Movember 2012 – Day 6

2012-11-06I now have six days lip growth.

This in and of itself is not impressive, I’m certainly lazy enough to have gone longer than six days without shaving.

Normally I have this much beard growth after one of the Lorien Trust mainline events, usually the Gathering.

In fact I often shave down late on the night of returning from these LRP events, making comedy moustaches as I go.

As a blonde (I can prove it) my facial hair isn’t always apparent but it is usually the 5 or 6 day mark that my fuzz becomes unkempt.

It was around the Day 2 shave down that I decided on what I refer to in my head as Guido Style.

It looks like two of my colleagues are going the same way with a musketeer top lip and soul patch.

Closer - Day 6Six days in and the hardest challenge seems to be getting the team together for a semi-regular update – and attracting donations of course.

So many people seem to be doing Movember this year that support is spread thing amongst the participants.

6 Days in 3 Shots

That being said, I am very grateful for those who have donated so far.

As an aside, I have taken to taking a daily shot using the timer-delay function on my HTC One X.

It’s a great camera but a shame about the GPS issues.

By the end of Movember I should be able to put together a nice stop motion animation of my fugly-mug.

If you would like to make a donation then please feel free to donate anything you can to me or my team.

Thank You!

LRP – Simple Hedge Magic

As I am sure I have mentioned before, one of my hobbies is Live Action Roleplaying or LRP/LARP.

I currently play one of the leaders of the Gryphon faction in the Lorien Trust system; Archduke Spiky Norris, a Fae/Fey Hedgehog.

(not a common faerie tale character, I grant you, but have come across all sorts of forest dwelling faerie folk in the past).

LARP is all about adopting a role and acting it out throughout the course of an event – no matter how long that event is.

The character I play, at the time of writing, is a magic user.

Not all LRP systems have a magic system but most fantasy based ones do.  Magic is an integral part of the Lorien Trust system.

Over the past 5 or 6 years I’ve played the character as someone recently awakened after a long sleep, teaching themselves the way of the world.  More recently I have developed a rare grasp of higher magics and have played this as if I have studied other high magic users to learn from them.

Over the past couple of years I have genuinely learnt a lot about how different LRP players play magic users within the Lorien Trust game world and so I decided to put together an in-character guide on how to be an effective magic user.

I printed a couple of copies out, giving one to the Guild of Mages and one to my faction librarian.

Here is an exerpt:

Mending of Shattered Items and Constructs – “By the power of magic I Mend that shield”

Let`s not beat around the bush.  You`re called upon to cast this spell, because a supposed friend and ally couldn`t be bothered to visit the guilds and learn how to hold their stuff together.  A rival caster has cast a Shatter spell on their weapon, or shield, and now they expect you to patch it up for them.

Who are you, their mother? No! (Unless you are actually their mother but even then, this level of usury is just as unforgiveable in a family member as it is in a friend).

I do appreciate that you can`t always decline in the heat of battle but those mend spells, that you just cast for your friends, could amount to the power you need later tonight to save your life, as well as theirs.

Your friends need educating.  You are not their shatter-repair tool.  It is relatively simple to pick up an immunity from the guilds that means that this need never happen.  Educate your friends and hope that the only time you need cat this spell is to repair a friendly construct, or other ritually empowered being, whose wounds can be cured with this spell.

The idea was to write something that could be used as an in-character guide to the basic magic system, with in-character jibes and guidance towards my own style of playing my magic using character.

Playing a wizard can be fun but a lot of new players are overwhelmed by the number of spells available and often don’t think how those spells could be applied.

When I first played the Lorien Trust system, I would regularly spend my entire power allocation for the day in the first fight that came along; leaving me bereft of power for the rest of the day.

A lot of people sell their in-character works to make in-character money but I’m vain enough to get by just knowing people have read what I have written.

With that in mind, I have saved the document as a PDF and offer it up for your perusal here: Simple Hedge Magic and the Conservation of Power

Addendum: The font I created the original in isn’t great for reading, so I’ve produced a legible version, apologies to those who persisted with the first: Simple Hedge Magic and the Conservation of Power – legible

LRP vs MMO: Why the two are worlds apart.

