How to Play

A lot of these rules are more like “guidelines”. The object of the game is to have fun scenes together. Any rules that don’t pertain to safety or consent are just suggestions about how to accomplish this and can be ignored in service of fun.

Safety, Consent, and Check-Ins

Inclusivity

Village of Idiots will be a better experience without real world sexism, homophobia or transphobia, ableism, or racism. We ask that our participants to respect this decision and to avoid language or behaviors that could be interpreted as breaking this rule. To be clear, participants who harass other players or break this rule will be removed from the experience.

The humor in this game should not be pointed at people who are handicapped or disabled. Our characters are idiots, but they are not a parody of mental disability. We will not use language that mocks or denigrates people with these conditions.

Code of Conduct

Village of Idiots is set in an alternate earth-like world in its dark ages. Our story and setting have created a more gender and racially inclusive cultural situation than was the case in our own history. However, the thematic time period represented was dirty and violent and some controversial themes may come up in role play scenes. We ask that every player be respectful and considerate to each other. As mentioned, overt, offensive, racist or sexist slurs aimed at any player’s real or depicted race or gender will not be tolerated, but there is more to consider. A live event is one-part theater production, one part improvised: If your plan is to a portray a character with controversial personal opinions or material in their backstory, we encourage you to talk with your fellow players about your role play and intentions before and after game.

Content Warning

Village of Idiots includes depictions of violence. It also may feature the occasional use of: loud noises, fog machines, firework smoke, flashing lights and absence of light, depictions of bigotry, depictions of abuse, depictions of graphic violence and injury and disrespect of religions that while based in fantasy, may bear similarities to real world religions.

Village of Idiots Larp will not ever condone the use of sexual assault or rape themes in depicted scenes.

This is an “Emergent Larp”

This is a larp about telling our own stories within the Village of Idiots. At an Emergent larp, the plot emerges from the characters’ interactions and decisions, rather than being scripted by a team of writers.

  • There are no “NPCs”, that is, everybody is a “main character” to the degree they want to be.
  • The world is a sandbox. Anything can change, depending on what people do.
  • There are two factions, the villagers and the adventurers. We want them to play together in interesting ways and can’t predict what will develop. At the end of the weekend, maybe the villagers will run the adventurers out of town. Or maybe the adventurers will get frustrated and take over the village. We’ll have to play to find out!
  • The plot is player driven. We’ll provide some basic structure and relationships, but everything else is created by players.
  • You’re encouraged to do some light meta-game discussion with other players to set up your own scenes. For example, if you want to try robbing the bank, it’s not about whether or not you can pull it off, it’s about setting up a fun scene where that can happen on terms everyone would enjoy. For example, you can approach the banker and say “Do you want to do a bank heist scene?”
    • If the banker says yes, you can sketch out how the scene will work. Maybe your character sets up a bunch of absurd distractions so that you can sneak over to the coffers and loot a few coins. Or maybe you’ve got a more direct “put all your money in the bag!” method and a getaway plan. Try to come up with a scene that’s fun for both people.
    • If there are other players that should fit into this scene (like a town guard, so the banker can call for help if the thief is spotted), you should loop them in and get their buy-in.
    • Players can communicate any limits or boundaries, such as “I don’t want to lose all my money, please only take 5-10 coins”. Or maybe the guard hurt her knee earlier today, so she says “I can’t really chase you right now, so if I yell STOP can you just stand still while I try to lasso you? and if I miss, you can keep running until I yell STOP again?”
    • Be open to a twist! Maybe during your planning, the guard suggests something like “I think it would be funny if the Banker and I were engaged in some illegal bribe and were trying to hide from the Thief. So you’re sneaking around the bank stealing things, and we are aware of you, but we’re focused on avoiding your notice we finish our illicit business. We don’t even recognize you’re stealing stuff unless something distracts us.”
  • We will have a pre-game workshop where we’ll practice all of this. An improv comedy teacher will teach us the basics of comedic roleplay. You’ll meet a bunch of characters and develop relationships with them. And you’ll set up a bunch of scenes that will unfold the next day.

