LARP Event Holding
|No. of Entrants||Single Elim.||Double Elim.||List Style||Attack/ Defense|
|9||8||24"||17||51"||36||1' 12"||72||2' 24"|
|15||14||42"||29||1' 27"||105||3' 30"|
|30||29||1' 27"||59||2' 57"|
|40||39||1' 57"||79||3' 57"|
|50||49||2' 27"||99||4' 57"|
I recommend using one ring for every hour and a half you expect the tournament to last. These calculations are dependent upon good, efficient marshalling and combatants close enough to the tournament area to hear their name called - something that doesn't always happen at events.
For each day (6 hours) of tournaments, use three or four marshals and have between twelve and sixteen tournaments. If each marshal has four tourneys to run, and each takes an hour and a half, they will be running tourneys for six hours. Some tourneys will take less than an hour and a half, due to fewer people entering them, so the actual time will probably be closer to four and a half to five hours. Combat archery and dicky weapons of doom (assuming they must have made their own dicky weapons) both get fewer entrants than other tournies. It's a good idea to have backup tournaments in case you fly through your tourney list. Ideally, you shouldn't need to. Your head marshal should have the presence of mind to run tourneys as double elimination or as attack / defense to eat up time if you're going through your tournaments too quickly. If you have prizes for your tournament winners, be sure to have prizes for your backup tourneys as well. If you don't run them, save the prizes for your next event.
To succeed at providing something for everyone to do, you must schedule tournaments carefully. If you have a tournament only for magic users, a combat tournament in which magic users can cast spells and two group tournaments in which magic users are important, you should avoid having any of these four tournaments run concurrently. Similarly, if you have two archery competitions and one group tournament in which you need an archer to be able to win, you should avoid running these three tourneys concurrently. There are ways to involve players who don't fight. You can have a lady's favor tourney, in which you must have a lady's favor to enter, and one fighter may represent any one lady. You can have Bardic line battles, in which each team has a bard, who must sing throughout the battle, and can heal teammates as long as they are singing. You can have a King's tournament, in which each team has a non-combative King they must defend. Because some players like to quest, but refuse to tourney, you can design questing competitions. It takes a lot of thought to develop a tournament event that engages everyone, but it is possible.
New tournaments can be difficult to develop. There are some guidelines to keep in mind. Avoid having players running at top speed from opposite directions at something, especially on a slippery or muddy surface. It's just not a good idea. Make sure the tournament won't take forever. I once marshalled a tournament that lasted over six hours. I was the only one at the event more bored than the players were. If you can avoid attack / defense tournaments, do so. Attack / defense tourneys take much longer than single or double elimination tournaments. The only tournament I've encountered that has to be fought as attack / defense is the fort attack / fort defense tourney. If you had a fort with two entrances, both teams could start outside the fort and you could fight it single or double elimination.
Another thing to keep in mind when designing new tournaments is safety. Don't have players fighting on or around something they could easily hurt themselves on. Everything they use or interact with should be foam padded, if at all possible. Beanbags aren't too unsafe, but you have to be careful with beanbag chairs, due to their size and weight. Wooden forts are fairly safe so long as you make sure participants don't climb up the walls or jump from the towers. If you build a fort, don't make a drawbridge that can be raised and lowered. If you do, someone is bound to get conked on the head. Don't let people build large siege towers and use them unless you have given them a thorough inspection to make sure they won't fall apart or fall over on someone (don't laugh - it's happened!). Lastly, don't do anything that involves swimming or boating during combat - it's just too risky.
Choosing your marshals well is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your tournaments will go well. Your first step is to choose a head marshal. This person will be responsible for knowing everything about the tournaments and coordinating the other marshals to ensure that your event stays on schedule. They should have considerable experience marshalling, and ideally, they will have head marshalled other events before yours. If you are only running tournaments, and not running plots, quests or providing food, you can probably get away with doing the job of head marshal yourself.
You may choose to select your marshals yourself, or you may ask your head marshal to find marshals for you. When you select your head marshal and marshals, you need to be able to trust them and depend upon them. This means that you should be willing to support them in all of their decisions. Players unhappy with marshalling may go to you to ask you to overturn a marshal's decision. If you do overturn the marshal's decision, you shouldn't be surprised if that marshal never works for you again. Therefore, if you ever decide to not support one of your marshal's decisions, it should be for a very good reason. In addition, the marshals you use should also be individuals that the people attending your event will trust. If you're not sure who to ask to marshal, ask around. If you don't have any experienced marshals, ask some of the safer fighters you have met if they will marshal for you.
Asking marshals to help you throw your event may require you to change some of your plans. The marshals' job is to protect you by making sure the event is as safe as possible for event-goers. If you ask them to do a site inspection, be prepared to deal with any problems they have. If they find barbed wire, it is your job to make sure that barbed wire is well marked or completely removed. If they find a wasp nest, it is your job to make sure that it is taken care of before any event-goers set foot on site. They may also find safety problems with tournaments or props you plan to use. If your head marshal refuses to run your pole-arm balance-beam tournament because someone might fall and hurt themselves, respect his decision. If you don't, you'll risk losing valuable help. They may require you to have a first aid kit and an ample supply of drinking water for event-goers. Whatever their complaints, don't think they are trying to be difficult - they are really just looking out for your best interests.
Do not choose your favorite novel, myth or legend and transpose the plot and characters into an event. It's unimaginative. Many of your players enjoyed reading Tolkien so much that if you transpose plots or characters it probably won't go over very well. If you like some plots or characters, try to twist them slightly and change names so that you will preserve the aspects that you like while making them different from the original literary source. Also keep in mind that not every idea that works in literature will work at events. The books about Elric of Melibone revolved around his character and were lots of fun to read. Having an event revolve around one character can be lots of fun for that player, but may not be much fun for the other players at the event. Your responsibility is to everyone at your event, not just to a select few.
If you read Tolkien and liked the idea of a small party going on a long quest, feel free to set up such a quest. Have ten players chosen to go on a quest to destroy an evil magic item and present the rest of the players with a horde of monsters that they can fight off, but not defeat without the destruction of the magic item. It might just work. However, lots of players will wish they could have gone on the quest, and will resent feeling dependent upon the fate of the lucky questers. If you do it right, it'll work. If you don't, it won't. Most plots are like that, whether or not they are inspired by literature, myth or legend.
