Sunday, January 25, 2015



I'd read this a couple days ago. People freaked the hell out in the comments saying they just didn't have the money and that the author's solution of 'desire' was inaccurate.

After some contemplation, I'm not sure for most people it is.

Normal people may desire having children more than travel. People with unexpected pregnancies may have desired sex more than travel. People who like toys - well, you get the idea.

Running into people working on the road, teaching English, towing entire families along (showing me that perhaps the 'stable environment' may be the mom and dad - not where they are living) and so on tells me that in the end much of it is about desire.

There may be a few notable exceptions people are quick to self identify with but that is the long and short of it to me.

Most people don't really want 'to travel' - even when they say they do. They want a vacation. A few weeks away from the grind. That is totally OK. Aside from those people that live in the USA. Ya'll are fucked. Sorry - but low paying jobs, little to no vacation time and being $700+ away from 'foreign parts' mean your vacation (like mine when I use to work) will amount to sleeping in for another couple days and masturbating in front of the computer using your tears as lubricant.



Due in part to the remarkably shitty postal system and the burgeoning community of geeks they have in South Africa, they actually still have gaming stores here.  Remember those?  Yeah.

Anyway, the owner of the main one in Johannesburg is named Grant.  He kindly took me to the Apartheid Museum.

Honestly, Grant was more entertaining to the museum.  Rather than having a lot of 'stuff', the museum had a lot of short films on televisions and newspaper clippings hung up.  This is the kind of museum which would be of interest to anyone who had never heard of 'the internet'.

I didn't get many pictures of it partially because there wasn't that much stuff worth taking a picture of and partially because a lady told me I wasn't allowed to take pictures.  Bit hypocritical considering the museum had hung up pictures from everyone else within.  Never understood why some museums don't like pictures being taken.  In my mind it doesn't prevent the need to go there - seeing a picture of something nifty will make you want to go see it.


Like most of the other South Africans I've spoken with, Grant knows a lot about his country and  it's history.  He was an excellent host.

After that, we went out and ate Indian food - always a win.

Thank you to Grant and his hospitality the only thing I have yet to do in South Africa is to go to a NERO event.  Then, I'll have hit everything I wanted to do here.

The NERO experience is happening this coming weekend.  [Editor note:  For those of you living in the present where holo-decks have replaced leaving your cube, reference "LARP".]


Just a few more fun things that happened in South Africa I've heard about going on while I've been here.

Grant, the nice man who took me to the Apartheid Museum had his home broken in to six times.  In December.  Though he is quick to point out the criminals only got around to stealing something one of those times, still...

Eight days before I was to leave the country, one of the people who came over to game for four hours had his car stolen.  As a side note, the people here were incredulous there was no tracking system nor car alarm in the vehicle.

NERO SOUTH AFRICA  (If you are not interested in NERO, skip this section)

Well, I got to do something I was told had never ever been done before.

I was the first foreigner to play NERO in South Africa.

Yea, me!

It may not wow over some people (especially those that live in South Africa) but you have to take your victories where you can find them.

First off, I'd like to say that I enjoyed meeting the players there quite a bit.  That was great.  The LARP and RP communities of South Africa are comprised of very warm generous people.  These are the kind of people who take me to things that I'd otherwise not get to see and such - just because they are awesome hosts.

The medics who treated some people who were abused by too much adrenalin also get a thank you.

Overall, compared to other events I've been to I'd rate this one as middling fun wise.  In the USA, I've been to much worse events (anyone remember the caves in Tennessee?) and much better ones.  This one was pretty firmly in the middle.

What follows are my opinions.  I don't expect people to necessarily agree with my following opinions,  but about half dozen of the people who run the event specifically asked for my feedback, as did several players.

It is a strange condition of humans that if something was good, you just say 'it rocked'.  If it isn't, you have a very specific list of what you didn't like.  Sorry, but that's just the way people work.  The tavern service was very very good.  Also, they have a game called 'jugger' (hope that is spelled right).  I'm going to get a link to a video of it to some of my friends in the US.  It is an awesome sport that can be done within NERO and it was even a lot of fun to watch.

They do some stuff that is very different here than in the states.   South Africa is under four very big disadvantages.

