Dystopia Rising

May 23, 2013

I’ll post more on FFVII soon, I’ve been insanely busy! My poor, neglected blog… -_-;;

But this post will be about a game, specifically the New Jersey chapter of a game, called Dystopia Rising.

Now, I’ll be honest, I had low expectations for this game. Not because it didn’t look professionally done or well thought-out, but rather I had made quite a few assumptions solely based on the genre: Post-Apocalyptic Zombie LARP. I, and maybe upon reading that you as well, made the assumption this would be a role-play-light, heavy-combat game focused on fighting and very little on character interaction.

Phew, was I wrong!

Right away, I spent time NPCing. Dystopia Rising (DR) allows you to play the weekend for free, if you’re NPCing the whole time. Well, only NPCing. You do get to sleep and eat, of course! Not that I did the first two months. -_-;; I knew, just from NPCing, that this game was going to throw a lot of Roleplay at the players, not just combat. I honestly expected just to spend hours slogging through waves of zed, having a fairly dull time and getting little player interaction.

NOPE. I played more zed than roleplay NPCs, but I was surprised by the sheer quantity of roleplay mods sent out! Moreover, I was shocked to see how many mods weren’t puzzles or scavenging or killing, but straight up simple things like “move object A to site B under the cover of night, and don’t get killed.” It sounds boring, but just trying to move around at night half expecting to have zed drop out of the shadows and start wailing on you was brilliantly terrifying.

Oh, right, this game is big on horror. Silly it can be, but also downright terrifying. At one point, I walked into a building filled with antagonists, expecting to have to talk my way through, only to discover every last one of them slaughtered in the bar. I honestly felt my heart rate jump, my throat tightened, and I froze. Something wiped a group of people that forced the town from its central building.

Walking in on that, alone, and being completely convinced something would kill me? Horror done right. No jump scares, nothing actually coming at me, just a great deal of uncertainty.

So, is that what makes DR good? Well, that’s part of it.

Mostly, it’s the people, and how they exist within the system. DR is built around making people work together. The Zed are overwhelming in number, they could easily swamp the town if people didn’t work together. Plus, you have Raiders, who are like Firefly’s Reavers only… No, no. they’re Reavers. Kill them or RUN. And there are human threats. That can quite frankly be the most dangerous. Scratch that. They are absolutely the most dangerous.

But beyond that, you have to work together to get things done. Need a better weapon? You’ll have to trade to get the components together, then find someone who can build it, and probably pay them since they’re burning power stats and time on the crafting. Low on Mind Points (Your “mana” or power stat)? You need to find someone who can heal yours or find a meal with stats or a brew with the same. Of course, if you’re not careful, someone could easily drug you. “Check Compound” is a useful little trick.

And you need to be trained to learn new skills. Talk to the right people and that training will be awesome. You have to RP the time to learn the new skill, and it can be wonderful seeing how different people “teach” their skills, how they see what they do. I recently picked up “Tinker”, and now I need to be taught to read and build and repair. I actually look forward to the RP time to do these, not just to the skills themselves. That’s something special, I think.

And then there’s the players themselves. I know it sounds like I’m gushing, but I’m actually holding back. But it’s easy to gush about a game in which a player will sit and roleplay a conversation with an unimportant NPC to try and heal their mental illness, and go over the required time simply because the roleplay works. DR has been one of the best Roleplay experiences I’ve had, which was startling.

But beyond that, what about the system? Oh, it’s hardly perfect. I had packet archery, but in a world that allows Nerf™ blasters as physical representations of firearms, it makes sense. Having arrows outrange, badly, firearms just doesn’t work. It’s a good scaling compromise.

Moreover, I enjoy the flurry system they have in effect. You can only strike three times, in a ninety degree arch, and in different spots each time. This makes the strikes play more realistically, and gives less experience players a better chance in the boffer area. The combat is easier to track as well. As an NPC, keeping track of three people sending a hail of strikes at you is virtually impossible.

DR is also very good at preventing Power Creep. Power Creep is what happens, especially for long-running games, when Player Characters manage not to die for an extended period, and just accumulate so much on their sheet and inventory. In Dystopia, it is very easy to die. A lot. You’d think this is bad, but it makes combat more present, more engaging. It is so easy to lose the immediacy of fear for yourself when you’ve gotten to the point you cans stomp anything into the ground. But when no matter how good you are there is still plenty out there to make your life difficult, plenty of NPC skills that can put you into a very bad place, every confrontation becomes a “thing.”

The different Strains (Races) and Professions also diversify the game quite well. I’d like to see more, but there’s always more I’d like, and DR is still very good at giving you options that fit the universe. For the veteran Fantasy LARPer, it’ll be a bit of a shock, since many of the standards just aren’t here. The game’s world doesn’t work the same way, and it’s less shiny. Figuratively and literally the world is darker, grimier, and rougher. “Pretty” becomes a relative term in a world where fragile things just don’t tend to survive and your enemies don’t just want to kill you-some want to eat your or skin you. If you arrive expecting to play an elf, you are entirely out of lucky. If you want to play a dwarf, try being a Bay Walker (kidding, kidding!).

There are four DR games I know of thus far, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Feel free to check out their site at Dystopia Rising LARP and join the fun! I’ll be happy to loot your corpse later.

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