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Literature / House Cerberus

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Terrible people are exactly that. They irritate you, they frustrate you, and they might even anger you. And sometimes, they bring you to a point where you discover something about yourself that you didn't want to know. Thanks to a group of people that can only be described as absolute villains, I realized that I could actually hate someone. A pure, absolute hate that would shame anyone that harbors it.

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And I still carry this shameful hate, with my memories of that weekend keeping it alight. -Nephem Festiva

House Cerberus, also known as This One Time At Larp Camp is an unofficial title given to a series of Live Action Role Playing adventures posted anonymously to 4chan's /tg/ board. The first posting, which is an archive of the entire thread with other Anons posting, is here, and Part 2 is here. Just the text of part 1 can be found in this imgur album, but unfortunately, there does not seem to be a simple text posting of the more than 50,000 word story anywhere. While the events are never claimed to be pure fact or pure fiction, it is reasonable to assume that the stories were based on reality and heavily embellished for the sake of a coherent story.

The format is that of an Anon recalling a time at a LARP with his two high school friends. Having dabbled in LARPing in the past, they decide to join a new one as their old characters, Nephem Festiva, our protagonist and a dual mage/fighter, Lith Cloud, a warrior, and Hardule Nightwater, a very powerful mage. Once there, however, a simple misunderstanding spirals out of control, and Nephem is forced to use his wits to survive the weekend and topple the evil Lord Ulcik.

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The second part features many returning characters, quite a few new ones, and a new struggle for our heroes as they are once again forced to fight for their very survival against a new band of villains- and one returning one.

The threads on /tg/ were very well received, being archived and therefore readable today within hours of their posting, and the threads make their way around the internet every once in a while.

Received an autobook courtesy of Neckbeardia, which was positively received. Part 1 can be heard here. Part 2, dubbed This One Time At Larp Camp: Ulcick's Revenge, is ongoing.

For a similar story of a newcomer to a role-playing session fighting and defeating a GMPC, see The Ballad of Edgardo.


