Welcome to Gothic: the Lion Age
Gothic is a Live-Action Roleplaying game (LARP), a kind of immersive experience where you play a character that you create over a period of several days, while others do the same. The Staff and game world come alive with other characters that represent the world, and you are free to interact with those features in any way that befits your unique character. The interaction of every player’s choices together weave a weekend-long story, which themselves go on to create a long-term narrative.
Gothic’s LARP experience focuses on what we call “Character-Driven Roleplay”, and has among LARPs an unusually high focus on exploring who your character is, their beliefs, and their personal story, rather than portraying a more generic hero facing a world-centric threat. The original Gothic: The Lion Age ran its final game in early 2020, but new theaters in the same setting have begun to emerge. Gothic is designed so that different Theaters (games) can operate at a different Tier of complexity. For example, a Tier 1 Theater might offer limited culture options at character creation in order to fit a smaller setting, whereas a Tier 4 game might offer systems that allow players to interact with the world at large, such as Rulership and Warfare.
Like every game, in order to play, you need to know the game rules. Gothic: the Lion Age is designed to have a deep experience with many corners of the game for those who are interested in those activities, but not every area of the game is necessary for every player to understand. The core game experience is built like a central hub with many smaller “games” attached to it, all working together, but no one player needs to interact with every piece.
For instance, a knight may wish to understand the Warfare system that describes and controls military battles, but a blacksmith may not need to know this information. The blacksmith will want to understand the rules for crafting and creating items, but the knight does not require this information in order to play. If either the knight or the blacksmith were to understand both crafting and Warfare, they may be able to work together to better equip their military units to both of their benefit, but this isn’t a requirement to enjoy their character concepts.
As a player, you are only responsible for learning and knowing what are called the Core Rules, and then the rules for any abilities that you have purchased for your character. You are welcome and encouraged to learn every corner of the game, become inspired to future gameplay, or just better master the system, but as a player there is no need to feel overwhelmed by pieces of the game that don’t represent your personal experience.
In order to achieve a character-driven experience, things like your character’s beliefs, hopes and despairs are represented in the game rules, just like physical conditions such as health.
Character creation involves several steps, each one further describing your character’s experience and abilities. As you answer each question during Character creation, you will be awarded levels of Skills. Skills are the primary way you will have and use advantages for your character.
Character creation will walk you through several steps where you will be asked to make decisions about the way your character grew up, the things they experienced, and their personality, and these steps will help construct your character’s starting advantages, in the form of Skills.
Each Skill has 5 levels, with each level granting a you a new in-game ability. In order to play, you’ll only need to understand the Core Rules and your own Skills, but it will help to have a passing familiarity with what each Skill is broadly used for before you begin character creation, so that you can make decisions about what your character will excel at.
Each Skill is like a self-contained character concept, making you a formidable character in your own right just from having that Skill. In the game setting, having 3 Ranks of a given Skill is enough to be considered very competent, while 4s or 5s are quite rare, possessed by masters of their art. Don’t think you have to have Skills at 5 to be a capable character. You’ll leave Character Creation with many different Skills, and you’ll be able to add to the game in many ways before you spend Experience Points to advance your character.
You’ll also choose a favored Attribute, which are the core competencies of your character – their Strength, Speed, Fortitude, Resolve, Faith, and Intellect. These are non-Skill based abilities that are earned with Experience Points and help other Skills work better in some unique ways. Attributes also unlock one special Skill each that is not allowed to be purchased without the Attribute. During Character Creation, you’ll choose one of these that you have naturally higher at no cost, and you’ll earn the first level of that Attribute’s locked Skill for free.
Besides Skills, you’ll also make important decisions about your character’s personality, including their Faith and Devotion. These choices will have strong impacts on your gameplay experience and color the way your character sees the world and what is important to them. Devotion is the fire in your character’s soul, the most important thing in their life, and fighting for (figuratively or literally) your Devotion will be part of how you advance your character’s story and abilities.
Perks and Flaws, but especially Flaws
Once you have answered all of the questions about your character’s background and personality, you’ll be allowed to assign Perks and Flaws. These are intrinsic benefits or problems with your character that are more about who they are and the life they lived before than abilities that grow and change over time. You’ll be given some Experience Points (the currency of character advancement) to begin. Perks cost Experience Points while Flaws grant you more.
There is no limit on the amount of Flaws that you are allowed to take, and we recommend that you take a decent amount, perhaps 30 points – maybe more, maybe less. Flaws, often times unfinished business from your past (such as enemies, debts, or duties to others), as well as role-play constraints (such as a harsh temper, a strict code of behavior, or even madness or permanent injury) will be used by Staff as we create your personal narrative that you will play through each game, so the more you take, the more Staff will have to work with in order to tell your story. This rewards you by making your character more powerful by having “lived more” before entering play, picking up lessons as well as burdens as they move through their life, but the it also ensures that your past will catch up with you in game, to dramatic effect.