Developing interest in a plot or a quest can be difficult. The best way to get characters interested is through in-character means. Ask permission to spread notes or have NPCs show up at other peoples' events preceding your own. If you have a newsletter that carries in-character letters, send some in from your NPCs. The more you do to build tension before your event, the more interest you will build in your plot.
One way to foreshadow is by sending the players threats from the 'bad guys'. This may come in the form of a declaration of war found on a corpse, or brought by a messenger. It may come in the person of a fortune teller, who demonstrates his or her ability to accurately tell the future and then starts to rage about everyone being killed by an invading army. You can have messengers be caught while carrying encoded notes discussing plans for an invasion between two NPCs. If you are holding a quest, you can have someone show up and warn people that if they proceed on the quest, they will surely be killed by the left-handed gobble-hoof, or some other new and mysterious monster. These tactics are especially effective if you have built yourself a reputation as an eventholder who is fair, but is willing to let player characters die permanently at your events. If your NPCs threatened to invade and kill all the players off three years running, and each year they were easily defeated, players probably won't be too worried about surviving your next event. Don't be the boy who cried wolf - it won't gain you any respect from your event-goers.
You can also foreshadow your plots and quests by sending the players promises of the great treasures they will be questing for. You can do this by dispersing encoded notes, or by having NPCs around who can tell the players in great detail all about the treasure hoard. Treasure maps seem a bit cliché, but they work. The trick here is making the notes and hints difficult enough that players will have to work to understand them. If they put effort into deciphering the notes, they will have invested their time and energy into the quest, and will be much more prone to continue working on it. Nothing worthwhile is ever given away, after all.
So what is the goal of your plot? Why should the players care? What's in it for them? The answer to those questions will determine how interested they will be in your event, and in your future events as well.
If you are holding a war, and evil monsters are invading the land, the players are presumably trying to survive. If the players are invading another land, they are presumably both trying to survive and trying to kill off as many of the 'bad guys' as possible. They are probably also trying to kill off the leader of the evil empire they are invading. The difficult part of holding a war event is making the players feel like they have a reasonable chance of surviving, but a reasonable chance of losing as well. If they feel like they are guaranteed to lose, they'll resent it. If they feel like they are guaranteed to win, they'll get bored very quickly.
If you are holding a quest, the players are either trying to get the quest object, or trying to keep someone else from getting the quest object. The object of the quest can be anything from a magical sword or a treasure chest to a maiden who has been abducted. The quest can also be to find a place, like a fountain of youth or a magical pool with the power to bring the dead back to life. The most important thing to keep in mind is to make the quest match the quest object. The longer and more difficult the quest is, the better the prize at the end should be, if you want players to be interested in future quests you hold.
Another style of quest is the scavenger hunt. In this type of quest, the players are presented with a long list of items for them to find and bring back. The team that collects the most is often judged the winning team. There should be an in-character purpose behind the questing for it to work and monsters around to make it interesting. If you have an NPC Mage who is going to cast a powerful spell to help the players, the Mage can give the players a list of magical components to quest for. The more components the players bring back, the more powerful the spell will be. Scavenger hunt quests can be good ways to get lots of people involved.
It is a good idea to make people who are learning powerful magic spells to have to quest for the necessary components, or even for the person who will be able to teach them the spell. They will value the magic more if they have worked to acquire it. In addition, making players quest for spells will help to eliminate the problem of lazy players becoming as powerful as players who put a lot of effort into earning their spells. If they have to work for it, the lazier players won't bother, and the more energetic players will earn and deserve the magic they get to use.
There are many ways to hide information, and the better you hide it, the more important the players will think it is. Here are a few ideas to try out.
|Macintosh Version||PC Version|
Day questing is much safer than night questing, and can be lots of fun, if done right. However, there is nothing more exciting than a good night quest. It is much easier to get caught up in the moment. It could be because there are fewer reminders that it isn't just a game, or that it's simply easier to get scared at night. Whatever the reason, night quests are simply more intense. However, it is more difficult to fight safely at night. You need to be very careful about where you hold your quest and who you allow to NPC for you at night. Ideally, your entire quest should be lit, with cyalume sticks if you can't do any better, and on fairly flat, safe terrain. Your marshals and guides should have flashlights on them in case there is an emergency. Have walkie talkies used so that if there is an emergency, help can be gotten quickly. Lastly, all of your NPCs should be ready to be hit hard, hit in off target areas, and hit a lot. Players don't do this intentionally, but during a night quest many players will be pumped up enough that they will swing at anything that moves, and they won't always see exactly what they are aiming at. If we were using anything but light weapons, I would be completely against night fighting. However, given our equipment, as long as people know what they're getting into, they should be allowed to play at night. I do recommend that anyone who is night-blind should not engage in combat after dark. If you really can't see anything in the dark, then you're bound to hurt someone if you start fighting and questing at night.
There are some things you can do at night that you cannot do during the day. If you use cyalume light sticks, you can create what is called a 'star field'. You do this by hanging a bunch of light sticks from a string, poking holes in the bottom ends of the sticks and swinging them in a circle as you walk through the woods. Do this on a path that has a lot of overhanging branches and bushes so that there are lots of leaves for the cyalume to spatter onto. The effect is that of a field of glowing dots that destroys all depth perception. Having monsters wait quietly in the star field until the players are right next to them and then roar or yell loudly while attacking will scare the pants off of a band of the hardiest adventurers. You can stick light sticks to both light the path and hide a monster. Put the light stick on the side of a large tree facing into the path, and have a monster stand on the other side of the tree. The person playing the monster should be able to see down the path, but because of the bright light of the cyalume stick and the shadow it casts, he should be impossible to see. You can also get beanbags that are designed to glow when small cyalume sticks are inserted into them. They look great in the middle of the night, and they're easy to find after they are thrown as well. One thing to consider when planning your night quest is how much moonlight you will be getting. A full moon can provide enough light for people to see well in fields, but a new moon will make visibility as poor in the middle of a field as it is in the middle of the woods during a full moon.
A live site is when players can go wherever they want on the site, whenever they want to, and there is a reasonable chance that they will meet something they will have to deal with in-character. Your site is 'live' when you have monsters wandering around at 3 AM. You want the players to forget that it is a game while they are at the event. The best way to do that is to make the game as realistic as possible. Monsters wouldn't necessarily go to bed at 10 PM.
