Armistice

Armistice is an independent urban fantasy LARP, set in present day London.  Drawing inspiration from authors such as Neil Gaiman, Kate Griffin, China Mieville, Ben Aaronovitch and Mike Carey, among others, the setting is a world much like our own, but where supernatural elements lurk out of sight in the shadows.

In Armistice, players can take on the role of almost any kind of supernatural being they can imagine, from urban sorcerers to ancient dragons, from fae creatures to cursed immortals.  These characters are soldiers in a war that has raged from the dawn of time to the present day, a war to decide the ultimate fate of magic in the universe, and the destiny of humanity.

Except in London, thanks to a magical cataclysm that has stripped away much of the power these people once possessed, that war has been paused.  A cease-fire has been declared, and the various sides in this conflict must now find a way to live with each other, and the things they have done, at least for the foreseeable future.

Armistice is a game about war veterans and war criminals in the aftermath of a war.  It is a game that tries to pick up where other stories leave off, and seeks to explore the traumatic effects of war, and look at what forgiveness might mean in the aftermath of conflict, and if forgiveness is even always possible, or if conflicts never truly end.

Armistice begins on the 10th of January 2015 at 1:30pm, in a central London venue.  It will be played monthly, on the second Saturday of each month.

Please use the links above to find out more about the game.

If at any point, you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email, at refs@armistice-larp.org.uk.

The War

The history of the supernatural is a history of conflict.

History is written by the winners.  Fitting, then, than in a conflict that has spanned the whole history of the human race without a clear victor, so much history has been lost.

What is known is this:

It begins with destruction.  On that much, all agree.  Exactly what that destruction was, no-one is certain.  Some say that the myths are true, that Atlantis sank, that Babel toppled, that the sea giants made war upon the land, that the angels fell, The Way gave birth to unity, Unity gave birth to duality, Duality gave birth to trinity, Trinity gave birth to the myriad creatures.  Others think it was something more fundamental, like the Big Bang.

Whatever the origins, the basic truths are well established and agreed:

  • The universe was created and shaped by language.
  • The universe is flawed.
  • The flaw in the universe can be fixed, if the language of creation is correctly understood.

Those creatures with abilities that the great normal people would call supernatural draw this power from the echoes whoever or whatever spoke the syllables of  the Ur-language left behind.  The power they have enables them to learn and speak parts of this language themselves.

This much, at least, is not contentious.

The nature of the flaw, and the result of the fix, however, is the source of endless aeons of conflict.

There is no-one living who could give even an approximate history of the conflict.  All that is known is that from the first, the various tribes of supernatural being have disagreed, and from those disagreements have sprung forth groups of uneasy alliances each dedicated to a particular agenda – a certain idea of the way the universe should be remade.

At various times and places, there have been various agendas, given different names, but by the late 17th century, a process of attrition had reduced the major factions in the conflict to four chief agendas.  The groups have a number of names throughout the world, but in London, they are known as The Walbrook Pact, The Effran Synod, The Order of Tyburn and The Fleet Company.  Each has links with allied groups known by other names, but pursing similar agendas across the world.

For all the four sides cannot agree, for all they have contended with one another for millennia, their war has its rules, just the mundane world has conventions that are supposed to govern its wars.

At their most basic, the rules are:

  • Secrecy – the ordinary human world has no idea of the secret conflicts.  Individual mortals may be made aware of the existence of the supernatural (initiated), but the great mass of humanity remains ignorant, and must remain so.
  • Honour – supernatural beings take their given word very seriously.
  • Fealty – supernatural beings tend to form hierarchical societies.  Every knows to whom they owe fealty, and who owes fealty to them.

In addition to the four groups that make up loose “political” affiliations, supernatural creatures can be divided into six categories of being, depending on the source of their power, which influences them in various subtle ways.

The Four Factions

The Walbook Council

The Walbrook Council are a variable structured group whose flexible hierarchy is based on context – those with the most experience in any given situation are given leadership positions which they are expected to relinquish when the need for them has passed. 

They operate something like a cross between a corporate hierarchy and an official bureaucracy, forming working groups/committees/ad hoc teams rapidly in response to changing circumstances.  At their worst, they can occasionally get bogged down in their own sense of procedure, one in bickering between internal fiefdoms that the “very experienced” sometimes establish, but at their best, their methods adapt adapt rapidly to changing circumstance and their responses are remarkably swift and decisive.  (And if those responses turn out to be less than optimal, that’s a matter to be discussed by the successive organisation, in order to learn appropriate lessons.)

The Walbrookians who believe that the language of creation should be used to raise everyone up, to grant everyone the gifts and perspective on the world that the supernatural community currently have, to make everyone who is currently a “normal” human being into a supernatural entity.

Example Titles: Councillor, Alderman/woman, Chair, Member, Project manager, Team lead – think either local government or corporate.