Gryphon DukesI’m not the first person to compare LRP/LARP to MMORPGs. To the outsider these two types of game look very similar but as a die hard larper, I beg to differ.

Maybe I’m biased, I’ve been involved in LRP of one form or another since the early nineties but have never really bought into the MMO revolution.

Ultima VIII PaganDon’t get me wrong, I loved the Ultima series and had high hopes for Ultima Online (one of the first and best pre-WoW MMOs). What let me down regarding the old UO was the way that you could lose everything to one spotty kid from Wisconsin and his pet dragon.

Both LRP and MMO are natural progressions from tabletop roleplaying and/or playing stand-alone RPGs on your PC, Mac or games console; which are themselves mutually progressive.

You Can Be The Stainless Steel RatIn fact you can trace the lineage of both LRP and MMO right back to the original Fighting Fantasy/Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Furthermore, I know many people who partake of both genres, neither are particularly exclusive to each other. Having seen a few MMO players take up LRP, it looks like the transition from one to the other can be something of a culture shock. But why is this? What makes LRP so different from MMO.

Different Strokes
At first I thought it was a matter of immersion.

In LRP, the participant physically takes on a role. They buy or borrow costume, weapons and armour; they then don said trappings and act as a specific character along with other participants who are similarly attired. These characters then react to events and situations that are set in place by the people organising the LRP event. These roles are then maintained until the end of the event or designated “Time Out” periods, when the players can relax and interact outside the game world.

Ultima Online DragonIn an MMO, the participant creates a customised avatar and logs into a similarly immersive world. They can log in and out whenever they want and participate as much or as little as they would like. The level of immersion is intense but can be switched off whenever the player chooses.

So whilst the lengths of immersion may differ, both genres fully immerse the player within the gaming environment. Obviously, in one case you are physically acting a role and in the other you’re just mashing a keyboard and maybe talking over a headset.

The real difference is in the style of gameplay. Both genres are driven by individuals, groups and the organisers BUT you’re motivations and the course of actions you can take are totally different; as are the styles driven by the organisers.

Leveling
Level UpThe big addictive hook for MMORPGs is the leveling element. Players play to earn experience points that take your character to new levels with new skills. This is pretty much the primary goal for any MMORPer. Every new level brings with it stat and/or skill increases and ensures that you can tackle stronger and more difficult foes.

With LRP, you don’t always get the same hook. Some systems will have some form of experience point or veteran reward system but this is far from the primary goal for a player. It is more often seen as a means to flesh out one’s character or over time fulfill a particular personal goal.

Fear is the mind killerI remember the first time I “leveled” at a Lorien Trust event; I spent some hard earned points from their own veteran reward system (Occupational Skill Points) and my character became immune to the “Fear” effect. Whilst this didn’t have the same feel as leveling in other rolepaying games, it did mean that for the next year I would flounce around showing other characters how brave I was. “Ha! I’m not scared of those demons. Look, Brother Alain and I are the bravest people I know.”

In an MMO reacting the same would probably be seen as a faux pas on a Leeroy Jenkins scale. In LRP, barring a few exceptions, the game is not played for “leveling”; characters progress in other ways.

PLARP
Gryphon Faction (Old)Politics appear to be the same within either genre. Some LRP systems have groups, coteries, guilds and factions – as do some MMORPGs. I’m not entirely sure how this plays out in the MMO genre. In LRP this can lead to diplomacy (or diplomancy as it is sometimes referred to); some players love to go talk to other players about the political state of the game world and since the introduction of games like Maelstrom, we’ve seen this diplomatic game style have a dramatic effect on the way that players interact in other LRP systems.

DMEMany of the MMORPGs that I’ve seen actually require that the player works as part of a team. I’ve actually seen the same mechanics as players would use to build a team in an MMO, used in LRP systems. My first group within the Lorien Trust would have benefited from this kind of meta-gaming. We created characters to play that would be fun to play, I didn’t play a scholar/rogue because the group needed one, I played it because it seemed to fit with the group background.

