Intercon P Part VI: The LARPs

Intercon Q starts in less than 24 hours, and I never finished my Intercon P posts. I got bogged down in details over PreCon panels, then procrastinated… Well, here are the LARPs I played at Intercon P, only about a year after they ran.

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On Friday night, I NPCed for Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. I would have happily PCed it, of course, but I knew if it wasn’t my first choice, I was unlikely to get in. A boffer one shot with a pirate theme was bound to be a popular choice. But I also really enjoy NPCing, so it wasn’t a large sacrifice.

During the LARP, I crunched as British naval sailors, random pirates, and some undead. I also briefly played a tavern wench in one non-combat scene. I had only the barest familiarity with the plot and the characters so I feel as though if it ever ran again, I’m unspoiled enough to play. It was “elevator style,” meaning the players return to small, separate area between scenes, which could represent a literal elevator stopping at different floors. In Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, the players returned to their pirate ship and sailed to various islands. I think all of the characters seemed fun — it’s hard not to be when you’re all pirates! — but there were a few in particular that I’d like to play, including one creepy character who started the LARP with her mouth sewn shut. There were also some neat mechanics, including one that represented single shot firearms and prolonged reloading time. I have no idea if this LARP will run again, but I would love to sign up if it does.

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two British naval sailors (in awkward lighting)

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ran late, so I was late to my next game, which I feel bad about. I played in Reunions, a LARP with a simple premise: a small group of friends hanging out at convention deciding what events to attend on the schedule, and then again getting together again for a second scene at a birthday party. Each of the characters has one aspect of their history swap between the scenes. I signed up for this LARP because I knew it was written to collect data for a linguistics paper by a linguistics PhD student, and linguistics is one of my passions. I was very interested to hear about the research, but I wanted a chance to play the LARP first. After the LARP, I got to hear all about the data collected, which was focused on the character who is male in one scene, and female in the other, and how we express gender through our language. Reunions offers a neat example of LARP contributing to science.

On Saturday morning, I NPCed again, this time for a LARP called Syncretism: A Coming of Age RitualSyncretism: A Coming of Age Ritual. Syncretism is a cyberpunk LARP, which uses a new combat system (still in development, at least when it ran at Intercon P.) This was another LARP where I mostly played crunchy enemies for the PCs to fight, and I had very little idea about what the PCs got up to. It seemed like they had a fun and emotional experience, so I’m glad that it’s running again at Intercon Q.

The system was definitely different from Accelerant, which is what most of the boffer one-shots running at Intercon use (and the boffer system I’m personally most familiar with.) There were some neat effects that I really liked, including one that forces your opponent to take a certain number of steps back (depending on the number you call) and a version that can affect everyone in the battle at once. They’re similar to the “disengage” effect of Accelerant, but more versatile with the addition of the number of steps, and the version that affected everyone simultaneously provides a really nice breather for NPCs when they’re grossly outnumbered and swamped by PCs.

Another interesting aspect of the system used for Syncretism: after each successful strike with a melee weapon, a player has to “reset” — some action (or inaction) that creates a pause in attempts to attack — before they can score another strike. It definitely changes the flow of battle and makes it less frenetic. I found that while trying to adjust to the system and remember the “reset”, I found it difficult to remember at first, and then overcompensated by resetting even after unsuccessful strikes, which quickly became a very difficult habit to break. I worried that I was basically sending the message “I think I’m scoring hits on you” every time I performed the reset motion, even when I missed. I think I personally need a little more time getting used to the system, but overall, I liked it. Like Devil, I would sign up to PC Syncretism if it runs again.

After lunch, I played in Congress of Vienna, a LARP set during the eponymous historical event, as French mathematician Sophie Germain. All of the characters were real historical personages, though there’s also a great deal of ahistorical supernatural shenanigans going on around the politics. I really enjoyed this game, as I’ve enjoyed a number of games by this set of authors in the past. I loved the complexities of my character. I was kept very busy enjoying politics, romance, and magic for four hours. I would highly recommend it if it runs again.

