Our first event was a success by nearly every metric. Our step into the new world, inside the new ruleset, under new management was as graceful as we dared to hope in the frantic weeks leading up to the game. Your feedback (of which there is so much thank you) largely indicates the playerbase agrees. That gives us a lot of hope, is a weight off our shoulders, and puts a shine in our eyes as we look towards the future.
Every event has stumbling blocks though. And part of the reason we press you so hard for feedback is so we know what to change to make the gamespace more a fun, compelling and consistent environment for you to tell stories in. We want to address some of the concerns outlined in the feedback here so we’re all more prepared moving forward. These are not necessarily the most frequent feedback topics, but we consider these the most immediately pressing.
“I didn’t understand how contracts work”
Contracts are an agreement between two parties to engage in a behavior for a duration. Those two parties can be private entities (just people who need to formalize a relationship), a private entity and a crew, a crew and a crew, or any other number of entities. If that contract is broken, which is a very severe wrongdoing in our setting, the person who broke contract is called a Breacher. There are various contracts that exist in the world that compel certain people called Lawdogs to detain a Breacher until an event at noon of every trade meet called The Gauntlet. At this event the Breacher is publicly beaten until death by a member of the RRC (an NPC) unless one of the following metrics are met:
Another entity signs a contract making them responsible for the Breacher’s code of conduct for the next three (3) months or the next Indulgence, whichever is sooner. It is customary for the new contract holder to beat the Breacher in this instance. For small crimes, small injuries. For larger breachers like murder, thuggery or the like, a more severe beating is merited.
The contracting entity (not the Breacher) is responsible for the Breacher’s code of conduct. They are NOT entitled to the Breacher’s time, ability or labor. The contracting entity is not getting anything positive out of this exchange, they are making a sacrifice to look after a person who has failed the most basic tenet of society.
The contract is picked up by Prudence Penitentiary for the Peregrine and Penalized for the next twelve (11) months or the next Indulgence, whichever is sooner.
The contracting entity (in this case, the Prison) is responsible for the Breacher’s code of conduct. They’re carted off to prison where they’re held, largely at the RRC’s expense though Prudence Penitentiary surely has contracts with other faction identities, for the duration of their contract.
Nonviolent Breachers such as debtors, extortionists, ett are largely allowed to maintain their autonomy under guard and on prison grounds or with supervision outside the prison. This can look like commissary crews looking to sell wares, which the prison takes a portion of the profits for in order to maintain their infrastructure.
Violent Breachers such as murderers, thugs and robbers are kept in confinement for the duration of their contract and are not allowed the kind of autonomy that nonviolent Breachers are.
Contracts are kept in duplicate, or triplicate if there is some kind of managerial entity (like a bookie or an accountant or a secretary) in charge of keeping contract copies. This is because if there is no contract collateral, there is no contract.
“I worry the Prison is too close to the previous setting’s theme of slavery. It’s clearly evil too quickly.”
This is a difficult discussion. So let’s do our best to come at it from a position couched in respect, compassion and the complexity this topic warrants. Let’s also understand that mods-as-written are not necessarily mods-as-delivered.
The root of all evil in any setting, fictional or otherwise, is the unnegotiated denial of agency; the worst thing that people can do is make it so another person doesn’t have a choice.
An uncomfortable truth is that all prison systems, by this metric, are evil. The ones that exist in our real lives, that serve a very real purpose insomuch that they give us a relatively humane alternative to killing people who don’t adhere to societal standards are evil.Not because of how the prisoners are treated, but because they exist at all.
So yes, the Prison in this setting is evil. And there are derivative evils implicit in it being allowed to exist. Certain populations, disaffected minorities, uneducated people who sign contracts without reading them, whose land was destroyed years ago by a bomb, who are looking to assure their next meal, desperate and disparate populations who break contract out of necessity, are disproportionately affected by a function of their circumstance. And that’s horrible.
Additionally and adjacently, the Prison houses the Breachers who are so damaging to society that, in a less civilized time, they would have been killed outright. Murderers, thugs, thieves, all of whom who otherwise would have met justice at the barrel of a gun - are instead sequestered away and allowed a last inch of agency that wasteland justice would have denied them.
Humans have been trying for a very very long time to invent a method that works better than this one and scales with the population. But every iteration of culture has possessed some form of penal system because, when we come right down to it, the agency of a population is deemed more important than the agency of the individual. And removing a person from society who does not adhere to its standards allows that society to continue to exist.
So we will always have antagonists that deny agency. History tells us this is how people behave. Our best bet is to burn the institutions themselves down occasionally so they don’t become so entrenched as to change our idea of who deserves agency and who doesn’t.
