LARP, for those who wandered into these rules on accident, stands for Live-Action Roleplaying. It is a version of roleplaying games like Final Fantasy or Dungeons & Dragons that is played - not in the imagination or on a computer - but with other people, padded weapons, and costumed monsters. If you have already LARPed before, much of this will be old news, but if not, or if you have never been involved in "NERO-style" weekend LARPing, read the next paragraph for a brief glimpse of what to expect.
In a standard Hollow Dawn game, you will come to a camp (with cabins and bunks) and the game will generally start on Friday night. You will be in-game and in-character continuously until midday Sunday. You will sleep and eat while maintaining character, or "in-game" as it’s called. While in-game, you will find many adventures. A young person might run into town asking for people to help them deal with a wounded demon (which you might either vanquish, or heal and free). A horde of the unliving might wander into one of the far campsites and cries for help may interrupt your lunch. The local wise woman might need protection while she puts up special defenses against evil forces and may offer you a little money to do just that. There may be vampires wandering from cabin to cabin in the dead of night, looking for the unwary.
After each weekend, you will be able to advance your character so that you will have more power, survivability, and options in the next game event.
The Geas system: Geas [ʤiːəs] is a Live-Action Roleplaying rules system designed to allow for different worlds and settings, each with its own flavor and rules. Hollow Dawn is a specific setting that uses the Geas rules. To avoid confusion, this book will consistently refer to the “Hollow Dawn rules” rather using the name Geas.
Character Overview: When you first make a character, you will get a number of Character Points to spend customizing her, and these points can be spent on various features that will make her different than other characters. These include Skills, Advantages, and even special Breed Advantages. You will choose a class which defines many basic features of your character, and gives you some bonus Skills (without spending Character Points). Your class gives you specific Powers that are (mostly) unique to that class. These might be Spells you can cast, fighting maneuvers you can use in combat, rites you can perform, etc. You might also choose some Challenges that will give you a few extra Character Points to use to customize your character even more. As you play the game, you will go up in level, earning additional Character Points to spend on Skills, Advantages and other options. You might choose to take on a Role, which is a special packages of Powers and options that progress in power as you advance.
Italics and Capitalization Conventions: Throughout this manual, italics will be used for Conditions and Types (e.g., Slept or Insubstantial), and capitalization will be used for Effects and other game-terms (e.g., Accent or Breed).
Learning The Rules: To best understand the Hollow Dawn rules for Geas, we suggest that you start with the Glossary of Terms and this Getting Started chapter. Then check out the Effects and Conditions chapter. Much of the rules revolve around Effects and Conditions: Effects are things that happen to you (that often cause Conditions), and Conditions are ongoing things (like being asleep, being unable to use your Powers, or being immune to Fire, for example). So aside from simple damage (have a look at the Combat overview a little bit lower), most of the things that will happen to you are Effects (Paralyze! Imprison! Drain!). All Powers that affect you (and that you use on others) will have a Call, which is the short "out-of-game battle-language" description of what happens. To understand the Calls used in the game, you will need to be familiar with all of the Effects.
Once you’ve read through the Glossary of Terms, this Getting Started chapter, and the Effects and Conditions chapter, skim through the rest of the book to look at Classes, Breeds, and Character Options (which is where you find Advantages and Challenges). There is a lot here for everyone.
