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I am currently working on writing the combat rules for a Dishonored LARP with a team, and we are stuck on how to proceed with a certain point: handling falling.

Sometimes during LARP melee combat my enemy would stumble and fall down. What should happen in such a situation? It feels very unsafe to continue beating my opponent, engaging in brawl is generally unsafe too, and brawling during LARP is typically banned around my area (Moscow, Russia).

However, just giving my opponent time to stand up feels very, very unfair, actually making it sometimes desirable to fall down to get extra few seconds to look around.

Should I just assume that my opponent is automatically hit (knocked out, lost all of their HP etc.)? Should it only happen if I somehow mark being nearby and hitting them when they are lying down on the ground? What if my opponent would actually be invincible to my hits for some reason? How should I distinguish it in the rules as a GM if someone falls down or makes a dodge-roll etc?

So, as the one creating the official combat rules of a given game, how should I handle those who accidently fall down during combat?

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Safety trumps immersion

Falling down is not risk free: limbs can beak, backs or heads can get injured, and arterial spry can fountain. The latter did happen in a LRP due to a fall due to collision with a well hidden BBQ frame. You want to make sure your friend is safe. As an organiser, you definitely want the people who pay you for the privilege of playing in your game to be safe.

Now, clearly if someone were to fall in a real life fight, chances are high that they are toast. This can easily be reflected in the rules by saying that they lose 50% of their remaining (nice) or total (harsh) hits. Thus falling has consequences which are grave for the character not the player.

As an aside, all of the LRP I played were with a set amount of hits per character and not locations. If you had 4 hits (2 health plus 2 armour), and you lost some, you had to remember. That is fine since we played with adults. The amour hits regenerate between fights iff you repair it. Health regenerated iff first/second aid was applied. So, yeah, there was some "mental power" (read: basic arithmetic) being used so fractions were not problems. If you have location hits and dozens of hit points, this might not work.

If you are concern that basic arithmetic is too hard for your players, just have a set amount deduced from the hits. That amount could be a couple of normal strikes or some such.

In addition, legally speaking (I am not lawyer nor do I play one on TV) one cannot agree to be grievously hurt. So, if someone falls and someone else pummels them causing grave injuries the injured party might have a strong case for assault against the attacker and a negligence case against the organisers. Please check with your local attorney at law for more details.

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In various rule books you may find:

back off and allow the person to recover before continuing combat

I think for most casual games this makes sense. For the situation you're describing I would let the other player recover before making an attack.

Unless you've decided on an "all-out" style of gameplay beforehand, I would let the player recover as most rules would be read this way regarding fair play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did I get you right that you don't punish the fallen player and just let them stand up? How do you solve the problem of falling down actually be advantageous (that I raise in my question) and potential abuses by unfair players? \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy May 8 '18 at 23:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fair question, I think if a game master or other observer saw the the player and post attack reacted like "oh snap, they slipped or almost fell" (or other such reaction we'd agree on), we can agree it was maybe a bit aggressive, but just set the rules at the start I say! \$\endgroup\$ – JP Silvashy May 8 '18 at 23:16
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In games I play and run (UK larp scene), if someone falls then a nearby player should call MAN DOWN or STOP THE GAME, so that everyone nearby stops fighting. This is to ensure that the fallen player is not trampled by nearby combatants that may not have noticed the fall and that the fallen player has time to assess whether they have sustained any serious injuries.

Assuming the fallen player is fine, then the game will resume with them on the floor, they can get back up or continue fighting from the ground depending on their own priorities.

If the player is injured, then having already stopped combat makes it substantially easier to get a first aider over to look at them.

The priority is always the safety of your participants.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We might have been at the same events… \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion May 9 '18 at 11:50
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At an event I organise there are no explicit rules about falling. There is a similar rule as outlined in @littlefeltfangs' answer:

Man Down

when a player during the game gets (seriously) hurt (out of character), call 'Man Down'. Notify the GMs and stay with the hurt person. All other people hearing a 'Man Down'-call are required to stop the game, and sit down or crouch. This way first aid can quickly see where they are needed.
translated from the rules of Charm (Dutch)

The emphasis here is on getting hurt. There no explicit rules within our event about faling. Falling down in itself doesn't hurt, it's the getting stabbed while you're down that does it. Players are expected not to hit prone enemies, but they are encouraged to 'play out' an appropriate consequence. If their character would be as honourable as to let them stand up, so be it, else the fallen player is most likely dead.

