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Monday, July 3, 2017



PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE RACISM

In the last blog (read previous blog) I'd mentioned that many people in the USA had 'passive-aggressive racism'.

Here's a meme which illustrates that:








ANOTHER MEME

Thanks to David H for providing this one.


THIS IS TRUE.




DYSTOPIA RISING  (AKA DR)

My buddy Seth kindly arranged and paid for me to go experience Dystopia Rising.  This is a new LARP I'd never heard of before so I was curious to find out about it.  More so as it seems to be a fast growing game that has a lot of people excited.

Other people heard I was going and asked me to give them my opinions on it.

I took a lot of notes during the game for that purpose.

A couple of disclaimers:  Thus far, I've only gone to one chapter (Wisconsin).  Another visit to a different chapter is scheduled in a couple weeks.  Also, unlike in the NERO larp, I don't have a bunch of chapter owners who are friends I can get that behind the scenes point of view from.  So this is pretty much all from a new guy who was dropped in to it.

Also, since I've played a couple of decades of NERO, I will make tons of comparisons between this LARP and NERO as it is my only real basis for comparison.  So you're going to get a bunch of those.

Lastly, if you've never played a LARP, I'd suggest expanding your experiences and trying one out.



WELCOME TALK

Back in the old days, NERO use to do a 'welcome to the site and event' chat.  Due to poor planning, laziness, people arriving at various times or whatever I've not seen much of this in the last decade.

They did a welcome talk where in addition to the usual information I got to find out two interesting things.

1)  The first rule of DR is 'Don't be a dick'.  Good first rule.
2)  Second thing is that the only verboten topic in DR is sexual assault.  It doesn't exist period.  Fine - there is some pretty dark shit here (cannibalism, zombies, betrayal, etc) so this one thing is the 'too far' line.

And they have a 'safe space' for people who are overwhelmed at logistics.

Neat.  Fine.



NEWBIE ARMBANDS

One idea which had sounded great but due to poor execution (they forgot to bring them) completely fell flat was 'blue armbands'.   These would be passed out to newbies who would wear them for some amount of time.  Not sure if it was three months, three events or something else.  Till they were no longer complete newbies.

The stated purpose of these would be so that newbies could get help dealing with battle calls, the world, skills, etc.  Also (and much more interesting) so that experienced players would know they were newbies and make an effort to get them integrated into things.  Maybe give them simple missions so they could pick up a little coin or whatever.  Make them feel like part of the family a bit so they might come back and bring their friends.

A brilliant idea blown because nobody thought to bring armbands.  Given the importance of newbie retention (and those newbies bringing their friends) I find it quite astonishing they don't leave them in the vehicle or NPC camp stuff.



THE NEWBIE RUN

They had about ten newbies (which the experienced players called 'new fish' for reasons never explained to me who were asked to gather after the mildly disorganized (as all I've been to have been) player talk finally ground to a halt.

One of the people running things (was he the chapter owner?  I have no idea) talked to the newbies, offered to answer any questions and then told us he would walk us into town.

We were at the 'depot' (logistics) and would be headed into 'town'.  It was a long fucking way, especially for my fat ass.

Along the way were a couple very small groups of zombies which the experienced guy used to try to teach the newbies the basics of combat.

Eventually, we made it into town and were taken to a bar/food place known as the 'Lemonade Stand'.

The lady who ran it had a brilliant idea which again fell upon it's face.   Partially due to execution, partially to not getting buy in from the townspeople.

She told the newbies that if they grabbed a towns person and brought them to the Lemonade Stand that both the newbie and towns person would get a free drink.  Obviously, the intent was to have the newbie and towns person be able to chat - at least for however long it took for the drink to be drunk.  Maybe the newbie could ask questions, maybe the towns person could find out something about the newbie - who knows.

While all the other newbies milled around trying to work up the courage to ask a towns person for a drink (maybe having it the other way around might be nice - don't know) I grabbed a random towns person and asked him.  He agreed, got his drink, passed it off to someone else and wandered off.

"Well, he doesn't seem to give a fuck about me."  I thought and moved on.  With my free drink.  Damned fine lemonade.  Sweet, sweet lemonade.

Later that night, I decided to try to get some sleep.  Not a whole lot seemed to be going on and the town seemed to be mostly milling about or whatever.  At that point, the fuckery started.