Stay In-Character, React to Everything

You Can Do Whatever You Can Depict

This rulebook does not contain a comprehensive list of the things your character could do. Roleplay, theatrics, and improvisation are more important than the game mechanics. 

The two most important rules:

  1. When something happens to you, accept it and show a reaction which you feel is appropriate.
  2. When you do something to another player, accept their reaction without questioning it and keep playing.

Everything – literally everything – follows from these two rules. Here are some examples.

You’re in the tavern, waiting in line to fill up your mug with a weird blue liquid people call “Jortle Sauce”. Some idiot cuts ahead of you in line. You tap them on the shoulder and say “Hey! I’m next, wait your turn!”

The person spins around and says “SHUT THE HELL UP! I’m getting a refreshing mug of Jortle Sauce first, and if you give me any more lip, Verily, I will punch your stupid face in.” You continue mouthing off, and they take a swing at you. It’s a slow, telegraphed swing, and it passes right by your face, but you turn your head with the punch to act out being socked.

“Sorry! Sorry!” you say, rubbing your mouth, “Go ahead, mighty one.” You reach into your mouth and wiggle a tooth. Uh-ho.. the village blacksmith is gonna have to pull it out.

What’s the effect of being punched in the face? It’s up to you. Aside from the shame, the horrible shame, it probably stings for a bit. You might walk around with your hand on your face for a little while. Or maybe you got hit harder, and go apply some bruise makeup. Or maybe your tooth came loose! But however you decide to react, it should make sense, and your reaction should be visible in the world, something others can potentially react to themselves.

By now you’re probably wondering: “Why would I get a tooth knocked loose in a dumb tavern brawl? Nobody needs to know, I’ll just act hurt for a few moments and then get my Jortle Sauce.” The answer is: to create fun and interesting situations for everyone around you. To add to the atmosphere and experience of the larp. To make your opponent’s play more satisfying. To play fairly and use your imagination. Add to the atmosphere of the village, of the pain and blood at the healer’s table. Remember, this is collaboration. Others will do the same for you and around you. This larp is about setting a scene, creating a shared reality, playing with each other.

If you do not understand how you should react to something, at least give a reaction. Perhaps a mage points at you while holding a skull and speaking in Latin. What’s this spell supposed to do? Even if you are not clear about what is supposed to happen, react! Maybe your character is suddenly stricken with panic and runs away, or maybe they are temporarily blinded, unable to see anything around them. Take at least 10 seconds to roleplay some kind of reaction. Do not break game and ask what you’re supposed to do. And if you cast a spell and the target doesn’t respond exactly as you’d expect, that’s okay, magic is unpredictable. 

Another important rule of thumb is that your reaction should be proportional to the performance. If a wizard casts Gust of Wind on you by simply fanning you with their hand while saying “a gust of wind blows you back”, you might give a small reaction: being blown a few steps back and then, after 10 seconds, fighting through it.

But if the mage is using an impressive fan, covered in runes blowing incense at you, and delivers a loud, booming incantation, then their spell is more powerful. Maybe you should get blown clear off the field! 

When anything happens in the shared space, react to it. A reaction is a form of reward. We should strive to be generous, rewarding each other for everything done to make the shared space cooler, funnier, or more interesteing.

If someone’s character is sitting there looking sad and sniffling, don’t just let them role play in a vaccuum – react to what they’re putting out there, engage them in role play and bring their scene to the surface.

A big reaction is a reward you should give out generously for bringing the game to life.

Roleplaying Tools

Say “Yes, And…”

An “offer” is a suggestion for how roleplay might proceed in the future. Wherever possible, say Yes and build on these suggestions. For example, you’re about to step out of your cabin into the darkness, and character says to you “Aren’t you afraid of the dark?”

