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NOTE: This is the downloadable e-book edition of the Alliance Rule Book. If you want to get the paperback edition with all of the pictures and other nice graphics, please go to www.AllianceLARP.com
Purchase of this Rule Book does not provide permission for distribution of this book in e-book form.
This edition of the Alliance LARP Rule Book is ©2009 by Michael A. Ventrella, Esq.
The Alliance LARP name, logo, and servicemark are the property of Michael A. Ventrella, Esq.
This book is for use in official Alliance games only.
This book is not designed as a stand-alone game system, but only as a supplement for the player in an Alliance sponsored game.
Use of these rules by purchaser in any unsanctioned game where admission is charged is prohibited.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted, in whole or in part, by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without expressed written permission of Michael A. Ventrella.
Purchase of this book implies acceptance of the above terms. So there.
John Finnegan's first encounter with LARPing was eventful; he gathered his supplies, walked out into the night and saw some other players walking towards him.
"Good eve, fellow travelers! How are you?"
The other playerswere from the court of Capulus in Ravenholt, and they immediately struck this new player down for his twelve coppers, showing no remorse.
John soon afterwards struck a friendship with Baroness Aurora Blakeney, from the "good guy" barony of Westmarch, who took him in and saw his potential. Aurora Blakeney was played by my wife, Heidi Hooper, who introduced me to her new court member. I'm sure his experience with both baronies influenced his attitude toward what the game should and could be like.
This was in the very early days of the game NERO, of which Heidi and I were founders. NERO later split into NERO International and the NERO Alliance (which has now become merely "The Alliance." Long story.)
Around this time, I was running weekend modules at a site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and John submitted a module to run which was full of great puzzles and encounters. I immediately saw his skills and imagination, and we sat down and worked on the module together. "Why are all these puzzles here?" I asked. "Who made them, and why? You have to explain those things." Together we rewrote it so that the crazy dragon mage known as the Chessmaster was behind them. It proved to be one of the most popular modules we ran at that site.
In 1992, Heidi and I decided that we had been too discouraged by the direction in which the Ravenholt game was progressing, and moved to New York to start the Ashbury chapter. John helped us move and helped form the Ashbury game, writing much of the background of the lands, later getting involved on the Plot Committee, and creating memorable plotlines and characters that kept the players entertained.
John had one of the greatest senses of humor of anyone I knew, and a massive knowledge of show music, which he would sing at a moment's notice.
One time at the module site we ran in Brooklyn, a local reporter came by to interview us for an article. I had the reporter speak to John, one of the nicest and most eloquent members we had, who laughed and told her that he hoped to meet a nice girl through the game. That very same day, he met Colleen, and their subsequent marriage ceremony was filled with joyous players wishing them both well.
John's Baron later became the Duke, and we both learned something important at that time: You need to have your most powerful noble in game be an NPC. As a PC, it just wasn't fair for me to give him extra money or armies that other PCs didn't get, but it also didn't make sense in-game either. He was constantly frustrated that the bad guys could get away with stuff because he didn't have the in-game power to challenge them like he should.
So John decided that the best thing for the game would be for him to step down, run Plot exclusively, and name an NPC Duke, which proved to be the right decision, and one we have followed since and which I encourage all my chapters to follow as well.
When problems started arising between us and the NERO establishment which tried to kick me out even though I was one of the founders, it was John who arranged meetings and tried to work out the problem, which he did quite excellently.
When it became clear that we were not going to be able to resolve our differences, I had long discussions with John about what we should do. John, along with Scott Kondrk, became my closest advisors, and we all decided to become the NERO Alliance at that point, separate from the other NERO.
John then helped create much of the new world of Fortannis (along with his brother-in-law Patrick Capuano, Jesse Grabowski, Scott, and others). John became the Head of the Plot Committee and helped to train and encourage others in a way no other could.
He also later became my General Manager, and that unfortunately caused some problems down the line when we argued over the direction we wanted the game to go. John, for all his great talents, still liked to play while wearing shorts and tennis shoes. He also tended to be a lot more "forgiving" to players who mess up or played bad guys. I wanted to raise the bar for costuming and role-playing, and wanted there to be real consequences for players who made mistakes. After some debate, I asked him to step down as General Manager (but not Head of Plot) and John instead resigned from both.
This hurt me a lot, but I am happy to report that we did settle our differences soon thereafter. I told him that if he ever wanted to come back to the Plot Committee, the invitation was always open, and I asked John to serve as General Manager of the Alliance, which he accepted.
As General Manager of the Alliance, he helped me soothe many angry chapter owners and work out problems, and had a way of talking to them that I just don't have to get things done. As a member of the Alliance Rule Committee, he brought his years of experience to bear and helped to bring about exciting changes and improvements to the game.
I cannot overstate the importance John brought to the Alliance game. He was indeed there from before the start, had more influence over it than anyone else (even me sometimes), and made his mark on the world in that way.
