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A special late breaking episode discussing the current NERO controversy. For non-NERO people, have no fear, we have a normal episode already recorded and due up within the week.

Enjoy!

- Mickey and Bill

Show notes:

http://larpohio.blogspot.com/ (The most recent posts)

http://larpohio.blogspot.com/2012/02/nero-question-magic-items-for-goblins.html

http://larpohio.blogspot.com/2012/02/rebuttal-from-mickey.html

http://www.nerocincinnati.com/messages/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2139

http://www.nerocincinnati.com/messages/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2196

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  • Josh Slowick

    Hey Mickey,

    Just wanted to let you know that there are people that listen to your podcast that are not involved in any of the LARPs anymore, (especially NERO) but do so because it is interesting, thought provoking and concepts I like to apply to my game. So you have at least 1! (Doubt you remember me, but I used to Staff for Madrigal 1 back in the day).

    -Josh

    Feb 22, 2012 at 5:33 am
  • larpcast

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks! That’s awesome to hear. Are you the Josh that played the shadow armitage?

    Mickey

    Feb 22, 2012 at 7:09 am
  • Ed

    “I agree”

    Feb 22, 2012 at 7:27 am
  • Roy

    I do not understand why anyone would want people to stop posting links to and from their website, because if you are not going to let someone link to their website on yours, they (like you did) will not return the favor and link back to your website. It just seems like the type of idea that is asking “Please do not let my forum be successful in any way”

    That being said, I really enjoy your podcasts and listen to them and found myself re-listening to them and taking notes when I was asked to help staff an upcoming Nero event.

    Thanks for great information and I’ll keep trying to pimp you guys out to everyone I know.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 8:13 am
  • Mike F.

    You are spot on with your assessment that Joe was “anonymous”. That was my first thought when I saw the post. I’ll admit, I have been away from NERO for ten years, but no one has his style when it comes to discussion about NERO in a written form. I’m surprised he has stopped using the trademark symbols.

    It saddens me to see the same circle of frustration still occurs between Joe and his National Staff. NERO, even with all it’s flaws could be a lot more than it is and the man at the top is nothing more than an impediment to progress.

    Honestly, I think the best thing that can happen for the players and the staff of NERO is to move on in some fashion. Drop Joe V. because he isn’t going anywhere and start new chapters. Starting from scratch is a lot of fun and invigorating. Mike Ventrella had it right when he bailed out and started Alliance. No question, it was the smartest move any chapter owner ever made. Knowing what I know now, I would have gone further than he did and completely revamped the rules to a more playable accelerant-style system, but Mike V had a lot of time and sweat invested in those earlier rulebooks. I understand his desire to not throw away his work.

    After thirteen years, the NERO player base and volunteers are not going to change Joe V. You can’t remove him. It’s time to get excited about something new and improved.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 9:59 am
  • Stephen

    “There’s this desperate feeling of helplessness that exists in the nero community.”

    I agree with this, and have agreed with it for quite awhile.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm
  • Bren

    It took me about 3 or 4 years of involvement in the NERO community to come to the opinion that NERO is wildly mismanaged by the owner of the game, and the only thing that is going to rescue this community is if chapter owners (with the support of their players) transition to an alternative setting, so as to prevent intellectual-property disputes and rule systems that are less strangled in huge amounts of top-down mandate and bureaucracy. Yes, this choice will probably mean the fracturing of a multiple-chapter system where characters can “chapter hop.”

    I guess it comes down to whether owners and players love their characters and the chapter settings more than they hate the National BS. It seems to me that the National owner is basically feeding off our attachment to our characters and the work that local chapter-staff do to make a chapter’s game interesting and entertaining.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm
  • Zoe

    Wow. This is ridiculous– not being involved in NERO, I can’t offer my ideas on the rules, but this doesn’t seem like any way to create and encourage productive discussion

    I offered you some support on this.

    http://collabnarration.blogspot.com/2012/02/larp-community-who-are-we.html

    Feb 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm
  • Torrin

    I believe NERO is running on the weight of “investment” on many levels. Lots of people have invested years and years into their PC characters and game settings,in both time and money. The only option for many of these folks is to “walk away” from that investment.

    NERO, for one reason or another, has fallen into promoting the negative things that can happen in LARPs (materialism, rules lawyering, etc) and ignores or quashes the things that could be cool and great (creativity, heroic behavior, etc.)

