Birthday live action role playing game

Last week E. asked us to run a larp (a live action role-playing game) for her 13th birthday, sort of fantasy medieval-ish and with bandits and heroines, swords and combats. We found a good spot in a hilly wooded park nearby and I drew a map:

Map for Ellie's birthday larp

The standing stones are picnic tables, the castley wall of Treegarth is actually there, and the spiderweb design is in some paving stones where there used to be a tiny outdoor theater.

Kids will be in three groups – Druids, Royal travelers, and Bandits. Rook is making up a ton of character stuff which I have nothing to do with. But I know the general plot and am good at atmosphere and props! Someone will have to push me up the hill, but once I’m there it’s all fairly level and with firmly packed dirt paths. I’ll sit in the druid ruins on some pillows and blankets as the Elder Druid.

I made a few props besides the map. $3.99 got me a clear brown-tinted plastic wine glass. It’s got black and italian red stripes with gold paint pen on top. If you’re making cheesy props for a role playing game it is VERY useful to know how to write in runes!

Runes make everything cooler AND sillier.

for the larp

Onward to the puzzles and scrolls. Any decent thick drawing paper makes them nicer, but plain printer paper works too. Write whatever you like in black or brown ink. I think brown ink looks best. Then paint the scroll front and back with a mixture of coffee and brown watercolor paint. Let it dry a little while, then roll the scroll while it’s still wet. Let it dry all the way tied with a ribbon, or bake it on low heat in the oven. Ketchup makes very good bloodstains, but smells horribly like ketchup if baked. Char the edges of the scroll slightly with a candle. Other paper-browning substances are soda, chocolate sauce, and so on. Chocolate sauce and ketchup impart an interesting sheen of age. If you have a crafty kid who doesn’t mind making a mess and if YOU don’t mind a bit of paper on fire in your sink then experimenting with scrolls can take up a whole afternoon or weekend to find the best mix. I’ve always wanted to try oiled paper outer wrappers.

Making scrolls for the larp

The first puzzle is a simple substitution cipher, but first you have to solve the small math problems to get the numbers. I think a few smart 13 year olds can figure out what the 5th Fibonacci number is.

Mathy puzzle

The second puzzle is a poem written in runes. they’re cheaty runes, a mix of half-remembered Futhark and Tolkien. But they work, and I can (scarily) write in them as fast as regular writing. Once the poem is decoded, it’s a riddle that I think might take them a minute or two to figure out, and it should lead them on to the next clue.

Poem puzzle

I didn’t want the puzzles to be too babyish. But not as hard as the ones I made for my grown up friends with slips of paper in books all over the house. (I remember one that was like “Oh, Hero’s Friend!” and it was “oleander” ie the egg with the next clue was hidden in the oleander bushes. The hint was in a book of Greek drama. I wish I had those somewhere – they were hard!

ONce they get the chalice, the amulet, and the wand, some other stuff can happen. We figure the bandits and the royals will fight for a while and spy on each other, but then work together for the cause.

I want to introduce currency into this game in case anyone wants to play it up. So the royals should have a bunch of money, the bandits less individually but a treasure chest; and the druids (me) might charge for healing after battles. Maybe they’ll bribe and hire each other. I don’t know! But whoever ends up the wealthiest should get to be powerful in the True Queen’s court. So, we need like 12 little bags full of pennies and I think E. is coming over tomorrow with some fabric scraps to make the money pouches. I also need to make a quiver for Moomin’s 3 Nerf Rocket Arrows.

Dinner will be in character during the game, as the travellers dine with the druids in an encampment, and then are raided by bandits who take over the feast. I figure a couple of rotisserie chickens, loaves of bread, cheese, honey and apples make a good feast.

We should have some great photos, as long as we’re not all eaten by mountain lions. TOTALLY JOKING… there are no mountain lions… it’s a suburban park full of people and we’ll be incredibly loud and silly yelling ho there varlet & such waving our plastic swords. No one could mistake us for deer!

This is a cheap party to give, as long as you already have swords or will make them, and can scrabble together costumes. The kids have all been in shakespeare plays at school plus Ren Faire, so they had the clothes for it.

If no one gets poison oak then it will all be perfect!

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122 Responses to Birthday live action role playing game

  1. tangobaby says:

    Oh my goodness! Now this sounds like a great way to spend a birthday! How creative and fun.

  2. ellie says:

    It was SO AWESOME. Thank you!

  3. The Book Chook says:

    It sounds wonderful! I wish I could be there. It also reminds me of my one big effort with my son’s birthday party. We lived near a tiny island, just right for pirates. I made a treasure map with rhyming clues to follow. I even themed the food – told them the chicken was seagull etc. Turned out, the kids weren’t too fussed about food labelled as dead men’s fingers and parrot poop. We had a lot of leftovers. But it was FUN!

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  5. elswhere says:

    That is so fantastic. And you anticipated my question about whether anyone was eaten by mountain lions. Whew; what a relief.

  6. Thida says:

    That is just way cool!

  7. This is a brilliant idea. I'm making a list of kids' birthday party ideas, and I come to this page. Then, eureka! Role playing game can be so fun, and yet educational and it is not so pricy if we already have the materials needed.

  8. albertkoch says:

    This would not only be fun for the kids but there is also learning process here. But it is hard to do if we live in a big city….and no woods around.

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