Upon request, I’m going to talk a little bit more about modules in Threshold, the cyberpunk boffer campaign that concluded this past January, and its unusual use of space as a boffer LARP running in a hotel.
First of all, the space. (Interconners would recognize the venue — it was Intercon’s hotel from 2000 to 2015.) Threshold rented two large function spaces on the ground floor, and multiple suites on the upper floors. The smaller of the two function spaces was used as a staging area by staff, a room where set dressing, props, NPC costuming, and documentation for content waited. (Boffer communities often call this “Monster Camp”, some theater LARP communities might call this “GM Space”.)
The bigger function space was a large ballroom with two air walls that divided the space into three rooms. The air walls were closed most of the way. The open gaps in the air walls were filled with two giant pieces of set dressing/props, the Threshold Gates. In-game, the Gates enabled members of the Threshold Project (the PCs) to teleport anywhere on earth (and later, beyond earth…)
The middle room created by the air walls was used as Threshold’s Forward Operating Base, or FOB — the space where Threshold personnel spent time between missions. The FOB was partitioned into various sections by means of a pop up tent, and tables stacked on top of one another. We could operate the Gates from inside the FOB, consult our schedule of missions, fill out corporate paperwork, meet with visitors, help ourselves to performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals, and jack into the Overlay (the internet/VR world). And when we died, we could interact with the automated Resleeving Station (Threshold‘s Resurrection mechanic).
We entered the rooms to either side of the FOB through the Gates. Throughout the day, staff would set up and strike the set dressing for various modules in those two rooms. Outside the doors to the hallway, staff had tables set up where NPCs could put props and weapons. Inside the doors, staff would block off small sections by stacking tables on top of one another and draping them with tablecloths. This was usually where NPCs could “respawn” during combat, and a place to keep props for individual modules as needed, set up lightning and sound systems out of view, etc.
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that the hotel staff either never noticed us stacking tables on top of one another in the various function rooms, or else noticed and voiced no objections.
All modules that featured combat happened in those rooms on either said of the FOB, along with the non-combat mods for larger numbers of players. Those spaces were fairly large and could be emptied of furniture or anything breakable. The suites that Threshold rented upstairs hosted modules without combat. One suite was always reserved for the cantina. During the evening break, dinner was served there, and at other times, there were always snacks and drinks to be had.
Somewhere tucked away in a corner of each of the other suites, there was a storage bin full of stuff for setting different scenes in the hotel rooms, such as colored lights and speakers. During suite modules, we did things like hold meetings, solve puzzles, undergo evaluations, and investigate staged murder scenes. Sometimes staff used weird sound tracks and lighting to transform these spaces into something more surreal, such a shared psychic plane for the mentalists, or a shared network for AIs in sleep mode.
So what kind of modules did we play in these spaces?
There were plenty of what one might consider a more “standard” modules (standard for an Accelerant campaign, anyway) — combat missions that ran in the rooms on either side of the FOB might be things like “someone has stolen a bunch of weapon prototypes. Retrieve the prototypes while fending off attacks from the terrorists, maybe rescue some hostages while you’re there.” (Or “terrorists have taken over the space elevator. Take it back while “The Girl From Ipanema” plays on loop in the background.) But there were also plenty of really unusual, often rather “out there” modules as well.
The Threshold writing staff was very clever in the creation of their setting. The baked in several concepts that functioned as excellent in-game excuses for lots of variety in player activities. I think Threshold had the most variety in terms of types of activities of any boffer LARP I’ve yet PCed or NPCed.
One example of a baked in concept was the aforementioned Overlay — in Virtual Reality, anything was possible. Sometimes we got to play Dragon Stabbers, an online fantasy video game in virtual reality. Sometimes we went on missions to rescue people who got trapped in online VR games that glitched or got hacked, and we found ourselves playing a live version of the board game RoboRally. Other times VR simulations went wrong and trapped people. One of the most memorable mods was an educational sim that trapped a teacher inside, and we had to fight off dinosaurs and planets spouting Fun Facts while solving puzzles with early education science themes.
Another setting concept example — the Threshold Project was incredibly expensive to run (operating the Gate cost millions of dollars,) so we relied on mega-corporations to sponsor us. One of the megacorps was a media company, and as members of the Threshold Project, our characters were minor (and a few major) celebrities, so they often insisted we perform publicity stunts. At the bidding of our corporate sponsors, we were special guests on an dance reality show, did taste testing on new beverages and recorded our reactions (“So refreshing!”), participated in runway shows, attended (and contributed art to) art exhibits, and staged scenes for the pilot of a documentary tv show about our members. This stuff was weird and wacky and tons of fun. As minor celebrities, we also got to attend a convention dedicated to us, meet our fans (cosplaying as us!), received fan art of our characters, and read erotic fanfiction written about us.
Corporate culture was another gateway to activities I’d never done in boffer LARP. Filling out employee evaluations can actually be a lot of fun, who knew? We underwent psych evaluations on our first day, and the A.I. underwent quality assessment other times; we performed weird tasks, played memory games, and solved logic puzzles. One time we engaged in corporate espionage in the form of presenting an impromptu powerpoint presentation with stolen slides.
I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the electronic games. Hacking was represented by mini-games played on smart phones. Staff printed out QR codes represented nodes where hackers could gain access to a system. Scanning the QR codes initiated one of a few mini games, and printed instructions at the node told players what to do in the event of a success or failure. Computer games also featured in other ways — for example, we played Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes to represent bomb defusing missions.
Threshold was by turns dark, weird, surreal, droll. I really hope it inspires lots of LARP creators in our community.