After I went to bed in the 'hostel' (thirty or more mattresses laid out on the floor) lock picking window climbing in zombies made it inside three different times and were beating on my fellow sleepers.  Since my character literally had no combat skills, I just tried to get some sleep during the carnage.

I was doing alright until the violin started at eight AM in the goddamned morning.

So now I'm on four hours of sleep.   Meh.

Nobody else was screaming in rage or murdering the violinist so I just got up and went with the flow.  It turns out that someone (I forget who - sorry) was making really great biscuits and gravy for the camp.  This was great because there was no 'meal plan' at this event.  Lots of different people brought their own food.  You could buy food at the Lemonade Stand, but that cost in game money and newbies do not start with any in game money.

I still regret not getting a second helping of biscuits and gravy even though everyone was threatened with death if they did.  So good.  So good.



MY CHARACTER

Although Seth had encouraged me to read the rule book or even help build my own character, I decided after looking at their thick assed rule book (3cm?) 'oh hell no'.  Seth made my character who was a tinkerer.  My character had the ability to make basic shit and repair shit.

Also, he made my character a 'rover'.  This is pretty much a person who travels a lot.  Good fit.  The required costume for this 'strain' (like a race but not) is that they have to wear a lot of scarves.  Bandannas seemed close enough to me and since in real life I am kind of a rover, I own a bunch of these.  I knotted several together and made a loop I put over my head and one arm to mark me.

Because I was feeling super lazy and would only be going to two total sessions of this game before going back to Eurasia, I decided to just use the back story of my NERO character and have him on this world.  Since magic and all the fantasy realm stuff (aside from zombies) wasn't going on, he would figure he was having a weird hallucination or something.  Having Lumsie talk about insane stuff would be fine I reasoned because chances are great anyone living in the DR world should have heavy PTSD and quite a few different types of insanity.

For two events, it would work.

I  discovered a couple downsides of my character as I went through play.  First, for 'basic stuff' there was zero market.  The next tier up of goods was plentiful and cheap - nobody wanted basic.  Also, repairing a basic suit of armor means sitting around at a work bench tapping one thing on another for ten minutes.  Why nobody was using that time to say build real actual chain mail (or something useful) escapes me.

Also, extremely cheap people said that repairs should be done for free.  If people don't repair the armor of the fighters, it is argued, then the zombies will over run and kill everyone.  I responded that I needed money to buy food.  Whether I died from hunger or zombies didn't seem to be that huge of a distinction in my mind.  This did stop the tightwad and made him think a bit.  After that, I just told people 'will repair armor for food' and everyone seemed happy with that.

I didn't go hungry.

Note that my 'build shit' skill (not the official name) did get me one quest - which took all Saturday.  (See below, 'the quest for the doctor's bag').



ECONOMY NOTES

Although I was told it is changing, there seemed to be two types of people at the event - rich and poor.  I personally found two rich people.  Everyone else seemed to be (or said they were) dirt assed poor.  I sat down and spoke to one of the rich merchants to find out what the deal with the economy was.

In NERO, it is a 'murder economy'.  All treasure originally comes from killing monsters.  DR flips that on it's head.  Killing monsters is the drain on the treasure.  Treasure comes from farmers, brewers, scroungers (etc).

A note on scroungers.  Back in the old days of NERO, some times staff would go out into the woods and leave module cards or perhaps even treasure.  This eventually tapered off because it was extra work, some cards and such were never found - or acted on, etc.  Basically, thin staff and laziness.

In DR, they have an entire profession whose job it is to go out and find crap lying around.  They can take a certain amount/kind of stuff and must leave other stuff behind.  Staff does indeed leave stuff lying around for them to find.

Stuff in DR is priced in 'money'.  "This costs one money."  A couple people called it 'credits'.

All but the yellow cards are examples of various money.  Each is printed on a credit card looking/feeling/size hard plastic tab.   Hopefully, someone in management has been clever enough to make larger denominations but the only ones I've seen are ones, fives and tens.  The yellow cards are scrap which are almost always worth 'one money' each.

Food costs - a drink or a taco, 1 money.  Double stuffed taco, 2 money.  Nachos with lots of meat, 3 money.