If you think this would be funny to play out, say “Yes, I am!” You can also steer the suggestion slightly off target by saying something like “I used to be, but now I’m never scared as long as I have this magic charm.” — and then, if you lose the charm, you can turn on the fear.

Another way to make offers is to say something like “Do I remember correctly that…” and establish some shared history. For example, you might say “Do I remember correctly that we were best friends as children?” If your partner wants to incorporate this into their role play, they will agree. If not, they will say “No, I think you’re misremembering.”

Verily

The phrase “Verily” is an invitation to a specific scene. If you say “Verily,” and then describe a future sequence of events, it telegraphs to the people around you how things will play out. For example, a tavernkeeper cleaning up after a big brawl might close the tavern and say “If anybody comes into my tavern while it’s closed, Verily, I will beat them savagely with this broom.”

You can take this as an invitation – you are welcome to step into the tavern and be chased out while I whack you with a broom.

This is also an opportunity to negotiate that scene. When someone says “verily”, you can also give a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or wavey-hand to indicate how much you want to play out that specific suggestion. For example, maybe you are desperately thirsty and really need to get into the tavern to get some water. When the tavernkeep says “Verily, don’t come in or I’ll whack you,” you can give a thumbs down and say “But I really need a drink of water” (to which they should say “okay, go ahead”), or a wavy hand (suggesting a compromise) and say “How about I get a drink and then you can chase me out?”

Trust Me

Use the phrase “trust me” to let other players (not characters) know that what you are saying is a lie. Here are some examples:

“Wait right here, and Trust Me, the mayor will see you shortly,” means that the mayor is nowhere around, but I’m stalling.

Trust me, none of the poison got into the soup!” means that the soup is definitely poisoned. Again, the player understands this, but the character does not.

“Oh this wound isn’t a problem! Trust me, I am fine!” means that the character is badly injured but in denial about it. You’ll have to convince them to get some treatment before they keel over.

It’s up to you whether or not your character buys the lie. Always do what seems most fun for the scene.

Play to Lose, Play to Lift

As you can tell, this is not a game you can really “win” or “lose”. The object of the game is to create funny, interesting, shared scenes. The winner of a conflict isn’t determined by game skills or athletic skills–the players just have to figure out on their own how each conflict resolves. Technically, there’s nothing stopping you from strong-arming your way to victory every time. But does that tell a good story?

Every character should have big, exploitable flaws. Having other people leverage those flaws is FUN. For example, you might be an adventurer who is unbeatable in combat – but your sense of duty makes you gullible and are easy to manipulate. At the end of the weekend, you’ll probably recognize that having the wool pulled over your eyes was more fun than winning fights. Your character’s flaws lend themselves to fun gameplay more than their strengths.

Whatever your flaws are, try to bring them on stage! If you have a secret, your character will want to keep it under wraps, but as a player, your goal should be to get your secret out in a funny way.

Don’t worry so much about accomplishing your character’s goals and ending the game in a healthy, rich, and powerful position. Just try to make every scene fun for everybody, and be willing to lose in service to a good story.

The Hat Rule

The Villagers respect people wearing big hats. The bigger the hat, the more status that person has.

If you want to play the hat-stealing mini-game, hang a ribbon off your hat. This signals that you consent to other people stealing your hat and switching it with their own. You may not steal a hat if you are not wearing one.

Hats must be stolen from behind. You should take off their hat with one hand, while you put your hat on their head with the other hand. If you are spotted attempting this, you may not try it again until you walk away from the person with that damn cool hat.

If you spot someone trying to steal your hat, all you have to do is point to them and say “HEY”, and they are foiled. If they have already removed your hat, it’s too late. All hats must be returned to their owners at the end of the game.

Disguises Work

Any attempt to disguise your appearance will successfully fool most people. The only difference between Superman and Clark Kent is a pair of glasses. Someone wearing a fake mustache seems like a completely different person. Someone wearing a mask (like a demon mask) appears to be the creature they are depicting.