On St. Patrick's Day 2008, John was found dead in his bed, from a heart attack. He was only 37 years old.
Friends he had not seen for years heard the news and expressed their sorrows on the Alliance Bulletin Board. His funeral was so well attended that there was no room to sit, and people were forced to listen from the hallways. He had touched so many who remembered him fondly and who wanted everyone to know what he meant to them.
I still find myself thinking "I need to talk to John about this problem" or "John would know the best plot solution for this," and then catching myself a second later. John had been my friend for so long. When I moved to New York, he did too. When I moved to Stroudsburg, he did too. We talked by phone about once a week, and often through e-mail.
The game would not be where it is today were it not for John Finnegan. Everyone who has said that is correct. No one is exaggerating.
Perhaps the best way to remember him is through the quote from St. Augustine he used on his profile on the Alliance Bulletin Board, which proved so appropriate: "The key to immortality is not having a life worth living, but living a life worth remembering."
John Finnegan is immortal.
by Michael A. Ventrella
Although most of the words in this book are mine, I cannot take credit for writing all of the rules that over the last twenty years or so have evolved into the current game. This is definitely a group effort, and the years I have lost in Rules Committee meetings is a good testament to that. That's why I always list myself as editor rather than writer.
Rather than thank every single person who has contributed to the game's development over the years, many of whom have fallen by the wayside or been eaten by trolls, I will instead concentrate on thanking those individuals who have contributed to this edition of the Rule Book.
The late great John Finnegan was the General Manager of the Alliance through much of the development of this version of the rules, and his ideas and vision helped to shape the Alliance since its early years. He will never truly be replaced.
Along with John Finnegan, Scott Kondrk has been the driving force behind the founding of the Alliance and the overall feel of the game. Scott's emphasis on raising the bar on our standards has greatly improved the game, from increasing costuming and props to never accepting the same old cliched plotlines. He and I have a lot in common--we don't suffer fools and incompetents well, we demand perfection, and when we say we will get something done, we get something done. (Scott gets the vast majority of the credit for the Alliance Monster Database, for instance.) Scott has been my second-in-command and primary counsel for the recent past, and his contributions should not be overlooked.
I regret not seeing much of Mike Hynes any more since he moved to Maine, but dedication to the Alliance and his input into the Rule Committee via email continues on. Mike has been involved with the Alliance rules since its inception and he has an instinctive way of knowing the right balance. You may not think about it, but much of our rules system is about balance--balancing the classes and races so that they are all fairly equal, balancing the line between realism and playability, comparing and contrasting the spells so that they are at their proper level. Mike deserves much of the credit here.
Dan Lineaweaver first caught my eye from internet postings showing that he understood the goal of the rules but wanted to make them as fun as possible for as many players as possible. I find that too many people who are interested in the rules are only interested in them insofar as they can make their own characters more powerful--Dan understands the goals of all of the players.
Mike Luther has been a marshal for many years and he was asked to join the Rules Committee for many of the same reasons as Dan. Mike also is one of the primary architects of the Alliance database which tracks all players, their characters, their experience points, their goblin stamps, and I think their favorite colors, too.
The most recent members of the Alliance Rules Committee (ARC) have worked their collective butts off helping to get this latest edition ready, and everyone reading this should thank Bryan Gregory, Justin Hernandez, and James Pocklington for all their hard work. Thanks guys, we couldn't have done it without you. Well, maybe we could have, but it wouldn't have been as good!
However, the Rules Committee can do nothing without the support, votes, and contributions of the various owners of the Alliance chapters, some of whom went far beyond their requirements to contribute to this process.
Renee Iovino is the current Alliance General Manager, and is doing a very fine job in filling the shoes of John Finnegan. Her organizational skills have helped me get this book done in ways that would have held it up much longer without her.
Mark Monack developed the tabletop rules that have been added to the back of this book, and deserves full credit for his tireless work in taking a rules system meant for LARPing to make it also acceptable for a more standard form of gaming. I hope that those of you who decide to continue playing your characters around a table post some of your modules and send us your comments about these rules so we can continue to improve upon them.
More thanks go to the many Alliance members who posted their ideas and comments on the Alliance internet Bulletin Board. We do read all players' comments and appreciate them. Keep up the good work.
Thanks also go to those players who contributed pictures for this book from many Alliance chapters.
Thanks also go to the many players and chapter owners who helped with various rules suggestions and proofreading in this particular edition, specifically: Michael Amaral, Tom Andary, Roy Booth, Beverly Byers, Matthew Byers, Paul Foisy, Eric Gibson, David Glaeser, Jesse Hennessey, Samara Martin, Gary Marvel, Cymryc Moon, Michael Oostman, Dave Overman, Victoria Pacillo, Ray Roberge, Erica Stephenson, David Tengdin and Michael Webb.
