Due to conflicting emotions, this is one of those topics that, while amusing, is difficult to present while remaining unbiased…
The Sixth NERO Schism
(Note: When presented in quotation marks, “NERO” refers in shorthand to the organization commonly, but not legally, understood to be NERO International. Meanwhile, NERO World refers to the group that currently holds the trademark to the NERO name, a different organization entirely. NERO without quotation marks refers to a set of rules common to either enterprises, or a cultural heritage thereof.)
This is one of those topics that, while being highly amusing, is difficult to present while remaining entirely unbiased. Because the events that unfolded hinged, at times, around strong emotions and conflicting personalities it can be almost impossible to retain an entertaining yet practically impartial commentary. (For instance, 99% of what is chronicled below is a distillation of publicly available posts and documents that any rudimentary search of Facebook or Game Forums could find. However, because we were not ‘in the room’ so to speak when some steps were taken, the identities of almost everyone involved have been omitted and the preface ‘allegedly’ should be applied before most sentences – it is not continually done so because it reads poorly). So instead of all that, we’ll just settle for entertaining with as much fluency in factual occurrences as possible.
I believe it is important for the New England Sport LARPing community to have a general understanding of the 6th “NERO” Schism because, as it has recently occurred, it has created, in its wake, a whole host of new games in the area, and a large migration from the NERO ruleset to, essentially, Accelerant. At the same time the effects have rippled outwards and put the majority of the game that was known as “NERO” at risk of the inability to draw any substantial player numbers to their events (a number of which have been subsequently cancelled); which is a little crazy if one thinks about it – just 3 years ago there were more than 30 fully attended “NERO” chapters across the country, with large, National events being run and supported by a fully formed campaign staff. And, if you glance back a bit further than that, there is evidence for upwards of 40 Chapters running somewhere close to 4 or more full weekend long events a year and another dozen or so pretending that a barbeque was an event so they could hand out experience and treasure to close friends. Now, all of that is gone. How did it happen? What caused it? And what comes next? We’ll try to answer all of these, and more, in this review of the 6th “NERO” Schism.
To get to the 6th schism, we first have to look at the previous 5. Some of them have no bearing on what is currently occurring and will be glossed over with a loose eye towards the actual facts and timeline, at times fudging dates by a number of years to maintain a concise narrative. One of them is almost a mile-marker along the road to “NERO’s” dramatic collapse, and will be covered in more depth.
And even more so, before THAT can take place, we need to define the hallmarks of NERO and what it represents. In a highly condensed nutshell, NERO can be comically defined in the following ways; a marshalled environment, using a called damage system that was never designed for continuous play in re: to character advancement, utilizing short claws, with an ingrained player-accessible Nobility structure which started out well and good but ended up encouraging and perpetuating bullying, with a cross-chapter presence that relied on a tag-based economy system and a player base policy that welcomed participants as young as 14 in some cases, that purposefully lacked any religious overtones (likely as a result of the ‘satanic panic’ of the late 1980s). Whew. That’s a lot to unpack. But we’re not going to dwell on any particular marker here as we have a lot to cover as it is – perhaps we’ll cycle back later to discuss why nearly every game that has come afterwards ditched marshals, included religion, disavowed nobility, discouraged fighting with short claws, immediately stopped using tags to represent common items (arrows? seriously?) and upped the participant age to at least 18.
One final point before progressing; given its numerous flaws, social media shortcomings and its ability to drive many thousands of people away (or out of the hobby entirely) since its inception…how the heck did NERO last this long and why were people so invested in it…and continue to be until this very day? There are several layers of answers here, so I’ll try to hit them with a basting brush of hastily reviewed merits:
- It was First. (Yes, yes IFGS, Markland, Dagohirir…we see you over there).
- It allowed very young players and, much like fondly remembering that 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass you started out driving but would never, ever purchase again, it thrives on feelings of early nostalgia.
- The Noble structure created, for a time, a manageable social caste system that high school or college aged participants were already familiar with and eager to achieve status in.
- The quasi-continual Out of Game nature lowered the bar on entry to owning sweatpants, a tabbard, and a piece of toilet paper you could use as a while headband when going out of game.
