Monday, 1 July 2013

Outcast 9 - The Cleansing (LRP event)

As a bit of a break from the normal tabletop fare that makes up the majority of this blog I thought that i'd take this post to talk about the recent LRP (Live-action Role Play) event that I attended "Outcast 9 - The Cleansing"; for anyone not aware LRP, or LARP as it is sometimes written, is a style of gaming where, instead of gathering round a tabletop to RP out the various bits of your game, you actually costume yourself and represent that character physically (normally using foam latex weapons sculpted in a realistic fashion that have solid cores but are cushioned enough to prevent injury). I've been LARPing since about 2005 on and off (depending on finances, since it's not a particularly cheap hobby) and mainly attend the Lorien Trust events (a blog of my IC "diary" entries for my last two characters can be found here; however a friend of mine started getting on to me about another system called Outcast, which was a smaller system run by Nic Doran and a lot of other people that I knew from the Lorien Trust.

Being quite limited budget-wise I ummed and ahhhed about it for a long time, about whether or not I could justify spending money on more kit and paying for more LRP events; however I was eventually lured into participating both by the enthusiasm that everyone I spoke to who had attending an Outcast event displayed, and how well they treat their crew. Again, to those not familiar with LRP, since the players are physically representing their characters, you also need people to represent the foes and monsters they will face; this 'monstering' or 'crewing' is normally free or low-cost at most smaller events as a thank you for giving up your time to basically get pummeled on your weekend (in the nicest possible way). Outcast really do seem to look after their crew, operating where you accrue a discount toward the next event you play based on the amount of events you have monstered, with three monster events getting you an event playing completely free; monsters are also catered for and provided with bunks when available (depending on what site is being used).

I attended Outcast event 8 with a few friends monstering and had a great time; being my first experience of a smaller more story-driven system I was initially very surprised by how willing the ref team was to run with story ideas or elaborate on stuff that had been done by the players as a reward for good roleplaying.

Example: At Outcast 8 myself and my friend Pigeon were asked if we would mind playing corpses for a scene, we were the bodies of two deceased knights from the Sol Victus (one of the groups within the game) who had been slain by demons whilst trying to protect the recovered pieces of a puzzle key; after the initial checking of our bodies, etc I was quite surprised when one of the players went to the lengths of laying out our bodies in a repose fashion and saying a prayer over us, even putting one of his weapons with us as a mark of respect. This would have been cool enough, but the refs, as a reward for the players RP and to return his weapon, had the order raise us as Risen (one of the playable races in the game, effectively deceased people given a second (and final chance at life)) who then went to thank the player for his efforts on our behalf. Upon our return to the monster room myself and Pigeon were both told that if we wanted to keep these monster roles then we could do so, needless to say we jumped at the opportunity to play these characters with a bit of background already established.

This was reflected again in Event 9 when I was asked to play a manikin, effectively a golem-like automata created by the Sil, a race of snakemen, to follow their orders and act as combat fodder (basically rock hard combat beasts but with no real motivation beyond following orders was the impression I got of them following my brief). The Sil in Event 9 were being lead/controlled by a number of evil demons who had us out looking for some magical herbs that the players needed to cleanse the land of demonic taint; obviously if we got them first then it was bad times for the players. When the monster group split up, I was ordered to guard the entrance to the glade and do what the snakemen I was with said, the players entered the glade and took the snakemen captive before I could do anything and so I reverted to the original order of guarding the glade.

This lead to an entertaining 15-30 minutes of the players trying to puzzle out what my monster was doing as I remained stationary, pivoting on the spot to face the last person who had moved and only striking if someone came within reach of my polearm; being unable/unwilling to talk (I wasn't really sure on this on an out of character perspective so I stayed quiet, assuming that I could always have been an early/defective model of manikin) the players couldn't get anything out of me via conversation. Eventually someone theorised that since the Sil created me I might be programmed to follow their orders and that, since I obviously had no magic, presumably I recognised them by sight; fetching a player snakeman (from a different tribe) the players discovered, after a few minutes, that I would follow orders from the snakeman (although they were a little wary since that meant presumably I would also follow orders from any other snakeman, including the demon tainted Sil).

I spent a good hour or so stationed as an expressionless manikin at the player camp as they tried all manner of mysticism on me, eventually culminating in one of the fey linking his soul to me via a magical ritual, giving him the sole ability to command me; having been well looked after by the players (given drinks and a chair, which was greatly appreciated) I was eventually sent to guard the boats on distance shores, giving me an excuse to return to the monster room and continue helping crew the event. It was a great encounter, good to see the refs run with it, and being asked to bring the kit with me to future events was also rewarding, not sure whether this a potentially secondary character for me if my Solarian dies (again) or just a recurring monster role, i'd be happy with either.

Photograph courtesy of Harland Quarmby.

Outcast is also very much a family system that caters very well for children, those below a certain age are linked to a realm of innocence, dreams and nightmares that contains reflections of things in the real world; this includes monsters, although only those connected to the realm of innocence can repel them. Basically this is a good justification for having monsters (denoted by a blue sash) that can only be affected by children (although the monsters can (mostly) still affect adults), clearly denoting encounters for the younger members of the system whilst also giving the kids a chance to feel like heroes when the adults call on them to help them against the monsters. Obviously there are various levels of appreciation for the rules amongst the very young members of the game, but I was quite surprised by how many of the children fought very safely and, if told how they needed to respond to a certain call or rule, were generally very good at following the instructions.

The rules system in general is very easy to grasp, certainly if you have played Lorien Trust or any other fest based system, I can speak too much for the magic system since I haven't got into that, although I know there are several distinct types of magic that all work in different ways; all XP and spending is handled online via the game website:

Currently (as of time of writing) the website is unavailable because they take it down and bring a copy with them to each game so that it can be updated, it should be up again soon.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Outcast, event 9 was only my second attempt at wearing any metal armour (my first abortive attempt at Lorien Trust lead to a lot of back pain and swearing), having been kindly donated some shoulder pauldrons and bracers by friends, and I seemed to cope with it a lot better this time, although I will be looking for some more padded clothing to go under it in future (especially since i'm planning on buying a chainmail shirt to go with it). The system is great fun, very story driven and with a friendly player base - i'm booked up to monster event 10, the last event this year and then will do my free play event next year; i'm currently planning to continue the method of monstering three events, playing one, monstering three, playing one since you still accumulate XP for your character whilst monstering and also it helps the system and everyone's enjoyment by ensuring that they have enough crew.

I highly recommend the system for anyone who wants to try LRP in a (very) reasonably priced, story driven environment with a very friendly player base.