Consequences 2018

I’m back from my second Consequences — the all (mostly? there was some tabletop) LARP convention that runs in the UK in November.
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On the Tuesday and Wednesday before the con, I got in a little touring around London. Highlights included the London Mithraeum, a visit to the Tate Modern, walking along the Thames, and a ride on the London Eye. (I’m not normally afraid of heights, but the Eye inspires a little acrophobia, though it’s worth it for the view.) One evening, I attended a performance of The Play Where Everything Goes Wrong, which was very funny. I also got to catch up with a couple of British friends for dinner and drinks, and had tea in a cafe in a crypt.

My schedule at Consequences this year was a bit lighter than last year (in part because I was deep in the woods of Maine with spotty internet access during the final round of sign-ups), but as it allowed for later sleep in the mornings, and thus later nights at the chalet parties, it still felt like I had a jam-packed weekend, especially with GMing two LARPs.

On Thursday evening, I didn’t have a LARP, so I joined the trivia contest. My team, the Masters of Cat Lore, came in second place, within a point of first place! And I actually managed to contribute a few answers, which is a large step up from last year (and every other trivia contest I’ve participated in thus far.)

Friday morning, I played in The Omega Expedition, which is about a scientific research mission to Antarctica, and the unexpected discovery the team makes there. It’s highly spoilerable, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but I will say I got to play one of the characters not from the original expedition, and I loved my casting. The GMs told us that our run had a particularly unusual ending, compared to earlier runs. I get the sense that how players choose to play out the first moments of the LARP can have a really big impact on the tone of the rest of the LARP.

On Friday afternoon, I ran Toil and Trouble with a friend. When we saw there were no open player slots on Friday afternoon after the last round of sign-ups opened (and a number of people on waitlists) we decided to bid a small LARP. Toil and Trouble is a six person LARP about three witches casting a spell to alter the fates of three heroes: one will be king, one will be happy, and one will die.

For awhile, I didn’t think Toil and Trouble was going to run; it went up on the schedule very late, and didn’t see any sign ups for awhile, (though we posted about it on the Consequences Facebook group). Then, with only a few weeks until the convention, we got six players, so I rushed to get casting done. I was a little worried about casting — a couple of characters didn’t quite fit any of the responses we got, but we did the best we could and crossed our fingers.

Set up took a bit longer than we expected — we tried to give a corner of the room a dark, magical feel with string lights, loosely woven fabrics, and a cauldron. I hope the players weren’t too bothered by waiting for that to be finished. The LARP itself ran for the remaining hour and a half, and I think it went pretty well. I try very hard not to be the sort of GM who hovers over players’ shoulders, so I don’t really know what was said during the many hushed conversations, but from where I was sitting, the players seemed to embody their roles well (as far as I could tell, the casting worked out), and kept tense conversations going throughout.

The players also mentioned after the end that they wish it could have gone another half an hour, which makes me feel a drop guilty about the set up time, but I also think with this LARP, there’s a chance that players will want extra time at the end regardless of how long it runs. I suspect having stronger cues for the end of the LARP and making them clear during the introduction would be helpful. I’ll try to keep this in mind should I run the LARP again. I think there’s a good chance of that, since the LARP seems to have gotten some good press at Consequences.


On Friday evening, I assisted with GMing Stars of Al-Ashtara. I helped run this LARP twice at the last Intercon, and I remember the process of digging up all of the old materials and trying to piece together plotlines and puzzles, which wasn’t easy. This LARP hasn’t really been properly boxed, but the lead GM did a really impressive job creating a functional run out of materials we had. I made a few mistakes while GMing, but I think nothing disastrous. Overall, it looked like the players were having fun. I wonder what other LARPs by these writers would go over well at Consequences.

After a late night of hanging out at a chalet party, I slept late on Saturday morning. Then on Saturday afternoon, I played in Five for Silver. The scenario involves a group of pirates gathering one year after the loss of their captain to toast her memory, with lots of classic pirate tropes sprinkled in. The experimental twist on this LARP is that the players run through the scenario five times. One standard run, then once with exaggerated emotions, once with heightened sexual tension, once with muted emotions, and the final run is totally silent.

It was interesting to see how the directional instructions affected the experiences. For example, three of the runs ended up much faster than the original. In the heightened emotions run, instead of letting anger build slowly, characters exploded with anger right away, and this tended to bring about the conclusions of interactions much faster. Muted emotions also sped up the scenario — characters just couldn’t be bothered to discuss things or stay focused on a particular topic or moment very long. The silent run was also very fast — no one was spending any time on the small talk, or hemming and hawing, that happened in the first run. We mostly just hit the highlights and the moments that could be made obvious with dramatic motions and interactions with props. I think a lot also got forgotten, without us able to give verbal cues to one another as reminders.

I also noticed the anticipation of future runs impacted the first run. For example, I think during the first run, players were setting themselves up for innuendo and double entendres in the third run. I also think some of the more dramatic gestures and interactions with some of the props in the first run might have been done with the intention of creating markers for the future runs, especially the silent one.

I think we also strayed a bit from the original intentions in two of the runs. For the sexual tension run, I’m not sure it was intended to be so farcical, but in LARP, where overt sexual tension is concerned, it’s easy to go very silly. In the muted emotions run, I think the original intention was to just try and express all emotions very subtly, but instead, we played it out as though we were all dreadfully apathetic, which came across to me as though the entire cast were rather depressed.

After Five for Silver, we sat around in the chalet where it ran to discuss our impressions. The GM wanted to know how it was for the non-British players in particular. I wish I’d given a more thoughtful response, but I mostly talked about how the British accents reminded me of Hollywood depictions of pirates (and one player’s performance reminded me of Captain Barbossa in particular.) I also noticed that I was repressing the urge to do my own yarr-stereotypical-pirate voice, which players likely would have been doing if this had run in the US (especially during the heightened emotions run) — I didn’t want to offend people with my own terrible version of a British accent.

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Sasha Dumont, interpreter of the Mandragora

On Saturday evening, I played in Mean Street, which was my pick for the first round of sign ups. Ever since I saw the first season of Westworld, I knew I wanted to play in a LARP inspired by it, so seeing “a dark science-fiction game inspired by Westworld, Dollhouse and the 1920s noir genre” in the blurb grabbed my attention.

I got to play Butterscotch, one of the chorus girls working in a club frequented by gangsters. I reused most of my costume from Thicker Than Water. I also wasted a bunch of time fussing with my hair and makeup for this costume, and didn’t really like the results. I think it’s sort of a shame that after some 15 years of LARPing, with costuming being one of the things I love most about it, I still haven’t managed to learn even the basics of either hair-styling or makeup. (I’ve tried following youtube tutorials; it usually ends with me giving up.)

Mean Street was as advertised — a angst filled story, low on mechanics and high on roleplaying intense relationships in a dark situation. I somehow found the guts to do a quasi-lip synch performance. The music in the background was all vintage covers of modern songs (I think by Postmodern Jukebox?); I picked “Sweet Child of Mine” because I thought I knew the lyrics well enough, and would be able to mostly muddle along even though I wasn’t familiar with the arrangement. I had a great time in Mean Street, and particularly enjoyed some roleplay moments with other characters who knew much more about my character than I did.

On Sunday, I played in Best of the Wurst, a LARP heavily inspired by the British sitcom, Allo, ‘Allo. Like the sitcom, the LARP is set in occupied France, and involves the characters getting into shenanigans at a wurst contest, thanks to stolen art (“St. Francis with the Large Boobies and the Great Tits”) and the schemes of the French Resistance.

I marathoned all 85 episodes of the tv show in the months leading up to Consequences, but I don’t think I did my character, the source material, or the LARP itself justice. (I’d like to blame the lack of sleep.) There were a few moments where the situation worked out rather nicely to set-up some quips or over the top excuses, but I just couldn’t think of anything clever enough in the moment. I very much appreciate my fellow players, who ran with the wackiness and references to the tv show. (Amusingly, I did notice players once or twice accidentally calling one another by the names of the tv show characters who directly inspired the LARP characters.) Best of the Wurst is a very funny game, and I recommend it to fans of the show.

Besides playing LARPs, I also really enjoyed the late night chalet parties, where I got to know a number of my fellow Consequences attendees better. I never got around to trying out the hot tubs, which were new features for some of the chalets and were left running all weekend, but I hear there was an impromptu LARP about early life forms floating in bubbling primordial ooze that I’d would love to see get put down on paper so that it can run again.

On Sunday afternoon, I watched the prizes go out for the Consequences charity raffle, and I was rather happy to see my own donation (a homemade Harry Potter tote bag) was selected second. After the end of the closing ceremonies, I tried out Dragoon, a board game about dragons demanding tribute from or burning villages for gold. I spent most of the game being uncharacteristically nice (for a dragon) to my villages, building them up into cities and failing to collect any tribute from them, before burning them all to the ground in the last round for the win. I like how Consequences slowly winds down over the course of Sunday evening; it makes saying good bye a little easier.

The ride home was also rather nice — the locals who gave me a ride back to London made a few stops along the way at some really cool sites, which included lunch in Dorchester, the Cerne Abbas Giant (which might be iron age art, or 17th century political satire), the Nine Stones near Winterbourne Abbas, and the ruins of Old Sarum, (where Henry II used to imprison Eleanor of Aquitaine from time to time.) We also stopped for tea at a beautiful historic hotel, called Great Fosters.