Sadly, my costume, which was probably the most difficult thing I’d ever sewn, did not come out very well. The skirt bunched awkwardly and the trim was held on with safety pins. If I ever play another Napoleonic era LARP, I’ll probably scrap it and start over. (Though I do hate scrapping costumes. I get so sentimentally attached to them, especially after wearing them in a LARP I really enjoy.) On the plus side, I do feel like I learned quite a lot about creating gathers and sewing overlays, though it was an expensive lesson, considering the fabric I wasted.

On Saturday evening, I played in a LARP called The Always Waltz. I think this LARP is highly spoilerable, so I won’t say much, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The blurb really called to me. I could never resist a LARP with a description that contains keywords like “horror,” “mystery,” “intrigue,” and “romance,” especially when the costuming requirements are as compelling as “[a]s close to decadent masquerade as you can get– mask is REQUIRED”. Also worth noting , the set dressing for this LARP was quite nice. There were drinks and dancing and mysterious dark magic afoot, and the players really took the costuming guidelines to heart. It was a very visually appealing LARP all around.

I had a lot of fun (and more success) preparing this costume — I made a skirt to go under a dress I’d found on clearance (so that it would look like a floor length dress) and put together a mask and wreath out of fake flowers and butterflies. (The necklace was borrowed.)

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My costume for The Always Waltz. Photo by John Kammer.

On Sunday morning, I signed up for the latest installment of the G.I. Joe series of LARPs, G.I Joe: Pirates. I sign up for this series whenever I can — it’s guranteed to be a fun, lighthearted note to end the con on, even if your brain is fuzzy from lack of sleep, thanks to the ridiculous, adorably poorly animated source material. It was another madcap adventure, with over-the-top shenanigans and silly challenges with playful mechanics. I was cast as the Baroness this time around (I’ve played Snake Eyes, the mute ninja, in the past) and had fun trying out her ridiculous unspecified Eastern European accent. (It wavers between Russian-ish and German-ish in the cartoon.)

This costume was a lot easier — all black with a Cobra Command decal stuck to my shirt.

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The Baroness of the early AM run with the Baroness of the late AM run.

And those were my LARPs of Intercon P! Eventually, I’ll get back around to finishing my posts about PreCon, but that will probably wait until after Intercon Q. I made a promise to myself I wouldn’t procrastinate again this year like I did last year.

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Dice Bubble 2017

This past weekend I was back in Troy, NY for Dice Bubble, RPI’s winter weekend of theater LARPing.

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This prop was floating around con suite. No idea why.

I was originally signed up for four LARPs, but unfortunately, my Friday night LARP was canceled. There was a valiant effort to replace it; three smaller LARPs were prepped and ready to go, but sadly, we no longer had the player numbers. I was even cast in a seven player LARP called Planes of Harmony, but hopefully, we’ll get a future run arranged. (And I’ll be able to costume with more than just black clothing and colorful makeup pulled out of my suitcase.)

 

My first LARP on Saturday morning was Speed Dating for Heiresses. It’s a speed dating game, naturally (another genre unique to LARPing, I think), featuring British aristocrats in need of money, and “dollar princesses” — wealthy American heiresses who want to marry someone with a title. (Downton Abbey‘s Cora Crawley née Levinson was one such.) In this LARP, all of the characters have some odd quirk, secret, and/or scandal to make matchmaking a challenge. The character sheets are pretty bare bones — just a handful of facts, and the players get to fill in the blanks. I decided, based on some of the details, that my character was fairly sheltered and innocent. I thought this would make her an undesirable partner, as a number of them had vices they’d surely want to continue indulging, but I did make a match with one of the gentlemen present. Amusingly, the player I exchanged flowers with filled in the details of his character’s life with the life of Scrooge McDuck. Heiresses makes for a nice, flexible, easy to run, easy to play pick-up game, especially for people who like to do a little on-the-spot creative improv with character creation and portrayal as part of the game.

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Flowers from Heiresses

After an hour lunch break, I attended a presentation titled, “Algorithms and Authoring,” which was about using math to estimate how much plot a LARP has and how busy the players will be, based on things like how many players there are overall, how many are involved in the various plotlines, how complex they are, etc. It was an interesting, unique take on evaluating theater LARPs, and I very much hope we can get this presentation to appear at a future NELCO or PreCon. The slides are available to view online here.