Questing
QuestingIn an MMORPG, the majority of your gameplay is likely to be questing. There are thousands of developers beavering away to provide MMORPers with new and interesting quests. Outside of the questing you may as well be in an internet chat room, albeit a chat room where you can (maybe) virtually stab someone in the face.

Whilst there are sometimes quests in LRP, especially smaller systems. The larger systems are driven more by either politics (as mentioned above) or mass combat.

One of the biggest hooks for players at the Lorien Trust is the big end battle, where five or six of the system’s political factions square off against the remaining factions. Thousands of players scrap for an hour or so, then pack up and go home.

There may be smaller events, throughout the year, that allow players to go off on the equivalent of MMORPG quests; there may even be smaller quests at the big fest events but they are not integral to the system.

Avatars
When playing an MMORPG, there are a million and one different ways to customise your character’s avatar. You might be a spotty 14 year old from Wisconsin but you can look like a six foot tall Valkyrie with a pink mohawk (and a dragon).

In LRP, you are the avatar.

You might want to play a six foot Nordic (punk) beauty but you’re limited to the seventeen stone thirty-something IT manager that you were born with.

Your WoW character might be able to spin twin blades at lightning speeds but in LRP, if you haven’t paid attention to Rule 1 (Cardio) then you’re toast. LRP combat may not be the same as full on battle re-enactment but if you can’t fight then it doesn’t matter how many weapon skills you set for your character; you can’t fight.

Sadly, there are a lot of game-Nazis out there who get mardy when confronted with a lardy elf or a seven-stone barbarian. A lot of LRP relies on suspension of disbelief.

Fundamentals
On the surface there are a lot of similarities between LRP and MMO. I suppose the key difference is really in the approach of players to the game. In both, roleplaying plays a part; but to different strengths.

MMORPGs have a set system that must be “played” whilst you play to get the best out of the game. Players can meta-game, “min/max” their attributes and work the system to progress their character to top level. Actual “role” playing often takes second seat to working the system.

LRP systems also have a set system but “playing” the system whilst you play is frowned upon. Characters are created to be explored, the emphasis on playing a “role” is far stronger.

By far the best thing about LRP at the moment is the massive number of MMORPers that are trying the hobby out. There may be a difference in game style but MMORpers seem to adapt quickly.

Lorien Trust Website

It has been a long time in the making and technically isn’t brand new but the Lorien Trust have a cracking new website.

I know that is still a work in progress, with online booking a possible future feature but for a work in progress the site is looking pretty good to me. There are full details on the rules and game mechanics as well as details on the game world itself. As an NPC for the Gryphon faction, I’m particularly proud of the section on the guilds and factions.

The site’s new forums went live yesterday, allowing existing and prospective a means of asking questions about the Lorien Trust system, its game mechanics and for people to get in touch with faction and guild leaders.

I’ve attended LT events for the last 10 years; the last decade has had its ups and downs but the recent changes to the system have shown me that the system is worth sticking with.

Atlacoya & The Stolen Moon

Preface
One of the reasons I’ve started blogging is to get back into Creative Writing. My grammar is a shocking hash of german and english grammatical rules and my prose tends to read in the same manner as I think – but I do want to start writing again and blogging is helping me get back into it – gradually.

I recently helped run an LRP event, the main plot of the event centering on a fictional bad guy linked to the main world plot running at the main Lorien Trust events.

The big bad for our event had been conceived over a year ago when we created a military general from a far away land. The description of that land struck us as being very Aztec in feel and so we named our general Atlacoya, the Witch Queen. Atlacoya is actually a figure from Aztec mythology that represents drought or famine, we took the name and built up a description that fit with the main world plot.

Running up to the event we decided that we wanted to let the players get to know more about Atlacoya, who had only really threatened and rattled sabers at our players to date. So I decided to have a go at writing something about our Witch Queen and how she became the creature she was before the main plot big bad had got hold of her; this also incorporated clues for the players as to how they might deal with her in the long run.