Now I’m back in the US and finally getting over my jet lag… and I have a pretty hardcore case of the post-con blues. I think it’s hitting me harder than it ever has before, not just because Consequences is such a nice convention, with really friendly attendees and a welcoming atmosphere (and I really enjoy meeting new LARPers and experiencing new cultures and communities.) I think the post-con blues are particularly bad this time, because at other events and conventions I attend, I generally know I’m going to see a large percentage of the attendees again in the foreseeable future. And last year, at my first Consequences, I knew I had Shogun in about three months, so I’d be seeing a lot of the attendees again soon. This year, the UK Freeform weekend event in February is Torch of Freedom, which I’ve already played. Right now, I’m wishing I was signed up to play again.

I guess I should be focusing on upcoming LARP events (I have a boffer event this weekend, and I’m making plans for another trip to NYC for theater LARPS in January). Casting questionnaires have started going out for Intercon, and I have some sewing projects I should get started on. (More banners for set dressing.) But I miss Consequences! Here’s hoping I’ll be back next year.

 

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NELCO 2018: Climaxes in LARP

As the end of the year approaches, and I look back on my post count for 2018 and compare it to 2017 (and previous years)… I realize it’s highly unlikely I’ll meet one of my New Years resolutions — to beat my previous year’s post count. I had another goal to actually write about the topics covered at NELCO, and similar events LARP theory discussion events. And while I did cover TheoryCon this year, I failed to cover most of NELCO, and entirely missed covering Living Games Conference and PreCon.

In effort to address this in some small way, however inadequate, I’ve decided to write about one of the topics we covered at NELCO 2018. One of my topics got added to the schedule to replace some last minute cancellations. I wish we could have recorded all of the great conversation we had — but it’s been long enough, that all I have is my own thoughts.

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The topic was Climaxes in LARP.

Get your giggles out now.

Here is the description I wrote for the NELCO website:

“It’s hour three of a four hour LARP (or Sunday morning of a weekend long LARP), and the time for the death moratorium has run out! It’s time to finally take down the Big Bad Villain, appoint a priest to marry you to your sweetheart, and find out who is getting crowned! …This should be exciting, but you’re stuck in a time bubble, your ceremony has become a mass wedding, and people are too busy for the coronation. Why does this distinctly feel like an anti-climax?

LARP is a unique medium, with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, but we seem to want to recreate the sense of climax one sees in other media, like books and movies. Is it possible? Let’s discuss how to create a satisfying climax for individual players and a LARP as a whole, and ways to avoid the common pitfalls that create unsatisfying climaxes in LARP.”

As you can see, for this topic, I was primarily focused on one-shot theater LARPs. (I think the climaxes of campaigns and/or boffer LARPs is its own important, fascinating, and complex topic — some of which overlaps with the stuff we talked about it. But such LARPs also have their own unique sets of needs, advantages, and disadvantages, and I wanted to be able to narrow down the focus a bit for the hour and fifteen minutes at NELCO.) We also mostly discussed it from the point of view of a LARP with (fully or mostly) pre-written characters (I think we’re starting to call this “litform”?), though a lot also applies to LARPs with player-generated characters.

Before I begin, I should note that I don’t believe every LARP needs a climax, and in fact, in many cases, might be better off without one.

When preparing notes for this topic, first I listed all of the common forms of climaxes in LARP, based on my personal experiences. At the discussion, I solicited additional items for the list.

Here’s the list I came up with:

  • combat (usually a “mass combat bubble” — all of the players involved in a single fight, possibly against one another, possibly against NPCs)
  • weddings, coronations, and other ceremonies that mark/create status changes
  • escapes
  • rituals
  • transformations
  • decisions
  • announcements of decisions/results (eg votes/elections, contests/competitions)
  • death

Then I thought about the factors that can make for a satisfying climax, and ones that don’t.

Ones that do include:

  • success at in-game goals
  • It feels relevant to your character
  • It feels personalized/specific to you/your character
  • Reflection of your efforts during the LARP
  • Whatever the “big” thing is (whether for an individual or a crowd) it has proper focus/spotlight
  • Something significant is accomplished (including the prevention/erasure of a threat. Often a wrong has been righted, or prevented.)
  • Transformation was achieved (either personally, or within the setting — it can be that your character increased in power, or the style of government has changed)
  • immersion is maintainted
  • a sense of choreography (see below for an explanation)

Ones that don’t include:

  • failure (especially failing with a whimper, rather than a bang)
  • redundancy/repetition (multiple characters with the same climax)
  • lack of agency/control during the climax, or over the factors that lead up to it
  • lack of spotlight/attention on you as an individual, or on PCs as a whole (e.g. it is on NPCs)
  • spotlight is too divided, either in terms of subject (on multiple targets at once) or timing (spotlight moves too quickly from subject to subject)
  • lack of significance
  • status quo is maintained
  • mood whiplash (eg sources of great happiness and great sorrow are happening at once)
  • lack of immersion (e.g. standing around waiting while mechanics are resolved, or people dropping out of character to argue about how the mechanics should go)
  • awkwardness/lack of choreography

By choreography, I mean elements of a LARP coming together in an aesthetically pleasing fashion in a way that enhances drama, or the tone of the LARP. It can be deliberate, or merely feel deliberate.

Compare this with a movie, where the drama and excitement (or comedy, or tragedy, or whatever the intended tone is) is enhanced via pre-scripted lines, music, lightning, cinematography, etc., many of which are elements that are extremely difficult, or else impossible, to reproduce in a LARP. The divided agency over a LARP among the staff and players and improve nature of the medium provides a unique, challenge to creating a sense of choreography, and its lack is probably why LARPers often like to say that “LARP doesn’t film well.”

Direction (as in, manipulated by a director) might be another word for it, but I felt “direction” was more likely to sound ambiguous in some contexts.

Interestingly, a climax can feel satisfying in the moment, but then get retroactively damaged, e.g. someone negating some element of it during the denouement (a word I definitely didn’t look up how to pronounce right before running this discussion), or even through a poorly handled post-game events. Conversely, experiences during a denouement and a well handled post-game event can retroactively enhance a climax, (though I personally find this to be less common.)

We can illustrate some of these traits of satisfaction/disatisfaction by relating them to the list of forms that climaxes often take. For example, take combat bubbles. Lots of theater LARPs use combat for a climax, especially mass combat, where a large number of PCs (possibly most or even all) are involved. But many theater LARPs employ abstract mechanics for combat that quickly get bogged down when lots of people are involved, creating the phenomenon of “combat bubbles” — where time suddenly slows way down (in-game time no longer runs 1:1 with real time) for everyone involved in the combat, and every one not involved in the combat (or “outside the bubble”) mill about, waiting for it to end.

I’ve seen some theater combat rules that are designed to be fun games/experiences in and of themselves, and that can sometimes be ok for a climax. But many of them aren’t, and while a giant combat involving everyone sounds exciting on its face, standing around in a combat bubble, waiting your turn to attack or defend while a GM sorts through all of the many actions everyone is taking… can be really dull and make a climax unsatisfying.

I’d like to mention one of my favorite forms of theater combat here — systems that determine the outcome  quickly and privately, the enable the players to physically play out the combat, with foam swords or cap guns or whatever is appropriate. This is usually a lot more entertaining to watch and participate in than forms such as Rock, Paper, Scissors.

We can also look at the example of weddings. I’ve been in a number of theater LARPs with multiple romances going on, and other characters, often clergymen, with the power to officiate at a wedding. Suddenly, just before the close of the LARP, five or six different couples want to be married, and the clergymen go through them rapid-fire. None of the ceremonies feel special, not to people watching, not even to the brides and grooms. This might be alright in a silly LARP, but in a more serious LARP, it can suck the romance out of the situation. (After one such LARP where a bunch of couple got married in a rush, one right after the other, I made a personal to decision to avoid marrying in any LARP with multiple romance plots running through it. Private declarations of love and/or betrothals will do.)

The repetitiveness of the situation (and often the ceremony itself) lends itself to multiple weddings feeling anti-climatic, but it need not be characters all going through an identical process. When multiple such announcements and ceremonies go off one after the other, they can step on one another, so to speak. It can be really exciting to hear that you won an election, but if mere moments after your victory is announced, someone else is granted the Nobel prize, and then right after that, someone declares they’ve retrieved the Holy Grail… each one can feel like it’s diminishing the other, almost how much time and attention each is given creates a zero sum game of significance.

This diminishing effect can stem from the nature of the plots and mechanics that tie into the climax — if you’re writing the sort of climactic scenes that typically have an audience, or else the significance of the scene is in how it affects large populations/the setting as a whole, it’s natural for LARPers to expect that to be part of the experience. Of course, the diminishing effect can also come out of a LARPer’s personal play style. For many LARPers, the significance of any given accomplishments or change or decisions is directly measured, in full or in part, by the attention it receives (hence the presence, lack, and/or division of spotlight appearing on the lists above. Trees falling in the woods and all that.)

However, some players can be really into internal roleplay, and find a lot of satisfaction in their characters’ various accomplishments and changes and decisions that come to a head at the end of the LARP, regardless of whether or not others know of it or acknowledge it. Still others may not be able to find satisfaction in the climax if no one else knows about it, but so long as least one or two other people know, that can suffice. And of course many LARPers vary, sometimes wanting lots of attention, sometimes needing none, or very little, depending on the context of the LARP, and the context of whatever is going on in their lives outside of the particular LARP they’re in (including, for example, other LARPs recently played.)

So now that we’ve looked at what climaxes often look like in LARP, and elements that contribute to their success and failure, we can think about how to create/encourage the successful ones, and avoid the failure ones.

Some of the items on the list have more to do with overall writing of a LARP than designing for the climax in particular, so I’m not sure I have any good thoughts on this other than “keep them in mind from the start when plotting/writing your LARP”. Namely, things like “players should feel like the climax reflect their actions/efforts” and “the climax should feel relevant to all players”.

