The Darkest Space: Knife Fighting Mechanics

For today’s #MechanicsMonday, let’s talk about what knife fighting will look like in the upcoming Fanseeth game!

See, knife fighting is sort of a thing among the Fanseeth. Actual dueling with actual knives was outlawed in the early days, but there remain multiple competitions and sports that involve it, as well as duels to settle issues—especially between young people and between clades. These duels are seldom done with real knives, and even when they are the consequences are rarely directly fatal. Often ways of simply marking the opponent are used, with some agreed-upon bet set ahead of time.

We’ll talk more about the hows and whys of these fights in an upcoming #WorldbuildingWednesday, but for now: let’s talk about the out-of-game mechanics of knife fighting for the upcoming game, The Darkest Space.

For the purposes of the game there are four guiding principles:

  • No real weapons. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. No real injuries. Weapon approximations should also total less than one foot (12 inches) in length (pommel to tip).
  • All fights *must* be with “lightest possible touch” as the guiding principle, and no thrusting with weapons is allowed (this is cultural as well, more on that later). No cuts to the head, hands, or neck either.
  • Any contest has to be agreed to by both parties, and the blades or blade facsimiles you are using must be both inspected by the opposing party and approved of. You assume all risks (we as the LARP organizers don’t assume them), so make extra sure that you are comfortable with the person you are fighting, the rules of the engagement, and the weapons being used.
  • Any fight needs to have at least one volunteer stand by as safety marshal who is briefed on the engagement, consenting, who has inspected the “weapons” and consented to their use as well, and who can be trusted to keep people out of the engagement (if you negotiate a party barging in that’s another matter, but they should be apprised of it). IG they can have a role as a second, a marshal (so they are a marshal both IG and OOG), or even as a bet taker, just so long as their focus is on the fight while the fight is taking place.

Basically: the emphasis is on small, light cuts. Frequently to called targets and/or at reduced speed and/or with other restrictions that are more IG than OOG.

We’ll talk more about the IG culture and rules in a later post, but for the purpose of this post: Before you challenge someone, make sure you have an out-of-game consent negotiation as to what you are going for. What the rules of your contest are, what the potential outcomes are, and what you are going to be using.

Examples of good choices for weapon facsimiles, depending on what you are doing and who you are fighting:

  • Padded boffer daggers from basically any of the local boffer LARPs. This is probably the best choice for the majority of our players.
  • Rubber, plastic, or even wood practice blades (talk to the LARP organizers if you want recommendations).
  • Sidewalk chalk! This is extremely effective for showing “cuts” and works exceptionally well if you think of it as “showcasing a duel of skill” rather than “representing a cut with a real weapon.”
  • Latex daggers, of the style you see in basically any local boffer LARP tend to not be great choices for this style of fighting, but you can use them if both parties are comfortable.

You may want to bring multiple types, so that if someone isn’t comfortable with one type you can use a different type.

If you are looking to duel, depending on the style that interests you (or that is used in your clade), you may also want to bring:

  • A piece of cloth for both parties to hold in their primary hand (while trying to cut with a blade in their offhand).
  • A few lengths of rope (I like P.O.S.H. rope for this purpose, but any rope will work) or other form of marker to designate an area that the fight has to stay within.
  • Marker flags for “keeping score.”

Poor choices of weapon facsimiles (consider these banned):

  • Metal practice blades or SCA-style metal daggers.
  • PVC with no padding or just wrapped in tape.
  • Permanent marker, since it tends to get into people’s clothing.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas for the upcoming game! Let us know if you have any questions.

Navigating Consent-Based Play

Temet Nosce is a consent-based larp where we strive for collaborative story built out of mutual trust. The design emphasizes the principle that players are more important than games: the emotional safety of players is more important than story, plot, or consequence. At all four prequel events, we will workshop consent mechanics which are used to pre-negotiate interpersonal conflicts, romantic interaction, and other intense scenes.

One question that we hear from larpers with a traditional U.S. boffer larp background about consent-based design is this: “How do you make someone fight with you?” The answer is: you don’t. You ask or negotiate it, and they can say no. Then you get to choose some other approach.

