I miss LARP. The fun of it all, of getting together as a group, the shouting, silliness and shared experiences. The drama, excitement and escapism. Also, the dressing up and trying to thump each other with foam swords. It’s superb fun and more people should do it. Granted, it’s not as if I was doing much of it before lockdown, but there were plans to, and that’s one of the things that’s irritated me the most about the whole thing. Anyhow, the point.
I didn’t plan to write this. A few weeks back I acquired both seasons of Britannia, and had idle thoughts about a LARP in that setting, then set it aside. I’m meant to be writing a game about Minbari politics for Pheno, but a couple of days back my brain misfired, in that wonderful way it does, and I started writing. It’s that wonderful feeling of needing to finish something, and the brain shouting at BRIAN BLESSED volumes “HEY! HERE’S ANOTHER DIFFERENT THING YOU COULD BE DOING!” So, I’m putting it down, to try to get it out of the head. Please don’t take this as an indication that I’m actually working on this. It’s idle work to try to fire up the brain for the thing I should actually be doing, and in all likelihood will soon join the other partially written projects on my Google Drive. Either way, I hope you like it. May it inspire you in your efforts.
Britannia. Roman-era Britain, or something resembling it if you look at it upside down with the lights off. The Iron Crown of the High King of the Picts lies in his tomb and none have dared to quest for it for a decade or more. The tribes squabble amongst each other, bickering over lands and resources, while beasts of legend lurk in the forests and fens. All the while, a larger threats lurks, that of invaders from the South, seeking to crush the last vestiges of free land under their iron boots…
Damn, I do love writing flavour text. Almost as much as my wife enjoys interrupting me reciting it. Moving on. I’m not giving it a date, so I can mess with history. As far as I know, Hadrian’s Wall hasn’t been built, Bouddica hasn’t rebelled and the 9th Legion hasn’t marched into oblivion. Well, maybe. I’m not suggesting we go full Xena, but something close. History is a wonderful thing, and can be just as fun when it’s ignored for the sake of drama or fun, as my Musketeers convention games can attest to.
PC’s – PICTISH TRIBES:
North – Forest folk. Seen as secretive and more savage than others. Reputed to favour human sacrifice in their magics. Not completely evil, but there’s a reputation that exists.
East – They have villages along the coast and are known as fisher folk. Explorers, hunters and traders. Or the other idea was basing the visual look of the Seal people from the film The Eagle, and making them head hunters.
West – Consider themselves the most ancient of the tribes, seen as wizards, scholars and famed for their priests skill at divination. Maybe clad in furs and skins, I dunno?
South – Pastoral and friendly. Craftsman and builders, renowned for their skill at the arts. Perhaps they trade with the others the most?
I’d want something in the background to distinguish between the tribes, a favoured colour or style of dress to help make the difference between them obvious. At minimum, I’d make half the tribes have a matriarchal leadership, the others patriarchal (No, I’ve not idea which I’d choose) and abolish gender stereotypes. I’m already rewriting history, so why not make it a little less horrible?
IN GAME LOCATIONS:
Holy ground, possibly a Druidic enclave.
Roman military forward camp
Tribal meeting place, possibly also featuring an arena for combat between tribal champions, an agreed upon way of solving tribal disputes.
Romans. I can see the first contact with a Legion in Testudo going horribly, as this strange iron beast marches towards them. Maybe later they’ll be added as PC’s.
Fay/Elven creatures. Forest folk, selkies and mythical beasts.
Something resembling the Wee Free Men. Thieves of cattle and goods, a nuisance at first, but could grow more dangerous if angered.
Very loose adaptions or hints at the Arthurian and Robin Hood myths.
The Worms of the Earth. Fuck yes REH.
I know very little about British/Pictish mythology, but I’m sure there’s plenty more that I could mine for ideas.
MAGIC – IS IT A THING?:
Sort of. There’s things that are claimed to be magic by the Druids. No-ones exactly sure if it’s real magic, and the Druids aren’t talking. Such things mostly involve potions, or occasionally shared hallucinogens. Some Druids practice divination by reading animal entrails and the like. Ceremony and ritual are important, magic in this game doesn’t involve fireballs getting flung about. I see a fiery pre-battle speech giving bonuses and morale being incredibly important. Do you stand against impossible odds and inspire a legend, or do you run and live to fight another day, your honour stained with cowardice?
Melee: Swords, daggers, axes (all single handed) and spears are the main weapons, with clubs and staves for the poor or different. Ranged wise, you can choose between bows, javelins and throwing knives/axes. I’m sure there’s companies out there making foam rocks as well, if you’re really cheap. Shields (Ranging from small bucklers to larger oval models) are used by many while armour wise mostly leather is used. Some metal armour, whether forged locally or stolen from Roman invaders could be found, but will be very rare and used only by the high of status or very wealthy. Opinions on armour vary between the tribes, with some regarding it as cowardly, while others will take all the help they can get.
Fast and deadly. I like the idea of a ‘Just before you die’ ability, so you have 10 seconds to be suitable dramatic before you cark it, or something that lets you hold on, but as soon as you stop screaming or chanting you’re dead. Amp up the combat, so to speak, not to movie flashy, but make it big and dramatic so the gods may see you and be entertained. I’m aware of British chariot warfare, but can’t think of a way to make that LARP safe. Well, short of having two people holding hobby horses running in-front of the chariots driver who’s got them on a harness, and by that stage to me it’s less a LARP and more a kink and I’ll just leave that there.
If I was going to be really intense about this, which being a hypothetical I can be, I’d want to set a kit standard and make people buy appropriate looking weapons rather than re-suing medieval style kit. There’s a couple of company’s that make Celtic and Roman style weaponry, and while I’d allow Viking era gear, that would be the latest period that I’d allow. My distaste for overly ornate weaponry still stands, but I’ll refrain from stepping on that soapbox this time.
The films Centurion, The Eagle and the 2004 King Arthur come first to mind, with a heavy dose of Robert E Howard’s Bran Mak Morn stories. The Doctor Who episode The Eaters of Light, the myths from the Rivers of London novels by Ben Aaronovitch and the Slaine series from 2000AD also should be on the list. As for games in the setting, the only one I’ve seen so far is the UK game Dumnonni Chronicles, which seems a bit more fantasy than this game seems to be, but the kit standard is gorgeous.
As for what will happen, I have no idea yet. The first idea I had was of a famous Gaulish Druid visiting, but can you blame me? Sure, the prospect of players in a continuing game getting hold of some of his magic potion is slightly terrifying (In a game balance sense), but once you’ve drunk it, it’s gone. A short think for more ideas produced things like infighting between the tribes, a wedding or a funeral, religious festivals/conflict, young warriors seeking to prove themselves worthy, games (both combat and bardic) and the threat of the Roman invaders.
*whew* Now that that’s out of the system, hopefully I can get back to Minbari politics. In Valen’s name…
Be seeing you…