At the low end, the economy is pretty simple:  1 money = 1 scrap = 2 herbs.  That's really all you need to know.  Of course if someone has bought up all the scrap or herbs, the price may alter.

Talking to a PC merchant, I found that mid level characters with the right skills, connections and the ability to be able to do things like pretend to farm a ten by ten section for hours of real time can make about ten money per hour.  This is OK but for clever folks they can make that in minutes with the right deals, travel and such.  If I lived in the USA and played this game a few times a month, I have no doubt I could get there.  But since I don't and won't...

One thing the wise merchant did say is that the only real limit for him was actual time...



DAYTIME AT LAST (SATURDAY)

During LARPs, Saturday generally goes one of two ways - either people are busy running modules or they are sitting around 'role playing with each other'.  In NERO, this generally means 'a shit event without much plot is going on'.

People seemed to be mostly sitting around talking to each other here but unlike NERO events having a decent time doing it.  Weird.  I admit I have no idea why.

I have been assured that there is plot going in.  Unlike NERO, I didn't see groups regularly (or even irregularly) wander off on adventures.  Certainly, there was no 'town adventure'.  (For the record, IMO 'town adventures' were almost always super lame and best avoided.)  I've been told that the plot build up is more subtle and such here.  People that use to play NERO and now play DR tell me that DR is more of a 'sustained investment' than NERO plot.


LOGAN'S QUEST FOR MONEY AND FOOD

I went back to the Lemonade Stand because there was food there.  I reasoned that where there is food, there may be some way for me to get food.  It seemed very unlikely that Seth and I would leave the camp to get food - there seemed to be nothing (other than a bar which if you live in a small town you probably need) there that served meals.

So I needed to get some food.

They had something like a job board there.  Small medallions with things printed on them.  One was 'sell ten newspapers'.  I forgot to ask how much this would pay or read the reverse side of the medallion which would have told me.

I was given ten newspapers and went around selling them for one money each to various PC's.  To help them to want to buy the paper, I would make up various outrageous headlines ("Pretty girl buys newspaper, read all about it!" type of thing.)

After selling them, I went back and received...one money.

Well, fuck this I thought.  I'd felt lucky to have sold off the previous ten newspapers and had no desire to spend another half hour or hour to try to sell ten more.  Fortunately, they also gave me a lemonade.  Probably because they saw the look on my face when I got paid.

I decided to try to use my character's abilities to get some money going so that I could buy lunch.  The biscuit and gravy I'd had earlier helped but hunger would come later so I had to hustle.  I began the quest for the Doctor's Bag.  (Play dramatic music).



THE QUEST FOR THE DOCTOR'S BAG

After asking around, I found that a guy who claimed to be the head of the tinker's guild was working at a workbench.  I went and asked him what needed doing.  He tried to recruit me to the tinker's guild.  I explained that I was a rover, not around for long and probably would never be back.  I failed to mention that unless he could actually provide work I saw no benefit at all to joining any guild.  He said that he did have some work but since he didn't have any glue, he didn't have anything for me.

I asked him how much he was paying for glue.  Five money.  After going around and talking to some other people I tried to get more money out of him but he was firm on five.  He eventually agreed to give me the five and I would get the glue for him using that money.  Fortunately, the 'rover' strain has a thing where they won't break their word if they shake on it.

One herb was needed to make glue.  No herb was initially available but eventually I managed to talk someone in to selling me two for one money - the standard rate.

To make glue, I needed a brewer.  Found a farmer who could do basic brewing - but he had no distillery.  So I had to find the brew thingee.  Found it but hey, it's not free to use.  So I had to rent the time as well as pay the farmer to brew it.  Ended up with two glue brewed for four money (including the cost of the herbs).

Now in order to get the cards that say 'glue', you have to take the brewer, the card for the distillery and the card for the herbs and walk your happy ass to the depot (aka 'logistics') which is a long way away through potentially zombie infested areas.

Super.  My one coin of profit had to go to tipping the person the farmer had an arrangement with to help guard us.

But eventually, I had two glue - one extra!

I went back to the head of the tinker's guild and presented him with the glue.  He seemed a bit surprised as he'd heard there was no herb left in town.  "Where is the project?" I asked lest he lose focus and wander off - a common adventurer problem.