  • Always Save the Girl: House Cerberus has been fighting for hours, and comes across a cave that has hundreds of monsters in it. Right when they're about to get overwhelmed and run away, they see Selenia, apparently unconscious, in the back of the cave. They get a Heroic Second Wind and save the girl.
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  • Armor-Piercing Question: Nephem at one point publicly debates one of Ulcik's followers in an attempt to get the other players to turn on him. The noblewoman dominates the debate simply by screaming down anything Nephem has to say, until he mentions the phylactery and explains how it works. The implicaiton being that since the phylactery is powered by consuming six souls a month, and only two members of House Cerberus are alive, unless Ulcik intends to outright cheat, he'll eventually need to resort to feeding off his own men to survive.
  • Band of Brothers: House Cerberus.
  • Bare-Handed Blade Block: Bare handed in real life, at least. Normally players are vulnerable to damage on any part of their body. In Part 2, Nephem takes the combat skill Bracers, which allows him to block incoming strikes with his hands and forearms as if they were weapons. In the Final Battle, he realizes that his ring allows him to block spells with his weapons, and Bracers allows him to block with his hands "as if they were weapons", thus allowing him to Bare-Handed Spell Block.
  • Big Good: The Monster Leader takes on this role in part 2, helping to guide our heroes and use his status as Plot Master to tip the odds in their favor.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Ulcik's entourage are all unassuming low-level characters with basic stats. But their real life fighting skill along with an arsenal of magic items make them some of the most dangerous characters in the game.
  • Butt-Monkey: Selenia's boyfriend. Nephem kills him in his sleep, steals his gear, then kills him again in battle (permanently) in Part 1, then, in Part 2, his new character (his old character's twin brother) gets permanently killed by Nephem, then his now ex-girlfriend starts going out with Nephem both in and out of character. Did we mention he never even gets a name? He is always referred to by his relationship to Selenia.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A HUGE one in the form of the Ring of Wish in Part 1. Part 2 has the Bracers ability, which allows Nephem To block Ulcik's spells with his bare hands after being disarmed during the final battle.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Ulcik sentences Nephem to death, so Nephem vows revenge on and kills Ulcik, which makes Ulick destroy House Cerberus, which brings Nephem back to the LARP to finish off the Lich Ulcik for good. Quite aside from the main plot, there's Selenia's (ex-)boyfriend, who continually tries to take revenge on Nephem for killing him in his sleep.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Several times Nephem defeats a foe by freezing them in place with his ice spell and pelting them with 1-damage fireballs while they're powerless to dodge.
  • Deus ex Machina: The Scroll of True Resurrection. Somewhat justified, as the Plot Master did say the prize would be something that Ulcik would want very much.
  • Elite Mooks: Ulcik cements his power in the lead-up to Part 2 by bringing in some lackeys to do his bidding. They do realistic medieval combat as a hobby, and are more than capable of standing up to Nephem's fighting skill, nevermind the powerful magic items they all carry.
  • Final Battle: Three in total: the ending of Part 1, the Monster vs. Town battle in Part 2, representing the monsters resentment of always losing the battles, and the final showdown between House Cerberus and Ulcik and his squad of fighters.
  • Five-Man Band: House Cerberus and friends by the end of Part 2.
  • Foil:
    • House Cerberus by the climax becomes this to House Ulcik. House Cerberus is composed of True Companions who participate in the LARP simply for enjoyment of adventuring together and are even said by one of the Plot Masters to embody the spirit of good sportsmanship other player should aspire to emulate. In contrast Ulcik and his cronies are a coterie of whiny manchildren, bullies, cheaters and sadists, who are only allies for the sake of power or money, whose enjoyment of the LARP seems to be derived from making the other players miserable.
    • Hardule realizes in-universe he has a lot in common with Ulcik. Both are powerful spellcasters, and Hardule begins the story as just another of Ulcik's sycophants kissing up to him for power. The differences ultimately come in that Hardule ultimately stays true to his friends and in the process his character becomes a Noble Fugitive similar to Nephem, whereas Ulcik is true only to himself and his lust for power, resulting in his character becoming more powerful than ever but in the process becoming an in-universe monster and alienating every last one of his fellow players.
    • The monsters are also counterparts to Ulcik's Elite Mooks squad. The monsters might be opposed to the players, but only do so to provide them with a challenge and boost their enjoyment of the LARP, even possessing their own code of honor. Ulcik's thugs on the other hand are Only in It for the Money and openly break the rules to deliver sadistic beatdowns on the other players and monsters.
  • Happy Ending Override: Part 1 ends with Nephem, Lith, and Hardule inducing Final Death on Ulcik and the latter two establishing the titular noble house. Part 2 begins with Ulcik returning as a lich, retaking control of the LARP, and hunting House Cerberus to near-extinction.
  • Harmless Freezing: How Nephem's oft-abused 30 second ice spell works, apparently.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Nephem is one for the majority of Part One. Ulick and his cronies paint him to the other players as a selfish Jerkass that's willing to let people die for money, and then gets branded a criminal and sentenced to death. Luckily, he manages to escape.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Lith and Hardule spend the majority of Part 1 on Ulcik's side trying to capture and kill Nephem out of fear of Ulcik's power. Once Nephem gets Ulcik to exhaust his powers during their climatic fight in Part 1 however, they quickly switch sides and deal the finishing blows to the nobleman themselves.