    There are several good chapter owners and staff out there who effectively “shield” their players from the BS from the top, and those tend to be the better chapters. Unfortunately it’s not 100% and, as a PC, I saw the “National Hammer” get dropped. What was the effect? OOG fear of it happening again that dramatically detracted from the enjoyment of the game.

    I do hope things get better in NERO, it will always have a special place in my heart as the first LARPing system I ever participated.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm
  • Mike F.

    Bren,

    I am in complete agreement with you. Frankly, it would be easy to break away also. The NERO staff and players out there actually have a fair amount of legal leverage over Joe V. and they don’t know it. (Disclaimer, I’m not a lawyer) From the way US Copyright Law works, for the most part NERO, the company owns next to nothing in terms of the world. It was all a collaborative effort by volunteers and there are no contracts involved. No NERO staff member signs a contract when they write for the game. If there is no contract, no rights to any IP have been transferred, end of story.

    NERO International would have a near lock solid case to say that by participating in the game, individuals have allowed their work to enter the public domain by sharing and not enforcing their copyright, but all that means is NERO has no ability to claim most of the Intellectual Property in the game is owned solely by the Game.

    NERO International owns the *text* of Rulebook (also might be debatable), and likely some of the game world associated with it. So Evendarr and some of its related elements might legally be NERO’s, but it’s disputable. But since you can not copyright or otherwise restrict game play, most of the rules concepts are free to be used by anyone (not that you would want to if starting a new game). NERO has no means of stopping another game from using, so long as that game does not copy text from the NERO rulebook.

    The players and staff of NERO International do not need Joe V. They can break out and have a better game. The only thing that might be an issue are the non-compete sections in some of the chapter contracts, but frankly, shit like that does not hold up in most state courts. California has flat out made them unenforceable. In most other states, it’s not an issue. Frankly, the way they are written in the contracts I have seen, they are not an issue so long as someone else becomes the owner of the new chapter.

    The Players and staff need not worry overly much about potential copyright and IP issues. In the end, it’s better to start over, from the ground up, but the key thing is, don’t worry about retribution because legally there isn’t any.

    In some ways this has happened already. The Accelerant crowd in New England was effectively a large number of early NERO players who broke off and started their own group of chapters. The have everything you would want in a multi-chapter system except for character transfers. I think a lot of the other high LARPer Regions should look at that model and move away from NERO’s failed structure. The nTeraction/Accelerant model has created a great Community (critical to a successful game or games) as well as produced a terrific number of successful games across a number of genres.

    Looking at New England, years ago NERO used to dominate the LARP landscape, now you have at least three games that get 90+ PCs per event (one generally gets 115+). Each does this without much crossover in the player bases. In addition, there are a ton of 35+ player games out there with various forms of player crossover between the big three.

    There were a couple of times last year where you had 250+ PCs on different camp sites in Connecticut that were within 45 minutes of each other. All not playing NERO. And those were the games I happen to notice. I do not doubt this could happen in other regions of the country where, for now, NERO dominates.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm
  • Ed

    @Bren - I don’t at all agree with how it was handled, but that’s essentially what a number of chapters did a few years back in breaking off to form Heroic. You pretty much hit the nail on the head, though; it’s the attachment to the history of characters and settings (and the inertia of trying to get all their friends to come too) that keeps a lot of people playing NERO instead of moving on to something better.

    @Mike F. - Actually, based on conversations I’ve had with several IP lawyers (including one who has some experience relating to this sort of situation), NERO still has pretty good standing to claim most everything developed within the IG world, and IPdefinitely isn’t being released into the public domain as you suggest..

    It’s a fuzzy enough area that were I a chapter owner, I would not want to run the risk of possibly losing that case in court.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm
  • Mike F.

    @ Ed - I would be curious as to what grounds they believe that. In terms of content creation, the law is pretty clear. If you write something, you own it. In a collaborative situation it becomes a mess. So, to branch out to a few real world examples. Example 1: publishing in a collaborative universe.

    Michael A Stackpole wrote several novels for FASA set in FASA’s Battletech Universe. He created several storylines and pivotal characters to that universe. His contract reverted the rights to those novels back to him at one point. The successor to FASA however was still publishing them when the rights were still Mike’s. It would have been perfectly within Mike’s contractual rights to strip out specific names and places that exist within the Battletech universe and then republish the novels without giving the owner of the battletech universe a cent. Now, there was no legal fight in this case because it benefited no one and Mike had a good relationship with the current owners of Battletech. That being said, when I talked to him about it, he was very clean about what options his lawyer told him he had when he found out the books were still being sold and he wasn’t getting royalties.

