Secret Santa Character Sheets

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m still currently very busy writing character sheets for a two hour online LARP for 26 players, set to debut in one month at Extracon. Which isn’t leaving a lot of time and writing energy to work on blog posts. But I don’t want to fall behind in my goal for blog posts, so here is another post about small projects I’ve already completed.

Two years ago, around late November/early December, I joined a group of LARPers for a Secret Santa Character Exchange. The structure was simple: everyone who wants to participate writes a custom character sheet for one other participant, one that they think the recipient would enjoy playing in a hypothetical LARP (or other RPG). Participants could optionally create a list of things they like and dislike in characters to guide the writer secretly writing for them.

Most participants created the sort of character sheets that one sees in one shot, lit-form, theater LARPs (that’s the format of LARP the participants are most familiar with.)

It went pretty well, and lots of participants enjoyed writing and reading the results. At least one that I know of became part of full LARP that has since run a few times. And others may yet be part of a finished LARP someday. So it ran again this past year.

Below the cut, two character sheets I wrote, along with some scattered thoughts on the process of writing them.

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Hellgate Hotel Artwork

With Extracon (NEIL’s weekend long online event) around the corner (Feb 26-28), I am currently pretty busy writing character sheets for a 26 player online LARP (Under the Faerie Hill) set to debut at it, leaving little free time for other stuff, especially other forms of writing (such as blog posts.)

Which means I’m already falling behind in my annual goal of an average of two posts per month. So now seems like as good a time as any for another post consisting mostly of artwork. There are eight drawings below the cut.

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For Auld LARP Syne 2020

It’s New Year’s Eve, and so it’s time for my annual retrospective on my life in LARP. And if you’ll pardon a bit of crude language, what a f***ing year it’s been.

A look back at 2020…

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Long Time Player, First Time Writer

I’ve had “write a LARP” on my LARP Bucket/LARP Resolutions lists for a long time. And as of this year, I can finally cross it off.

I’ve contributed to LARP creation in the past, with things like brainstorming ideas or editing character sheets. And a few years back, I wrote a sample extended module to help introduce newbies to the Accelerant rules system (which arguably has all of the features of a LARP, and I may have chosen to call it a “sample module” to reduce expectations from both myself and players.) But this year, there are no semantics to dispute; I co-wrote a one-shot theater LARP, designed to run online, titled Reformed, Rebound.

Reformed, Rebound came out of Q-MOLW, or the Quarantine version of the Marathon of LARP Writing. MOLW is structured somewhat like Intercon’s Iron GM contest — participants are given three secret theme ingredients (e.g. “metropolis” or “duality”) along with one prop ingredient (e.g. a chess set), and they have 48 hours to write an eight player, two hour LARP that incorporates said ingredients. Judges play through the LARPs in a single weekend and score them based on various criteria, such as quality of written materials and incorporation of the ingredients.

In January of 2019, I volunteered as a judge and played through five LARPs that all included themes of metropolis, duality/dichotomy, and rediscovery, and used a set of Bristle Blocks as a prop.

Q-MOLW was much less formal than previous MOLWs, with writing teams all writing at different times, no particular single weekend event for running all of the resulting LARPs, and no judging (or prizes.) There were still ingredients as writing prompts though — the physical prop was “a number of internet connected computers with webcams” in order to ensure the games would be social-distancing friendly. The three themes were “strange bedfellows”, “sublimation”, and “created life/created minds”.

Usually, the writing schedule for LARP writing events (MOLW, Iron GM, BYOG, the Peaky weekends) just isn’t compatible with my own schedule, so instead I contribute to the process by signing up as a judge, reader, and/or player. But because the pandemic meant a lot of LARPers’ places of work were temporarily closed, suddenly the writing schedule was a lot more flexible. When an experienced writer asked me if I wanted to team up, I jumped at the opportunity, even though I was worried I wouldn’t be able to contribute at all. Who knew if I’d ever get another chance?