I’ve recently hammered through a raft of different books, one of which being Neil Gaiman‘s Anansi Boys. I wanted my story to have a similar feel to the old Anansi stories that influenced Gaiman; I love stories surrounding the Trickster figures in mythology – I may blog more on that later.

I may not have managed to get the same feel, after all Atlacoya has never been intended as a Trickster but I do think I get a mythological or at least religious feel to the story.

Our plot rep tweaked the story he presented to the players but only so far as a slight alteration to the ending. I present here my unaltered version – I may comment Pinman’s amendment at a later date (unless he wants to himself).

I add the caveat that this is obviously OOC (out of character) information for anyone involved in Lorien Trust events, although it is largely irrelevant as Atlacoya was defeated at the event.

Atlacoya - The Witch Queen

Atlacoya - The Witch Queen (as played by Lauren Orton)

Atlacoya and the Stolen Moon

One night Atlacoya gazed at her reflection in the pool admiring her skin’s glow in the moonlight. Soon her solitude was disturbed by Tepoztecatl and his brothers, as they hopped splashing into the pool.

“What are you doing Rabbit, to disturb my beauty on this night?” asked Atlacoya, suddenly furious.

“Hush woman, you are nothing but a thought you do not exist to us.” Replied Tepoztecatl.

Atlacoya shrank from the shore, as a child should when in the presence of its betters.

“Brothers, it is nearly time. We shall set up a chain and bring it to us to dine” Tepoztecatl pointed at the shimmering reflection of the moon as it lay under the surface of Atlacoya’s pool. The five fat brothers lined up from the shore; Tepoztecatl sat dry as, one by one, his brothers spread out to the moon. Atlacoya cried out as the youngest brother, Macuiltochtli, hopped onto her moon and flipped it to the next brother. As she cried, her pool drained and as her pool drained each brother flipped the moon further to shore. As the fat brothers sat and gorged themselves on her moon, Atlacoya cried and cried until her pool ran dry and she could cry no more.

Atlacoya ran then, away from the gorging brothers. Blinded by dry tears, Atlacoya tripped over Malinalxochitl who lay in wait for the weak as always.

“What are you that disturbs my rest? You do not exist to us.” demanded Malinalxochitl, licking her lips “You are pretty enough a thing I shall eat you and take your beauty.”

“Please most beautiful Serpent, I was the cold beauty of the moon” explained the girl, “but Rabbit and his brothers have eaten my moon. I have no beauty to eat but they lie back by my pool, all bloated and full. If you eat them then you will have my beauty”

“Come show me” demanded Malinalxochitl as she mounted Atlacoya and rode her back towards the pool.

When they arrived back at the dry pool, Malinalxochitl opened her jaws and devoured the sleeping brothers in five smooth gulps. Swallowing hard she turned to Atlacoya, licking her lips.

“And truly I have devoured your beauty, thing that does not exist”

Atlacoya could see that she was speaking the truth, for her beauty now shone from Malinalxochitl. Crying once again, Atlacoya fled. The more she cried the more she felt her ugliness grow.

Suddenly, Atlacoya was hurled to the ground by Tepeyollotl, who guards the world from creatures of horror and ugliness. But Tepeyollotl is no fool and saw who he had wrongly pinned. Letting her up he spoke:

“What are you doing so far from your pool child?”, he tenderly picked her up brushing away the dryness of her tears, “You are not yet meant to be, who has taken your future from you?”

“Please Jaguar, the rabbits stole my moon and Serpent stole my beauty.” explained Atlacoya as she held the hero tighter “Now I fear I will never be and I feel so very cold without my moon”.

“This will not do, climb on my back and we will seek out Serpent and take back your beauty.”

Atlacoya rode Jaguar all night until at dawn they found her coiled on her rock, awaiting the warmth of the sun.

“You have stolen this child’s beauty and with it, her future.” Postured Jaguar as he set Atlacoya on her feet, “return it at once and you will come to no harm”.

