Houses of the Blooded
John Wick’s “anti-Vampire” game, Houses of the Blooded, has a fantastic LARP setup called Blood & Tears. I’ve played this multiple times and was a co-ST twice (once because I was killed partway through and hung around to help, and once from the outset). It’s a total fucking joy to play Houses.
This is a courtly LARP, where a party’s thrown and political machinations begin. But unlike other courtly LARPs, there are no NPCs — no characters that the Storytellers need to set up as plot machines. Everyone is a player-character (aside from the two or three STs). One person is set up to be the host of the party, and various players how have experience in this LARP act, on their own, as plot generators for other players.
There’s one simple mechanic, the Style point, which works as a way to bribe other players to accept facts and do favors. Style is this fantastic, amazing currency that I cannot explain well enough in brief. It’s used to get other people to do things for you, to create Rumors on another person (sticky notes on their backs that people in the party know about from whispers), for use in Duels, and so on.
What’s really awesome about this: the Rumor mechanic is about authoring scandalous content about another character that may or may not be true. Things like “Ruts with her servants” (which is considered disgusting in the culture) or “Dabbles in vile sorcery” (which is forbidden in the culture, even though every single character has technically done it at least once) are good rumors, as are plot-based ones like someone being in love with another character. You can also try to convince someone else to spread a godo rumor about you — last time I played, I had (paid) a friend to put “Not to be fucked with” on my back as a rumor.
And I love the dueling system. In Blood & Tears, duels are fun. Here’s how they work: once you’ve been given permission to have a duel by the host, then the duelist and a ST go out into the hall to script it. Everyone pools style together, and the ST puts a bunch more style in this pot. Then he asks the duelists: “So, which one of you loses?” while holding some of the style from the pot out to the one willing to say “I lose!”
That continues with”So, does one of you die?” It’s acceptable to say “no,” though last time I played a duel I said “Listen, I’m Not To Be Fucked With, right? You should totally fucking kill me. You’ll be SO BADASS.” :) Further questions and scripting are prompted, with style handed out as awesome moments are described. Then the duel’s practiced, and once the duelists feel confident, then they go back into the party and the party stops to watch the duel.
There’s much more to the Style economy and what you can make, but we’ll stop there.
There is another mechanic, called “Private scenes,” which addresses the issue of other LARPS where you have this awesome idea for a scene that everyone should see because it’ll help them hook into ongoing machinations, but everyone’s doing their own thing. You can ask the ST for a private scene, and at a point he’ll shout and get everyone’s attention. He’ll collect style from anyone in a position to see this scene in character, but otherwise it’s just player knowledge. And they you’ll play out your private scene.
Seriously, I love playing Blood & Tears. But all said, I do have to say this: much of the great stuff in the LARP is poorly displayed in the book. Fair warning. (And in LA, we have tweaked the rules a bit, to what we call Queensbury rules, but that’s mostly about the off-scene stuff that happens between one LARP and the next.)
Next time, I’ll talk about parlor LARPs.