Denver Alliance LARP — Background

This post is intended to give an overview of certain aspects of Alliance LARP that are relevant to understanding some of the other posts. This post will be updated periodically as other posts are posted. Other players of Alliance LARP most likely do not need to read this post.

The Blog’s Title

“New Acarthia” is the name of the (fictional) town that the game takes place in.

In Game vs. Out Of Game

Since Alliance is a role-playing game, the players in it are supposed to represent characters in a fictional world. Thus, certain things that happen are considered “in-game” — i.e., they are “really” happening to the characters. Other things are “out-of-game” — i.e., they happen because of game mechanics or logistical realities, but are not “really” perceived by the characters. These are abbreviated as “IG” and “OOG” respectively.

For instance, suppose I go to a shop and buy a healing potion (this is represented IG by a small plastic vial with a piece of paper in it saying it is a healing potion.) In the “in-game world”, my character went to the shop and bought a potion which was filled with some liquid. This is IG.

However, suppose that there’s a scenario where monsters teleport through a magical portal to attack the town. Obviously, since magical portals don’t actually exist, the people playing the monsters have to physically walk to where the “portal” will open. In this case they will out their hands on top of their heads which indicates that they are “OOG” and thus not “really” there. In that case I am supposed to pretend that I don’t see them. (If you point out a player in the distance and then realize that he is OOG, then you should say that it is “just the wind”.)

If you try to use this type of “OOG” information to your advantage — for instance you see all the people dressed as monsters, figure that a portal’s about to open, and get all your friends to get ready to protect the town, then that is known as “metagaming” and is considered against the rules.

Another useful note here is that there are some IG effects — like “mind control” type spells, that can force you to do things like fight on the other team’s side or automatically attack the nearest target friend or foe. In such a case, deliberately fighting poorly because you are forced to attack your friend would be metagaming (since IG, your character is mind-controlled, and in his mind, who was once his friend is now his enemy).

Character Development

In the game, you select one of seven different character classes for your character, and then “build” your character using a point system. You start off with 15 “build points” (BP) and gain a certain number with each event; the rate at which you get build points decreases with additional events. This is similar to “gaining experience points” and “leveling up” in other RPGs, except that the amount of BP you have is just based on how many events you’ve attended so far; you don’t gain additional BP from killing monsters or completing quests in-game.

To build your character you purchase skills with your build points. These skills include things like weapon proficiencies (makes your weapons do more damage), spell slots (allows you to cast spells), and production skills like blacksmithing or potion making (lets you make items like weapons, armor, or potions). Skill costs are based on character class: for instance, a fighter can purchase weapon proficiencies cheaply but has to pay through the nose for spell slots, a scholar (the game’s term for a wizard) is the reverse. The intention of this system is to allow for customization and surprises (a fighter might have a spell up his sleeve) while encouraging characters to specialize and team up with others who have different specialties rather than one character trying to do everything himself.

Alliance is a game with lots of “chapters” around the United States (and even one or two in Canada). Some players will play at multiple chapters, and there are also ways in the system to gain BP for events at other chapters even without actually going to those chapters. Some players use this system to “level up” their characters very quickly. (Also, Denver is a relatively new chapter, and there are characters from other chapters who have been playing for many years.) Since very large disparities in character level make the game difficult to balance, Denver has instituted a “build cap.” The “build cap” is a limit on how many BP a character can have, and is always set equal to the number of BP that is had by a character who has played in every Denver event, and only Denver’s events, since the chapter’s founding in late 2013. Thus a player can still use the above “tricks” to catch up if he joins now, but you can’t unfairly get ahead of the rest of the playerbase.

The Spell System

There are two “schools” of spells in the game: “celestial” spells and “earth” spells. This is similar to “wizard spells” and “cleric spells” in Dungeons and Dragons, except that they aren’t called clerics (Alliance LARP specifically disallows any religious references, in order to avoid offending anyone). In other words, the “celestial” spells are more focused on just blasting the enemy into oblivion, while “earth” spells are focused on healing the rest of the party.

If you have both celestial and earth spells, you have to choose one of them as your “primary” school and the other as the “secondary” — the “secondary” school costs double the build points. Thus you are strongly encouraged to specialize in one school; it is rare for casters even to have spells in both schools.

There are also so-called “bindomancy” spells that trap an enemy (like a “Pin” which traps one foot in place, or a “Web” which traps their whole body and makes them helpless) that are available to both the earth and celestial schools. Some of the stronger monsters can rip free from these spells by saying “I rip free 1, I rip free 2, I rip free 3”. Thus you can’t just easily neutralize the main boss with one Web spell.

Spells are divided into levels — 1st level through 9th level. IG these are referred to as “circles”. You buy “spell slots” for your character which are in specific levels, and there are rules about how you can do that (e.g. if you have 3 spells of level N, you can only have 2 spells of level N+1, but if you have 4 spells of level N, you can have up to 4 spells of level N+1, etc.) This is known as a “spell pyramid.” For instance my “spell pyramid” as of this writing is 6/5/4/4/4/4/3/1. That is, I can cast six 1st level spells per day, five 2nd level spells, four 3rd level spells and so on up to one 8th level spell per day. That is over 30 total spells but I have to be careful because they can run out quickly in a big fight.

