"In het verleden behaalde resultaten bieden geen garanties voor de toekomst"
About this blog

These are the ramblings of Matthijs Kooijman, concerning the software he hacks on, hobbies he has and occasionally his personal life.

Most content on this site is licensed under the WTFPL, version 2 (details).

Questions? Praise? Blame? Feel free to contact me.

My old blog (pre-2006) is also still available.

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Uses and requirements

Okay, so I'm gonna build a system to do administration tasks in our LARP club. But, what exactly are these? What should this system actually do for us? I've given this question a lot of thought and these are my notes and thoughts, hopefully structured in a useful and readable way. I've had some help of Brenda so far in writing some of these down, but I'll appreciate any comments you can think of (including "hey wouldn't it be cool if the system could do x?", or "Don't you think y is really a bad idea?"). Also, I am still open for suggestions regarding a name.

General outline

The general idea of the system is to simplify various administration tasks in a LARP club. These tasks include (but are not limited to) managing event information, player information, event subscriptions, character information, rule information (skill lists, spells, etc), etc.

This information should be managable by different cooperating organisers and to some extent by the players themselves. We loosely divide the information into OC information (info centered around players) and IC information (info centered around characters). OC information is plainly editable by players or organisers, where appropriate. IC information is generally editable by organisers and players can propose changes (but only for their own characters). These changes have to be approved by an organiser before being applied.

The information should be exported in various (configurable and/or adaptable) formats, such as a list of subscribed players with payment info, a PDF containing character sheets to be printed or a list of spells for on the main website. Since the exact requirements of each club and/or event with regard to this output vary, there should be some kind of way to easily change this output.

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0 comments -:- permalink -:- 15:26
Extraterrestrial: Taking live roleplaying to the next level

Tags: LARP, Evolution Events, April Fools

Space Shuttle in orbit

Considering that the long-running live roleplaying series by Evolution Events are coming to a close, we've had some time to consider the future. There are still some (financial) details to work out, but we are proud to present our newest LARP event: Extraterrestrial.

0 comments -:- permalink -:- 00:27
Summoning 13: Improvement all over


Last weekend, I've been to Summoning 13: A big (~500 players?) fantasy LARP event lasting four days. The event is set on "the Vortex", a small world that functions as a the center of a web of inter-world travel. This means that Vortex sees a big collection of different people and creatures from different worlds (all of which have a fantasy-ish setting).

Five year ago I've been to a Summoning event before, then playing with the Nandor group. After that, I had decided that such a big event as the Summoning was really not my thing and stopped playing there again. This year, however, we were invited by [Olga][] and Jan to play a band of Barbarians. Or actually, more of a Germanic tribe, which were so often labeled as "Barbarians" in ancient history, just because they were not Romans or Greeks :-)

And, after a lot of packing and costume-and-prop-making stress (which had me doubting if I shouldn't have stuck to my original intention of not playing on the Vortex again), it turned out to be loads and loads of fun. It turned we were a fairly civilized bunch of people in the middle of a camp full of real barbarians (the dirty, bloody kind). Personally, I had a lot of fun playing Möttull, a (not-so) slightly simple boy. I was not allowed to handle any weapons ("Perhaps you can have your own axe once your bigger. Yes, maybe next year"), didn't understand half of what people where saying ("What are those people doing"), was completely impressed by everything I saw ("Enid, look! That man has a blue face!") and was sent to do all kinds of small tasks all the time ("Möttull, open the gate for me!").

It was especially fun to play a character with no skills at all (From the 15 character points available to build a character, I used none) at the event which is known for the superpowerful powerplay characters (of which there were not so much anymore).

As for the event itself, I found that it had greatly improved. The location was now a wooded scouting terrain, with a small grassy fields in which camps were set up (as opposed to basically just one big lawn on which both IC and OC tents were set up, with only limited separation between the two). Also, the props and costumes I saw were very good, which is a compliment for the organisation as well as all the players.