There are so many other players who have contributed to previous editions of this book and to all chapters over the years that I am afraid to specifically name a few for fear of missing many many others. You all know who you are, so please accept the thanks of me and all the players who benefit from your contributions. It's the behind-the-scenes people who make it happen.
Finally, as always, I want to thank my wife of 26 years (as of this publication), Heidi Hooper, who did a lot of the grunt work that no one else wanted to do, some of which while fighting cancer. She has been an inspiration to many, and her enthusiasm, love, and support has made everything in my life worthwhile.
Now I'd like to take a bit of time to discuss the game in a way I have not done before in other editions.
This new edition moves the rules to the end of the book, placing all the advice sections at the beginning.
This is by design. In the Alliance, plot is more important than rules.
Many gamers I have met over the years are so enamored with writing rules systems that they forget that the rules are only there to enable the plot to proceed. It doesn't matter if you have the world's most thought out and well researched rules system if no one cares about or is bored by your plot.
When I played tabletop games, I sometimes found myself with gamemasters who were more interested in the statistics of the game than what the game was actually about. They would have charts, graphs, miniatures, and representations for every movement of the characters under their control, and the simple act of hitting something with a sword would require fifteen minutes' worth of die rolling and chart consultation. By the time the battle was over, we had forgotten what we were fighting about.
These Rules Gnomes are the minority, but often they present themselves as "experts" on the rules and try to convince me that their complicated system is necessary for the game to run smoothly and to "close loopholes." They mean well, but I take their advice only as suggestions (after all, sometimes they are right).
A good rules system should be as absolutely simple as possible. If you make the rules too complicated, players tend to spend their time playing the rules instead of playing the plot. Marking each part of the body and deciding how many hit points each part has may be more accurate and realistic, but players are so busy concentrating on what they have hit--or arguing over whether the hit was in exactly the right spot or not--that they might as well be sitting around a table rolling dice.
A rules system should be easy to learn. A new player shouldn't have to study as if preparing for an exam, but should be able to dive right in and start playing.
If you have a hundred people playing a game, you will have a hundred different concepts on which rules are sacrosanct, which ones should be changed, and in which direction the game should progress. The Rules Gnomes, if given their way, will tinker with the mechanics of the game until it becomes unrecognizable--and every time they create something new, it will affect the other sections so that patches have to be applied and new connections have to be made, and you will eventually find yourself shimmying down the jeffries tube trying to prevent a core breach.
Another main point with the rules is that they should be written to prevent game holds unless absolutely necessary. Teleportation, polymorphing, and scrying for instance all require players to "hold" and get a marshal. The game should be self-regulating and make the referees as unnecessary as possible.
Information should always be obtained through role-playing means and not magical ones. Trials become very boring if you can use magical or mental skills to determine who is telling the truth, and valuable information needed to solve a plotline becomes fairly worthless if it is easy to obtain with a crystal ball.
At the same time, whenever possible a game should avoid rules that require players to play stupid. It leads to arguments about what a character knows as opposed to what the player knows, and more importantly is just not that much fun.
Then, no matter how airtight you may think the rules are, there will always be Rules Lawyers who will find loopholes in it and will attempt to use them to their advantage. (Rules Lawyers are different from Rules Gnomes. Gnomes want to create and build more rules, and Lawyers want to take what the Gnomes have built and find weaknesses in the structure.)
Standing up to the Rules Lawyers is one of the most important lessons--and one of the hardest--I have had to learn. And it is a difficult balance to meet. On one hand, if the players do something unexpected (like solve a problem in a way that wasn't planned for) then they should be allowed to do so. On the other hand, if the unexpected thing they are doing is interpreting a rule in a new way to their benefit, then they probably should not be allowed to do so.
The Rules Lawyers will play the rules and not the plot. They will attempt to solve problems that should be solved through plot means (role-playing, fighting, puzzle solving) by instead finding loopholes in the rules that will give them what they want.
It is important that we don't let these Rules Lawyers control the game. They will be having a grand old time, but the rest of the players will be unhappy. Remember that "the spirit of the rule is more important than the letter of the rule."
Let me clarify here before someone reads into this more than what I am intending: I am discussing rules, not plot. Players doing things I don't like plotwise is something I have learned to deal with. If the players all decide they don't like the king and they kill him, then they should be able to do so. If they destroy the big bad guy before the Plot Committee had planned, nothing should stand in their way. The Plot Committee should always let the players do what they want (although there may be consequences for doing so). It is imperative to never reverse action, say "that never happened" or try to rewrite what has already occurred to make it more to the Plot Committee's liking. Players have to know that their actions can affect the game.
It's been over 20 years since I first starting running an earlier version of this game and we have gone through a lot of rules changes, especially in the first few years when we were just figuring out how to this! I am very happy with this new edition of the book, and hope that you will be too.
Post your comments and questions on the Alliance Bulletin Board, accessible from our main web page (www.AllianceLARP.com). (Hey, did you know that "Michael A. Ventrella" is an anagram for "The Alliance Marvel"?)