Timing and Logistics

Each event starts on Friday at 9:00 PM and ends on Sunday at approximately 2:00 PM. On Saturday at 6:00 PM there is a “logistics reset” which is when it is considered a “new day” for your spells. (That is, the event lasts two “days”, one from Friday at 9:00 to Saturday at 6:00, and one from Saturday at 6:00 to Sunday at 2:00.) Usually there will be a big battle shortly before the logistics reset, as well as a big “final battle” as the last thing that happens during the event, so that you get a chance to use all your cool spells.

Armor, Body, Damage, Life, and Death

The system for damage in this game is as follows. Each player has a certain number of “armor points” and a certain number of “body points.” Armor points (AP) are based on what kind of armor you are physically wearing, and is rated on a system based on what areas of your body are covered and what material they are covered with. Different classes have different maximum amounts of armor. Body points (HP; I’m using that abbreviation to avoid confusion with BP for build points) are based on your character’s level (which is based on number of BP you have) and class. For instance fighters have more HP than scholars. As a scholar I have 10 HP and 10 AP (although I’m considering upgrading my armor to 15 AP, the max for a scholar). A front line fighter at the build cap might have about 20 HP and 30 AP.

Most monsters (at current levels) do from 4–10 points of damage per hit (most monsters are at the lower end of this range; only the very tough monsters, like in the major field battles, are up top). When you are hit, the damage is first taken off your AP, then once your AP are depleted, they are taken off your HP. If your HP is depleted, then you fall unconscious and begin “bleeding out.” If a healer heals you within 1 minute then you can get back up. (Even a 1st level healing spell will work, and even someone who is not a healer can pour a healing potion in your mouth and that will work. 1st level healing potions are one of the most common items in the game for that reason.)

If you are not healed then you bleed to death, and then the only thing that will save you is a “Life” spell, which is a 9th level spell, to bring you back to life. After 5 minutes of being dead and not getting a life spell, you must “resurrect”, which means that you go back to the resurrection circle in town and they will being you back to life. However, the number of times you “resurrect” is tracked over your character’s entire career. The third and subsequent times you resurrect, there is a chance that the resurrection will fail and your character is permanently dead, in which case you must create another character.

You can regain lost AP by spending 60 seconds out-of-combat “refitting” your armor. (To do so you have to have at least 1 level of the “Blacksmith” skill; since refitting armor is so vital, and 1 level of blacksmith doesn’t cost many BP, almost all characters that do melee combat have this. You can be refit by someone else, although that takes two people out of the fight rather than just one.) If you are hit while refitting your refit count is interrupted and you have to start over. It is worth noting that regaining AP just takes 1 minute and doesn’t cost resources, while regaining HP requires spending limited use resources such as spells or potions, so it is best to try to avoid losing HP. In large battles, a commonly used strategy is to have a “refitting area” in the back of the ranks, try to protect that area, and have front-line fighters who are almost out of AP go back to refit while a fresh fighter comes in to take his place. If the players are able to coordinate this well they can go through several cycles of this without losing much HP. A character who is a “Master Blacksmith” (has 20 levels of the “Blacksmith” skill) can do refits in 30 seconds rather than 60. Since this cost lots of build points, to my knowledge only one of the 100 or so characters in Denver right now is a “Master Blacksmith”, and he doesn’t even fight at all, just does blacksmithing.

Forums

There are online forums that are used by players and staff to communicate; they can be found here. My username on the forums is Alex319.

Chapter Staff

There are a few people who are part of the “chapter staff.” They are the ones that do things like keep track of all the props, write the plotlines, and help run the encounters. (If you choose to play as an NPC then these are the ones who will be directing you on what to do, what monster to get dressed up as, etc.) Some important names you might see in this blog are:

Jesse Grabowski — He is the owner of the chapter and also the head of plot. Basically he is the guy in charge of running the show. All the other staff report to him.

David Clements — He is the “head of rules” and in charge of dealing with all rules issues. His username on the forums is “llywelyn.”

Dani Meir — She is one of the “senior NPCs” and often helps to run some of the big battles and plotlines. Her username on the forums is “meirya.”

Fair Play

Like other LARPs, Denver Alliance depends a great deal on trusting the participants. Players are expected to keep track of their own characters’ status (HP, AP, number of spells left, etc.) There are many ways one can “cheat” in ways that are difficult or impossible to detect. This extends even to cases where the “correct” thing to do to follow the rules is highly subjective or dependent on interpretation. For instance, in this thread, David and Dani give two completely different answers to the same question. There are other cases, such as counting at the correct speed for timed effects (such as the armor refits discussed above) where the correct thing to do is objective but may be difficult for players to do under combat conditions. Another thing that gets talked about a lot is “taking” hits. To “take” a hit means to apply the effects of the hit (e.g. damage) on you. There are rules describing where and how the weapon has to hit you to be a “valid hit” — a valid hit is one that should be taken, a hit that does not follow those rules is invalid and should not be taken.

There are “Marshals” in the game, which are basically like referees. Most of the chapter staff also act as Marshals when they are in a battle, and most battles will have at least one Marshal present. Marshals will occassionally intervene proactively if they see an unsafe situation, or someone clearly not doing what they are supposed to (like a monster that teleports into the middle of the players when he was supposed to start farther back) but they aren’t like baseball umpires: they don’t call hits like an umpire calls balls and strikes.

The Alliance Rulebook

The Alliance rulebook (abbreviated as ARB) can be found here.