Items like significant accomplishments or transformations being satisfying, and maintaining the status-quo often being unsatisfying, are a little tricky. Unless the LARP is designed to be on rails (and advertised as such), or even designed with a finger on the scales in favor of change, it can be very difficult to both encourage the more satisfying result without reducing the important element of player effort mattering. In fact, I’d argue that so many LARPs are designed to favor the Good Guys succeeding in their Important Task, that it’s usually better to write and give the Good Guys a decent chance at failure and the Bad Guys (especially if they’re equal or near equal in number to the Good Guys) a decent chance at success.

While the Bad Guys winning can be a downer sort of climax, players can be both rather perceptive about picking up on cues that the Good Guys were likely to win anyway (and rather skeptical about their own efforts making a huge difference in the outcome even if there weren’t any specific cues.) While this is particularly true of players who have been LARPing for a long time, this can also still be true of newbies, who often come in with assumptions based on other forms of media, especially roleplay forms of media, that they’ve already consumed.

Spotlight is also a very tricky thing to manage when it comes to climaxes in LARP. There are some adages regarding writing these styles of LARPs, “every character should feel like a star from their own point of view”. The larger the LARP, the more difficult this becomes; in weekend long theater litform LARPs with 60+ players, there are often multiple large plots coming to a head towards the end of the weekend, each relevant to different (often overlapping) subsections of the players. In fact, I think most of the weekend long, litform theater LARPs I’ve played had a bit of a rush on Sunday, with large moments (coronations, elections, duels to the death, competitions, weddings, deaths) competing for spotlight, and some amount of emotional whiplash as well (several wedding announcements and deaths coming in rapid succession).

In some cases, I’ve seen enforced separation of the climaxes of various plots, e.g. the results of the election are to be announced at 11:00am, the ceremony for installing the religious relic in the church will be at 11:30, and the wedding will be at 12:00. This has the benefits of ensuring players who want to bask a little in the moments that are important to them, won’t find attention suddenly rushing away from them on to the next thing. (Which can have more of a negative effect on satisfaction with a climax than not having had much of the attention to begin.) This rushing can also decrease the realism of the moment — in real life, no one sprints away from a one minute coronation to observe a duel.

The downside is that whatever is scheduled last tends to seem like it is the “biggest” of the plots, and plots that wrap up too early can leave players feeling adrift for longer periods of time until the LARP ends, especially if no thought in terms of LARP design was given to their experience of the denouement.

Speaking of denouement, providing options for what players might be doing after their biggest plots wrap up can not only avoid the feeling of “now what? I’m just sitting around waiting until they call game off” but importantly, provides something to do in case the various forms of climaxes don’t interest the players. Sometimes players just don’t want to attend the ceremonies and duels and announcements, perhaps because they lost the competitions or failed at their goals, perhaps because they don’t feel they’re relevant to their characters either way, or they had a particularly emotional moment, such as the death of another character, and prefer to focus on the roleplay of grief rather than, say, attend celebrations. Maybe the mechanics of the big battle just don’t interest them.

Providing alternatives can be a difficult thing to do, especially in LARPs that take place in a single room, but in larger LARPs, this can be as simple as providing a comfortable, immersive space, possibly with some immersive activity to engage it. (For example, on Sunday of Shogun, with so many deaths going on around me, I withdrew to one of the very well dressed rooms upstairs and tried some meditation and origami, rather than remaining overwhelmed by the chaos in the main room.)

Creating alternatives to attending the big climactic moments in the LARP might raise the concern of reducing the audience and thus the spotlight that these moments might need to feel properly momentous. In a LARP with a large enough player base, this might not be an issue, so long as some percentage of LARPers want to attend, but if GMs are concerned, maybe that’s a moment for GMs to temporarily take on NPC roles that are somehow meaningful as witnesses?

Working on choreography is another way to increase the weight of the dramatic moments of a LARP climax, even if the audience is small (or non-existent). Lighting and music cues can go a long way, though obtaining equipment, dedicating staff to it, and getting the timing right may not be worth it. Props, set dressing, and costuming for NPCs, brought out for the first time during the climax can be impactful (but it does mean budgeting time, money, and effort towards items that will only be out for a short part of a LARP.) An example might be creating royal banners for the various potential new monarchs, and hanging the ones bearing the new king’s coat of arms for the conclusion of the LARP.

The trickiest form of creating a satisfying climax might be encouraging players to engage in internal roleplay, or highly personal interpersonal roleplay with one or two other LARPers, and feel that it makes for a satisfying climax. Plenty of players are inclined to do so on their own, but how does a GM contribute to its likelihood? Or increase the level of satisfaction with it?

One method I’ve seen pop up a few times is to introduce some sort of prompt for a highly personal decision just before the end of the LARP. This might be some sort of questions like, “will you go into exile or stay here? You may only take one person and one item with you”.

Here I want to mention The Wonder Walk of Musica Universalis. Musica Universalis was a weekend long one shot LARP, with pre-written characters and boffer mechanics for combat, though combat was a much smaller part of the experience than it is for most weekend long boffer events, with many players never engaging in combat if they preferred not to. On Saturday night, the staff went out into a wooded area, and created lots of winding paths with glow sticks and string lights. There were stops along the paths, with random little interactive encounters, some simply meant to be surreal, or whimsical, others designed to evoke internal roleplay. Players went through the Walk one at a time, for a quite, introspective experience. I thought it was tremendously cool, and would love to see more like it in LARPs. It might also make a good template for a nice send-off for a LARP, with the end of such a path corresponding to the end of a LARP — with players choosing the path out of the labyrinth when they’re ready to step out of character. (You can see photos and read more details here.)

While many weekend boffer events hold their climax Saturday night, and the Wonder Walk could have served as a climax of sorts, the actual climax of Musica Universalis was the final ritual, in which all of the PCs and NPCs came together to sing one of the songs that had been sent out in advance for everyone to learn. With all of the voices joining in almost a spontaneous fashion, this finale both felt like it had a high level of choreography, and also enabled everyone to contribute their voices and join in equally. (Another musical LARP, ‘Tis No Deceit, and its sequel, Interesting Times, also make good use of music and have closing songs to create a nicely choreographed finale.) A good example to follow.

If you have thoughts on what makes for a good climax for one-shot LARPs, please do share in the comments below! What makes them satisfying or unsatisfying for you? In what ways do you think some of the common forms could be improved?

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Summer Projects Results

Back in July, I posted about the list of summer crafting and sewing projects for LARPs that I had on my plate. Since then, I added one more to the list, and completed them all, to various degrees of satisfaction. I thought I’d write a post about how they turned out.

1. My Beholder Hood

I was cast as Bobbie the Beholder in Dungeon Owner’s Association, a short LARP that ran at Summer LARPin’ (a one day event of LARPs that ran at WPI.)

 

My materials included green fleece, red lining fabric, white felt for the teeth, a giant googly eye, crafting foam cones and balls (I think intended for floral arrangements), and stick-on gems. Everything came from Jo-ann Fabrics, Michael’s, and A. C. Moore.

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Beholder materials

For the base, I followed the same pattern I used for my Animal costume (for the LARP Muppet Purgatory). For all of the details, it was a lot of trial-and-error with hot glue. I used a knife to carve the foam cones into curvier, more irregular shapes for the tentacles, then covered them in fleece. I also glued circles of fleece to the balls — it was hard to get the relative size right, such that it would cover the right amount of the balls while having a bit still coming off the ball to resemble lids. The pupils were black stick-on gems.

The main giant eye-ball was hot glued on, then I rolled up some fleece and glued one piece over the edge of the top, and one over the bottom. I think adding these eyelids really helped. I cut irregular triangles out of the white felt and hot glued them inside the mouth. I tried on the hood a couple times as I did, trimming the teeth down to ensure they wouldn’t obscure too much of my vision.

I stuck the dark red stick-on gems all over for texture. Initially, I had trouble getting them off once I placed them, so I thought no additional adhesive was needed. I was wrong — they lasted for awhile, and then started shedding. I still find individual little gems popping up in random places.

Worn over a black zentai hood (to hide my face inside the mouth,) the result was actually pretty cute. I have since found other giant googly eyes, one with a cat-style pupil, and one straight up green monster (in which the pupil don’t move, sadly… I guess they’re not really “googly”.) I wish I’d seen them sooner; I’m tempted to try and replace the main eye.

But in the meantime, I completed the hood with time to spare, it resembles what it’s meant to, it got quite a reaction at the LARP, it stayed well together (except the gems), it’s pretty cute and reusable. So I’m calling this project a success.

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Future beholders?

Final Grade: A-

2. Rabbit Run Hoodie

I was cast as Strangelove  for the first Little Boffer Con’s run of Rabbit Run, a dystopia/cyberpunk one-shot boffer LARP with pre-written characters. My backstory involves being a project of PryMor, the evil cyborg corporation bent on “uplifting” humanity, and I wanted my costuming to reflect that. I focused more on the cyberpunk aspect than the dystopia aspect (previous Strangeloves have gone in a heavily-distressed-thrift-store-finds direction). Maybe this Strangelove still wore the sort of sterile, uniform-ish clothing PryMor would have put them in.

I found a black scuba knit with diamond-shaped cut-outs over mesh, which looked suitably cyberpunk to me. Having NPCed Rabbit Run before, I knew the indoor boffer LARP had intense combat and could easily lead to overheating, so I figured this fabric would allow a fair amount of airflow. I also found a pretty simple, loose pullover hoodie pattern, with a big front pocket and long sleeves with holes for the thumbs.

I had never sewn with scuba knit before — it’s a pretty unusual fabric, and it took some getting used to, especially around the seams, but it’s also pretty easy to work with in many ways, which was a relief. In retrospect, I didn’t need to hem parts of it — it doesn’t shred at all, so if I was careful to cut cleanly, I could just leave the edges raw. In some places I did, and I wish I had done so for the whole thing.

