NERO (NEW ENGLAND ROLEPLAYING ORGANIZATION): They are “the premier” Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) organization in the U.S. and Canada. They are certainly one of the oldest and largest of these ultra-popular groups. NERO was founded in the Boston area by Ford Ivey (he is sometimes called the Grandfather of LARP). I found an interesting interview (http://www.nerotics.com/article.aspx?article_id=8), conducted in September of 2001 by Seth Peck, in which Ivey recounts how NERO got its start. “It started way back in 1986. I heard about a game in New Hampshire called ‘Midrealms Adventures’. I heard about it about six months before I could get up to play it...and imagined what it would be like when I did play it. When I finally did, it was not a lot like what I imagined. It was a module based game a few hours and it was over, and a marshal had to be with you all the time. I wanted a game where the players could be free to do what they wanted.” Ivey decided to run his own game. “At the time, I had just started a group for Friday night table-top gaming at a Boy Scout explorer Post in Newton, Massachussets, and we had available to us a Boy Scout Camp Nobscot by name and we decided to run a game of our own there. I had a group of 7 or so guys helping me. We wrote it, cast it, and ran it. We invited a group of 6 or so friends of one of the guys to PC [Player Character] it...We called it ‘Weekend Warriors’ for the first year or so. I ran a bunch of different variations on the game. I wrote the plots, bought the props, paid for everything, and ran them myself.” Ivey states that the first game was “pretty bad...But we kept trying things, getting closer to the vision I had. Then, in November of 1988, we ran a game called ‘Shandlin's Ferry’. It was the immediate ancestor of NERO.” He then describes the first several events. “We did set up on Saturday and started mid afternoon on Saturday. Then we ran until Sunday afternoon. The Shandlin's Ferry game started at noon on Saturday and ran 24 hours. It was notable for several reasons: first, it's the game where we figured out how to do the NERO style play players running around with no marshals. It was also notable because the founders of the game came together for the first time Craig and Debbie Walton, Mike Ventrella, Heidi Hooper, me, Bob King all of us were there. We decided after the success of that game to try and run what turned into NERO. Craig Walton came up with the name. Shandlin's Ferry remained on the NERO map, and what happened at that game became part of the NERO world. We even had a Shandlin's Ferry campaign in the Massachussets chapter a few years later. That gave me a lot of satisfaction.” Peck then asks Ivey if he and his colleagues were breaking new ground in Role-Playing Games (RPGs). “Did we consider ourselves innovators? Not at the time, I don't think, though we finally started to realize what we had done a year or so later. In retrospect, it was quite an innovation. It was a break from the old-style module based game, which was started at Treasure Trap in England that's what Middle Realms was based on. The IFGS [International Fantasy Gaming Society] is a module-based game. Treasure Trap and a bunch of English games have been running longer than us or IFGS. Also, the ILF (Interactive Fiction Society) has been around quite a while.” Peck also asks Ivey about his experience with RPGs prior to NERO. “I started playing Dungeons & Dragons way back in the 70's with my brother. I owned everything they put out, all the way back to the three little book set. I made a huge jump into role-playing when I started a store The Gamemaster. It's really the home of NERO. We got everything started there after NERO was set up...It was a great store we had everything. It was upstairs at 444 Massachussets Ave in Arlington, MA. We had six or so tables for gaming in the store in the front. They were well-used. We had everything that had to do with roleplaying, and most stuff that had to do with miniatures. I used to have mini-conventions there every month. A guy named Brian Reddington-Wilde helped me run them.” Peck wondered if Ivey still ran the full-service gaming store. “Nope NERO took over the store. We moved it twice, and the store part of it got smaller every time. Finally, we just dropped the store part and got an office. That was after Mike Ventrella wrote the article about NERO that made it into Dragon Magazine. After that article, we suddenly had, like, 5,000 members. There was no WAY we were ready to handle that many people. I'm afraid that customer service suffered a lot then. We used to have huge games. In 1992, we ran what is now known as the ‘Brood’ weekend the first game run by Rob Ciccolini. We had over 700 players there, including something like 150 NPCs [Non-Player Characters]. That was at Camp Wing, a really cool place with an old stockade and everything.”
Elsewhere, Mike Ventrella (one of the original founders of NERO) provides his own version (http://nerohq.com/break.php) of the origins of NERO: “Ford Ivey had been running module-like adventures he called ‘Weekend Warriors’ for about three years as a way to have fun and promote his store, The Gamemaster, located in Boston, Massachusetts. The last event in 1988 was attended by me, my wife Heidi Hooper, and our Dungeons & Dragons crew which included Scott Gillespie and Craig and Debbie Walton. There were about 12 PCs and the rest of the attendees (around 25!) played NPCs. The rules were simple and meant for a marshal accompaniment. For those NPCing (which included those mentioned above), there were quite a few lulls in the action. Craig, Debbie, Heidi and I decided to keep playing even when the PCs weren’t around. We gathered the other NPCs and starting running our own plots, following up on the character histories that were provided. When Ford and the PCs arrived in the ‘town’ they discovered many more plots going on than was planned. This made the game much more real and everyone had a great time. After the event, we spoke to Ford about writing a game system where everyone could play instead of just a small group being followed by a marshal. Ford was doubtful that it could be done after all, he had been running these games for years but we convinced him to give it a try. Craig became the General Manager and came up with the name NERO. He designed a logo that featured a dragon playing a fiddle (get it?) which was used on the first Rule Book/Player's Guide, which I edited and wrote much of. Heidi worked on props to give the game its fantasy/medieval feel. I was in charge of the plot, and I wrote up character concepts for each of the 75 or so players we ended up with the first weekend...At the time, we were unaware of any other live action roleplaying groups out there so we were making it all up as we went along. Here's what Ford recently said about that first game in a recent interview on an International web site: ‘It was notable for several reasons: first, it's the game where we figured out how to do the NERO style play players running around with no marshals. It was also notable because the founders of the game came together for the first time Craig and Debbie Walton, Mike Ventrella, Heidi Hooper, me, Bob King all of us were there. We decided after the success of that game to try and run what turned into NERO.’” The group continued to have “meetings at Ford’s store and the game grew tremendously. I remained in charge of plot and wrote and edited all of the newsletters and promotional materials and helped to define NERO’s image with the public. In the next year, I wrote an article for Dragon magazine that greatly increased NERO membership. Soon we had people wanting to start NERO chapters all over the United States and Canada.” In order to supplement Ivey’s and Ventrella’s account, I found it necessary to cull some additional information from the Internet: While running The Gamemaster, Ivey began operating single-day adventures and weekend-long events for his customers beginning in 1987 under the auspices of his business, “Legends Unlimited”, which attracted over 100 players per event. The game was called “Weekends in the Woods”. After introducing numerous refinements, the name of Ivey’s role-playing group was changed to the New England Roleplaying Organization in March of 1988 and Ivey launched Ravenholt, the original NERO chapter (purportedly also under the guidance of “Legends Unlimited”). Ivey and his group began to sponsor larger events, and NERO Massachusetts/Ravenholt according to its official Web-site (http://www.neromass.com/) “has been running continuously since 1989”. Ford and Maureen Ivey had spent considerable time and energy in building their business to considerable proportions, and they operated NERO International (the successor to Legends Unlimited) until 1998; they decided to retire from NERO and sold the parent company to Joseph Valenti on August 3rd of that year (Ivey went on to found several other LARP groups). But not without some controversy taking place: it began in 1992, when Ventrella and his wife moved away to start their own NERO chapter in New York City (the “Ashbury” campaign). Ventrella continues: “We did so without a contract with Ford, and we paid him no money. Since we were co-creators, Ford could not stop us from running NERO and he was aware of that. There were arguments and disagreements, but eventually the problems were worked out for the better of the game. When I began work on the 7th edition Rule Book in 1996, I told Ford that I did not want to work on a book that would have the copyright of ‘Legends Unlimited’ (Ford’s business) because that would, in essence, give Ford the right to claim in the future that I had signed away my claim to own a part of NERO. I refused to turn over the completed book to him until I had a contract stating in clear language that no one could take away my right to run NERO games. Eventually, we talked it over and I sat down at Ford's computer and typed up a contract stating exactly what I wanted. This was done at one of NERO's staff symposiums where all of the chapters from around the country get together to discuss policy, rules and plots. Many people were witness to this new contract. The contract is written in clear language that cannot be misinterpreted. It states in part ‘Legends Unlimited, Inc. agrees to allow the use of the name NERO, New England Roleplaying Organization, and the rules and trademark logo associated with it, to Michael A. Ventrella...These rights cannot be revoked or removed, either by Legends Unlimited, Inc. or any successor.’ (Legends Unlimited Inc. has since been succeeded by NERO International although I have contacted a number of states and none claim that there is any such organization. If anyone has any proof of its existence, I would appreciate seeing it and will immediately remove this sentence.) Simply put, there is nothing anyone can do to stop me from running a NERO chapter. Ford agreed with this and signed the contract. And we began working together again to make NERO the best possible game it could be. And for a while, everything was fine.” But additional problems arose, stemming from territorial disputes between Ventrella and Valenti. To make a long story short: in March of 1998, after a complicated dispute with Ivey and Valenti, Ventrella withdrew his own chapter from NERO International and used this contract to create the “NERO Alliance”, licensing his own local NERO games (which he called “Campaigns” instead of “Chapters”). The circumstances of the schism led to feuding between players, threats of litigation by both sides, and for years players of the two factions rarely played in the games of the other. In 2004, Michael Ventrella and Joe Valenti appeared together in a two-hour radio interview. Valenti, still unpleased about the NERO split, referred to NERO Alliance as “The False NERO” or “The false NERO alliance”. On November 15, 2005, Mike Ventrella, on behalf of Nero Alliance, filed suit in United States District Court against Nero International Holding Co., alleging copyright infringement and false designation of origin. On April 4, 2006, Nero International responded to the lawsuit denying the charges; they also filed a counter-suit. Apparently, according to one source on the Internet, the court case was dismissed on or around February 23, 2007 without any resolutions; both companies continued to use the hotly-contested title of “NERO” and remained in negotiations with one another towards resolving the issue. Finally, on July 11th, the NERO Alliance announced it was formally changing its name to “Alliance LARP” and would cease using the venerable (albeit divisive) “NERO” name. In spite of the legal dilemma, both hemispheres of NERO remain “dedicated to the legendary days of high fantasy”. Their official Web-sites are:
http://www.alliancelarp.com/index.php (NERO Alliance)
http://www.nerolarp.com/ (NERO International)
Since all of the information contained in this listing was compiled at a time when both companies were still known as NERO (not to mention the fact that all the relevant coins described below were issued under the umbrella of NERO), I will continue to refer to them by that term.
NERO, which offers players a fun and safe (they use padded weapons to simulate actual combat) highly-interactive role-playing experience, attempts “to recreate the Days of Legend as we would like them to be and not how they actually were.” Both factions of NERO host games which take place all over the country. These elaborate Live Adventure events are sometimes held at game conventions, but they most often take place at campground-like facilities that have been decorated like movie sets to resemble a fantasy medieval city. Upon arriving at the campsite where these weekend events are held, “You will be given a bed in a cabin. The game will begin Friday night. From that point on until the game ends on Sunday afternoon (Monday afternoon on long weekends) there is no stopping; not for dinner, not for sleeping, not for anything short of an emergency. Adventuring will be going on around you at all times, and sometimes something as simple as traveling from your cabin to the tavern can be a matter of life and (game) death.” NERO's events share a single, large-scale fantasy world one in which each player is able to define the attitudes, desires, fears, aspirations, and history of the character he/she has created. One of NERO's slogans is “Here, you can ‘Be all you can't be!’” People can assume the role of “fierce warriors, crafty scouts, powerful mages, noble knights, and benevolent healers...smelly goblins, blood-chilling specters, evil necromancers, villainous spies”, wanderers, merchants, farmers, rogues, and anyone else they might fancy. Under the game's unique rule system, players can establish an entire imaginative environment, where situations, atmosphere, and active continuity create perfect opportunities for each of their individually invented personas to evolve and grow. Writers (“Game Masters”) create mysteries to be solved and tasks to be completed by the townsfolk; they devise a cast of NPCs to set the tone and to provide background for the player's own characters. Additionally, Event Actors are employed to lead each storyline, interacting with the participants and giving them hints/clues pertaining to the quest at hand. Thus, using all sorts of skills and athletic abilities, ambitious players are given the chance to become the Heroes or Heroines for the weekend. NERO's brand of escapism is much like improvisational theater, in which there is an extravagant framework created by all of the props and cast of supporting characters. Every player, while developing his/her part as they progress through the storyline, brings life to the town, with all its inhabitants and its intrigues. Due to the diligence of its imaginative players, the plot is continuous, open-ended, and ever-changing. Currently, Nero International (based in Peekskill, NY) has over 60 active chapters in North America. Nero Alliance (based in Tannersville, PA) has more than 11 campaigns. Overall, NERO's franchises operate hundreds of weekend-long events each year. NERO also runs modules and faires much less extensive happenings which are similar to weekend events but without the sleepover.
