Thursday, July 15, 2010

A new LARP: Nero

Last weekend I participated in a new LARP (live-action role playing game) called Nero. It is quite different from any of the LARPs I have played in so far. Some of the key differences are as follows:

Format and Quests

In Nero, you are "in game" for the entire time from when you get there to when the game is over. (Events are the entire weekend; they last from Friday night to Sunday morning. There is one event every 2 weeks to a month.) This means that, for example, you can be walking from your cabin to breakfast, and be attacked by monsters! So you always have to be prepared. There are also quests that you can go on, called "mods" (short for "modules.") There are a few different ways to get "mods":

1. Sometimes NPCs will come into the tavern and be there to give you quests. (So just like I said that Amtgard was live-action Dungeons and Dragons, this is more like live-action World of Warcraft.)

2. There are sometimes "town mods" that everyone paticipates in, like when the entire town is attacked by monsters.

3. In the woods there are "mod cards" laying on the ground that say things like "You see a shack in the woods. If you wish to investigate, see plot."

There is an "NPC camp" where the "plot team" (the team running the quests) is housed. If you get a quest then you go to the plot team and they run it. Sometimes you have to wait in a queue if all the NPCs are busy running other quests (see, it's live-action World of Warcraft).

Character Creation and Advancement

To create your character you first choose one out of four classes: fighter (melee weapon user), rogue (sneaky thief), scholar (spellcaster), or templar (hybrid fighter/scholar). Then you have a certain number of "build points" to spend on your stuff. You start off with 30 build points but can get more even prior to your first event via "goblin blankets" (see below). Then you spend your build points on skills, like the ability to use certain equipment or cast certain spells, or special powers like "waylay" (allows you to sneak up behind an enemy and knock him unconscious with one blow) or "healing arts" (allows you to tell how many hit points someone is down and whether he is unconscious or dead). As you advance and get XP, it gives you more build points. Some players who have been playing for a long time have over 200 build points.

XP gain is measured in "blankets" - each "blanket" is a number of XP equal to the number of build points you have. The number of XP needed for each build point goes up quadratically with the number of build points you have, however, so your advancement slows the farther up you get.

There are three ways to get XP:

1. Each event, you get one blanket just for showing up. This is your "Base XP."
2. Each event, you can "max out" and get one more blanket. You can do this one of two ways: (a) turn in silver pieces equal to the number of build points you have, or (b) volunteer to play an NPC (i.e. a monster) for 4 hours.
3. Each month, you can also get up to 4 blankets worth of XP from "goblin blankets." You buy goblin blankets with "goblin points," which you get by donating needed items to the group and through other kinds of service (like helping to clean up the site).

Before I got to my first event, I looked on their web site and they said they needed electronic anti-pest devices. I went to Wal-Mart and found a package of 5 of them for only $25, so I got the pack, kept one for my apartment, and gave them the other 4, and they gave me a whole month worth of goblin blankets, so I ended up with 43 build points to start. I played a scholar, and this allowed me to buy lots of spells and a couple auxiliary skills.

Combat and Spellcasting

In this game, players have a certain number of "body points", which are like hit points in other games - each hit takes off body points, and once you are down to zero body points you are unconscious. You can also wear armor, which gives you "armor points." Armor points are like body points, except they are taken off first (so they're like a shield that enemies have to get through), and you can "refit armor" by spending a minute outside of combat, which gives you all your armor points back. You can also buy a skill called "dexterity armor" which gives you extra armor points without having to wear actual armor. Many players have 20-40 body points, plus at least a dozen more points worth of armor and assorted protective powers. As a first-level scholar, I had a measly 4 body points. That means for me that it is a good strategy to stand back and cast spells, and not get in close. When you swing your sword you do a certain amount of damage, based on what kind of weapon it is, what weapon proficiencies you have, and if the weapon is magic.

As for spellcasting, that works by having "spell packets" that you throw at the target. You only have a certain number of spells per recharge cycle - spells recharge at 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM each day. I had a total of 21 spells per cycle, but they run out pretty quickly in combat. Of course as you get more build points you can buy more spells, and more powerful spells. Some people who have been playing fora while have 60-70 spells per recharge cycle, plus they are more powerful so they need fewer spells to kill a monster. My strategy was once I ran out of spells, to go play an NPC until they next recharge cycle, so I could still fight and do something useful.

Death and Resurrection

Unlike in Amtgard and Belegarth, in this game death is a big deal. The way death works is as follows:

1. If you are knocked down below 0 hit points, you start a one-minute "death count." During this time someone can heal you or "First Aid" you to stop your death count. If you run out of time then you are dead. An enemy can also "Killing Blow" you while you are on the ground to kill you immediately, but most monsters don't do this.

2. Once you are dead you start a 5-minute "dissipation count." During this time someone can cast a "Life" spell on you to raise you with no penalty. However if you run out of time then you dissipate, and have to go back to the resurrection circle, which is located in a cabin. Then you have to wait for someone "invested in the circle" or one with a certain special power to come by and start the resurrection. The resurrection takes 15 minutes.

3. You keep track of how many times you resurrect at a circle. Each time you resurrect, you increase your resurrection count by 1. Then, if your resurrection count is greater than 2, you draw a stone from a bag with 10 stones, N-2 of which are black, where N is your resurrection count. If you draw a black stone you are permanently dead and have to create a new character. (Some players, however, create backup characters and level them up with goblin blankets so that if their main character dies, they don't have to go all the way back to level 1.) You can also spend goblin points to reduce your resurrection count. You can spend 100 goblin points (each goblin blanket is 50 goblin points) to reduce your resurrection count by 1, but not below 2. (This even if you "buy back" every death, there is still a 1 in 10 chance of perma-death for each death after the first 2.)

I had to resurrect at a circle one time that event. I died when fighting goblins and nobody had a life spell, so they had to take me back to the tavern to get me a life spell. Unfortunately they took their time gathering treasure after the goblin fight, and I wanted to tell them that they had better hurry up since the 5 minutes were counting down, but of course I couldn't say anything because I was dead. They carried me back but the dissipation count ran out while I was about 200 feet from the tavern. Fortunately the rule is that at your first event, your resurrection count cannot go up (just to give a break to new players.) At least now that I understand the game better, I can make sure to invest in better defenses next time.


Dan Mont said...

So how many people are playing in a typical game? What if you can't stay the whole day, can you play just for a few hours? Do you have events like at Amtgard where one club plays against another club?

Nanette Goodman said...

sounds fun. Do you use Amgard-type weapons? Was the game in Champaign or somewhere else?

Alexander Mont said...

The event lasts the whole weekend from Friday night to Sunday morning.

There were about 30 people at last event (I think).

The weapons are like in Amtgard except that the tips are padded more.

The event was in Jacksonville, about 30 miles west of Springfield, which is itself about 80 miles west of Champaign. Obviously transportation will be a problem. This time fortunately I found someone who would take me there.

Dan Mont said...

Where did you sleep? In a hotel? A tent? And who took you to the event? Somebody you know from the game store?

Alexander Mont said...

I slept at a cabin at the site

the person who took me there was someone else from the Nero group I found him on the forums on the web site