My next LARP was Boogieman Nights: A Game of Supernatural Pornography. Boogieman Nights is another game I was sad I didn’t get into for the Intercon Q run, so I was quite happy to see it up on the Dice Bubble schedule. The blurb made me laugh out loud when I read it. The premise involves humans discovering supernatural entities on earth, and many of them ending up in the industry most welcoming to things new and strange: the porn industry.

Boogieman Nights is very much a “secrets and powers” style LARP (a term I dislike and think gets too broadly applies, with a variety of supernatural characters (demons, mermaids, aliens, robots, etc.) but it’s gaining traction), over the top Lovecraftian plots, and wall-to-wall crude sexual humor. Everything from the character sheets, to item and ability descriptions, to the blue sheets, to the rule descriptions contains hilarious and odd jokes, references, and puns. One of the blue sheets, for example, is a long list of previous pornos Snatch Boogie, the director, has filmed. All are terrible sex puns based on names of other movies. It inspired me to create a list of suggestions for the three films being made during the course of the LARP. (Sadly, none of the names I came up with were selected, but I was particularly proud of Dr. Strangelover, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make Love to the Dong.) All of the written content, especially the random wacky props and seduction turn on/turn off mechanics, made it easy to get into a very silly mood and inspire hilarious pornographic shenanigans. Even the rules briefing was hilarious. (“If this LARP lasts longer than four hours, call your doctor.”)

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Random silly prop from Boogieman Nights

I was cast as Linda Reagan, the SFX engineer of the studio, which I hear was a late addition character that was added sometime after the original run. I know add-on characters can often be less fun to play, as they’re not always well tied into other characters and plots, but I think Linda was one of the best add-on characters I’ve yet seen. I didn’t have many characters ties, but the nature of the plots and mechanics made it very easy to get involved, and I really liked how there were multiple, extremely different avenues to choose from to approach my most important goal, which enabled me to ally myself with whatever other characters I wanted to. If you like comical games and can laugh at a terrible penis joke, I highly recommend Boogieman Nights.

While I was playing Boogieman Nights, a run of Infinite Magic Glories, a LARP of the magical girl genre, was going on in the next building over. I saw a few of the costumes — really impressive stuff; I hope to see more photos of the ones I missed. All of the players I spoke to about it reported that they had a really great time.

My last LARP of Dice Bubble, Trapped in the Hangar Bay, ran on Sunday morning. I heard good things about this LARP from previous runs. It’s set in the mecha anime genre, and features a number of mecha pilots waiting in an underwater hangar bay for a final assault on the giant monsters who are attacking earth. It features dark themes like PTSD, the trauma of teenagers being compelled to fight in wars, and the cost of the sacrifices made for the sake of victory. The idea of exploring these kinds of themes intrigued me — I think we play a lot of young warriors in LARPs but often skip over the psychological effects of violence on our characters. (And this also applies to stories of warriors in lots of other media as well.)

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a mecha pilot

I definitely received one of the angstiest characters in the LARP (which is saying something, considering the themes), which I found challenging, and definitely a departure from what I usually a play. I don’t think I’ve ever played a character with so much self-loathing before. There’s a mechanic in-game that really drives home the theme and the characters’ problems — the thoughts and experiences that the characters find most upsetting are listed on cards, and they have mechanical effects when they come up in game.

I’m not terribly familiar with the mecha genre, but I found I quite liked the setting. There are a lot of interesting variations on the style of mechas the characters can pilot, and possible upgrades to give them. And while most of the characters are human, there are some neat almost-human variants. I’m really glad I caught this run, and I would be very interested to sign up for more LARPs that explore these kinds of themes with violence, especially in fantasy settings.

One last thing about Dice Bubble — I’ve noticed at the past few Dice Bubbles and Time Bubbles, someone has left out a bucket in “con suite” (actually just a classroom with some snacks where everyone leaves their coats and bags) of random props and bits of costuming for people to borrow, which I think is really nice. Maybe it’s an idea that other cons, like SLAW or Festival, could steal. I bet some of the swords in the bucket got used by some magical knights in Infinite Magic Glories.

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Christmas in Covenant

It seems a bit late for Christmas, but one of the local boffer LARPs just held an RP-day event (mostly people hanging out in character, very little to no plot progression, no combat, etc.) to give their characters the chance to celebrate Christmas and share their cultures.