For the most part, you won’t be able to take more Perks or Flaws after Character Creation, so choose wisely. Pick up the things you need to represent the character you’ll be excited to play. Pick up Flaws and Perks you think will enhance your experience, but we recommend you don’t hunt for extra Flaws that you “can live with, I guess” to find the points for things. Perks and Flaws may vary by Theater.
The next step in Character Creation involves deciding if your character is affiliated with any in-setting organizations, such as the Church of Mankind, The magician’s guilds, a noble house or knight order. Each of these organizations have internal ranks (which are measured 1-5) which approximate your character’s status within that organization, access to new powers or abilities, as well as your level of internal responsibility. It’s not required for a character to join one of these organizations, and most characters do not, experiencing the game primarily through their Skills rather than the rituals of Priests, the spells of Magicians, or the Oaths of a knight order. Tier 1 Theaters, such as Luisant, use Organizations as more abstract narrative tools and may not be available immediately for new PCs.
Joining most organizations during Character Creation costs an out-of-game currency called Glory. We’ll talk about Glory more later, but for now understand it as a currency awarded for helping the game Out-of-Character (OOC), such as helping set up or tear down the site, donating equipment and costumes, or taking on extra responsibilities to help the game run better.
Glory is not intended to be a gate that prevents new players from having cool character concepts, and not intended to introduce any kind of “pay to win” element. With the exception of Paladins, who are born that way, anything that costs Glory to begin play with can be earned in-game for no Glory cost at all, such as by becoming a Knight by swearing allegiance to a lord, being accepted into a Magician’s guild, or taking up the cloth to become a Priest in game. Joining at Character Creation fast-forwards through that roleplay requirement, but it won’t bar you from earning those things later.
Glory is allowed to be transferred from player to player, and may be donated to you by friends you might have who already play.
If you do elect to join an organization, you should read and understand their sections of the website, and may begin to purchase their unique abilities through Experience Points you have unspent.
The last step in Character Creation is to share with Staff the more detailed story of your character’s life. Whether you make this terse and to the point or grandiloquent, Staff will read and use it when we write your unique content. Every character at Gothic gets personal plot written and run for them by Staff, and the details you include here will be lovingly incorporated in order to tell your story.
Now might be a good time to read through your culture’s Culture Pack, a long-form explanation of the rich detail of your culture, its specific customs and character to get a sense for how you might play your character.
If you’re not sure about all the things you’ve decided during Character Creation, don’t stress too much. Playing the game is the best way to learn, and after the first Event or so you may figure out a better way to do things, or learn that you’d prefer to specialize your character some other way. Every character is allowed one Character Re-Write any time before they play at their third Event. During this Re-Write you can change many things about your character, but you must keep the same overall character concept.
You can change things like:
- Skill Levels
- Starting Skill selections
- Which rituals, oaths, etc you purchased
You cannot change things like:
- Your character’s name
- Membership in an Organization like being a Priest or Knight, and which Organization that is
- Your character’s Culture or Social Class
- Most anything that requires Glory to be spent.
You’re also welcome to scrap the character entirely and start over, keeping any unspent Experience Points to be used on your new character.
What do I need to know about Gothic as a game?
As mentioned, Gothic Staff writes personalized story for everyone who attends, every game. You may not always see it, such as your Enemy Flaw working against you with other players, or it might be subtle, your Honor Code and your Devotion pitted against themselves in a devilish dilemma that leaves you having to reveal to yourself which is more important to your character, their duty or their family, or, in rare cases, a logistical disaster may mess up the entire thing and prevent it from running properly, but the lion’s share of Staff’s resources every game goes to writing, planning and running personal plot for every single active character. The complex interweaving between every character’s unique thead of story is what makes the magic of Gothic come alive.
As a game explicitly about characters and their personal struggles, Gothic may deal with serious topics. For the most part, you will set your own pace about the kinds of themes and struggles your character will endure by the choices you make during Character Creation. It is important to understand, however, that Gothic: the Lion Age plots may involve sensitive and controversial topics. The setting is intended to be one of difficult moral choices against a setting that is dark and emotional at times. Our intention is to explore those themes respectfully and seriously by treating them neither gratuitously nor shying away from those topics.
All players have access to a number of options to communicate the level of comfort that they have with a given topic, as well as various agreed out-of-character signals to control their exposure to these themes as they deem it necessary. Each theater will have a unique Code of Conduct designed for the comfort of their player base.