Laughing in response, Malinalxochitl leapt at Tepeyollotl’s throat. In one snap of his mighty jaws, Tepeyollotl killed Malinalxochitl and swallowed her in two pieces.

“Now I will return your beauty” said Tepeyollotl as he leaned in to kiss Atlacoya. “With this kiss I will return your beauty and make you my wife. You will exist as my queen and we will rid the world of darkness”.

Tepeyollotl’s people celebrated all day with dance and wine and song. So happy was Atlacoya that she cried moist tears. Her tears ran from her, into her pool and by dusk she could see the moon fade in above the setting sun. But as the last of her tears left her so did the warmth of the day, the moon she saw was no longer her own. Envy grew inside Atlacoya, she was no longer a thing that existed for her own pleasure; Atlacoya now existed for the sakes of Tepeyollotl’s people.

“Wife, come lay with me” demanded Tepeyollotl, and she did. It was not a happy Atlacoya that lay with her King, as he lay with her she began to cry her dry tears of sorrow. As she cried and cried her King diminished, slowly absorbed into her cold heart. She devoured her King the way the desert devours the forest and as he waned so her power grew.

Atlacoya ruled as Jaguar queen for ever more but every night she returns to her empty pool and weeps for a moon that was never truly hers.

TPK (Gryphon Spring Event 2010)

There's only one PinmanI was very disappointed last year when we couldn’t run an Autumn event due to lack of forward planning. We promised ourselves that we’d just have to up the stakes with our Spring sanctioned event.

We knew we had big boots to fill and were very aware that many players ahd mistakenly written off our last event (War of the Weasels) because it had a beastkin theme.

Three things influenced the choice of event theme:

  1. The end of the Akari/Entropy plotline at the Gathering
    1. We had an Akari General to get rid of to truly end the plot.
  2. The Siege of Elvas
    1. This was a harsh event, high risk and heavy combat.
    2. Players from multiple factions and guilds united under one banner to fight a common foe.
  3. The awesome events run by some of our previous plot reps
    1. Every one of the events run by Wayne, Chris and JB have been high combat events that do not suffer fools

We wanted to run a high risk, high combat event that would remind old school Gryphon players of the kind of threat that the old Obsidia events had.

Awesome!We also wanted to run an event that could be attended by the kind of player that historically have never been able to attend a Gryphon event – namely unliving characters and necromancers.

The latter was a huge risk, many of our player base’s characters are so vehemently opposed to this kind of character, that the whole thing could have turned bloody before the plot was introduced. As it happens, the players took it in their stride and now have a lot to talk about at events later in the year.

The first night was fraught with problems. Aside from the ever present paranoia that half your monster base will back out at the last minute, we also had a lot of the event IC (In Character) paperwork to print (and in some cases write).

Gryphons and GuestsI’d spent the day before writing a story about our main protagonist, one I may blog here at a later date; there were also plot clues in the form of letters and orders that had to be formatted with an Aztec font to give the players something to think about. With all that to panic over the electric supply to our venue blew – literally, with smoke and sparks erupting from the ground and everything.

Now credit were credit’s due; Our logisitcs guy, Adrian, managed to rig enough electrickery into the monster room to allow for lighting and laptop. Printing, on the other hand, was out of order until E-On had fixed the supply. So with half the site cordoned off by the Sparkies and monsters made-up by candle-light, the event continued. Players were very understanding and managed to carry on despite the sound of E-On’s diesel generator and the brilliance of their night-vision-destroying floodlights.

The Witch QueenI actually arrived from checking into a Premier Inn, whilst the E-On van was trying to work out where to go. I was fully kitted out in black shirt, dark shemaghs, longsword, daggers and quarterstaff when the van drove up and asked if we were having problems with the electric. Luckily I’d already been briefed by phone so I started to explain where to go and who to speak to.

The warden of the scout camp was on site now and Adrian was ready to receive visitors from E-On. All of a sudden the driver asked me:

“Do you know Bob Bobertson?” or something like that.

“No. Why?”, I respond.

