An Introduction to
LARP Event Holding

By Steve & Amy Johnson

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Foreword
Your Event Site
Breaking Even
Tournaments
Quests
NPCs
Props and more
A Bestiary
Settings


Foreword

The first event I ever really threw was in the April of 1993. I was utterly unprepared, and it went over quite well. It was a one-day quest event with a tavern. I had never imagined how much was really involved in throwing an event, despite the fact that I had been attending and marshalling events for a couple of years. My next attempt at event-holding was helping a friend throw one of the largest two-day events of the year in July of 1993. I handled all of the tournaments, NPCs and plot stuff and he handled everything else (it was a feast event, so there was a lot more). It was a great success. I, with the help of my sister, Sarah, made a bunch of black shields and on Sunday after the tournaments were over, the 'bad guys' - dark elves, in this case - invaded. The players had not been faced with an NPC shield wall over ten shields wide before, and the looks on their faces when they saw them was something to behold. There was an electricity in the air unlike anything I had ever experienced, and from that point on, I knew I was going to keep throwing events.

The formation of a community of live action roleplaying (LARP) enthusiasts is entirely dependent upon there being events for them to go to. As I am dedicated to spreading the concept of community LARPing, I thought I ought to help the brave souls who will become the eventholders of your community. Nothing you can read in any book could fully prepare you for holding your first event, but it certainly can't hurt. In these pages, I have attempted to write down everything I could possibly think of that might help you plan, organize and survive your event. This book should have something for experienced eventholders as well. Hopefully, you will learn to throw events that will push players beyond their limits and help them to be their character instead of just playing their character at your event.

What is written in this book I have learned from my involvement in The Realms of Wonder - a LARP community in New England. The Realms of Wonder is a community where there is no board of directors, no president of the corporation - it's just a group of individuals who get together and throw events. There are no membeship fees and there is no rule that a percentage of the event costs goes into anyone's pocket. There are lots of LARP groups out there that are incorporated and have membership fees and kick-backs to the BOD. This book is not about all that. This book is about holding your own events, and eventually forming your own LARP community. If even one such group develops as a result of this book's publication then I have succeeded.

This is just a game, but for the eventholder it's much more than a game. The lessons you will learn from holding events are ones that will last a lifetime. To hold a gathering for fifty, one hundred and fifty or even more individuals is no easy task. You will also be providing entertainments, not to mention refreshments, snacks or a full feast. You will be teaching yourself skills in organization and planning that are absolutely invaluable. When you take those skills and put them on a resume you can use them to get a better job. The best of eventholders could eventually find themselves starting careers as professional event planners or even caterers.

I would like to thank Amy Bissett, my partner in life, my co-editor of The View From Valehaven, and my co-eventholder, for her continual support. I would also like to thank my family for their continual support of the paths I have chosen for my life. I would like to thank the following people for their support during my eventholding career: Tim Gilkes, Jonathan Berman, Kathy Horn, Carrie and Dave Dolph and Kathy Journeay. Lastly, I would like to thank Shannon Slate, for starting the ball rolling, and for throwing the events that were remembered as the 'Golden Age' by many of our veterans. You helped us to realize how much fun this could be, and have given me, as an eventholder, a mark to shoot for.

I would like to dedicate this book to my mother, Katherine A. Johnson, for her continual support and inspiration. You had a greater influence upon me than you could possibly imagine, and I thank you for it.

 

- Stephen R. Johnson -


Why Throw an Event?

While there are many reasons for throwing events, usually a combination of reasons inspires someone to hold an event. Events have been thrown for the purpose of being able to go to event holder meetings and have input on what the rules will be. Events have been thrown for the purpose of releasing a neat magic item. Events have been thrown so that the event holder would feel more powerful, or more central and important to the community (either in or out of character), or so that the event holder can 'benefit' his or her group or character in some way. Events have also been thrown because the event holder wanted to throw the best, most challenging, fun and intense event the community has ever seen.

If among your many reasons for throwing your event, the last one I listed above isn't your first and foremost reason, the people attending your event will know. It really isn't very hard to tell if an event holder cares about the people at his or her event having fun.

The most important thing you need to consider when designing your event is what the players themselves enjoy about eventing. If you design your event from the point of view of the event goer, you'll be much more successful. If you don't know what people enjoy about eventing, you probably shouldn't be throwing an event until you do have an idea. It's extremely easy to get a 'neat' idea or think of a great special effect, but you have to be able to step back and look at your idea in terms of how it will affect and be seen or experienced by the players themselves. Never lose sight of them, and never forget how important their perspective is on what you plan.

When you're planning things, don't limit yourself. You can accomplish amazing things, but if you set your sights low, you may never find out what those things are. If you have amazing plans, you may be disappointed with the results. However, what may disappoint you as an eventholder could well be the greatest event someone else has ever been to. Simply put, the higher your goals, the more you will invest yourself in the experience of throwing the event. Put as much of yourself into your event as you can.

The next thing you should try to do is include everyone in the event. Ideally, no one will be sitting around with nothing to do. You will have to find ways to get everyone to feel that they are important to whatever is going on at your event. This can be extremely difficult, as a wide variety of people go to events. How many different types are there? Well, there are combatants and non-combatants. There are men and women. There are fighters, mages and healers. There are newbies and oldbies. There are people who love to roleplay and people who love to fight. There are people who love in-character politics and people who hate in-character politics. There are people who want to be exhausted at the end of an event and people who want to relax at events.

Throwing an event will probably be much more work than you could possibly imagine. Lots of things will go wrong - most of them at the last minute. You may not have any idea if people are having fun until after the event. It might be many months after your event when you start hearing players telling stories to each other about what happened to them. It is difficult, but don't give up. With lots of thought, you can design an event that will take everyone into consideration, and everyone will have a good time. People may even talk about it for years afterwards!


Your Event Site


Getting an Event Site

So you want to hold an event. Well, your first task is to find a site to hold your event on. There are lots of places live action roleplaying events have been held: private farm land, town parks, state parks, boy scout camps, gun andsportsmen's clubs, high school gymnasiums, VFW posts, ballrooms and even churches. Decide what kind of event you want to hold. If you have been eventing for over a year, you have probably already planned your event from start to finish. If this is your first event, I highly recommend making it a one-day event with a tavern, but no feast. More than anything else, you need to look for a site that will be appropriate for your event.