The Effran Synod

Of the four groups, The Effran Synod are the ones with the closest connection to the non-supernatural world. Its members set themselves up as small scale religious figures – priests, witch doctors and cunning folk.  The Council is a loose association of individualist cults, all pulling in roughly the same direction.  They have a hierarchy based on an annual election of a leader, who then appoints officials and advisers.  Within their term of office, it is considered bad form to publicly challenge the decisions made by the leader.

An individual group is probably no more than one or two members of the Synod, and their initiated mortal associates – anywhere between 5 and 20 humans of varying levels of initiation. 

The Effrans believe that the existence of supernatural creatures is, if not exactly immoral, then at least unfair and potentially dangerous to the normal humans, and that creating more of them, while it is arguably fairer, would none these be the spark in the power keg.  They wish to use the first language to render everyone human and mortal. 

Example Titles: Reverend, Mr/Mrs, Doctor, Cunning – almost anything with a small-scale cult/religious overtone.

The Order of Tyburn

The Order of Tyburn, are an order of militaristic scholars.  The have the most rigid and well defined hierarchy, which offers promotions based on length of service and demonstrable achievements that advance the order’s cause.  They have the least contact with the non-supernatural world, being heavily focused on supernatural research, and the efficient deployment of that research to advance their cause.

The Tyburnites think that both camps have a reasonable viewpoint – the world cannot afford to loose the divine spark that the supernatural embody, but granting it to everyone would be to court the apocalypse.  They believe that the only rational course is to use the power of the ur-syllables to lift up those who are already empowered – those who have already proven that they have the knowledge and insight to navigate the responsibilities of power.

Example Titles: General-professor, Colonel-dean, Major-doctor – fuse military rank and academic title.

The Fleet Company

Note: The Fleet Company are not a playable group – they are entirely made up of NPCs.  What follows is a description of what other three groups know about them.

The Fleet Company are a group of loosely-allied people who seek to maintain the status quo.  Not that actual war that has been fought, but rather, they would like the outcome of that war to be “no change”.  They wish to continue being supernatural (but not gods), but for the rest of the population to remain as normal humans, for entirely selfish reasons. Put simply, they like using their abilities to get ahead in the world.  They are a loose confederation of organised criminals, celebrities, politicians, bankers, and other members of the 1% who exploit their supernatural talents for personal gain.  They are widely regard as crooks and scum by the other factions.

Their general relationship with the other factions is as sometime allies and sometime enemies that can be trusted exactly as far as they can be trusted, and no further.

Over the years, they have reliably offered genuine and useful aid to whichever faction was weakest at any given time. Each of the factions has, at some point in its existence, owed the fact that they weren’t entirely wiped out in London to the aid of The Fleet Company. Each of them has also heavy casualties inflicted on them by The Fleet Company at another point.

Example Titles: Sir, Lord, Earl, Baron.

The Six Types of Supernatural Creature

Divine – those who serve

Those who draw their power from the divine are defined by their service to their god, whoever or whatever that may be.  They do not question or waver.  They are certain of themselves, and their purpose.    

This category of beings includes all manner of servants of any number of higher powers, ranging from human priests and holy warriors, to mortal offspring of a divine power, to inhuman entities in direct contact with their god.

Demonic – those who question

Those who draw their power from the demonic are defined by their unwillingness to accept another’s moral  truth.  They are driven to seek their own answers to every question, to reject authority and confront the world on their own terms.

This category of beings includes all sorts of creatures who have rejected higher authority, from mortal satanists (and atheists), to makers of pacts with greater demons, to mortal offspring of divine powers who don’t get on with their ancestors, and of course, the inhuman fallen former servants of divine powers.

Arcane – those who study

Those who draw their power from the things they have learned are defined by their need to break new ground, to understand and codify they unknown.  They formulate theorems, perform experiments, and seek out empirical answers.

This category of beings includes scholarly sorcerers, technomancers, and created beings desperately seeking to make sense of their own existence.

Urban – those who dream

Those who draw their power from man-made things are defined by their insight.  They see the things others do not, draw power from leaps of intuition and inspiration.  They listen to the whispers of sodium-lamp spirits, and   divine the future in the sound of wheels on tarmac.

This category of beings includes (among others) urban shamen, occult stockbrokers, sewer spirits, rat-gods and anything else that might live in the city.

Wyld – those who prey

Those who draw their power from things that grow are defined by their hunger.  Whatever they do, they do to excess.  They fight and feast, hunt and party with abandon, and draw their strength from following their passions.

This category of beings includes all manner of creatures, from fae beings, to divine servants like Maenads, to humans who have found power in taking on aspects of animals.

Death – those who endure

Those draw their power from death are defined by their resilience.  Their lives have been blighted by death, and they have made it into their strength.  They are unchanging and steadfast, beacons of constancy in an ever-changing world.

This category of beings includes: Necromancers, zombies, immortals who commit murders to retain their youth, beings cursed with immortality.

On characters that might fit into multiple categories:

There are obviously any number of concepts that might fit into multiple categories – for example, an member of Masonic-type cult might reasonable by placed in the Divine or Arcane categories, while someone who has sold their soul for immortality might reasonably be placed in the Death or Demonic categories (or possibly even the Divine category, if they are compelled to serve their new demonic master in exchange).  That’s absolutely fine – players are simply encouraged to pick the category that best fits the narrative emphasis that they wish to place on their character.

