LARP: Squadra dei Falchi di Gradara
La Squadra dei Falchi di Gradara
is a long-running fantasy LARP set in the medieval town of Gradara, Italy. It has been playing officially since 2001 (and longer than that, unofficially) with an average of about one event per month, creating long, episodic story arcs every year.
The setting is a mix of standard medieval heroic fantasy, renaissance-styled high fantasy, steampunk, and "whatever the players want to bring as long as the staff is OK with that", giving it a distinctive Fantasy Kitchen Sink
La Squadra dei Falchi di Gradara provides examples of the following tropes:
- Alchemy: Classic fantasy roleplaying alchemy with the creation of potions and such, but the Alchemist class also has other unique skills, like creating magical seals and barriers, interacting with supernatural creatures and acting as a battlefield surgeon.
- Artifact of Doom: Practically EVERYTHING left by the Ancients. The Machine of the Skies, a magitek contraption of Lost Technology whose intended purpose was WEATHER CONTROL, after being discovered, was used for anything but that, including attempting to remake the world in one's own image and ascending to godhood at least twice. A very old Driad, being asked by some PCs how they could fix the enormous amount of damage done, commented sarcastically "Considering what you've done with a weather control machine, I don't know, If they let you near the stuff the Ancients used to paint walls you'd probably manage to destroy a continent with them."
- Ass in Ambassador: Many foreign ambassadors are this, evidently enjoying too much their diplomatic immunity. Also, after that two (unrelated) ambassadors from two (unrelated) foreign nations were found to be both drows in disguise, a running joke is that every ambassador from every nation that gets sent to Gradara is actually a drow.
- Authority Equals Asskicking / Asskicking Equals Authority: Quite often. Characters in a position of power are usually very good at what they do: not necessarily high-leveled, but good roleplayers who know how to use their skills and available resources.
- Awesome McCoolname: EVERYONE tries to come up with one of these.
- Badass Bureaucrat: When you have a desk job in a city that gets invaded on almost a yearly basis, you need to be this if you want to KEEP your desk job.
- Badass Normal: Pretty much everyone who survives his first few events becomes one of these. Or a very good runner.
- BBC Quarry: Since we nearly always play in the same medieval town, it's bound to happen. The same locations have been used to represent pretty much anything.
- BFS: The LARP uses "boffer" and latex weapons, which are, of course, much lighter than their realistic, metal counterparts (and for a very good reason). Consequently, It's not unusual to see people carrying around weapons whose size (or number) would be just TOO MUCH, realistically, to be effective on the battlefield. This is usually considered an Acceptable Break from Reality in a Heroic Fantasy setting and chalked up to the Rule of Cool.
- Big Bad: A lot of them. The rogue Ancient Ishaka, mad wizard Callisto Iseldi, the Triad...
- Black and Grey Morality: You'd probably be hard pressed to find a really, honestly good guy in this town who wouldn't put a knife in your back, metaphorically AND literally. The only difference would be the reason: some would do it only if they'd think they'd have something to gain, others they'd do it if they thought they could get away with it, and some are going to do it just for the heck of it.
- Cast from Hit Points: The Dissonant Elementalist (the one that uses two opposing elements like Fire and Water) can BLOW UP HIS OWN ARMS AND LEGS in order to power up his spells.
- Chef of Iron: The Technician class can even be one of these. No, seriously.
- The City / City of Adventure / City of Weirdos / Wretched Hive: Gradara. What else?
- City of Spies: Gradara is a central location in Ethulia, situated in a strategic position (magically speaking) and is one of the few cities to have both a consistent freedom of trade and a high freedom of religion. Of course, it's gonna be plenty of spies everywhere.
- Combat Medic: Clerics, but also other character classes (like some Alchemists).
- Crapsack World: The setting isn't exactly a nice place where to live. There might be peaceful corners here and there, but most of it is filled with wars, demons, backstabbing bastards, manipulative conspiracies, hidden cults, megalomaniac masterminds, inquisitors on a long leash and a short fuse, and, in general, a very short lifespan for everyone.
- Culture Clash: Since many people arrive in Gradara from distant places with very different cultural values, this is bound to happen (and, usually, a sign of good roleplaying).
- Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: Both magicwise (Light magic and Darkness magic are morally neutral) and religionwise (some gods are more "light", others more "dark", but both have their "good" and "evil" sides). This has evolved over time: in the early years the setting and mood was much more Black and White Morality.