- And, ultimately, depending on the ownership of localized chapters, it was fun. And it WAS, and still is in some cases, fun. Like any community endeavor, the relationships formed have lasted a lifetime; make no mistake, despite the myriad of shortcomings detailed above which are clear in hindsight (sort of like 2nd edition AD&D – seriously? How any magic-user made it to 3rd level is anyone’s guess) during the heyday and in the moment, all of it could be quite easily overlooked, or even embraced.
The First NERO Schism
The First NERO schism happened so long ago as to almost be an irrelevant legend. Since the very first event people have attended they left feeling they could somehow make things better; more fluid, or just more intense. Early efforts largely went in to revising the hilariously chaotic rule-set of the first and second editions – getting rid of spells that had a genesis in a table-top environment that translated poorly to live action and/or required the presence of multiple rules marshals to adjudicate (multiple castings of Wall of Force, for instance, being uproariously unsupportable) and figuring out that giving players the dreaded “White Lung” by using thousands of talc-based packets was untenable. During this time, efforts were made within the organization to affect change, and any games that branched away at this point (such as Stalkers Way, in Maine) have faded from memory or retain so little of those early rule-sets and play styles as to make their current incarnations untraceable, at best.
The Second NERO Schism
The Second NERO Schism hits at or around third edition and is only notable in so much as the games that broke off from NERO during this time (such as LAIRE), or were inspired by people who attended it, are actually still around today. Chief among them is SOLAR, (The Southern Organization for Live Action Reenactments) which, in itself, is an odd moniker until you realize that southern park managers feel more comfortable renting to a ‘reenactment group’ – such as Civil War groups comprised of confederate flag waving slobs – than to anything called a “LARP.” SOLAR, to this day, retains the 3rd Edition NERO rules,a player age of 14-with-waiver despite the presentation of mature topics, encouraged PVP, and literally reveling in the inclusion of ‘extreme adult language‘, a quasi- out-of-game culture (still using those tabbards that say “MT” on them, are we?), a love of short claws, paper skill tags kept on key rings, and “prolific tobacco use” – ah, SOLAR, never change (we know you won’t!). All that being said, SOLAR is likely still the largest of all Southern LARPs when it comes to sheer number of events run + attendance and, along with their devolved rule set, also haven’t much changed their event cost since 1990 – weekend long events can be had for as little as $40 and, as they run at extremely low cost overnight state parks (as opposed to, say, private campsites in New England) this LARP is thought to be the most profitable, continually operating concern in the United States that still packs in hundreds of players for select events. Also, the excellent web comic the Devil’s Panties contains numerous SOLAR references – so that’s nice.
The Third NERO Schism
The Third Schism comes quickly after the second, and gives birth to LIONE, which takes from NERO continuously called damage and dual wielding short claws (which have somehow survived to this day!), adding in religion and dropping nobility, but then kind of bringing it back, but then dropping it again and eventually moving to Accelerant (this will be a recurring theme).
Additional games arise as well (such as Legends Mythical Journeys, Terres Rising, and Exiles) which bear almost no resemblance in form or function to NERO, excepting that their originators likely participated at least cursorily in NERO events at this time. Legends is perhaps the most influential, utterly simplifying the rules set (uncalled damage, 5 damage, DEATH!) and introducing the ‘always in game’ culture, followed quickly by Mythical Journeys and the Maine offshoot Terres Rising (all systems still running today!) These games dropped nobility, essentially ceased with tags, eventually went away from short claws, and somewhat upped the participant age.
However, just in time for this article, another early survivor has emerged roughly in the New England area. Like finding the remaining member of a long-ago extinct species, Xandoria has been around for more than 20 (!!) years and features old school concepts like only using PVC weapons, which is a ‘hidden feature’ of early NERO nostalgia that people who have no clue how to actually Sport LARP Fight still believe “slows down combat” and, while, in theory, PVC weapons are marginally heavier (by a whole 6 oz.) than the ill-named ‘ultra-lights’ and therefore swing, perhaps, a touch slower, you have to be an incredibly experienced fighter facing off against equally experienced opponents to even have a hope of noticing said difference which, to be clear, if you’re still muttering into your beard about this topic, you aren’t, likely weren’t and certainly will not be (end rant…until in crops up again on LARP Haven AGAIN). Despite these odd vestigial remainders, Xandoria has seemingly dropped all the rest of the hallmarks of NERO and in spite of some interesting concepts, deserves credit for running for 20 consecutive years – not many games remain that can make that claim.