The Rules

In common with most LARP systems, Armistice has a set of rules for uptime – the time that people are playing their characters in a room together – and a related set of rules for downtime – the time that passes between game sessions, in which that characters are taking actions, but are not necessarily together.

Uptime

Armistice uses a system that is designed to be rules-light.  When characters come into conflict in a way that would involve the use of a system (for example, a physical brawl, or the use of supernatural powers) players are strongly encouraged to simply come to an agreement about what is most dramatically interesting to have happen at any given time.  Where that isn’t possible, Armistice seeks to resolve all conflicts with a simple single-dice-roll mechanic that prioritises swift resolution and the resumption narrative play over complex models of real-world events.

Put simply, in the event of a conflict that requires the use of the system, both parties declare the outcome they are seeking, and each rolls a six-sided dice, and adds any appropriate modifiers.  The higher roll achieves the outcome they are seeking, but at a cost to themselves.  If the winning number is significantly higher than the lower, the outcome may be cost free.

That’s really it.  Everything else is just working out what the appropriate modifiers are, and those have been kept to an absolute minimum.

The full rules can be found here.

Downtime

Armistice uses on online downtime system.  Players are asked to use a web form to submit structured descriptions of what their characters are trying to accomplish in the month that passes between each game session, based on their various downtime-relevant abilities.  Shortly before each uptime session, players will then receive a response from the refs, detailing how successful their characters have been.  More details are available in the rules document above.

Character Creation

Character creation is split into three stages.

Pitches

New players are asked to submit three “pitches” – short descriptions, of no more than a few sentences, describing three different character ideas that they might like to play.  The refs will then select one of these (the one that they think will create the most interesting dramatic opportunities to the player, and for the game overall, based on the other characters in the game), and ask them to work the character up in more detail.

Each pitch should indicate which of the three playable factions the character belongs to, and what kind of supernatural creature they are.

Detail

One a pitch as been selected, there are a series of basic questions to be answered about each character – some practical, like where they live, and what they do, and some thematic, about how that character relates to the overall themes of the game.

Once that’s done, the only thing that’s left to to define their system-level statistics.

Stats

Players are given 6 points, to split across 3 categories – Uptime skills, Downtime influences, and Supernatural powers.  Players may not spend more than 4 points in any one category, but they do not have to spend points in all of them.

Uptime Skills

There are only two uptime skills – “Combat” and “Other”.  Each point spent on each of these buys a level of ability, represented by a bonus to dice rolls when these skills are used in uptime. 

Combat obviously covers any situation in which the character is fighting another characters.

When selecting “Other” players will be asked to define roughly what their character is good at, which could be considered to correspond to an area of professional expertise.  “I am a burglar” or “I am a politician”, for example.  Characters use their “Other” skill at any appropriate moment that is not concerned with fighting, but is nonetheless serious enough to require a dice roll to determine success of failure.

Characters may only define one “Other” skill – this representing skills they are good at performing under pressure (ie, in the sorts of dramatic situations that will crop up in uptime),  Characters may be good at as many other things as the player wishes, just not under pressure.

To use the example before, it is perfect possible to play a character who is both a burglar and a politician (provided that is supported by a sensible background), but they might only be good at being a politician under pressure. In other words, they can give speeches, be charming, maybe even things like read documents and remember then, even while under pressure (like say, someone threatening to hurt them unless they do these things), but they become flustered when trying to pick a lock under pressure.  They’re only an effective burglar when they’ve got time to plan ahead, sneak in unobserved and so on – their burglary skills desert them when someone has a gun to their head.  Or vice versa, of course.

The scope of other will be roughly agreed with the refs, who will have final say on whether or not a skill can reasonably apply in any given situation, if adjudication is required.

Downtime Skills

Downtime skills are a collection of spheres of influence, representing a combination of personal skills, knowledge and appropriate contacts to get things done in a particular field.  For example, someone with “Police” influence may be an ex-policeman (or even a serving officer) who knows police procedure, and has a network of allies on the force, that they can use to get the police to go things – hide evidence, arrest enemies, and so on.  (Alternatively, they may simply have a number of crooked officers either bribed or blackmailed into doing their bidding.)

Each point spent on a downtime skill buys a level of influence within the chosen sphere. A full list of the available influences is available in the downtime rules, along with a description of how differing levels of influence work.

Supernatural Abilities

These obvious represent the greater-than-human abilities that these characters possess.  They have a wide variety of system and narrative-level effects.

Each supernatural ability costs a single point to buy.  Some abilities have pre-requisite powers that must be purchased first, before the more advanced power can be bought.  Some abilities are designated as “Master Level”.  These are particularly powerful abilities, that cannot be bought at character creation.

A full list of supernatural powers can be found here. 

If there is a power you would like to have your character possess that is not covered in these rules, please talk to the refs, who will be happy to at least consider any kind of ability for inclusion.