The most popular setting of NERO is typically the world of Tyrra, where we find the continent of Avalon. Typically, to localize themselves on Avalon, most NERO chapters would “claim” a given area (typically a Duchy) of Evendarr (a Kingdom composed of Nero chapters from different parts of New England) as their specific region of the world (besides Evendarr, other kingdoms also exist). According to Mr. Valenti (President of NERO International Holding Company, Inc.), “Over the years, we have licensed NERO Chapters that are ‘located’ on the same continent in the NERO Tyrran Game World, Avalon, but do not belong to the Kingdom of Evendarr they made their own Kingdom or Empire.” Naturally, a lot has changed since its early days; according to the official Web-site of NERO Massachusetts/Ravenholt, “NERO has gone bi-costal, then international, and the NERO world has gone from a tiny corner of Tyrra, in a small Kingdom called Evendarr, and a small, backwoods Duchy called Ravenholt, to stretching across kingdoms, continents, even other worlds!”
Numismatically, NERO has a handful of tokens that have been struck as props to be used as in-game currency and/or treasure. They purportedly pertain to the same overarching monetary system. These pieces, depending on rarity, are traded back and forth between fellow members. The ones that are no longer in official circulation may still be found in personal coffers. I first became aware of LARP coinage from one of Stephen P. Alpert’s mail bid sales (http://home.pacbell.net/quadra/). In his catalog, he listed a lone Duchy of Ashbury piece featuring “One Noble” on the obverse and “10” on the reverse. Almost immediately, my curiosity was piqued and I began to do some extensive research on the Internet. As a setting, the Duchy of Ashbury is at the heart of the Kingdom of Evendarr (the largest and most powerful place on Avalon). As a chapter (the one that was started in ‘92 by Mr. Ventrella and his wife), Ashbury was formerly known as NERO NY, before the organization's not-so-amicable divorce; its events are run by the NERO Alliance Headquarters and are held in the Poconos. Thus, I was introduced to the world of Live Action Role Playing, and the very generic-looking piece I purchased from Mr. Alpert turned out to be the first LARP token to find a spot in my collection. When I received it, I could immediately tell that it was struck by the Hoffman Mint. I later learned that it was the only Ashbury piece that actually has the Duchy's name written on it. According to Mr. Ventrella, who runs NERO Alliance, “I had originally wanted to get something on the back of all the coins, but couldn't afford it, so started with the silvers. My original Ashbury game, though part of International, was separate in many ways nothing transferred in or out (because I wanted to limit treasure and so on, and there was no International treasure policy). When we started the Alliance, I stopped making the silver coins with the Ashbury backing, so the only ones floating around have been in-game since before 1997.” The 3 other types of tokens made for the Ashbury campaign (also by the Hoffman Mint) are: a Copper piece, a Silver Noble (worth 10 Copper coins), and a Gold Crown (worth 100 Copper coins/10 Silver coins). There are no words on these coins. On the obverse, they simply feature the numerals “1” and “10” and “100”, respectively; on the reverse, there is a simple design that consists of radiating lines. According to Mr. Valenti, the Ashbury coins “were created by the NERO Ashbury Chapter in 1993, but the coins are no longer used since 1998.” Furthermore, I was later told by a friendly player that there are also much older, cruder, pre-Ventrella coppers and golds stamped with an “A” for Ashbury (unbeknownst to him, he was probably describing Avalonian tokens see my separate listing for LAIRE farther below). Later, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Ford Ivey, I was contacted by a LARPer named Mr. Roy Costa, from whom I was able to obtain the text-less Gold Crown.
It is important to mention that Ashbury still exists within the parameters of NERO International, where the Duchy has its very own chapter, known as NERO Ashbury (Marlborough, CT). Mr. Costa added something very important: “Therefore, as an Evendarrian state, it uses the Evendarrian national currency as its primary coin.” My next step was to obtain more information about this Evendarrian coinage, which is utilized in the events held by NERO Ashbury (and those of many other chapters).
Whilst I was involved in gaining more information about NERO coinage, Mr. Valenti provided me with numerous details about the tokens from Evendarr. These were the brainchild of Ford Ivey. “We have a Copper Coin, a Silver Coin, a Gold Coin, and a Platinum Coin. All of the coins are used at all of the chapters, more than 50 NERO Chapters, throughout North America. I have taken some of the coins to European larp games but only a few dozen. All NERO Chapters, in the Tyrran Campaign, use the coins, since they were created.” Simply stated, the tokens “are valid in-game currency at all of the in-game lands that a NERO Member can travel to.” The first three pieces show “the double lion rampant crest” on their obverse, which “was created by Ford Ivey for NERO International and its licensed NERO Chapters, and is representative of the Kingdom of Evendarr, which has nearly 25 NERO Chapters running games in that Kingdom within the Tyrran Campaign.” Unfortunately, these coins do not actually feature the word “Evendarr” on them. On the reverse, there are simply some radiating lines. These three pieces “are the original coins created by Legends Unlimited and later renamed to NERO Massachusetts, and then used later when licensing started, by NERO International for its licensed NERO Chapters to use in the Tyrran Game World.” At some point, the copper piece “was discontinued due to the expense to manufacture and its low value in-the-game. We have some of them around, but most of them were removed from game by the players who disliked their low-value in the game.” The larger platinum piece bears a different crest which “is used by the civilized nations of Avalon, as well as the Kingdom of Evendarr.” According to Mrs. Rachel Morris, the Owner of NERO Massachusetts/Ravenholt (she began LARPing in 1995 as a Non-Player Character and purchased the game from its founders in 2000), “It's the Avalon crest, to my understanding, which is initiated by the Kingdom of Evendarr in an attempt to unify neighboring kingdoms under the Accords of Avalon.” The crest is divided into 3 segments; one has a vertical sword, one has a crown, and one has an open book in front of a torch. On the reverse, there are the same radiating lines that are found on the smaller denominations. Based on personal communications with Mr. Ivey, I learned that these 4 Evendarr pieces date from NERO’s pre-split era: “I did the original minted coins…back in 1993.” Thanks to Mr. Costa, I was finally able to acquire several items pertaining to NERO International: the Kingdom of Evendarr “copper”, “silver”, “gold”, and “platinum” pieces; a Kingdom of Baddira (pertaining to NERO D/FW, the Dallas/Forth Worth chapter) “gold” piece featuring the word “Baddira” atop a winged/flying dragon on the obverse and an Evendarr crest (the same one from the first 3 Evendarr pieces described above) on the reverse (there is also a larger “10 gold” piece); and a Kingdom of Stonegate (representing NERO West Virginia, a.k.a. Wheeling Association of Roleplaying, WAR) “gold” piece featuring the text “Bloodhammer Forge/Stonegate Keep” along with a hammer flanked by two lions rampant on the obverse (there is also a similar “silver” piece) and a simple star on the reverse. All of the NERO Int’l pieces which I received from Mr. Costa were struck by the Roger Williams Mint.
LEGENDS ROLEPLAYING: Another LARP group. It originated in 1994 and is located in central Massachusetts. According to their Web-site (http://legendsroleplaying.com/), every character “in Legends was born on a continent known as Areth. The entire world is also known as Areth.” According to Mr. Dan Devitt (of Spencer, MA), who is the Manager of Legends Roleplaying, “I've been mulling over the idea that the world hasn't been discovered to be round yet, and that there might be another continent ‘off screen’ somewhere, but that's just random thinking right now.” The setting (“almost exclusively”) of the game is referred to as the Frontier. All new players are brought to this site by a ship called the Emerald Sail, which is owned by the dominant House in the nation of Galen. For reasons that will soon become clear, the nation of Galen located off the extreme north-western corner of the mainlands (the mammoth continent of Areth), in the Outer Sea is also known as Aknor.
“There are five main Houses who control Galen; currently the namesake of the nation, the House of Galen, holds most power.” This House, ever so interested in the “unclaimed” lands of the Frontier, has “started settlements in the hope of gaining a foothold in the territory. To entice people to settle in these lands, the House has made an open offer: anyone willing to promise to settle on the land for at least three years will be granted free passage to the settlement, buildings to stay in, and a modest cash incentive. All player characters at Legends are required to sign an (in-game) agreement stating that they agree to the terms of the Galenese offer.” The Frontier Lands are on the north-eastern side of the mainlands (Areth). This Eastern Frontier has become a “land of opportunity”, attracting more and more people (some fleeing their past, others looking towards a bright future), such as “adventure seekers, homesteaders, fugitives, runaways and mercenaries.”
As mentioned earlier, Galen/Aknor is politically divided into five influential Houses “that cooperate to share power and rule the nation.” House Galen is “named after the founder of the nation, who, with his brother helped the society set roots and grow. The four other houses, House Jonas, House Erin, House Barlow and House James all have a voice with the ruling House. An Aknorian seer advises each, and each strives, paradoxically it sometimes seems, to both build up the nation and promote itself. It was under the guidance of Rafnein Galen, one of the latest rulers, that the plan to colonize the Eastern Frontier took hold. This is important to the future growth of the island nation, since their natural resources are quite limited. House Galen has worked to align the other Houses, as well as their lesser counterparts in a shared vision of the importance of new lands for the nation, and the meager settlements on the Eastern Frontier reflect this priority.”
Geographically, there are “four ancient islands that make up Aknor, now commonly called Galen.” These are Koreth, Talima, and Fortens, and Hinden. “These granite protrusions from the sea are home to two peoples: the Aknorians and the Galenese.” The Aknorians “descended from an ancient race of seers who long ago came to the rocky islands of Aknor.” They “were the original inhabitants of the fairly barren islands...From whence they came is not clear, but the understanding is that they are not indigenous to the isles either, though there they have abided throughout living memory.” The Aknorians (mainly artists, poets, and painters) are characterized as somewhat aloof towards people of other races. Their seers, whose prowess in augury is unrivaled, “are responsible for the Eastern Frontier being colonized; without them ships would never have been able to navigate the turbulent and rocky straights known as the Maze of Bahar S'nan.” The Galenese, on the other hand, “are an assertive, headstrong and goal-oriented people” who originally immigrated from the Tors, which are located on the main continent (as a whole, the five Tors Tor Aquillon, Tor Arbreth, Tor Lanencrest, Tor Loch Maben, Tor Morbihan resemble medieval Europe in many ways. The Torish population, “or the ‘people of the West,’ tend to see themselves as the highest form of civilization”). Culturally, the Galenese “grew primarily from criminals who were shipped to the rocky island of Aknor from the Tors.” Some years later, these boatloads of exiled felons “were afforded the status of an independent nation”. As the Galenese nation gradually expanded, the Aknorians were pushed aside and “largely subsumed by Galenese culture”. Though “living in relative peace alongside their usurpers”, there are still those among the Aknorian people who shun the Galenese “oppressors” who have relegated them to the fringes. The cosmopolitan capital of the country is Galen City; this great shipping port “is found on Hinden, where the Galenese first landed.”
There are 3 types of specially minted coinage currently in usage by Legends. This “official currency of the realm”, which was struck by the Roger Williams Mint and is highly appealing, is made up of the “One Galenese Till”, the “One Galenese Hecta” (worth 10 Till), and the “Ten Galenese Hecta” coin (also known as the “Decta”). I received a set from Mr. Devitt, who personally designed the Decta. The “Till” contains the names of the “five family Houses”: Barlow, Erin, Galen, James, and Jonas. It also features “a stylized silhouette of a galleon sailing toward you. The ‘Emerald Sail’ from the ‘Going to the Frontier’ section of the rulebook.” The “Hecta” shows an overhead, labeled view of the Isle of Aknor. The “Ten Hecta” features Castle Galen. The “Till” and “Hecta” were produced circa 1999; the “Decta” dates from around 2004. “We ALSO use an authentic Iraqi coin as our Alhadim currency.” Alhadim is the name of another race/land on Areth.
THE ISLES: Another organization that conducts Live Action events and campaigns. They are based in West Boylston, MA. According to their Web-site (http://www.theisles.org/isles/), “A live action event is many things, and because of that its hard to summarize. For those who have never attended such an event, perhaps the most similar experience could be found at a ‘dinner murder mystery’ event. In some ways, live action is an extension of the idea of a dinner murder mystery as in a dinner murder mystery, an imaginary scenario is created, and the participants act within that scenario to resolve issues. In a sense, a dramatic setting has been created with an overall plot, and the participants work in that setting to achieve goals. However, there are several major differences between live action and a dinner murder mystery. One of these differences is that the participants are given a basic overview of the setting for an event (or a series of events that take place in the same ‘world’), and they are asked to create their own character to fit into that setting. In other words, whereas at a dinner murder mystery you are ‘playing’ yourself, in live action you create a character to play that fits the general setting. This character could be very similar to you, or his/her personality could be completely different from yours it’s up to you to play the type of character that you enjoy. Your character might dress, act, and speak differently than you do in your regular life, and he or she might react differently to the events that happen around him or her. For this reason, acting like someone else in an improvisational manner, or ‘role-playing,’ is a major aspect of live action events…Most people adapt to role-playing very quickly, and many find it to be the most enjoyable aspect of a live action event. Another major difference between live action and a dinner murder mystery is that in live action you (or technically, your character) accrue experience as you perform tasks and achieve goals. This experience is used to obtain new skills and thereby increase the abilities of your character to perform advanced tasks. The model for this relation of ‘growth of experience equals increased ability’ is quite common in today’s video games, and just like in some of the most popular video games, you can pick from a broad range of skills to grow you character in the direction you choose. The experience you gain by performing tasks and resolving issues at one event carries with your character to subsequent events, and over time your character can become very skilled and powerful, allowing you to do things that you yourself could never do in real life. Finally, the ‘worlds’ of live action events are not necessarily bound by the same laws that the real world is…Many of the skills that your character gains through experience give you access to the supernatural powers that are available in a given world. In summary, live action is part acting, part game, and 100% entertaining. What we do, as live action event organizers, is to provide the ‘world’ for you to play in, as well as some overarching plot lines for you, the participants, to interact with. How you choose to interact with the situations we create or whether you decide to create plot-driving situations yourself is completely up to you.” The Isles, however, “differs from and surpasses other live action groups” because their organization “is absolutely dedicated to raising the bar on live action. Its a simple fact most live action events fall far short of the potential that could be achieved. We at Asylum Productions are committed to turning that potential into reality…Our staff includes some of the most experienced people in the business. In addition to Ford Ivey, founder of NERO and considered by many the ‘grandfather of American live action,’ we have a professional staff consisting of people that have been with live action since its beginnings. We’ve run events of our own for years, and have spent time at events run by many of the other live action organizations out there. We know what can be done, what should be done, and what needs to be done better and we’re dedicated to making that happen.” Some of the other major points which set The Isles apart from other LARP groups, and which take their players’ degree of entertainment to the “next level” include: a player-centric game model (“Our many years of experience running live action events has taught us that players enjoy plot lines that they are, to a large degree, creating themselves. Because of this, at our events you won’t find plot lines that have defined conclusions before the event even starts”), unprecedented theatrical production levels (“Any live action event, at its core, is asking its attendees to suspend their disbelief in the fantasy world that they are being asked to believe in. It’s a simple fact that the environment in which the event is taking place is one of the most major factors in suspending that disbelief…It’s our opinion that quality live action is all about submersive atmosphere, and we will strive to create that atmosphere to the best of our capabilities”), and the ability to transfer characters between campaigns (“Our unique campaign plot allows characters to leave one world and journey to another from one event to the next. What that means for you is the enjoyment of submersing yourself in many different times and places, instead of being stuck in” one particular setting).