The premise of this boffer LARP, Crossover, involves a Narnia-like fantasy world that normal humans from Earth can find their way to, and PCs can be fantastical natives of Ariath (the Narnia-like world) or humans who found their way there, some of whom are altered by the magic of the world. Players are welcome to create whatever fantasy race they want to play, whether from mythology or their own imagination. The result is a very diverse set of fantastical characters, but simultaneously, a player can play someone who wandered in from Earth and be completely appropriately attired in jeans and a t-shirt if they so choose. I think these combined factors make for a very welcoming game.

I had considered PCing at one point, and I NPCed at the playtest. Crossover events have had long waitlists for every event, which contributed to me nixing the idea of PCing, but I also haven’t yet been back to NPC for various reasons. But this one-day RP event was conveniently located, so I decided to take the opportunity to check out the creative character concepts and wonderful costuming the players had created.

I decided to throw on a last minute costume pulled out of a friends’ closet to help contribute to the atmosphere while setting up Christmas trees, wreaths, and other decorations. Initially, I was just going to be a random elf of Santa’s, but then I threw on a pair of horns and decided I was one of Krampus‘ elves. (Krampus is the demonic contrasting foil for Santa Claus who punishes bad children on Christmas.) I named myself “Sleigh Bell” and spontaneously developed a nasal voice and the personality of a villain from a PG Christmas special. Mildly rude, cranky, and encouraging the PCs to make mischief so that I could rat them out to Krampus.

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Sleigh Bell, Krampus’ elf

 

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“I’m telling Krampus.”

Sleigh Bell went around with another spontaneously developed character, Aspen the Christmas fawn, who was far more of a PG Christmas special good guy — cheerful, friendly, enamored with Christmas.

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Aspen the Christmas Fawn

I really enjoyed meeting the PCs and admiring the extra touches they brought to this event, whether it was an ugly Christmas sweater, interesting Christmas treats, or gifts to share with everyone present. (Even the cranky little Krampus elf received some chocolate mice from a friendly talking fox.)

I don’t normally do Christmas, but I really enjoyed playing Sleigh Bell and have since found myself doodling up costume designs for them and thinking about ways to incorporate them (or some modified version of them) into future LARP events as a PC or NPC.

The day after, by the way, was a LARP Crafting Day, hosted by two members of the Eyrie. A number of us are working on costuming for the Fifth Gate masquerade coming up in February, along with a few other projects (some but not all LARP related.) It was really nice to get inspired by other people’s progress and get help from much more talented tailors/seamstresses with my costume.

This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but in all my years of sewing, I had never learned to put in a zipper by myself, but yesterday, I was taught how and my new skirt is coming along very nicely! I’m really happy with the fabric, which is a stretch tafetta, the same kind I used for my ballgown for the Cottington Woods fae ball. Taffeta can be a little, I dunno, cheesy looking, but I really like the David Tutera collection at Jo-ann Fabrics, which has a nice weight and almost a glow to it when it catches the light. After choosing the fabric, I discovered the name of the color was “Tempest” and the thread I chose to match it was labeled “Storm Cloud”, which I consider to be an auspicious sign for a Disciple of the Tempest character. Though I admit this doesn’t keep me from feeling a little envious of some of the other beautiful fabrics I saw the others working with, including a pale silver dupioni which is going to make a gorgeous addition to a dress.

In addition to masquerade finery, other projects included costuming for the upcoming cyberpunk LARP Threshold, boffer sword and a new line dance that will be taught at the masquerade.

Also? There were some adorable cats nosing around while we worked. Arts ‘n crafts is somehow more fun with animals in the way.

 

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SLAW 2016 Post Event Report

Early in December, I attended SLAW, a weekend of LARPing at WPI in Worcester, MA. Because I had another event on Saturday evening and the Sunday game I signed up for dropped, I was only involved in two games, one as a player and one as a GM. (Sadly, the boffer LARP I signed up for on Sunday got canceled.)

On Friday night, I played in the first run of The Sharing. The Sharing takes place in the universe of a YA sci-fi book series titled Animorphs. I was a very big fan when I was younger, so I was really excited to sign up for a LARP inspired by it. The series is about a group of teenagers (naturally) who are given the ability to turn into animals in order to fight off an invasion of aliens who can control human bodies like puppets.

