This is a selection of comments from first time Alliance players about the game.
I've got to say, that although this was my first event, I was told about the game sometime last fall, bought the rulebook in November and had been jittering waiting for my chance to play.
After experiencing it, it was like nothing I could have ever imagined. I stepped into NPC on Friday and I am now hooked. Permanently. I swear I'll try to play this game until the day I die. It's all because everyone there treated the newbs with so much respect and patience, and kept us charged the whole time.
My brother came with me on his first time and he doesn't feel any different than I do. He is already preparing for the next event.
I've been playing games all my life and in retrospect they have all paled in comparison to a game that you live, and not just play.
I tip my hat to Mike Ventrella and all the people that help him create and run the most amazing endeavor ever. Thank you.
My wife Anastasia and I decided to come play on the Wednesday before the event. It was to be a long weekend event. We decided to come down and NPC all day Saturday. Anastasia and I had both played plenty of RPGs before, even a few LARPs. We were not strangers to the business end of boffer arms. But never had we played with as many people or in as long running a game.
Everyone we met was exceptionally friendly from the start. Moments after arriving on site, we had found "Logistics" and signed on. The process was completely painless and it was immediately evident to us that a lot of hard work and thought had been put into administration.
After obtaining player numbers, briefly discussing what our RPG experience was, and determining what our expectations for the weekend were, we were escorted to what we later came to call "the NPC hut." Said hut is a frantic place under the direction of several "Plot Coordinators" who stand behind a counter handing out roles, costuming instructions, directions, and treasure. No matter how busy they were, they always took time out to clearly and carefully explain things to newbies. The only excuse I could find for their patience was that they were having so much fun that slowing down for a minute to clue someone didn't feel like a problem.
We clearly indicated to Plot that we had large tubs of medium to high quality Renfaire drag with us, so they took advantage by making our usual role wealthy-looking merchants who had come to town to watch the tournament. As merchants, tags representing swords, shields and magic items were given to us, and we were told good prices to shoot for. We were instructed "If somebody hits you with something, just die. Make sure the PCs are having fun." It struck us that these people had been LARPing for a long time and had won this wisdom from experience.
The first exposure we had was the "Presentation of Colors" part of the weekend's tournament. Everyone dressed in their best LARP costumes. It was certainly more elaborate than we expected. The amount of effort the players had put in I would equate with what I would expect to see a good local SCA event. The Dark Elves were exceptional.
We were later given a thorough combat safety lesson, painted green (!), and sent out as goblins. I will never forget tapping one of the PCs on the shoulder with a big boffer sword and stating "2 normal" (a measure of how badly I hurt him) and seeing the PC sneer, state "no effect!", then quickly return the exact same shoulder shot stating "12 magic". Anastasia reports similar fun. We learned the new word "monsterbating" when we stalked and threatened a group of NPCs headed to their encounter. We also learned about the LARP device of a "loop" or path PCs could travel and be sure of encounters. A cool idea was the collection of goblin brains. A PC would kill you, indicate that they were ghoulish enough to dissect your brain, and you would hand them a peanut painted green. Later, PCs would turn in goblin brains as trophies in part of a greater competition.
Near the end of Saturday, every NPC was rallied for the "wave battle", a mass combat in which almost all the PCs and NPCs fought. Since there are far more PCs than there were NPCs, NPCs all fought, then all got resurrected and rallied down field, then fought again, and so on, in three waves. At the end of the wave battle, as we put on "out of game" headbands and trudged back to the hut, one of the PCs said "thank you NPCs!" I thought that was exceptionally cool. I'd been an NPC in all of the smaller LARPs I'd played before, and to my memory nobody had ever thanked me.
We didn't know a lot of the rules beforehand, so there were awkward moments when, for example, a spell would get cast on us and we didn't know what to do. We would apologize profusely out of game for being newbies, but everyone was exceedingly cool about it. I kept expecting someone somewhere to have a bad attitude, but it never happened.
We didn't bring our own food. Dinner at the tavern on site was US$4 out of game and 4 silver pieces in game. We balked at this since we were NPC newbies and didn't really have any in-game money, but Plot told us "No no, you're NPCs, you get whatever you need" and handed us ten silver pieces with speed.