There are exceptions to this rule. At a funny moment, a fake mustache might slip off, a masked villager might accidentally talk in their real voice, or someone might recognize an obvious character quirk. As a rule of thumb, you should only see through someone’s disguise if it builds the scene, and try not to block that person’s play.

Romance

If you want to roleplay a romantic relationship other characters, you must pre-negotiate it with them while out-of-character. This usually consists of suggesting a a scenario, like “How about my character wants to court yours, but you won’t give them the time of day unless I prove my love somehow?” Or “Do you two want to play through a young-adult-novel-style love-triangle where you two compete for my attention?”

All parties should also discuss triggers and boundaries, such as “Hugs are okay but no other physical contact, please”, or “It’d be cool if you flirt with my character by singing or writing poetry, but I’m not comfortable with lots of physical complements or sexual innuendos.” Even if your romantic partner is your real life spouse, try to keep your saucy roleplay PG-13, I would love to run at least one larp event where I don’t see someone’s ass.

In ANY romantic role play, anyone can always give a thumbs down to communicate a boundary and withdraw consent. Anyone who doesn’t respect this is a creep and will be removed from the game immediately.

In the VILLAGE OF IDIOTS, kissing someone’s hand represents a “romantic contact”. It’s an exciting event. If other people see it, it will generates gossip. You may hold out your hand palm down to request a kiss. Hold out your hand with the palm up to request someone’s hand, in order to kiss it.

The hand-kiss only happens if all parties allow it on both an in-character and out-of-character level. Don’t hand-kiss without permission. Before planting the kiss, you should pause for a second, allowing your scene partner an opportunity to refuse or pull their hand away. VILLAGE OF IDIOTS will not have any form of non-consenual romantic contact. It just doesn’t happen in this universe.

If you’ve kissed someone’s hand on two separate occassions, people will assume that a relationship is developing. If it happens on a third occasion, you are probably now AN ITEM, DING DING DING, HOO BOY, AHH CHA CHA, HUBBA HUBBA.

Combat

This is not a combat-focused larp, and we don’t expect battles to be the focus of play. But they will happen!

If combat occurs, it should be played out using physical acting. Fighting is not about real-world athletic skill, but about theatrics. You can use fake punches and kicks, but stop short of really hitting the person, and make your attacks very big and exaggerated so that your opponent can give a big reaction.

Any physical contact is by consent only. Before a fight, combatants should privately agree on how they want to play out the fight – are we doing fake punches and kicks? real grabs? Light throws? Usually, combatants will pre-determine who will win the fight, mainly based on what makes sense, or what would be a more fun outcome. If they can’t agree, they can throw rock/paper/scissors. Then, they’ll act out the fight.

By default, you may grab someone’s upper arms, but if they attempt to struggle away, you must release them immediately. Fights might use fake punches, kicks, slaps, and sword strikes, but if you actually harm or injure your opponent, we’re going to hurl you into the lake.

All weapon props must be soft, fake, and safe to strike someone with. Latex weapons are encouraged, but plastidip is fine too. No “round bladed” weapons are permitted.

Death and other BAD STUFF

No characters can be killed, but they can be badly injured, maimed, publicly humilated, pelted with fruit, tossed into a river, burned by acid, have their underwear pulled up over their heads while they are whapped with a baguette, mutilated, crushed by a falling tree, detonated, or be creamed by a car in the parking lot while they are packing up at the end of the weekend. This is a dangerous game.

You can only die if you decide it would be a good moment to die. Otherwise, like Wile E. Coyote, you can always stagger away and eventually recover.

Getting Hit – Please give a big reaction to any attacks that hit you. As a rule of thumb, most people can take about five punches or three weapon blows before they pass out or surrender. Weapons injure people badly–weapon wounds should be played up for a time after the injury.

Treatment and Recovery – Bruises and light wounds will recover on their own. Injuries and sickness should be treated by the village doctor or apothecary. Loose teeth should be pulled by the village blacksmith. Injuries will linger for as long as they’re fun to play out.