Eventually, he got me a blue print for something called a 'doctor's bag' and all of the stuff to build it, including the glue I'd just gotten.  He told me he'd pay me five money to build it.

Considering how long it took just to get the glue made (including walking, finding people, haggling, etc - couple hours) I was less than thrilled but assured that was 'standard guild rate'.

Well, fine.  I hoped to then make a total of ten money off this deal - five for putting together the doctor's bag and hopefully selling the head of the tinker's guild the extra glue.  The glue wouldn't expire for an entire year and I'd been told that it was used in a wide variety of things so...

So I spent time making the 'doctor's bag'.  Normally this would have taken thirty (??) minutes but since I'd learned the skill 'educated', that knocked a flat ten minutes off.  After finishing up tapping a small bottle on a work bench with the blueprint (like a NERO formal scroll in many ways) and materials (components) in front of me I was done.

Not really.

No, I had to make the trip to the dreaded 'depot'.

Hey, fortunately, a large group of people were also headed that way.  I could tag along with them.  Super.

Seven people fucking died.

I managed to (very very slowly) escape and help raise the alarm.  Other people came and looted the bodies of their friends.  The massively powerful twenty damage swinging skull faced zombie who was leading three beings covered in blood had wandered off.  Note that my starting hit points (amount of damage I could take) started at eight so I can only presume that had I been hit, my family in distant lands would have also taken damage.

Fortunately, the lady who owned the table (and got the tag for the table - needed) still wanted to go to the depot.

{Because the players need to visit the depot all the time in DR, it use to be manned twenty four hours a day.  Because some of the people weren't sleeping at all, they knocked it down to a mere twenty hours per day to try to convince some of the staff to sleep.

NERO people, let that sink in.  They have enough staff to keep a desk manned by usually two people twenty hours per day.  Yeah.  On top of that, NPC'ing is mandatory.   There is no whining about needing to do it.  It is an expected part of the culture.  Being able to opt out is possible but the event costs twenty dollars (20USD) more and there are a limited number of 'opt out' slots.  Mind blowing.  Note I'm not saying that they are actually using all these NPC's well - I have no idea.  I didn't see many of them.  Perhaps they were creeping around in the woods.  Maybe there were modules going on of which I was completely unaware.  I'm not sure if the NPC shift is four hours or longer.  [For non-gamers I am sorry I could not find a good definition of 'module'.  Generally, it is an entire or part of an adventure in which a group of PC's go out and do stuff.]}

So, at long last, I got the doctor's bag card.  As is normal with pretty much every LARP I'd done in the last couple decades, after a big attack the roads are safe for an hour or so.  The three of us wandered back to town.

I turned in the blue print, doctor's bag card and extra components to the head of the tinkering guild.  He paid me.  I asked if he considered our deal complete.  He said he did.  We shook on it.  I then pulled out my extra glue and offered to sell it to him at the same price as the first.  This should be a good deal for him - especially given what a pain in the ass it was to get.

"I don't have any money left." he responded.

For folks that are new to LARPs, here's a hint.  If you present some newbie stuff to a 'guild master' and they claim not to be able to afford it run.  Don't work for them, don't join them and avoid them.  Either they really don't care about you the newbie enough to give you a minor amount of newbie treasure or they are not competent enough to have a decent pile of money sitting around.  Either way, you don't want to get in with them.

So I questioned people, found out who someone else was that was rich, told him my tale of woe and sold it to him.   I figured he was just being kind to a newbie.  But, since it was fresh, something that was widely needed and a huge pain in the ass to get made - I figure both of us did OK in that deal.

After various tips, spending money on food and such, I ended up with twelve money.  Talking to other players, they often claimed to either have made no money or under four on their first event.  No clue what is up with that.



SUNDAY

At NERO, you get up, clean up and take off.  Maybe to eat with others, maybe just go home.

At DR, the culture is completely different.

I woke up fairly early, took a shower and changed into my civilian clothing.  I'd have done well to have a second costume for my character.

Everyone played from about eight in the morning till noon.  Not kidding.

After that, there was stuff to go through.

You had forty-five minutes to clean up the area you slept in.  This had to be signed off by a marshal.

Then, on the character sheet, you had an area you were assigned to help clean.  You go there and do as asked until they are happy and have a marshal sign off on that as well.