- Demon Slaying: Something people in Gradara are getting VERY good at. Divine classes have access to spells and powers that make this easier, as do some mages, particularly alchemists. The strongest anti-demon spells and powers belong to the cultists of Gaia, who wage a sort of shadow war against the demons, being wanted themselves.
- Dysfunction Junction: The city of Gradara sometimes feels like this. Well, imagine a whole medieval town inhabited almost exclusively by Player Characters.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Despite all the crapsackiness of the world, sometimes good things come to those who work their ass off.
- Elemental Powers:
- The four variants of the Elementalist class all handle elemental magic:
- The path of Perfection, focusing on a single element (like fire).
- The Path of Harmony, using two nonconflicting elements (fire and air)
- The path of Dissonance, using two conflicting elements (fire and water)
- The Path of Understanding, using all four (fire, air, water and earth).
- Also, Light and Darkness are considered as two extra, "special" elements, used not by the Elementalist class, but by the Wizard class.
- The Ethulian Inquisition: Whose main job is to make sure no one deviates from the dogmas of the Fantasy Pantheon of the setting, neither lightly (splinter groups, diverging interpretations) nor heavily (demon cults, Gaia cults, etc).
- Fantastic Racism: To put it shortly: everyone hates everyone else, but some (especially hellspawns and drows) are hated so much more than others that it's inadvisable to even think about making a player character from one of those races.
- Fantasy Character Classes: The usual. All classes are grouped in four archetypes:
- Military (fighter, ranger, barbarian and knight)
- Divine (monk, priest, paladin, avenger)
- Arcane (wizard, alchemist, elementalist, druid, artist)
- Civilian (rogue, merchant, diplomat, technician)
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Many examples: Ethulia, the Reich, the Asa Empire, and many others.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Averted: NERF guns are repurposed as hand-held repeating crossbows or other, more steampunkish weapons, and freely used. Black powder is implied to exist but be rare and not used much, but alchemical explosives are very common and sometimes even used as fuel for rudimental internal conbustion engine technologies and inventions.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The setting has shades of this. It's Heroic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Medieval, Renaissance, Steampunk, Magipunk, a bit of everything.
- Fantasy Pantheon: There's a literal Pantheon, an alliance of five gods, which is the main (and the only accepted) faith in the setting. Kinich and Chel are considered the "light" gods, Kin and Atachel the "dark" gods, and Itzamna the one who stands between. In the past, this was very much a good/evil distinction, but in more recent times Light Is Not Good and Dark Is Not Evil are in full force.
- Kinich, god of fire and the sun, armies, commerce and bureaucracy.
- Chel, goddess of water and the moon, nature and purity.
- Kin, god of the wind, strength, death and revolutions.
- Atachel, goddess of the earth, secrets, dreams, and politics.
- And Itzamna, dual dragon god of light and darkness, balance and time.
- Five Races: Technically, the playable races are many, including the usual humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, plus odd choices like orcs and half-orcs, goblins, elementspawn, heavenspawn, hellspawn, beastmen, drow... needless to say, those "odd choices" tend to have an estremely short life span (shortest recorded was probably a drow player character being killed about two minutes in by pretty much everyone in sight of him at the same time, thanks to a disguise-denying magic item being nearby). About 90% of the characters are humans, which makes sense setting-wise since the region of Ethulia has about that proportion of humans to non-humans. Also, the main difference between characters other than class is culture, not race.
- Flat Earth Atheist: There are some of those, who believe the Gods don't exist and clerics have actually stumbled by chance in a bizarre and unique source of magic. They tend to keep this to themselves for very good reasons.
- Floating Continent: Kaipa, a recently-introduced mysterious foreign land anly accessible via magical travel or portals, is an archipelago whose central island, Manautu, floats in the sky and is chained to the two closest islands to keep it in place.
- The Force: The best way to describe Gaia, the energy that created the universe: often mistaken for a goddess (especially by the faithful of the pantheon, who consider belief in Gaia a heresy), but actually more like a non-anthropomorphic, non-sentient force of life and creation Above Good and Evil. It's a pantheistic religion of sorts, since Gaia IS the universe, in every sense of the word.
- Freak Lab Accident: Or, more often, Freak Ritual Accident: happens quite often.