    • Selenia in Part 1 is at least officially on the side of House Ulcik, only being at the LARP because her boyfriend pressured her to be there. However, a combination of Nephem's kindness and her boyfriend's immature, controlling behavior ultimately causes her to switch sides. By Part 2, she's broken up with her loser boyfriend and become a full member of House Cerberus, ultimately getting together with Nephem at the end of the story.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ulcik gets killed off for good when Nephem steals and uses his own phylactery against him, which he made into an overpowered, nigh-unbreakable sword in an effort to make himself as invincible as possible.
  • Horror Hunger: A lich must consume six souls a month in order to stay alive. A fact that becomes relevant later when it's used to sow doubts in the player's about Ulcik's character.
  • Hungry Weapon: Ulcick's soul-eating phylactery, crafted in the shape of an almost indestructible sword.
  • If You Ban Him You Will Be Just Like Him: Nephem at one point muses it would be easier since Ulcik is so obviously a toxic influence on the LARP it would be simpler just to have another Plot Master just ban him or let just let Lith and Hardule keep making new characters until they manage to finally get lucky and kill him rather then running around trying to overthrow him over the course of a single weekend. He quickly dismisses these ideas, since resorting to "cheating" would count as a victory for Ulcik, because it meant the good guys needed to stoop to his level to beat him. He decides if they're going to beat Ulcik, it needs to be fair and square.
  • Killed Off for Real: Played with. The higher a characther's level, the fewer times they need to be killed before they're dead for good. The highest level players only need to be killed once. This of course doesn't stop them from making a new character, but they need to start from scratch with a level one character. Ulcik, sore loser that he is, uses his GM influence to write his already overpowered character back into the game as an even more powerful lich anyways.
  • Magically Inept Fighter: The main weakness of Ulcik's otherwise undefeatable squad; being used to realistic medieval combat, they are wholly unprepared for spellcasting, which eventually lets Nephem develop some counter-strategies against them. Averted with Regent, who also uses Nephem's basic ice spell.
  • Manly Tears: These are shed as Nephem looks down at Hardule's body.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: At one point in Part 2 Nephem gets in an argument with Ulcik himself at the inn. In a rage, he blurts out a threat to lead an army against Ulcik. From this, Ulcik is able to deduce the heroes have joined forces with the monsters as that's the only force big enough to rival his own army. Cue him using his influence as a Game Master to stack the deck against the heroes by royally nerf the encounter, including limiting the types of damage the monsters can deal, making him effectively immune to death from monster Zerg Rush like they'd originally planned.
  • Obviously Evil: By the start of Part 2 most people realize that the "good lich" Ulcik is anything but good, but are either paid off or too intimidated by his stats to do anything but look the other way to his abuses.
  • Off the Rails: Nephem's feud with Ulcik begins when the former accidentally derails the latter's plans to give one of his followers a magic item.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Ulcik's gang of elite henchmen in Part 2 only do his bidding because he's promised them real world money to act as his muscle. When encountered at the inn without their employer, some of them are surprisingly affable towards Nephem with only minor prodding. Unsurprisingly, the epilogue implies that the defeated Ulcik skipped town without paying them anything.
  • Reality Ensues: Nephem is able to kill more powerful, higher-level characters by virtue of his real physical fighting skill—it doesn't matter how much imaginary damage or health you have if you can't hit the enemy or stop them from hitting you. This is turned around on him in Part 2, where Nephem has trouble with Ulcik's Elite Mooks who come from a medieval combat recreation society.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: Selenia's boyfriends first death.
  • Soul Jar: The lich Ulcik's phylactery. It not only contains his soul, and therefore is the only way to kill him off permanently, it also needs to consume six souls a month to keep the lich alive.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Vlaine goads Ulcik into straight-up murdering his friendly wizard character in a rage. He gets him to do this in front of the rest of the players, showing them just how much of a tyrant he really is and how little he cares about anyone but himself and his ego. Nearly all of his supporters abandon him on the spot.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: We never once hear any planning being done. Every plan succeeds more or less flawlessly. Even the ones that mess up go right in the end.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: In-character at least, Archduck Ulcik is a respected leader of the community and head of the LARP's premier noble house. In actuality Ulcik is a tyrant and a bully, treating the LARP as his personal kingdom and its players his subjects. He's at least smart enough to use bribes and intimidation to silence those who know his true nature. Until the climax of Part 2 that is, where he's goaded into showing his true colors.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Despite being Level 1 and having a Master of None build, Nephem's actual combat skill combined with being a Combat Pragmatist lets him take on and defeat some of the LARP's strongest characters, including delivering a Curb-Stomp Battle to Ulcik at the end of part 2.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Defied by Nephem. After his first encounter with one of Ulcik's Elite Mooks ends in a Curb-Stomp Battle, he at first tries to rationalize that he was playing a monster and had much lower stats than his real character, but quickly realizes that he just got out-fought and a bit more health and damage wouldn't have changed anything.
  • You Just Told Me: Lich!Ulcik's phylactery is revealed to be his sword thanks to some bluffs by Nephem.
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