Religion and the struggle against sin are major elements of Gothic. Certainly not all characters need be religious or pious in nature to participate, and characters who are not add an important element to the setting as well. It’s also possible that you’d like to portray a religious character, but have reservations for whatever reason in participating in things that feel like real-life religion. It’s perfectly okay to declare in-character that you will be visiting “the convocation across town” instead of the one being put on at game if you would prefer an IC excuse to skip the Convocation (religious gathering) for personal reasons.
Gothic is, by its nature, both a competitive and cooperative game. While there are many avenues of play and many corners of the game experience to find one’s niche, in almost every area there is some level of tension between the player character, the game world, and other character’s interests. In some cases, this can incite Player Character vs Player Character (PvP) action. In most cases where this tension may arise, Gothic is built to have several means to achieve a PvP victory without the character death of one side or another. However, character death from PvP is a part of the game experience – or more to the point, the ever-present potential for a PvP character death, whether or not a situation actually escalates to that point, is a designed part of the tension between characters that helps facilitate the dramatic action.
While actual direct PvP has always been uncommon, when you play Gothic: the Lion Age, you also consent to the possibility of PvP and that you might prevail or lose in PvP. In either case, it is especially important to have great sportsmanship and to remember that both winning and losing are part of the game, and can and should be a fun experience for all.
Gothic does not use a specific set of weapons safety standards, explicitly spelled out. Any weapon, even one that passes specific objective safety standards, may be used in an unsafe manner. Instead, every player is responsible for conducting themselves safely at all times during the event. During your check-in, Staff will perform a rudimentary safety check of any weapons you may bring for use, and may disqualify weapons which look extremely difficult to use safely in the frantic situations you may find yourself in. Ultimately, using your equipment safely is your own solemn responsibility, and complaints of hits that feel too hard, regardless of the weapon details, will eventually result in Safety Warnings or Safety Violations.
We do enforce specific safety restrictions for ranged ammunition such as arrows. We do not allow homemade LARP arrows, and any ranged ammunition must have a head that is larger than a human eye-socket. Arrows that are damaged, breaking or broken should be discarded.
Weekend LARPing Logistics
You’ll be arriving for a weekend-long experience, and you’ll be expected to maintain and roleplay your character the entire time, except for specific times when discussing game rules operations with Staff and in private places like the bathroom or your car.
Where do I sleep?
Our game sites have both cabin and outdoor camping. Your exact sleeping location is determined on an In-Character basis. No matter what, there will be enough beds for every player, so no one will be forced to sleep outside or somewhere unusual (unless they want to). While sorting out a place to sleep in character can be fun, we don’t want that to be a stressful experience. If you don’t know where you will eventually end up (many people have an OOC plan with friends where they might sleep near them), Staff will keep your stuff safe for you in our logistical area while you sort it out IC.
What do I bring?
How do I get checked-in? Who do I talk to if I need something? What should I expect when I arrive?
Once you arrive on site, make your way to check-in, a place in game where Staff will have set up a logistical area to process out-of-game needs. During the game this location is a city administrative building for processing paperwork and other bureaucratic things, and it’s where you can go to ask game questions or take care of other business like that. It will be manned by a Staff member for most of the game, but may close periodically. This is where you can get checked in and take care of any remaining game business before preparing any cabin decoration and getting into costume for the weekend.
An Opening Ceremonies will occur in order to begin the game. During this time, Staff will go over any Out-of-Game announcements that are relevant, safety info such as icy ground or a moonless night, and introduce ourselves so everyone knows who we are.
If you are a brand new character, entering the game area for the first time, you will then be taken aside to get a rules basics run-down where you can ask any lingering questions, and then enter a new player integration scene, which will handle how your character arrives and enters into the city from their journey elsewhere. This entry scene is optional but strongly encouraged, and does involve some amount of walking. Please let Staff know if a medical disability or some other issue might make doing the new player integration very difficult and we will find another way to bring you into play for the first time.
What is the game event?
The weekend event that you will be attending involves your character arriving to a specific location within one of the Theaters, where townsfolk travel from the outskirts to gather during important Holidays in order to conduct business or just to be social. You are one such character, arriving for your own personal or professional reasons. These Holidays occur in-character several times a year, and each game event is one of those occasions.
What happens between games?
Players go home, but characters keep living their lives. Between games, we encourage you to continue to roleplay as your characters using the internet or even meeting up to have in-character get-togethers. Players generally schedule unofficial events open to all periodically, or roleplay online via text. All between game roleplay is completely consensual, and game rules (such as Social Skills) are only in play if both parties consent to them being so, and further consent to overall the outcome of the scene. Staff will not adjudicate any scene that is not part of an official game event, but we encourage you to have them nonetheless. The Code of Conduct, however, is still in full effect for such interactions.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to move on to the Core Rules to get started understanding the basics of Gothic: the Lion Age.