The universe that serves as a backdrop for The Isles “is in fact a multiverse a group of universes tied together in a single giant tapestry, each with their own natural laws. In-game ‘Gates’ have been created between these distinct universes, allowing your character to travel from one Isles campaign to another with all (or nearly all) of your skills intact.” All of these “Isles run on the same rules system,” and “there is little or no lag time in moving from one Isle to the next…Spend one weekend in a medieval town on a dangerous frontier, and the next in a futuristic setting on an alien planet it’s all possible in The Isles.” Knowledge of the Gates arose due to intense speculation on the part of the Emperor’s Hierophant. He “sought to understand the spiritual meanings of existence, eventually realizing the possible existence of other Isles.” This led to the theory that there was not one world, but many worlds. Furthermore, doors could hypothetically be opened leading to these other worlds. In 237 ER, a scientist named Ailiana created the first Gate. “Through some research, it was discovered that these Gates, when created in specific locations and at specific angles and with specific materials, could lead to different worlds. Ailiana coined the phrase Isles to refer to these differing worlds, for she saw them as islands on a cosmic sea.”
Isle-wise, we must begin with Hardestaanos, which is also called The Heartworld. It is the nucleus of the Empire of Hardestaan, and “has occupied a fairly unique position in the annals of the Isles as a kingdom spanning more than one Isle. Through a policy of diplomacy and conquest, the Emperors expanded their control from a single world…to fifteen worlds before their encounters with both the Hive and the Void led to their near ruin, now known as the Sixteen Year Darkness” (which began in 853 ER). “After the Magus Baranos detonated The Answer and closed the Gates, the Emperors spent several years re-consolidating their control of Hardestaanos and then began cautiously stretching forth their hands again to encompass other worlds. Over a hundred years have now passed since the Sixteen Year Darkness, and the Empire is once again becoming a force to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, the Hardestaani Emperor lives in fear of the time when his scouts will bring news that the Hive or the Void has been encountered in the newest Isle that they’ve colonized. Note that Hardestaan is not a campaign in and of itself it is the governing force that currently holds sway over the worlds of The Isles, and binds them together.” The Old Empire, “in its heyday, ruled over 15 Isles, including Hardestaanos”. The Reborn Empire, of course, is continuing this long history of exploration. Consequently, it “now knows of nine worlds that it is connected to, including Hardestaanos.” The other Isles are: Kwaelon/Hirokumi, Faerindae (Faerine), Constantius, Ta’abu-djeser, Systril, Inferno, Burr Tthok, Asylum.
According to Mr. Ford Ivey (the group’s founder), “The Isles ran for the first time” in October of 2005. This initial adventure is known as the Asylum Campaign, which takes place on the Isle of Asylum. “I had been working on it for about three years before we ran. It is running in Charleton, Massachusetts.” The Empire, as previously mentioned, is always on the lookout for new worlds to add to its list of imperial colonies. It “rewards and encourages its many and diverse citizenry to join the colonization projects and help the Empire by helping themselves to a new and prosperous life.” In keeping with this far-reaching goal, Asylum is “the newest shining jewel in the crown of the Empire”. It is a recently discovered Isle that its Expeditionary Force has prepared for full-stage colonization. “In the interest of expanding the territories of our great empire of Hardestaanos, homesteads are being made available on the fledgling Isle of Asylum.” Arriving colonists are invited to “Walk among lush, beautiful forests and flora. Spend idyllic days hunting the local fauna. Explore the rich history and culture of the indigenous people known as the Eloszivara; who have lived in the same way for hundreds of years. You'll be one of very few who have had the privilege of meeting these people and viewing their colorful dress and the celebration of their ancient traditions and lavish spiritual ceremonies.” Hardestaani citizens who find refuge on Asylum can expect to see their “dreams of a promising future come true.” An idyllic “safe haven”, Asylum will eventually become “a prosperous and self-governing province…and a valuable addition to the Empire.”
In terms of “in-game economics”, Asylum utilizes a fictitious Imperial currency unit called the “Guilda”. This was the invention of Mr. Aidrian O’Connor, who originally proposed 4 different coins: a three-sided 1 Copper/3 Guilda, a six-sided 1 Silver/6 Guilda, a nine-sided 1 Iron/9 Guilda, and a round 1 Steel/27 Guilda (ideally to have been 27-sided, were this technically feasible). Mr. O’Connor specifically designed each of these four denominations (based on the number 3 due to its portentous importance) for use within the Isles’ first campaign; therefore, the word “ASYLUM” appears on all the coins. “The Guilda is not tied to any specific material (such as copper, silver, gold, etc) it’s an abstract value that was created by the Empire to allow exchange between the Isles.” In his “General Notes”, he continues: “note that Iron and Steel are higher than Silver in value, which may seem counter-intuitive. I made this decision because Iron and Steel will clearly be more prized on Asylum than Silver, due to the evolution of its economy…Also, the round coin is almost twice the size of the other coins, and it made much more sense to me that this chunk of steel would be worth more, in a practical sense, than the little hexagonal silver coin.” In order to visually unify all the coins, Mr. O’Connor decided to employ Mayan glyphs as a common thematic element: the style seemed to fit wonderfully, “so I plundered” an online collection of over 1,100 symbols “for individual images to represent various mythological characters and forces in Elozsivaran culture.” Furthermore, “The Mayan system of numerals is used on each coin to denote the coin’s value and year of minting.” According to Mr. Ivey, the coins are capable of being attached to each other: “the history of them is that they were originally part of a highly intricate method of armor construction, and were, therefore, very valuable. The armor was deconstructed into these bits and used as currency.”
Prior to production, the Isles’ numismatic plans were revised a bit. Instead of four coins, they issued two: a three-sided 1 Guilda (copper-colored) and a six-sided 9 Guilda (gold-colored). Both are dated “1005”. I obtained these eye-grabbing pieces from Mr. Christopher Herbert (the Isles’ General Manager). “The coins are colored to be copper, silver, and gold, and they are made out of a foil covered black plastic core.” The text/designs are achieved via the use of a laser. At first, Mr. Herbert was convinced that there were three different pieces, but he soon discovered that he had misspoken: “I was fairly certain we had 3 coin types but am now told we had two.” Nevertheless, I consider myself very fortunate to have acquired the pair. “We can't make more of them readily, as the machinery is not easily accessable to us anymore.” There was “a small bit of hesitancy to let go of the coins” because “unfortunately we don't have access to the process that the originals were made by. So, in that aspect we really hate to lose what we have of them.” But in order to expand their supply, they were already working on alternate methods of producing coinage by the end of 2006. Afterwards, the organization will have the ability to issue as many examples of the new versions as are needed. “They will be to some extent ‘one-off’ coins, even tho we are planning to use a hot-stamp plate. They won't be made thru any great automation process, altho I wish we could!” As the story goes, the old coins are considered to be from the Homeworld (or Heartworld) of the Empire Hardestaanos. “The colonists are cut off from there, and have begun to mint their own coins to use for sale and trade. They will be sympathetic to the old ones, but will be their own design.” In a subsequent e-mail, he elaborated: due to the specific symbolism each piece portrays, “The coins had been ‘intended’ to be coins of the locals on the world of Asylum. However, players were given them before going thru the ‘gate’ to get there. So, they sort of, by default, become the coins of The Empire (Hardestaanos).” Luckily, most players never questioned this decision. “The coins we are making (now / next) will be in effect, a colonial currency. The players have the authority of an Exchequer from the Empire to mint their own coins. He has assured them that as long as they maintain certain standards that the Empire will accept them once the colony manages to reconnect with the Homeworld. One of those standards will be shape and general denominations. So, the next generation of coin should be similar in many ways to the first generation.” Several months later, Mr. Herbert informed me about the current versions: “We have two types of coins now”. The first is for the locals/natives of Asylum; it “is a very simple plastic slug, that is painted with metallic paint…they are pretty darn plain and uninspiring. They are really simple and dull.” The second is the colonial coin; these “are made from a charm bracelet piece, that has a portrait of Queen Elizabeth on it. I grind off the loop that would hold it on a charm bracelet, and then use a dremel tool and buff off the lettering. That leaves a slightly roughened surface showing a slightly rustic feel and a woman ruler's portrait which just happens to be the portrait of our game's leader, The Empress. Worked out really well, and they have been very well received. They don't compare to the original laser-etched coins, but I think they are a very passable substitute. As you can tell, I am rather proud of them!”
KaNaR (KNIGHTS and NOBLES and ROGUES): This is another LARP group. It is managed by Kanar Gaming Enterprises, Inc., and is based in Milan, Michigan. According to their Web-site (http://www.kanar.org/), “Joining KaNaR opens up access to one of the most creative, immersive, and entertaining games around…We offer a fantasy world of warriors, wizards, elves, orcs, magic, and good old-fashioned medieval combat. Whether you're looking to test your mettle in melee, weave the mystic powers of magic, or just live a mundane life in an exciting frontier town, KaNaR offers an enjoyable experience you'll never forget.” The game of KaNaR takes place in the humble, backcountry town of Ilvaresh (also spelled Ilveresh, it is “an elven term meaning Unity”). “This little outpost of civilization” is located in the heart of “the swamps that dominate the southeastern corner of” the Principality of Novashan.
According to Mrs. Connie Blair, the Treasurer of KaNaR, “The game actually started in the late 1980's. A group of youth started it adventureing in their backyards and fighting with broomsticks. Everytime it had to move to another location an in-game explanation was given. Out of game we were incorporated in 1994. And, when we bought our own land (1995) to play on, the adventurers moved from the northern elven kingdom of Pelanor to the outpost they called Ilvaresh.”. To this day, “the outpost town of Ilvaresh is still infamous as the home of adventures.”
Mrs. Blair also provided me with a “Mundane history of our coins: The early adventurers started by using washers. Steel for ‘Silver’ and brass for ‘Gold’. At some point, one of their members thought that KaNaR could create a token and use it as currency. Another member designed the kingdom coin, and the first crowns were struck...It does add to the game to have something to hold in your hand.” The coinage used in KaNaR is actually that of the neighboring Kingdom of Narrdmyr (also spelled Nardmere) it was the Narrdmyrian Army that liberated the Principality of Novashan from the Tommarian Empire (“an expansionistic magocracy from across the Eastern Ocean”). At that point, Novashan was a part of Narrdmyr, but it eventually became “a free and independant Principality”. The smallest in-game denomination is “a small stock token” referred to as a “copper bit”. Next, they “have an original design” for which they've struck a “silver sovereign” (in aluminum) and a “gold crown” (in brass). “Commonly they are called just copper, silver, and gold. Eight coppers to a silver, ten silvers to a gold.” From Mrs. Blair (or, more accurately, from the pouch of her in-game character, the Lady High Templar of Novashan), I obtained a “crown” and a “sovereign”. In regards to the latter, it is actually a newer version: “A few years ago we had to enlarge the size of the token by one sixteenth of an inch because the company that stamps them for us no longer carries the tokens in the size we had been using.” The obverse of both pieces show a large close-up of the king’s castle in Maelcor, the far-off capital of Narrdmyr. Though these pieces “are used as kingdom coins they are inscripted in elven.” By this, she is referring to the words “Kingdom of Ashan”, written in a runic alphabet (some, but not all of the letters, actually correspond to the Elder Futhark and the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc). “The runes are used to represent the elven language…Before we got our land in '95 we played at a couple of other locations. Each new location was role played as a different place/kingdom. The Kingdom of Ashan was what the original group of boys that started Kanar called their original site. It was in one of their backyards. The group moved several times. The major places were Ashan and then Pelanor and then Illveresh.” Because the tokens were created when the group played in the Kingdom of Ashan, they bear the name of that elven domain (the forests of Ashan, incidentally, border Novashan). The reverse side of both pieces merely has a pattern of radiating lines (similar to the type previously seen in some of the tokens from NERO), but they do not bear the initials HH (like the Ashbury pieces) or RWM (like the Evendarr pieces).