The 4th Schism carves NERO ostensibly in half, with NERO Alliance splitting away from “NERO” with the entire 7th (?) edition rule-set intact (along with the ‘Be All You Can’t Be‘ slogan). NERO Alliance, based in Pennsylvania, runs a number of chapters in the greater North Eastern part of the country and expands somewhat outwards, while NERO International stretches across the country as a whole. However, the “two NEROs” issue sticks in the craw of the ownership of “NERO,” and, in an effort to ostensibly defend a trademarked set of rules (conceived of and written, in large part, by the NERO Alliance ownership) and cosmology, “NERO” begins to press NERO Alliance on a wide front – calling campsites with claims of misrepresentation and filing lawsuits in an attempt to shut down NERO Alliance. Counter-suits are filed, but the whole issue prematurely comes to a end when NERO Alliance simply re-brands itself “Alliance LARP” (a name that the “NERO” ownership thought they had registered domains and marks for, but hilariously spelled the word ‘Alliance’ incorrectly). “NERO” declares victory, content to seemingly own the name “NERO,” even though Alliance runs with an almost identical rules set, although the release of the 8th and then 9th Edition “NERO” rules begin to cause the similarities to further drift apart.
Around this time, (actually about 5 years before, but we have to have some inaccuracies somewhere here, right?) the first NERO games that are not set in the “Tyran” cosmology come to be – offshoots like the wildly popular Wildlands, and the divergent Kyrandel. For the most part these games still use the NERO system (like the later branch Fables of Fennora) but ditch things like In Game Nobility.
The Fifth NERO Schism
The 5th Schism occurs years later when a host of “NERO” games in Ohio depart wholesale from the NERO brand. In large part, this is a ‘corporate’ issue – with the ownership of the Ohio chapters growing dissatisfied with the ownership of “NERO” over a host of contractual issues, from support for local chapters, to purchased coinage that seemingly never arrived while the “NERO” ownership draws up lists of allegedly (see, there it is!) missing or under-paid franchise and attendance fees. The Ohio Chapters form HEROIC and WAR, and, while using coinage and other common elements of “NERO” during their transition, largely abandon the core of NERO – called damage, short claws, in-game nobility, tags and participant age, for an Accelerant-based or influenced rules set. The issue for HEROIC, unfortunately, is the nature of an adorably unenforceable non-compete clause found in the contract that local chapter ownership signed when they joined “NERO.” This, along with potentially propriety items such as coinage and a character/monster/treasure database, causes the ownership of “NERO” to once again file a legal challenge. Only this time, it is not as clear cut as Alliance versus “NERO” and, as it turns out, the second time is not the charm for the ownership of “NERO” filing suit against people who have well-funded (or volunteer) legal counsel.
The HEROIC ownership decides to force the issue and deposes the ownership of “NERO.” During this deposition (which is re-enacted for the excellent LARPCast Podcast Series Patreon members and includes the answer to the introductory question ‘Do you have any children?‘ which begins ‘I don’t have any by my own bloodline that women have told me that I need to support…‘ and, really, only gets better from there) it comes to light that the Trademark for NERO was owned by a corporation that seemingly ceased to exist (if it ever did) several years ago (of note; this exact issue was raised during the Alliance litigation Legends Unlimited Inc. has since been succeeded by NERO International — although I have contacted a number of states and none claim that there is any such organization. If anyone has any proof of its existence, I would appreciate seeing it and will immediately remove this sentence.“). Seeing an opportunity for an opening, the Trademark is registered by the very same people who were sued, and then turned over to the original founder of “NERO” who creates NERO World. The creation of NERO World dovetails, oddly enough and completely on its own, into the 6th NERO schism.
