A Ref – short for Referee – is the LARP equivalent of a Game Master (GM), Storyteller, Dungeon Master (DM), or indeed, any other term you might already be familiar with in a tabletop game environment (some these might be less friendly than others). A Ref is an Event Organiser and there will be a small team of them (usually 6) on every Event. A Ref is someone who works to create the story and the setting that you will be roleplaying in.
Refs deliver the pre-game brief and will become the names and faces you become most familiar with in the run up to the event. Some Refs have different roles within a Ref Team, but from a player POV, all you need to know is the following:
- Refs create the event: Or, at least, they come up with the framework and the props. It’s ultimately up to the players to make an event what it is, but it’s the Refs who will be slaving away over hot latex and glue for the months preceding. Not nearly as attractive as it sounds.
- Refs enforce the rules: It is Ref responsibility to ensure the System is followed and that everyone is playing safely and fairly. Refs are also there to listen to concerns from players and act as arbitrators in tricky circumstances. Ref decisions are final in any game dispute.
- Refs answer questions: Refs will be sufficiently informed to answer player questions or at least know who else on the Ref Team can. Players should not have to interrupt their game to find another Ref. Refs are there to relay information or provide feedback on actions and efforts made by players.
- Refs give instructions and descriptions: Sometimes a budget just won’t stretch to show a herd of Dark Young bursting from a nearby forest, so it will be up to Refs to give instructions and describe scenes which aren’t feasible to create. Refs will make judgements in situations where it might be unclear to players what is happening.
- Refs make calls: It might also be necessary for a Ref to make calls – mechanical and safety. See more on that under In-Game Calls.
Refs will assume the position of “invisible observers” during game time. Occasionally, refs will assume the role of NPCs, but they will be in costume when this happens. When not IC, refs will wear modern clothing with obvious purple tops and a name tags. Refs will typically situate themselves in corners of rooms and should be ignored. Your character cannot see them or interact with them. If you, as a player, need to speak to a Ref then it should be done in a subtle and unobtrusive way so as to not break the atmosphere. The best way of doing this is to stick a finger in the air, and lean in for a quiet conversation.
“Crew” is the catch-all term used to encompass anyone involved in running and supporting event that is not a Ref or a Player. The Crew works with the Ref Team to provide back-up, gophering, and additional eyes on the floor (watch where you step…). They may also provide additional NPCs or take on the role of monsters where such things are needed. The Crew don’t have the same call-making abilities as the Refs, but they can fetch Refs if a decision is needed.
The Crew will vary from event to event. The Ref team like to keep the Crew unadvertised as it’s a good way to keep players on their toes. It’s only natural for players to start tracking the movements of Refs and Crew (unconsciously or intentionally), so it’s a useful tool in the Ref arsenal to whip out more unexpected bodies when things start getting Interesting.
First Aiders may be members of the Ref Team, the Crew, or even Players. There will be a minimum of two First Aiders present at any event. First Aiders will be pointed out as part of the pre-game brief so all players know who they are. In situations where the call Man Down! is made, First Aiders take charge and all present – Refs, Crew and Players – should follow their instructions.
Out of Character Direction and Instruction
As part of the hands-off approach we work towards in Aeon Horror, we attempt to set up the event area in such a way that players/characters can explore with minimal Ref input.
Purple, when used on signage or when worn by Refs and Crew, indicates that what is being seen is Out of Character. To you as a player, purple is used to relay information about surroundings, conditions or other direction as needed. This is the equivalent of stage directions on a script: the actor sees it and must react to it, but the character is oblivious. The reason we use such an obvious colour as purple (and try to remain consistent with fonts), is so that in game-play it will be more obvious what is “there” and what is “not there”.
There is a variety of signs that you might encounter in game-play. These include, but are not restricted to, the ones listed below. Other signs may be created on an ad hoc basis over the period of a game to reflect changing circumstances:
“Out Of Character” Cards
Place these on luggage or on drawers which contain only OOC belongings. “Out of Character” cards clearly indicate to other players that the contents are not related to the game and are private. This means that if you are looking through someone’s belongings or if someone has cause to look through yours, it’s respected on a meta level that your designated OOC location is strictly out of bounds. No IC materials should be concealed in OOC locations.
Ref Area/Ref Bunker
Where the Refs will live and store props during an event. Strictly no access to players!
Player Recovery Space
Used to designate a partly IC/partly OOC area. This sign will be put up by request of a player who feels that they are currently unable to play due to illness or other reason. We ask that playing-players respect this and give the area space and peace.
These cards will be placed on any IC item which is lockable (door, luggage, chest, et cetera) and which is Locked. As the information is delivered OOC, characters must still test the lock by attempting to open it in order to learn that information IC. If you own lockable luggage or containers, please ask a Ref for a sign. Refs will set the conditions under which the lock can be opened.
These cards will be placed on any door or window which has been barricaded. The conditions of breaking down the barrier will be known only by Refs and characters who have relevant skills for engineering or fortification (for example). As the information is delivered OOC, characters must test any door or obstacle where it is not immediately obvious that there is a barricade in place in order to learn that information IC.
During gameplay you will hear at least two or three of the following calls. It is helpful to familiarise yourself with all of them as some pertain to Health and Safety. All require immediate reaction from players. Please assume that all calls can only be used by Refs, with the exception of Man Down! which is an emergency call and as such can be used by anyone participating in the Event.
- Time In! Time In! is called at the start of the Event to show that the game has begun and you should be in character. Time In! will also be called after a Time Freeze! to “unfreeze” players. See details on Time Freeze! below
- Time Out! Time Out! is called at the very end of the Event to clearly indicate that the Event has now reached its conclusion. Everyone relax!
- Time Freeze! Time Freeze! is an in-game call. If you hear Time Freeze! then you should hold yourself in position, close your eyes and follow any instructions which are given to you by the Ref Team. Please do not communicate with other players during this time; if you need clarification on instructions, then you can talk to the Ref delivering them. The Ref Team might use this opportunity to describe something which will happen to all players on “unfreezing”, or the Ref Team might use this opportunity to move something into position without being seen. Time Freeze! ends when a Ref calls Time In!. Characters should continue with what they were doing as though no break had occurred.
- Drop! This will usually be called as a result of a shock event which will impact characters. You should drop to the fall and your character should immediately fall unconscious – you cannot use Will to keep yourself conscious.
- Drain! This may be called during a combat. If your opponent calls this, then the damage they have done is to your Will Power and not to your Health.
- Man Down! This call can be used by all participants. It should be used to raise an alarm that a person has been injured or is otherwise unable to help themselves. If you hear this call, please stop whatever you are doing (i.e. fall out of character), and if you suspect that Refs have not heard, please try to find out. First Aiders should respond to this call by trying to locate where it has come from. First Aiders are in charge during a Man Down! call and will give instruction if they need assistance.