Away from the Dinner Table #7: LARP Encounters


LARP encounters needn't be combative in nature. They needn't even have any overt conflict. You can have a very satisfying encounter with just a merchant selling his wares. Of course, the interesting part will happen long after the encounter is over.

LARP encounters needn't be combative in nature. They needn't even have any overt conflict. You can have a very satisfying encounter with just a merchant selling his wares. Of course, the interesting part will happen long after the encounter is over.

The Medicine Show

You Will Need

  • An NPC troupe member to be the Peddler
  • A flashy costume for this person--think glitzy rather than fine
  • A LARP-safe dagger for the peddler
  • A "weight" (a papier-mache rock will do) for the ringer to lift
  • An appropriate official writ granting the peddler permission to sell curative alchemies throughout the land
  • An NPC troupe member or three to be the ringers in the crowd
  • Several small vials of more or less the same size and shape
  • An equal number of tags (or whatever you use to keep track of potions and the like in your game)

  • A barrow or cart for the peddler to keep his wares in
  • A suitable place for the show to happen

The Prep
Fill the vials with colored water. Fill in the tags with whatever effect you want the potions to have. Dress your NPCs and have them enter the town and start hawking their wares. They should have enough of their stuff for about 20 people, plus some left over.

The Hook
A person comes to town with something to offer. It's the most amazing thing anybody has ever seen. It does all manner of improbable things, and here's proof! Now how much is this worth to you? Don't answer now, there's so much more! Think about the hair tonic seller in the musical Sweeney Todd, or a Patent Medicine seller in some of the old Westerns. The peddler should be smooth-talking and slick.

The Adventure
The peddler comes to town (his ringers are already in the crowd) and does something loud and boisterous to attract attention--singing, playing an instrument, banging a drum, whatever. When a crowd has gathered, the peddler starts his spiel:

"Ladies and Lords, Goodmen and Goodwives, thank you for your kind attention, but I did not travel from afar to entertain you!

No, I came here to sell you something. Some innovative sages and some closely allied mages have entrusted who? Me! To show you the most amazing innovation in curative alchemy since soldiers got drunk to dull the pain of battle, and don't you wanna know how it works?

"It's not a salve, it's not a potion, it's not a poultice, it's not a lotion, so what in the world can it possibly be? "It is Omnia Bene!

"Now I know what you're thinking: It looks just like a vial of some potion or other. And you're right! That's exactly what it looks like. But that's not what it is. A demonstration is in order.

You good sir, come here. Don't be shy, come right on up. Yes, there you go. Now, what are you called? Steven, good strong name.

Steven, you look like a fellow who's seen a few skirmishes. Tell me, how long does it take your usual curative spellcaster to reach you once you've been struck? I see. And all that time you're in agonizing pain, aren't you? Well what if relief were just seconds away?"

(Here the peddler "stabs" his ringer with the dagger. The ringer will fall
"Now friends, do not be alarmed, remember help is near at hand!"

(Here the peddler pours a vial of Omnia Bene into the ringer's mouth and onto the ringer's "wound." The ringer will get up, amazed.)

"Yes, friends, Omnia Bene has healed the valiant Steven, but that's not all! Observe! His garments have been repaired so well that even his tailor would never know! Tell me Steven, how do you feel? Quite so! Now how much would you pay for a vial of this miracle liquid?"

The spiel continues in this vein. Omnia Bene is said to heal all manner of organic material from flesh to fabric, impart great strength unto an uninjured imbiber, and confer a general feeling of euphoria upon any who quaff it, with demonstrations to prove the truth of all claims. Once the crowd is sufficiently convinced, the peddler will begin to sell vials of Omnia Bene to the crowd, beginning with his ringers, for the low low price of ten silver pieces for a one-dose vial. He will sell until he runs out of either buyers or vials, and then make a quick departure.

The Loose Ends
Of course, the players will want to check the potions out for themselves, probably by casting informative spells on the vials. If anyone does so, they should learn that the vials radiate magic, and nothing else.

There are many possibilities for this scenario:


The peddler is a charlatan. The magic on the vials is an elaborate smokescreen. Omnia Bene has no effect at all, and he has just duped the townsfolk out of their hard-earned silver.


The peddler is a charlatan. What he called Omnia Bene is just a series of failed attempts at creating a healing potion. Some of them heal you, but only for one Hit Point. Others will temporarily blind you. Still others will temporarily paralyze you. Others yet will put you into a deep sleep for a time. Some do nothing at all. Be creative, but make sure the effects are LARPable (no changing of size or appearance, for example).


Omnia Bene really works! But only for about a day. (Write the expiration time on the tag thusly: "When you drink this potion, your Hit Points are restored to full. If uninjured, you receive +2 damage to your next combat strike. In either case, you will be immune to fear effects for one day. This potion will have no effect after sundown on [today].")


Omnia Bene really works! But only about three of the vials the peddler sold contain Omnia Bene. The rest are just colored water.


Omnia Bene really works! But alas, the peddler is found dead nearby soon after leaving town. His party has been waylaid and all have been killed. With his last strength, the peddler has managed to scratch in the dust: "Formula stolen. Stop them from reaching. . ." (If you're feeling silly, have the peddler scratch "Argh" at the end of his message.)

As always when writing a LARP scenario, I've tried to keep the game terms as generic as possible. Substitute terms and point values appropriate for your LARP when running this scenario. Happy LARPing!