Then, as you are getting ready to leave another marshal takes the sheet, checks both signatures and off you go.

I was asked what happens if someone has to leave early and was told they would be assigned some where to clean at that time.

In conclusion, no cleaning means you definitely get no build.  Not sure if there would be any other repercussions.   This is probably a better system than I've seen in NERO where it often ends up with the same few people doing the cleaning for the masses every time.



OTHER LITTLE NOTES

The rules book (which you can buy on site but not the t-shirts for some reason) is available at the site for sale.  Also, it is an 'in game' book they call the 'survivor's guide'.  It is a thick assed book.  There are also other books which are apparently stories and illustrate the world, etc.

If you go to this game, bring timers.  Really.  Everything takes real life time.  You might be at a bench for minutes or hours depending on what you are doing.  Or in a field.  Bring some stopwatches or egg timers.

The economic system in DR is amazing and has a LOT of potential.   They have a lot of stuff which is only available through certain chapters and many things which not only come from only one chapter but are seasonal.

Apparently, you get less XP when traveling.  I'm not sure of the exact amounts but after what I found out, the XP you gain from travel (assuming you are clever) matters 'fuck all'.  It's all about the trades/contacts/money/blue prints/etc you can bring back to your home chapter.  Anyone who has any kind of brains and skill can make traveling well worth their wild.

Unlike (badly run) NERO, it seems that DR has a much stronger team leading it.  Reminds me of 'old fashioned' franchising vs McDonald's style.  In the old days of franchising, you would pay some money to a person to use their restaurant name.  What was served might be completely different.  In McDonald's style franchising, if you don't use the hamburger buns they tell you to, they yank your license and poof - you are no longer a McDonald's.  I have no idea if DR does this but they seem to all be going from one script.

Story Tellers (AKA ST's) have a shift (six hours?) and then play the rest of the time.

I checked on the DR website and for reasons that escape me, they don't have just regular DR t-shirts.  You can only get chapter specific ones.  Weird.

There was a definite feeling of comradery within the DR community.  I don't know about all of the chapters but this one did not feel 'clickish'.  Since the game is strongly set up on 'groups of people doing things together' (to even make fairly basic things) that seems reasonable.

I do personally see a bit of a problem in that (at the moment and in the chapter I was) 'one money' is still considered a bit of wealth.  Will it become less so over time?  Something like 'dragon poker' (or any gambling) I've not yet seen because even a small amount of money is considered quite a bit.

Unlike NERO, the system they use (from my extremely limited understanding) is made for the 'long haul'.  With something like NERO, once players progress beyond level thirty, they begin to get unwieldy - especially with swinging damage.  Example - in NERO, getting to the point of swinging tens doesn't take all that long.  The problem is that these days, there are people who can literally swing one hundred's.  Balancing monster hit points for both the hard swinging groups and more modestly swinging groups is not really possible.  In DR, swinging tens might be possible but if someone is swinging above that (up to twenties is what I'd heard about) they are burning resources to do so.  Also, I spoke with an experienced (300 build/xp/whatever they call it) character who told me that putting things into thirds (one third into body aka HP, one third into skills and one third into mind which is often the limiter for skills and abilities) is the way to go.

Simpler combat (no stupid spell incants) but a much more complicated social/economic dynamic.  I am totally great with that.

I've been told DR is made for groups.  Solo play is super hard but possible.



IN CONCLUSION

It seems that both the system and leadership of DR are light years ahead of NERO.  Also, DR seems to be growing very quickly.  I've heard that a chapter in CA which is only a year or two old has already bought a permanent site.   The numbers of players at DR events seem a lot larger than any of the regular NERO events I've been to or heard about.  Heck, this (WI) was a newish chapter and it had fifty or sixty people.

But what the hell is the draw?

I feel like I've seen a duck floating on the water.  I know that the legs under are kicking feverishly but wasn't able to see them this last event.

Not sure what the draw is with DR.  I feel I am missing a vital piece of the puzzle.  Hopefully, I will find out more at the next event.

For those thinking about DR or have been to an event and didn't like it - I'm thinking, try to find a large event.  Go check out an event of a few hundred people and see if you can find out what the draw is.  Let me know.

I'll put up more after the Colorado event in a couple of weeks.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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