A Maelstrom moment

Someone on Reddit asked for “Your best/worst larp stories ever”. Now, most of my best moments larping need to be secret for a little while longer, I think, but I posted one of my favourites, and for lack of content here, I’m copying it :).  All the events happened in game (Well, mostly. There’s dramatic licence involved).

Photo by ostephy on Morguefiles.

The system is Maelstrom, UK fest larp. Summer event. The event hosts had chosen to host the festival on land which contained a palisade, and the event organisers (OOC) had agreed to physrep it, so the field is dominated by this giant wooden wall, complete with guarded gate. They camped inside, I was camped outside.

Now, Maelstrom is almost entirely player driven. Massive wars in uptime will happen if two sides are brought to war, monsters only happen if people summon them. There are good guys and Bad Guys, but they’re (almost) all players, and that night some of the most long-running, long hidden Bad Guys came back with an army of summoned undead behind them. Rumour, like a barking dog, ran before them of their plan to attack that night.
The hosts weren’t massively popular, and they were soon… evicted from their nice safe defendable area, and most of the characters (Somewhere around 700? ish?) decamped behind the palisade for the evening. Fires were lit, songs were sung, the clouds gathered in, night fell, and then the storm came.

The storm was awesome in the non-internet sense. Worthy of Awe. Great cracking forks of lightning shattered the darkness, the clouds above us rumbled like the march of gods. Black clouds lurked above the campsite…

…but no rain fell.

The oppressive humidity of an unbroken thunderstorm lay heavy upon the site, ominous and foreboding a doom that was certain. The undead were sighted from the gates, and by gunpowder and swordpoint driven back into hell. It was only temporary – they would rise again, of course – but their presence was proven.

A cry came from behind me, “The shrines are falling” and I ducked into a nearby tent to check. The shrines of my goddess – The Weaver, of free thinking and careful action – bestowed calm and enlightenment on those within, but this one’s effect was shattered. Someone had cast a spell to blight this land, to make it easier to raise the fallen bodies of our comrades as weapons against us.

I am Detail Marshall, priest of the Weaver, my shrine is on the outside of that wall, and within it lies the body of my friend Tac, who was murdered and whose funeral I hosted hours before. I couldn’t let him rise again. I had to reconsecrate my shrine.

Beside the gate an argument was breaking out. Friends of mine wanted to get out to check to see that all the camps were evacuated, that nobody was trapped outside in this. I explained what I needed to do, that unless this was done Tac was certain to rise up undead, and – Weaver bless them – they joined me, and the gate guards relented.

The gates shut behind us firmly, emphasised by the sudden clap of thunder the crack of doom, that lit up the field before us. Never had my camp seen so very far away.
For a dark and stormy night, we could see well. Shifting gaps in the clouds let the full moon shine though, and though the thunder around us shook the world we could see the course before us. We ran.

Something followed.

A sword was pressed into my hand and I waved it without skill as the approaching forms shambled closer, but before they reached us a shout from my left and “Mister Marshall, you seem to need some assistance”… one of my flock, leading a patrol in the dark. They saw off the creatures of darkness and guarded us while I stepped into the shrine.

I chanted and represented the space to my lady, asked for her blessing upon it, and I don’t think it has ever taken so long for my prayers to be answered. Occasional clashes outside told me that the world was still dangerous, but eventually the oppression around me lifted, my thoughts became lighter, and the shrine was consecrated again.

The storm crashed around us as we hurried back to the camp, only hoping that the spell would not be repeated. We huddled within the walls around our fires, the dry storm lit the sky around us,

and the night wasn’t over yet.


'Stromfront, Part One

Taken at Maelstrom's final 2006 event, Matrimony

It’s been nearly six years since I started playing Maelstrom, and it ends this year. Between the sunstroke and the admin problems, I think I was quite lucky in getting my Out of Character “worst event” over with quite so quickly, and in the last six years every single aspect of the character save his player has changed quite dramatically (For starters, I rewrote the background from the one posted here before I sent it to PD, adding a lot more angst and a number of key hooks for character traits, most of which have now triggered).

The character is now a fairly well respected priest of the goddess of free thinking, which is a pretty good thing considering he started with none of this. His list of friends has waxed and waned over the years, but every time I think his story arc has finished, another thing appears. I’ve been plotting various characters on the expectation of his death over the years, but now I doubt I’ll play another character seriously in this campaign.

This event waxed and waned also. The four day easter event is an interesting set of challanges, being the first event of the season as well as the longest and, usually, the coldest. By going up on Thursday for the traditional day-before social gathering, I ended up sleeping in a tent in -4 temperatures. My camping gear isn’t top-level – I camp six weekends a year, almost always during summer, up from four until last year – but it wasn’t pleasant, and by Saturday night I was entirely fed up of life under canvas.