I tried to go back and reread some of my old copies before the LARP, but I’m afraid the style of prose doesn’t quite hold up; it often reads like adults trying too hard to sound like kids. It also occasionally gets fairly silly, but it is also often quite serious, and delves into surprisingly dark themes and storylines. I rambled at length about this in the free-response section of the casting questionnaire. (Hey, we were invited to geek out.)

The LARP is set in the year 2000, so I prepared my costume by searching through my closet for some authentic stuff  (found a number of items, including a pair of jeans), and shopping for a plaid flannel shirt (amusingly, another player bought a nearly identical plaid flannel shirt for this LARP). I also listened to the most popular songs of the year 2000 (that took me back) and reading through an online fan-created wikipedia of the setting. (The Seerowpedia.)

I don’t want to go into detail about the content LARP itself because I think it’s highly spoiler-able, but I will say I would definitely recommend it, even to people who have no familiarity with the setting. But if you’re a fan, do not miss an opportunity to play. The authors are fans of the books and it really shows. I always thought I was one of the biggest fans around (though I’ve always been reluctant to admit it and talk about it, so I guess I wasn’t basing that assumption on much), but at least one of the authors’ knowledge of it vastly outstrips my own. In a conversation after the LARP, they identified off-hand which books were written by the main author and which were written by specific ghostwriters. (I never even knew the names of any ghostwriters.)

I think I expected a very quite, subtle game going into it; I was pretty surprised when our run erupted into a lot of public revelations and violence towards the end. My suspicion is that this was at least in part the result of a lot of players being unfamiliar with the source material, which emphasizes paranoia and the need for secrecy. I had expected a lot of fans to pounce on the opportunity to play in the first run, but I think a number of the fans in the community signed up for the Intercon run in February, which was open for sign-ups before SLAW. It’s not a bad thing, just an interesting effect of how the player base affects the outcome of a run.

The LARP I GMed was Tales of the Cradle, which I played back at Time Bubble at RPI. When the author asked if I’d run it at SLAW, I was more than happy to (and it was awfully nice of him to do the printing for me, so I had very little to do to prepare.) It’s a sci-fi game about mankind’s first contact with aliens. It involves a series of scenes which revolve around discussion and a decision on the parts of the players, some of which create branching storylines and result in different scenarios and decisions to make down the road. And the content goes surprisingly dark.

Interestingly, the players of the SLAW run made all of the same decisions as we had during the run at Time Bubble. I wonder if the decisions are skewed more heavily than it seems? I don’t think this negatively affects any individual run, as the choices still seem extremely difficult and always result in a lot of discussion before they’re made.

The run at SLAW was initially scheduled for Saturday night, before I realized my schedule conflict, so I had it moved to Saturday afternoon. Players had already signed up and couldn’t play during the new time, which I felt bad about, so I offered to run it a second time. For various reasons, I haven’t run it a second time yet, but I’m hoping to in the near future. Luckily for me, the author printed up a second run, and I still have all of the props for a little while longer.

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Cosplay and LARP at Arisia 2017

Arisia, New England’s largest fantasy and sci-fi con, fell on the same weekend as the second Fifth Gate capstone event, so I wasn’t able to attend most of this year. But after the Fifth Gate event ended on Sunday, I decided to try and catch some of the programming in the late evening on Sunday and Monday.

I had originally planned to work on some cosplay to wear to Arisia. I have a Winter Soldier cosplay that I threw together a Winter Soldier to wear to see Captain America: Civil War on opening night, and  a Hipster Snow White outfit in progress, a combination of my Disney Snow White cosplay and my increasingly hipster wardrobe. Both are works in progress, but they got put on the backburner when I realized I’d be missing most of Arisia, if not all of it.

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Hipster Snow White

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The Winter Soldier

Despite them being unfinished, it’s nice to get a chance to express my fandom and swan about in costuming among fellow geeks.

By the time I arrived at Arisia and had changed into my Winter Soldier costume, I was just able to catch the start of a LARP called Immortal Politics. I didn’t know anything else about it but the title, but I thought the title sounded spiffy. It turned out to be a Nordic style LARP, featuring immortal characters from both history (with fictional twists) and mythology, from all over the world, possibly all of the immoral or amoral sort.