- Functional Magic: Like most roleplaying games, after all.
- Gadgeteer Genius: The Techician and Alchemist character classes.
- Gambit Pileup: Once you start playing at the "political" level, as a merchant, noble or ambassador, the game becomes this as you try and keep up with all the people scheming against each other.
- Genre Savvy: A lot of Player Characters.
- Geometric Magic: A bit. All rituals must be performed on a magical circle, and all barriers and seals require, at the very least, a triangle to determine an area.
- Gold Silver Copper Standard: Coinage in Gradara, in the region of Ethulia (not!Italy) and the rest of the world uses this. The names of coins change (in Gradara, a copper is a Trugnaccolo, a silver is a Becco and a gold is a Falco) but the values do not, usually.
- Golem: Slowly becoming more popular. It's probably only a matter of time before a player character tries to build one himself.
- Half-Human Hybrid: All the "-spawn" races (heavenspawn, hellspawn, elementspawn) and the beastmen both count, although in neither case interracial intercourse is strictly required.
- The Heretic: Oh boy. The five churches of the Pantheon are EXTREMELY protective of their turf, and for every reasonable, pacifist priest, there are two or three firebrands on a VERY short fuse. Heads have rolled over very minor points of dogma.
- Hermetic Magic: A school of magic is based on historical hermetic tradition.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: No actual statistics have been made, but the Swords to Other Weapons ratio is about three to one.
- Heroic Fantasy / High Fantasy: Tries its best to walk down both paths at the same time, in order to appease fans of both genres.
- Human Sacrifice: A common practice for Demons and their cultists, and not entirely frowned upon by the churches of Kin and Atachel in some circumstances.
- Infant Immortality: Heavily, HEAVILY subverted. A drow invasion made a point of capturing and taking hostage every infant in the kingdom of Gradara, and when the players hesitated to respond to their terms (partly because of fear, partly because too busy backstabbing each other at the time) the babies were ALL KILLED. Also, often infants have appeared in play (using dolls of babies as props, of course). It has almost always ended very badly for them.
- Kung-Fu Wizard: The Elementalist class is pretty much meant to be a battlefield wizard, sometimes to the point of having Full-Contact Magic.
- Language of Magic: Every spellcaster can customize his incantations. Also, many relics and artifacts have writings in Ancient language, and some magicians can use a special language called "Enoch's Tongue" to speak with spirits.
- Ley Line: The Rifts in the setting are pretty much this: where the ley lines of magic touch the surface and "open". They're usually a major plot point whenever mentioned.
- Literary Work of Magic: An entire school of magic, the Flame of the Heart school (a Fire elemental list of spells focused on buffing and battlefield control) is supposedly based on a series of in-universe Heroic Fantasy books whose author was believed to also secretly be an elementalist archmage.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Over a hundred at each event!
- MacGyvering: A key skill of the Technician. Also sometimes mages will try to "MacGyver a magical ritual", that is, attempt to improvise one skipping most of the time-consuming preparations. Sometimes it works, but being a ritualist in this setting is considered the fantasy equivalent of being a demolitions expert or a bomb disposal technician: you play around with powers the likes of which most people can't even dream, but it's still one of the most dangerous jobs ever.
- Mad Scientist Laboratory: Actually a prerequisite for many Alchemist and Technician skills.
- Magi Babble: A favourite of many wizard player characters.
- Magitek: There are several types of technologies, and one of those is "magic-powered technology".
- Mana: Referenced by name: the skill that gives more magic points to spellcaster is called "Mana X" where X is the spell level.
- Mauve Shirt: Sometimes, when properly trained, equipped, assisted and motivated, the Militia turns into this, and at rare times reaches the status of Badass Army. It doesn't happen often enough, unfortunately.
- Medieval European Fantasy: The basic premise of the setting. The world geography is even identical to actual Europe.
- Mooks: A lot of Non-Player Characters, especially enemy troops and the such, are used like this.
- Mutually Exclusive Magic: You can't have both divine and arcane magic no matter what.
- Nature Spirit: They are called Driads: the spirit of a specific place or concept, which might be natural (forests, rivers, rain) or artificial (a bridge, a road, a castle). They have firm rules that prevent them from acting on their own unless called (which is something the Druid class specializes in).
- Omnicidal Maniac / End of the World as We Know It: Demons' modus operandi and final objective, respectively.