LAIRE (LIVE ACTION INTERACTIVE ROLEPLAYING EXPLORERS): Based in Sparta, New Jersey. The first LAIRE Event took place in May of 1991. Before that, the organization existed as a NERO chapter. “We are also a Boy Scout Explorer troop, and uphold the Boy Scouts ideals and morals in all that we do.” To the folks at LAIRE, “A live-action roleplaying game is very much an adventure story, a play if you will, where each of the players takes up one of the leading roles. However, unlike a play, there is no script to be followed, no cues for the actors, nor any plot line which must be followed. Also, unlike a play, the story does not end when the show closes for the night. The players of a live-action roleplaying game create their own story minute by minute, month by month, perhaps even year by year. In a live-action roleplaying game, you take up the part of a character, performing all of the actions that character performs…You, the player, must sneak around, fight the battles, and be aware of your surroundings, or it doesn’t actually happen…There is no point in LAIRE where the game ends because someone has accomplished their goal. Like in real life, each character will have a set of goals they hope to accomplish, defined solely by that character…and the game is not won or lost for your character until you decide it is…Roleplaying, in a sense, is no more than improvisational acting. Once you have created a character, you dream up and don a persona for that character. Since you’re merely acting, you can do, say, or choose to be anything that you can dream up. You can choose to become a stalwart hero, a thief of great renown, a wizened druid, an unintelligent half-ogre anything! Most likely you will choose to act, think, and speak differently than you would in everyday life much like actors on a stage do…As the stage changes with different challenges, situations, and stories being played out upon it, it is up to you, and your comrades to solve the puzzles and (hopefully) win the day.” Like many other LARP groups, LAIRE also uses padded, “boffer-style” weapons/armor. “The game of LAIRE is set in the Duchy of Avalon, in the world of Midlantia.” According to its official Web-site (http://www.laire.com/), “Midlantia is a medieval fantasy world where the strange and mysterious are the norm, magic is real, and the forces of darkness are in constant battle with the forces of light. Along with humans, a number of other races can be found. In the magical Mistwood forest lays the Kingdom of the Elves, and the underground strongholds of the Dwarves stretch beneath the Black Hills. All this and more awaits you in the fantastic, living world that is Midlantia. It is into this land of nobles and commoners, dragons and monsters, danger and adventure that the characters set forth to make their mark. Whether it is a stalwart Human Warrior, a tricky Halfling Rogue, or a stodgy Elven Wizard, the Realms of Midlantia await your adventure with open arms and never ending adventure.”
In terms of economy, the basic coin of the realm is the copper piece (often abbreviated cp). Ten copper pieces is equivalent to one silver piece (sp), and ten silver pieces is equivalent to one gold piece (gp). I learned a bit more about these tokens from Player Representative (and head of the Merchants Guild, in-game) Diana L. Rooney. “Our coinage is quite intriguing, as we have had our coins ‘evolve’ throughout the duration of the game. LAIRE has been in operation for almost 20 years now! I have found it interesting looking at the older coinage of our game from when it was first made to the more intricate, refined, (and machine pressed!) coins that are in most common circulation today.” Token-wise, “the oldest ones (I presume) were from the NERO coinage”. Afterwards, there came a second series consisting of professional-grade planchets upon which a stylized “A” (surrounded by a circle made up of 8 diamond shapes) was punched onto one or both sides. However, at least one of these blanks was actually “hand-poured” and is markedly different from the others in quality. This series includes one-half silver pieces and one-half gold pieces, which are “worth the equivalent of 5 coins of the lesser value.” Nowadays, LAIRE circulates 3 tokens Mrs. Rooney referred to them as “Goldpiece”, “Silverpiece”, “Copperpiece” which were produced by the Roger Williams Mint. The custom-made obverse bears the phrase “In Terra Anima Avalonis”. It also shows a harp, which “relates to the lore of how Avalon came to be. ‘Ancient prophecies’ from the spell singing Loreleis (a sentient being whose main purpose was to maintain the ‘balance’ between good and evil and maintain ‘the story’), foretold (and helped to free) the duchy of Avalon from the Nymidian Empire [Avalon and Nymidia it is located to the north of the Duchy have fought against each other numerous times; though it now lies in ruin and much of its lands lie fallow, the Nymidian Empire was once the largest single territory in the lands of Midlantia; it had been the dominant power in this region of the world “for what was believed to be before recorded history”]. The first ‘king’ of Avalon was actually a Lorelei (in disguise), and the game started from there.” The reverse of the “gp” and “sp” has a plain star motif, identical to the one on the Stonegate piece described earlier; the reverse of the “cp” is blank. I was fortunate to obtain samples of Avalon’s coinage from Mrs. Rooney, who was able to kindly send them to me after she’d obtained the requisite approval from LAIRE’s E-Board (Executive Board/Executive Committee), the governing body of the organization.
MYTHIC REALMS: A LARP group based in Salt Lake City, Utah. According to its founder, Mr. James Bernard, “We started in 1997. I helped organize and run a LARP called Adventure Quest before Mythic Realms, and played NERO in Massachusetts before that.” Based on information compiled from the Web-site of Mythic Realms (http://www.mythicrealms.com/), “Role playing is similar to acting in that you take on a character as an alternate persona and decide everything that they would say and do. There is no script of any sort as you create your own alter ego to interact in a world provided by the story teller, who is called a Marshal. You are able to design the entire personality of your character, complete with emotions, goals, fears, dreams and a history set in the existing fantasy world which has been years in the making. Role playing is a process of interactive imagination…At Mythic Realms, you actually dress in the costumes, fight the monsters with your padded weapons or throw magical spells in the form of small bird seed filled packets. There are even actual coins minted for your character to spend during the game. Everything is completely interactive as you adventure with other people who are also role playing. It is a mix of a Renaissance Fair, theatre, storytelling, survivalist adventure, combat and all around fun. Whether you decide to be a human, an elf, a dwarf or one of the many other races available, your character is part of a living, breathing world created from fantasy and experiences. Our players come from all walks of life, as Mythic Realms is perfect for theatre-goers and actors, storytellers, students of literature, weekend warriors, gamers and anyone who enjoys a moment of make believe in their lives. Some of our longest running players range from army reservists to biochemists to full time actors and lifetime gamers.” All combatants in Mythic Realms use foam-covered “boffer” weapons.
Mythic Realms runs more than one event/campaign. One crucial setting is the Falconcrest Kingdom (also called The Heartland Kingdom), which is named after King Aleric Falconcrest. It was once the primary kingdom on the continent of Lairroth (also Lairoth), which is located on the world of Cyrillia. Mr. Bernard states that “Lairroth is historically spelled with two rr's. But, as a fun way for me to distinguish between pure mortals and older characters/dragonkind/immortals, I started having everyone in Lairoth spell it with one r. So, for the PC's who are paying attention, they can tell the older/more important NPCs by how they spell Lairroth from the newer NPC's who spell it with one.” According to information garnered from Mr. Bernard and Mrs. Angela Rawling (Mr. Bernard’s assistant), “Terath is one of several other continents on Cyrillia, but the rest (aside from Lairoth and Terath) have yet to be discovered. They are not competing kingdoms. Lairoth has a ritual from a powerful wizard that drains your energy/power/life as you enter it, meaning that the strongest villains fled to Terath after the ritual leaving room for all sorts of younger and more young/brash villains to take their places. The heroes can travel between the two (just with a power drain in Lairoth that is returned in Terath), but generally stay in one or the other.” On Lairoth, the Falconcrest Kingdom is currently under the rule of King Aleric’s son, King Sevyn Falconcrest. At some point, “King Aleric moved to Terath and became a Baron under Her Majesty Queen Octavia.”
Mythic Realms has three different custom-minted coins, produced during the reign of King Aleric Falconcrest (by the monarch himself, though with a little real-world help from the Hoffman Mint). There is a large copper piece, a large silver piece, and a small gold piece, all of which bear the same symbolism/text: on the obverse, there is a falcon’s head with a crown hovering above it, as well as the word “Falconcrest”; on the reverse, there is a sword encircled by laurel leaves, along with the phrase “Honor Above All” (the motto of the king and his kingdom). The coinage of Mythic Realms is used on the continents of Lairoth and Terath (in the Barony belonging to King Aleric). Additionally, there is a large gold piece; it shares the same obverse as the previous 3 pieces, but its unique reverse, “$5.00/Good For Five Dollars In Trade”, is struck from one of the mint’s Standard/Stock Designs. According to Mr. Bernard, from whom I obtained samples of all four types, “The larger gold coin was originally used for me, as the owner, to give people a cool ‘coupon’ when I wanted to reward people for helping (setting up tents, cooking, cleaning, making weapons etc) with the game. The coin could be used to pay for events etc at Mythic Realms.”
AMTGARD: According to their Web-site (http://www.amtgardinc.com/index.html), they are “a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that is dedicated to the recreation of the Sword and Sorcery genre as well as educational aspects of both Medieval and Ancient cultures.” It was founded in 1983 by James H. Haren II (a.k.a. Peter La Grue). It originated in El Paso, TX and was and named after two of his very good friends, Matthew and Katy Amt. Taking bits and pieces from the rulebooks of Dagorhir (see my listing for this group a little farther below) and Emarthnguarth he’d previously played with both groups he advertised in the newspaper for an event known as “Attila the Hun's Birthday Bash”. Though only a few people showed that first day, it was a hit, and soon the game spread throughout the state and then the country. The largest concentrations of Amtgard chapters are located in Texas and the central United States, but groups can also be found in other countries (Canada, Croatia, Japan, Finland, Germany, Korea, Russia, and Sweden).
The first Amtgard-related coin I encountered was from the Kingdom of the Rising Winds (based out of Indianapolis, Indiana), which is a consortium of several “parks” (principalities, baronies, shires) in the midwest and Great Lakes regions. The Rising Wind’s Web-site (http://www.therisingwinds.com/) provides some details regarding their “Monetary System” (which is specific to their regional group and not Amtgard-wide). The “Talons”, as the tokens are known, “are a Role-Playing aid, and not real money…Talons shall be the ‘official’ coin of the realm and all role-playing involving money will be based on the Royal Talon.” Elsewhere, the same document reiterates that the Talons, referred to as the “Official Fantasy Currency used within the Kingdom of the Rising Winds…posses no true monetary value”. Upon becoming “Kingdom level Dues Paid Members (DPM)”, players receive 10 Talons. Every six months, they automatically receive 10 additional Talons. Members may also purchase up to 20 tokens every six months “at a ratio of 1 Royal Talon to 1 Dollar (U.S.)”. The tokens “are NON-Refundable and may not be exchanged to the RW for money.” Furthermore, “Merchants may accept Talons but that is up to the individual merchant, note that a merchant shall not receive any cash from the RW for Talons.” The Kingdom of the Rising Winds has a Royal Treasurer. This person is obligated to “sign a contract accepting financial responsibility for all Royal Talons and U.S. Currency received from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister as verification for the number of Royal Talons received will also sign the contract.” The Royal Treasurer has numerous official responsibilities, including keeping “an accurate record of Royal Talons distributed within the Rising Winds” and maintaining “a log recording the date, member’s mundane name, persona name, number of Royal Talons awarded, reason awarded, number of Royal Talons purchased, US currency collected, member’s initials, and the Royal Treasurer’s initials.” A member named “Lord Squire Raven the Muse” described the Talon to me as “a simple coin. Their use is simplistic as well, mainly for those who wish to use them to pay off assassins etc. Some vendors here take them as well.” I was then able to obtain one of the tokens from another member, “Lee Van aka Sir Glavas Zorallo” (a co-founder for the region). According to him, “The coins are used for things such as LARP game/quest items, bribes/payments for loyalty, etc.” The token’s obverse bears the name “Kingdom of the Rising Winds” as well as the denomination “1 Royal Talon”. In the center is a crest that shows a bird-of-prey (or a phoenix, actually) rising from a tornado-like funnel-shaped cloud. The obverse is struck from a ready-made RWM (Roger Williams Mint) die.
I then obtained a wooden “award token” from the Principality of the Desert Winds (http://www.thedesertwinds.org/site/), which is sponsored by the Empire of the Iron Mountains and is based in Salt Lake City, UT. It was sent to me by Mrs. Michelle Neeshan (a.k.a. Princess Sindari). The obverse features the Principality logo as well as “Summer 2007”. On the reverse is written “The Desert Winds” along with “Summer Reign 2007”. The motto “Create, Grow, Become” appears on both sides. She also mailed me a copy of a document, which was jointly distributed by her Sindari Elfstone of the Duchy of Rivers End (Princess of the Desert Winds Principality) and Elsa von Liechtenstein of the Duchy of the Desert Rose (Regent of the Desert Winds Principality). The paper, meant to introduce these tokens to their fellow citizens, reads: “For this summer reign we are proposing a token system that will reflect the Principality’s Goals. Over the course of our reign individuals may accumulate tokens by accomplishing goals. Individuals will be recognized throughout our reign for their accomplishments, gaining glory not only for themselves, but also for their parks! Tokens will be awarded on Principality Game Days (PGD’s). Special consideration will be taken into account, if a Monarch suggests their populace members for accomplishments not occurring on PGD’s. NOTE: Tokens can only accumulate, there will be no deductions.” The paper then goes on to specify how many tokens will be awarded per displays/instances of skill, honor, service, and leadership.