Cultural note

Fate versus D&D

There are different ways to approach LARP, just as with tabletop RPGs. Dutch LARP heavily emphasises the storytelling, and not so much the numbers and 'die rolls'. Falling doesn't incur damage, but rather it is a story element that players are expected to play around.

It's like comparing D&D, with its multitude of exact rules, with a more storytelling focused RPG like Fate.

Safety

Countries like the UK and US have a very strong liability mindset. Safety above everything. I notice that here in the Netherlands there is a lesser emphasis on that. Instead of a categorical "anybody falls we stop the game, check if they are ok, then go on", it's more "if someone actually looks hurt, we stop the game" kind of mindset. The reasoning is that when two players are fighting, they will be interacting, having eye-contact and such. Most of the time, the other player will notice whether the fallen player is able to go on or not. Do they still make eye-contact, do they still respond to movement. We expect the other player to be able to make the judgement on whether to make a 'Man Down'-call or not, instead having a categorical pause-button.

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In the Profound-Decisions–run Empire events (one of the biggest ones in the UK, for cultural context), there is a strong primacy of Out-Of-Character safety above everything else. Yet there are even heroic calls forcing an enemy to fall down, so continuing play while prone is nothing special by the rules, just one type of disadvantaged position. I have played events and battles in these rules and not felt OOC unsafe, without feeling it gives me undue advantage or disadvantage. This is how they wrote their rules.

General Safety Rules

The overall Event Safety rules include tenets such as

  • Trip hazards: When fighting you have a better view of the ground behind your opponent than they do, you should under no account deliberately push opponents over obstacles in order to gain an IC advantage, OOC safety always comes first.

Strikedown Call

There is a Heroic Call for Strikedowns. The rules for it specifically state

[…] your backside or torso must touch the ground before you are able to take any other action […]

You must fall to the ground at most two steps from where you were last struck. This rule allows you to avoid having to fall over in unsafe or particularly wet areas; it does not allow you to make a tactical retreat from combat nor to take any aggressive actions while moving to fall over.

There are some clarifications given for this call.

Falling without call

This suggests (and I thought I had seen it somewhere in PD's rules, but I cannot find it at the moment – it's definitely the way I have seen it done in praxis) that a similar thing should happen when someone falls in general: Codify in the rules that the procedure should be

  1. Ensure the disadvantaged player's OOC safety for that moment (Mumbled ‘You okay?’, short nod, done.)
  2. If necessary, move OOC-safely (not necessarily IC-safely, although in our scene that's preferred) to a nearby location where you can resume play in a similar position, but without OOC danger; Resume play, re-establishing the disadvantage in a safe manner

For example, at some point we fought against NPCs with a ditch in their back, pressing advantage; when we had pressed them close to the ditch, we allowed them to safely cross the ditch before jumping after them, but on the other side, we continued the fight, some of them having knelt down or similar to give us back the advantage the ditch would have given us in reality. This did not involve any safety calls, just an eye out to the situation behind the NPC players, and the interruption of the flowing fiction was minimal.

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I dropped off the project

The project leader insisted to allow beating the fallen players, while I insisted on keeping things more safe and demanding that all the players that fall during combat are called wounded (having 0 HP left).

Yesterday I have told the project leader that we are not working together anymore. They are allowed to keep all the rules that I have written and apply any changes, but my name will not appear in the project anymore. I do not want to feel responsible for a trauma caused by the rules that I was responsible for, even though in my case it is just a moral responsibility.

Since this technically solves my problem, I am accepting this answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I, for one, am very pleased that you did not compromise on this. While they are clearly welcome to do whatever they want, they are not people I would play with nor recommend anybody played with. I am not even going to go into the legal implications since I am not a lawyer. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion May 15 '18 at 8:47

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