We started with a video chat to read over the list of ingredients and brainstorm ideas. Most of the collaboration after that was done via chat and emails, which worked fine for me. Based on our concept, we basically had two primary character sheets, each of which got copied four times and given small additions, so divvying up the writing was pretty simple — each of us wrote one character sheet. We brought in a third writer for the setting, which turned out wonderfully richly detailed. She also contributed a lot more besides (such as designing some of the mechanics.)

We missed the 48 hour writing deadline by a long shot, but given that it wasn’t a formal competition, we didn’t really care. I got off to a pretty solid start with the character sheet I was writing, then hit a creative block somewhere around two-thirds of the way through. I kept waiting for inspiration to strike again. It took a poke from one of my fellow writers asking if I needed anything to keep going, and honestly, I think what I really needed was that poke. Before the poke, I was feeling like the most important thing was to figure out how to perfectly craft a pivotal event in the character’s life, but the poke reminded me that actually, the most important thing was to get something written. If I ever came up with something better, I could always go back and edit. (I still feel a little guilty about holding up my fellow writers with that long delay.)

I’ve always loved LARPs that explore the concept of identity — I really enjoy character concepts and plotlines involving clones, alternate timelines/universes, the same person at different ages, transplanted memories and personalities, etc. So the ingredients “created minds” and “sublimation” pointed me in the direction of characters who have split off from one another, formed around different aspects of a single person’s personality. I was also knee-deep in a Cold War media binge when I began working on Reformed, Rebound (I was preparing to play a Cold War-era LARP called Debrief,) so the ingredient “strange bedfellows” made me think of James Bond and a villainous Bond girl.

The overall concept ended up featuring two mages falling in love while studying magic, breaking up, then becoming spies for opposite sides of a Cold War in a fantasy Renaissance-inspired setting. Both use a forbidden magical technique that enables magi to split themselves into multiple entities, each dominated by a particular facet of their personalities, which can maintain psychic communication. But when two of the duplicates, one from each spy, meet up and go rogue together, the two sets of mage-spies realize they must contact their ex-lover(s) to resolve the situation.

Having played LARPs that involved various formats of online interaction — not just video chat, but also text chat and combinations thereof — I was inspired to try and experiment with the structure of the LARP. I was surprised by how much I liked LARPs that involved text chat. And while I liked LARPing over video chat, I found that even a moderate number of people in a single video chat felt unwieldy to me. (My own laptop’s limitations had some influence there.) I wanted to try combining the best of both worlds, which lead to a structure with everyone being involved in one one-on-one video chat (representing the magic mirrors), while simultaneously involved in a four-person text chat (representing the psychic communication). We started with this structure for interaction, then created the magic mirror and psychic link setting elements around it, and then from there, created the in-game metaphysics to justify it. (The metaphysics ended up, admittedly, somewhat convoluted, but fortunately, players have generally been willing to roll with it.)

I’m quite happy that we ran with this structural experiment — I think our LARP is a unique experience, and in particular, information has a dynamic flow that I haven’t seen in other online LARPs. But I’ve learned about various pitfalls through observing a few different runs (and playing more online LARPs with varying structures.) Some players do great with multiple available avenues for communication, others find it makes it difficult to focus. Some players really dislike text chat, others dislike video chat, and when LARPs comprise of entirely one or the other, some LARPers simply find them entirely personally unplayable. The multiple options might mitigate their discomfort with one format… but both are always present, so it’s more likely to simply be unappealing to anyone who dislikes either.

Additionally, while a one-on-one video chat is great if the players have solid “roleplay chemistry”, it’s particularly rough when two players don’t. In theory, I was hoping that having the text chat would offer natural breaks from the focus on the one-on-one video chat — if the face-to-face conversation stagnated, players could check in with others via text, and then use new information or suggestions from the text to redirect the course of the video chat.

In practice, it does sometimes work out this way. But there is also the real possibility of uneven roleplay. One player may be involved in a very active text chat, while the other’s text chat is silent. And having long moments with nothing to say can feel doubly awkward with a camera pointed at your face (even if the other person is distracted by text and isn’t actively looking at you.)