Another aspect of having a live site is allowing players to wander around in as large a group as they want to. This is realistic, and they will appreciate it. The trick is that if the players quest into the woods in a group of sixty 'brave' adventurers, your job is to have the NPCs either split them up into smaller groups, or whittle them down until only a small group is left. It is when you are in a small group, wandering the woods on a live event site that things get really intense. It's difficult for your NPCs to scare a group of sixty players, but when they are only five or ten strong, you will find it much easier to frighten them.
Why do I use the words 'scare' and 'frighten'? Obviously, you don't want to give anyone a coronary. However, when players start to worry about whether they will 'die' in-character on your quest, they will be emotionally engaged with your plot, and the entire experience will be much more realistic and intense for them. To lose touch with 'reality' and immerse yourself in the game is quite an experience. That experience should end at the end of the event, but if you can allow your players to enter 'the world' of your game during the course of your event, you're doing something right. A good analogy is that when you read a book or watch a film, you enter the world that the author or director has created. Eventing is very similar, except that you get more exercise and you spend your time interacting with people, rather than just flipping pages or watching a screen. In my opinion, anyone who has a problem disengaging themselves from the fictional 'world' of an event should stop eventing and seek professional help. If you know anyone who participates in live action fantasy events who has trouble separating the real world and the 'world' of the event, please help them to find help. This game is about having fun with your friends on the weekend and then returning to your real world responsibilities, hopefully happier and more relaxed for having enjoyed your weekend of eventing.
Anyway, if the trick with a live event site is splitting up or whittling down the horde of players, one solution is to throw a linear quest. A linear quest involves splitting up the players into teams and letting each team quest separately, in turn. This can be extremely exciting for players, and gives the event holder greater control over what the players encounter. If you are holding a linear quest, you probably want to have someone be their guide to make sure they actually encounter all the things you have put out in the woods. Usually, you will want to have the quest held along a path, with encounters on or near the path. Players will enjoy the experience more if they feel they have the freedom to make choices while questing. If the guide just says "follow me, don't stray from the path, and be ready for anything", it can still be exciting, but the players won't feel like they contributed as much. The biggest problem with linear quests is that if there are lots of questing teams, some may wait until the wee hours of the morning for their chance to quest. Let's say you decide to have teams of five people. It's a nice, small number and you think the players will be much more 'into' the quest than if they were in large groups, right? Let's say, of the one hundred people at your event, eighty of them want to take part in the quest. That's sixteen teams. If you have sixteen teams, each taking a half hour, and you start at 9PM, your night quest will end at 5AM, and your NPCs will be cold, exhausted and very cranky.
Linear quests don't have to just be from point A to point B and then back again. You can set up an elaborate network of places or people they must go to. You can make a circle of five locations, each with an NPC stationed at it. For example, you could have an old wise man, a beautiful tree spirit, a troll guarding a bridge, a hermit and a witch. Split the players into five teams. Each team must go to a different person. Then each of those NPCs will send the players on to another NPC, until they have visited all five. A diagram of the paths the players might take could look like either a pentagram (5 sided polygon) or a pentacle (5 pointed star). The trick is to make it work in-character by providing good reasons for the players to have to go from person to person. There should also be other monsters in the woods for the players to have to deal with. Lastly, each NPC must make sure that they pace the players at the same rate so that you don't have several teams backed up at one NPC location. You can do this type of quest with more NPC locations if you want to, though it will be more complicated.
It is possible to have a live site and also have a linear quest that players can go on. Doing this will require more NPCs than only having a live site or only running a linear quest. A good way to do this is to have the live site, with goblins raiding the encampment or some other such entertainment, and have a wandering sage who is looking for groups to help him out. When he finds a group, he can then them on the quest. The players should have something to try to accomplish if they're not going on the quest. For example, the goblins could be coming out of a gate to Faerie, and the players must find the gate and learn how to close it. Ideally, there should be something for everyone to do at any given time. If someone doesn't get to go on the linear quest, he shouldn't feel like he didn't have a good time because there wasn't anything else to do.
You will have to make the quest difficult and yet possible. This can be quite a challenge. There are many ways to make a quest more challenging. One of my favorites is to encode important information that the players need in runes, so that they have to decipher them. This will take time on your part, but will give the players something think about. You can also buy two or three dimensional puzzles that you can write clues on, and then scatter the pieces about the event site. They will have to find them and re-assemble them to read the clue. You can also have NPCs force the players to solve riddles in order to gain passage or gain information. This can be particularly challenging. You can have key NPCs who have pertinent information, but who will only deal with certain people in certain ways. At one event, years ago, there was a demon who knew where an important key was, but who would only answer questions that rhymed. Lots of people tried to think of rhymes, but one individual walked up to the demon and said something along the lines of "Give us the key - BOAT! Or we'll kill you - BOAT!" For his ingenuity and sense of humor, he was told where the key was. There are many variations to this theme. You can have NPCs who will only hear players who are singing, (though don't expect anyone to figure it out without help). You can have an NPC who is only killed in honorable combat, or by being laughed at, or by a woman, or by a 'dicky weapon of doom'. Whatever you do, be prepared to give the players hints and clues through other NPCs so that if they have trouble, there is a source of help available. As eventholder, never give the players help; always have an NPC do it.
If the event is too difficult, players will get frustrated. Everyone who fights wants to have a reasonable chance of winning. It's OK to have monsters that are nigh-invulnerable. However, there should also be lots of weaker monsters that anyone can beat. Make sure the weaker monsters don't spend the entire event hanging out with the nigh-invulnerable ones. That will just frustrate your newer players, who may feel like there's nothing they can defeat, so there's no point in trying. There should be something for everyone to do. That means there should be tough monsters for the experienced adventurers to contend with and there should be weak monsters for the newer, less experienced adventurers to fight. I would recommend having as many 'low monsters' as there are other NPCs. That way, there should always be something for players to be able to beat.
There should be multiple goals for the players to try to achieve. If there is only one goal to the event, and that is a goal that only one person can achieve, then only one person will walk away from your event feeling like they 'won'. Everyone can't 'win', of course, but providing a greater variety of plots for players to get involved in will enable more players to leave the event feeling like they made a difference. Instead of having one player win by defeating the demon ravaging the land, why not have five people needed to close the gate the demon came through and countless others to kill lesser monsters and quest for the items needed to cast the spell to close the gate.