DAGORHIR: Considered to be the oldest LARPing organization, “Dagorhir combines fast-paced full-contact combat simulation with elements of live action role-playing. Dagorhir combines elements of both history and fantasy. Dagorhir is both a sport and a game. Dagorhir’s participants experience their fantasies on a variety of levels. This wide ranging appeal is the reason for Dagorhir’s nationwide success…While there are some similarities between Dagorhir and role-playing games, Dagorhir boasts many advantages. Dagorhir is a sport, not a tabletop game. Dagorhir is athletically challenging. Its participants learn sportsmanship in an environment that fosters healthy competition and team spirit…Dagorhir is social, and allows for interaction among a diverse group of people…Dagorhir’s participants include a vast range of people, including college professors and high school students, construction workers and accountants, computer geeks and goths. Dagorhir challenges creativity and imagination. Dagorhir members make costumes, armor, and (safe) weapons for use in Dagorhir events. Dagorhir inspires historical research. Our members learn knowledge of arts and crafts as they build and create accessories to help them more fully enjoy the game. Members interact improvisationally with characters they develop and portray in a historic/fantasy setting. Dagorhir is also a healthy outlet for aggression and frustration. Though Dagorhir is hard-hitting and physical, there is an emphasis is on safety. Dagorhir ‘weapons’ are well padded to prevent injuries. Dagorhir’s combat rules outline safe conduct for all of our members, and these rules are strictly enforced by the ‘Heralds’ (referees). Within the rules, combatants may slam, wrestle, and even ‘kill’ their opponents. In our civilized age this ‘weekend warfare’ is a gratifying relief from the stresses and anxieties of everyday life. First-time participants create a historically or fantasy-based persona to portray. This imaginary ‘character’ should coincide with the participant’s fantasies…Dagorhir allows us to build our fantasies into a shared reality. To experience Dagorhir is to grasp at the unobtainable. Dagorhir allows us all to realize our dreams beyond the mundane existence of everyday life.” At some point, in order “to ensure the integrity of the copyrighted rules and the trademarked name, Dagorhir Aratari incorporated as the Dagorhir Battle Game Association, Inc. (DBGA), a federally recognized nonprofit recreational organization headquartered in [Silver Spring] Maryland.”
In 1975, an actor/artist named Brian Wiese became inspired by the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Though he had never heard of “medieval re-enactment” or “Live Action Role Playing”, the college freshman nevertheless decided “to combine his new-found interest in fantasy with his love of the outdoors, improvisational acting, and high-energy events. Wiese wanted to recapture and somehow live that high energy he felt when reading the intense battle scenes in the books.” He wanted to find a way to capture the spirit of adventure that could only come from wielding a sword or a bow. “His idea was to catapult people from the 20th century into the midst of an intense battle during some Mythic Age; a time when the values and problems of the modern world didn’t exist. Players in this new game would dress in the costumes and play characters from a fantasy or medieval age. But unlike actors in a play, there would be no script: the combat and adventure would be improvisational and unfold based on the actions and the ideas of each member.” He discussed the idea at length with some of his college friends (one of them, Mary [Edaina] Dugan, became his wife), all of whom shared his enthusiasm for medieval history and fantasy. “With their input and reflection, the game began to take shape. On October 29, 1977, a prototype battle was held at Riggs Farm in Montgomery County, Maryland. Everyone enjoyed it immensely, but most importantly it gave Wiese a chance to see some of what would and wouldn't work. In June of 1978 he placed an advertisement on a progressive college radio station [WGTB] in Washington, DC, calling for people who would like to be involved in this type of event. Calls began coming in, and the newly formed Dagorhir was on its way.” Meanwhile, Wiese became “Aratar Anfinhir the Stormbringer”. Many battles during the first three years included rain or snow, giving power to Aratar's tempest-making moniker. All of the early battles took place in the woods (most of them included a camp-out the night before). “All weapons were thick lumps of couch-padding foam duct-taped to sticks. The first prototype of modern Dagorhir weapons (a shaped ‘blade’ of closed-cell foam glued to a fiberglass rod) showed up in 1978.” As the group began to grow, someone named Celemir suggested the name Dagorhir, which translates as “Battle Lords” and is derived from Sindarin (an Elvish language developed by Tolkien). “As the number of participants in the battles increased the organization of the events became too difficult for one person to handle.” After choosing six other die-hard Dagorhir members, Wiese formed the Council of Seven to help run events, refine the rules, determine official policies, check weapons, and disseminate information. In 1979, the first field battles and unit battles in Dagorhir history took place. Also that year, at Maryland's local Renaissance Festival where the group performed demonstrations (and sought new recruits) Dagorhir caught the eye of PM Magazine (the first-ever magazine-format television program), who asked to do a feature about the group. “Dagorhir holds the record for most canceled PM Magazine shoots every time they would schedule to film us, ‘Storm Bringer’ would pummel the event with rain or snow. Finally, we had clear weather (although with two inches of snow on the ground) for the filming.” The Dagorhir segment was aired on local television in early 1981. Afterwards, Dagorhir’s membership began to greatly expand in the Maryland/Virginia area. More than 70 fighters showed up for the next battle. In ’82 or ‘83, PM Magazine re-broadcast their piece on Dagorhir, but this time it was seen by a national audience. Dargohir was also noticed by newspapers and magazines. “Originally, Dagorhir consisted of only this one Chapter. Wiese had no idea then how long Dagorhir would last, or how far it would spread.” But with all the media attention, new Dagorhir chapters (Realms) sprang up in other parts of the country. Hundreds of new members joined the excitement. “Some chapters were short-lived; others took on a life of their own, grew, and thrived.” The explosive growth took its toll on Wiese. He and his small group of colleagues were overrun by large numbers of zealous, hard-playing individuals. He had a more theatrical bent to his dream, but the new flood of players had an attitude that was more sport-like. They were out to win, and tempers flared. In order to combat this change, the Dagorhir Handbook was formalized. This included costuming requirements in an effort to encourage the players to think of it more of a theatrical game. Unfortunately, at the March monthly battle-game in 1983, Wiese not only retired as President, but he quit the club altogether. The organization survived the loss of their founder, who went on to form a Celtic re-creational group named Dahlraidia.
One of the people who had watched the episode of PM Magazine founded a new chapter, Dargohir Middle Earth, in Illinois. According to legend, he got into a bragging match with Graymael, “the then-president of the (then-unnamed) founding Dagorhir Tribe” As a result, plans began for the first Dagorhir Tribal War. Someone named Dominus suggested that this Great War be named Ragnarok (their Tribal Law Meeting, after all, was already named Althyng). Unbeknownst to either the original Dagorhir group or to Middle Earth, a tall 13-year-old who went by the name of Falcon had moved from Maryland to Ohio a few years earlier, taking with him his padded weapons (a couple big, round, “pillow swords”) and Dagorhir rulebook. In his new hometown of Cleveland, Falcon founded his own chapter (the very first fighting organization to exist whose rules were based off of the original Dagorhir rules) circa 1980/81: Dagorhir Pentwyvern (“he had that rock-star ability to draw people to the game, and to ensure that the battles kept happening. He was the right person in the right place at the right time.” As a result, Pentwyvern is still going strong to this very day). In the summer of 1985, some of the Washington Dagorhir met Falcon at the Society for Creative Anachronism's (see my separate numismatic listing for the SCA) Pennsic War in Pennsylvania. “Since plans were already shaping up for Ragnarok, PW was extend an invitation to attend the war. The first Ragnarok was a weekend camping event in April of 1986. The members of the original Dagorhir Tribe decided they needed a name to differentiate themselves from their new siblings.” Thus, thanks to the suggestion of someone named Shengar (formerly one of the Council of Seven) they changed their name to “Dagorhir Aratari”, in recognition of founder Brian “Aratar the Stormbringer” Wiese (according to another Internet source, the venture had already been coined as “Dagorhir Outdoor Improvisational Dark Age Battle Games” by Wiese). “Ragnarok I included 80+ fighters from 5 states, including 2 from Massachusetts who had seen the PM Magazine broadcast. It was fought on Private property in Ohio, and featured the Thunderstorm of the Gods, followed by the first hot, humid day of the year (and thus, a lot of fighters nearly fainting from the heat). By Ragnarok IV, new Tribes began to appear, some splitting off of the original three, others springing up like new-sown wheat.” Basically, when a chapter cordially invites other chapters for an inter-realm event, its intent is not to go to war against the other chapter(s). The goal is for fellow “Dagorhirrim” to enjoy a day or weekend of camaraderie and combat. Although friendly on-field rivalries do exist on the field among some chapters, all the players are friends sharing a common love for a great game. As a national event, Ragnarok has grown dramatically every year, drawing hundreds of avid Dagorhir enthusiasts from all over the United States and even other countries (especially Canada and England). “Rag” hosted every summer (the last full week of June) in Ohio brings hundreds of Dagorhir chapters from all over together for a week of fighting, feasting, camping, and (best of all) friendship. Ragnarok XXI, which took place in 2006, had some 1,020 participants, approximately half of whom were fighters. A larger site will soon be needed to hold the growing number of fighters and non-fighters.
It should be noted that in 1980/81, “Dagorhir survived an attempt to splinter it by a disgruntled and power-hungry member.” This young man, Peter La Grue, was expelled from Dagorhir. He went to a spin-off group called Emarthnguarth (I’ve also seen it spelled on the Internet as Emarthenguarth and Emarthengarth), which was created by some players who wanted to allow younger people to participate. This group co-existed in the D.C. area with Dagorhir, sometimes even hosting battle games at the same parks on the same days. Emarthengarth, now defunct, also ejected Peter La Grue from its organization. Peter La Grue spent some time in the D.C. area working on a Samurai battle club until his family moved to El Paso, TX. Once there, he formed Amtgard (see my listing up above), a group largely based on the rules of Dagorhir. “Eventually, they kicked him out too, so we should regard Amtgard as our long-lost siblings.” In the early 1990s, the Washington group floundered. It bottomed out in the spring of ‘94 when one battle was attended by only four people. At this point Dave Graham (a.k.a. Seldon) stepped in to help President Dave Gonzolas (Mordrauk) in rebuilding the club. Graham gave Dagorhirians their initial presence on the Internet. He created a Web-page (which has evolved to http://www.dagorhir.com/) and started using email and usenet groups to promote Dagorhir. He started mailing postcard reminders to club members. The group began to grow again. In 2001, due to internal strife and politics, Dagorhir split, with one faction primarily the Mid-Atlantic U.S. region remaining as Dagorhir and the other faction primarily the Midwest U.S. region reforming as Belegarth.
Numismatically, I learned that someone in the Kingdom of Pentwyvern (http://www.pentwyvern.foamcombat.com/) the previously-mentioned Chapter founded by Falcon has crafted “a handfull of coins to be used for Kingdom events, merchant purchases, site money etc...” According to “Oron the Wolf, King of Pentwyvern” (a.k.a. Mr. Bill Ludwig), “They are respectively the quarterpent (25 cents), halfpent (50 cents), the pent (one dollar), and 5pent (5 dollars). The coins were crafted with a very Celtic style befitting our crown at the time of their commission. The [English] writing on the coins designates their worth (1/4, 1/2, 1, and 5), as well as the kingdom's name Pentwyvern. On the 5pent coin, the image of a wyvern can be clearly seen. That wyvern is taken from our realm's standard of 5 wyverns (hence the pent/5 wyvern) on a checked field of black and white. The crest was meant to represent the four corners of the realm and the golden wyvern in the center represents the crown that rules them all. The coins were cast in lead-free solder (all we had available to us at the time).” Creatively, the coins are absolutely gorgeous. It is evident that a great amount of care and workmanship went into every detail of each coin.
THE REALMS: This is a LARP organization based in New England. Based on information obtained from Mr. Jason T. Rosa, “The game was once known as the Realms of Wonder, years ago. Some arguments with the original creators of the game, and their belief to the rights of the title, permanently shortened it to Realms. There is no headquarters for the game. Everyone who wants to throw an event has equal authority in the game so there is no necessity for a location for any governing body. There are some ‘hubs’ of consistent activity, like fight practice, common events, and an active community. These include Worcester, MA, Springfield, MA, Nashua, NH, Kingston, NH, and Storrs, CT.” According to their Web-site (http://www.realmsnet.net/), “The Realms is a LARP system. This game has been in existence since the late 1980s. The term, ‘The Realms,’ is also used to refer to the community of LARP enthusiasts who attend events” governed by the rules outlined in the “Omnibus To The Realms” (their official rulebook). Unlike most other contemporary LARP groups, “the Realms has a skill-based combat system, and is community-based rather than being run by a single, static council or corporation.” According to the Web-site, the Realms initially “grew out of a group of people in southern New Hampshire who played The Game. From The Game sprang Lost Chest Enterprises.” It truly began to evolve in 1989, after a landmark two-day event known as the Tournament for the title of Duke of Glenndale (held in July of that year). “The Realms of New England only managed to hold a few events per year for the first few years it was in existence. Slowly, friends told friends, people learned how to find sites to hold events, and The Realms grew into a huge community of well over 400 people who gather at about 30 events per year.”