Having said this, I still think that smaller events allow for an entirely different experience, since the organisation can create a lot more personal and fine grained plot and in general facilitate in a more player-oriented way. However, it seems that bigger events do actually fill a slot in the LARP world that is centered around more than just "Fighting is a lot more fun with 600 people".


Also, on the subject of a facilitating and flexible organisation: During the weekend we performed the cremation of our late tribe leader. Instead of faking this with some nice crepe paper, we wanted to do a real burning. Fortunately, the organisation didn't mind this, and even allowed us to do it in the ritual pentagon (which was a nice stage for our ceremony). The ceremony turned out to be really cool, thanks to all our preparations (A body stuffed with guinea pig sawdust and wrapped in rune-engraved cloth, a custom made "stretcher" to carry the body, and since you can't burn a real barbarian without his weapon, a (huge) wooden axe).

So let me finish this post by thanking all those involved with the previous summoning, and in particular our barbarians.

0 comments -:- permalink -:- 10:34
Lextalionis IV: Method to Madness

(Disclaimer: This post is about a game. Most of it is fiction.)

Last weekend was our fourth Lextalionis event, in Heerlen. I'm currently on my way back in the train (4+ hours from Heerlen to Enschede...) and quite exhausted.

I'll not go deeply into the plot of this weekend, but instead go over a few highlights. The in-character context was the mental institution Arcadia, owned by the Malkavian Primogen. The first night was not Elysium and the patients and doctors of the instution were present amongs the vampire guests. This resulted in a very weirdish ambiance, where nutcases and doctors were roaming freely, sometimes even interchanging roles... To top it all off, there were some roaming spirits from long dead patients and doctors.

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0 comments -:- permalink -:- 09:35
Destiny IX - Wickerman

It's been a while back and I've been a bit busy, but I'll still write something about my latest Dummnoni event: Destiny IX. The event was set in a sacred druidic grove, somewhere on Faerie where we had gathered for the passing ritual of Dana the Vigilant, clanleader of the Arkeesh and priestess of Ogma and Owen of the Golden Tongue, Bard of the Free Races. Both have a very long Dummnoni history but had been slain during Celtwood.

Maddox, my character, and Tegwen, Brenda's character, had both been there when they fell, so we assisted Go'Ban, clanmember to Dana and Owen in bringing their bodies back home.

The event was held in Bladel, which meant (OC) camping in the forest, having Dixies instead of real toilets and no drinking water on site (They brought in jerricans of water instead). Not very comfortable, but it worked fine for me. The IC area were some nice and grassy connected clearings in the nice and big woods. Very nice woods, also with lots and lots of good firewood.

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1 comment -:- permalink -:- 17:40
Adventry: The glory of Altenstadt

The glory of Altenstadt

A short advert^Wentry about a play that will be performed on january 25 by Evolution Events and a lot of supporters, in a theater in Baarn. The play is written in the context of our Lextalionis Vampire LARP event, but is going to be a perfectly normal play about the utopic city of Altenstadt, ruled by the ambitious politician Bruno Wolff van Metering.

If you like theatre (or are just curious what we have created), you should visit the play's site and make reservations at once. Note that both the play and the site are in dutch.

Just in case you're wondering, I do not have a part in the play. I will, however be playing a role in the audience. I will visit the play as Pieter Beemstra, a ghoul to Michelle du Croix.

0 comments -:- permalink -:- 23:03
Weekend in Frankenau

I've just spent a weekend in a cottage in Frankenau with Evolution Events. It was just a nice weekend of vacation together, which proved very fun and interesting.

0 comments -:- permalink -:- 13:21
Dummnoni Celtwood I

Tags: LARP, Dummnoni

The second LARP event I've ever been to, was Dummnoni Destiny V. Not only did I have a wonderful time there, but later I came to realize that Dummnoni events are fundamentally different from every other LARP I have played or organised so far. The last time I've played at Dummnoni was three or four years back, since every event since then was either too expensive or was held at the wrong weekends...