So what do you do when the players lose? Well, it depends upon how badly they lost and why they lost. If all of the players are dead, you have a choice. You can have a wandering healer come raise some of the healers among the players so they can then raise some more players and the players' losses will be minimized. You can also just have everyone create new characters. If you choose the latter, you will be very unpopular with some people. The fighter who just finished his new suit of leather armor, designed especially for his new character, may be quite miffed. However, the player who has played the same character for years might welcome the chance to make a new character. The bottom line is that as long as the players had a fair chance to win, you should be willing to let them lose. If you do let them lose, some of them will gain respect for you as an eventholder, and some of them will decide that you make your events too tough. If you play a character at other events, you may even be accused of killing off players for in-character political reasons. So what can you do to give them a second chance?
If all the players die, there is one last option. You can give them one last chance. Tell them they are all in Hades, and have until the end of the event to get out. Have a quest prepared that players can go on if this situation occurs. Some people may choose not to try to break out, but most will welcome the opportunity with open arms. Make sure it is challenging enough that not everyone will survive. Also try to make it take a long time, if at all possible. It is important that they feel like they have worked hard to succeed on the quest, or they'll look at it as a gift. You can also tell them that they are doomed to die by the end of the event. Then have an NPC spread rumors about a magical pool, pond, stream, etc... that they can quest to that will save them. Again, make it difficult. If you don't have lots of woods and fields to work with, there is still a way to give them a second chance. Have a scroll with runes that is a spell that will save them all. All they have to do is decipher it. You should make it very difficult. One particularly nasty way is to write it in another language before translating it into runes. There are many other ways to encrypt and encode messages. A little research at your local library should uncover some useful methods. Be sure to provide the players with clues on how to crack the code. If you don't, they may decide that it was impossible.
It is very important to choose people you trust and feel are safe fighters to play your monsters and your non-player characters. They must be able to take a beating without losing their temper and quitting or yelling at the players for hitting too hard. I've seen it happen many times, and each time it made the event much less fun for the players who were fighting safely and trying to have a good time. Players will be trying to defeat some big bad monster and suddenly the person playing the big bad monster will rip off their mask and start screaming at someone who accidentally hit them in the face. No, it's not OK to hit someone in the face, and you should let someone know if they did it to you. The person who lost their temper was probably hit in the face and hit too hard all day long. However, for the sake of the players' enjoyment of the event, people playing monsters need to keep their cool and deal with their frustrations like adults. If a player is fighting unsafely, they should be taken aside by a marshal and re-trained. If they continue to be unsafe, you can tell them they can't fight for the rest of the event and should spend some time practicing to reduce their unsafe habits. However, if you ever have an NPC lose their temper and 'go off' on a player, I would recommend never using that NPC again. Make sure they understand why you aren't going to use him, and if he ever convinces you that he is able to control himself, certainly give him a second chance.
The other important thing you need to look for in NPCs is punctuality. You will need to start your quest by a certain time. If your NPCs aren't ready, you can't start. Period. You are totally dependent upon them to help you make your event happen. In a bind, I have had to ask players to substitute for NPCs who were late. You can salvage a bad situation, but you often don't have the time to fully prepare the substitute for the role you wanted the late NPC to play. In addition, the late NPC will want to throw on their character's garb and participate in the quest, despite the fact that they may know a lot about it already. So what's the moral of this story? Get people you trust to be on time to play your NPCs.
There will be times that you have NPC roles you want to fill that require skillful roleplaying. It doesn't take much effort to play an orc, goblin, skeleton or zombie. However, you may need people to play humble beggars, damsels in distress, arrogant knights, crazed hermits or short-tempered Kings and Queens. There is nothing wrong with selecting people whose personalities will fit the role you want them to play. They'll have an easy time playing the part, and if you know them, you should already know what to expect. If you are looking for someone to play a short-tempered, proud, self-centered Queen, find someone you think is short-tempered, proud and self-centered. More than likely, she'll play the part well. You may also need to find roles for people who want to help you, but don't fight. These people are ideal to spread rumors and clues. Aged, drunken knights, or bawdy tavern wenches around can make your event site seem more realistic.
Why does anyone play an NPC? The job of an NPC is to go out and get killed, in grand fashion, so that the players feel like they did a good job, saved the day, and go home feeling good about themselves and the event. NPCs want players to enjoy the event. However, the NPC is also supposed to challenge the players, which means that there has to be some amount of risk involved. There must be the chance that the players will lose. NPCs want players to feel challenged. To best entertain the players, the NPC should work on a sliding-scale basis. This means that they should fight as well as they can against the best of the players, but they should let the newbies have a taste of victory no matter how bad they are at fighting. Now, this is all out of character.
Why does a Troll guard a cross-road? Why does an Ogre kidnap a fair maiden? Why do skeletons attack the players every time they set foot on a certain path in the woods? There are many possible answers to these questions, and those answers are at the heart of your plots. Always have reasonable motivations for your NPCs. In addition, if you give your NPCs goals and motivations and you put different NPCs in conflict, the NPCs will enjoy the event more, and the IC world will be more realistic. For example there might be a horde of goblins and a small group of trolls looking for some of the same things the players are looking for, possibly for much different reasons.
So you have lots of ideas about what monsters you will use and how they will wreak havoc amongst the poor player characters. If your grand schemes and sweeping plots are going to work at all, you will need to organize your ideas and be able to communicate them to your NPCs. There are some simple things you can do to facilitate this.
Making a timeline with lists of the many NPCs you will require and when you will need them is a good way to organize. It will help you assess your plans and determine how many people you will really need to make your event happen. Once you have your timeline, you may be able to use someone for a role for the first half of the event and then have them switch over to another role for the second half of the event. You can conserve your resources this way. Don't be too exact with times. It is often wiser to leave the specific times unstated, but to simply tell the NPC that you want them to be this monster until you've accomplished a certain goal and then become this other monster. There may be circumstances when you feel you need to work with exact times, and that's OK, so long as you know that you're taking the risk of having the timing not work out. If you become dependent upon everything working in a certain order and at a certain time, one small slip-up can ruin your plans.