The final result was pretty cyberpunk looking — in the right light, against the right background, the cutout pattern really stood out on the hood, which was nice.

I also added “PRJCT 2213” to the chest; surely PryMor would label their projects by their numerical designation. (I realized this would make it harder to re-purpose the costume later.) I was very persnickety about the color, font, and size of the embroidered letter appliques, and searched through various stores and online sites until I found one I liked. Sadly, the set didn’t have numbers, so I re-purposed a Z, an I, and an E for the numbers. Frustratingly, the set only came with one Z, so I went back and bought an additional set just to get the numbers right.

The final outfit hoodie more or less came out as I imagined, and it was comfortable enough during the LARP. I wish I’d worn it over something different to make the cutouts stand out more on my torso, but overall, I was happy with my Rabbit Run costume.

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Run, Rabbit.

Final Grade: B+, points off for creating unnecessary bulky hems and one of the numbers peeling off

3. Harry Potter Marauders’ Map Tote Bag

Making tote bags has kinda become my thing — they’re pretty easy, even for someone of my low skill level, not too expensive (mine usually work out to around $18 in materials), pretty useful in a broad sense, and there are so many fun character prints at Jo-ann Fabrics that can make them appealing to my nerdy social circles. I’ve made Star Wars, Dr. Who, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Super Mario Brothers, and Marvel Comics tote bags. (It’s this pattern, by the way. I always make the biggest size.)

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tote materials

There was a LARP-like event that had a charity raffle during the summer, so I made another tote, this time using a fun new Marauder’s Map print that I really liked.

Sadly, I failed to coordinate with the staff member running the event, so the tote never made it there, but then I had it left over for a raffle prize for Time Bubble. (Last time, I donated the Mario tote bag.)

The sewing on the bag came out pretty cleanly, so I’m happy with the bag, and I hope the LARPers who won it in the raffle enjoy it.

Final Grade: A. But this was an easy project.

4. Pokémon Costuming: Pikachu

Years ago, I bought a zip-up yellow hoodie sweatshirt, and added ears and stripes to it, along with a detachable tail, to use as a Pikachu cosplay. I worried it would be too warm for an outdoor boffer LARP in August, so I planned to make something new from scratch (and bring the hoodie in case it got cold at night or something.)

I bought the materials to make a yellow cropped hoodie (out of a very light knit material), with ears and stripes, but for timing reasons, that didn’t materialize. Instead, I bought two yellow t-shirts and added big brown stripes to the back with iron-on adhesive. I reused my detachable tail from my old cosplay, and bought a hairband with Pikachu ears online. I didn’t realize when I ordered it, it was actually a knock-off brand — the label read “Lightning Squirrel”, but it looked just fine. It also came with a tail, much smaller than my cosplay tail, but when my cosplay tail got thoroughly soaked by the thunderstorms on Friday evening, I was really glad to have a back up.

I also painted my nails in yellow, wore my big black contacts, and yellow socks. I wish I’d managed to find comfortable yellow sneakers, yellow fingerless gloves, and maybe some yellow leggings. I did draw on a yellow poncho with black, brown, and red sharpies to create a rain-proof costume, which I think was a decent last minute addition, especially considering how much it rained that weekend. It definitely wasn’t the ambitious project I initially envisioned, but it functioned just fine.

Final Grade: B-

5. Pokémon Costuming: Raichu

This costume consisted of a purchased white and orange t-shirt, face paint, and a homemade set of ears and a tail. The ears were ad-libbed in a bit of a rush. I tried to shape them a bit… they did not come out as I’d hoped. (They have a serious Yoda vibe.) The tail came out alright, and I found a way to prop it up with a choker. I didn’t end up evolving in-game, so the costume hasn’t seen any use. I would definitely like to redo the ears if I ever did find a use for it.

Final Grade: C

6. Pokémon Costuming: Sandshrew

I made this costume for a friend. It was mostly compiled of purchased items that got altered. We ordered t-shirts in white and beige, and I drew Sandshew’s brick-like pattern on the sleeves. I also bought a khaki military cap and drew on it and painted it with fabric paint, and added little stuffed triangle ears. The tail was just a large stuffed triangle of beige flannel, with loops added for a belt. The best part was probably an armadillo shell-like backpack purchased online, which came in shiny silver, but I painted it a sandy color and added some vertical black lines. The result very much resembled Sandshrew’s rounded, armored back, and it really created just the right silhouette. The whole outfit looked very Sandshrew-ish, and also had a practical, outdoorsy kind of adventurer vibe. It was very cute, and got a really good reaction from fellow players at the LARP Pocket Monsters; The Hunted.

Final Grade: A- (points off because the belt loops on the tail were poorly done and ended up ripping by the end of the LARP)

7. Pokémon Costuming: Sandslash

In case Sandshrew evolved into Sandslash, I made a second hat with fabric paint and stuffed pieces sewn on. I also created a back piece, covered with big brown stuffed spikes to pin over Sandshew’s backpack. This was done half with a sewing machine, half with hot glue in the interest of speed and… it didn’t come out how I might have liked. I think the shape of the spikes looked a bit off, and I wish I had bought more fabric to make a lot more of them, so they’d look more densely clustered. The plan to safety pin it to the backpack also likely would have been awkward and time consuming. I think the hat looked a bit awkward as well.

Fortunately, Sandshrew didn’t end up evolving, either, so the ‘Slash costume never had to replace the much better ‘Shrew costume. There was also an NPC Sandslash who appeared on the last day of the LARP; it was less literal interpretation, but looked amazing and I wouldn’t have wanted my work compared to it.

Final Grade: C-/D

8. DEXEMBER’s new dress

Redoing most of my costume for the cyberpunk LARP, Threshold, has been on my agenda since the first event. I still haven’t redone DEX’s cropped hoodies (which were meant to represent the combat and medic drones she can pilot), but her main costume (her “social chassis”) has bits that don’t fit well and there are too many layers. So I used a super simple pattern, and made a new jersey dress in gray and orange, the colors of Vanderson Pharmaceuticals, DEX’s megacorp sponsor. I painted the Vanderson logo on the front with white fabric paint over an applique V.

The dress fits pretty well, and it’s nice and light and comfortable. Sadly, I didn’t do the best job on the sewing (I always have trouble with sleeves) and some of the fabric paint bled through to the back, so there’s a weird white streak that shouldn’t be there. I will probably eventually redo it from scratch.

Final Grade: C

Weirdly enough, I currently have no projects on my plate. But there is another tote bag in my future (Consequences has a raffle for charity every year), and Intercon S sign-ups have begun. I’d say I’m gearing up to costume for my first round pick, which has already sent out casting questionnaires, but let’s be honest — I’ve been picking up potential sewing patterns and looking over fabric options since this LARP was merely an idea…) Plus I’ve already promised to do some set dressing for said Intercon LARP, and it’s never too early to get started on those…

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Ready to dance with some dragons…

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Time Bubble 2018

This past weekend, I was back at RPI in Troy, NY for Time Bubble. Initially, I was only signed up for two LARPs, but I ended up filling in for a last minute drop for a third. I also ran my first practical costuming workshop.

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RPI campus’ view of Troy

The last minute drop was in A Mayfair in the Colonies, a five hour LARP about the build up and beginning of the American Revolutionary war. I played this LARP back in 2014, at Festival of the LARPs, when I was cast as Molly Pitcher, and had a great time. This time, I filled in for the role of Sarah Winthrop.

LARPs written and run (or co-written and co-run) by this GM tend to be among those with the most elaborate set dressing at Intercon. The Bubbles (and other LARP events at RPI) tend towards minimal set dressing, so I think A Mayfair in the Colonies really stood out. The structure and furniture of the classrooms in our usual buildings on campus didn’t lend themselves easily to elaborate sets, until two of the usual classrooms were converted into a single large room and filled with tables and chairs (rather than small desk/chair combos.) Mayfair took full advantage of this new room.

 

I had a wonderful time in this LARP, despite having only skimmed the rather long and detailed character history only once, two nights before the LARP, and failing to find time to review the rules. (The rules briefing at the start of the LARP and the character information and goals summary page at the end of the character sheet helped a lot.) I did still manage to make a few mistakes in pursuit of my personal goals, which wasted time, but I had fun wasting that time, and I think that’s what matter.

I find heavily factional LARPs, featuring a single major factional conflict (such as two opposing sides in a war) can sometimes skew in favor of a particular faction (sometimes by design, sometimes not), and then a majority of runs end the same way. To the credit of A Mayfair in the Colonies, it has thus far run three times and had three different endings, which speaks of an even-handedness in the writing that I think is particularly tough to accomplish when there’s a canonical historical ending that the average player might see as the desired outcome.

My favorite moment in the LARP was definitely the dance around the maypole — there was one set up in the center of the room, and about eight players took ribbons in hand and wove over and under one another in time to the music. There was actually a few feet of the pole where the pattern came out very prettily — clear and even, which we felt rather proud of. It was nice to have a pause in the fast paced goal pursuit, scheming, and battle planning to try out a colonial experience. I think I said this last time, too, but I would love to see more LARPs with maypoles in them!

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the maypole

During clean up, I saw the maypole was supported by a Christmas tree stand, built into a crate with cinder blocks. I thought it was smart to create that extra support, as dancers might pull on the ribbons; it turns out this design was originally to prevent a house cat from knocking over the Christmas tree.

On Saturday, I played in two more LARPs. So It Seems a Solstice is a LARP about various myth-like spirits telling stories to stitch the sky together anew. I played Feline (who was sometimes Panther and sometimes Lynx). This LARP uses tarot decks to prompt collaborative storytelling, and puzzle solving to stitch together a new sky full of constellations from our tales. I had fun solving puzzles, and I thought the sky was a particularly pretty homemade prop.