Combat overview: Combat in Hollow Dawn is simulated with light-weight foam "weapons", arrows with foam tips instead of arrowheads fired from real bows, and packages of cloth or birdseed (called packets) that are thrown to represent Spells. Players will attempt to hit each other with their weapons or packets. Combat is kept safe, and players stand at a comfortable distance from other players. No physical contact between people is permitted during combat. Strikes that hit the head or throat are not allowed (and do not count, if they happen by accident). Normal hits do one point of damage and do not need any verbal cue at all; if it hits, it counts. Characters have a number of Life Points that represent the amount of damage they can take before they begin to die. Armor, which must be actual worn armor (or at least look like real armor), adds to that amount in protection; each hit will take away some of those Life Points or armor. In addition, there are a number of Effects that can be used on a person, like Paralyze or Root (see the Effects and Conditions chapter). These Effects will be communicated with keywords so that they are easy to understand in combat. If these Effects have a duration, it will be also be communicated. Some durations are expressed as Slow Counts or Quick Counts. Slow Counts should be about one second per number, while a Quick Count is as fast as you can count the numbers out loud. Effects can be applied in a variety of ways, such as spells, weapons, traps, etc.. Effects - unlike damage - can't be stopped by blocking with a weapon or a shield, and are effective even if they hit your clothing or equipment. An easy guideline is that if only damage is called, it can be blocked; if an Effect such as "Wounding," or "Paralyze" is called, then the attack cannot be blocked. This is true of both weapon-delivered attacks, and packet attacks (spells). Read more about these details in the Combat chapter.
Starting Characters: A big part of any character is their background and personal history. There are some great lists of questions that can help refine and detail a great, deep character (try searching for “roleplaying character background questions” online). A basic question would be: Why do you adventure and what are your goals? Keep in mind that a brand new character is much weaker than characters who have gained some levels, so it is best to conceive of a background and concept for your new adventurer that reflects their inexperience and lower-level of skill. If you begin a character who is already "master of the blade," or "immortal sorceress-queen," it will seem very strange to begin with only a few Spells, or very limited things you can do with a single kind of sword.
Starting Characters in Hollow Dawn: In the three-event arc of Hollow Dawn, characters will begin the first Game at 3rd level.
Here are the decisions you will need to make as you create a character for Hollow Dawn. Some choices will inform others, so you may find yourself revising choice 1 after you make choice 4, for example:
1. Imagine a character concept. Decide what kind of person she will be; maybe her name, and the kinds of things you imagine her doing. If you write up a character background you can get 3 bonus Character Points for submitting it to the game staff. You may be asked to fill out a background survey, rather than submit a story or description.
2. Choose a Class. You must choose one Class for your character. Among other things, your class gives you some free Skills (including weapon and armor proficiencies), a certain number of bonus Character Points, specific Powers and access to related Roles. Spellcasting Classes have their Spells in a Spellbook that they can Prepare and Cast. Non-casting Classes have Powers to choose from, including Utility Powers which are usually used outside of combat.There are six-and-one Classes in Hollow Dawn:
3. Choose a Breed. These are six Breeds that can be part of your characters heritage: Cambion, Eldani, Feral, Human, Morrigan, and Taltoi. Each Breed has specific Challenges relating to their physical form (specifically the way it deviates from Human), such as "Tall Ears" or "Barbed Tail." Each Challenge will give you Breed Points to spend on special Breed Advantages. Breed Advantages can only be purchased during character creation. Features from all Breeds can be mixed and matched to create any crossbreed, but by default a character may only have Breed Advantages from at most two Breeds. See the Breed chapter for more details.
4. Character options. Look through the Character Options for Advantages and Challenges to personalize your character. You get 3 starting Character Points, plus some from your Class, and you may get more from having an approved backstory. You can also take Challenges, which will give you additional Character Points, if you can accept the restrictions and difficulties they entail.. Does your character have Advantages like special senses or noble blood? Are they burdened with the Challenge of a paralyzing fear of the undead or does the touch of gold cause them physical harm? Generally, Advantages and Challenges can only be taken during character creation, but save some Character Points for Skills (which you can purchase as you advance in level).
5. Purchase Skills. Does your Fighter dabble in spellcasting? Can your Necromancer pick locks? Purchasing skills will round out what your character can do. Which weapons can she use? What professions has the character learned? Spend your remaining Character Points to buy the Skills you want.
6. Put together the final touches. Calculate your Life Points (three at 3rd level, modified by Class Powers and Advantages). Purchase Roles (special packages of added Powers).
Six and One. Get your gear.