One of the interesting things about the 6th NERO schism is that it did not need to happen. At this point, “NERO” had lost some chapters and membership, but was still flush with activity. One of the oldest Chapters, PRO, out in Pittsburgh, continued to run 10 or so events a year, some drawing 100+ participants. In New England, the venerable NERO Mass Chapter (Ravenholt) was still going on (although it would soon shift to NERO World), NERO Ashlynn had just started (running 6 or so well-attended and well-regarded events) and NERO Boston was still meandering along despite a change in ownership. Down South, NERO Atlanta was still hosting numerous large weekends. And, more importantly, cross-chapter National Plot was still being run – one of the last strengths of a venerable and tottering system that required a massive rules overhaul that was likely never to come.
A few decisions were made around this time by “NERO” ownership, such as straight up selling character build, plot inclusion, ‘lifetime’ memberships, returns from permanent death, a re-review of a ‘banned’ player status, including bans from Facebook groups (!) and the like for cash, – all of which, while actually having some thought put in to them, sure seemed like a money grab. Add in the purchase and abandonment of a National Site in Georgia (Brimrose Commons, where local children sat around a dried out creek bed and tried to solve riddles for fun, and, presumably profit), the purchase of a second National Site in North Carolina with a GoFundMe that featured pictures of the foundations of a castle that was, in reality, the basement of an under construction Wal-Mart, and a tide of ill will (deserved or not) was roiling around the “NERO” ownership. But still, at this time, “NERO” had seemingly survived these issues, recently wrapping up the excellent Oraban National Plot Line which ran across a half dozen or more chapters over several years and likely does not get the credit it deserves when one contemplates the scope and complexity of such a long running, Nationally directed plot, likely the most ambitious and consistently attended in recent, or really any, memory (yes, yes, Dystopia Rising).
Sadly, National Plot was the beginning, and perhaps the end, of “NERO”…but not really. How it played such a crucial part in the 6th schism is a little bit difficult to understand, but we’ll try. Essentially, the decision was made In Game to remove all of the NPC Nobility for a time, in accordance with a National plot line that had been running at several of the most popular chapters for the better part of a year. This created an In Game Nobility vacuum at the highest levels, and, as we all know, Nature Abhors a Vacuum.
Into this stepped some of the most politically minded and motivated cross-chapter players who had, themselves, attained a marked level of cross-chapter, National Nobility. With the shackles seemingly removed, they used In Game reasons and resources to fill the void left by the National Plot NPCs – appointing themselves and a select few others judge, jury, and, of course, executioner. At a regional event, these players moved against a rival and, of course, executed them…which is a dicey prospect if, of course, said person is a close friend of the owner. Now, mind you, permanent death wasn’t really a thing here – but no one likes being (seemingly) bullied in any sense of the word, especially when you have the owner of the game on literal speed dial.
In reaction to this, and with an In Game Group Facebook Post (!), the majority of PC nobility was removed from the very people who had strived so long to achieve these positions (for some, it had taken them 20+ years of continual play and investment). Interestingly enough, these self-same players were also the strongest and most loyal advocates and virtual cheerleaders for “NERO”. They had spent tens of thousands of dollars on events, purchased build, helped write the rules, parts of the National Plotline, attended dozens of events a year in multiple chapters from Massachusetts to Virginia to Georgia to Pittsburg, and then, in one In Character Post, everything they had achieved and invested time in plot wise was simply gone. And boy, were they pissed.
Using the power of social media (note: for boon or bane, THIS is what a ‘LARP Influencer’ actually looks like), these players, the very champions of the system, struck back loudly and fiercely. And it could not have come at a worse time. “NERO” was struggling as it was – attempting to fend off NERO World who, remember, now legally owned the trademark to the NERO name and was intent on ‘defending their trademark’ as “NERO” had done so many years ago against Alliance – and just at that critical juncture, their most valued players, the champions for their archaic rule-set (you try to figure out Formal Magic – I DFM you, my friend, except not really, because it doesn’t exist…or does it!) not only abandoned “NERO,” but opened up a full frontal assault on it.
It’s at this point that we have to acknowledge that all of these folks, including the ownership, knew each other rather well – they had all run plot at chapters before, attended the same events for years, and all contributed at one point or another to the ongoing National Plot; so seeing them viciously turn was a shock. LARPing at a National Level is a very time consuming effort and people only have so many creative cycles to dedicate to an unpaid hobby where one essentially volunteers to make someone else money. When you are suddenly bombarded with posts, chats, e-mails and other social media pressure it becomes almost impossible to keep up. It is simply easier to move on. And, one by one, that is what happened. In the span of several months, flourishing chapters across the country simply decided it was easier to move on than to deal with the public sh*t storm. National Plot members resigned, local chapters closed – PRO; the 20+ year bastion of “NERO”, decamped for their own rule-set (influenced by Accelerant…).