Megalomania caught my interest because I heard it was written with a focus on the concept of diagetic puzzles. Sometimes, creating diagetic (and not overly hamfisted) puzzles in LARPs can be very challenging — lots of puzzles in LARPs are introduced as abstracted mechanics to represented a challenge (often mental). So It Seems a Solstice provides examples of abstract, non-diagetic logic puzzles (for example, one is a bridges puzzle that represented a search), while the process of putting together the sky is a sort of hybrid, semi-diagetic, semi-abstract puzzle inspired by quilting.

My character wasn’t as deeply involved in the puzzle solving as some of the others, but I did have fun creeping people out — this was probably one of the most evil characters I’ve ever played, one who didn’t care about what society and her fellow magi might think of her. A number of the players said I stood out as being rather unsettling and creepy, which was nice to hear, especially since it was a whole LARP full of evil wizards and their minions.


On Sunday, I ran a workshop on making t-shirts into garb-ish tunics. I did this once before as a gift to someone, and it didn’t come out half bad. The materials were fairly cheap and it could be reproduced with rather basic crafting methods, that beginners without sewing machines could replicate. So when some LARPers saw the tunic at Time Bubble, a few expressed interest in learning to make them.

The workshop… didn’t exactly go as I well as I might have hoped. Gathering the materials while staying under budget (it was important to me to be able to put them together for $20 per person, to show how affordable costuming can be) went fairly well — I found coupons and sales and a really nice etsy shop selling the sort of trim I wanted at the prices I needed. I tested out a couple different iron-on adhesive on the t-shirts and trim in advance, and picked the adhesive that went on smoothly and lasted nicely through a washing machine and dryer cycle.

….Somehow, even though all of the trims (including my test trim) were jacquard with metallic threads, at the workshop, the adhesive wasn’t melting properly and sticking to the trims. The whole process went a lot slower than I thought it would, and I realized a combination of sheets of iron-on adhesive, in addition to the tape roll of adhesive, would have probably been easier and faster to manipulate.

I think learning to insert the eyelets went alright, though it’s slow work when one is first getting the hang of it. (I got to try eyelet pliers, which can be a little trickier to get the hang of, but once you do, they’re much faster and quieter than the hammer method, so I learned something too! Next time I have a project involving eyelets, I’ll pick up eyelet pliers.) Only one person finished their collar, but it came out very nicely. I hope I’ll be able to help them through the rest of the process in the near future. I don’t know if there will be interest in a second workshop, but I think I could improve on the experience, especially now that I have a better sense of how much time it takes.

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the finished collar

Posted in conventions, LARP, LARP Reviews, theater | Tagged | Leave a comment

RPI TheoryCon 2018

Back in early August, I was in Troy, NY for the first RPI Theory Con.  We spent the day in the classrooms of the Carnegie building, where we usually play short theater LARPs during Time Bubble and Dice Bubble, holding one hour discussions and presentations on various LARP related topics. It was the third event I attended this year centered around LARP discussion (the other two being NELCO and Living Games) and while I know it’s been awhile, I still think it’s important to do some form of documentation on them.

My schedule for the day included: a presentation on the Permission Space of LARP, sort of helping to present Costuming 101: From Character to Costume, four round table discussions on Stabbing Your Players With Feels (Using Writing), Boxing a LARP, NORMS (that is, the norms of different LARPing communities) and Content Warnings, and lastly, a presentation on the History of Theatrical LARP in the Northeast. Then on Sunday, I played in But Thinking Makes it So, a LARP written for the Marathon of LARP Writing, a two day writing contest, similar to Iron GM. (I hear some people have nicknamed the contest “Bronze GM” but this is apparently a controversial nickname. Personally,  I think I prefer it to MOLW, which I haven’t yet heard pronounced out loud.)

Unfortunately, I missed the first twenty minutes or so of Permission Space  of LARP, though I have since read over the slides. The permission space refers to the environment or context in which one has more freedom, socially, to engage in behaviors they wouldn’t otherwise. (This concept is related to ideas like the “magic circle” and “alibi”.)

The presentation went on to cover various typical behaviors the permission space permits (e.g. evil acts and intimacy). I think my favorite part was the mention of costuming — getting to wear things otherwise not approved of by society — which is an angle I hadn’t considered but it’s definitely one of my favorite things about LARP.

But the permission space isn’t limitless, and setting expectations and boundaries is an important part of running LARPs. We went over the value of the permission space and the challenges and risks associated with them. (Notably, despite common misconceptions, behavior in LARP can have repercussions outside of the LARP.)

Most of Costuming 101: From Character to Costume was a slideshow put together by a much more experienced costumer than me. It went over the staples of a closet for people who regularly play lots of different short LARPs in a variety of genres — four or five outfits that will cover your bases for the most common character tropes. (Particularly for the RPI LARPing community, and by extension, events that run similar sorts of LARPs, like Festival, SLAW, and Intercon.) The list included lab coats, suits and evening wear, a robe, and generic “garb”.

Other topics included practical considerations (pockets, footwear) and tips for getting the most use out of accessorizing. (At some point, I’d like to expand our discussion of masks for glasses-wearers into its own blog post.) Then, for those who like to design and/or create (or commission) costumes for the ground up, the presentation went over tips for research and ways to use a character’s history, personality, and role in the LARP to inform your costuming.

My primary contribution was a brief talk and demonstration of underused techniques for LARPers who have very little experience, a low budget, and/or no access to a sewing machine. I like to use iron-on adhesive and iron-on transfers to add character detail to costuming, particularly as heraldic devices on cloaks and tabards (and also for banners and flags for set dressing.) I’ve also used iron-on adhesive, gromets, and trim to turn plain t-shirts into costumey-looking tunics, and I showed a couple examples to the audience. I also brought out a chiton to show, chitons (rectangles with pins) for really easy, quick costuming. Not just for LARPs in Greco-Roman settings, but I’ve also used them for angels, some sci-fi characters, fairies, and other fantasy costuming. (The t-shirts turned into tunics received some feedback that inspired me to run a workshop on creating them, which is running at the next Bubble.)

 


I also talked a bit about how layering with scarves and wraps can give plain, mundane clothing a historical or fantastical flair, and how your average department store has a lot of clothing with costuming potential. I’ve used an embroidered tunic meant as a beach cover-up for costumes, along with ruanas and caftans. (All also fairly easy to sew.) And the black military-style jacket I brought to wear to the LARP on Sunday happens to be the piece of clothing I’ve used most for costuming, in lots of different LARPs, so I talked a bit about what makes it so versatile. (Being androgynous and sort of historical looking without seem too specific to a particular era or class helps.)

The best part of Costuming 101 was that the primary presenter brought extra fabric, a sewing machine, and a serger to teach attendees how to make a basic packet for carrying common LARP writing materials (namely, manila envelopes or paper, and index cards) and a few people made some pretty fabric packets. I’ve often thought the ubiquitous manila envelopes used for LARPs in the local community, while convenient and practical, often create a visual distraction in LARPs, and having nice fabric packet, perhaps one made from costuming scraps to blend into the setting and with a player’s look, is a really nice solution.

 

My first round table discussion was Stabbing Your Player With Feels (Using Writing). I wish I could have taken notes during this conversation. It was mostly people sharing stories of successfully evoking emotions — mostly negative ones, particularly sadness — in their players, or having their emotions successfully evoked. We talked about doing so through character histories, and the more tricky task of evoking them during play. One particular tip I liked was the notion of not focusing on a single emotion throughout a character history, but switching it up to punctuate particular moments. For example, a mostly happy character background with a single poignant tragic moment.

The conversation at Boxing a LARP was held by a mix of people who want to box their LARPs and people who run LARPs written and/or boxed by other people. (I think mostly the latter.) Personally, I was interested in the topic because a LARP I’ve aGMed three times (most recently at the last Intercon) is running at Consequences and I’m aGMing again, btu this time, without either of the writers as a primary GM. For the Intercon runs, it had been a few years, so prepping for the LARP involved a lot of digging through old props, rereading all the materials, and trying to piece together the various plots and puzzles we could barely remember. (I’ve heard this sort of thing get categorized as “forensic GMing”.) I was hoping to pick up some useful tips that would help me help the Brits in November.

We talked a lot about things that make LARPs easier to run for people who aren’t the GMs. One of my personal preferences — having the documents stored individually, and also in one single document, so that printing can involve hitting print a single time, but scanning through individual parts of the LARP is easier. Other items on the wish lists for boxes LARPs include tips for casting (especially if it doesn’t come with a casting questionnaire), accessibility to writers in case of player of questions before the LARP. (during a run is a lot less likely/practical) and set up instructions, not just for where to place props, but ideal configurations for space and furniture and lighting (eg does it help to have breaks in line of site? A single area where everyone can gather at once? etc.)

After dinner, I joined the NORMS discussion. We discussed the various types of LARP-related trends that develop within communities, which can be explicit or unspoken (or even subconscious), and how to handle conflicting cultural norms when different communities come into contact. This can be something as straightforward as “we typically have character sheets that are 3 to 8 pages in length, and when a LARP differs from this, we make this clear to prospective players in the blurb.” to something more subtle or less quantifiable, eg “this community tends more towards PvP, within a range dictated by indications in the setting and mechanics of the LARP”. The norms can refer to in-game content, or meta-structures in the community. For example, how acceptable is it for players to drop from a pre-cast LARP, and what, if anything is expected of communication with the GM if they do?

The group shared a number of personal stories of LARPers running into contrasting cultural norms, and we brainstormed over what lessons were learned from them and how we might prevent common problems that arise from them. We talked about the various ways a LARP can communicate its norms to new members, whether it’s through event websites, with sections for convention policies and/or guidelines, through descriptions in LARP blurbs, or the introduction and/or rules sections of individual LARPs’ reading materials. I particularly liked one of the methods Consequences (the British LARP convention) used — offering newbies to be assigned a “con buddy” who would be available (mostly via email) before hand to make suggestions and answer questions.