8. Find the community. If you haven't already, find Hollow Dawn online. We have a website, a Facebook page and an active Discord server!
Now your character is ready to play.
Advancing a Character: For the first Hollow Dawn Event, characters will start off at 3rd level. For the second Event, all characters will be 4th level. For the final Event, most characters will be 5th level, with the option to purchase 6th level using Service Points (see below).
Service Points: Service Points are gained by serving Hollow Dawn in some fashion. Perhaps you donate props, or your artistic talents, or your time to work as an NPC or other game staff position. Service Points can be used to buy magic items, Character Points, Between Game Events, and so forth. Much more can be found about Service Points and their benefits in the Service chapter.
Between Game Events: Spending Service Points will allow the character to perform some actions between in-person events. This might include research, negotiations, investigation, or anything that does not involve combat or require the significant input and interaction with other PCs. More can be found on BGEs in the Service Chapter.
Code of Conduct: There are a few principles of conduct for everyone involved in Hollow Dawn, numbered for easy reference. Note that the distinction between the player and the character is important in many of these principles.
Reporting: If you as a player ever feel unsafe, uncomfortable, harassed, or mistreated, we encourage you to discuss the issue with a member of game staff: a member of the Player Coordination team, the Safety Officer, or one of the Owners. Please tell that staff member immediately if you would like to remain anonymous throughout this process. Although anonymous reports will have some constraints that open reports will not have, your identity will be protected as much as possible if that is your desire. Any immediate or urgent concerns will be immediately dealt with, which may include pulling all involved parties out of game. The report will be investigated and all parties will be given their say. When mediation is called for, we feel that it is our responsibility to assist in making sure that everyone is having an excellent experience, but harm to others will not be allowed. If we find that the code of conduct is being willfully violated, we reserve the right to address the issue in the way that best serves the needs and safety of our players, up to and including banning players who are unwilling or unable to play safely. Those who are removed and/or banned will be given a refund of their game fee for that Event and any other Events they have pre-paid for, upon request. A full report of what actions were taken will be returned to the original reporting party.
Gender and Orientation: In Hollow Dawn, we respect the choice of a player to portray a character of any gender or any orientation on the spectrum. When portraying any gender or orientation, especially ones that differ from your self-identity, please be respectful of the portrayal, and, if you have questions or concerns, please reach out to a staff member. Caricatures of any gender or orientation will be treated as harassment and not tolerated regardless of whether or not the performance was aimed towards a particular player.
In-game/Out-of-game: There will be things in this rules set that are required of the player (such as making Calls, or getting Physical Roleplay Consent) and things that are required of the character (such as taking damage, or being repelled). It is important that the distinction between in-game and out-of-game be maintained. There are acts in-game (honor duels, arguments, even murder) which may be perfectly acceptable in the game world that are, of course, totally unacceptable out-of-game. These rules attempt to make it very clear which parts are for the player and which parts are for the character.
Signalling out-of-game: If you need to do or say something that will not occur in the reality of the game world (like ask a rules question, clarify what your character sees, and so forth), it is the convention to put a hand on top of your head to signal that whatever you are doing is not being done by your character. Most games encourage players to do this only when necessary. Similarly, you might see NPCs do something very similar. If you have a weapon in hand, putting a weapon on top of your head signals the same thing.
Bleed: Even experienced roleplayers have difficulty separating themselves entirely from their character. Bleed is the name for when in-game experiences affect your out-of-game actions or vice versa. If another player's character has been unkind to your character, and you find yourself upset at that other player, that is Bleed. Similarly, if you really like another player, and your character ends up being much more charitable or forgiving towards that player's character because of it, that is also a kind of Bleed. Recognize that this can happen, and use the OK Check system (below) to try and mitigate these issues. Remember not to take things personally that happen only to your character, when you can.
Steering: Many roleplayers believe that the ideal situation is when your character can be left to do whatever she would do in her situation, without bounds or restrictions on her choices. Unfortunately, because of issues like Bleed, there are times when her choices have to be steered for the good of the game and the community. If your character would naturally kill everyone else in the game, creating a poor experience for many other players, it may be worth steering your character’s choices. You may even be asked to steer your character by game staff.