Once you have your timeline set, you can start writing down descriptions of each NPC. Go into as much detail as possible, so long as you accept the fact that your NPCs will only be able to remember a certain amount of it. Be sure to tell them how their NPC role works, in terms of taking damage and fighting. Tell them what to do when they die. Do they go off into the woods and come back as another goblin? Do they go become a kobold with another group of NPCs that started the event as kobolds? To make all your NPCs as realistic as possible, give them all tidbits of information, both useful and useless, helpful and misleading. They should also have guidelines for releasing that information. Give them guidelines for roleplaying so they can better make the dreams you have become reality.
It's a good idea to organize your NPCs' props well before the event date. Put things in boxes, and label them well. The more effort you put into organization, the easier the event will be to throw when the big day rolls around. If you want your NPCs to bring certain colored clothes or garb, let them know well before the event, if possible. It's always good to ask combat NPCs to wear black, especially if they'll be NPCing during the night.
Wearing face paint is much safer than wearing a mask, as it does not obscure your vision at all. If you use face paint, make sure the people playing your monsters put enough of it on. Goblins with only a few green stripes of face paint look really cheezy. Goblins with their faces completely covered in green can look really neat. You can even add bruises and cuts with other colors of face paint! The problem with face paint is that the NPCs hate it - many kinds sweat off and get everywhere, and you have to clean up after NPCing.
Many LARP communities use store-bought latex or plastic masks. Latex and plastic masks are designed to look neat, but as a result they often do not provide adequate vision and move easily when hit in combat. They can also be very uncomfortable to wear in hot weather. However, if you are using masks, it is very easy to have your NPCs switch roles in the middle of the event if you need them to.
It is possible to sew together fabric masks. Fabric masks are more comfortable, cheaper and safer in combat than latex or plastic masks. They are also cleaner than face paint, which often gets all over your garb. On the down side, they take time to sew, and are often not as realistic as masks that can be purchased at stores. For non-combat NPCs, store-bought masks can often give a touch of realism that makes the monster quite memorable. However, there is a wide variety of fabrics that can be bought at fabric stores, including such items as fake fur. You can make quite elaborate costumes if you put enough thought and time into it. It is possible to sew stuffed ears, horns, tusks and spikes onto a fabric mask to enhance its appearance. Also, touching it up with craft paint can make a big difference between a completely sewn mask and the final product NPCs will wear at events.
Whatever you do for masks, there should never be a monster without face paint or a mask, unless of course it is supposed to look like a normal person.
No matter how amazing your special effects are going to be, make sure that they will be safe and that whatever you are doing isn't going to be a fire hazard. If you are considering getting and using a fog machine, people who have asthma should not be allowed to go into the fog. You don't want anyone to have an asthma attack. The person lowered down into the middle of the quest path from a tree branch above could land on someone or fall and hurt themselves. The person kneeling in the edge of the pond waiting for night questers could get hypothermia. Lots of things can go wrong at events. If your special effects aren't safe, you're asking for trouble. Remember that you are ultimately responsible for any injuries your props and special effects cause.
Now, let's say your wonderful special effect is safe, and it's really neat looking too! Test it thoroughly to ensure that every single time it is supposed to work, it actually does work. If it works for some people, but doesn't for others, the ones that missed out will feel cheated. They will be especially upset if the cost of your fizzling sparklers of doom was enough to push the price of the event up by five or ten dollars per person. If your special effect is expensive and it does fail you, don't be surprised if some event goers give your next event a miss. In addition, don't focus a quest around a special effect. The players will be able to tell a fun, engaging plot from an excuse to play with pyrotechnics, and to be honest, the players will be more interested in a good plot than in a fireworks display.
However, it is possible to put special effects to good use. The key to using special effects is timing. As you know, there are moments when players' adrenaline glands are working overtime and the game no longer feels like a game anymore. If you can pull it off, that is the moment when your special effect will be put to best use. Spring your sparklers on them when they are so involved in the game that they don't stop to think, "oh, look - sparklers". An eventholder once staged the ritual sacrifice of his character. He was born with an indentation in his chest. He filled this dent with fake blood and a fake heart and covered it with latex. During the night quest at his event, a party of adventurers were trying to rescue him. They made their way along a path and broke into a clearing. They quickly realized that they were in front of an altar, with the bad guy standing over the altar their friend was laid across. They paused when they realized that the knife the villain was holding was a real one. The knife was then plunged into their friend's chest. Blood could be seen as the villain pulled what looked like a heart from his chest! At this instant the spell to open a gate to Faerie was complete, and monsters jumped out at them from all around the clearing. This was a moment that all the players involved will probably remember for the rest of their lives. They didn't have the time to think about what was happening, and to realize that their friend wouldn't really have sacrificed himself in order to make his event more memorable. The fact that they didn't have time to think (and that it was a really neat special effect) was the key.
You don't need fancy special effects to throw an amazing event. The trick is to think of something to confront the players with which they will not expect or be prepared for. At a time when the players in our game had not seen many well-organized groups of monsters, I presented them with an invading army with a shield wall twelve shields wide. It stopped them in their tracks. They successfully defeated it, but more than a few of them seriously thought they might lose the battle. In that instance, timing was again the key. Players were relaxed. It was near the end of the event. The leader of the invading army came out of the woods, bearing a shield. After him, pairs of shieldmen followed, slowly folding out into a line as they entered the field. I think it was the progressive realization of what they were faced with that made the moment memorable. As I watched, the energy the players were filled with was like electricity coursing through the air.
There are many tried and true effects that you might want to consider using. NPCs in the woods with war drums will create a great mood, especially after dusk. The right mix of corn syrup and red food coloring can make great fake blood. You can make a star-field by taking a bunch of cyalume sticks, putting them on a string, poking holes though the bottoms of each stick and walking along a bushy, overhung trail swinging them around in circles. Drops of cyalume will fly off and land on the leaves of the bushes. The effect will be a field of glowing dots that will destroy depth perception and make for a great place to hide creatures. You can make a good treasure chest by buying a footlocker and filling it with stuff (anything a LARPer might want - look around at tag sales and flea markets). There are many things you can do to make your event more fun and realistic. Just use your imagination.
No matter what magic system you are using for your event, you should know that system well. You are responsible for making sure that everything that happens at your event is consistent with the magic system you are using. This does not mean that you cannot go 'above and beyond' the magic system, but it does mean that you should be prepared to deal with the spells that players will be learning and casting at your event. Always have a copy of the system on hand for quick reference, and appoint someone you trust who knows the system well to act as magic marshal so that you won't get pulled away from more important responsibilities.