    Example 2: When it comes to game play and often, rules, no one can copyright them. We can look at video games as a specific example. ID software basically invented the First Person Shooter style of game. Now those types of games are big business. No one owes ID, or it’s successors anything. Because you can’t copyright or patent game play and the rules around them.

    www.conquerclub.com is a clear rip-off of RISK. They use the same rules that the parker brothers game does. They are also a site that makes money, a decent amount. However, to stay out of legal trouble, all they had to do was change the board/maps they play one. Because while PB could copyright the look and image of the game board, and they own the text of the rulebook, the rules themselves they could not stop someone else from using, as long as they wrote their own version.

    Example 3: The fight between NERO Alliance and NERO International mostly hinged on the rulebook and the NERO Name. Specifically, the text in the rulebook that Mike Ventrella wrote. By law, he wrote it, his copyright. No contract involved where Mike licensed out his work to NERO.

    In summary, LARPs are an absolute mess when it comes to IP specifically because there are no contracts involved, thus the writer retains ownership of his/her work. NERO back in 89-90 had to deal with this when someone wrote up some history and culture documents and then later pulled the rights on it to “protect their IP” for a book they were trying to publish.

    This is also one of the reasons why community is so important for LARPs. Because we are all contributing to a community and collaborative environment. LARPs never will be big business. As soon as real money gets involved, IP will matter and the contracts come as everyone tries to get their piece.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm
  • Valerie

    NERO petition, go! :)

    Feb 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm
  • Ed

    @Mike - The general premise was that even if explicit written contracts did not address the issue, given the relationship between the chapters and National there could be implied contracts based upon mutual understandings of the two parties, particularly since the characters/settings as written in NERO are dependent upon the established IP of National.

    As for your examples, to be honest most of them really aren’t that similar to this instance. In Example A you’re talking about a situation with a clear contract, and in the other two you’re talking about rules where I’m referring more to characters/setting (the IG IP).

    I’m not saying it’s cut and dried that National would win such a case, but it definitely isn’t as black and white of a case as you are asserting either.

    And as an aside, it’s interesting that you bring up Mike Ventrella, as he was among those I had spoken to based upon that legal battle you mention (which, by the way, never had a final judgement rendered in favor of either party).

    Feb 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm
  • Sam

    Joe Valenti, his policies and his actions is one of the biggest reasons that I quit Nero and will never go back. Really, its him and the OOG game mechanic.

    Not other people’s links on a national website. Not local chapters and their plotlines.

    Joe V, and not liking being out of game.

    Feb 23, 2012 at 12:04 am
  • Lars

    Well put, and well argued, good people.

    I agree that it might be inappropriate to comment on named individuals. I do assert that some anonymous potheads might have trouble getting through a 43 minute podcast.

    Esta bien,

    Lars

    Feb 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm
  • Matt

    I agree.

    Feb 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm
  • Alan

    I think the NERO community has very little they can do to try and influence NERO International, specifically the owner.

    I do have two constructive ideas and one destructive one…

    First, you could start a petition. Clearly it would be important to have a clear and concise statement about what it is about NERO International that people are displeased about as well as having information about who is signing it to show they are actual, current players.

    I mean, no one will care that I sign it as I have been inactive for a long time.

    Second, arrange a boycott of events. Let’s say for example, June is boycott month. That will hit National exactly in one of the only places they cares about. If you take money out of their pocket, they might listen.

    Sadly, this does mean that local chapter owners will take a financial hit as well. However, I think it can be argued that a short term hit might be better than the slow loss of their games (on many levels). Obviously, that is far easier for me to say as I have no financial stake. So, this is a tough one.

    Onto the destructive….

    The only real power anyone has in something like this is financial. In a word; quit. When players quit, they need to send a letter to NERO International and tell them why as well as (if they feel this way) a commitment to return if things change.

    If NERO were to go away (something I do not see happening at his point), there are lots of options for keeping some of that community or creating something from the ashes.

    Feb 25, 2012 at 12:13 am
  • Matt

    “Second, arrange a boycott of events. Let’s say for example, June is boycott month. That will hit National exactly in one of the only places they cares about. If you take money out of their pocket, they might listen.”