According to the Omnibus, someone who decides to become an active participant must create a Player Character (PC) of his or her own. “This alter-ego will be the vehicle you experience the Realms through.” The experience entails something very similar to that of acting. “The difference is that while the Event Holder (EH) sets the stage, the lines are all yours. You decide what ‘part’ you want to play. Are you a mage, a warrior, a noble, or all of the above? Once you arrive at the event site you slip into your character's persona. You stop acting like yourself and begin acting like your new part.” In terms of action, “The Realms uses foam-padded weapons to resolve melee combat (sword-fighting) and the game supports a magic system as well (for all manners of wondrous things not possible in real life).” The Realms offers “a world of medieval fantasy. Modern day technology does not exist. Instead, people live by wits and courage, by magic and the sword. The Realms is a world far different from our own. It isn't based on our world's history, and only loosely based on our own geography. Within the Realms such things can be found as terrifying monsters, magical powers, armored knights, and pious monks. The only limit to the contents of this new world is the limit of the creative mind. The Realms is a world where you can become a valiant fighter, a sneaky thief, or a powerful sorcerer. You can become a ruler of men, a soldier of fortune, or a peasant farmer. Enter the Realms and learn the ways of the sword become an apprentice mage or squire to a knight; grab a goblet, join the feast, and listen to the bard's tale as you gather at the banquet; compete in the tourney and improve your swordsmanship; take up your bow and fire at the approaching army. You're in the Realms now and you'll never be quite the same again.” Furthermore, “The Realms is not governed by a single kingdom. Each kingdom has its own hierarchy and structure. There are no hard rules for governing the social structure. Claiming land and titles is anyone’s prerogative.”
Another valuable resource can be found at a portion of the Web-site entitled An Attempt to Document the Known Realms (A Player’s Guide to the Realms) by Entropolonious Explainus a.k.a. Mike Palumbo, Alex Newbold, and Carol King (http://www.southernwastes.com/guide/index.htm). Entropolonious writes: “My attempt to document the Known Realms is incomplete at best. I recognize that the Realms is an ever-changing world.” The 3 authors continue this train of thought: “The Realms has a long, intricate, and important history, but detailing it is not the purpose of this guide.” Though they do provide “A Brief Account of the History of the Realms” and an “Overview of the Realms” (which leads to a nice summary of many of the “Countries of the Realms”), these sections are very brief indeed: “Suffice to say, the Realms was once a united land under the rule of one prince, until his time was no more. The various principalities were not able to agree on a new leader and so they each delcared independence and elected their own leaders/guardians/protectors, and chose to run their lands according to their own rules. Many of these new lands were hesitant to trust one another, and in some cases those feelings carry on to this day. It is for that reason that the Realms has developed into what it is today. It was a breakdown of law that forged the new lands and a lack of trust that created the walls between them. The result is a complex structure of allies and enemies each seeking to carve out a better life for their people. Since the initial breakdown of government many new trusts have been forged and many new lands have been created. The walls, however, still exist; they always will, and the Realms will never be the same again…The Realms seems to have a place for everyone. The most noble and honorable societies are balanced by self-serving ones, the most law-abiding society is sometimes forced to interact with less scrupulous ones. One can also find religions and philosophies of all varieties, as well as professions and vocations of all types. The climates in the Realms are as varied as the cultures and go from the very hot and arid areas of the far south to the lush forests of the west and middle right up to the cold mountains of the far north. To our east we have a glorious coast dotted with islands and coves and frought with all the danger and wonder of coastal living. Don't forget that a whole host of races with their individual cultures and qualities permeates the societies” pertaining to the Realms. “With all the variety in the Realms…a traveler would be hard pressed to find no allies or like-minded people in some corner of the Realms. Indeed, one should rest assured that somewhere in the Realms he or she will find acceptance.”
There is a plethora of numismatic pieces associated with the Realms. According to the Omnibus: “Various groups and nations issue different currencies for use as treasure and to pay for goods and services in-game. These currencies are often represented by stamped metal disks or roofing tins, sometimes bearing printed stickers for identification or are minted in metals, plastic or even clay. In-game these currencies usually represent ‘Gold’ or ‘Silver.’ Denominations vary from currency to currency. Generally ten silver pieces are worth one gold piece. The more prized issues are backed, meaning that if you accumulate enough of any one currency, you can trade those coins in to the issuer for goods, weapons, or services. Many older coinages and silver pieces are not backed, and while they’re still in-play, many people either heavily discount them or don’t accept them at all. Issues and worth of coins fluctuate. If you’re in doubt as to what a coin is worth, ask the merchants and the gamblers.” In the “Newcomer's Guide to the Realms”, by Robert Traynor, there is a section entitled “MONEY”, where the coinage is described: “Gold abounds in the Realms. Questers (and looters) find hoards of treasure. Merchants trade in it; adventurers use it to buy magics and many simply use it to ‘keep score.’ Numerous currencies are issued by various groups or lands. Most take the form of small metal disks, often with printed stickers for identification.” As of November 2000, “The most accepted coinages (there are numerous others)” were: Creathorne Silver (minted lead coins with a shield on one side and an “I” on the other [worth 20 gold]), Phoenix Gold (small silver disks with blue/gold [1 gold] or blue/silver [5 gold] stickers), Rowans (small brass coins holed in the center with radiating rays on one side and concentric circles on the other side [10 gold]), and Vanguards (taped packets of ten small silver disks with blue/silver stickers [1 gold]). “Most denominations are 1 gold pieces, although 5-gold and 10-gold exist. There are also silver pieces, ten silver usually being worth one gold. The more prized issues are backed, meaning that if you accumulate enough of any one currency, you can trade that number in to the issuer for goods, weapons or services. The older ‘old gold’ or silver pieces blank pieces of roofing tin are not backed, and while they're still used as a medium of exchange, many mercenaries and merchants either won't accept them or will heavily discount them. Issues and worth of coins fluctuate if you're in doubt as to what a coin is worth, ask the merchants and the gamblers! What can you do with gold? Much. There are merchants at many events from whom you can buy useful items magical elixirs from alchemists, armor and weapon repair from blacksmiths, food and drink from the taverns, garb and jewelry from the various shops. With gold, you can hire mercenaries to guard you on your wanderings, try games of chance with the gamblers, or bribe wanderers for information to aid you on your quests.” According to a LARPer named “Flynn”, the “Coins are made by characters representing nations or other groups, and backed by each nation. So there is no out of character, rules-based backing. So the economy is complex and frequently changing.”
Mr. Mike Palumbo, who belongs to the Southern Wastes and is known as Sir Panther (“Long Standing member of the gamblers guild”), maintains a wonderful section at the Realms Web-site called “The Bank of the Southern Wastes: The historical collection” (http://www.southernwastes.com/bank/). There, he provided images (accompanied by explanatory text) of a few dozen types of coinage and paper money produced by different event-holders/lands/countries belonging to the Realms: “Coin, money, gold. For some of us the mere sound of these words make our eyes widen. As an avid collector of coin, I can tell you that I do it for two reasons. Power is the big one. There comes a certain reassurance when you wield enough purchasing power to have your way 95% of the time. Having more coin than anyone else allows you certain freedoms…The second reason is one I can not easily explain. Some types of coin become extremely rare and carry with them a sense of history. Lots of objects are rare, but it is only the ones that represent some part of history that makes them desirable. History can be actuall markings that reference a date and time, or merely the previous success of a coin reminds us of that time since past. There is a strange kind of pride that come with possessing rare and unusual objects. It's not that they are valuable, in fact you wouldn't trade them for their value in coin. It's simply the fact that no one else owns one that makes the one-of-a-kind item the pride of your collection. The collection I have presented here is for reference as much as for nostalgia. It has always seemed to me a great shame that protecting my greatest valuables deprives the world of enjoying the sight of them. Therefore I offer these documents as a way of bring to light some long hidden objects of my obsession.” Unfortunately, “The Bank of the Southern Wastes” has not been updated since perhaps 2002 or 2003. Elsewhere, this role-playing enthusiast writes “I've been obsessed with coinage since I started LARPing. It was really the byproduct of my character choice. When I chose to play a thief, I really chose to create a character whose main motivation was money. At times the wealth I managed for my group was impressive. Obviously I'd steal to make money, but as our group of characters developed into a guild, we began to find more organized methods of collecting coin…What I find most interesting about the system of the economy in my LARP is that there is no system. Just as in the old days, if a land wants to mint and issue a currency they can. If the people find value in it, then it works. Some people won't accept it, and some people place more value on it than others. The result is a very real varied currency base that resembles the trade of ancient times, rather than the US economy.” At “The Bank of the Southern Wastes”, we “can see the variety of coins and creativity people have introduced into the game and you can learn how and why certain things have worked over the years.” Mr. Palumbo actually traces the history of coinage in the Realms. “ First there was weenie gold and weenie silver. They were very small and had no actual gold color just a size difference. There was no size standard either. I've seen many different sizes but all are smaller than an Old Gold [the next phase]. These coins were actively being destroyed by some people in 1993 in an effort to rid the realms of them and make way for the new coins. They have no value in our economy anymore.” The large one was the weenie gold and the small one was the weenie silver. These were simply made of roofing tin and had no markings. “What we now refer to as Old Gold and Old Silver replaced the weenie golds and standardized the size and color of coins. Made of the same thin tin, the [benefit] was that you could fit lots of it in you pouches, the detriment was the you were libel to slice your cuticles when reaching for it. Very quickly the market became flooded with these coins because there was no law (OOC [out of character]: rule) saying that people couldn't make their own. These coins hold a current value of one silver if you can find someone who will take them.” As we can see, the Realms began with a very simple economy. Soon, players/lands began producing money that constituted a “backed currency” (defined above by the Omnibus and Mr. Traynor). “The devaluing of the Old Gold standard caused many people to mint their own money. The first by the monarchy and then when the monarchy fell, the [individual] lands tried their hands at capturing the market of Realms economy. The realms economy is fickle and over the years we have seen that a coins success has a number of factors. A major factor is the stability of the land they are issued from. Many coins get a great start only to fall from popularity because the land crumbled and the backing went away. Other factors include detail, dating, and materials.” During this period, the most important piece was the Kugie. It was one of the first lead coins used in the Realms; though they are fairly plain and have no text, the pieces became extremely popular and are still common today. “The success of the Kugie lead to a spur of lead coins from all corners of the realms. The process is still used today and every so often we see a new lead coin come along. The attraction we have to the lead coin is that it feels good. Heft a pouchful of lead coins verses a Tin and damn it you feel rich when hefting the lead ones. They look and feel much more authentic and they are able to carry minor flaws and differences due to the [inaccuracy] of the process.” Afterwards, players/lands began experimenting with other metals and materials.
Thanks to Mr. Palumbo (“I'm a collector by nature and they do represent a piece of my history with this group.”), I was able to add numerous Realms-related coins to my collection (I describe the most interesting of these farther below). Many of these tokens “are rare these days and hard to come by. Additionally, the economy in our game/society has failed to support itself and so there is not much exchange going on these days.” He also attempted to provide some background information about the pieces I purchased (I was especially curious to know for which specific “realm/country” each coin was intended). “Understand first that the Realms is a living entity with no overall governing body. The various countries and history are developed by the players who can come and go as players do. As a result, my guide [An Attempt to Document the Known Realms (A Player’s Guide to the Realms)] that you used to learn of the countries was created 8 or 9 years ago [1999 or 2000] and not updated. The result is that the information there is largely out of date. Many of those countries don't exist any more though they did at one time. Some of the countries still exist but in very different forms than they did then.” He added: “The economy in Realms has been modeled (even if by accident) after the early economies of man's history. Like in ancient civilizations, any land may create and issue a coin, and any individual can accept or refuse to honor a particular coin. So coins that are widespread, backed by goods and services, as well as marketed to the public tend to do well, whereas coins that don't are quickly forgotten or not accepted. There is no over arching body that sets any kind of standard or policy regarding coinage, with the exception of the gambler's guild. If there is anything close to a baseline standard for the value of a coin, it's whether the gambler's guild will accept a coin as at least a gold. Many new coin creators will get the blessing of the gambler's guild (giving them samples) before issuing the coin. They can then add to their marketing that the guild already accepts the coin. The guild will also determine new values for old coins as necessary (usually right before a poker game). As a result many coins end up being reduced to one, five, or 10 gold over time, simply for the sake of gambling, especially if they are no longer actively being produced or backed by the creator.”