This discussion segued into one on Content Warnings (since it was in the same room and interested a number of the same attendees.) We talked about current cultural trends in Content Warnings. Intercon, as the largest of the local theater cons (and the source of the programming that runs the websites and sign ups) in some ways is capable of setting standards for the local communities, which local communities can decide if they want to follow or diverge from them. For example, in recent years, Intercon has introduced and updated new policies on content warnings on LARPs I believe it was at Intercon M we started requesting the GMs include potential “trigger warnings” in their blurbs, and later the language was updated to “content warnings”. Today, NEIL has a content warning policy on our website, and there’s a section of the LARP proposal form labeled Content Warning that is visible to players, and a section on “offensive elements” designed to catch additional elements that should be in the Content Warnings but were missed. I particularly appreciate the part of the policy which reads, “[i]f a GM team wishes not to include content warnings in their game description, a message will be added in their place. This message will read ‘The GMs of this LARP have chosen not to include a content warning. If you have any questions about the content in this LARP, please contact <the listed contact address for the game>.'”

The last event I attended at Theory Con was the talk about The History of Theatrical LARP in the Northeast. It was great, really well prepared and thoroughly researched, starting from the earliest know theater style LARP* to today, going over about 35 years of of the various organizations and events that have shaped the local theater scene, along with some of the schisms that have happened. There were some great visual aids as well, artifacts from older LARPs that have run in the Northeast. I wish I could say the information might end up in an article (though there has been an article in the WyrdCon Companion 2012 that covered some of the same material) or at least the powerpoint might become public, but it seems unlikely, given that some of the information (particularly regarding schisms) might still be… let’s say, contentious.

 

 

I think Theory Con went really well, and I’m hopeful there will be more Theory Cons in the future!

 

I know this post is a bit spare on details so if you attended, please do share your favorite bits of advice or the most interesting thing you learned at Theory Con in the comments!

*This isn’t meant to welcome quibbles over what qualifies as the first theater LARP — in this context, we’re talking about the earliest LARP that is recognizable as part of an identifiable, continuous thread in the Northeast.

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Be-Con 2018

Last weekend I was in the Chicago area for Be-Con, weekend-long convention of theater LARPing. This was the first Be-Con; naturally, there was a fair amount of experimentation going on with the structure and logistics of the con.  I played in four LARPs, met lots of new LARPers, and had a wonderful weekend overall!

The system Be-Con used for LARP registration was very new to me. Most of the LARP conventions I attend/have attended (Intercon, the Bubbles, Festival, Consequences, Summer LARPin’, SLAW, etc.) use a First Come, First Serve system (or some minor variation), with multiple rounds of sign-ups. (That is, at a designated time, players sign up for one LARP and get into their preferred LARP based on who clicked on the sign-up button first, then some number of days later, the process repeats with players choosing a second LARP if they wish, etc.)

Be-Con, by contrast, sent out two options for forms to everyone who had registered for the convention. One listed all of the LARPs in a single category; the other had them grouped by time slot. Attendees could pick which form they wanted to use, and either rank all of the LARPs by preference, or rank all of the LARPs of each given time slot by preference. Then the staff ran the responses through an algorithm that assigned each attendee to a roster of LARPs.

I’m still a little unclear on the details of the algorithm (I’m hoping to be in contact with the person who designed it soon), but my understanding is that it selected attendees in a random order and assigned them to their highest ranked LARP that still had open slots. Once everyone had gotten their first LARP, a new round of assigning LARPs started, but the second round favored people who hadn’t received their highest ranked LARPs. (That is to say, if in the first round I ended up in my second choice for a LARP, in the second round, I’d be assigned to a LARP before someone who had gotten their first choice for LARP.)

This isn’t quite the full extent of the process — for example, I think the system also took into account people who requested to not be assigned into the same LARP as another attendee who makes them feel unsafe (either as a player or a GM).

Personally, I was not feeling too picky about the LARPs available; I was equally excited for a number of them, so it wasn’t really possible for the system to produce a disappointing roster for me. I asked around at the con — I don’t think anyone I spoke to personally felt disappointed with the schedules they wound up with, though some did express a desire for more control over their choices. I really appreciated that it was highly unlikely that some attendees would end up with none of their top choices in any slots while others ended up with all of their top choices for all their slots.

(By the way, I’m working on an article about LARP registration systems, and if you attended Be-Con and you’re reading this and are up for sharing some thoughts about it, I’d love to hear from you! You can post your contact info in the comments below or email me at fairescapelarp at gmail dot com.)

I quite liked the hotel chosen — fairly convenient to get to from the airport, with plenty of dining choices right next door. (I didn’t eat at the local restaurants, but I appreciated that others could easily and quickly gather for different dining options between and after LARPs.) The hotel rooms were fairly large suites, many with bedrooms separated from the kitchen/living room areas. They made it easy for attendees to host small groups to hang out, which is how I got to know a number of new LARPers better. I do think the hotel suites were a bit too small for the three LARPs I played in them, but it was nice to have them as an option, since (I believe) there were only two function rooms.

Be-Con’s social contract/safety policies were generally not unlike those of a number of other cons’ that I have attended, if a bit more detailed in some ares. The part that struck me as unusual was that the con had a set of safety mechanics as defaults for the community. GMs were able to override this for individual games, so long as it was clear in the game description. I have mixed feelings about this — I’m not a fan of all of the safety mechanics (in particular, I dislike the “OK Check In” for various reasons, and I’m uncomfortable with people either treating them as the default, or else like they should be), but I realize a lot of people do really like these mechanics, and I appreciate that GMs could opt out.

The four LARPs I wound up playing over the weekend were The Forget-Me-Not Hotel, Space Squids, Blackened Hearts, and The Witch of Thrush Hollow.

The Forget-Me-Not Hotel is set in 1938, and features an assortment of characters responding to mysterious invitations to a party at a hotel (along with some of the hotel staff.) Unfortunately, we hit a snag right away — out GMs were missing and no one was able to get in touch with them. (I think I later heard that they got lost and had no reception on their cell phones?) The players sat around the hotel room, debating what to do.

When a GM from another LARP (Thicker Than Water) that had some last minute player drops showed up and asked if any of our players would mind filling in. The Forget-Me-Not Hotel was designed to run easily without a full cast (with some characters being less crucial to the run of the game, and players taking on new roles if their characters die before the end), so a couple of our players left to ensure Thicker Than Water ran. (I would have gone myself, but my character was listed as one of the Forget-Me-Not Hotel characters that wasn’t optional to start with.)

Despite lacking our GMs, and a few players dropping out, we as a group decided to forge ahead. One of the players went online, bought and downloaded the game, skimmed it as fast as he could, and then GMed it/NPCed it for the rest of us. A little bit of the casting got shuffled around to accommodate the lack of some players. We might have messed up in some small ways (I know I personally got confused over some of my mechanics) but we all just kind of rolled with any confusion that cropped up. And I could easily understand players feeling unmotivated to try and get the LARP running without a GM, but the fact that most of us stuck around and made it work made this run something kinda special in my eyes.

On Saturday morning, I played in Space Squids. A few months ago, I spotted a post on tumblr seeking players for a playtest, which I shared in the hopes of seeing the game developed (and possibly boxed for other people to run?) and I was pleasantly surprised when it popped up on the Be-Con schedule. Costuming is entirely optional for this LARP, but a number of us players showed up in tentacle/cephalopod-themed shirts and skirts, there were some cephalopod-adorned hairbands, and even some scarves and hair braiding done to resemble tentacles. We made for a cute bunch of space squids.


I rather enjoyed the workshop, though we rushed through it, where we practiced some squid-like movement and learned the physicality of flirting and, er, “melding” with other squids. The mechanics for melding, which involve combining different hand configurations, are very cute and a lot of fun. The LARP itself mostly involves solving a series of puzzles (creating the most efficient combinations and configurations of group mind-melds), with a bit of roleplay around simple personality traits, relationship dynamics, and the impact of mind-melds.

The instructions for particular tasks handled through mind-melds (the puzzles) are varied, and that was one of my favorite aspects of the LARP. I do think the LARP might benefit from a little more variety in the puzzles themselves (or maybe just a little more constraint on the requirements to solve them?) but they were still a lot of fun and very silly. (In one mind-meld, we went briefly outside the function space, and I think we both confused and amused some random hotel guests, with our be-tentacled costumes and weird circle of hand-holding.)

The roleplay was a bit challenging for me; it wasn’t hard to portray my one-word descriptor (I was a Glum squid) but it was a little harder to insert my character’s interests (a low-tech, eco-friendly lifestyle) into conversations and put much effort into building relationships when the puzzles mechanics mostly dictated who melded with whom, and the melds were generally too large to meaningfully pick out and remember which personality traits and/or interests we might be temporarily acquiring. Nonetheless, I do think a few of us formed a potential pod with very compatible life goals and, ahem, mind-meld technique preferences.

There were also a couple of little surprise props that made me laugh. I hope this LARP ends up boxed — I could see myself running it at other cons, like the Bubbles.

Saturday afternoon, I played in Blackened Hearts, chosen for its potential for classic piratical fun. My character was the boastful sort, with a rather inflated opinion of themselves, and some lofty goals but rather doubtful plans on how to achieve them. So I decided to have fun playing up the personality and not worry about success. I talked loudly in front of just the wrong people and declined to use any of my mechanical abilities against anyone, but had a wonderful time gambling and throwing gold around to help my shipmates. I accepted every challenge thrown my way, no matter how absurd, and some highlights of my game included proving myself the best dancer and the best at talking up the cabin boy.