From the remaining uncast characters, I chose the Biblical Cain. Others present included Lucifer, Puck, Lady Bathory, Pazuza, Malinalxochitl, and Israfil. Character sheets were very short and simple — a few sentences describing the character concept and history, our greatest vice and virtue, and our primary motivation. Mechanics were simple — whatever we thought was appropriate for our character to be able to do, we could do, and the person who was the subject of any actions decided the result. We were encouraged to “play to lose”.

The premise was also very simple — we had all been invited by an unknown entity to vote on the fate of humanity — redemption or domination? What exactly that entailed was open to debate. We argued and postured for four hours. Michael the Archangel and Lucifer gave one another a hard time while Puck made mischief. Thoth took a straw poll early on and tallied votes at the end. At one point, we drew up a map of the world and discussed who would be permitted to rule which parts of the world if that was the result of our vote.

After the LARP, we went around the table, each person saying something that someone else had done that had been a highlight of the LARP for each of us, which was a nice positive sort of game wrap. Then we went around again and talked about our experiences with LARP (no one in the room was a complete newbie.) I mentioned Intercon and Festival, and people seemed interested and asked for the website, which was a nice bonus to the experience. I hope some of the players will attend!

Before heading off to the Sunday night dance at Arisia, a few of us stuck around to discuss the LARP we had just played, along with College of Wizardry and New World Magischola. We talked about alternative ways to get the ball rolling at the start of Immortal Politics, and the advantages of having a flexible cast of characters. I thought the LARP could have easily run in a shorter time period, as sometimes with very little material to go on, it can be hard for some players to ad-lib for a long time without repetition. I’m glad I decided on a whim to try out a LARP at Arisia.

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Calling the Banners

We interrupt your regularly scheduled posts catching up on various LARP events from the end of 2016, and (as of Saturday, the beginning of 2017) for a short update on current crafting projects.

Crafting projects (and some one-month-out-from-Intercon stuff) are currently eating my time (minor wrist injury be damned), which is why my catch-up posts have slowed. (Though I do have some drafts going.) My current list of projects include costuming for my AI character in Threshold, costuming for the Fifth Gate masquerade, sushi print pajamas for my Fifth Gate character (sadly, this will not be done in time for the event this weekend — I waited for the pattern to go on sale, and it never did). And banners for Kingsword, a LARP debuting at Intercon Q.

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Kingsword banners in progress

I’ve been focusing on the banners mostly because Intercon is the closest event (not including Dice Bubble, for which I’m unlikely to be doing any crafting). and I don’t want the GMs to stress over whether or not they’ll be finished in time. It’s a good thing  I started them early; they’re proving far more time consuming than I originally expected, and I might have another costuming project on my plate when I start receiving casting for my Intercon games.

Kingsword is a fantasy LARP based on the mythology of the British Isles. The Arthurian characters are probably the best known, but there are figures from Irish, Scottish, and Welsh mythology in the LARP as well. The GMs decided royalty in game should have their heraldry displayed on banners, and the knights should have their coat of arms displayed on shorter flags for the tournament. I offered to put them together.

I’m using more or less the same methods I’ve used in the past for banners for Venezia and Cracks in the Orb and the pirate flags for Devil to Pay. Unfortunately, I don’t have any convenient cheap table runners, so I’ve been making multiple runs to J0-ann Fabrics, only buying as many pieces of fabric (and spools of thread) as I have coupons on any given run to keep costs low for the GMs. The employees at the local Jo-ann’s have been teasing me about how often I’ve been there in the past few weeks, asking for updates on the project, and two of them have even asked for information on how to sign up for LARPs!

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Prince Peredur’s seme of crosses (“crussily”) was a geometry puzzle

I’ve been using my new rotary cutter and cutting board to cut out the base shape, and I love using them — they make quick, smooth, even cuts much easier. I printed out the various charges on iron-on applique paper, which actually took something like four hours to print eleven images, between choosing the images (I was looking for free online art close enough to the original images the GMs gave me that wouldn’t be too difficult to cut out), resizing them and coloring them as need be, etc.