When you have located a prospective site, send them a letter formally requesting the use of the site, at least three to six months before the date you want to hold the event. Type the letter, and make sure to include your name, address and phone number. Specify the date and times you would like to use the site, and be sure to mention alternate dates in case the site is booked up for the date you are requesting. Be sure to explain what you want to use the site for. If you can have people attend who are emergency medical technicians, first responders, nurses, doctors, or even firemen, mention it in your letter. If you want to use any facilities like picnic tables or buildings, mention it in your letter. Ask about access to toilets, running water and a phone, in case of emergencies.

Follow up your letter with a phone call about a week later. This will give them a chance to get the letter and get it to the person who is in charge of booking the site. One of the most common questions you will be asked is "Do you have insurance?" Be honest. Light weapons combat is safer than playing pick-up games of basketball, volleyball and football. Our rules require that you contact your opponent as lightly as possible, and we cover our weapons with foam pipe insulation completely. Even if you give your best, most impassioned arguments, you may still find that you can't use the site because your organization doesn't have insurance. It's bound to happen. All I can say is that you should keep trying, or get insurance (no, it's not easy). Camps usually have the best facilities, but are the hardest and most expensive to get. Hunting clubs often have lots of land, and are less worried about the dangers of light weapons combat. When compared to people wandering the woods with guns, our sport doesn't seem dangerous at all. Private land often makes an ideal site, but you do have to talk to and keep in touch with any neighbors to make sure you don't have problems with them later on.

This isn't a bad strategy to take when trying to find a place to hold practices. Typed letters followed up by phone calls will earn you respect with the administrators responsible for booking gyms and sites you might be interested in for practice space.


Site Rules

Once you've found your site, you need to meet with whomever is responsible for the land so that you can agree upon site rules. Take notes, and be completely honest with them. If you impress the landowner or site manager by acting responsibly, the chances are greater that they will allow you to use the site again. Don't make the mistake of assuming that because they're letting you use it once, they'll let you use it again. Lastly, remember that you represent the sport of light weapons combat and the game of live-action roleplaying. You want to build trust not just in you as a person, but in the sport and the game as well. The better the reputation we earn, the more the sport and the game will be able to grow in the coming years. Here are some areas to cover:

 

  • Out of Play Areas andWhere the Site Ends
  • Dry Site or Wet Site (is Alcohol OK?)
  • "Quiet" Hours (for 2-day events)
  • Driving Cars on the Land and Parking Areas
  • Pyrotechnics and Special Effects (if you're using any)
  • Emergency Vehicle - Emergency Phone Use
  • Livestock on Site (if it's a farm)
  • Barbed Wire, Wasp Nests and Other Safety Hazards
  • Smoking, Tiki Torches, Campfires, Bonfires, Cooking, etc...
  • Access to Water or a Hose, Access to Electricity
  • Access to Toilets or Where to Put a Porta-Potti / Sani-Can
  • Location of the Nearest Medical Facility
  • Live Steel (Knives, Dress Swords, etc...)
  • Glass Bottles, Trash Disposal and Recycling
  • Nudity, Skinny Dipping and Swimming (if there's a pond or river)
  • Special Considerations for your Waivers
  • Good Set-Up and Clean-Up Times

Make a list of site rules and read them to everyone at the beginning of the event, at the same time you read your safety and combat rules. Make sure that people who arrive late are told the site rules or given a copy that they will read. If there aren't too many, you can include the site rules in the advance flyer you use to advertise your event. Be prepared to enforce these site rules. This may mean asking a close friend to leave a dry site because you caught him drinking. The site rules probably will be broken by someone. When the rules get broken, it may get back to you, and you cannot assume you'll be able to 'dodge the bullet'. You have to do your best to enforce them. Keep in mind that if you don't respect your site rules, your marshals and event-goers will know, and they won't respect them either.


Site Prep and Cleanup

When you have your site and your site rules, you have to negotiate event prep and clean up time with the landowner. Assume that you'll need at least one full day to prepare the site and one full day to clean up the site after the event. Some sites will need much more preparation. For example, there might be lots of old barbed wire that the landowner has said you can clear out. This will take time. Your plot or your feast may require you to spend days or even weeks preparing the site. Also keep in mind that the more preparation time you'll need, the more clean up time you'll need. Don't assume that you can get event-goers to help out, either. Many event-goers don't think twice about leaving a mess of trash in your field for you to clean up. On the flip side, there are a few people out there who will help you clean up for hours one end when everyone else has left. You'll get to know who they are pretty quickly, if you don't already.

There are things you can do to make your prep and clean-up easier. If you can camp overnight on the land, you can invite people up on Friday night, and recruit people to help out. You should make sure to have at least several large trash cans (with trash bags) on site, strategically placed so that event-goers shouldn't have any excuse to not use them. Put one or two in the camping field (if it's an overnight event) and one or two by the tavern or feast hall, if you have one. The worst thing you can do is leave trash for the land owner or site manager to have to deal with. This will almost guarantee that you'll never be able to use the site again.


Safety at Your Event

Player safety should be one of your highest concerns. There are many things you can do to keep your event as safe as possible for players. To start off, you should make sure to have a well stocked first aid kit. Here are some things you might want to put in your kit:

 

  • Adhesive Bandage Strips (assorted sizes)
  • Butterfly Bandages
  • Cloth First Aid Tape
  • Roller Bandages (stretchable gauze to hold dressings)
  • Sterile Cotton Balls
  • Sterile Eye Patches
  • Sterile Gauze Pads
  • Triangular Bandage (for slings or as a covering or dressing)
  • Blunt-tipped scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Small Plastic Cup (for rinsing eyes)
  • Instant chemical cold packs
  • Blanket (for warmth)
  • Thermometer
  • Antiseptic Wipes and Spray
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Calamine / Antihistamine Lotion
  • Change for Pay Phone
  • Flashlight
  • Pad and Pen
  • Tissues
  • Soap
  • Latex Gloves
  • Over-the-counter Pain Releiver (ibuprofen, acetominiphen, etc...)
  • American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook

It's a really good idea to get training in First Aid before holding events. If you don't - try to have someone at your event with First Aid / First Responder Certification. If you can get someone who happens to be an Emergency Medical Technician, Paramedic, Nurse or Doctor, all the better! Announce at the reading of the rules who is certified and where the first aid kits are. If the site is large, you might consider having several first aid kits. The more organized you are, the easier emergencies will be to deal with.

