Core Hit Location Larp Mechanics

There are plenty of people out there who have heard about larp, but have no idea where to start. They have some gear, they have a few friends, and they want to try it out. Or maybe, like this redditor you have an idea for an event. But you don’t have a game system to set that event in. There are tons of people out there just getting into larp who are trying to build something but don’t know where to start. They have no foundation or experience in writing game rules. Fortunately Hit Location combat larp has been around for a while and there are plenty of examples of systems and games to choose from. But maybe you want to build something yourself and just need a place to start. Here is an index of critical posts about the rules needed to build that core. Keep in mind this is not a finished document with all the rules, but rather a place to start.

This is a very simple rules set without many of the Fantasy Elements which come along with larp. It’s aimed at any number of player up to around 30. You will need to add some DIY elements to really tailor the rules to your community. Also every time something triples in size, you really have to give all the systems a complete overhaul.

There are some important concepts which should not be altered. For example, do not add skills. Rely instead on rules of safety to keeps players from doing something dangerous and the player themselves to actually develop the skill they want. Personal skill should be emphasized over game mechanics in a Hit Location Larp. Hit Point game systems are there for players who want game mechanics that cover a wide range of skills. Any mechanics beyond ‘skills’ which alter the game rules, should fall under ‘Magic’. But to add game mechanics that function like skills starts to skew the game towards a Hit Point system, and this is not a great foundation for a hit point system.

If you include magical spells I highly recommend using bean bags. Low level magic spells which are projectile in nature should do 1 point of damage just like a sword swing. But keep in mind the martial vs magical balance point. If throwing weapons are included in your game one point in a bean bag is really weak. If martial players can walk in with a bag of throwing knives, what makes one bean bag spell a mage gets worth it? Not much. Mages should be balanced for more power than a ‘fighter’ later in the characters experience. They should start weak, and become relatively more powerful. Tweaking that curve for your game is a whole topic unto itself. Thoughtfully creating spells is a key component of that. If you plan on adding magic, do so carefully.

A note about safety. You have to tailor safety rules to match your country, state, province or territory. Make sure that the rules explicitly state that the laws where you live still apply. Anything illegal where you are playing is still illegal. Consider adding rules for dealing with Police interaction, especially if your community includes POC. Additionally adding rules for paramedics is a good idea. Finally rules for safety also depends on your player base. If you’re recruiting from the Black Powder community, chances are you’re going to have very safe responsible people. If you’re recruiting from local teenagers you might have to put more time and effort into crafting the safety rules. If you’re drawing mainly urban youth, chances are they aren’t going to know about fire and camp site saftey. Be aware of these things live and in person, as well as when writing your rules.

Suggestions for Spells and Powers

If you really want to include game mechanics, avoid things like ‘trip’, ‘dodge’, ‘roll’… These things all make the player interact with the environment, which is far more likely to cause injury than the other players. Instead create effects which mitigate some (but not all) damage. Breaking weapons can effectively ‘disarm’ a player, and can be done in a much better manner than a ‘disarm swing attack’. Be careful of allowing players to spam abilities. Perhaps by limiting number of uses.

Here are some sample spells to you get you started.

Strength: A player may catch and throw boulders. See Siege Damage (Boulders count as Hand and a Half weapons, which means the player cannot hold weapons or shields while using a boulder).
Full Regeneration: Once killed the player counts to 60 (slowly, hard to do in combat). On the count of 60 the character returns to life.
Undead (Zombie): The character is immune to killing blows. (limb strikes still count)
Undead (Skeleton): The character is immune to cut/pierce attacks. (Only weapons specifically designed to be blunt effect the Skeleton. Maces, Hammers, Warhammers, must be designated before play begins.)
Broken: a status of weapons and armor. Broken weapons and armor have no in game effect. Players cannot use the armor for protection, shields for defense, or swords to attack or block.

Repair (spell): removes ‘Broken’ status from weapons, armor and shields.

At some point I’ll write an actual magic system for the 4x larp. But if you want to spend some time creating a Hit Point larp rule system, I’d be happy to help you out. The last larp I edited for ran for 10 years and had between 60 and 120 players. Drop me a line via Twitter, or Google Plus and let me know what you’re working on and what you need help with.

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