The use of lots of text chats also creates a pretty significant burden on the GMs, both to set up and to manage during the LARP. (Minor spoiler: it’s possible during the LARP for players to change who they can communicate with via chat.) Frankly, I wasn’t very adept at Discord settings when we created the LARP, and since one of my fellow GMs hs been willing to do the set-up and manage the chats during the runs, I’ve never done it myself. (I feel a little guilty about this.) I think if I had planned to run the LARP by myself when we first created it, I would probably want to reduce the number of text channels.

Which brings me to another downside of the structure — I have played a number of LARPs designed to run online that can also easily run in person, as they are or perhaps with minor tweaking. I’m struggling to imagine Reformed, Rebound being able to run in person. But I remain hopeful that online LARPing will continue to have a presence (if diminished) post-pandemic, so the end of the pandemic won’t see the last ever run.

I believe Reforged, Rebound has run around seven or so times by now. GMing is an interesting experience. Some GMs really like to observe the video chats of players when running online LARPs; I find it feels a little awkward to me, especially in one-on-one chats. So I mostly stick to reading the players live chat logs. The cool thing about text-based LARPing is that you won’t miss the best lines, and every run has had lots of great little quotes for the GMs to exclaim over in our private chat. Other satisfying moments: one player commented post-game that it was the best romance he had read in a character sheet. And another player wrote some epilogue fanfiction. I must say, that really warms a GM’s heart.

I feel quite proud to have finally joined the ranks of LARP writers. And this experience has clearly inspired me to keep going, as evidenced by my subsequence projects. I’ve since created a Letter LARP (which is still going), and I’ve begun co-writing another online LARP designed to run in Remo. I’m looking forward to Under the Fairie Hill debuting at Extracon, and after that, it might be time to take a good look through that document of jumbled, disjointed LARP ideas and find something half-baked to develop.

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Virtual Space Bubble

This past weekend, in place of Time Bubble (which usually runs around this time of year), the RPI community ran Virtual Space Bubble. It featured about 30 games, social hangouts on video chat, and one discussion on the Future of Online LARP. I signed up for three events — Club Drosselmeyer: 1943, A BTL Sandwich, and Treasure Oddities.

Club Drosselmeyer: 1943 is described as an “interactive radio adventure”. In previous years, it was an interactive live event, but this year, it has been running as a social-distancing friendly experience. Players team up in groups of five as a Civil Defense Unit, listening to a period radio show while cooperatively solving puzzles. There is cute bit of plot surrounding the puzzles (doing our part for the war effort), plus a few bonus puzzles related to the performers of the radio show.

Admittedly, we ran into a few minor tech-related glitches, but despite this, I still had a great time. We solved the main puzzle, plus a few of the extra ones besides.

I highly recommend Club Drosselmeyer, especially if you’re the sort who enjoys escape room style puzzle solving. I would love to catch one of the in-person runs when they become available again. You can learn more about Club Drosselmeyer on its website, and more about the company behind Club Drosselmeyer, on the Green Door Labs website.

(I’ve since received an email from the staff apologizing for the glitches and offering to rerun it for us. I may take them up on that offer just to get a chance to try some of the puzzles we didn’t get to, but I really don’t think this is necessary — even with minor glitches, it was still lot of fun.)

The social-distance version we played, by the way, does not involve video chat, but I wanted to costume a little bit anyway, so I threw a look together.

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The Air Raid Warden

I got up early on Sunday to play the online adaptions of the BTL Sandwich (“Bunch of Tiny LARPs”) — it was run by a GM in the UK. A series of mini-games were written as part of a British weekend-long sci-fi LARP titled Across the Universe. We played a selection of three of them: The Judgement of Solomon, The Gig at the End of the Universe, and Waiting.