In character wasn’t a lot better. Site layout rendered most of my usual game complicated by long walks and difficult communication lines, and the weather and bleak feel of the game was causing a lot of people to – entirely rationally – give up and go home. By Sunday morning I had a deadline. I had enough cash to get a taxi to the station or I could get lunch, so now I had a Deadline.

I don’t think I like four day events, in general. Three day events tend towards a structure of  Prepare, Build, Execute, Repair of major plotlines, and the extra full day in the middle ends up being a bit vague, lessoning the critical timing. Sunday dialled that directly back up again, with an attack by the current leading army of “bad guys” on the main encampments, a glorious withdrawal and retreat, and a wonderful moment in character where I realised that the gate was being manned by two of my cousins casting spells to check for undead taint and me checking for soul symbols on their foreheads. Between minor revolutions in things he is a part of, and the tense battle of the last night, it had picked up again.

I will say I hate fighting an off-field enemy. One of the great things about Maelstrom is that almost everything there is is driven by players and characters. Even if you are fighting the monster crew in a variety of silly hats, you can be sure that the hats are looted from the city you saw razed in downtime, the monsters are never more numerous than you would have seen if you had spent your downtime looking for them; and for a long time the “bad guys” of the system have been “over there” in another encampment, rather than lumbering on from off-site. The wall and the palisade turned an epic player campaign into a Tower Defence game where the only people who got to play were the ones who ran the gatehouse.

I’m used to having an enormous amount of fun at Maelstrom events, and while I still had a lot of enjoyment, the change of pace of the game is making it harder to play the bits I enjoy. Not enough to not plan to be at the next one, but enough there’s a lives counter in my head, and it’s just had a point taken off.

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Computer Games Gaming Larp


And thus ends the week of Thailand. You might have missed the second to last episode “One day in Bangkok” because I managed to schedule it the same day as the Entertainment one. Well done me.

This week has been dominated by a few things. Teeth, partly. Tuesday I started suffering from massive toothache on the “Why don’t I own a hammer” level. Emergency dentist on Wednesday filed it down so I stopped biting on it and told me to come back in a week. Continued to hurt massively until Sunday, and by Monday barely hurt at all. Still got the dentist on Wednesday, though. They speak of Root Canals, and terrify me by doing so.

Work continues. We’ve released this great new course based on Pearson’s “Market Leader” textbook, so if you know someone who could use a Business-focused English as a Foreign Language course , let me know. I might even be able to wrangle you a discount.

Summer was spent larping, as generally it is. I’ve started to build a reputation as someone who can competently man a ref-desk for reasonably large events. I was doing this for Odyssey in my role as ref, and for Winter in the Willows as Admin, and it worked well, I think. I’m not sure if I am actually good at it, because it isn’t something I actively work at having to try hard to do, and is therefore obviously easy for everyone. Brains are strange.

My Keystone larp, for want of a better term, is ending next year. Maelstrom was the first large event I ever turned up to, and has been absolutely awesome, and I like that it’s ending rather than going on forever. The new one from the same people also looks great, to the point where I’d kind of like to help run it and make other people’s games better. It would, however, mean I’m no longer actively playing any large events, only crewing, which bothers me less than I thought it would. It’s not a decision I have to think about for about a year, and there’s a high chance that if I say “I’d like to crew” they’re going to say “You and that army, play instead”, though. Plus, I’m having a lot of fun satirizing the discussions on what players want out of the game, and I’d feel guilty doing that if I was on the inside.

This weekend, I spent over a quarter of it playing Skyrim, and I’m pretty sure Steam is low-balling that number.  It’s awesome. I should write a review, or something. If I stop playing for long enough.



Things that are happening:

I’m playing Deus Ex, still, but currently short-term distracted by Rock of Ages, which is what happens if you drop a Tower Defence game into Marble Madness, and then give the artistic direction to someone who has been obsessing over Terry Gillam’s cartoon style since Monty Python stopped producing new things

It involves crushing things with boulders, and is therefore a good thing.

Work continues, last night we interviewed the Economist’s Education Corespondent, Alison Goddard, for the benefit of our students. There was deep discussion on the state of education, and also dolphins. We set it in the TV studio we’ve built for the new Languagelab course based on Pearson’s Market Leader textbook.

But this weekend is the last Maelstrom event, and the last big weekend larp thing I’m playing this year (I’m reffing Winter in the Willows at halloween), and with any luck I can close out the year (The end of the character’s sixth year in the system) with a bang.

Back on Sunday.

Current Affairs Larp

Life Imitates Roleplay

Easter weekend, as I said, I was at a LARP Event. At that event, there was a central plot point of a volcano that could erupt at any moment, causing chaos and confusion.

Since the event, I have been communicating, In character, with various people in the wake of the actual eruption and the chaos and confusion it has caused.

The last week has, therefore, suffered several important boundary issues.

