A LARP, for those of you unfamiliar with the hobby, is like a “tabletop” roleplaying game in some respects, for in both you play a character with their own unique perspective, background, and statistics. Unlike tabletop roleplaying games, however, you actually act out your character’s actions, movements, and dialogue, within a LARP. Personal skill is far more important in this kind of game as a result. Making a good impression on someone is not left to a dice roll; your own personal magnetism decides the situation directly.
Our game, like all live-combat LARPS, takes the “Action” part of “Live-Action” seriously; we use padded weapons to safely simulate actual combat. There is something primal and affecting about facing off against actual monstrous opponents in the dead of night, knowing that your own skill and nerve is what will decide the outcome; few other styles of roleplaying offer immersion this intense and immediate!
The game usually runs as a full-weekend event, which means that people end up being in character for very long periods of time. Our game is held at state parks where players can sleep in cabins, tents, or barracks, depending on the nature of the event site itself. Of course, like all boffer LARPs, Echoes uses padded weapons and spell packets. The weapons are usually made of lightweight PVC pipe surrounded by protective foam to cushion any blows, and we have specific design requirements to ensure their safety. Magic hurled against foes in combat is represented by cloth packets filled with birdseed, and each packet carries some in-game effect when it hits the enemy.
We have been designed for both new players and veteran LARPers. In fact, easing new players into the LARP genre was one of our stated goals in beginning this project. We go out of our way to make sure that every player gets story related to their character, whether it is a 4-year character nearing retirement or a first time character fresh from your imagination.
Echoes is designed to be an experience that takes the best parts of the LARPs that came before us, while revisiting ‘old school’ concepts and making them more accessible and fun to a newer audience. We pride ourselves in offering deep, emotional experiences that connect to a larger, organic world; every fight has a reason, and every death has an impact.
We diverge from traditional thinking in some respects. A good example would be our magic system. We don’t use pools of mana that reset daily, nor do we use “fire and forget” spell slots. There are no levels or circles of magic. In fact, each spell is roughly as powerful (or useful) as any other spell; the power of magic is entirely determined by the skill of the caster. Characters cast magic by receiving “charges” of magical potential. Charges can be obtained through several ways, but the most common form is through practicing rituals. Each school of magic has its own set of rituals that dictate how and when a character receives a charge.
Each spell costs a single charge, but the power of a spell depends on the skill, experience, and mental acuity of the caster. Some spells have multiple “activations” per charge spent, so a single charge can often yield many instances of a single effect.
Besides magic, Echoes is a bit unique in that we have what is, fundamentally, an attribute system. All characters are granted three Traits (out of nine) at character creation that give them innate abilities. This means that starting characters, even if they possess no skills (they will, incidentally), will still have several useful capabilities under their belt. Strong characters can perform feats of strength once per day and use heavy equipment; Agile characters can dodge an attack once per day and use offhand weaponry; Charismatic characters are able to charm their way out of difficulties and are especially good at social skills; Attuned characters have the ability to detect magic automatically, and they can resist a magical effect once per day… and the list goes on. Characters can increase their three traits to higher levels, and they may even purchase a single additional trait, though it is limited to level 1.
In addition to the abilities granted by Traits, we allow every character to use nearly every weapon in the game. If a character is fighting and has their weapon broken by some effect, they can stop and pick up any weapon around them if they want and wield it against their attackers. Note, however, that characters who purchase skills for weapons receive abilities that make them much more capable combatants than unskilled novices.
We want to present a game that is deeply personal in intricate ways. Our ritual system, the actions of our NPCs, and the attention to character history and background make this one of the most personal games around. We as game masters thrive on small moments of personal roleplaying.