There is nothing wrong with adding a little extra magic to your event. Having a quest to get items to be able to cast a powerful spell that isn't in the regular magic system is a time-honored tradition. Allowing players limited access to such magic gives you the ability to guide the players through your plots, while bringing them into the workings of the plot. You can use magic to open and close gates to different worlds. You can have magical pools, ponds or streams that impart healing or affect characters in various ways. However, there are certain things you should keep in mind when dealing with magic and magic items as an eventholder. Don't have the entire fate of the world revolve around one special magic item. That item will invariably get lost, or left at someone's house, or chewed up by someone's dog. Be careful not to make magical items that are too powerful and don't release more than one magic item or weapon at any given event. If you do release a powerful magic item, there should be some in-game counterweight. For example, the person who found a magical pole-arm is constantly harassed by the ghost of the Mage who made it. If you release a sword that can kill demons really well, there could be one demon the sword cannot kill, and that demon just happens to want the sword very badly. There should always be a trade-off of some sort when a player gets something that makes them more powerful.
Magic items are wonderful ways to complicate plots and situations as an eventholder. Knowing that the bad guys were going to invade, a magic necklace was released that would raise people from the dead. The person using it had to keep a list of the characters who were raised. Then, on the day of the invasion, when the leader of the invading army blew a horn, the characters who had been raised by the necklace went berserk and tried to kill off as many other players as possible.
Many event holders give out awards to the best players and competitors at their event. There are a number of things to keep in mind when planning the prize structure for your event. People who don't win a lot of tournaments or prizes resent seeing expensive prizes given out. This is because the same people seem to win the expensive prizes time and time again. To deal with this problem, I recommend expanding your prize structure so that you give out more prizes. Spend the $200 you were going to spend on two beautiful swords to instead buy 10 knives that cost $20 each. If you want to have several prizes that are bigger and better than the others, for the same $200, you can have four prizes that cost $25 and ten that only cost $10.
How can you afford to give out lots of prizes? Well, it's not easy, and there are tricks you can use. If you have any artistic talent, you can buy glass tankards, pilsner glasses or wine glasses and an engraving pen and create your own prizes. You can also paint on glass with certain art pens and paints. Find a staff, wood-burn and coat it with polyurethane to make a prize. Modeling clay can be used to make rune stones or jewelry. If you're really tight on money, get a calligraphy set and some fancy paper and make award certificates to hand out to your winners. You don't have to do all the work yourself, by the way. The more help you can get for making prizes, the more energy you will have to put into the rest of your event.
Having lots of prizes, so long as each was given to someone who deserved an award, should result in lots of people leaving your event feeling like their accomplishments were noticed by someone. Recognition is one of the greatest impressions you can leave on someone who attended your event. They will probably look forward to your next event.
Keep in mind that it is as important to provide a variety of prizes as it is to provide a good number of them. If most event holders give out a certain kind of knife as a prize, you should avoid giving it out at your event. You should find something else that will be equally nice to award to someone. It can still be a knife, but it shouldn't be the same one everyone else gives out. You don't want people thinking "Not another (your system name here) knife!" when they receive their award at your event.
The acquisition of a magic item should be a difficult, memorable feat. It should be a story that can be told again and again. In addition, the harder the item was to acquire, the more valued it will be to the person who has it. For that reason, I strongly discourage event holders from awarding magic items to players for winning tournaments. Magic items should be quested for and fought over, not just handed over as a prize.
At any good event, instead of having a table with lots of food and drink, you will find a tavern, fully stocked and run by a tavern keeper. A tavern is a wonderful way to add another dimension to the world you are creating at your event. Your tavern can have wenches, maybe a drunk or two, and most of all, lots of food and drink. Water and pretzels or some form of salty snack mix should be free. People need to have lots of water and salty food if they are exercising, especially in hot weather. You should charge for everything else, as a way of giving the currency in your game some value. If someone doesn't have any money, suggest that they hire themselves out as a bodyguard or soldier for the day. It's a great way to encourage new people to hook up with more experienced characters.
So what should you have at your tavern? Water should be pushed on players. This is especially important in hot, humid weather as a way to guard against cases of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Gatorade and juice should also be available for players who don't like water. Pretzels and other salty snack mixes are important in keeping players' salt levels up to help avoid dehydration and muscle cramps. Brownies and cookies always go over well. Bread, cheese, pepperoni and honey-butter are also quite popular. Near the end of an event, if you think you're going to have a lot left over, give it away - they'll eat it and be very grateful. It's also a good idea to have sunscreen, insect repellent, hornet/wasp spray and a first aid kit at your tavern. The tavern usually becomes a central area for players to gather, so it is a sensible place to keep such items.
What do you do with the money the tavern brings in? Some of it should go to whoever helps you run the tavern, but some of the money should be re-circulated. Give it to your NPCs to be looted off of their bodies as they are killed over the course of the day. You can also keep some of it to give to new players as starting money, if you feel charitable.
The single most important NPC at a quest event is the "plugger". The plugger is the NPC that organizes the players, give them a sense of direction and purpose and sends them on their way. Many questers are bored and confused at quest events that did not have pluggers. They don't know what they're supposed to be doing and they don't have the initiative to go figure out what the plot is. Sure, it'd be nice for all players to have lots of curiosity and initiative, but the truth is that many don't. Events should have lots of surprises for those who are adventurous and take initiative. However, if you want everyone to have a good time, it's a good idea to have an NPC that will 'plug' your quest, and give the players an in-character jump-start. You, as eventholder, can even fill this role. You'd probably be a good choice if you don't have anyone else, as you know all the plots and will be in a good position to tell the players enough to get them interested and motivated without giving too much away. Your plugger, whether it is you or someone else, should be able to lead and inspire the players. It helps if they are experienced at speaking to crowds. You could instead have your plugger quietly go around to players and 'clue them in', and let one of the players do the organizing. It's up to you. You could have several pluggers, if you want. One thing to keep in mind is that if your quest isn't very motivating, it'll make the pluggers' job much harder.