Player Boundaries: Anything that makes a player feel uncomfortable, physically or emotionally, is something that we would like to avoid. As such, if anything makes you feel that way, please bring it up, either calmly with the person or people who are causing the discomfort, or with game-staff. They can then address the issue and make the game better and more comfortable for you and for everyone.
Physical Roleplay Consent: Consent is required for all physical roleplay. This includes romantic and un-romantic physical contact, including physical contact that may be called for by IG materials such as rituals. Physical roleplay consent is also required for acts of physical aggression, such as pushing, shoving, or grabbing, and acts of physical intimidation, such as aggressively entering another player's physical space for the purpose of forcing them to step back or implying that violent physical contact may be imminent.
If Player 1 wants to engage in physical roleplay with Player 2 outside of combat (physical contact except with a weapon remains expressly forbidden in combat), they briefly go out-of-game by placing a hand on their head and expressly requesting the specific physical interaction they are seeking, i.e., "Physical roleplay negotiation: May I kiss you?" Player 2 now has numerous options, because this is stated to be a negotiation. Options may include:
"No, thank you."
"No, but you may hug me, if you would like."
"I am not comfortable with a kiss, but my character would be, so I am comfortable simulating a kiss, or simply saying that they did without completing the action out-of-game."
"Yes, I am comfortable with a brief, closed-mouth kiss."
"Yes, I am comfortable with a lingering, open-mouth kiss."
There is absolutely no room for debate in a physical roleplay negotiation. If a player declines a physical interaction, they do not owe an explanation for why, nor should you ever make an effort to talk them into it. OOG boundaries are not subject to either IG or OOG pressure.
Some players may set up long-standing consent agreements with people they know well, that follow boundaries that are familiar to them due to OOG boundary agreements. This is fine, but those agreements are always subject to cancellation on either person's end, and no player should ever attempt physical roleplay with a new player or someone with whom they do not have established boundaries without expressly requesting consent. Additionally, no individual physical roleplay negotiation should be interpreted as the setting of an ongoing consent agreement. The consent is on a case-by-case basis, meaning that if the player consents to being hugged once, you must still obtain fresh consent the next time you want to hug them. If you want an ongoing physical roleplay agreement with another player, you must specifically request that, and negotiate it clearly. If at any point either person wishes to terminate that agreement, they may do so, and are not required to provide an IG or OOG explanation.
Physical contact with the intent to cause real bodily harm is not allowed in any form at any point in time, with or without consent. Reckless contact is also disallowed: if a reasonable person is likely to conclude that taking an action is likely to cause real injury, even by accident, you shouldn't do it.
Romantic Roleplaying Consent: If Player 1 wishes to engage in roleplay of physical or romantic attraction to Player 2, they briefly go out-of-game by placing a hand on their head and stating "Roleplay negotiation", followed by the specific form of attraction that they wish to roleplay going forward. For example:
Player 1: "Roleplay negotiation; do you consent to my character having a romantic crush on yours?"
Player 2 now has a number of options, including:
Player 2: "No, thank you."
Player 2: "Yes, and I may reciprocate the crush, if that is acceptable."
Player 2: "Yes, but if you choose to do so the crush will be entirely unreciprocated"
Note that romantic roleplay consent does NOT grant physical roleplay consent unless explicitly stated. A romantic roleplay negotiation that does include physical roleplay negotiation might read as follows:
Player 1: "Roleplay negotiation: Do you consent to my character feeling romantic attraction to yours?"
Player 2: "Yes, and my character will likely reciprocate, but only briefly before losing interest."
Player 1: "Are you comfortable with physical roleplay expressed as hand holding, cuddling, and/or kissing?"
Player 2: "Kissing is unacceptable for me, but hand holding and cuddling are fine."
Player 1: "Okay!"