Many eventholders require players to sign a waiver when they are signing in at the event. A waiver is used to confirm that the player is aware of the potential dangers, and physical and psychological demands that are inherent in eventing. To download a sample waiver, click here.

At the reading of the rules, impress upon the players how important it is for individuals who have allergies to keep their medication on them. They could have an asthma attack or are stung by a bee out in the middle of the woods. If your site is large, or if no one notices them fall down in the tall grass of a nearby field, they could die before help arrives. It is their responsibility to keep their medication with them, but it is your duty to remind them about it.

Provide the players with lots and lots of fluids - especially in hot weather. In wet weather try to find them somewhere they can dry off after running around in the rain. In cold weather, make sure there is somewhere they can go to warm up when they're done adventuring. Always have at least one emergency vehicle nearby in case you do have to take someone to the emergency room. Also have access to a phone so you can call 911 if you need to.


Breaking Even


Pre-Registration

If you do not have much money, it can be difficult to break into eventholding. It is easiest if you can purchase items you will need long before any money comes in from pre-registration. This can be especially difficult if you are throwing a feast. With experience, thought and borrowed props it is possible to throw a tournament event or a quest event without any preparation or money. For obvious reasons, it is impossible to do the same with a feast event (unless it's a potluck feast). This is why you want event-goers to pre-pay for your event. I recommend having a date set before which the price for the event will be less than the it will be at the door. If you can afford to have your event on $10.00, have that price be good until two weeks before your event, and then raise the price to $15.00. You may even choose to not allow people to register 'at the door'. This will ensure that you will know how many people to expect. Don't be surprised when someone calls you the day before - or even the morning of - your event asking if he can go. It'll happen, and if you give in to them, it'll keep on happening. The more money you get in before the day of your event, the less stressful the experience will be.

If you accept pre-registrations, you will need to develop a system by which you can keep track of who has pre-registered. Alphabetize the list and give it to whoever mans your registration desk the day of your event.


Setting a Budget

No one wants to lose money when they throw an event. Indeed, it is possible to throw an event without losing money - you only have to be willing to make some compromises in the way your event is run. You may, if you're extremely lucky, even come out ahead when your event is over. You shouldn't plan on this happening, though - if you cut too many corners, people will feel ripped off. You need to do a lot of careful planning if you want to come out even.

The first thing you need to figure out is how much you think it will cost to throw your event. (This is very difficult for a first-time eventholder. If you have never thrown an event before, try to get some advice from an experienced eventholder as to how much things cost.) Some costs are non-negotiable. An example of this would be your site fee - probably a set fee of $85-$200 per day. Port-a-potties are also non-negotiable. You have to pay a set amount for them. You also have to estimate and add in the cost of props, NPC garb, lightsticks (if there's a nightquest), food (if there's a tavern), prizes, and anything else you'll have to pay for. The cost of a feast, if you're planning one, is best kept separate from the other costs, especially if you've never thrown a feast before. A sample list of expenses for your event might have the following included:

 

Site Fee
(if you have to pay a security deposit and you pay it out of event funds, make sure to keep it seperate from your personal finances when you get your deposit back after the event)
Site Props:
trash cans, first aid kit, hornet spray, etc...
Advertising:
photocopying and mailing flyers, etc...
NPC Props:
shields, weapons, costumes, masks, face paint, etc...
Tournament Props:
matching weapons, rope, stakes, tabards, etc...
Food:
tavern food, feast food, gatorade, juice, etc...
Feast Supplies:
paper plates and cups, plastic forks, spoons, etc...
Treasure:
coins, plastic gems, rings, necklaces, etc...
Prizes:
swords, knives, mugs, goblets, etc...
Miscellaneous:
t-shirts, pavilion tent, wooden castle, etc...

 

Estimate how much each item will cost. Make a total that you think is accurate. Once you have added up all of the costs, you can divide that amount by the # of people you expect to attend your event, and that will be your approximate cost-per-person. For example, if your site fee is $200, you're getting one port-a-potty at $75, and your food for the tavern will cost $25 (this is really simplified, folks), then your total cost is $300. If you think that 75 people will attend your event, then $300 divided by 75 people equals $4 per person. You can charge that amount, or round up to $5 and get extra food if there's extra money...you get the picture. If you're throwing a large event and the cost-per-person comes out to, say, $17, then you can charge an early registration cost of $15 per person, and raise the amount to $20 after a certain date. Count on the fact that generally only a small number of people will pre-register early, making the majority of your pre-regs the result of the more expensive fee.

You can also try to estimate the cost of your event by how much money you want to charge event-goers. If you want to charge, say, $15 per person and you estimate that 100 people will attend, that gives you a budget of $1500. Take into account that there may be people you let in for less because they are going to be helping you. If you are throwing a feast, I recommend that everyone, even the helpers, pay for the food they are going to eat. Keep in mind that you may not get as many people as you are hoping for. Also keep in mind that leaving a little bit of money set aside is a good idea - there will always be last-minute things that you'll have forgotten.

It is a good idea to let people who have never been to an event before in free. If this worries you, consider letting the first five or ten people who have never been to an event before in free. Consider it an investment in the sport, the game and the community.


Cutting Costs

There are ways that you can lower costs while still having a great event. The first thing to remember is that great prizes or great food only help to make a great event better - they do not make a great event. A creative plotline, innovative tourneys and horrifying monsters do more to make your event great than handing out $50 prizes. In fact, prizes is one category where you can really cut corners without making a big difference in the quality of your event.