“Oh, he’s a venture scout.” comes the reply.

As I stood there wrapped in my “Murder Robes” (ordinary sith robes for the uninitiated), all I could think to say was “Sorry, I’m from Huddersfield.”

The night went on, the original plot had to be reworked to account for the electric repairs but we still managed to get some heavy combat in. Lots of high level unliving (that’s undead, skeletons, zombies, wraiths and wights) in the dark.

Akari STIt was truly frightening, the darkness didn’t help and we could have been a lot better organised as players. So badly did the first night go IC, that I actually worried that the players might not achieve the overall objective after all.

The next day was better. Having arrived back at our hotel around 4am, the 8.30am start was not appreciated but I still had to get hold of the Aztec font required for the IC documents. We had a shockingly poor breakfast at our Premier Inn, chippolatas and limp bacon. After breakfast I spent a good hour trying to get access to the Internet with my O2 PAYG 3G USB dongle. It wouldn’t have it so I ended up paying a fiver to Spectrum for the privilege of downloading less than a floppy disk’s worth of data.

Back on site I learn the full impact of the night’s fighting. Several player characters dead and a couple of escapees who had initially been captured for execution later in the day. The day continues pretty much as the day previously. I’ve missed the appearance of my IC nemesis, Isis, a previous player character who haunts me, blaming me for her death.

Why?There are various combats throughout the day when we learn there are sacrifices being made; these are hampered by the same lack of organisation amongst the players and we begin to look shoddy and embarrassing to our visiting guests. More player characters are captured and killed, which has the bonus effect of increasing monster numbers and new player character healers – both of which are welcome.

On the back of this we return to the player base and find fresh players characters, some of the ref team and monster crew have brought their characters out for a brief spot of R & R. Whilst this starts well with some good banter, it ends badly when a friend starts acting in a decidedly uncool manner and we’re ordered to deal with his character.

Ancestor botherersI eventually have the pleasure of listening in as the players decrypt the origin story I wrote for the big bad, inwardly chuckling as they piece it together. It is about this point I start to feel really good about the event. Sat working on the decryption are such a diverse mix of player characters and each and everyone of them are debating what the story means and how it effects their plans.

As day turns to night and energy (both physical and IC magical) wanes, the fighting gets heavier and tempers shorter (well, mine does). I try to grab time to sit and relax with long time friends but for some reason I don’t feel welcome and so move on to find new company. I find myself relaxing with erstwhile enemies of the faction and guests rather than friends, which can only be a good thing. As a faction NPC my remit is to be there for all players, not just those I usually play with; still I can’t help but feel a little dejected.

After everyone has eaten their evening meal we manage to hold a trial for a young player character who stands accused of murdering a friend to save his own life. The trial itself is obviously a test of our own sense of justice and the relevant players seem pleased when we find the accused not guilty; his actions being justified by the impossible situation the character found himself in. The trial itself got people talking and was an awesome piece of role-play action for those involved.

Aulus Hero PoseEventually some of our guests go out “Wabbit Hunting”, this quickly turns into the penultimate big fight of the night. From somewhere the plot team have pulled out a Displacer Beast and our guests are loving the fact that there is such an old school foe to face. At the same time the rest of us back at player base (a handful of thinkers and low combat characters) are nearly wiped out by a monster crew of two. I stress for a while, the personal disappointments of the day weighing on me, but the event’s Sanctioning Officer helps calm me down and we move onto the final fight of the night.

The final fight of the second night provides some well needed comic relief. A group of possessed slaves have come looking to destroy our unliving guests. This leads to a great many waves of low level fighters being held at bay by everyone.

The next day we set out with a clear plan of action. We fight our way to our objective and whilst we struggle to do so, we eventually manage to beat back our opposition and save the day. The disorganisation of previous days had been pushed back and we worked together as a driven team – granted, I felt like I was being ignored in the driving seat but we won in the end.

And so now we look forward to the next one in Autumn, maybe I’ll write an IC account of the event; I’ll certainly write a review of the site in the next day or so.