The requirement for consent does indeed include situations in which your character is under charm or domination type Effects or under special conditions that might engender feelings of love or attraction. The expectation is that you will include a brief negotiation of what form the attraction will take. A love negotiation might look like this:
Player 1: "Roleplay negotiation: I am under the effects of a Power that make me love you until the next Short Rest. Do you consent to that taking the form of passionate sexual attraction?"
Player 2: "I am not comfortable with that; could you walk it back to a shy crush?"
Player 1: "Yes, thanks."
If you have taken a love-causing Effect to a character whose player is entirely uncomfortable with romantic roleplay from your character, use steering to redirect the effect to another player, i.e., "Whoops, guess I was looking 6 inches to your left!" and renegotiate. These are roleplay effects, intended largely for fun, and playing them to the letter is less important than respecting the comfort of your fellow players. If no negotiation is successful, feel free to simply shrug off the effect.
BOTH physical roleplay and romantic roleplay consent can be revoked by any player, at any time, and must be respected. The player is expected to use whatever steering is necessary to cease the connection. Phrases like "I suppose we just grew apart," and "Things just changed!" may be helpful here. Please remember that while the roleplay being negotiated is in-game, the negotiation is entirely out-of-game. This means that if you request consent to express romantic interest in a character, and the player declines during negotiation, your character has not been rejected in-game. Rather, your character has never felt an attraction to the other person's character. Thus, playing "the scorned lover" in this situation is inappropriate and could be a case of harassment (since it can be viewed as an in-game retaliation for an out-of-game rebuff).
If any player feels at any time that their right to roleplay consent is not being respected (if a player engages in unwelcome physical roleplay without requesting consent, for instance, or after consent has been revoked), this is an addressable concern, and should be brought to staff attention. In addition to staff members, there are many senior players who are also willing to talk to staff on your behalf. We will try to identify these persons as they volunteer.
OK Checks: There are instances in every game where an interaction can become heated, uncomfortable, or aggressive. Sometimes your character can feel one way, where you as the player feel entirely different. These can include situations like your character really despising a character whose player you really like. In any kind of situation of this type, there is a system in place for checking in and making sure that everyone involved is comfortable enough with the situation to continue. Needless to say, this system should be used authentically and honestly, and is always out-of-game.
When one player is worried about the out-of-game feelings of another, she should hold up the "OK" hand-sign against her chest. This asks, "Are you, the player, doing ok with this, or do you need it to stop?" This sign can be subtle, and should be ignored in-game.
The other player or players have three options. First, a thumbs up against their chest. This signals, "Regardless of what is going on for my character, I am fine, and we can continue." The second is a flat hand, palm down, against the chest. This signals "I'm not sure how I feel, but we need to put the brakes on." In this case, that interaction should break off, and both players should let it go, steering as much out-of-game as is necessary. The last return signal is a thumbs down. This means the interaction should stop immediately and the player is in distress. It may be worth dropping entirely out-of-game at that point for both parties to check in and find out where the boundaries are and what the distressed player needs in terms of support, distance, or help. All of these signals should be ignored in-game even though they may have in-game requirements.
If you feel uncomfortable with a scene or conversation and are not getting the OK check, feel free to just signal thumbs down without prompting, or go entirely out of game and end it.
Personal Property: Weapons, shields, garb, and other items belong to players as well as characters. Although many times in-game it becomes desirable to pick up someone else's equipment to use it, this equipment belongs to someone and that person has the final decision as to whether it is used or not. Even weapons and equipment being used by NPCs often belong to the person playing the NPC. Weapons, shields and other equipment cannot be taken from PCs (Player Characters) and used unless permission is obtained first. "In-game" such items may still be taken away and may even be "used" if the game staff can find a replacement physical representation for the actual item. Items taken from NPCs are assumed to be usable by anyone, but the NPC can specifically ask that the item not be used. Missile weapons, Spell-balls, and thrown weapons must be returned to the player after each encounter, even if they have been destroyed or lost to the character. This does not mean that the weapon comes back, only that the player's property is returned to her. "In-game" the item may still be gone, missing or destroyed. It is assumed that thrown weapons, missile weapons and Spell-balls may be used by anyone unless the opposite is specifically stated by the owner of the items.