One way to do this is to make prizes yourself. This will allow you to use a large portion of your event budget for other things. Things that you can make include staves, rune sets (with wooded disks and woodburning), garb (which will save some money if you know how to shop for inexpensive fabric), and glassware (a glass etcher can be found on sale for as little as $6.50 and used to etch glass mugs available at many department stores). If you are extremely talented you can make jewelry. You could also make boff weapons, armor, or shields. While these things do cost some money for the materials, they are cheaper than purchasing already-made items.

Shop for prizes at tag sales and flea markets. Camping equipment, feast gear, and fabric can be found for low prices if you know where to look and how to bargain. Bargaining can also get you somewhere with retail stores - for example, if you place a large order from a store, you may convince them to give you a discount.

Another way to cut costs is to borrow supplies. If your community is fairly large, you may be able to borrow supplies like chess sets, masks, extra weapons, first aid kits, walkie-talkies, and water jugs from another eventholder. Don't be afraid to ask - if you are responsible and have a good reputation, people will probably say "yes."

Another way to save money is to make food rather than buying it. Of course, some things take so long to make that it is a waste of your time. Also, shop around. If you look long enough, you're bound to find somewhere that will give you a low price for a large order. Some retail stores will lower their prices even further if you haggle with them; say that if they don't give you a better offer, you'll make your purchase from another store. You'll probably have to speak with a manager when trying this, as regular employees don't have the power to make decisions like that. Also keep in mind that if you're buying one loaf of bread for your family, a retail store doesn't care if you buy it somewhere else... but if you're buying 50 loaves for an event, they do want your business. Don't be afraid to ask - all they can say is "no," and you just might come out ahead.


If You Come Out Ahead...

If you're very lucky, you may just come out with profit. Don't count on it, though... Losing money is a long-standing tradition in the field of event holding. Event holders lose money because they set their goals high, spare no expense, and want every event-goer to have an absolutely amazing time at their event. They want everyone to walk away with something at the end of the weekend. This is a noble and altruistic attitude, but if you want to be able to hold lots of events over the coming years, you would be wise to learn how to break even. You can even use events as fund-raisers for the purpose of buying a huge 40'x60' pavilion tent, building a wooden fort on your site or even holding a free event at the end of the season!

If you do come out ahead, you can...

1) Start a "buffer zone" account, either in the bank or in your sock drawer. Put money aside for the next event you throw, in case you lose money or just want to have some extra-special prizes.

2) Donate some of the money to a good cause. You can give it to another event holder you respect to help them come out even with their event. You can give it to the boffers club at the local high school, so that they can buy supplies or throw their first event. You could also donate it to the newsletter that services your boffer community. It is very difficult to run a newsletter and stay out of the red, and any donations would be greatly appreciated.

3) Buy supplies for future events. This can be feast supplies, props, fabric, first aid supplies, or anything else you think is important. Profits can go towards a fantastic first aid kit, or feast-throwing supplies and large water jugs, which you can also lend to other eventholders to help them with their events.


Promoting Your Event


Advertising and Press Releases

No matter how good your event is going to be, you have to get the word out about it if you are going to expect to have a good attendance. This may mean calling up forty people, and asking them to spread the word by calling their friends. This may mean going to every light weapons practice and handing out flyers. This may mean compiling a mailing list and mailing out pamphlets. If you have access to a newsletter or journal that covers light weapons combat and live action roleplaying events, find out what their policies are for submitting event listings, and then send yours in. Wherever you advertise your event, make sure to include the following information:

 

  1. When Event starts and ends
  2. Where Event is being held
  3. Rulebook or System you are running by
  4. Contact Person's address and phone number
  5. Cost of Event (including who checks should be made out to)
  6. Notes (wet or dry site, live steel OK?, etc...)
  7. Directions to Event Site

     

If you are advertising in a journal or newsletter, try to copy the format that they print event listings in to make it easier on the newsletter staff. Once you develop a reputation as a good eventholder, spreading the word about your events will be much easier. If you're really good at holding events, you may find players beating down your door, asking when your next event will be.

If you are an experienced eventholder, consider sending out press releases to the local newspapers and television stations. This is intimidating, but is a wonderful way to bring the sport and game more into the public eye. Write a press release in the form of a letter. Putting "PRESS RELEASE" in big letters across the top is optional. Address the letter to the sports desk, the living/arts desk, the life-styles desk, or whatever you feel will be appropriate for the newspaper or TV station you are sending it to. In the letter, you need to convince them that your event will be interesting to their readers or viewers. It can't hurt to emphasize that light weapons combat is an "exciting new sport", and mention that participants wear "colorful medieval-style costumes". Don't call them, they'll call you - if you wrote a good press release. If a reporter calls, he may want to interview you before the event. If he does, make the time for it, no matter how busy you are. If they're from a newspaper, make sure you suggest that he brings a photographer. Tell him when the high points of the event will be, even if it's going to be a surprise for the players. Find out when the article will be printed or the spot will be aired so that you can get a copy for your records. Above all, make sure to mention your name and address so that people reading or watching the story can get in touch with you if they are interested.


In-Character Foreshadowing

One last way you can generate the kind of excitement about your event that will make people want to go is to introduce plot elements at other peoples' events. Before doing anything at another event-holder's event, you should clear it with him first. If an army of monsters is going to invade the land at your event, have a declaration of war be brought to the nobles of the land at an event preceding yours. You could also have a monster kill a stray player and leave the declaration of war on the poor soul's corpse. If there is going to be a quest for something or someone, you can leave hints and red herrings (false clues) around at other events. If there is going to be a grand tournament of some sort, you can try to encourage betting (with in-character currency, of course) on who will win.

Probably the best way to get characters involved is to give them a sense of in-character responsibility. If the players were foolish and accidentally opened a gate to Hades at an earlier event you held, giving them a chance to quest to close the gate might be a powerful incentive for them to attend. Beware of two traps when trying to do this, however. Firstly, don't pretend the players screwed up if they really didn't. If they did everything they were supposed to do, and you made the gate to Hades open up anyway, so that they'll come to your next event to to close it, they'll be ticked at you for not playing fairly. Life isn't always fair, but the players must have some sense that they can make a difference in order for them to be able to enjoy the plot. Secondly, don't pretend that they really want to fix the problem they caused if it isn't really bothering them much. If they mistakenly opened a gate to Hades and then spent the next two events desperately trying to defend themselves from an onslaught of monsters, they'll probably want to close the gate. However, if they spent the two events after they opened the gate lazily questing for treasure and competing in tourneys, they probably won't see an open gate to Hades as a threat.