To start with, I purchased a set of three professionally-minted (machine-struck) “Coin of the Realm” pieces (http://www.southernwastes.com/bank/metals.htm). All 3 are aluminum. The first one has “Feast Of Min VII Tournaments At Creathorne King Of Rouges” on both sides (note the misspelling: Rouges instead of Rogues); the obverse has “Coin Of The Realm” in the center, and the reverse is dated “1997” in the center. The second one has “Feast of Min XIII Feast of Neden Second Chances Tournaments of Creathorne X” on both sides; the obverse has “Coin of The Realm” in the center, and the reverse is dated “2003” in the center. The third one is gold in color (anodized) and has “Feast of Min Tournaments of Chiron Feast of Chimeron Queen of Hearts Feast of Rhiassa North/South War Tournaments of Creathorne ” on both sides; the obverse has “Coin of The Realm” in the center, and the reverse has a denomination of “10”. Describing these at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “Speaking of dated coins, here we have the very popular Coin of the Realms. Ambitious in its title, it almost succeded in becoming the new gold standard. First issued at the Feast of Min VII (noted on the coin), it was the only coin accepted at [auctions] held there and certain other events. Up for bid were swords and other treasures making this a very valuable coin at first. Since the auctions are no more, it is no longer sought after like it was. The sheer volume of them keep them from being collectors items, but that volume is what keeps it a viable coin today with a standard economy value of one gold…As coinage goes this is one of the more successful issues...Recently a new version of this coin was issued. It seems to hold the same value as its predecessor.” This “new version” is the 2003 piece. The even newer “10” gold piece (released in 2006) is not mentioned in the text. Mr. Palumbo later provided me with additional details: “These are not rare in our game, though they have not made them for a while, many still circulate. They were minted by a group of people who threw events/games for this fantasy society and the events they threw the years they released the coins are printed on the coin.” Mr. Palumbo later elaborated: the first edition (1997) of the “Coin of the Realms was issued by a man named Andy Disbrow, character name Sean O'Quinnlin, who happens to be a member of the gambler's guild. His land is called Creathorne.” The coins were produced in order to support the 3 events mentioned on the coins: the Feast of Min VII, the Tournaments at Creathorne, and the King of Rogues. All 3 events “agreed to accept the coin for services at their respective events. In each case, money was earned either by wining various events in the tournaments or by plot device, and the winnings could be spent at auction at the end of each event. Real sword and knife reproductions were up for auction as well as other real world objects that one might spend their earnings on. The second edition of Coin of the Realms (2003) as well as the recent 10 gold piece, all followed the same structure. Andy never intended for the coin to be from his land of Creathorne but rather a Realms wide standard. And it is probably one of two coins that can boast such widespread acceptance.” Mr. Palumbo also provided an explanation for some of the terms that appear on the tokens: “Min is a god, and so the feast of Min was an annual celebration of that god. Tournaments of Chiron was the name of an annual tournament that pit combatants against one another in many tasks to see who the champion would be. It was a noble honor, not just based on combat skill but all sorts of characteristics displayed during competition. There was no land named Chiron but I suspect it refers to the Greek Myth of Chiron, the superlative centaur among his brethren. The feast of Chiron was also an annual event that may have been to honor the winner of the tournament. Typically, event holders in our game will have events during the nice weather months that have lots of fighting and outdoor stuff, and when winter drives everyone indoors, they throw feasts to get people together, but there isn't room for much fighting or game activity. So it wouldn't surprise me if the creators of Chiron started the feast for something to do in the winter, and simply used the name to draw on the popularity of the tournaments.” Neden, Chimeron, and Rhiassa are names of lands pertaining to the Realms. Next is a piece from a land called Blackavar. It is blue in color (anodized). The obverse has “BLACKAVAR” and “HONOR BEGETS HONOR” along the edges. There is also a ring of five eye-shaped perforations which create a pentagonal shape a five-pointed star in the center (both sides of this shape say “GOOD LUCK” on the obverse it is accompanied by a four-leaf clover and on the reverse it is accompanied by a horseshoe). Describing this piece at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: these “Blackavar Luck Coins…were the last coin issued by Blackavar issued in 1994. It has a standard economy value of one gold though it's original value was 10 gold.” He later provided additional details about the piece he sent me: “I have the coin, and I just noticed that it's been mistruck. The first A in Blackavar doesn't appear. It's as if the die fell off and no one noticed. I have no idea how many were made like this. I've only ever seen this one.”
I also purchased a few specimens made of tin (http://www.southernwastes.com/bank/tins.htm). “Minted Tins…are popular because old gold and silver can be used to mint them [remember, Old Gold and Old Silver were simply round/plain pieces of roofing tin; it appears that there were tons of these being used by players, just waiting to be recycled], however that is their downfall as well, once the backing for the coin becomes scarce, they fail to retain their value and become as reviled as the old gold they are based on. However, if a Tin becomes successful, and the run ends, the coins quickly become, rare and valuable for collectors due to their tendency to breakdown easily, especially ones that use paint markers for their minting.” Basically, the “Minted Tins” are round discs with stickers/labels some of them very attractive affixed to them. First, there is a piece from Creathorne: its obverse features a holographic sticker (of the Statue of Liberty) in the center, with “Tourney of Creathorne ‘96” along the top and “10 Black Gold” along the bottom (all the text is written with a bold silver marker); the obverse has a large, round abstract pattern that resembles a 3-dimensional sphere made up of small squares. Describing the Black Gold tokens at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “One of the most successful Tin ever is the Black Gold series.” Four different varieties are shown. In his description of the “original first run” of the Black Gold piece, which is “still valued at one gold in the standard economy,” Mr. Palumbo writes: “It's construction is based on an old gold, dipped in latex paint, and a square hologram of the statue of liberty appears on both sides.” In his description of the second piece, he writes: “Original 10 Black Gold pieces had the hologram cut to an odd shape on one side and another hologram strip with a serial number etched in it (5-20-86-5A). The other side had an [intricate] pattern of gold paint and the statue hologram again.” In addition to the Black Gold pieces, there is also a “Black Green” piece and a “Black Silver” piece. In his description of the former coin, Mr. Palumbo indicates that it was made by the Grubs (a race of elves): “In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the majority of black gold including re-issues was put out by either Sir Theou Cynforson or his father Cynfor Theou (Cinders Grub and Syn Grub). Much of the backing however was from the shop run by Curly and Sutra Grub.” The piece I purchased is “one of the second issues series”. At his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo describes them thusly: “Black Gold was re-issued at Creathorne, and typically re-issues are not nearly as valuable as the originals, what makes this a collectors item is merely the fact that it is dated and labeled with the event it was issued at. This coin has a standard economy value of 10 gold because it [does] not seek to pass itself off as a copy of the original series, but rather commemorates a part of history.” He later provided additional details: this piece is about 15-20 years old “and out of circulation. This coin has the added bonus or detraction depending on how you see it, of being extremely delicate.” It consists of a round piece of roofing tin (“basically round thin sheet metal”) that has been dipped in black latex paint. Afterwards, “the pattern on one side was sprayed on with a stencil, the writing around the hologram on the other side is written on with a silver paint marker. The hologram is somewhat scratched but holding it right will show the Statue of Liberty head. But the point is that besides the latex base coat, everything else can be worn or scratched away easily. Black Gold was first introduced by the Grubs (elven population) but both Creathorne and Rathkeale eventually offered their own variety.” Next, there is a uniface piece from a land known as Paradise: the gold sticker has an abstract design in the center, with “One Paradise Gold” along the top and “Feast Of Min VIII” along the bottom. Describing this piece at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “Here is an excellent Tin issue that commemorates an event and therefore a date in time. Accepted as one gold, this coin is somewhat successful.” He later provided additional details: “This coin is rare in our game as they are not backed and the originator is not active, but there are a few in circulation.” It is made of a round, silver-colored piece of roofing tin. “There are also 4 equally spaced round impressions on the edges of the other side, quite possibly as a means of thwarting counterfeiting. The Paradise Gold was issued by the creators of the Feast of Min series of events.” Next is a pair of pieces from a land called Eagle’s Rook: their obverse has “Eagle’s Rook” along the top, with “VANGUARD” (the unique name of the coin) in the center, and “10 Silver” along the bottom (ten silvers are equal to one gold). The reverse has a shield-like image (logo) featuring a castle design. One piece is a blue version (1st edition) and one piece is a green version (2nd edition). Describing these at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “Tins are by far the worst possible medium to mint coin, and yet every so often someone comes up with a method of recycling the old coin in an inventive way. Here for the first time is a Tin that has substance because it is actually 10 tins bound together. This coin is still new and it's value is still 10 silver, therefore in the standard economy it will always be so, but I wouldn't be [surprised] to see it trade among collectors for more than its value in the future.” He later provided additional details: “This is not so rare, and the issuer is still in the game but I don't believe it's still backed. It's a stack of roofing tins taped together with a silver sticker on either side. The stickers are placed in a way that makes removing the tape impossible without ruining the coin.” Next is a uniface piece from a land known as Dragon’s End: the gold label has a stylized design in the center, with “DRAGON’S END” and “UMBAR” (the unique name of the coin) along the top and “ONE GOLD” along the bottom. Describing this piece at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “This coin is based on [weenie] silver, wrapped in ducktape, with a label attached to one side. Sometimes accepted as one gold they come from a land that I believe is deserted these days. Their value is quickly diminishing.” He later provided more details: “This is also a coin from 15 or more years ago. It's a roofing tin, wrapped in red duck tape with gold sticker on it. In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Umbar is a fictional place, a great haven to the far south of Gondor in Middle-earth. It's also an elven word for fate. I believe the markings on the coin I gave you, bear resemblance to Tolkien’s elf writings. I would guess the person who introduced these to our game was very into Lord of the Rings (which was long before the movies hit the screen).” Next is another piece from Blackavar. It features an interesting design in the center (an open eye, inside of which is a warrior standing in a moonlit scene), with “BLACKAVAR ROYAL” along one edge and “THE SABLE DRAGON” on the other. The same sticker appears on both sides. Describing the Blackavar coins (there is a “Noble” one and a “Royal” one) at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “Also highly successful are the blackavar coins, based on old gold and silver they have these labels affixed to one side [respectively]. The other sides are blank. The Noble as indicated by the silver color and labeled as such, was originally 1 gold. The Royal as indicated by its gold color and labeled as such, was originally 5 gold. These coins were very popular because of the detail in their labels. Such development is always better than paint markers when it comes to Tins. Today's standard economy accepts the silver colored as one gold and the gold colored as 5 gold.” He later provided additional details: “It's a gold roofing tin, but unlike so many of the other tins, it has gold stickers on both sides. They are identical. The art work you see in the photo is neat. It's a person with the sun or moon behind them all within the eye of a dragon. This coin was created by one of the founders of the game also 15 to 20 years ago.” They are no longer in circulation. “The Knights of the Sable Dragon were an order of knights from different lands who all came together on costuming. These players knighted people into their order not on combat skill but costuming skill.”
I also purchased a couple of non-metallic pieces. One is a plastic token (http://www.southernwastes.com/bank/plastics.htm) from a land known as the Empire of Rathkeale: it has “Black Gold of Rathkeale” written on the obverse, and it features a bold silhouette of a goblet on the reverse. Describing this professionally-made piece at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “The most successful [plastic] to date is the Black Gold of Rathkeale. It capitalizes in the success of the Black Golds minted in Tin, and yet is still a very unique coin itself. It functions as one gold in our standard economy and has no collector's value yet.” He later provided additional details: “These are also mostly out of circulation but they show up now and again. These have so much more invested in production, they are slightly thicker than a CD compared to the razor thin roofing tins.” I also purchased a neat specimen made of wood (http://www.southernwastes.com/bank/woods.htm). It has “COIN OF LEVIATHAN”, “Y.L. 2001”, and “WOODEN SCALE” written on the obverse; the head of a dragon is also depicted. The denomination of “5 GOLD” is featured on the reverse. Describing this professionally-made piece at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “Wood is a [surprisingly] unused material and thus far I can only find this one example. I believe the value was only good for the event issued, but it has all the markings of a collectors piece. Date, value, land, and event name. This coin is somewhat uncommon. Aeston states that 1000 were originally minted, and about 1/3 of them have been slowly released over the past 2 years. They were originally released the summer before Feast of Leviathan 3. They are backed by food from The Pen and Sword Tavern (Aeston's Tavern in Griffindor) which basically means people are able to use them for special things at the feast. Specifically these past years you have been able to use them to buy your way onto the pie tasting committee. Aeston will always back one coin with one serving of dessert any time someone wishes to cash one in.” He later provided additional details: This “wooden coin was issued by Jason Rosa, character name Sir Aeston Stromgate. He has been a member of many lands and a leader of some as well. Leviathan is his annual feast event. Currently he heads up a Land called Vinehaven, though the currency was issued when he was part of a land called Griffindor.” These pieces are “still in circulation, though not actively being produced or backed.” According to Mr. Rosa, however, the tokens are indeed still backed by goods/services. “In fact another minting is currently in progress.”
Apart from also acquiring a couple of merchant tokens (a “1 Backed Gold” piece [aluminum], dated 1995, from the “Reese Armor Shoppe”; a “One Toe” piece and a “One Foot” piece [both tin] from “The Ugly Foam Smith” [a maker of in-game weapons]), there was one additional coin that turned out to be an unexpected surprise. This piece, made of lead (http://www.southernwastes.com/bank/minting.htm), has “THE FREE CITY” and the image of a Cross on the obverse, and “MANCHESTER” and the image of a Crown on the reverse. It turns out that this coin, dubbed “The Manchester”, was made years before “the Game currently known as the Realms” came into being. “The Realms as an organization didn't really exist until 1989 or 1990. The people who created the Realms were all participants in other LARP organizations that came and went before it. The Manchester was created for a game called Mid-Realms. It migrated into the Realms because the Realms did not have a standard economy so when players from Mid-Realms starting playing Realms, they brought their coin and realms players accepted it.” In other words, “This coin actually predates the game that people play today. Our current game/society was really the offshoot of a series of games that came and went in the mid to late 80s. This coin somehow transitioned with the players into our game. It's quite remarkable.” The LARP group Mr. Palumbo is referring to is probably Mid-Realms Adventures, the New Hampshire game that had a significant influence on Ford Ivey (please see the NERO section at the top of this page). They are now defunct: “I don't believe they are around any more. I believe they were gone when Realms started up in 89.” Describing this piece at his Web-site, Mr. Palumbo writes: “The Mid-Realms Coin, also know as the Manchester is [slightly] larger than the Kugie but much thinner. It too was one of the very first lead coins, however produced in much smaller numbers. Still very much a landmark coin, it is fairly rare and can be found mostly on the gambling table, their original value was one silver but that was in circa 1985-89. The collectors value varies between 10 and 20 gold. It still [functions] in out standard economy for 10 gold. Thanks to James Murphy (JDeadmoon) for some of the history regarding this coin. Recent reports say that there may be some more recent [counterfeit] productions of this coin.” The Manchester and the Kugie were both used immediately after the devaluation of the “Old Gold standard”.