It is always a good idea to have at least a few NPCs at your event that aren't good guys or bad guys. These are the NPCs that can provide the players with valuable information and help if they are treated well. The "locals" can also provide the 'bad guys' with help if the players don't treat them well. There are many different types of characters you can throw in, and it has a lot to do with who you have helping you throw your event. You can have barmaids, hermits, drunks, elderly knights, madmen, mages, healers and anything else you can dream up. Don't have your entire plot be dependent upon wheedling information out of one NPC. You'll be setting yourself up for failure. Always have multiple sources of information. You can even have sources that will tell the players the exact opposite of what they need to know, so that if they make the right leap of logic, they'll know what to do. Be careful not to have too many of these NPCs and wind up not having enough monsters for the players to fight. The heart of any event is the combat.
Low monsters are monsters that have no armor, no special powers or abilities and take damage as players do. This means that one hit to a kill location will kill them. In addition, all blast spells will instantly kill and scalp all low monsters.
High monsters are more difficult to kill than Low monsters, often requiring special weapons to be killed. Some high monsters have to be hit in certain areas, in a certain sequence to be killed. Some may just have to have their true name uttered when they are hit to be killed. High monsters often have elaborate face paint schemes, or wear masks. Magic weapons generally affect all monsters as if they had no armor. That means that a magic weapon will cut right through hobgoblin or troll skin.
Every once in a great while, there should be a monster so fearsome that it defies all attempts to kill it. It is so ancient and so powerful that virtually everyone runs in fear from it. All monsters should be killable, so 'special' monsters must have some way of being defeated or driven away. There are many ways to do this, and the more imaginative yours is, the more difficult it will be for the players. Some examples are: a monster that is only calmed by being sung to, a monster that is only vulnerable to someone who is laughing at it, a monster that can only be killed in honorable combat, etc... These 'monsters' don't have to be monsters, by the way. They can be human, elvish, dwarvish, or any other race you can think up. If you are going to make a creature like this, it's important to release the information about how it can be killed, so that the players have some way of winning - other than just by trial and error and sheer luck. Having too many of these monsters should be avoided, but one or two every once in a while should make the game much more interesting for the players. Also, it's fine to make high powered demons or dukes of faerie be 'specials'. It would make sense for them to be more powerful, if they rose to such a high rank in their realm. There should always be a blast spell that will work against special monsters.
If you want to think up new monsters, go right ahead. Just keep several things in mind. Make sure that it isn't too powerful. Make sure it's interesting to the players and that they can tell, just by looking at it, that it's something they haven't seen before. Put time and effort into the costume and be very clear with the person playing the new monster about how it works. There are some powers which I would recommend you avoid. Don't have your monster turn 'invisible'. Don't have your monster (or your players) 'teleport'. In both cases, you're asking too much of the players to ignore the NPC walking behind them chanting "you don't see me - you don't see me - you don't see me". Don't use water pistols to simulate special powers. It's really annoying, easy to not notice in the middle of combat and encourages players to charge in at the monster between bursts of water to try to get in a hit. Don't have monsters that look just like player characters. It'll just create conflict between players and make everyone paranoid of each other, which is the last thing you want.
The mortal realms are the realms that the players live in. There are many lands in the mortal realms, some of which are run by and populated by players, and some of which can be run by and populated by 'monsters'. There is lots of room for evil kingdoms of goblins, trolls and even humans.
There can be creatures from the overworld, the underworld and faerie in the mortal realms. Just because players aren't in the underworld doesn't mean they can't run across kobolds or demons. Also, there is usually a lot of traffic between faerie and the mortal realms, so creatures from faerie should be some of the more common that the players encounter.
The governing magic of the mortal realms is earth magic. The antithesis of earth magic is air magic. Therefore, you might consider making monsters whose origin is the mortal realms vulnerable to air blasts.
The overworld has been known by the name of Valhalla and The Summerlands. It is the place where the souls of heroes go when they are remembered in song. In the overworld, the heroes fight all day, feast and carouse all night and rise the next day to do it all again.
There is a King and Queen of the Overworld, and a Champion of the Overworld. As players die and are sent to the overworld (by being remembered in song), they should have a chance to rise through the hierarchy. Individuals can advance through the ranks of the overworld by challenging those higher than them to honorable combat. The combat must be with matched weapons and equal armor. You are only allowed to challenge someone who is one level above you in rank. You may also only issue one challenge per day. If anyone ever enters into honorable combat with an advantage and wins, all the heroes in the Overworld will kill them and they will be cast out of the Overworld into the Void.
The governing magic of the Overworld is air magic. The antithesis of air magic is earth magic. Any creature in the Overworld who is struck by an earth blast will not just get up. They must be brought to the King or Queen of the Overworld, either of whom will be able to raise them. The unjustified slaying of someone in the Overworld with earth magic is considered a grave offense, and the culprit could be returned to the mortal realms or cast into the void, depending upon the situation.
Denizens of the Overworld include Valkyries, who take heroes to the Overworld, and Guardians, who protect those who are destined to go to the Overworld when they eventually are killed and scalped. If you are killed in the Overworld, you just get up again. There is no permanent death in the Overworld.
The Underworld has been known by the name of Hell and Hades. If the Overworld is a realm of honor, heroism, valor and courage, the Underworld is a realms of deceit, treachery and evil.
In the Underworld live demons, imps, kobolds, balrogs and other monsters. Demons are the 'nobles' of the underworld. They hold titles and are called dukes, arch dukes, princes, etc... There is no one ruler of the underworld, for when one demon is foolish enough to gain more power than the others, it is inevitably double-crossed and thrown down from the position of power it had attained. The areas of the underworld are separated by gates. Each gate is guarded by a gatekeeper, most often a balrog.
Characters who are truly evil should be offered chances to become denizens of the underworld when they die. They can then fill the role of an NPC and work up the ranks of the underworld if they want to. The governing magic of the underworld is fire magic. The antithesis of fire magic is water magic. Water blast will instantly kill and scalp most denizens of the underworld.
In the underworld, when you are killed, you stay dead - unless you are a native, in which case you get back up again. If you are dead for too long, some kindly demon is bound to come along and turn you into an imp, so don't you worry.
Faerie is a magical realm where virtually anything is possible. It is a shadow of the mortal realms in many ways. There are nobles and rulers of Faerie, as there are in mortal realms. There are many traditions of faerie, but one of the most prevalent is that of the Seelie and Unseelie courts that rule the land. I strongly recommend researching the subject.