The worst way to get 'people' involved in your event is to give them a sense of out-of-character obligation. If someone played a certain character two years ago at your event, and you decide you need him to show up at every event you hold until you allow that character to die, you should prepare yourself for disappointment. You may also lose a friend in the deal. People like to know what they're getting themselves into, and they like to be able to get out of obligations when and if they need to. If your next event winds up running opposite someone else's next year, the last thing you should want is for people to feel like they have to attend your event because they are 'central' to the plot. If they want to attend yours, that's great, but it should not feel mandatory to them. This has a lot to do with your attitude and your job as an eventholder. You need to keep your plots and events from depending upon any one person or group of people and try to have multiple ways that problems can be solved and quests can be completed.


Tournaments and Marshals


Setting Up and Scheduling Tournaments

Setting up a tournament event takes a lot of experience in running tournaments to be able to do well. There are several things to keep in mind. You should try to have something for everyone to do, be they a warrior, a Mage, a healer, or even someone who does not fight at all. Try to have a balance between individual tournaments and group tournaments. Lastly, your tournaments should be fair and challenging, and paced quickly enough that people aren't waiting around a lot. Things are going badly if the players start holding impromptu line battles because there's nothing else to do.

Your site will often dictate how many tournament rings you can run at once. One on one combats take up less room than group combats. If you are outside, you may not need to set up rings for combatants to fight in at all. It might be easier to just have the marshal hold tourneys in different parts of a field. If you do want to make tournament rings outside, I recommend using 100' of clothesline to make a 25' x 25' tournament ring, staked down at the corners with stakes that are flush to the ground (for safety reasons). If you use a tournament ring, do not have combatants lose limbs or die if they are pushed out of the ring. That will encourage combatants to charge each other. If they leave the ring, simply stop the combat and move them back to the middle of the ring. If you are tourneying indoors, you may not have the luxury of 25' x 25' tournament rings. Whatever size your tourney rings are, make sure they are large enough for the combats you will be holding in them. You need more room to fight with pole arms than you need to fight with daggers. Always err on the side of larger tournament rings, for safety's sake.

When scheduling tournaments, you can choose whether or not to have the marshals save the final round for the end of the event, to be fought in front of the entire assemblage. This can be a very exciting way to end your event. Fighting in front of everyone can be stressful for the combatants, however, and you need to make sure you have enough time left at the end of the event for all of the final battles. Marshals will usually assume that they want you to run the tournament all the way through, so if you want to have the final round at the end of the event, make sure to let them know.

Always keep in mind that the fastest way to run a tourney is single elimination. If you are holding a one person tournament at an event that has one hundred and fifty people in attendance, you're asking for trouble if you try double-elimination. A day long double-elimination one person tournament is intriguing, but it is boring for the people who drop out in the first few rounds. Plan to hold all tourneys as single eliminations, and if you have the time, you can make some of the smaller tourneys double elimination. List Style is a method of running a tournament so that every entrant fights every other entrant once. Attack/Defense is a method that has every entrant fight every other entrant twice. Both are described in detail in A Complete Introduction to Boffers, available on-line at this web site. Below is a list of the maximum number of combats a tournament will require, based on the number of people entered and how it is run. An estimated time is listed next to the number of fights ( ' denotes hours, " denotes minutes). The listing 10 - 20" means that the tourney would involve 10 fights and last approximately 20 minutes.

No. of Entrants Single Elim. Double Elim. List Style Attack/ Defense
Rounds Time Rounds Time Rounds Time Rounds Time
4 3 9" 7 21" 6 12" 12 24"
5 4 12" 9 27" 10 20" 20 40"
6 5 15" 11 33" 15 30" 30 1'
7 6 18" 13 39" 21 42" 42 1' 24"
8 7 21" 15 45" 28 56" 56 1' 52"
9 8 24" 17 51" 36 1' 12" 72 2' 24"
10 9 27" 19 57" 45 1' 30" 90 3'
15 14 42" 29 1' 27" 105 3' 30"    
20 19 57" 39 1' 57"        
30 29 1' 27" 59 2' 57"        
40 39 1' 57" 79 3' 57"        
50 49 2' 27" 99 4' 57"        
75 74 3' 45"            
100 99 4' 57"            
                 
X X-1 2X-1 (X(X-1))/2 X(X-1)  

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.


Designing New Tournaments

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

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.


Quests and Plots


The Literary Trap

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.


The Calm Before the Storm (foreshadowing)

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.


Baiting the Hook (the quest object)

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.


Covering Your Tracks (but not too well)

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.

 

Rune-Rocks
Split a good sized rock in half. Paint a rune or a word in runes on the newly exposed surface and then lightly glue the rock back together again. Dress the rock up if you want to make it easier to find by painting a line of color along the crack with craft paint.

Hiding Words in Books
Find a word you want to be important to PCs, possibly as the True Name of an NPC, in a book. Then figure out a set of numbers that could be used to find it, like the volume #, issue #, page #, line # and word # (if it were in a magazine or newsletter). Then create a nonsensical riddle or hint that includes the numbers, in the correct order. For example, you could have a madman tell the players that to kill the evil demon they must journey to the fifth plane of the underworld in the fourth hour of the fifteenth day of the third month. The numbers 5, 4, 15 and 3 could point to a book in which the demon's true name is written in the fifth chapter, on the fourth page of the chapter, on the fifteenth line on the page and it is the third word on the line.

Scrolls-in-Blades
Release a Magic Weapon with an important scroll taped to the pipe underneath the foam. To get out the scroll, they must break the sword. Alternatively, you can put a scroll under the blade foam of a magic weapon that explains something that happens to them when they re-blade the weapon. You can also release a non-magic, stealable weapon which has a scroll that will allow it to be empowered as a magical weapon when it is re-bladed. The possibilities are limitless!