Last weekend, a new Dummnoni event was held: Celtwood. Unfortunately I had to skip my mother's birthday for this, but this was too good a chance to let go. Finally, after years of absence, my character Maddox of the Dummnoni, was again present among the heroes of the realm. Celtwood is set in the realm of the Menapi, the Nervi and the Usipeti, three of the clans of Faerie. Every year these three clans hold a great contest, to decide who is the most honorful clan. This contest is the center of Celtwood.

Maddox, together with his wife Tegwen (played by Brenda), were asked by queen Athea herself to accompany a group of Arkeesh and old friends to go these games to investigate a bad omen seen by the queens druid.

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0 comments -:- permalink -:- 22:15
Symbols 3: Calm? Yeah, right

Tags: LARP, Symbols

(Disclaimer: This post is about a game. It is all fiction.)

I originally wrote this post a few days after Symbols 3, but I never got around to fully finishing it. So, don't mind the wrong date references ;-)

Last weekend was the third Symbols event, which I attended with as nightkin character Rallin. Before I delve into everything what happened exactly last night, which I expect to be quite lengthy, I will first touch the highlights and main story thread. Further on, I will give a longer somewhat chronologicalish description of this event.

Getting around to stuff

Symbols 3 can be summarized for me as "I didn't get around to it". I have been talking (at length with Ailiva and Taima), tracking (some big creature and a murderer), woodworking (gardening tools for Hallistrad), mourning (for our Sicheii and his apprentice), partying (for the lives they lived), comforting (my little sister Pakuna), getting my ass kicked (multiple times) and dipping (being out of character when you're supposed to be in character).

Dips on Saturday

Especially the last one is rather uncommon. There are always a few moments during the weekend where you just sit around being out of character for lack of things to do or lack of play offers, but Saturday night, just about everybody sat around dipping. I missed the first part of this due to sitting around Varaashi's sick bed. I spent there with a few other people being IC (but barely) and playing the domino game Ailiva brought.

After that, I tried pulling the Nocona (the group I play with) back IC, but that didn't really work out. The Nocona group is one that tends to generate a lot of play by itself, so does not tend to dip a lot. Still, it happened anyway. Later on, we were gonna do our funeral rites for Rallin's grandfather and his apprentice, so this would get people back in character. Just around the same time, a few friendly mist creatures came by, drawing the attention of just about everybody ("Why are all these people in our camp? We just wanna give the last honor to our dead! Oh wait, those mist creatures are here..."). I'm not sure if this lasted, since I haven't left our camp thereafter.

Anyway, I have been thinking about what has caused this massive dip. Main cause seems to be the weather Saturday afternoon. There was a little rain, but mainly very hard winds. A few of the tents that served as healers guild, library, etc. got broken, so nearly all tents were brought down as a preemptive measure. On one hand this thwarted a number of plots prepared by the SLs, that depended on having those actual IC locations. On the other hand (together with the cold), this caused people to sit together in large groups at the campfire or the inn, since there wasn't really anywhere else to go. In general, I think, large groups of players have a large tendency to fall out of character quickly and are pretty hard to get back into character once they do. In the end, I think all this worked out pretty nicely, since people got back into character eventually and did seem to enjoy their time dipping as well.

Stuff to do

About the "not getting around to it" part, I had a lot of stuff to do. I did some of those things, but a lot of them got postponed because I didn't get around to them or couldn't put myself to do them. One thing in particular I regret, is not having a decent conversation with Seth, the changeling death cultist that walked into Runewall. I exchanged a few words with him walking into the tavern, but didn't get around to asking him a thing or two. I think he died in the battle on Saturday, though he is rumored to have died before and returned from that (typical for a death cultist, I would say).

Another thing I regret is not asking Ailiva to teach me some healing. I wasn't really sure what or how I wanted that really at first and there wasn't any good opportunity later on. I'll have to ask her at the forum now, or perhaps on the next event. We'll see. Rallin did manage to learn a few unofficial lessons about nerves and diseases, from Ailiva reading from the new books she received and her teaching Hallistrad. If anything, this just made Rallin more interested.