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Charges cut out and ready to iron

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the Connacht charge with all its fiddly edges

Cutting out the tiny little details on the lions, dragons, and half-eagle also proved time-consuming. I’ve been sitting with an exacto-knife painstakingly tracing the images with the tv on in the background, but that is all finally done. All of the banners have been sewn (with the exception of Sir Palamedes’ checkered flag — I’m waiting on the fabric) and the images ironed on. All that’s left to do is finish the Ulster banner, Sir Gawain’s flag, and the stripes on Lancelot’s flag.

…Unless I decide to add straps to the top of the royal banners so that they can be hung properly from the tents. I’m not sure what the current plan is, but I’d hate to see them get duct-taped up.

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At any rate, I think they’re coming out decently, and I’m excited to see them hanging in new Intercon hotel, and then again at Festival of the LARPs, which is where I’m hoping to play a run of Kingsword.

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Viserion the crested gecko has taken to watching me sew

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The Brandeis Voyage of the Mary Celeste

At the end of Festival of the LARPs 2016, I volunteered to coordinate Festival for 2017, and it’s been in the back of my mind since then. Festival was the first of the local university-based small theater conventions, and Brandeis use to be a pretty active locus in theater LARPing. But over the years, as the population of LARPers at Brandeis graduated, fewer and fewer new students got involved, until we reached the point where there were zero current students attending Festival, or something very close to it.

It’s not, as of yet, actively a problem. The coordinators of Festival of the LARPs simply reach out to the Brandeis Society for Creative Fantasy, or BSCF, the gaming club, and request that they reserve space for us, and so far, they always have. But I think if we want to ensure future presidents of BSCF will want to help Festival run, we could benefit from involving some current students.

To that end, I decided to try and run a theater LARP for some students in early November, and see if I couldn’t encourage them to attend Festival. Maybe a single small LARP would seem more accessible than a weekend of LARPs?

I had a number of conversations about which LARP to run. What elements make up a good theater LARP to introduce to new players (some of whom have a background in tabletop RPGs and other forms of gaming) is an interesting topic that should probably be its own post. The Final Voyage of the Mary Celeste came up as a suggestion a number of times, and I knew Lime Shirts had a collection of props for it (which they graciously let me borrow)

Written in 1992, The Finale Voyage of the Mary Celeste is a LARP inspired by the story of a real ship that was found in adrift in 1872, with her crew and passengers and a life boat missing, but all of their personal belongings and cargo intact. There are a variety of bizarre theories about what happened; this LARP asks the question, what if they were all true?  There have been a few different versions of the mechanics of this LARP created over the years. (I used one of the later ones.) And it’s something of a staple in the local community; it’s run so many times, a huge percentage of the local theater LARPers have played it. One of the nice perks of running this for new LARPers — it gives them a common experience to talk about with other LARPers should they attend Festival of the LARPs. (It’s available to run online for free here.)

Before running the LARP, I attended a couple of BSCF meetings to introduce myself to current students and try to drum up interest in the LARP. In the end, I only got eight students to sign up, through the LARP requires a minimum of thirteen. Luckily, a number of local LARPers (with much more experience GMing than I have, some of whom have even run Mary Celeste a number of times) offered to help. I ended up asking a number of them to step in for the roles that didn’t get cast.

Printing and prepping the LARP took much longer than I expected; I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone feels this way the first few times they GM a theater LARP.  Fortunately, one of my co-GMs was up late printing and stuffing with me. He got all of the item cards done.

Unfortunately, two of my players never showed up. I tried to contact them a few times, but never got through. Still not sure what happened, but the same co-GM who had printed the item cards stepped in to fill one missing role, and I tried to fill the other, in between playing the other uncast PC role and NPCs who pop up during the game.

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I acquired quite a few name tags

Overall, I think the run went fairly smoothly, despite my nerves and the no-shows. I had been worried that if I did a particularly terrible job, I might actually drive away a few players who otherwise might have considered signing up for a LARP at Festival. But I think the players seemed to be having fun, and all of the LARPers who had stepped up to GM with me really smoothed over the various mistakes I made. I think there’s a solid chance at least a few of them will sign up for Festival. Here’s hoping!

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I drew kitchen equipment on a blackboard, the ship’s cook added a menu and dinner cooking

Festival of the LARPs 2017, by the way, is running April 28-30. (And we’re already accepting game bids.)

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