- Our Demons Are Different: Demons are quite literally non-existance made manifest, whose final objective is the total destruction of everything that exists, including time, space and the universe itself. They are ruled by the Triad, the three godlike Demon Lords of Abyss, Ecstasy and Nightmare.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Well... there really aren't any around. Stuff of legends and so on. The dragon motif is however used heavily by the church of Itzamna.
- Our Elves Are Better: They certainly think they are. There are three different elven nations: Taur Ruum (peaceful farmers and merchants, in the geographical position of not!France), Taur Aire (a powerful, warlike and sometimes xenophobic elven empire, in not!England) and Taur Ethele (mostly a collection of barbarian and not-so-barbarian elven tribes, in not!Ireland), but they recently fused together in a massive empire. Contrary to most fantasy tropes, Elves here aren't an ancient, fading race at all.
- Our Vampires Are Different: There have been vampirism-like diseases that forced, for example, infected wizards to drain other people's magic power, but no outright vampires. Mostly because most events take place during daytime and end at sundown.
- Place of Power: The aforementioned Rifts. One of those has been in a dungeon just under the city for years, and the target of many bad guys, but it recently "disappeared".
- Precursors: The Ancients, an incredibly powerful race that follows all of the standard tropes of the genre, including a civil war, vanishing mysteriously, leaving around all sort of dangerous artifacts, and apparently not being really all dead.
- Red Shirt Army: A cynical interpretation of the role of Gradara's City Guards, who are usually fhe first in line to fight whatever unspeakable horrors will attack the town this year.
- Regime Change: Happens extremely often, usually because the previous regime gets either couped or outright slaughtered.
- Religion is Magic: Different gods give different spells to their clerics, who, in some cases, can unlock a special list of "secret spells".
- Religion of Evil: Demon cults have this IN SPADES.
- Ritual Magic: An important part of the setting, where many mages or clerics put their powers together in order to create ad hoc magical effects in a large and complex ceremony (that usually explodes when someone spells a word wrong).
- Robe and Wizard Hat: Some mages go for the old-fashioned look.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: It's either this, or having a pretty good chance of being murdered and/or deposed.
- Schizo Tech: On one side, it's a dark, medieval world. On the other, there are ironclads, flamethrowers, repeating crossbows and assorted magitek.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Many examples.
- Secret Art: Military classes have secret techniques. Divine classes have secret spells of their god of choice. Arcane classes have secret schools of magic. Civilian classes have secret potions, poisons and items. And everyone wants to unlock more true potential for themselves.
- Secret Police: There are several secret organizations, spies and the such lurking behind the curtains, and you can never trust completely anyone you've just met.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly on the cynical end.
- Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Tends towards the gritty side, especially as far as costumes and props go.
- Spell Book: All mages need one of these in order to learn third, fourth and fifth level spells.
- Spell Construction: Spells require the use of Magical Incantation and Magical Gesture, but both of them can be customized by the individual spellcaster, so two different wizards could say different words to cast the same spell.
- Squishy Wizard: Very much. Magic classes have the slowest hit point progression and the heaviest limitations in wearing armor. Some defensive spells make up for it.
- Techno Wizard: An Alchemist can specialize in this.
- Trauma Inn: Partially: resting for some time in Gradara's Tavern can give you back some Inspiration (expendable points you use to activate some skills).
- Turn Undead: All clerics have access to this.
- Ultimate Evil: Everyone can agree that the demons and demon cults are this, and yet, there is no shortage of people flocking to their banner.
- The Wall Around the World: Word goes that a vast river, the Indus, marks the end of the world in the far east, and all attempts to cross it have ended in disaster.
- Wiki Magic: The setting was first created as a strange live-action version of Wiki Magic, pieced together bit by bit from the first written character backgrounds, which became popular enough to have other character backgrounds based off them and so on.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Once you start working as a staff member, in charge of the game's plots, setting or props, the games becomes this as you try and keep up with the players and their crazy ideas.
- Yin-Yang Bomb: Certain magical classes can learn and cast from opposing spheres, like Water and Fire, Earth and Air, or Light and Darkness... especially the aforementioned Dissonant Elementalist...
- You All Meet in an Inn: Many characters meet like this: the tavern is the perfect place to meet people, and especially appreciated for selling hot drinks in winter and cold drinks in summer.