1.  Less than 10% of the population of the entire country might consider playing.  This isn't something black people do.  It's simply not a part of Zulu (etc) culture.  As the black middle class continues to grow they may start to get some black players but several certainly won't be the norm in my lifetime.  Hence, the total number of people who might become players is greater than the population of LA but much less than NY.  Of all of those people, a thin sliver will think LARPing is a good idea.

2.  Less disposable income.  I know nearly all the LARPers in the US thinks they are poor, but there is less money here.

3.  All of the information they got about NERO came from Joe Valenti, the owner of NERO. This is where NERO SA got it's 'monster manual' from.  I've never spoken with any NERO chapter owner who had anything positive to say about that.  Actually, most of the talk kind of went the other way.

4.  They had to pick up NERO from reading books.  This is rough.  While it is true they had (have) another LARP here, getting all of your NERO information from reading books is a bit like trying to ride a bicycle from an instruction manual.   I was taught NERO from the higher level people.  Eventually, I hung out with experts (many of whom were or became chapter owners) and learned from them.  The folk in SA really don't have that option.


A freakish over the top amount of Out of Game (OOG) talk.  When I started NERO this was something I was epically bad at.  The competent people kept yelling at me to cut it out until I did.  There is NEVER a good reason to talk out of game within sight or hearing of the other players.  I say never simply because everyone thinks their reason is ok.  It isn't.  If admin stuff needs to be talked about, say admin and go away out of sight of the other PC's or whisper into their ear "Go to monster camp" or something.  I watched people put their clenched fist next to their head (indicating OOG) *when they laughed*.  I watched a girl who was trying to give an in game speech OOG by accident because she was so use to doing it.  The problem is that unless the upper people ruthlessly stamp it out among themselves it will never ever be corrected with the population.  Why continue to shatter the immersion?  If you can't think of how to say something out of game using in game phrasing (ie 'films' become 'theater' etc) it is probably just laziness.  Ironically, at the end of the event, myself and two other people were talking quietly amongst ourselves OOG as we'd all agreed to and got bitched at by some passing out of game girl about it.

Going OOG, being OOG.  Mentioning this here as it is related.  Unless they are dead and trudging back to NPC camp, there is no good reason for an NPC to be OOG.  If they want to eat, here is a brown tabbard.  You're a simple villager and have no quests nor loot.  Done.  It populates the town.  OOG people should be shunned more than smokers.  Attempt to be where players are not.  This is also something that breaks immersion.   Too many times it appeared there were a lot of people but no - most were out of game.  Late at night before bed, this is OK but throughout the day they want to be OOG and hang out and talk to people who are in game?

I'm not sure if it is in the NERO rule book but the way I learned about going OOG was to leave sight of the players (around a corner or something) and go out on a three count.  If there is a chance someone is stalking you, loudly ask if anyone minds if you go out of game (generally if you are in a remote location) and if there are no objections go out on a three count.  Yeah, it's pretty fucked up when someone you didn't know was there says 'they mind'.

From the world of 'what the fuck'


People couldn't tell me what meant what without looking.  Which is worse?  I suppose that is why the chart (above) got hung up on the tavern instead of something interesting like say a wanted poster or royal proclamation.

Those I chatted with often didn't notice/see the armbands - more so at night.

It is another thing which breaks the immersion.

It coddles the incompetent.

It keeps fast talking NPC's from being able to bluff they are more powerful.

In short, I was not a fan of them.

White headbands - insist on them.  Especially for the staff.  If they don't always have one ("I lost it."  "I don't have it with me."  "I'm too lazy to make a good excuse.") it shows it isn't really important.

This chapter keeps freakish (and in my opinion, illogical, irrelevant) track of things such as an individual cure light wound potion.  It sounds like a lot of wasted effort to me.  Despite such slavish attention to detail, when I was 'mass invested' (not something in the rule book) into the healer's guild circle no names were noted.   I was told not to worry about it.  I've been told they normally keep track so perhaps that one just fell through the cracks.

Having access to the tavern (and being able to fight in it) is much more important than tables of pretty, breakable crap you notice for a couple minutes before it just becomes something needlessly filling space.  The tavern is the center of the NERO town.  If there are no cabins for the guilds, have the guild masters go 'free range' for a couple hours at a time.

Speaking of that, they had 'permanent NPC's to help flesh out the town by having people that actually live there'.  It didn't feel like it.  It just felt like squandered resources that could have been out reducing the massive downtime we had on Saturday by playing 'crunchies' and such.