At the Tavern after dinner, we became more involved in the plot. Anastasia portrayed a well-traveled dance instructor and I her percussion section. After settling on the appropriate outrageous accent, we entered the Tavern. We were to teach the "deck shuffle" (or some such bad pun I can't remember) to whoever asked us to, so long as it turned out to be sufficiently humiliating. We danced and played and had a good time. Anastasia met a fellow dancer who did three fantastic dances for us while we played drums with a Barbarian. The team that Barbarian belonged to was competing in the tournament hired us to play their show. We made 30 silver pieces and two excellent chocolate chip muffins by the end of the evening, but nobody scored any points for deciphering the pun. Anastasia was complimented on her dancing by numerous players both out of game and in game.
We returned on Sunday and did more of the same, but all the driving had us too tired to continue past 4:30 in the afternoon.
Overall, Alliance is a great game. Everyone has fun and the service of that fun is the measure against which every decision is made. To new players, I would recommend doing what we did; come be an NPC for a day so you can see how much work is happening backstage and how cool it then all comes out onstage. You'll probably appreciate your first day as a player much more.
Joe and Anastasia Miklocjik
My name is Andrew Corcoran and I'm currently a player at Alliance Caldaria. I'm what you may call "converted" from the years of 1998 to 2002 when I played in NERO International chapters only, mostly because of the fact that they were so close to where I lived and it was more convinient. However, all of my friends that I played NERO with moved to Caldaria run by Dave Livense. I have never been to a better game.
Since my first event there in May, I have never gone back to an International game and refuse to do so because of the high caliber with which Caldaria is run and presented. I do sincerely hope that this chapter continues as it exemplifies all things that I could have only dreamed possible. The staff at Caldaria, from Dave himself, to Dan Eldredge, Kate Melnyk, Jeremy Johnson and Eric Gibson are all phenominal at running a high quality chapter.
Again, this is the best game I have ever played at any LARP, including Lione Rampant and NERO International!
Andrew L. Corcoran
(An open letter to Mike Ventrella)
I want to personally congratulate you and the staff you have put together. I’ve just returned from the event. To put this into perspective:
On the way to the event, a 2.5 hour trip turned into a little over 5 hours. Someone tried placing their hood into my girlfriend’s lap through the side door on the way there. A bridge was out and an exit moved.
Needless to say, we made it there — much later, a bit shaken, and more than a bit frustrated. I was very thankful you were one of the first people we ran into. I had heard your name many times from other gamers, writers, and people in the RPG industry, and to your credit I have never heard a single poor remark about you from anyone who has ever met you face to face. You quickly assisted us, got us checked in, and even came to fetch me to make sure I would not miss on the storyline intro simply because we did not yet have tags. You even went to the extent to make sure I had all the supplies I needed to finish my on-the-fly-weapons creation. While we did miss out on the first night fight (thankfully—now there would have been a dead barbarian!) the rest of the weekend went off without a hitch. Your people are very well organized, very skilled, and managed to weave a story that is not only enjoyable for the combat aspects, but also for the storyline and interaction it brings!
Even missing half a day of the event, I feel as if there was more action, more story, and more twists in the plot than could have fit in two days—were we really only there that long? Seems like a week since I’d been back in my office. The ends of the plots weren’t obvious and cliche (as had been my previous LARPing experiences), and the staff even apparently adjusted well on the fly to a complete rewrite of the storyline.
I’ve written for local/national gaming ‘zines, worked conventions, and even (nearly) had my own systems mass printed twice. It’s not often that I find a game world rich in text and flavor enough that you can walk in, smell the world around you, and for a few hours at a time nearly forget you’re playing a role. I guess to put it shortly: for the first time in a long time in a fantasy setting, it was fun and new again. The first thought I remember of this morning is how strange it felt to not wake up with a piece of PVC in my grip, and have that sudden fright in that half-dreaming state that either someone had disarmed me or that I would surely soon be attacked while defenseless!
If you can for me, please send this to as much of the staff ,the NPCs, and the players that were there as you can. They all did an exceptional job in breathing life into this vision of yours. And I’m thankful to all of them for letting me be a part of it.
I just wanted to say thanks for all the help and the great time that we had up there (and I speak for all the group of newbies that came up with me). We all had a blast. We may have been newbies, but for the most part we all fit in well (and you will see us in the future).
I wanted to thank all the staff for helping us get our weapons to pass and answering all our newbie questions. Also, you have a great bunch of PCs...they were all quick to take us under their wing. It made it easy to fit in and get our feet planted.
Anyway, just though you would like to hear some rambling from a guy with awe. We are all excited and will be back for sure.
Send us your impressions of your first event!