Sadly, my LARP for Saturday evening had been canceled because of some last minute drops, but I hope I will get the chance to play Monkeys, Monkeys, Monkeys some time in the future.

On Sunday, I played in The Witch of Thrush Hollow, a murder mystery game set in a small town haunted for over two centuries by the ghost of a witch. I was cast as a member of a mystery-solving gang, with some references to Scooby Doo in my background, so I brought some bandannas in the colors worn by the members of the Scooby Gang (I got brown for Scooby Doo himself), and we wore them to represent our group affiliation.

We weren’t able to solve the mystery, of course, but I had fun trying to interview the quirky townsfolk and piece together the clues into a timeline, looking for means, motive, and opportunity, all while trying to stay out of the sheriff’s hair. I think my favorite moment in the LARP was when, in the spur of the moment, I represented an illegal substance with powdered coffee creamer and got it under my nose and down the front of my sweater. (The sheriff then confiscated everything else I had on me.) Another highlight was a ukelele duel, represented by quickly finding some music on my phone and jamming on air-ukeleles.

Be-Con seems to have been a successful experiment, so I’m optimistic that it will run again next year. For me, it was a nice blend of other some other con experiences — it was about the size of the smaller LARP cons, like Festival or the Bubbles, while running in a hotel, like Intercon and Consequences. Both of these factors made it easier to get to know a new LARPing community, and I hope I can LARP in the Chicago area again in the near future.

(Be-Con, by the way, was sponsored by the LARP Endowment.)

Posted in conventions, LARP, LARP Reviews, theater | Tagged | 10 Comments

Pocket Monsters: The Hunted

This past weekend, I played in a one shot boffer LARP, Pocket Monsters: The Hunted. I have a sentimental sort of affection for the Pokémon franchise; I’ve played through Pokémon Blue and half of Crystal, and way back when, I used to watch the cartoon. Pikachu is one of my favorite Super Smash Brothers characters; I’ve cosplayed as the lightning mouse at a few geek cons. And anyone who has spent time in my presence over the last couple of years has likely seen me playing Pokémon Go.


So it probably comes as no surprise to say I’ve been very excited about this LARP ever since I heard about the concept, and every bit of information coming out from the staff had me looking forward to the LARP even more. It was billed as a comedic horror (or, more specifically, a dark comedy horror survival LARP), in which players play Pokémon, and NPCs play all of the humans, including trainers who would be hunting and chasing down the Pokémon to capture. I loved this concept.

Each Pocket Monsters player got to pick their own Pokémon to play from the original 150, excluding legendaries. (With the caveat that we had to begin as the first in an evolutionary line, e.g. we could start as a pidgey, but not as a pidgeotto or pidgeot.) I agonized over the decision for myself and a friend of mine for months, polling lots of people for opinions (particularly some of my fellow Pokémon Go enthusiasts who are likely now relieved they no longer have to hear about it.)

Factors included wanting to play something cute and recognizable (so that the costume could be reused as cosplay) and unlikely to overlap with other players’ choices. I also wanted it to be very flexible for the weather — I’ve played outdoor boffer LARPs in August before, with weather so hot and humid that even light, loose linen felt oppressive.

But I think my biggest consideration was costuming — I wanted something I felt I was capable of doing to my own satisfaction, without over-committing my time or money. I knew if I played certain Pokémon, I’d get a specific image of my ideal costume in my head, and I’d end up regretting it if I either couldn’t fulfill that image, or else fulfilled it and then found it somehow uncomfortable or impractical to wear. (I sometimes make myself a little nuts over costuming.) And I wanted to limit the number of costumes I made; I knew if I picked Eevee, I’d end up making four costumes, with two going unused.*

I ended up coming back around to Pikachu for myself, and Sandshrew for my friend. Since my old cosplay is a sweatshirt, I knew I’d be re-doing most of my Pikachu costume from scratch, along with a Raichu and Sandslash costume in case we evolved.


Of the four costumes, I’m quite happy with how Sandshrew turned out (and people really responded to it at the LARP, which was nice), and less thrilled with the other three. The Sandshrew costume was recognizable, and had a sort of practical, outdoorsy-adventurer vibe that I thought rather suited the armored, defensive Sandshrew. (I will save the details for a future post about my various costuming projects this summer.)

The mechanics for the LARP were relatively simple — the combat rules were not unlike a pared down version of Accelerant and a pared down system of elements from the Pokémon franchise. For abilities, each player got to choose one progression path — Offense, Defense, Buff, or De-Buff. (I picked Offense because it was the only path that got long weapons and ranged weapons, and had fewer calls to remember.) We also gained one hit point per hour. In practice, I felt like this system successfully captured the feeling of being Pokémon without overly complicating things.

I rather liked mechanics of capturing Pokémon — trainers could throw Poké Balls and declared a number (eg “Capture 10”). If the number declared was higher than your current hit points, you would be successfully captured by the trainer, who could then give you orders (and enter you into Pokémon battles and take you to gyms.)

And I particularly liked the communication rules — Pokémon were allowed to speak freely when only fellow Pokémon were present. In the presence of humans, we could only speak our names repeatedly, as the Pokémon do in the cartoons. I thought this sounded like it would a ton of fun (and I was right! It was one of my favorite elements of the experience.)

Overall, I think the staff did a fantastic job, and successfully accomplished what they set out to do. There was a bit of a genre/tone shift for me somewhere on Saturday, but Friday night and moments on Saturday captured the feeling of the horror genre better than any other LARP I’ve played, and horror is particularly difficult tone to capture in LARP.

Both PC and NPC costuming definitely deserve a mention here. We had a lot of leeway with our costumes — we were welcome to go simple or full detail/completion from head to toe, and span the spectrum from literal to representative. Some people had licensed onesies, others had drawn on t-shirts. Some people wore regular clothing that represented the Pokémon in color scheme and silhouette, some looked to Pokémon gijinka artwork online for inspiration, and at least one took inspiration from “what if Pokémon were real” artwork. (Ditto had a filmy pink layer over visible organs, on top of dozens of homemade accessories to represent various transformations. Way to go the extra mile!) The NPCs also trotted out so many different instantly recognizable trainers and Pokémon, I can’t imagine how many hours of work went into them. Special shout-outs to some of the custom boffers I saw, including Cubone/Marowak’s bone clubs, Farfetch’d’s leek, and Jigglypuff’s sharpie marker and microphone.

All of this costuming for an established franchise LARP had an interesting impact — I could instantly recognize and name over 30 characters right at the start of the LARP, and pretty much every NPC that came out. (No nametags required.) And this is from someone who can play campaign LARPs for years and still not know every PC’s name, let alone many of the NPCs. I think this had a really huge positive impact on my enjoyment and ability to feel immersed in the LARP. I might have thought there might be some meta-issues, moments where I wasn’t sure if my character had met another yet or if I was drawing on out-of-game knowledge, but this proved to be moot, thanks to the tone and structure of the LARP.

Of course, it also helped that for the one or two Pokémon I didn’t recognize immediately, they were still saying their names repeatedly, as I’m sure that was helpful for anyone less familiar with the source material. Also, many of the NPCs got their human role acting spot on (James and Jessie’s voices, Nurse Joy’s gentle kindness, Lt. Surge’s accent and derisiveness towards “da baby Pikachu”)… Some of the professor NPCs were brand-new to LARPing, and they did a great job. (I’m sorry to say I missed Brock making goo-goo eyes at Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny.)

As I mentioned above, Friday night was particularly successful for me in capturing the feel of the horror genre. We were lead into Pallet Town and to the Pokémon Center by an Oddish. Then I dipped out briefly to deal with my contact lenses, and by the time I got back, the Pokémon Center had been overrun by trainers, and everyone had scattered. It was very dark out, and there was a thunderstorm, with heavy rains and frequent flashes of lightning.

I caught up with Sandshrew, and we started searching the campsite for our fellow Pokémon, but until the Pokédex updated, we had no way of knowing which of our fellow Pokémon had already been captured and were under trainer control. Behind the bathrooms, we ran into Diglett, who was smiling oddly. He started praising Team Rocket and suggesting we join it, which set off alarm bells. (Diglett was dressed in a full body, hooded spandex suit and a bright red clown nose, which really enhanced the effect.) As we started backing away, he started shouting, “DIGLETT DIGLETT” to alert the nearby Team Rocket; Sandshrew and I bolted.

When I finally had to stop running to catch my breath, I realized I’d lost Sandshrew somewhere in the dark, but I was too scared to come out of the bushes. It was dark, I could hear far off voices of trainers and panicked Pokémon, it was pouring rain and thunder was rumbling. I couldn’t see much except for during flashes of lightning (which were having a negative effect on my night vision). I had a yellow poncho I’d made into a basic Pikachu costume when I’d heard there was going to be rain, but foolishly, I had given it to Sandshrew to hold during a brief gap between downpours, and I quickly became soaked to the bone. (The padding in my fleece tail and ears absorbed a lot of water, so I had to squeeze them out periodically.)

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Pika-poncho

I had no idea where to go — the place that might have been a safe haven (the Pokémon Center) was overrun. I decided I had to find Sandshrew and find out if he was still free or captured, so I started making my way slowly through the parking lot, ducking behind cars as flashlights floated by. I couldn’t see anything besides the bright points of light, and I didn’t know if it they were trainers or Pokémon, unless lightning flashes briefly lit them up. (It was very classic horror movie when the lightning revealed people.) At one point I really wasn’t sure if a light was approaching me or not as I hid behind a car, and my mind started racing. Maybe they would pass me by if I stayed silent? Or did they already know I was there, and I should I make a break for it, and risk getting caught as I ran?