In traditional U.S. boffer larp, sometimes it feels like “staff versus player”; in many U.S. parlor larps, it can feel like “player versus player”. Staff is out to kill your character and you’re trying to survive the game world; even if that isn’t actually staff’s intent, it’s often player perception. Players are out to get their character to become more powerful, often at the expense of other characters – even if, again, that isn’t the design or intent. This competitive style of play can be exciting, satisfying, and enjoyable for many people. But this is not the design of Temet Nosce.

In consent-based larp design, staff and players are working together to maximize play and story. The focus is on the story, character development, character relationships, and the emotional experience. No one is killing your character without your permission. So what do you want to happen to your character, and how can you collaborate with others to achieve that? What experiences do you want to have, and how do you make that happen? If you didn’t get the experience you wanted or it wasn’t what you expected, how do you handle that?

Player-staff responsibility

Staff responsibilities in Temet Nosce involve providing workshops to facilitate character development and story negotiation, as well as to train players in safety and consent mechanics. Staff also facilitate debriefs after the event to process the game experience.  Beyond that, staff are there to mediate out-of-game disputes, hold players to the code of conduct, and provide non-player characters, props, setting material, and player character information.

Player responsibilities are being aware of their personal boundaries, needs, and wants to the best of their ability, and communicating these as needed in a clear, direct way. Players are expected to use and respect safety mechanics. in order to participate actively in the game, players have the responsibility to initiate story interactions with the game environment and other characters. In other words, players are as much responsible for their game experience as the staff are, if not more so.

Limits of consent-based play

Obviously no one can control everything that happens in the game environment. We cannot create a safe space, only a safer space. You can only allow or deny consent for what happens directly to your character – so you can choose for your character to survive the whole game, but another player might choose for their character to die halfway through, which might impact you or your character emotionally. Two characters might get into a heated argument in your presence when you didn’t want to be around an argument. These are limits to consent-based play.

What you do have power over is how you choose to engage. If two people are arguing, you can find an in-game reason to leave the room – or you can simply use “lookdown” to remove yourself from the room. If a character died and you aren’t up for engaging with that, you can choose for your character to not care much about it, or to avoid dealing with the death – even if what you think your character would be most likely to do is cry over the body.

Any person has multiple ways they can respond to a stimulus. Even as a simulationist player who plays as close to your character’s essence as possible, there is more than one option for how your character would realistically respond. You can steer towards what is most interesting for you, for the story, and/or what is most enjoyable (or least stressful) for you as a player.

Making the most of your game

If you get to choose whether your character lives or dies, and the major things they succeed or fail at… then how do you make the most of your story?

  • Know what’s fun for you, and play towards it.
  • Know what you don’t enjoy, and steer away from that.
  • Play generously. Learn what other players want and look for opportunities to help them with that. Invite people into your story, and be interested in theirs, too.
  • “Play to lose”, or at least play to maximize story. Play for drama. Failing at things, struggling with goals, falling down before you reach the metaphorical finish line… all of this makes for way more interesting story and roleplay than succeeding easily at everything.
  • Ask yourself: What do I want from this scene or interaction? Ask that of others if you feel stuck, too. If you make a scene request, it’s also the first thing staff will ask you. You can say “surprise me”, or something vague like “emotional intensity”, or something specific like “I want to find out more about the creepy artifact”. You might not always get exactly what you want, but you’ll get closer to it than if you don’t ask at all.

Play the game you signed up for

The game is designed to evoke a certain mood, theme, and experience; this is spelled out in the event sign-up page and the design document. By playing the game, you are opting into those themes. Play the game you signed up for; help enrich the experience of everyone around you by staying in-genre and playing up the game’s themes with your character. Characters were written to evoke the game’s stated themes, and the events of the setting add to that.

If you want a cyberpunk revolution sort of adventure, play Operation: ReForge, the Etamui event in March. Don’t expect the horror/mystery game The Darkest Space (which you can register for now!), set in the Fanseeth system, to fit that desire.