ARGO, Kaurath and Volta summarily concluded their arcs and went to Acelerant. Ashlynn, the resurgent chapter in New England under the awesome leadership of Dave Cashel, simply closed (with money on the table and campsite dates still booked!). Ravenholt decamped for NERO World. And even NERO Atlanta, a thousand miles away, was forced to cancel several events. Even a re-upped “NERO” chapter in New England, gamely attempting to pick up the pieces from Ashlynn, Volta and Ravenholt, had to cancel their first 2019 events after less than 8 PCs were interested in fully attending their weekends. This is almost incomprehensible, as a year or two before, these three chapters were running 12+ events a year with regional games drawing 100+ players – and now; all gone.
Without a doubt, the 6th NERO Schism has left deep holes in what once was a vibrant and thriving game. What the future holds is still anyone’s guess – “NERO” has faced dark days and dwindling player numbers in the past and has seemingly risen from the ashes. In order to make any prognostication at all, let’s being by taking a look at the three diverging systems and where they stand:
Lead by Ford Ivey, the progenitor and current holder of the NERO Trademark: NERO World has begun to vigorously defend said trademark, setting a deadline of October, 2018 for all NERO branded games to purchase a license from them (at a nominal fee) or face legal consequences. The interesting part of this is that purchase does not have to be disclosed publicly – as the ownership of “NERO” has shown themselves to be very litigious in the past and anyone seen as being a part of NERO World may open themselves up to potential legal action if/when “NERO” ever gets the trademark back (more on this below). As to date, NERO World has two or three chapters actually running events – the most consistent, Ravenholt (the game that started it all) currently being for sale (for $1!) by the ownership to a buyer that can prove not only a 5 figure income to fund the game but can pass a review by the current owner and also the current plot committee.
Based upon public disclosures by the ownership, NERO World is currently operating at a small loss, costs mainly associated with legal bills. Unfortunately, that all is beside the point. The NERO rule system is needlessly complex and hopelessly out of date (consider that no game written in last 20 years uses continuously called damage for base attacks except Dystopia Rising? They have that over there, right? Such a great game world – such an amusing set of rules). Worse still, any sort of update that brought it in step with ‘modern’ LARP models would likely strip away much of what makes the NERO rules, well, NERO, pushing out the last of the die-hard loyalists. Aside from the rules issue, the majority of other games have also stepped away from In Game Nobility and the rampant bullying that comes with it, and, thankfully, using short claws. The last vestige of the grandeur-that-was could be seen in the cross-chapter/national plot strength but that requires, you know, operating chapters to truly appreciate the scope – unfortunately, with such an anemic chapter base currently developed, that, too, is missing. Finally, a number of people who signed on to world-build NERO World recently stepped away from those roles; returning to local games.
All of this would paint a rather bleak picture for the NERO World endeavor. However, recently, they have released a revised set of foundational principles, a running update to the 9th Edition “NERO” rules that seeks to correct and clean-up many inconsistencies and player complaints under the inspired direction and dedication of one of their most prolific of contributors, and even a brief You Tube chat about the theoretical designs of a LARP which, if you look between the excellent vocabulary of the presenter should be distilled down to “just use Accelerant, dude.” It will be interesting to see what actually remains of NERO when all it said, done and elasticized. Seriously. They have an elasticizer.
On the NERO International side, after 4 unsuccessful legal challenges to the trademark for their organization which all failed as the organization couldn’t reasonably show they actually still existed – standing has been granted to allow them to file a lawsuit. Gutted by the 6th Schism, a review of their website lists 29 ‘current’ chapters. Unfortunately, of those 29, 20 are listed as having an ‘Expired Contract’ and after a bit more research, we could find evidence of only 9 having currently listed events (Adventure LARP, Atlanta, Bane, Chronicles, Empire, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo<, Las Vegas and Legends – note the ones without links; they have expired websites listed) but, again, some of those also have Expired Contracts so…YMMV.
