About the Game
Nisia is a fantasy world inspired by bronze and iron age cultures. We have carefully constructed cultural analogs to inspire players to explore non-European Renaissance cultural mindsets and philosophies. Our game design and event planning will emphasize stories both on a character level and the larger world of Nisia. We want to have an open and transparent management style that builds trust and encourages a sense of mutual collaboration between the plot team and the players. Our goal is to present the plot team as an instigator of stories, not as an adversary to outwit or defeat.

Our Goals

Our impulse to run Ouroboros is not simply motivated by a desire to explore our own setting, and this document lays out the basics of our design goals so that both players and cast understand our intent and can set their expectations appropriately. We’re excited about this project, so we wrote this page to share that excitement with you and help you buy in to our goals, our story, and our world.

CONTENTS

Cosmology: a LARP at the Center of the Celestial Spheres

At the center of the universe are the celestial spheres, which are intertwined as they orbit Nisia. There is only one world, one plane of existence, one reality, all contained (and created from) the Ouroboros. The Ouroboros is the source of the energy and substance of the universe.
The Ouroboros is also the demiurge, the artisan of the universe. It is important to note our use of the term demiurge and not god or deity. The demiurge is the creator, but is not an entity desirous of, or requiring, worship or acknowledgement; the Ouroboros is not known to have any notion of human emotion or desire and some in Nisia debate if the Ouroboros is truly sentient.
The cosmology of Ouroboros is based on ancient Greek natural philosophy, specifically the metaphysics of the Stoic school. We have taken their ideas as our primary inspiration, which precludes many pervasive tropes in modern fantasy stories. There are no gods and there is no multiverse. Ouroboros does not take the stance of “All myths are true” as a creative axiom. Many fantasy LARPs have done wonderful things with the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, but we are intentionally setting a more narrow scope. We want to explore a world of ancient philosophy and value systems, not a world of ancient myths.

Bronze and Iron

The politics, culture, and technology of Nisia are comparable to the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age of Earth. There is no forward progress to be made with science and technology, or a coming Age of Enlightenment. The advancement and betterment of the world comes from using magic to understand metaphysics (or logos, the logic of Nature).

Nisian Philosophy

Within the world of Nisia, philosophy is Hellenistic: a set of principles that will guide an individual towards a successful and fulfilling life.
In contrast, logos (what the ancient Greeks called natural philosophy, or the study of the physical world and its underlying forces) is the concern of Mages and their investigations of magic.

Nisia: An island at the center of the universe

The world of Nisia is populated by five cultures, each unified as a sovereign nation (some loosely, some strongly). In each case, we’ve carefully tried to take “one step sideways” from the real-life cultural equivalents out of respect for the nuanced histories and societies that we just can’t represent in the narrow confines of a LARP setting. (Read more about this in our main setting document!)

Huaxenalc

The nation of Huaxenalc (pronounced way-shun-ALK) is inspired by Mesoamerican cultures, particularly the Aztecs. The Huaxenese are driven to push themselves because of a belief that only through personal sacrifice can anything of value be gained.

Kaitera

The nation of Kaitera takes inspiration from Polynesian cultures, with particular emphasis on the Maori and Moriori. Reciprocity and community are central concerns in the Kaiteran philosophy.

Dobrava

The nation of Dobrava is inspired by early Slavic cultures, such as Kievan Rus and the Cossacks. The Dobravians hold Respect and Hospitality as the highest virtues.

Sybellos

The nation of Sybellos is inspired by Ancient Greek culture, encompassing the Minoans to the reign of Alexander the Great, as well as the Byzantine Empire. Sybellean philosophy is concerned with the interplay of Arete and Hubris, the pursuit of excellence and the tempering of pride.

Taharka

The nation of Taharka takes inspiration from the Early Egyptian Kingdom up to the invasion of Alexander the Great but excluding the later Roman and Arab eras. Taharkan philosophy emphasizes Acceptance of the existence of chaos, and the importance of Justice.

Encouraging Story-Driven Play Over Risk Aversion
We feel that in order to encourage story driven play, we need to foster a game where taking risks with your character does not introduce undue punishment. At the heart of this issue, in our opinion, is how the consequences of violence can undermine the story driven incentive to take risks. Ouroboros is not a game that emphasizes the fun of amassing personal power but instead seeks to emphasize characters that behave as protagonists of dramatic stories: having flaws, upholding virtues, and taking risks in pursuit of a virtue.

Many risks in boffer LARPs involve combat and violence and these lead to some type of mechanic which determines the likelihood of dying being a final death. In practice, this means that the chance to lose a character after every violent encounter undermines a person’s desire to take risks. This risk aversion is not derived from an aversion to death, but from the aversion to losing a character that has had time, money, and emotions invested into. We want players to invest emotionally and intellectually into their characters and their story arcs. In the interest of promoting this investment, we have removed the randomized element of character final death.

Like other boffer LARPs, there will be some countdown that determines how many times a character can suffer a mortal wound. However, the rate of this countdown is determined by a character’s adherence to their own moral code (philosophy), especially around the circumstances of their death. Death suffered in the pursuit of a virtuous end is more favorable than one suffered in pursuit of ignoble goals.

When a character approaches the end of their countdown, the character will be informed of their imperiled existence. We will begin a conversation, both with the character and the player, about how they want to end their character’s story. This will involve setting expectations and practical limits on what this ending could be, but also involve finding a satisfactory ending to the character’s story. Perhaps the chance for a warrior to go out in a blaze of glory, or the chance to make one final masterpiece imbued with the artists final breaths, or the opportunity to make an impassioned speech to leaders before an orator expires from exhaustion.

A Moving World

The player characters (PCs) are the center of the story, but that doesn’t mean the world stands still around them. We write our plots to respond to PC actions – and PC inactions. We don’t “railroad” our players, or write plotlines that demand the players act in one way and one way only; instead, we consider what would happen in a particular storyline with no intervention, and then adapt (in any direction!) based on PC decisions.
One of the benefits of this approach is that it lets us write our game as though every year were its own “season.” Just like on your favorite TV show, a year of plot will be built around particular themes, and its storyline will, for the most part, reach a resolution by the end of the year. (The impact of those resolutions, of course, may be far-reaching!)
Our goal with this is to make our game more accessible: it’s okay to miss a game here or there when real life intrudes, there will be plenty of new storylines to get yourself involved in. This also means that new players who join Ouroboros later in the campaign are just as capable of impacting the world as veterans who have been there since day 1. And finally, it lets players retire a character they’re not enjoying as much and bring in a new face to explore a different culture, philosophy, or specialization.

Our Story

Without giving too much away (we want you to enjoy the discovery!), we’ve built our stories around a number of themes.

Diverse Cultures

We look forward to exploring the idea of subjective morality and how different cultures interplay. What does it mean to be a hero when there are so many different definitions of virtue? Our stories will invite our players and cast members to explore many different value systems and philosophies.

Feudalism and Nobility

We also are excited to explore a feudal system where the concept of the “divine right” of nobility is tangible and real (albeit in a non-religious way). Rulers of the various nations (and the nobles who serve under them) are magically bound to the aether of the land they serve (more on this in our setting document!). This opens up the door for stories centered around loyalty to one’s home and working together towards common goals.