The first, The Judgment of Solomon, is a rather dark LARP with no happy outcome possible. Set in a cyberpunk-ish universe, it features a court case determining the fate of a very ill child. Both of parents have signed a contract with a different company, each of whom wants to use the child to further their own projects. I played the representative of the pharmaceutical company, and tried to channel a cold lawyer persona from legal procedurals I’ve watched.

The second LARP was a lighthearted comedic LARP, set in the world of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This LARP was sort of a little mood palate cleanser between the two darker LARPs. I played an android with rapidly changing moods, designed to channel the spirits of the (temporarily) dead. I had a lot of fun with this role, switching between the android’s moods and the soul of a rock star.

The third BTL LARP was Waiting. It’s set in a Star Trek-like universe where a rescue mission has gone terribly wrong, and the remaining crew of two starships are waiting to set off a last-ditch plan to hold off the vicious aliens aboard their remaining ship.

I played the human brain that had been integrated with the ship, and as such, I was a disembodied presence that could join either of two video chats representing two different closed-off sections of the ship. This involved running two instances of Discord at once, logged into a different account on each. I thought it was a very clever use of Discord to represent this concept in-game, and the tech ran smoothly during the playtest, but unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much slower my computer would be with four additional live videos running. (I do feel a bit guilty about cutting into the LARP time while sorting that out.) Despite tech troubles, I enjoyed the LARP. It felt like there was a lot of emotional content to chew on in the setting of four characters waiting to live or die. And I was extremely happy with my casting, not only in waiting, but in the other two LARPs as well.

The last LARP of the weekend for me was Treasure Oddities. It was run out of Germany. (The international element of Virtual Space Bubble was pretty cool!) Treasure Oddities is a minimalist sort of LARP, where players create a simple adventuring persona, then spend about 15 minutes pulling images off the internet and assembling them into a gallery of treasures they’ve picked up during their adventures. Players then take turns viewing one another’s galleries, describing the treasures on display, and answering questions about the oddities. There are no limits or requirements or prompts (beyond some pre-selected images to represent the gallery backgrounds) — this LARP is very low key. The GM went first as an adventuring giant to demonstrate how it works. (I liked the inclusion of an entire windmill as part of the giant’s treasures.)

To make it as easy and quick as possible to get into character, I decided to play my tabletop D&D character, Lady Holliday the druid. (I threw on a floral wreath — can’t resist a little bit of costuming.) I populated her gallery with treasures from nature — two magical plants, a phoenix feather, and a bit of shed skin from a dragon. (I was inspired by my pet geckos for that last one.) Other galleries included items from a witch’s home, a set of underground treasures, and a raven’s collection of shiny scraps of paper.

After the LARP concluded, players discuss their experience. The players of my run agreed that this game makes for a very relaxing, uplifting way to close out a weekend of LARPing.

And with Treasure Oddities, I have officially beaten my record for number of LARPs PCed, NPCed, or GMed in a single year! I dearly miss in-person LARPing, of course, but there’s something satisfying about knowing the pandemic couldn’t put a crimp in my style — the international LARP community is just too resilient.

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Autumn Online LARPs

Consequences, the LARP convention based in the UK, ran online recently. The way the schedule worked out, I didn’t end up playing any LARPs, though I did participate in the trivia quiz (tons of fun, came in third place) and joined a few video chats just to say hello and talk about online LARPs. I also observed part of a run of Reformed, Rebound (an online LARP I co-wrote earlier this year) and it got some positive feedback, which was really nice to hear. The fun we had a Consequences generated some excitement in Extracon, which is coming up in February.

Despite not LARPing at Consequences, I’ve just realized I’m about to break my record for number of LARPs in one year, thanks to Virtual Space Bubble.

A quick summary on the latest slate of LARPs that brought me within sight of my record:

Cold Blood — a 1950s murder mystery set on a train, featuring themes of McCarthyism and relationships. I played a high strung mother looking out for her mischievous kid (whose trouble-making helped uncover lots of secrets). I don’t know if I would say we solved the murder, but we collectively had very strong suspicions, leading to the murderer’s rather dramatic confession.