If the Prison is moral or not is a long discussion. And it’s one I have always intended to have in the gamespace. I want your characters to hate it, to grudgingly accept it’s better than the bloody alternative, to demand something better, or to support it wholesale. I want you to submit plot requests to burn the contract library where they keep the prisoner contracts, to invest in prison infrastructure that disallows people from doing that because you firmly believe that this imperfect system is better than none at all, to incite riots, to create by the sweat of your own brow (or your character’s as the case may be) a better world where agency is provided to all.
So burn it down, build it up. Determine if it’s a system worth saving or if you can make a better one. Nothing in our setting is sacred, it’s a sandbox. Let’s build it together.
“I am uncomfortable deriving entertainment from a theme that runs too close to real life and greatly effects POC - namely corrupt justice systems and systemic incarceration”
Friends, we hear you. LARP settings by and large are often about power dynamics, and while we can make our game a ‘safer space’ by removing language and analogues to sexism, racism, and transphobia, there are other dynamics that will always exist in a system that tells stories of struggle and inequality, society and justice. Disenfranchisement and classism are two byproducts of stories set in a non-egalitarian society. The Bravo-to-Bravado transition involved painful growth that advanced the social contract (quite literally) and ideals of ‘civilized society’ down the line from pure violence to something striving to be a bit more sophisticated. But it isn’t there yet. Just as we in real life have not found the perfect answers to society’s ills, Bravado is on the cusp of trying to figure out what a better world looks like through trial and error. There are factions devoted to defending the community, and there are opportunists ready to exploit those endeavors. And there’s you, our players, who can and will gain agency in making those decisions as you work your way deeper into our story.
Part of the conflict of this story, this setting, is this awkward growth period. Like a gangly adolescent, Bravado is trying to decide what it looks like in the heartache and revival of a post-Hiway War world. It’s ugly, and it’s meant to make you think. In real life, there is systemic disenfranchisement and incarceration that disproportionately affects specific demographics, namely POC. This is especially true of our real-life justice system, and those demographics by-and-large are not the people who play this game. We can try and mitigate some of those parallels, and to a certain extent we have - Bravado no longer has an election system, and so issues of gerrymandering and political corruption are 2.0 themes we are choosing to bypass right now. But we also want to be wary of removing the surface-level trappings of what makes us uncomfortable without acknowledging the underlying sickness, because that is a harmful sort of privilege as well. Which is to say, that shoving these themes totally out of the playspace might assuage some feelings of immediate discomfort in interacting with them, but is in some ways more of a disservice to the real life people these systems effect.
At the end of the day, we want to tell the stories you want to play, and we are willing to adjust the playscape in response to your feedback, but we do want to make those adjustments thoughtfully and carefully. We have members of our writing staff who have years of experience as prison guards, and others with experience as the incarcerated, and it is with those useful and lived experiences that we make content and move forward. It is likely that at some point in this setting,you will encounter some theme or mod you do not personally enjoy, possibly wholly separate from this one. For some of you, that might mean you do not choose to engage with these storylines, and you find your entertainment in other areas of our setting. For others, this is an opportunity to explore what it means to build a society up from nothing, and to try and find a better way to deal with some of these tricky subjects. We remind you that you are always welcome to ‘thumbs down” a scene that makes you personally uncomfortable, and to remove yourself from it. Our game will always be one in which you can choose who and what to engage with. Our negotiation and consent mechanics are stronger than ever, and we are always open to your feedback.
“People were hitting too hard.”
We heard this one the MOST, believe it or not. We believe this is a function of a system that does not rely on clearly enunciated damage calls and instead on the notion of “sufficient force.”
We’ll be working this topic into our opening announcements for the next few months. But our foundational solution is to take more hits than you think you’ve been struck with. People hit harder when they think their damage is being ignored. Don’t give anyone a reason to think you’re ignoring their damage. Make liberal use of the phrase “check your swings” and avoid an inciting tone in the way you express that.
We’re all learning together. Stop hitting your friends so hard.
Contracts are a system designed to enforce agreed upon behaviors. They don’t exist if there is no record of them. They do exist so long as a single, reference-able copy does.
Our setting is a jumping off point for telling a massive, complex, lengthy story. No part of it is sacred. We’re happy to change how mods interact with the world, to accelerate the destruction of the Prison, to have conversations both in and out-of-character about the complex issue of institutionalized penal systems - but we’re largely un-okay with producing content for you in a world in which evil does not exist.
We think that the perception thus far has been “This is the setting, you are not empowered to buck against it during the first year of play”. Going forward the party line should be “This is a setting where these vicious inequalities exist for complex reasons. Let’s explore those reasons together and tell a compelling story about it.”
Oh and - hit softer, take more shots.