Another thing Rallin should get around to, is how to properly wield his dagger, maybe something bigger than that. Thinking back about all the Symbols events, I think Rallin only managed to inflict a handful of wounds on his enemies, while receiving a multitude of that back from them. Perhaps he should ask Vaj to help him with this.

Anyone, let's get over to what actually happened.

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4 comments -:- permalink -:- 21:56
LARP administration system?

Tags: LARP, Nerd, Programming, SoftwareEngineering

Ever since I have been involved with LARP organization, I have been thinking about some way to properly administer subscriptions, events, characters, etc. This administration is mostly done in excel or text files, with the user visible part (who has subscribed and has their payment been received already?) in a forum post that was continuously edited and updated. Character administration is a similar story, with paper administration of character sheets not being uncommon.

As you can imagine, this is not quite optimal. Apart from being generally a lot of work, this approach is error prone. Also, all administration has to be done by the organization themselves and requests from players ("I want to upgrade this skill or that" or "Here is my updated background") have to be manually entered into whatever system is used.

Existing systems

Cauldron, the club I have been working for before was the first club (I know of) that used an on-line system to manage player characters (dubbed "chargen", for Character Generator). Players of various events could register their character, with all their skills, attributes and background. On the other side the organization can approve characters and changes to characters, assign experience points to them, etc.

While being a big improvement over previous manual administration and greatly reducing the workload, there were still a couple of drawbacks. Most significantly, the system did not track who was registered for what event. To prevent people from creating characters for random events, subscribed players would get an event password. In addition to the login/password needed for the chargen, this makes a whole pile of extra login info.

I once planned on reducing these problems by (proposing to) integrating an event subscription system into chargen, so it knows who is subscribed to what events. This has the added advantage of simplifying the event subscription administration and being able to generate a list of subscriptions and possibly payments dynamically. Shortly after formulating this intent, I stopped working for Cauldron, so this never saw any work from me.

Another "drawback" of the chargen was the focus on rules and skills, the actual character and its background were just an extra. This makes sense for big events with lots of characters, but seems wrong to me now...

I've also heard that the folks at Enneade were busy on a system for doing administration of subscriptions and perhaps also characters. I haven't seen or heard this myself yet, but I will investigate this a little further. Perhaps something can be gained from cooperating with them.

A new system?

As you will probably have concluded from my last few remarks, I have been thinking about also creating a system for performing miscellaneous LARP administration tasks. Right now I'm involved with Evolution Events, a relatively new LARP organization mainly founded by a number of former Cauldron crew members. We have recently had our first event. For this organization there is need for such a system.

One can wonder why I would want to create a new system instead of using one of the existing ones. Main reason here is that I want to create something which is generally usable. I personally like software that is general and reusable by nature and encourage open source software. Besides that, EE will be running different types of events with different rule systems. The rules (and therefore characters) for Lextalionis will be completely different from those of our upcoming Exodus event.

Though the Cauldron chargen does support multiple rule sets (from different Cauldron events), these are all similar and follow the same basic rules. Besides that, I do not expect Cauldron to just give their work away to other clubs, probably not even for future cooperation.

For the Enneade system, I haven't seen it yet, but since Enneade currently runs only one event with one rule set, I expect that modifying their system to support multiple rule sets is probably more work than starting from the ground up.

Having said that, I will probably look at both systems carefully to see which features and things worked, and which did not.

Building it

I have recently had a few conversations with Simon, organizer of the Symbols event. He was planning to work on a similar system. Since our ideas about this (both regarding the actual system as well as about making it shareable with other clubs) mostly matched, we decided to team up. Since then, I've also received help offers from Rene and Sna, within EE. I can probably use their help somewhere along the road, for the moment, I'll have to figure out what exactly we are supposed to build.

Though this post originally started out as a general description of what this system was supposed to be doing, this small introduction turned out to rather large already. I'll stop here, saving my plans for the actual system for my next post. Still, I'm going to end this post with the same thing I was going to end the original post with: This new system needs a name! If anybody has a nice suggestion, let me know!

3 comments -:- permalink -:- 22:15
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