My favourite photo of the volcano.


Outstanding in my field

I am back from Maelstrom.

Mud, glorious mud
Mud, glorious mud
The weather was horrid. The fact that the longest event of the year – four days, Friday to Monday, rather than the Friday to Sunday of most events – ends up being both the first event and the one most likely to have the worst of all possible weather for camping in is somewhat unfortunate. During the day was blustery this time, but not terribly cold. The nights, however, were freezing, even with my awesome fluffy sleeping bag, roll mat and two blankets (Yes, I had some stuff under me as well as over me. The main problem appears to be that the sleeping back is great at keeping heat in, but I wasn’t generating enough).

On top of the weather, people have been planning this event for six months, and old grudges have solidified. Plus, people want to keep moving to keep warm, and thus the first event has, in recent years, generally been the one with the highest death count. This event was no difficult, set on a volcanic island, almost all of the population of the game ended up running off site as fast as they could collect their loved things and ones, slightly ahead of a predicted volcanic eruption.

So, generally, I didn’t have a wonderful event, but my character had an *awesome* time, where long-term planned stuff started working, he had people to be angry at and people to negotiate with. I just wish the bastard had made more time for minor things like feeding his physical representation…

Ah well, 59 days, 20 hours, 29 minutes until the next one.

Larp Personal


Ah, the first daily update fail. I went to a LARP event. I meant to queue some posts up for the weekend, but then I had a week of doing stuff every evening. Anyway, I had a weekend of roleplaying, politicing, dancing, wandering about in the snow in a kilt, and not enough sleep. Therefore I got home, rebooted this server (May have to reimage or something, something is screwed somewhere) had a bath in the hope that my shoulders would stop hurting, and went to bed.

Because this was somewhere around 8pm, I then woke up somewhere around five. Clever Aquarion.



I have returned from Maelstrom Event 1.

Maelstrom is a Fest-style LARP system run by Profound Decisions.  In the greatest of 1980s educational films, lets break that sentence down into smaller bits.

LARP stands for Live Action Roleplay. It’s very much like the standard “Tabletop” Dungeons and Dragons style games which you are probably more familiar with. You create a character (“Bob is a Normal Male Human”, “Jenny is an Undead Female Badger”, “Joe is a Giant Talking Cock”), Assign them some attributes within the system (“Bob is a Barbarian with lots of strength and candyfloss for brains, giving him +5 to all battle roles and a +3 sugar rush three times daily”, “Jenny is charismatic, but unfortunately let down by the way her arm keeps dropping off. +5 to sustained impressions, -4 to first impressions, +9 to sewing”, “Joe is in love with the chicken of his dreams. -5 against anything chicken related – does not include KFC – +6 to endurance regained from a good night’s sleep”). And run adventures with you playing the part of that character (This is not a necessary order. You can create the character and choose skills and race to fit, or you can do whatever you feel to make a character that works for you and the game. Time-travelling geologists may not apply, depending on setting).

The central difference between Tabletop and LARP is that instead of sitting around a table, you are actually in a room or field or other open space playing the actual character. Depending on system, this means that various skills may be classed as “hard” and “soft”. Hard skills are those that the player must possess to use them, soft skills are those which the game provides for the characters to use. For example, I play in one system a Pyromancer. His ability to run across the field is a hard skill (and is lacking), his ability to convince people he really *isn’t* going to destroy the world is also a hard skill – it relies on his host’s charisma, but his ability to fling a massive fireball at a fleeing demon is a soft skill.

Core to this in most instances is a set of calls which do not exist in the game world, but affect the game itself. These are the system calls. If, for example, I cast the above spell, my character may shout this:

By the power of the beautiful and destructive element of fire bent to my will, I set you ablaze: TIM RED QUAD.

Tim is not a system call in this case, it’s an identifier as to who it’s aimed at. If I was to attempt to hit someone with a sword, I’d not use that as it is perfectly obvious who the aim is at. RED QUAD is a damage call, and requests that player to take four points of red damage. By this structure of rules the game can proceed almost completely without a referee needed to oversee every action as a game master would in a tabletop system, most interaction is with each other.

(As an aside, yes, this means the game is mostly self-governing, with obvious holes where a person can shout things they cannot do and ignore hits they should have taken. Generally, however, people stop playing with the people who are being dicks.)

Maelstrom is a system written mostly by Matt Pennington and run by his company, Profound Decisions, in the form of four weekend events a year, Easter weekend being a full four day event. The central premise is a swords & gunpowder world with various humanoid/animal races, and one day a path opens though the permenant storm that is at the edges of their world into a new one. The new world has magic, native races, whole new races born of magic and, most dangerously, the angels of the gods who fell from grace and now must consume souls for power. This leads to a game of multivarious levels, from the colonies from the old world claiming land and building upon it to the dismay and anger of the native races, the political issues between the colonies themselves, though the attempts of the churches of the old world to maintain a foothold in this one (and convert the natives from the – oddly similar – native religions) and up to the war between the loyal eidolons of the five old-world faiths and those who declared freedom from them and fell from grace.