In summary…

  • Players are more important than games.
  • Know your limits and don’t ignore them.
  • Communicate your needs, wants, and boundaries.
  • Absolute safety cannot be guaranteed, but we can collaborate to  create as safe an environment of trust and consent as possible.
  • Collaboration over competition.
  • Play generously.
  • Play the game you signed up for.
  • Embrace ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Play to lose, or at least play for drama.
  • Players are more important than games.

Temet Nosce Prequels: The Pilot Episode

One of our priorities at Temet Nosce Larp is providing strong expectation management. We do better at this in some areas than others, and the feedback after our first prequel, Children of Earth: Grand Assembly illustrated where we needed to expand our expectation management and communication.

We are running four prequel events, each centering on a different primary world in the Temet Nosce universe. The first, Grand Assembly, focused on the Children of Earth. The second event is January 27, 2018 and centers around the Fanseeth; registration for The Darkest Space is open now. Operation: ReForge, all about the Etamui, is scheduled for March 31, 2018; the as-yet unnamed Nurani game is planned for sometime in summer 2018.

The purpose of the prequel games is multi-fold:

  1. Set up the story for the main event: a short series of beta events in 2018, and then the official opening of Temet Nosce after the beta events are complete.
  2. Establish player culture through workshops, debriefs, and story-intensive events.
  3. Provide an opportunity for players to have an in-depth experience with all four worlds so as to better understand the setting and get a feel for what they want to play long-term.
  4. Elaborate on and worldbuild the four different worlds, and provide an opportunity for players to invest in and contribute to the worldbuilding.

In this post, I’m going to elaborate on the first point: setting up the story.

A player commented that Grand Assembly felt much like the pilot episode of a sci-fi television series: setting the stage for future episodes, providing glimpses of a greater threat, revealing the presence of mysteries but not solving them. This is a perfect metaphor for exactly what the prequel events are intended to be.

The four prequels can be seen as a four-part pilot episode for Temet Nosce.

“Television networks use pilots to discover whether an entertaining concept can be successfully realized. After seeing this sample of the proposed product, networks will then determine whether the expense of additional episodes is justified. They are best thought of as prototypes of the show that is to follow, because elements often change from pilot to series.” –Wikipedia

The prequels are both episodic (fully closed stories with their own arc) and serial (setting up an overarching story). You should be able to complete your character’s story arc within the single episode of the prequel, as these are not designed to be repeatable characters, but the arc of the setting will not be closed in the prequel.

As an example: in Grand Assembly, the gathered Children of Earth from three different ships and factions arrived, met each other, traded stories along with futures, options, and stocks, developed romances, and arranged transfers between ships.Two characters died during the Grand Assembly and a memorial service was held for them. The Assembly ended with an announcement of the new trade routes for each ship. The episode arc was the Grand Assembly itself.

However, mysteries were building in the background. Reports trickled in of ships lost in space: missing ships, or ships that showed up with their entire crew missing, or ships with their entire crew braindead and comatose, all across the outskirts of the major star systems. There was no resolution to this in the episode itself, and there was no way to figure out what was behind these strange tragic events. That was intentional; this creeping mystery is a setup for future games.

In The Darkest Space, expect there to be both an episode arc and the setup for the serial arc. There will be mysteries you can’t solve neatly in a single episode, and there will be problems you can solve within the episode. Look, however, to your character’s arc, as you have the power to choose much of what that single-episode character story entails. What do you want to accomplish in that time? What experiences do you want to have? Work with your fellow players to work towards those goals. Or, if you’re more of a seat-of-your-pants sort of player, just play with what comes up in the moment of the game, though we strongly recommend at least planning some character dynamics with your fellow players ahead of time!

Children of Earth: Economy

Today’s post is both about the commerce and economy of the Children of Earth, and also about mechanics for the prequel game, Grand Assembly.

Before we get too far into this, keep in mind that these things are here to enhance your play. If something seems like it will get in the way of that—breathe, and then figure out what will work for you. You won’t break the game by changing things around to make them simpler if it adds to your enjoyment.