Murder of the High Wizard — another murder mystery, this one set at a wizarding college. I played the High Wizard’s underappreciated grad student apprentice. This LARP had an interesting three act structure, with new information coming out at regular intervals, along with suggested questions/accusations and responses, to keep the unraveling of the mystery chugging along at a constant pace.

Too Polite — a simple, comedic LARP in which everyone thinks they are attending a different online meeting, but are too polite to say so. (The characters are all Canadian, you see.) This naturally leads to some hilarious misunderstandings. Players can swap characters if anyone actually does point out that they must be in the wrong meeting.

Gleam — a LARP featuring four distinct settings, one for each player, where play is divided into a series of scenes, rotating through the four settings. In each scenario, one player plays their main character, and the others NPC. At first the LARP seemed… disjointed? But over the course of four hours, it all comes together and the themes become clear and meaningful.

Contact — a two hour LARP described as being like the last third of a Star Trek episode. There are some very cute, fun puzzle mechanics that I quite enjoyed playing with, but it is primarily about facing a difficult moral and political dilemma and teasing out the philosophical implications. (Classic Star Trek.)

Dimensional Convergence — I playtested this three hour LARP about two worlds coming into contact with one another. They share a history of demonic incursions, but diverged when one world successfully defeated the demons, and the other… did not. I am a sucker for LARPs that feature characters who are alternate versions of one another (hence the concept behind Reformed, Rebound…) and I think my favorite part of this LARP was talking with the other world’s version of me. There but for the grace of God…

Election of the Wine Queen — a short LARP about the wine queen competition. It has the potential to be dark, but we played it rather lighthearted. I quite like the singing mechanic, which introduces scene changes via the singing of a traditional German drinking song. (Ein Prosit.) This is the first LARP I’ve played that specifically mentions that drinking alcohol is allowed, but I didn’t procure a wine or anything in advance, so I just drank water throughout. A missed opportunity, I think.

Sanguine — this LARP began as six LARPers mentioning costumes they wish they had a chance to wear, and the writer weaving those six concepts into a two hour LARP. Actually, I was lamenting the lack of opportunities to wear a number of my costumes, which almost resulted in me playing a spy with multiple aliases… but I didn’t actually want to be rushing to change multiple times during a short online LARP. Instead, the character I played was a mashup of some of my favorite tropes… and my costume was one of the ones I wear most frequently.

The LARP is set late at night along the Thames, where six intertwined souls each have a difficult decision to make– to board the Sanguine and sail to New York, or to stay in London. There’s a good amount of angsty, tragedy, romance, and Irish nationalism involved.

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First Mate Basil of the SS Sanguine

At Virtual Bubble, I’m signed up for the BTL LARPs (a collection of three mini sci-fi LARPs back-to-back) and Treasure Oddities, a LARP about making powerpoint presentations about treasures collected while adventuring. I’m also looking forward to Club Drosselmeyer, 1943, which is more of an ARG than a LARP, and I hear it involves some fun puzzle solving.

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Drawing Challenge, 2019

Continuing from where I left off in the previous post… As mentioned, I also did the Inktober challenge of 2019, again with my personal spin on it, connecting all drawings back to a LARP I’ve participated in or cosplay I’ve done. (Many of which overlap — a number of my cosplays started as castings in LARPs.) And part way through, I expanded this to include one tabletop character.

As mentioned in the previous post, I gave myself a full year to complete all 31 drawings instead of the standard one month… and ended up rushing to finish through the second half of September 2020. This defeated the purpose of the extra time, and it meant I was too burned out on daily drawings to begin a new month long challenge on October 1st. But I felt like my drawing was beginning to improve by the end of Inktober 2019, and I only just started filling a lovely brand new sketch book. So I hope once I’ve caught up on blogging and some other LARP-related projects, I’ll find another drawing challenge to dive into. I hear of one that is OC (Original Character)-centric…

Below the cut, another 31 LARP or cosplay related sketches (and one tabletop character), with 31 bits of commentary on each.