Game Effects

INVISIBILITY – If someone is holding their forearm or elbow in front of their face like they’re holding up an opera cape, they are not there. Pretend you don’t see them. If you need to go somewhere out-of-game, indicate it like this.

SICKNESS – If your character becomes sick, you will immediately develop one symptom, such as dizziness, hiccups, itchiness, fever, headache, et cetera. Every 30 minutes or so, you should develop another symptom. If you have close contact with another character, whisper “sickness” in their ear to let them know you’re contageous. It might catch, it might not, it’s up to them. Sickness lasts until treated by the village doctor or apothecary.

CLOTHESPINS – are used to pick pockets. If you attach a clothespin to someone’s pouch, you have stolen something from it. You can ask them, out of character, to hand you something from their pouch. If you want to be really sneaky, you can also ask somebody else to do that on your behalf.

THE SIGN OF POWER – if somebody makes the “the horns”, also known as the heavy metal sign, they are using a magical effect. For example, someone makes the sign of power and says “Cower before me, you sniveling fool”, a magical compulsion makes you fall to your knees and snivel, whatever that means. If a wizard uses the Sign of Power to “turn you into a sheep”, and doesn’t provide some kind of sheep mask, it’s up to you how to interpret this. Maybe instead of a literal sheep, you become sheepish in some other way. Like maybe you just follow people around. Try to roleplay an outcome that makes a fun scene and (yes, and…) builds on the mage’s offer. All spells should last for as long as will make it a good scene, but a minimum of 10 seconds is polite. The victim of the spell could decide it would be fun for the spell to last until dispelled, and then have to play out a scene or two relating to that.

A spellcasting example: Dunceton thinks that magic isn’t real, it’s all just misdirection and sleight-of-hand. He makes the mistake of saying this to Archwizard Cronut, who punishes Dunceton with a curse.

Archwizard Cronut holds up the sign of power and says “With the celestial power of the Crescent Moon above, I curse you.”

Dunceton points at the moon overhead and says “You’re cursing me with the space cheese?” Then he sniffs the air — oh no — the spell is making his feet stink, so bad! Ugh!

Dunceton depicts the spell’s effect by fanning the air in front of him, “gross.. Cronut, can you all smell my feet too?” Cronut gasps for air, waving his hands magically as he backs away. Now, everywhere Dunceton goes, he’ll depict his foot-stank by roleplaying his own disgust and explaining what it is. This annoys people for some time, but when it’s getting old, Dunceton decides the spell should end. He washes his feet in the lake, or maybe he applies an ointment he got from the apothecary, and the spell is over.

Game Items and Item Boxes

If you need a specific item that doesn’t have an assigned prop, you can fudge it by labeling a container, or putting an item card inside of a container. For example, the apothecary might send you to gather Elf Milk and a Tuning Fork. At the marketplace, you ask a merchant if they have any Tuning Forks in stock. If they decide that they do, but don’t have an appopriate prop to hand you, they can give you a box that says “Tuning Fork” on the outside. Or the box might just contain an index card that says “Tuning Fork”.

Don’t handle index cards directly – it looks stupid to hand someone an index card that says “This is a tuning fork.” If someone needs to use the tuning fork for some reason, but there’s no corresponding prop, they should do it while facing away from everybody, or in another room, or just make the noise with their mouth so that they can create the illusion of it existing. This is an imagination game, but always try to use props – the less imagination we have to use, the better.

The Quartermaster

The Quartermaster has a list of props and tools available at the larp. If you’d like to use one in a scene, you must approach the quartermaster and sign it out. If the prop is part of the general town set-up, you’ll need to pack it up at the end of the weekend. If it’s just needed for a single scene, return the prop after the scene.

The ability to sign-in props and operate this logistical necessity should not be impacted by your character’s level of competence.

Rules CreditsPrimary Designer: Dan Comstock. Sections by Sam Stone and Ivan Zalac