Quest Item Lists
You can hide information in a list of quest items very easily. Take the word or phrase you want to hide, rearrange the letters and have each item start with one of the letters. You can also use the first letter in each line of an incantation to fit together to mean something. This is a great way to give the players hints if they are being deceived by NPCs. Also, it'll give the bad guys something to rub in the players' faces if they do fall for it.

Invisible Ink
Yes, it still works. Write secret information in lemon juice and the players will have to hold it over a candle for the writing to come out. It's an oldie but a goodie. Lots of players won't be able to figure it out, though, so don't rely on it for information you really need the players to find.
Wearing Your Name
Have your evil NPC's True Name written on their garb, in runes, and with the letters mixed up, of course. The longer it is, the more challenging it will be for the players. You can always have one letter somewhat hidden, perhaps in the armpit, so it won't be too easy for the players.

Runes
Putting information into runes is one of the oldest traditions in LARP eventholding. Having a font to use makes it much easier. The file you can download here includes four fonts - the three listed below plus a variation on Split Runes called Demonrunes. The readme file included has information on how to use the fonts properly. Both Mac and PC versions are Truetype fonts. Please let me know if you have any problems with them.
 
Macintosh Version PC Version
   
 
Letter for Letter Runes
These are the simplest of rune-sets. They are easy to decipher, but important as a way to give those who are new at deciphering runes somewhere to start. One way to make them more difficult is to add runes for combinations of letters, or to have letters that could be spelled with two letters not have runes of their own.

Split Runes
You can make a rune set that is very misleading. Each letter can be represented by two halves of runes,. You'll need a capital letter for the first letter and you'll have to omit the spaces between words. The result is that what appear to be runes are actually the 2nd half of one rune and the first half of the next rune.

Expert Runes
You can also base a rune set upon an entirely different principle. If you decide you want every letter to be represented by runes composed of a set number of lines, dots or circles, you can have letters represented by 1 or more apparent runes. For example, this rune-set is called "four sticks" because each letter is made up of four lines, or sticks.

To add to the confusion, there are only twenty-six apparent characters that are used to make up the runes. This means that hopeful decipherers who are looking for twenty-six distinct runes to match up with the twenty-six letters of the alphabet will find them. It just won't do them very much good.
There are many variations upon this theme, and there are many other ways you can encode information as well. A little research at your local library might well turn something up.
Phonetic Runes
You can look at the many phonetic symbols in the dictionary and make a rune for each symbol and accent mark. Then, write your message, translate it into the phonetic spelling listed in the dictionary and then translate the phonetic spelling into your rune set. It will be extremely difficult for them to decipher.
Symbolic Runes
You can create rune sets for which each rune has both a letter value and a symbolic, or 'word' value. This means that you could spell out the word "SAFETY", but have the rune for "S" mean "danger", "A" mean "many", "F" mean "demon", "E" mean "protect", "T" mean "magic" and "Y" mean "sword". Then if the players see a crypt with the word "SAFETY" on it, they might go into it expecting to be safe from the goblins and trolls in the woods, but wind up encountering a bunch of demons protecting a magic sword.

 


A Word on Night Quests

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.


Live Sites versus Linear Quests

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.


Finding a Balance

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.


When the Players Lose (backup plans)

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.



Non-Player Characters


A Hand-Picked Few (choosing NPCs)

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.


NPC Motivation

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.


Bringing it all Together

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.


Face Paint and Masks

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.


Props and Special Effects

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.


Magic and Magic Items

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.


Awards and Prizes


Spreading the Wealth (something for almost everyone)

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.


Why Not To Award Magic Items

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.


Tavern Food

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.


A Bestiary


"Pluggers"

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.


Local Color

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

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.

Kobolds:
They are minor demons and are usually reddish in skin-color. Kobolds often fight with daggers and other small weapons, and will generally prefer backstabbing to fighting a fair fight. They are usually quite small in stature. They are quite mischievous, but not particularly brave. Kobolds come from the Underworld. They may recognize a few words in English, but do not speak as well as goblins or orcs. It takes 100 blows to scalp a Kobold.
Imps:
They look like humans with red marks on their face. They have been possessed by a demon, and will follow the demon's commands. They are unable to attack or plot against the demon that possesses them. It takes 200 blows to scalp an Imp.
Goblins:
They are generally larger than Kobolds but smaller than Orcs. They are lightish green in complexion. They prefer to fight single short, florentine or bow and arrow. They aren't generally known for their bravery, and will be more likely to try to set an ambush than fight humans head-on. They carry some money on them, but are particularly fascinated by jewels and gems. They are more cunning than Orcs, but not as worldly. Goblins come from Faerie and live in tribes, seeking safety in numbers. They speak a broken English. It takes 150 blows to scalp a Goblin.
Orcs:
Orcs are generally larger than Goblins and prefer to fight with sword and shield, or with hand and a half or two handed weapons. Orcs generally have dark green skin. They tend to be proud and arrogant, and won't often rely upon setting ambushes. They carry money on them, understanding and using currency. They are more worldly than Goblins, but not as cunning. Orcs come from Faerie and tend to live in small clans. They speak a broken English. It takes 200 blows to scalp an Orc.
Ghosts:
They are of varying size and appear to have white skin. They cannot carry treasure, and dissipate when they are killed. They generally haunt the place where they were originally killed. Ghosts can speak, but are rarely interested in holding a conversation. They usually want to be left alone, and will attempt to kill or drive away anyone who bothers them. Ghosts dissipate when they are killed, and have no scalps. Ghosts may not break or pass through circles of protection.
Zombies:
Zombies have a grey complexion. Zombies are created by magical spells that reanimate corpses. They tend to move slowly and cannot speak. They will often respond to the commands of the Mage who reanimated them. It takes 100 blows to scalp a Zombie. Zombies may not break or pass through circles of protection.
Dark Elves and Dark Dwarves:
They have black skin, and live in strongholds underground. They are as intelligent as humans, elves and dwarves, but are usually evil. Most Dark Elves and Dark Dwarves avoid sunlight and light spells. It is possible for Dark Elves and Dark Dwarves to wear armor and learn magic, in which case they would be considered high monsters. They may have their own currencies and may horde jewels and gems. Dark Elves and Dark Dwarves take 200 blows to scalp. Dark Elves and Dwarves that have magical abilities may not break or pass through circles of protection.