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Drawing Challenge, 2018

As some reading this may already know, I love to draw! But I fell out of the habit of regularly drawing for a long while. Then about two years ago, I noticed a number of my friends were sharing daily drawings for something called “Inktober”. It’s an annual month-long art challenge that runs every October, with 31 one-word prompts to inspire 31 ink drawings.

I found the idea rather appealing — it’s arbitrary, yet the combination of prompts and sharing the art online felt like the right form of motivation for me, so I joined in.

I decided to put my own twist on it and relate all of the one-word prompts back to LARPs and cosplays I’ve done over the years. I thought this would make it more inspiring to me personally, easier to narrow down ideas for very weird or vague prompts, and more likely to be of interest to the people who usually follow me online.

This all turned out to be true, but at the same time, sometimes it was hard to connect some of the weirder prompts to LARPs or cosplays. I found myself getting stuck for ideas occasionally, and then falling behind while trying to figure out just the subject for each prompt. I could start doing them out of order, but that seemed likely to derail my momentum.

At some point, I decided I had to significantly lower my standards for the strength of the connection between prompt and LARP or cosplay. I also realized, given the wide variety of Pokémon out there, I could probably connect any prompt to Pikachu (who is both a cosplay of mine and a one-time LARP character), so long as I included a second Pokémon. This thought was a sort of reassuring mental safety net, though I only ever used it once.

The first year I did Inktober (2018), I found I didn’t like rushing through multiple drawings to catch up, but there were also days I just didn’t have the time or inspiration to draw. And it really ate into hobby time I needed for costuming and other LARP related stuff. So I gave myself permission to finish after October ended. I wound up drawing the 31st picture in July.

With the memory of how 2018 went, I began Inktober 2019 by telling myself I had one full year to complete it… and wound up rushing to finish during the second half of September 2020. In fact, I think I finished the last drawing on September 30th, just a few hours before midnight.

This meant that I was a little burnt out on daily drawings when Inktober 2020 began, and I had been neglecting my other hobbies, blogging in particular. That, and discovering there was some sort of old controversy around Inktober that was resurfacing, means I haven’t started any new drawing challenge, Inktober or otherwise, this year. I think I still plan to, because I feel like my drawing skills were actually started to improve again, but I’m not currently in a rush to figure it out. (At least, not until after I catch up on my annual blog post goal.)

All of my Inktober sketches went up on instagram. Some fellow artists encouraged me to collect them all into one or two blog posts and share them with a bit of commentary for context and critique on each, much like I did for my Quarantine Costuming Challenges.

So below the cut, you will find 31 little drawings related to past LARPs and cosplays, and 31 little comments.

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Answering the Call

I’ve sort of made it a mission of mine to explore social-distancing friendly formats of LARP (and LARP adjacent activities.) Obviously, this involves a lot of LARPing over video chat, but it also includes letter LARPing and LARPing via text chat. I also had the privilege of playtesting some of Mirror World Creations’ various offerings, which include a few phone LARPs and an online magic class.

Mirror World Creations offers three phone LARPs via their website, The Girl on the Phone, Fragile Recall, and The Other Side of the Line. I also playtested a fourth LARP, Gremlins!, which isn’t on offer… yet. And I signed up for Basic Principles of Magick.

The Girl on the Phone

This scenario involves the player being contacted by a kidnapped tourist who needs help escaping and finding safety. And it’s up to the player to figure out just how to help them, using their wits and access to the internet.

This was the most tense of the phone LARPs. I really liked how it opened with texting — receiving the first few baffling texts proved to be pretty intense, and it genuinely got my pulse rate up. I had to think as fast ads I could and google solutions as we went along. I imagine every player has their own approach, and I was very impressed with how the actress rolled with my directions even though there’s no way she could have prepared for every eventuality in advance. There was even a bit of emotional roleplay when she was finally on her way to safety and we had a moment to reflect. I also thought the actress was quite good at offering subtle hints when I was stumped for ideas on what to do next.

