Combat LARPs : A Guide for Stick Jocks and Paste Eaters

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

So no shit there I was, supporting a line defending my new home in the lands of Chimeron against the darkness of Bedlam. Our line was doing well, keeping solid. I was running messages, casting a spell here to there as I was useful and things like that. Suddenly, one of our mages panicked and let fly a spell that sent such uncontrolled terror through me that I couldn’t help but flee as far and as fast as I could. I hid in the forest until I had calmed back down enough to return to the fight, only to discover that it wasn’t just myself that had fled, but every faerie or part faerie in the immediate area. We were no longer doing so well in the defense.

The point of that little story is that I am a roleplayer, a paste eater if you will. Sure, 3 years after this story took place I am now a fairly capable fighter with none of that magic nonsense, but I am still playing a faerie and still quite prone to little problems like the casting of a spell known as “Fear the Purging”. Stick Jock and Paste Eater are two very interesting words wrapped up in quite a bit of meaning. A stick jock is a person who plays a combat LARP primarily or even solely for the combat portions of the game. A Paste Eater is someone who plays a LARP primarily or solely for the roleplay aspects of the game. Now, of course, there are people who bridge this gap and enjoy being thugs while also roleplaying their hearts out. These people are usually going to be the vast majority, in my experience. Especially since we’re talking about a combat game.

So you want to be a Stick Jock

Maybe your friends LARP and you’ve liked sparring with them so you’re going to throw on a little garb and go hit things. Maybe you found the system on your own or through an on campus club. No matter how you found your way to LARPing, there are some very important lessons that a stick jock needs to learn early on. The first one is simple and applies to everyone, not just stick jocks, because there are days when even the most paste eatingest roleplayer just doesn’t care: No matter how much you don’t care about the story or the plot, do not break the mood for others, do not ruin the fun of others and above all else, do not make the person running the game have a hard to or regret running it. There is nothing more discourage to a person running a LARP than people mocking their game or event. There is nothing that will more anger and upset a hardcore roleplayer than someone talking about something that has nothing to do with the game. For example, there was one time that I was standing before the currently sealed open in a cave tunnel, we were preparing to face off with a very powerful golem and a troll wizard. We had just completed a very powerful (and very disgusting) ritual to Gaea and we knew that we would now be able to harm the golem. I was standing there, axe and shield in my hands trying to psych myself up for the final fight of the night when suddenly the half elf standing next to me starts talking to his lord about where they’re going to go for dinner after the event ends and whether they’ll be able to make the next event because of work. It was more than annoying, it completely broke the mood that we were about to go attempt a very difficult fight and that we might all be about to die.

Another thing that can be very important as a Stick Jock is making sure that you have picked a combat system in which you can fight in a way you enjoy and still be safe for the other players. There are many types of combat LARPs, using everything from foam swords to nerf guns. Some systems have hit points, some have location based systems. Some allow head shots, most don’t. A lot of LARPs include a rule to limit the amount of times you can swing your weapon in a given period of time, either by requiring that the weapon come back to a certain point or by flat out saying you can only swing so many times before you have to take a step back. Most LARP systems are going to be what is called Lightest Touch. What this means is that you have to take any blow, no matter how light. You also have you to swing as lightly as possible to make contact. There are a few systems, however, where you are allowed to hit people harder, if they are for example wearing plate armor. Anyone who wants to play multiple systems should always make sure that they are safe in all the systems that they intend to play in.

Remember that you are playing a roleplaying game. Some people are going to make pacifist characters or maybe a character that dies instantly if you hit them with a weapon made of silver or magic. These sorts of things happen and you should be understanding of these people and their characters. If that is the sort of fun they choose to have, then there is no reason that you should not let them. You’re probably thinking, why on earth should I care how the other people are playing? What if the other people on your line are faeries and a spell is cast that causes them to run away, or you’re fighting alongside a bunch of undead and the enemy takes control of them. These sorts of things happen, and you just have to roll with it and not let it get to you.

In review, the code of a good Stick Jock is as follows:

  1. No matter how much I don’t care, I will not break the mood and ruin the fun of others
  2. I will be a safe fighter for everyone else playing
  3. I will be understanding towards people who choose to have character flaws that may detract from their combat and interaction ability

So you think you’re a Paste Eater

You probably play table top games, maybe you really like fantasy or science fiction novels and movies. Maybe you play an MMORPG or other roleplaying video games. You probably have a really in depth character background, and odds are your character has all kinds of interesting flaws to them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having character flaws. I encourage them because they round out characters and make them more realistic. Being a Paste Eater has just as many responsibilities as being a Stick Jock. The first thing to remember is that in any LARP, there is no such thing as a main character. You are one of the players, everyone gets the chance to be a hero if they so choose. While you might get a moment here or a moment there where you get to be the star, you can’t demand that people constantly be paying attention to you at the cost of other people, or worse at the cost of the game master’s story. Its alright for your character to stand by their morals and refuse to kill and eat babies, for example, but you shouldn’t continue to harass the people who did months (or years) later. You can be a pacifist or hate elves or fear magic or whatever you want, but do not make it so that other people aren’t having fun because of the type of character you have chosen to play.

There are times when you just need to give up and hit things with a stick. Maybe there are bandits blocking the way, maybe you’re in hell or maybe you’re in the middle of a war. There are going to be times when you can’t talk your way out of the situation. You can try your damnedest, but maybe the NPCs are playing aggressive characters or maybe they were told to resort to combat. Combat happens, I promise you that. If you’re completely averse to combat, consider trying a theatre style LARP. But if you want to take part in a combat LARP, you will get hit and you will sometimes have to fight.

When you’re making your character, it might seem like a good idea to be afraid of fire and the dark, to be weak to iron and to have a specific way that people can take control of your character. It might seem like a good idea to only speak in your own native language. Maybe your character can only repeat the last word said to you. Maybe you have horrible amnesia. No matter how you build your character, you need to stop and think about how this character will interact with other people. Can you have a conversation? Are you willing to let your character be taught and change?  If you’re willing to have character growth, you can get away with more than you can otherwise. But remember that your character should always be able to handle dealing with other people. You can be shy or afraid, but be willing to talk to people.

To review, the code of a good Paste Eater is as follows:

  1. I will not detract from the event or other people’s fun with my character’s drama
  2. I will take part in combat if combat is necessary
  3. I will not make a character that has so many or such severe flaws that they cannot be interacted with by others
No matter which side of the equation you find yourself landing on, its important to remember that your focus should be on everyone having fun and being safe. LARPing is about people having fun together and no matter who you are and what you’re playing, you should do your best to play nicely with the other players.
  1. Ben says:

    Wow, nice view of the Chimeron court. I can only name maybe half of the flags by name which is good I guess as it means things are growing and changing.

  2. […] about consequences only on the in-game level. They’re actually pretty familiar to the Stick Jock and Paste Eater of Live Action Roleplaying. I much prefer to run games for Roleplayers, particularly since my […]

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