IF NERO International were to get their trademark back that would still saddle them with the same challenges that NERO World faces – an archaic rules system, declining chapters stripping away the core strength of cross-chapter plot lines, and a National plot staff that ostensibly abandoned them. However, there are some interesting advantages to be noted. In a recent legal filing, “NERO” disclosed their entire player database, some 8,000+ records representing, at one time or another, active, paying customers. If even 10% of those could be brought back in to the fold, it would represent a pretty good-sized base. And, incredibly enough, on the Social Media side, contributions are being made. Salvatore Insigna “the self-styled Wandering LARPer” has been enthralled with NERO Atlanta and has been posting an increasing amount of YouTube content centered around a review of LARP weapons, armor, and theory all focused around the NERO brand. A recent interview with the ownership put them in a very positive light so, as usual, it is likely too early to close the door on “NERO” International.
Alliance LARP, saddled with roughly the same rule set as “NERO,” comes in at a strong second, with somewhere around a dozen operating chapters – although the longest running New England Chapter, Calderia, recently closed. However, the New Hampshire chapter, once Deadlands, has rechristened itself Videra/Cinderfel and is running a double slate of events. Alliance also has a full LARP camp in Pennsylvania (Faire Play), financial solvency, and the will to push ahead. In addition, looking around nationally, they can sometimes be ‘the only game in town’ in their respective regions, which can make any game a clear winner. Their resiliency can be applauded, although honestly, we don’t know much about the internal workings except the fact that they are still here, and flourishing, with the same overall ownership that started with NERO in the beginning, some 30 years ago.
As noted above, we can understand the nostalgia act that the former advocates of the NERO style of play wish to resurrect. As hilariously bad as the rules are, people still fondly remember the bullying noble structure of the late 1990s – because they were young at the time (teens to very early 20s), it provided system of competition, advancement and achievement. The PCs who played the nobles of the bygone times did their level best to provide encouragement and generosity around their team and people measured themselves and the successes and failures within it. It is no wonder that, bereft of NERO, they would seek to reinvent at least part of that culture. (Note: no one misses the short claws. No one).
Given that, a number of games have come about as a direct result of the 6th NERO schism, partially championed by the self-same people who directly, or indirectly, brought “NERO” low. They are as follows:
Invictus 2: The theory and craft of the original Invictus game has been discussed for dozens of episodes on the excellent LARPCast podcast. Invictus 2, though not a direct descendant of the schism, certainly got its timeline moved up with the disappearance of “NERO” in New England and the sudden availability of players, staff and campsites. The ownership of Invictus 2 doesn’t get nearly enough credit for their work on the 9th edition NERO rule set and it’s here that we notice something interesting – the very people who wrote or cleaned up the majority of the 9th edition rules, when presented with the opportunity to run their own game, immediately went to Accelerant – that, in and of itself, speaks volumes. Invictus 2 boasts what is, perhaps, the next step forward in the design of New England Sport LARPing; introducing such concepts as balanced CP across the board for all players regardless of events attended, a PC-generated tag economy, a radically different death mechanic and a number of other advancements backed by discussion and experience. Only longevity will determine the true validity of these improvements. All that said, Invictus 2 leaves essentially everything that made NERO, well, NERO behind.
Coventry: Interestingly enough, Coventry, an implied-but-not-stated ‘sister’ game to Invictus 2, is seeking to step off this Fall with some of NERO’s tricks still in their bag. Advertised already is a player accessible noble structure that has in place mechanics to prevent the rampant bullying that so hobbled the system under NERO, and a player-elective permanent death mechanic. There is certainly a lot of interest and a lot of content already generated for this Accelerant-system game. Add in that it is championed by a number of people who directly participated in the 6th Schism and the power of their social media presence might just be enough to drive this game onward for years to come.
