place out and discovered that the head bad guy was being controlled as a puppet from that location. So that night, when all the undead left the encampment with only a few guards behind, the spies entered the encampment, took out the guards, and destroyed the puppet, thus ending the battle in town and saving everyone.
Realize too that the game is scaled, meaning the Plot Committee will often take into account who is doing what when deciding what kind of NPCs to place in an encounter. It’s the Plot Committee’s job to make the game challenging and fun, but not impossible! In that last example, for instance, the Plot Committee was aware that low level players were doing the spying and adjusted the monsters in the spy camp accordingly. Had the higher level players found the spy camp instead, you can rest assured they would have been facing a lot more than just zombies. (Now, don’t read this and get overly cocky, either—you should never ever feel confident that every battle is winnable. Perhaps you weren’t meant to destroy that puppet yet ...)
No matter what, don’t just assume that as a new player you can’t have a major affect on the game!
Learn the local food chain. Probably the most embarrassing way to get into deep trouble is to insult, attack, or trust the wrong person. If you’re new in town, act like a tourist. Stay at the fringes of things until you have a feel for who the important people are and who you want to collect as friends and allies.
Make sure that your character knows the consequences of all of your actions first. Find out what you can and cannot get away with, or you’re liable to run afoul of the local laws or step on the wrong toes. If you just walk on in and start your own thieves’ guild, it’s certainly not going to make the current guild very happy with you. Don’t go insulting the nasty undead you see coming towards you only to learn that it is the most powerful liche in the kingdom.
Find a mentor. There are many veteran players who are willing to advise new players, from telling them how to avoid being poisoned to telling them where to go for training in various skills. You can often tell who these people are by the large number of people they greet and are greeted by as they wander through town. Anybody who does not look foul tempered or Terribly Important is usually willing to answer questions about the latest gossip, grudges and adventures. A good place to start would be to check out the local guilds.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions; Most people are willing to answer. There is a common misconception among new players that the nobility want nothing to do with the new folk in town, but you may be surprised at how well you are received. Everyone is always looking for new allies and sources of information, and if they are too busy to help, they just might recommend someone who can.
Look for adventure. Adventures rarely just come up and bite you on the nose (although goblins may do so). There are no neon signs saying “Adventure Here!” You have to look for them.
Some are easier to find than others. If you hang around the tavern a lot, sooner or later someone might come in looking for mercenaries to help on a quest or an NPC will come in with valuable information. Joining a guild, the Royal Army, the Town Guard, or a noble team is a good way to immediately get involved in lots of interesting plots.
Another way to find adventures is to walk through the woods. Monsters are known to camp out in the woods, and often you can even find hidden caves worth exploring or other strange goings-on. Don’t just hang around waiting for adventure to come to you!
As an aside, remember also to never go out in the woods with more than approximately six others, for large groups scare away monsters. Our “wandering monsters” are usually scaled for groups of six or less, and our NPCs are generally instructed to run away from large groups if they think they’ll be slaughtered. (Who wants dumb NPCs?) Further, many weekend modules are written for groups of six or so, and if you go out with too many people, you may miss the module hook (because the NPCs are avoiding you). This is of course a generality and does not apply in all cases, but for the majority of the time, if just wandering around, go in small groups.
Pay attention to rumors. Some campaigns will even give you a sheet at check-in filled with rumors. You’ll also be sure to meet a few NPCs in town whispering other rumors and tid bits. Always keep your ears open!
The rumors may say things about other players (gathered from their character histories), about political intrigue, about monster abilities, or the local history. There may also be rumors about things happening at that event which could lead to an adventure or perhaps even give you a clue as to how to get past a certain encounter in a module.
For example, once a Rumor Sheet had the statement: “Wizard Glick has been seen walking around town carrying a large sponge very protectively.” A module that weekend took place in Wizard Glick’s home. In the module, a note was found that told the players that in order to get through a certain door, they needed a “skeleton key.” The sponge found in a washroom in the module was the “key” needed (since a sponge is essentially a skeleton). Players who remembered the rumor about how important the sponge was to Wizard Glick had a head start in figuring out this puzzle, and realized that the sponge was more than a mere atmospheric prop. (Yes, that was an extremely hard puzzle. No, they’re not usually that hard, but on the other hand, don’t expect to be spoon-fed.)
Information on Rumor Sheets are also “split up” onto more than one sheet so that no one person gets all the information. This requires you to roleplay with other players to find out what you need. For example, if the Plot Committee wants you to learn that Cerik the vampire lives in a cave on the edge of town and that a strange old hermit vampire hunter named Phil has information about the cave’s whereabouts, this information is going to be placed in many different rumors spread out on many different Rumor Sheets. You will see “There is a vampire living in a cave near town,” “A crazed hermit lives in the woods,” “The hermit knows all about vampires,” “The hermit’s name is Phil,” “Cerik the Vampire hates Phil,” and so on, each on a separate Rumor Sheet. In order to find all the information you need to go on this particular adventure, you will have to talk to as many people as you can to see what rumors they have heard.
Other clues and rumors will be dropped into game in in-game ways, and will often be aimed at new adventurers. We try whenever possible to always have a few modules for beginning players since the more experienced players already know how to get involved in the plot. We will drop these clues to allow new players to get involved, but all too often these “clues” end up in the hands of experienced players anyway because the new players do not seize the opportunity.
For example, one time the Plot Committee had a messenger misdeliver a treasure map to an inexperienced group after first plowing through a second group and dying while in their view. (The goal here was to get these two groups to work together to solve the treasure map.) The second group looked up for a minute and then kept on walking, and the inexperienced group handed over the adventure to an experienced group instead of trying to do the adventure themselves. Remember, don’t think that just because you are new, you shouldn’t be getting involved in the plotlines! Grab that plot! You deserve it just as much as the more experienced player.
Take the initiative; do it yourself! Only one person can make you a hero and that’s you. The more you know, the more you can get out of the game.
For the rest of this article, be sure to get the Alliance Rule Book!