DARKON: This fantasy wargaming group (http://www.darkon.org/) has been active in the Baltimore/Washington area since 1985. Darkon is also the name of the “known world” inhabited by its characters. “Darkon is a live action, role-playing game, also known as a LARP, featuring full-contact, medieval style combat with foampadded weapons. Darkon hosts regularly scheduled events, including day battles, tournaments, campouts, and feasts. To participate in Darkon, players create character personas, which they role-play during events. Darkon offers a wide variety of character types, as well as a thorough and well-regulated rule system for live, real-time combat. Through role-playing his character, a player adopts the role of his character, guiding him through life in the Realm of Darkon. Players will be guided through various adventure scenarios in which they will make decisions, interact with other characters, participate in battle, and test the skills granted to them by virtue of their profession. Players are said to be ‘IC,’ or in-character, during the time that they are role-playing their characters, for example, actors in a movie. Players are said to be ‘OOC,’ or out-of-character, when they are participating in their mundane lives, such as chatting in the parking lot before events. These two states of being must remain separate in the player’s mind, and the player must refrain from using knowledge that is gained OOC for IC purposes. This is an important distinction to make and is a fundamental concept for the enjoyment of Darkon.” In the Realm of Darkon, “Individual player characters may join with others to form Countries. A Country is a ‘team’ of at least four players…There is no maximum limit to the number of members a Country may have, but they must have a minimum of at least four members…Countries are free to trade with one another, establish alliances, and even wage war”. Basically, “Countries…function as teams in Darkon. At any time in Darkon, there are usually between 15-25 active Countries, each having a unique role-playing culture, as well as goals that they are attempting to accomplish.”
I first learned about this LARP group by watching Darkon, a theatrical documentary film that follows the real-life adventures of a handful of its characters/gamers I saw it on DVD (the back of the box reads, in part, “It is a time of unrest in the realm of Darkon”). The critically acclaimed, feature-length documentary was directed by Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer. Darkon won the Audience Award (for best Documentary Feature) at the 2006 SXSW (South By Southwest) Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It was also an official selection in at least 15 other film festivals. According to an article ( Feel the Sting of My Foam Sword: A Must-See Documentary About Larping) by Grady Hendrix in the daily online current affairs and culture magazine Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2177830/), Darkon is an enclosed social environment. It's an excellent microcosm of the world a unique dominion with its own blend of subcultures, cults and religions. “Darkon has 700 members, fielding up to 150 people at any given battle. ‘The documentary shows us at the height of our imperialistic pretensions,’ says Kenyon Wells of his country, Mordom. ‘We're dominating the world and reveling a bit in being the imperialistic bad guy. We hadn't lost a land fight, let alone a war, in 15 years.’ Mordom attracted the best new players, they had the deepest pockets, and they loved winning. ‘Very few people are left who pre-date Mordom,’ says Skip Lipman, who leads his country of Laconia against Mordom in the documentary. ‘They helped create Darkon, which is one of the most successful and longest-running LARPs. They're arguably the greatest LARP nation there ever was.’ They are also depicted as being relentlessly evil. Starting as allies, Laconia turned on Mordom after an earlier campaign against another group of players known as the Dragonhood. ‘That really changed my mind about how they played the game,’ Lipman says. ‘The Dragonhood insulted the Mordomian gods, so Mordom destroyed everything they had. It was really tough on those guys. They never came back in the same strength as before. LARPing, like the real world, has a good-old-boy network, and Mordom was in control of the realm and of the game at that point.’” The article later states that “The war between Mordom and Laconia teaches many valuable strategic lessons: Numbers and money will always carry the day; everyone wants to be on the winning team; the army that defends a large, plywood castle probably has a tactical advantage; and dark elves will most likely turn on you the second your back is turned, no matter how much money you pay them. But it's also about the serious business of play…So what happened in Darkon when the adventure was over and the moviemakers went home? It all depends on whom you ask. According to Wells, ‘Winning all the time was beginning to become a chore. Mordom dominated the game for two decades and every battle was becoming more and more stressful to us because we had to be perfect. So we decided to abandon our empire and focus on wandering the land.’ But according to Lipman, ‘Mordom spent more fighting this war than on any war in the past, there was internal strife, they had nothing more to gain and everything to lose and so, amazingly, like the Soviet Union, they folded.’” Why make this documentary? Wells admits that “When we originally started cooperating with the filmmakers, we were concerned with exposing this hobby which is relatively dorky, all things considered to the public.” Lipman opines: “There's still debate over whether the events that took place in the documentary are part of official Darkon history or was it all a dream scenario, because there's a feeling that the camera was a motivational factor. But I feel that they captured Darkon at its best.”
According to the Rulebook of The Darkon Wargaming Club, Inc., “Treasure plays only a small role in actual battle, but can be crucial during adventures. The monetary standard in Darkon is the silver piece. For large amounts of money a Country Leader or the Land Marshal may issue a Currency Writ, which can be taken to the Darkon Treasury for disbursement. To prevent Darkon from losing physical coins, player should turn their coins into the Banker of Darkon at the end of each event. The Banker will then place them into the player’s account. Alternatively players may take their coins with them, but they are encouraged to have at least 50% of their wealth with them at all times. Darkon money comes in various colors: gold coins, silver coins, and copper coins.” In terms of monetary conversion, 10 Copper Pieces (CP) = 1 Silver Piece (SP) and 10 Silver Pieces (SP) = 1 Gold Piece (GP). “Countries may wish to purchase their own currency. To do so, they must chose the specifications, including design, color, and monetary value, and propose it to Senate for approval. If approved, the Country must deduct the monetary value of their Country Coins produced from their coffers.” Darkon even has a “Coin Marshal”, who “is responsible for maintaining Country monetary accounts and providing physical coin for use.” This person’s duties include: “Working with the Land Marshal to maintain Country monetary accounts…Transporting and making available physical coin for in-play use…Reporting to the Executive Board and Senate when coin stores are low so new coin can be purchased”.
Thanks to a player who wishes to remain anonymous, I received samples of Darkon’s standard coinage. “The coins that we are using now simply say ‘Darkon’ on one side” (the official Darkon logo). On the opposite side, there is a crown resting atop the large initials “TR”, which stand for Tarim Rex shorthand for King Tarim von Raenor, the first king of Darkon. “His country in the game was called Valdimar. (‘Countries’ are how we refer to units/teams.)”. The motto “Virtute Et Armis” (“by valor and arms”, “by virtue and arms”, “by courage and by arms”) is written along the top and “Totis Viribus” (“with all one's might”) is written along the bottom. This is the coin I saw in the documentary. “We've got 2 denominations (gold and silver).” They were produced circa late 1999 or early 2000. After checking his “various coin stashes,” the nameless LARPer was also able to send me a silver piece that has the familiar Darkon logo on one side, but the other side is completely blank. It was produced circa early 1999. He also informed me that within the context of the game, a new king had recently been crowned. “This [is] the second king that the game has had.” This character “is King Keldar Vinnerex, of the country called Mordom. He's one of the main people that the Darkon documentary focuses on. He's basically portrayed as the imperialistic antagonist.” In order to reflect this change in leadership, “Darkon is currently in the process of having a new batch minted.” For the time being, unfortunately, these plans are “sort of in limbo. It's definitely going to happen some time in the relatively near future, but nobody's sure exactly when.” The new coins “will have the name of the second [current] king on them.” Overall, it was not easy to find someone in the organization who was willing to part with any of Darkon’s tokens. “The cost to have them minted is pretty steep, especially for a non-profit club. The buzz in the game is that there is a ‘shortage’ of available coinage mainly due to player hoarding.” In order to produce the newer coin featuring the second king, “we had to do a bunch of fund raising for the club to afford it.” I wondered if both versions (the one featuring the king from Valdimar and the one featuring the king from Mordom) could be used in any/all of the countries within the Realm of Darkon (not just within the confines of Valdimar and Mordom, respectively): “The coins are universal throughout the game world.” The unidentified LARPer also informed me that “when I first started playing (Summer of '89) the coin of the realm were these tiny little things about the size of a dime or smaller that said simply ‘Darkon monetary unit’ on them. They came in gold, silver, and copper (red). There are still some of those floating around, but the people that have them aren't really interested in parting with them because they are rare and have sentimental value…Personally I only have a few of the ‘Darkon monetary unit’ coins, but I really want to hang on to them. When they were made back in the mid '80s, the game was a hell of a lot smaller than it is today, and the club couldn't afford to print many of them. That's also why they are physically so small: so they could get as many as possible made as cheaply as possible. So there were never many of them in circulation to begin with, and over time they became more and more rare.” These tokens “were only circulated for 2 or 3 years at most, and started to disappear in the mid to late '80s. At any rate, they were pretty scarce by '89.” In other words, by the time he joined Darkon, they were already fairly difficult to obtain. They are “no longer in circulation in the game” nowadays. “The few people that still have them are pretty attached to them because of the nostalgia value.” Luckily, he was indeed “able after much cajoling to find someone willing to part with one of the [copper] ‘Darkon Monetary Unit’ coins.” An interesting thought occurred to him whilst he “was trying to come up with who to ask about selling one. There are only a very small number of people still in the game today that were playing back when those coins were circulating. I am guessing between 6 and 10. Not all of them still have those coins (I asked just about everyone I though would be willing to part with them). I know some newer players have a few hand-me-down coins. They tend to be even less likely to want to part with them than the way oldschool guys, because they usually received theirs as gifts from people who don't come out anymore. Thus they have sentimental value. So my thought was this: the coin I am sending you is probably (I am guessing) 1 of only about maybe 50 coins like it in existence. That's a rough estimate, but it's probably fairly accurate. No way to be sure really.” Lastly, he also revealed that “at one point the country of Mordom minted it's own coins which are different than the regular Darkon coins.” He was able to send me one of these: the Mordomian silver piece. It “looks just like the standard Darkon silver, except instead of the king's crown on the back it has the Mordomian griffon (which is an image of their god Kodos)” along with the phrases “Greater Mordomian Co-Prosperity Sphere” and “Hate Without Reason”. This token was minted circa late 1999 or early 2000. He explained how these non-standard coins came about: “You've probably already seen it, but the game has a land map. It's a hex map, and we refer to individual hexes as provinces. Each province produces revenue for the country it belongs to in 6 month cycles (‘seasons’). Country accounts (‘the coffers’) are kept up by an appointed marshal (an out of character task). Countries can introduce their own coinage to the realm by presenting the physical coins to the appropriate marshal and then deducting that amount from their coffers on paper. Most countries don't bother with this because of the real $ cost involved. There is no real benefit to having your own coins made up, other than the simple coolness factor.”
Not surprisingly, Live Action Role Playing has been embraced by people all over the world. I first became aware of foreign LARP tokens thanks to Mr. Peter Geelen, who is a member of the Unrecognised States Numismatic Society (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UnrecognisedStatesNumismaticSociety/ and http://www.usns.info/). He had e-mailed me an image of a mysterious coin that I was later able to determine hailed from Germany. In that country, LARP (Live-Rollenspiel) groups are exceptionally numerous. Many of them have minted/produced their own in-game coinage. I then embarked on a quest for Deutsche “Larpmünzen”. I was fortunate enough to obtain samples from several German realms (Æmberwyn, Aldarien, Aldeira, Koenigreich Allerland [Herzogtum Baerenfels, Herzogtum Eisenhardt, Herzogtum Fuerstenwalde, Herzogtum Schwarzeneck, Herzogtum Steinsberg, Herzogtum Wolfengrund], Andurin, Principatus Araniensis, Island of Aretias, Aturien, Bjelawa, Cer-Telurien, Condra, Darpatia [pertaining to Darpatbullen], Engonien Kaiserrreich, Königreich Galladoorn, Koenigreich Grenzbrueck, Heligonia, Heräus, Hopland, Hornstein, Kaotien, Larhgo, Gottkaiserreich Lodybeydschan, Luxburg, Magonien, Königreich Miranda, Mittellande, Nebelreich Friedland, Nebelreich Lyrien, Neu-Freystadt, Nevenburg, Okostria, Praetorium Drachenweil, Freystadt Seeburg, Thorland, Trawonien, Valariot, Vinland, Zarorien), as well as pieces from Austria (Ariochia), Switzerland (Feuersturm, Riedhburg, Tikon) and the United Kingdom (Flambard, Freiboden League, Kamakura, Golden Nation of Mill’en [all 4 pertaining to Maelstrom], Albion, Caledonia/Cymrja/Erin, Estragales, Norsca, the Siberian steppes, Teutonia [all 6 pertaining to Curious Pastimes]).
Images of some non-American LARP tokens can be viewed at the site of Mr. Geelen’s private collection:
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