It’s really cool, I’ve been going for about three years now. There are more details on Profound Decisions‘s site.

The system is almost entirely player led, with very few major elements thrown in by the referees. The religion system works well (Players pray to their gods by writing things and handing them to the refs. The refs write things and give them to players who play the angels of the gods. The players of angels do as they feel they should.) The economy mostly also works (Four different currencies with player-led exchange rates and various different bases. One is 81 Riels to the Kyat, for example. Another is based on the old english system. Kind of. If it were devised by Salvador Dali. While he’s on drugs).

(While I mention drugs, there are drugs in the system as well. They are scary, and my character goes nowhere near most of them.)

And that’s pretty much what my weekend was like. It was awesome. I helped found a new church, dealt with the fallout from a friend of my character being killed, dealt with the funeral of said friend, inducted people into my faith, almost shot someone, held a supplication to my goddess, and – somewhat to my suprise – failed to die. Again.

52 days, 19 hours until the next one.

And counting.


driving Imported From Epistula Larp LUGRadio Personal Projects social trutap

An Update

Most of what I’m doing right now is working, and due to the nature of my working, it’s dull. I’m mostly writing unit tests. And because it’s work, it’s occasionally awesome and fun, challanging and occasionally frustrating. We are, however, looking for PHP dev to work in our Kings Cross office, so if you know any PHP devs looking for a new job, fire an email at nicholas care of trutap dot net. I do hope to be able to shout about stuff we’re doing soon.

Because I’ve moved to the place with the most integrated transportation network in the country, it’s obvious that the next thing I need to do is learn to drive. Since my last experience I haven’t actually had any driving lessons at all (Well, not true. I got one while in Bedford, but taking a two hour lunch break meant I missed my bus home and didn’t get back to Letchworth until 22:00. I didn’t repeat the experience), But I’ve just signed up with Go Red for a lesson on the 1st August. Now to pass my theory test for the third, and ideally final, time.

One of the reasons for the above is my current habit of going LARPing, and the fact that lugging all my stuff on trains is annoying. Also, National Rail always seem to schedule line work over me coming back from Maelstrom, which is irritating. A car would make getting there – as well as Treasure Trap in Cambridge – easier. This weekend is another Maelstrom weekend, which should be fun.

This means that I’m going to not only miss LUGRadio Live, which annoyed me, but when it became the very last LR event ever, it just seemed like malice. I’ve listened to, and enjoyed, the show from the first episode, and while I’ve recently not been much part of the community, I’m proud of the bits I have been part of. LUGRadio is a staggering achievement, and I hope someone picks up the idea and does it half as well as the various generations of Gents have over the years. I don’t know what they’re planning to do with the site after it’s over, but if it fractures into a few dozen local LUGRadio divisions – such as was originally the plan for the series, I believe – it will be interesting.

Still not completed GTA4 yet.

Most of my “home” coding right now is being done on AqWiki, which is now running a community wiki for Maelstrom fans as well as one for an Ikariam alliance – pushing the under-developed macro system to the limit with treaty managers and databases. I’m also working on Lampstand, which is an IRC bot again for Maelstrom fans. It’s based on the Twisted framework, which is something of a run-up all of its own, and eventually I hope to integrate it into a django-powered community site.

Imported From Epistula Larp

Glitches in the Maelstrom

So, this weekend I went to Maelstrom, which is a LARP event. Further updates will appear at some point in the IC Diary. If you want to know more about the setting, you can watch the promotional video (Which, Maelstromers, is the same thing as is on the DVD you got in an event pack) or visit their website

Stuff that was good:

  • The sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise that that major bit of drama going on over there is partially your fault.
  • The “Explode on death” blessing as a concept
  • Finally making it to Jade Lotus (IC japanese resturant) which was nice.
  • Playing croquet.
  • Group angst! Yay!
  • Singing songs around the fires.
  • The ginger cider
  • My character making his mind up about something cool.
  • The weather not being too hot or too cold.
  • The trebuchet.
  • Meeting Shebit & Rhiannon IC.
  • FOIP

    Stuff not quite so good:

  • New tent is too small.
  • Campsite is a deathtrap in the dark, due to pools of well-lit areas with black pits of rocks, sudden slopes and guy ropes between them.
  • Campsite is too small for the event – event isn’t going back there, though.
  • IC traders (ie, us) being too far off the beaten track
  • OOC traders being too far off the beaten track.
  • There not being much of a beaten track, really.
  • The musicians who were playing in the OOC camping area at 4am on Sunday.
  • Leaving my pirate hat on the train.