Kaurath: One the oldest of the “NERO” chapters, NERO Hartford (aka Kaurath) never wholly embraced the overarching national plot of the campaign – while being on the same world (Tyrra) they maintained a wildly divergent noble structure outside of the one accepted and supported at most chapters. While this left them out of a significant amount of National plot (and the increased attendance chapter traveling players added) it turned out, in the long run, to be oddly prophetic. When the 6th Schism happened it was rather easy for this Chapter to conclude a long-running story-line and then debark for their own game with a significant amount of their cosmology intact, as it was locally owned and written. They transitioned their rules to Accelerant and have been holding numerous online and in-person conversion days to get their player base and their characters switched over. Given their incredible track record of continually running events and close ties to their campsite (participating in numerous clean-up days and fundraisers), the relentlessly caring ownership of Kaurath should have no problem forging a successful future.
Because NERO, and, in whatever form, its rule-set, was essentially the first, oldest and, for a good amount of time, most widely played and successful Sport LARP in North America it developed a strong initial following that, in turn, helped inspire and eventually create, in one fashion or another, nearly all the other Sport LARPs operating today. Almost all of these inspired off-shoots added something new or corrected previous errors that negatively impacted attendance. Unfortunately, while this happened, NERO plodded along, caught up in nostalgia and unable to adapt. And when the time came, when it finally needed the support of its most loyal players the most, at an unforeseen and critical juncture, manufactured by its own legal and social media mis-steps, it found itself utterly abandoned, with all its foibles and indelicacies clearly on display for all the world to see. A game with such a storied past loses much of its grandeur when no one is there to steward it along to the next generation of players and, without the fans that caused and then departed during the 6th Schism, the people the game meant the most to, the people who took it very, very seriously indeed, the future is far wider open than it should be.
Ultimately, three questions remain; Can NERO come back? Absolutely it can. But that’s not the real question, although it seems, at first, to be a sensible one to ask. The second, almost-real question is; can NERO (be it International or World) come back under the current ownership, with all the baggage of an archaic rule-set and nostalgia that no one can much remember anymore? No. It cannot, at least without making the case to newer participants (all of whom are out busy creating their *own* games at this point) that the storied past is worth learning and building upon. And then the final, most salient question of them all is; if NERO were to correct all the issues it currently faces, evolve as it were…would it still be, well, NERO? I believe it would. I believe that the true strength of any system lies in the telling of it, in the arc of history that each game presents and the ability of those who present it to make the people currently playing it understand, become involved in, and ultimately make their mark upon it (consider, for example, that some new players came into the game as direct descendants of older PCs who were still attending events – building an actual, traceable in-game, in-character lineage and all that comes with it). NERO, the Plot and the World (not the rules…never the rules) have nostalgia in spades – it has been told over again to a variety of audiences and up until recently it was told well, with heart and passion and dedication and seriousness and all the things that go in to making a Fantasy World come to life. And it can be all of that, and more, again. The Trick, of course, (and the Devil who always lurks in the details, if nowhere else) is who, exactly has enough experience, passion, drive, commitment and, most of all, time, to make that future happen.
Not that it matters that much but I have some clarifications.
1. Terres Rising didn’t occur until 4th Schism and was a game based on the Kyrandal rules system, which was an expanded version of NERO 4th edition.
2. Mentioned in the 4th Schism.. The NERO Alliance owners were certainly part of the core NERO team that helped develop the overall game in the early years and would be part of the 30+ staff that ran NERO, but they had little involvement conceiving rules since before the 3rd edition which was done by a rules committee the Alliance owners were not part of.
I was the GM of NERO from 1991 – 1995 and then went of to run Kyrandal until 2000.
Thanks for all your work writing and researching this article, I have been away from NERO for over 15 years and it was great to read about some the changes I missed.
As a note, when Xanodria was created, the designers had absolutely no knowledge of the existence of NERO or larping fo that matter. I should know. I’m one of those designers. The reason our rule set is so different is that we came up with it from the get go. We wanted to test ourselves. We wanted to see how we would do if we were dropped into the adventures we all read.
Our completely researchable magic system has been running for the entire 25 years of game play. We have multiple guilds, mages orders, religions and countries. And a rich and diverse history.
As to the pvc swords, we stick with those to reduce entry cost for new players. Cheaper to build and repair. And you are correct, if you wish to fight, you better have skill. Our combat is lethal. Better make sure there is a mage or a healer nearby. But if you want to get better at fighting, there are plenty of people who will be happy to train you.
If you wish to know more about us I will be happy to chat.