High 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.

Hobgoblins:
They look like goblins, but are larger in stature and have one point of armor due to their thick hide. They are found in much smaller groups than goblins are, and tend to be extremely nasty and temperamental. It takes 250 blows to scalp a Hobgoblin. Hobgoblins are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by an air blast. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles.
Ogres:
They are solitary and reclusive. They tend to fight with long weapons. Ogres can throw rocks with such velocity that they will cause injuries as might a magic missile. Beanbags and foam squares will provide serviceable rocks. They are also known to throw boulders. Boulders are best represented by large blocks of squishy foam covered with duct tape or beanbag chairs with the zipper taped down, to avoid injuries. Boulders will damage players as a sword blow would, taking into account that every point of contact counts. However, boulders also 'destroy' weapons and shields, due to their immense weight. Broken weapons and shields must be 'repaired' before they are used again in combat. If a boulder hits a shield, not only is the shield destroyed, but the person's arm is considered crushed as well. Some Ogres wield poisoned weapons, which they probably get from Ogre Mages. Ogres take 300 blows to scalp. Ogres are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by an air blast. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles.
Ogre Mages:
Ogre Magi can cast spells and should be given spells that would be learnable by a player. They usually have poisoned weapons. You may give them other powers and abilities as necessary for your plot. Ogre Mages should have true names, which can be used against them in whatever ways your magic system allows. They are both very powerful and very rare. Ogre Mages take at least 300 blows to scalp, although some may require more. Ogre Mages may not break or pass through circles of protection. Ogre Mages are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by a certain blast spell, determined by they talent of magic they have learned. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles.
Trolls:
They are more powerful than normal humans, and are of varying sizes and types. They are most often of a brownish complexion. Trolls are also known to throw rocks and boulders. Trolls are difficult to play in combat, and anyone who will be playing a troll should practice taking damage so they will be able to keep track of it during an event. A powerful Troll will sometimes declare himself King of an area, and will force his rule upon the other trolls, orcs and goblins in the area. Trolls are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by a fire blast. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles.
  • Common Troll - This is the most common sort of troll. It takes two strikes to any limb and three strikes to any lethal zone to kill it. The skin of these trolls is thick, so the front and rear of the chest and abdomen count as two locations each. These 'Common' Trolls take 400 blows to scalp.
  • Clockwork Troll - Bears only one sort of wound on a given location. Thus the wound appears to shift location on the troll's body. The only way to kill this sort of troll is to strike it twice - in succession - in the same lethal zone. These Trolls are commonly called 'clockwork' trolls. Clockwork Trolls take 400 blows to scalp.
  • Highlander Troll - Appears to take damage normally. However, it will rise up thirty seconds after it has been slain, unless its head is removed first. It re-animates fully healed. A Highlander Troll takes 400 blows to remove its head, which in effect scalps it. For the purposes of beheading a Highlander Troll, large axes count for 5 scalping blows per actual blow, so it would take only 80 axe-blows to do the job. Needless to say, it may take more than one person to behead a Highlander Troll before it comes back to life.
  • Special Troll - This is the most rare sort of troll, and is generally susceptible to only one sort of attack or weapon. Such trolls are often reckless, and can be lethal to the unprepared. This type of troll will often rise to the position of King of the area it lives in. Of these trolls, the most common variety is the axe/mace troll, who is only damaged by axes and maces. These special Trolls take 500 blows to scalp.
  • Faerie Troll - This is perhaps the most deadly form of troll. Any wound inflicted by the troll is used by it to heal itself. Such wounds cannot be healed while the injured person remains within Faeries borders, as a link is established between troll and victim, and not broken until the unfortunate victim leaves Faerie. Also - due to the tough hide of the Troll, it too takes two blows to a lethal zone to kill it. However, this form of troll is indigenous to the lands of Faerie and cannot leave its borders. This Troll takes 600 blows to scalp.
  • Troll Twins - Troll twins have one point of armor on all locations. They look identical to each other and are magically linked. They always stay within hearing range of each other. If one is dead and the other dies, it shouts "My brother, I am slain!" and the dead one is alive again. The only way to defeat troll twins is to de-limb them both or to leave swords 'in' them, preventing them from regenerating. Troll Twins take 400 blows each to scalp them.

     