Fragile Recall

Fragile Recall begins with a medium calling you, then connecting you with one of your past lives. (The introduction with the medium was very cute.) This one is a bit hard to describe without spoiling, because I feel that not knowing who you will be connected with or what to expect was an important part of my experience. And if I have it correct, there are two different options for whom your past life could be.

There was no goal to drive towards, just a very personal conversation between two people from very different eras in history. The circumstances of the past life I spoke to were rather tragic, so I found myself trying to be sensitive but also reassuring. What should I tell someone about how the world has changed in the past century or so? What would I want to know about their shoes? (Which, in a sense I had been, given the premise of the scenario.) How has society evolved, what technological advances are most interesting and uplifting to share? The past life was a real historical person, so I skimmed their wikipedia page while we chatted, and dove into online biographies after we hung up.

The Other Side of the Line

This experience was very much what it says on the tin: you have a long chat with an actress playing a typical anti-vaxxer. There’s a little bit of a framing device where a pro-vaccine friend asks you to chat with their relative, and then asks you how it went.

I tried my best to be sympathetic and look at things from the character’s point of view, and use her own arguments to see the flip side of things, and drew on my own life experiences to make my points. After the conversation ended, I chatted a bit with the actress, who said she wouldn’t have been surprised if I had yelled at her over the phone. I suppose some people might find this scenario an opportunity for catharsis, if they’re frustrated with anti-vaxxers they know personally in real life (I don’t). Others might see this more as a training exercise, to figure out the best way to put together a coherent counter-argument to the kinds of things many anti-vaxxers say.

Gremlins!

Gremlins! is the shortest of the scenarios, where a gremlin calls you up and teaches you a magic trick so that you can take on the witch holding it captive and free it in exchange for wishes. It was a very cute card trick, and there’s a cute little twist at the end.

Basic Principles of Magick

I signed up for this hour long online class and though participants can simply attend as themselves, decided to break out my character (and costuming) from New World Magischola. The class turned out to be a linguistics based approach to spellcasting, which I would have known if I’d remembered to read the short textbook that was sent out in advance. This was definitely my favorite of Mirror World Creations’ offerings, but then, I’m pretty biased in favor of fantasy and linguistics. (Linguistics was one of my majors in college.) The eccentric professor and his poor put-upon grad student were adorably acted, and practicing spells was a lot of fun, as was puzzling out how to craft the verbal components of spells and decode and counteract spells cast by the professor. The spells were cleverly chosen to be things easily represented over video chat. I would definitely sign up for a sequel to this one.

You can check out all of these on the Mirror World Creations website. (It also has Debrief, which is a very cool two player LARP. I played the medium in a run a few months ago.)

That all said, I do want to address a question that comes up a lot as we explore new LARP formats — are these, in fact, LARPs? I feel very strongly that an experience taking place over a phone call (or over a video chat) does NOT preclude it from being a LARP. If you the player are doing the things your character is doing (whether it’s hitting someone with a sword or answering a phone call), then it an be a LARP.

Technically, since I was simply answering the phone as myself, and not as some character who is Not Me, I would say I played the three phone calls as ARGs (alternate reality games) rather than LARPs. If I had chosen to create a character and respond as them, they would have been LARPs. Since I chose to attend the Basic Principles of Magick as Mickey the hipster magizoology student from the Pacific Northwest, and not as me, I have that experience listed on my grand list of LARPs I’ve played.

I think the important way to look at it is this: lots of us are currently missing the forms of LARPs we used to have before social distancing and quarantines. And if what we truly miss is the in-person interaction, phone and video chat LARPs might not scratch that itch. But if at least part of what you miss is a bit of roleplay and taking a break from mundane reality to experience something a strange, or weird, or extraordinary, then these other forms of LARP have a lot to offer.

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Quarantine Costuming Challenge, Part II

Picking up where I left off in the previous post… Below the cut are some more Quarantine Costuming Challenges I completed between July and October.

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