For vague and unsatisfying reasons, all of the PC's are called 'bravos'.  Honestly, that sounds like something a corporate drone would come up with.  The chapter uses a lot of Norse - isn't there a cool word for adventurer, sell sword, killer that could have been used?

To avoid cheese (in the negative sense) have tags for each and every component as well as copies of the formal scrolls to be used for each and every ritual cast.  Also, have them per the rules along with a ritual marshal in case some PC thinks it would be funny to backlash the ritual and so on.

Why double hooking is desperately needed and why I don't think it will get used.

Double hooking is a clever strategy taught to me by experts.  A single NPC goes out and recruits two parties for different goals.  Assuming it is a combat module (doesn't need to be) the PC's of one party don simple tabbards (example: red) to play a creature such as a kobold.  After that module is completed, the other team NPCs.  One guy can effectively keep ten or twenty PC's entertained.

When the hook goes out, he does mention it is a 'double hook module'.  If someone doesn't want to help entertain their fellow PC's, they and their party can continue sitting on their butts wondering why there is nothing going on.

My belief is that if there was always (yes always - not once or twice per event) double hook guys wandering around looking for two groups to hook for modules this would help get rid of the massive downtime that comes from the excessively planned modules which are launched one at a time like great ships.  After the ship is launched, the plot team waits for the crew to return then launches another.  This gives a lot of downtime.  Combining the current system with double hooking gets rid of this.

In the states, often the PC's double hook themselves.  Two groups will come to monster camp.  The leaders from each group will tell an NPC "Our group is looking for the lost shrine of Gergidy and theirs is going hunting down by the river for elk."  An NPC is dispatched and off they go.  Other stuff may happen at it does require thinking on ones feet but it is good plot and the PC's get some control over impromptu plots.

Despite the pros of adding the double hooking to the existing system, I have doubts that it will take off due to the following things:  a) you need to get a bunch of single color tabbards.  Goblin points should take care of this.  I'd be sure to specify the length as all the tabbards I saw were made for tiny people and many gamers aren't.   b) plot will freak out the first time they launch a grand plot ship and lo, some of the people they wanted aboard are out on a double hook already.  Fast serve doesn't seem to mesh.  Hopefully, they can overcome these problems.  I think it will help the game mightily and get rid of the problem I kept hearing from some of the players about this weekend that "there wasn't much to do as a PC".


If it takes longer to walk to the module area than the module takes, this is wrong.

If someone spends longer squeezing into a wedding dress to play a creepy undead than she actually got to spend fighting, that monster was not statted correctly.  (I'd give some parries or have something which 'reduces' the max damage they can take from a single hit.)

If NPC's playing crunchies have only one pop then they are dead, this is wrong.

If the modules newbies who are not interested (nor equipped) for combat are indeed combat, perhaps it may be worth writing up totally non-combat problem solving modules for newbies.

If you are holding for a description, your costuming is NOT 'detailed'.   Better to go with extremely simple single color tabbards for most things (since there isn't any or much NPC face paint - I saw little figured it was due to the heat) and more elaborate costumes for the more interesting things.

If you are calling a hold to answer the question 'what do I see', you are breaking immersion and wasting time.  Answers are usually along the lines of "Twisted humanoid", "red eyed bears", etc.  Very short - the players can either figure it out later or research it for themselves ("what was it we fought?".  [As a side note, one very well done response from an NPC at night to the question "what do I see" was "what color is my tabbard?"  The PC didn't know so all he got was "probably humanoid".  That was brilliant because PC's love to do that kind of crap all the time.  It stopped at that chapter after word got around and that became the norm.]

If you have twenty NPC's sitting around NPC camp, this is so amazingly wrong it would cause many chapter owners heads to figuratively explode.  Can't a few NPC's go be crunchies?  Before anyone says that isn't how the PC base likes it's NERO, I'd like to point out that for three minor undead the entire town got involved due to boredom.


Jugger Rules here.
Jugger video to follow.


  1. Logan if you cycle back to the states I would love for you to play in Kzoo. Seth and I are running plot there and I think you would have a good time. I am really proud of what we have built.

  2. I will eventually visit the states again. Of course I want to NERO at Kzoo!



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