This is what really captured the horror for me. It was brilliant.

At some point, I ran into Zubat and Rhydon, who were both still free. We quickly exchanged what little information we knew on who had been captured, and decided to try the Pokémon Center again, as there was no where else in-game to get out of the rain. (That we knew of.) But the Poké Center was still crawling with trainers. We thought about trying to get in the back door, but the trainers on the porch spotted us. Rhydon and I made a pact to split up — he’d go left, I’d go right, and hopefully they’d only chase one of us, so the other could make it. I got about halfway across the yard before they came at me, so I turned and bolted back the way I came, hoping Rhydon had gotten safely by.

At this point, I was so utterly soaked by the rain, I had to go back to my cabin and change clothing and shoes. (This is where I joined back up with Sandshrew.) Luckily, I had a backup tail that came with my ears, because the padding in my original tail had absorbed too much water. But we weren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves at this point, since there was no where to go and it didn’t seem sensible to just hide in the rain for awhile. Eventually, we decided to search for more free Pokémon, and this involved getting briefly lost on the paths through the woods (very appropriate for a Pokémon storyline) before heading to bed.

This is about where this post gets particularly spoiler-y. I have no idea how likely this LARP is to run again — it’s seems unlikely, but I think it really should. (Would be a shame if so much of the NPC costuming never got any more use!) I would definitely leap at the chance to NPC if it did. But maybe my wishful thinking isn’t enough… all I can say is spoilers below. Caveat lector.

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Pika, pika.

On Saturday, there was a lot less hunting going on — trainers largely had their teams. For awhile we focused on earning badges at the gyms. Some of them involved battling, some involved puzzles, others involved just helping out the gym leader with some problem. (Which is pretty true to the cartoon.) I particularly liked the dodge-ball mechanics of the Water gym (where we uncovered a love note from Misty to Ash — a cute little detail) and the Poison gym, which involved balancing on boards in combat before two of our number succumbed to poison. (Sadly, the Poison, Fire, and Psychic gyms all went off at the same time, so I missed Fire and Psychic.  I hear they were a lot of fun, with the Fire gym involving a game of The Floor is Lava.) In between gyms, the professors showed up and hosted a few contests, and invited us to try out different candies, and took notes on the results.

The second point of the LARP which I feel really captured the horror genre took place Saturday afternoon, when Professor Oak gathered us all into the Pokémon Center for an announcement, and clarified that once we were all inside, the doors were locked. (Gastly stayed outside and watched through a window. His mask was downright creepy, so having that scary face floating at a window actually added something to the scene.)

The professors had been acting pretty sketchy all along — the purposes of the contests were unclear, but they were clearly taking notes and quietly making plans for the winners. Additionally, there was also a pretty weird scene earlier in the day (which was pre-empted by announced content warnings) where the professors welcomed the PCs to the door of the basement, where we met a Ditto in a sexy dress. They invited us to go inside with the Ditto one at a time. As Pikachu, I was much too freaked out to go inside, but the Pokémon who did emerged with eggs. The professors were later trying to coerce us into giving up the eggs, even trying to prevent Nurse Joy from healing Pokémon who refused.

For those unfamiliar with the video games, some of the later editions have systems for breeding Pokémon, and Ditto is sometimes referred to as “the breeding stud of the Pokémon world” because it can cross-breed with any Pokémon, which makes it very useful for producing rare eggs.

(Shout out to the Ditto, whose body language and tone when they leaned on the doorway and said “ditto” in a tired, perfunctory sort of way, clearly meaning “next.” The acting in that tiny moment spoke volumes.)

It was as unsettling as it sounds. I couldn’t trust the professors after that, no matter how friendly they seemed. Pikachu participated in the contests both because they appealed to its pride** (which was pricked by Lt. Surge and his more powerful electric Pokémon) and because they were a primary source of Revive and Full Heal potions. (And on an out-of-game level, they were fun!)

Also, notably, there were mechanics preventing Pokémon from attacking humans.

We knew something was about to go horribly wrong when Professor Oak told us to gather for his announcement. And we were right. There’s a long standing joke among Pokémon Go players that when you trade Pokémon to Professor Willow for candy, the Pokémon are actually getting turned into candy. And at the Pokémon Center in Pocket Monsters, there was a large candy-dispensing machine prop made out of a cardboard box large enough to hold a person.

You can see where this is going.

Professor Oak announced that none of us had stood out by winning enough contests… I couldn’t quite hear the whole thing, but at the end of the speech his pulled out a gun and shot an NPC Clefairy who had been cooking in the kitchens. When Nurse Joy protested, he shot her too. Then he stuffed the Clefairy in the candy machine, and offered us the handfuls of candy that came out.

The entire room erupted into screaming, with Pokémon clawing at the windows to get out.

A number of Pokémon had already eaten candy at the instruction of their trainers, because it provided a boost in combat ability and enabled evolution, though it also muddied up one’s memories a bit. I hadn’t yet, neither had Sandshrew. (Actually, earlier in the day in a moment of unintentional foreshadowing, I had given my candy to the Clefairy.)

Now you know why neither Pikachu nor Sandshrew ended up evolving that weekend.

It got worse — as we were unable to communicate properly to the trainers, some of the trainers, ignorant of the source of candy, gave orders to their Pokémon to eat more. I literally knocked out Ivysaur twice because it was the only way I could see to prevent her from having to obey Brock’s order to eat another candy.

Mechanically, the death of Nurse Joy had a very interesting effect. Typically, in boffer events, whether one-shots or campaigns, healing is limitless, especially the slower forms of healing (as opposed to instant healing) which can be performed during downtime. There’s lots of good reasons for this — notably, when you limit healing, you provide incentive for people to avoid plot hooks and events; people want to conserve their hit points.

However, I do think it’s worth playing around with the concept of healing being significantly limited resource, especially for dark and/or horror settings. With the death of Nurse Joy, who had been providing limitless, instant full healing in the Pokémon Center, suddenly the only source of healing we had outside of combat were the Revives and Heals, which were mostly coming from Professors and as prizes from Gym Leaders. (During combat, the Pokémon who had chosen the Buff path had some limited healing.) Downtime no longer meant automatically returning to full health. We had to think about how to conserve our hit points and healing as a resource, which changed the feel of the game significantly.

Not too long after, we learned why Pokémon were unable to properly communicate with humans or attack them — there were chips implanted in our heads, and we needed to find a safe way to remove them and obtain and publicize evidence of the professors’ crimes. We had to defeat the remaining gyms to obtain an HMO1 in order to unlock Oak’s lab, where we would find the evidence and the means to remove our chips.

We ended up burying some evidence in the woods to retrieve later, and also publicizing the professors’ crimes by forcing a captured scientist to alter the online Pokédex. (It has since been corrupted; amusingly, we’re all listed as Missingno now.)

This is about where the LARP shifted away from the horror genre for me, and more towards a sort of dystopian heroic rebellion genre. The themes of justice vs. revenge, and holding the moral high ground vs. stooping to the level of the enemy, were brought to the foreground in interesting ways. In particular, the themes were reinforced by an odd little side-plot involving a crazy Mr. Mime who had declared himself the king of a nearby Pokémon-only country, free from humans and their control over us, only to become a tyrant. We had to treat with him and his fanatical Pokémon followers. (Eventually, we imprisoned him in a Poké-ball. Oh, the irony.)

I also hear that at some point, when I was not in the Pokémon Center, a human got stuffed into the candy machine. I don’t know if candy came out (“Randy-Candy”?), but sometime later, a bunch of Pokémon had the cathartic experience of smashing the candy machine.

A major highlight of the LARP for me was when a professor realized we could attack humans, and fled in a panic. Despite the protests of my fellow Pokémon that it was too dangerous, I went pelting after him. He thought he was safe on the path back to Monster Camp (the NPC building), but Pikachu was still hot on his heels. I thought for sure he heard me coming, but I somehow managed to catch him by surprise and lit him up with electric attacks (“PIKA PIKA PIKA!!!”) until he managed to reach the safety of the NPC building.

What can I say, Pikachu was slipping towards the dark side.

The final moments of the LARP involved us essentially slaughtering a bunch of helpless professors and scientists (who had been expecting to slaughter us, to be fair), which was an interesting choice. Usually, boffer LARPs that end in combat design the combat to be a difficult battle, so that winning feels like a climatic accomplishment. But this sort of thing nearly always involve the best combatants getting the spotlight in the final moments while others looked on. The one sided massacre at the end of Pocket Monsters had a perfectly shared spotlight for the entire cast of PCs. I didn’t participate in the slaughter (I guess Sandshrew kept me from falling entirely to the dark side), yet I didn’t feel overshadowed or irrelevant, as I often do, even when I’m active combatant in final battle scenes. To me, that’s a notable achievement.

Now, I’m home with a case of the post-LARP blues. There was another LARP that ran this past weekend, a musketeer and pirate themed event called A Wicked Wind, which seems unlikely to run again. (Despite my impassioned pleas to the head writer. I went through a phase of acute obsession with The Three Musketeers around 6th grade, and never really got over it.) I have no regrets over my choice to play Pocket Monsters — I had a wonderful weekend and I got to meet LARPers from another local community that I’ve been hoping to LARP with for ages, but it does breaks my heart that I couldn’t be in two places at once. (My kingdom for a Time Turner.)

I also seem to have developed a bad case of poison ivy from stumbling through the woods in the dark in a desperate attempt to avoid capture by trainers.

Totally worth it.

*Theoretically. It turns out, during the LARP, a vaporeon was able to become a flareon.

** Most people used he or she for their Pokémon pronouns, but I feel pretty strongly, based on the cartoon, Pikachu’s pronouns are it/it/its.

Posted in boffer, LARP, LARP Reviews | Tagged , | 2 Comments