    Unfortunately, this could destroy many small games. My local chapter, for instance, depends on the revenue from each event to run the next one, and staff members reach into their own pockets to cover additional costs. Several hundred dollars of cost without recoup might force them to close their doors, and would only prevent National from collecting their 7% tax on a few hundred dollars. (If a chapter only usually brings in about $1,000 for an event, National only gets about $70, and I know my local chapter is dealing with events near to that scale, so the local chapter takes a big hit and National hardly flinches.)

    Feb 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm
  • Zoe

    Hey everyone! In the interest of spreading sportsmanship and cooperation, Xeph Inkpen has developed a cross-LARP calendar on google documents. I encourage everyone, especially those of you from smaller, unaffiliated events, to check it out:

    http://collabnarration.blogspot.com/2012/02/from-xephyr-with-x-ultimate-larp.html

    This is a really good, community-building use of technology.

    Feb 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm
  • larpcast

    Matt -

    At the player level I think Alan is right that essentially not playing is the only real power and influence players have over the game. Voting with their feet.

    At the chapter level… i am often surprised that the Ohio chapters (plus a few related places like Elkins, etc) don’t do another mass move out and just open a network of Accelerant games. They’d have tons of rules flexibility, they could do character transfer if they wanted, they could have the chapter owner run authority structure they’ve been clambering for for years, and aside from the accelerant license fee (miniscule compared to NERO) they wouldn’t have to pay 7% off the top. What do they have to lose? The only point of being in NERO is to benefit from the brand and the only value the brand has is the idea of a unified world and rules system, both of which Ohio likes to do locally/regionally and both of which they aggressively fight against Nationally.

    - Mickey

    Feb 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm
  • Matt K

    I agree, he is one of the main reasons I stoped playing Int. over all. I started playin back in ‘89…gave it until about 7 years ago..havent been back…I found green pastures elswhere..

    Feb 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm
  • Malkntnt

    Joe V. seems to have mood-swings (maybe the rumors I have hears are true). One day he talks about whatever flavor changes he is trying to get done, and the next he is breaking those sames rules/policies himself.

    I often think of NERO in the same way I think of TSR. Humble early beginnings, a strong early following and community, then they started getting greedy, almost went bankrupt, sold out, became more corporate, had a splinter group form, a law suit, some recovery, staunch defense of all their supposed IP (remember when TSR tried to copyright D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20?). Then many changes for the worse, and this brings us to the modern time. NERO has nearly mirrored TSR in every way.

    Once Ford left NERO, the game really started to decline. Mike Ventrella was absolutely right in breaking away. Alliance has a better game than NERO does, rules-wise. They have 6-7 classes, more races, and much more. They have different problems (a few chapter owners that are sexual predators is one I can think of). They still have cloak/bane 9th, they still have Perm items and 20 effects, why do they not have any problems with magic items?

    One of the main problems with NERO is Joe V. you are right. Another very large problem is that it seems like some people get on these committees and get their pet-projects passed. I mean look at the Formal Magic revamp of 1999. Ken Courtney got to push his agenda on the rest of NERO, and Joe V let that happen. The Formal Magic system is shit now. We have a system of restraints upon restraints upon restraints. WOW this is a lot to nerfing!!!

    NERO is going to have to take a very hard look at itself. It needs to undergo some serious internal re-structuring and Joe V. needs to step back a little from the iron-fist. Thing need to return to more of a game-club feel rather than a business-at-all-costs feel. This is my hobby not my 9-5.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 11:11 am
  • Malkntnt

    @Mike F.

    You had some incredible ideas about the redesign btw, it’s a shame it was all thrown out when you left. You have been missed. I miss John Bacon too.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 11:13 am
  • Liam

    “Do you do stories about individual games? Reviews? Interviews? Let me know if I can help.” Just to put things in context, this was the reply from Mike V (owner of Alliance LARP) after the first post linking to larpcast on the Alliance National forum.

    Mar 20, 2012 at 7:01 am
  • Jeremie Collins

    Bill and Mickey, Many of the issues that you are now facing are ones that I’ve had to contend with and a host of other issues that I wont go into here. As I’ve stated in the past he is a cancerous used car salesmen at the head of this game that has been circling the drain for some time now.

    I think perhaps in the past some of the issues we’ve railed against each other on are because of this clown shoe.

    Oct 13, 2012 at 7:46 am