Power Phrases: There are some phrases that when heard indicate something important, special, or out-of-game. NPCs use these regularly, but even PCs use these phrases to convey out-of-game information, as part of specific powers, or if they have been instructed to do so:
"So it has been told" - This phrase is used to explain a story or piece of lore that is an official part of the world. Once communicated, those hearing may decide that their character remembers having learned this before. Thus, if the Marquess says "So it has been told, my husband, Marquis DeGarr, was responsible for the murder of the demon Jiathrax," those characters who hear it may "remember" that their characters have heard the story before, treating this as a well-known fact, rather than new information. Anything included in the "So it has been told" can be trusted by the players as some piece of lore that exists out in the world.
"As can be seen" - This phrase indicates information that the players can perceive for themselves. When the mercenary ice mage Luminaria says, "As can be seen, my bag is glowing," in-game, characters can see that her bag indeed glows with an unearthly aura.
"It can be believed" - This will be used to introduce information that the players can believe is true. When the players think that the spymaster Venrick (portrayed by Mike) is actually Mike’s PC, Triss, Mike might say "It can be believed, I am Venrick, regardless of any similarities" and the PCs will know that Venrick is not Triss.
"Caution!" - This is called when the caller wants someone to watch out or be careful. It can be used to suggest people look around, and anyone who hears the "Caution!" call should pause for just a few seconds to check their area.
"Safety!" - Once the "Safety!" call is made, everyone should stop what they are doing, and, if it is safe, kneel down and put their weapons over their heads. This call should only be used by a person who is hurt or who believes that if action continues, they will be harmed.
Sigils: Sigils are special symbols that are extremely powerful and can appear in the natural world. They are ancient magical signs that should always be heeded. Although more may be defined by a game or game-setting, these are the default Sigils:
Red Hourglass - Death. A person who accidentally opens a door or enters an area marked with this symbol will immediately move outside the protected area and die there. A person who enters such an area on purpose will die permanently and will not take Spirit form.
Yellow Lock - Caution. Doors or areas marked with the yellow lock should be avoided. Those who enter accidentally will take a minor consequence, such as damage, and must leave the area. Those who enter such an area intentionally will take a major consequence, usually death, which may be permanent.
Green Crescent Moon - Peace. Creatures in an area marked with this Sigil are protected from harm. They have immunity to all Effects, damage, and Powers, including their own. They cannot benefit from Rests in such an area or use Powers or skills. They are aware of things occurring outside the protected area but cannot interact with them (i.e. hold conversations, etc.). This symbol is often found on bathroom doors. Often it is acceptable to simply go out-of-game in such places (like the bathroom). Persons marked with this symbol cannot, for in- or out-of-game reasons, be attacked. Thoughts of violence against them simply slip away from the mind, leaving the would-be attacker distracted or confused.
Halo - Cloaked. Items, areas, or doors marked with this symbol slide away from the mind. They cannot be readily perceived consciously although they may be reacted to. A character who touches the doorknob of a door marked with the Halo will not register a door or a handle, but neither will she attempt to discover why there is an invisible doorknob, or attempt to use it as a step to see through the window above the door. A generator in the middle of a field protected with the Halo can be avoided, but it will not be heard or examined by characters. This can also be used to mark containers that include your personal, out-of-game stuff. A Halo on a green or red background is a special case that can be seen only by special individuals. Individual Powers or Advantages will tell a character if they can see these. Halo on green background, for example, is used for Tracking abilities.
Black Key - Deadlocked. Items, areas, letters, and other in-game items may be found with a black key Sigils. This means that the item is un-openable by any method without staff approval. Some items marked in this way will have names or conditions written around the black key. These may detail ways (or individuals) which will bypass the deadlock.