To get in and out of Faerie, you need to go through a gate. Gates are not generally physical, so it is possible to accidentally wander into Faerie. One might say that entering Faerie involves focusing your mind and spirit in just the right way. Leaving Faerie is the same, and if you are unable to leave faerie on your own, and cannot find a gate, you can find yourself wandering Faerie for a long time. Physical and temporal laws do not always work in Faerie as they do in mortal realms. One might say that faerie is a place where every conceivable alternative realm exists. The governing magic of Faerie is water magic. The antithesis of water magic is fire magic. Fire blast will instantly kill and scalp most denizens of the underworld.
There are 'good' and 'bad', or 'light' and 'dark' faeries. The 'light', 'good' faeries are benevolent nature spirits, like dryads, sylphs and naiads. The dark faeries are mischievous brownies and gremlins and the more dangerous goblins, orcs and trolls.
If you are killed in Faerie, you don't just get back up again. If you're lucky, someone will find you before you become a meal for a goblin or orc (or a light snack for a troll!).
The void is also known as the Abyss or Gaol. It is a dimension of nothingness, and is often used as a place to banish creatures. Nothing can die or be born in the void. Time has no meaning in the void.
There are no native inhabitants of the void. Creatures that have been in the void for a long time slowly turn into undead. Non-mages who are killed 100 times in the Void turn into zombies, and mages who are killed 100 times in the Void turn into ghosts. Heroes (those whose deeds have been praised in song) who are non-mages and are killed 100 times turn into skeletons and mage heroes who are killed 100 times turn into ghouls. Knights who are killed 100 times will turn into wights and high mages who are killed 100 times in the Void will turn into wraiths. The most powerful of beings can retain their proper form indefinitely. When you die in the void, you just get up again. It is up to you to keep track of how many times you have been killed in the void. We're on the honor system, remember. A gate must be created to enter or leave the Void.
There are no rulers in the Void, but the strongest, most powerful creatures captured in the void would probably 'rule the roost'. The governing magic of the void is spirit magic.
Eventholders want players to remember their events. They want the people who went to their event to tell stories and talk about the event for months or even years afterwards. People who go to events pretend that they are in another world, fighting demons and trolls, rescuing maidens or defending their very lives. It's just a game. However, every once in a while, an event will be so intense that people will feel like they aren't just playing. Their adrenaline gland will tweak, and they'll run faster, or fight better than they ever imagined they could, and they will momentarily immerse themselves in the world of the game. Those times are the times they will remember and talk about for years to come. So how do you get this to happen?...
The first thing to do is create a sense of realism at your event site. When people are wearing street clothes, park within sight of the tents and fields, and talk about the concert they went to the night before, it can be very difficult to 'suspend your disbelief'. The fewer reminders of the outside world there are, the greater the chance that people will forget about it for a short time. The ideal mechanisms for removing the reminders of the real world will be ones that operate from within the game. Instead of telling someone to get rid of their soda can, simply have an NPC Sheriff fine or 'jail' someone for practicing 'witchcraft'. Witchcraft is, of course, the possession or manipulation of anything which is from the 20th century, and could not have existed in a Medieval setting. You want to get someone to play this who will not abuse their position, but will serve the purpose of removing all 'witchcraft'. There will always be exceptions,... people who need to wear watches to remember to take medication at a certain time, for example.
You also need to make sure that your plot is realistic. I don't mean realistic from a 20th century point of view, but realistic from an in-game point of view. The more consistent the live roleplaying experience is for your players, the more they will enjoy it, and the more they will be able to immerse themselves. This means that if you're going to use anything that has appeared at an event before, whether it's a monster, an NPC, an item, a weapon or even a kind of magic, you should talk to whoever has used it before you to make sure that you are using it correctly. In addition, it is extremely rude and inconsiderate to dabble with plot lines, items or NPCs that other event holders have been working with, without talking with the event holders beforehand. Your plot might affect another event holder's established plot lines.
In addition to making the world of the game more consistent, make sure your plot is internally consistent and realistic. Everything in your plot should make sense. When plotting your event, every NPC should have realistic motivations for what they are doing. There should be a reason for the bad guys to want to invade, if that's what you want them to do. In addition, the NPCs motivations should ultimately come full circle, taking root in the past actions of player characters (in a reasonable and realistic way, of course). If the players feel that they might have been involved in the plot line, even if they didn't know it at the time, they will be more interested in it, and will put more effort into participating. You can't just assume that players will participate in a plot because they came to an event - that's the sign of an event holder who doesn't care about the event goers' experience at their event. If players are thinking to themselves, or even saying out loud, "Why should I care?", then you know you're doing something wrong. You should actively create ways to draw them into the plot, and get them involved. Sometimes the simplest and bluntest way to involve the players is to give them no other choice. Most 'war' events operate on that premise - that if the players' choice is to defend themselves or die, they'll most likely defend themselves. It is still important for there to be a reason behind the invasion, however, or the players may resent being pushed so hard simply on the whim of the event holder.
While a realistic plot is essential, you also must have realistic NPCs and props for your plot to work. No matter how good your plot is, if your NPCs are two-dimensional it won't achieve its full effect. They must be able to 'be' their roles in order to encourage the players to 'be' their characters. This means that your NPCs shouldn't go out of character at all, if possible. Your props must also be believable. In addition, the more props you can integrate into the plot, the better. The props should be able to be taken by the players, so that the sense of a real 'world' is more closely achieved. After all, if you kill a bandit and find his loot, there would probably be more than just gold and silver. A bandit would hoard anything of value, including jewelry and perhaps even pouches, weapons and armor. Imagine killing a really tough troll at an event and being told you could keep a chain mail coif you found in his treasure hoard!
The thing you should most avoid is to have the players save the world at every event. The more often the players have to save the world, the less it will mean to them. There is nothing wrong with a simple plot involving bandits, a corrupt sheriff and a local goblin tribe. It can be lots of fun! You should never tell the players that 'the world is going to end' or 'Faerie is being ripped apart' to try to motivate them. Players respond to concrete, realistic threats, not intangible, cosmic threats. They know that whether you pretend the world is going to end or not, the next event will happen as planned and they can always go to it and start a new character. If you want to push the players' backs up against the wall, mount an invasion of monsters. They'll enjoy the fighting, and they'll respond better to it than they would respond to your NPC wise man preaching Armageddon.