Economy

Each of the four primary cultures have a slightly different take on the matter of currency and money. The Children of Earth have to be able to not only navigate between these different systems, but do so in a way that maintains their autonomy and that allows for exceedingly long delays between transactions.

Thus, for the Children, they predominantly operate with three general types of transactions, which they buy and sell both to the cultures that they interact with and amongst each other. They have three devices that they use to negotiate this:

  • Stock
  • Futures
  • Options

The Children are traders first and foremost. They do not use a standardized representational currency, but instead talk in terms of trading goods and services both in the present and in the future.

To discuss each of these in turn, at a very high level:

Stock represents a unit of ownership in a ship or a fleet. No stocks pay dividends and most are passed down generation to generation within a single family. It is considered a great loss of face to sell stock you may own outside of the family, but it does happen when families or individuals run too hard down on their luck.

By way of example, you may own one (or many) unit(s) of stock which represents a unit of interest—ownership—in a ship. You may also have gambled that away because you were down on your luck… with the option to buy it back at a later date (more on that in a moment).

Futures represent an agreement to buy or sell something on a given date. So by way of example, you may have a Future that agrees to sell 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts for a given amount of gold in 30 years (at the next grand assembly) to another family of Children. Now in 30 years they have to make sure that they have 100 gross of self sealing stem bolts and the other family has to make sure that they have enough gold to cover the deal.

These, of course, can be traded. So if I happen to have a good price on self-sealing stem-bolts, I might buy your Future by giving you 50 gallons of Nurani Drinking Vinegar which I don’t have another good way to get rid of. You, however, are on your way to one of the worlds around the Nurani, so you can make a tidy and quick profit off of it.

Futures may have penalties written into them or violation of them may involve being brought up for violation of the Merchant Law.

Finally, there are Options. Options represent the right to purchase (or sell) something on a given date for a certain amount, and if you don’t exercise it then it simply expires. So I may have the option to sell 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts to a group of Fanseeth for a given amount of gold 30 years from now, but if I don’t exercise it then it simply expires, which means I have suffered a financial loss but at least I have not reneged on my agreement.

There are, of course, more complex versions of all of these, but that’s the high level version of them.

Note: If you are familiar with these devices in the real world be advised that I don’t want to be calculating Black-Scholes mid-game, so we are dramatically simplifying things and abusing the terminology slightly, e.g., our Futures are closer to Forwards, we’re avoiding the words ‘call’ and ‘put’, etc.

In-Game Mechanics

So what does this translate to in-game?

First, we will be giving each group and/or individual in-game a certain set of basic stock, options, and futures to play with that you picked up on your last trade route, which we’ll also be giving to you. None of these will be especially complex, but will give you a basic template to work with.

Second, we are emphasizing this as a Progressive style game in this regard. If you don’t like the hand you’ve been dealt, make something else up! If you want to play with being an unsuccessful trader who has bargained away some of their family stock, then don’t let the fact that we gave you a great set of options and futures and stock deter you! If you think you should be playing a well-to-do trader then by all means, add more stock, options, and futures. Make it up and have fun with it. You don’t need our permission. You won’t break the game.

If you want reassurances on this point, by all means come talk to us.

Third, on that note, make it as simple or as complex as you can have fun with. If you really, really want to play with complex options that follow a Bermuda option model and have futures that trade based on the average price of a commodity over time—go for it! If you want everything to be utterly simple, you can do that too.

If you want to consult either direction, please feel free to ping us.

Trade Routes

As to trade routes. Part of the goal of this assembly is establish who has what trade routes for the next cycle. You have what happened last time, but will that be what things look like next time?

The different parties will draw lots at the start of the game to determine the order of who chooses the trade routes. You can trade your place in line—so if you are 2nd and you want to sell your right to select your trade route to the person/group who is 4th (how else are you going to get 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts?), then by all means do so. Everything is tradeable.

You can of course vary your route, make up an entirely new one, or whatever else strikes your fancy, but we’ll provide some basic defaults to make life easy if that’s not your sort of game.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Written by David H. Clements