Balrogs:
They are more powerful than normal humans, and are of varying sizes and types. They are most often of a reddish complexion. Balrogs are roughly equivalent to the Trolls of Faerie. You can create a Balrog based upon any of the six types of Trolls. Balrogs are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by a water blast. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles.
Valkyries and Guardians:
They are more powerful than normal humans, and are of varying sizes and types. They look human, but may have a silver or gold tinge to their skin. Valkyries and Guardians are roughly equivalent to the Trolls of Faerie, and you can create either based upon any of the six types of Trolls. Both Valkyries and Guardians are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by a earth blast. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles.
Ghouls:
They are more powerful than normal humans, and are of varying sizes and types. They look human, but with a greyish tinge to their skin. Ghouls are roughly equivalent to the Trolls of Faerie, and you can create them based upon any of the six types of Trolls. Any blast spell will instantly kill a Ghoul. It takes 100 blows to scalp a ghoul, and they may not break or pass through circles of protection.
Skeletons:
As they are all bone, they are only damaged by silver weapons and by weapons that deliver crushing blows, like maces and hammers. They are enchanted beings, often created by mages to protect certain areas or objects. Skeletons take 100 blows to scalp. Skeletons may not break or pass through circles of protection. Any blast spell will instantly kill and scalp a skeleton.
Giants:
They are very tall, and can only be damaged by being hit on the top of the head. They are solitary creatures, and prefer not to be disturbed. The most effective, and unfortunately dangerous, way to portray a giant is to have a tall, strong individual hold a short, light individual on their shoulders. Cover the two with a large, specially designed shirt that goes far enough down to cover the top person completely. Make sure it won't get underfoot or be too constraining. Then have the bottom person hold onto the top person's legs, and you're all set. You have to make it possible for the bottom person to see out of the shirt for safety reasons. Before trying this at an event, practice it thoroughly. You don't want anyone to get hurt doing this. Giants take 1000 blows to scalp. Giants are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by an Air blast. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles.
Wights and Wraiths:
They are undead who were once knights or high mages. They are only vulnerable to silver weapons and have the ability to power drain their opponents. It takes 200 blows to scalp a wight or wraith, and they cannot break or pass through circles of protection.
Werewolves:
Werewolves are mortals that have contracted lycanthropy. Lycanthropy cannot be caused using the spell cause disease - it is not powerful enough. Werewolves are bestial in nature, can only howl, growl and make other wolf-like sounds, and attack humans if disturbed. They are solitary and very aggressive. They are immune to all but silvered weapons. If cure disease is cast upon a werewolf, they will be freed from their lycanthropy. It takes 200 blows to scalp a werewolf. If a werewolf counts out over half of a victim's scalping blows and then the victim is raised, they will become a werewolf. Make sure you have enough make up and/or masks for this, and be very careful which PCs are turned into werewolves, as they will be very powerful. Werewolves may not pass through or break circles of protection. Any blast spell will instantly kill and scalp a werewolf.
Vampires:
They are mortals that have contracted vampirism. Vampirism cannot be created by the spell cause disease - it is not powerful enough. Vampires are evil and cunning, are immune to all but silvered weapons, and must drink 500 drops of mortal blood each day to be able to continue living. These 500 drops will probably have to be split up between several victims. When they are drinking blood, they must slowly count out each drop, while bending over the corpse. Each drop counts as a scalping blow towards scalping the victim. If the vampire counts out half or more of the victim's scalping blows and the victim is raised later on, the victim will be a thrall of the vampire. The thrall will be unable to attack or plot against the vampire, and will obey any commands it gives them. A thrall must be exorcised or resurrected to be freed from the vampire's influence. If the vampire is killed, all their thralls are freed. If the vampire drains 500 drops total from a single victim (this may take several sessions), scalping them in the end, and then the vampire casts resurrect upon them (assuming they had the spell when they first became a vampire), the individual resurrected would then be a vampire. Be very careful which PCs are turned into vampires, as they will be very powerful. It takes 500 blows to scalp a vampire. Vampires cannot pass through or break circles of protection. Thralls that could normally pass through and break circles of protection are still able to do so. Any blast spell will instantly kill and scalp a vampire, unless that vampire is a spellcaster, in which case the blast spell that will kill and scalp them is determined by which talent of magic they have learned.
Demons:
They are thoroughly evil, but will only leave the Underworld when summoned or bound by a magical contract to do a task of some sort. They have what is called a true name. The true name may be used to command, control or even banish the demon back to the Underworld. Demons can be many colors, and will generally attempt to interpret any command given them in such a way that they are following the literal meaning, but not doing what is really wanted of them. As demons don't particularly like to be bothered by the petty pursuits of mankind, they will often misconstrue wishes and commands in ways that will cause as much bloodshed and chaos as possible. Demons take at least 400 blows to scalp, and more powerful ones can require many more. Demons may not break or pass through circles of protection. Demons are instantly killed and scalped when hit anywhere by a water blast. Other blast spells affect them as magic missiles. Scalping a demon anywhere but in the underworld will simply return them to the underworld. Scalping them in the underworld will actually get rid of them permanently. Some Demons can create Imps. A demon does so by killing someone, counting out over half of the scalping blows it would need to scalp them and then it can raise the person and the person will be an Imp. The Imp will follow their commands until the demon is killed or they are exorcised.

 


Special Monsters

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.


The Tools of Their Trade

Boulders:
Some monsters are strong enough to throw boulders. Boulders are best represented by large blocks of squishy foam covered with duct tape or beanbag chairs with the zipper taped down, to avoid injuries. Boulders will damage players as a sword blow would, taking into account that every point of contact counts. However, boulders also 'destroy' weapons and shields, due to their immense weight. Broken weapons and shields must be 'repaired' before they are used again in combat. If a boulder hits a shield, not only is the shield destroyed, but the person's arm is considered crushed as well.
Rocks:
Some monsters are strong enough and coordinated enough that they can throw a rock with such velocity that the rock will cause injuries as would a sword blow or a magic missile. Beanbags and foam squares will provide serviceable rocks. Rock-throwing monsters should be rare. Mortals (players) may not throw rocks and inflict damage with them. They aren't strong enough.
Poisoned Weapons:
Some monsters know how to poison their weapons. If a player takes damage anywhere from a poisoned weapon, they are killed. Hitting armor will damage the armor but not poison the player.
Disease:
Some monsters may be able to cause corpses to be diseased. They must give the player several pieces of paper describing how the disease works (see the spell Cause Disease/Poison). The NPC should instruct the player to give the papers to the first players that touch them, until they run out of papers. Cure Disease/Poison will need to be cast upon the corpse before they can be raised.
Possession:
Some monsters may be able to 'possess' characters. The player should have to either come into contact with the monster or with an item the monster created. Possessed players will obey the commands of the creature that has control over them. Possessed players can be turned against other players at opportune times to make the other players really on edge and paranoid. If a possessed player is exorcised, or if the monster that possessed a player is killed, the player is no longer possessed. Demons and powerful NPC mages might be good monsters to be able to possess players.
Armor Piercing:
Monsters may be so strong that they swing their weapons so hard they go right through players' armor. These monsters should be rare.
Power Drain:
A few monsters have the power to drain magical energy from an opponent. Each time a player is hit with a power drain, it will take away the oldest spell the player knows. This means that the first time they are hit with a power drain, the spell they have had for the longest time will be gone. The second time they are hit, the spell they have had for the second longest time will be gone. They will then have to learn those spells again before they can learn more difficult spells. Power drain may only be done to living creatures.
Silver and Magic Weapons:
Monsters may steal silver and magic weapons from players. These weapons will not affect players any differently than normal weapons would.


New 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.


Settings For Your Events


The Mortal Realms

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

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

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.


The Faerielands

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

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.


No kidding! There I was...

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.


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