Forum Based RPGs

You may recall back in January, I shared a bunch of artwork from Hellgate Hotel, a forum based RPG that I had played. This format of online roleplay has gained quite a bit of popularity and momentum in the online community where it began (comprised mostly of theater LARPers from the northeast). I believe it was in part inspired by a someone taking a large, complex one shot theater LARP (Infinite Magic Glories) and adapting it to run on Discord. I have so far PCed or NPCed four such games, with a fifth planned for this summer.

There has been a bit of debate among the writers/GMs, and players over whether or not these games are LARPs. Personally, I don’t consider them LARPs, because players are primarily describing what their characters do, rather than acting out what their characters do, but others feel differently. And to be fair, in many ways, these games resemble theater LARPs more than they resemble the most common formats of tabletop RPGs. All of the writers, and most of the players, have a pretty strong background in theater LARPing, and it shows.) If it isn’t LARPing, it’s certainly LARP-adjacent, and it scratches the RPG itch while being social distancing friendly.

There has also been a bit of debate over what to call these games. Some people have been calling them Discord LARPs, for lack of a better term. I realize “forum based RPGs” is broad and sounds like it might encompass a number of very different text-based roleplaying structures, but that’s the term I’ll use for simplicity’s sake until we settle on something better.

I’m not sure how likely any of the ones runs so far are to rerun, but just in case, I’m adding a cut, below which are mild spoilers.

The four games I’ve PCed or NPCed so far are:

Hellgate Hotel — the first one, a 15 day, 16 player fantasy game with some JRPG-like flavor. The premise involves a giant rift that has been opened up to demonic realms, and the players dealing with the demons as the magic seals over the rift begin to fail. I played an ascetic character whose culture was inspired by the air nomads of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Dinosaur Vacation — a weekend long sci-fi game in which the PCs are passengers aboard a ship that flies through a solar flare and finds the Earth has reverted to the age of dinosaurs, but there is a single signal still emanating from the planet, where New Mexico will one day be. I NPCed a very strange character that shows up on Saturday evening.

Titanic — a weekend long game which plays out the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and the rescue of the survivors. Players were welcome to play actual historical personages on board the Titanic, or to create their own characters, and insert whatever extra plot or storylines they come up with. I played Renee Harris, a historical passenger on the Titanic. (Another player played her husband, Henry B. Harris.)

To Boldly Go — another weekend long game, heavily inspired by Star Trek, where PCs played the crew and passengers of the SC Arcadia, investigating a strange signal in unchartered space, without contact from any allies.

Features

General Structure So far, all of the games have run on dedicated Discord servers. Each game’s server has a large number of channels, divided into categories such as: OOC (announcements, rules, questions for GMs, general chatter, etc.), IC public channels (representing different locations PCs can hang out and roleplay), IC private channels (things like restricted locations, or for private conversations between PCs).

Players engaged in unstructured roleplay in the IC character channels. In three of the games, (Hellgate Hotel, Dinosaur Vacation, and To Boldy Go) events would occur from time to time, and a small group of players would go off on “missions” in temporarily available private channels to deal with the events. Often this involved combat, but sometimes it involved things like solving puzzles or roleplaying with NPCs, and they often rewarded players with new abilities, items, and/or information.

This structure probably sounds pretty familiar to the boffer LARPers of the local Accelerant community (and other live combat LARPers) — it reminded me a lot of the way many boffer campaign events involve PCs hanging out in the tavern while waiting for NPC hooks to introduce them to modules.

Titanic differs in that there are no missions or modules. There are timed events where the GMs/NPCs post descriptions of what is happening in the various IC location channels.

Character Creation This has varied from game to game. In Hellgate Hotel, players created their characters wholesale, with guidance from a series of questions from the GMs. For Dinosaur Vacation and To Boldly Go, players filled out questionnaires and then GMs wrote characters based on the responses. For Titanic, many players picked real historical people, others created characters from scratch, or altered details of historical people. I asked the GM for a suggestion, (and they suggested Renee Harris.) There has been discussion of other forms of character creation for future games, such as GMs creating outlines of characters, and players being welcome to fill in the details.

Roleplay In all games, players narrated via text what their characters were doing and saying to one another. Lines of dialog were preceded by custom character emojis to indicate who was speaking. (Some players controlled additional minor characters besides their primary character. For example, my character in Hellgate Hotel had a dog, and the dog had its own custom emoji. In Dinosaur Vacation, as players tamed dinosaurs, they gained new dinosaur emojis so that the dinosaurs could be involved in roleplay.)

The character emojis lent a feeling of cohesion to the games, and had the effect of making in-game dialog feel like video game RPG dialog. Hellgate Hotel had all players create a character portrait with Heroforge (a website for creating custom minis for tabletop RPGs), which proved popular, and the others followed suit, though To Boldly Go had some players using images from other sources.

Character actions were denoted with italics. (E.g. “Hello.” John extends his hand for a handshake. “It’s nice to meet you.”) Out-of-character text was indicated with double parenthesis, and players were encouraged to keep it to a minimum in the IC channels. Having OOC channels helped a lot with this, and they often served the purpose of running commentary on in-game occurrences.

Roleplaying this way is really interesting. It often feels like collaborative fiction writing, with players exerting a higher degree of control over the direction of roleplay than exists in other formats, because they can describe precisely what other characters observe about their own. For example, a player might write, “‘I’m not embarrassed at all.’ John is speaking loudly and firmly, despite the obvious blush creeping over his face.

Mechanics Titanic was the lightest in terms of mechanics — there weren’t any stats or abilities. Hellgate Hotel had a CCG-like combat system where players had hit points and six abilities, each with a combat score, a damage output, and possible special effects. Dinosaur Vacation had a system where characters have ranks in three primary stats (strength, research, and psychic) which could be modified by items or special circumstances. And characters in To Boldly Go had lists of skills, with possible specialties. Skills were used to bypass challenges in missions.

Advantages/Highlights As mentioned above, these forum based games are socially distancing friendly, and enable players from far flung locations to play together, while still enabling real-time (ish… obviously typing is slower than speech) interaction. It’s also quite flexible scheduling wise — players drop in and out of the games, and run through missions, as their schedules allow. And because it’s all preserved in written format, players can catch up on roleplay that went on while they were offline, if they like. And GMs and players alike can keep tabs on multiple scenes going on at the same time.

The forum structure allows for easy organization and access of written materials at all times, and enables GMs to include evocative elements like images and sound effects. (In Hellgate Hotel, location descriptions for mission channels included links to youtube videos that feature background soundtracks.

Being able to have IC and OOC channels available simultaneously felt like having one’s roleplay cake and eating it too — it felt like one could make observations and comments, often humorous, about roleplay scenes without interrupting them.

Challenges This structure has no natural boundaries, time-wise, and with so many active players, it can create pressure to spend more time than one should on a game. There are nearly always other players to roleplay with, and there’s always tons of reading to catch up on. If you’re the kind of player who wants to be as informed as possible, and stay on top of everything, this style of game can eat up enormous amounts of time. (Doubly true for GMs, who have even more reason to stay on top of everything.)

A game could theoretically place boundaries on playtime (e.g. “the forms are only open for roleplay three hours in the evening”), but that would significantly undermine one of the main advantages of the structure — its scheduling flexibility. I’m of the opinion that it is on players to set and stick to their own boundaries on playtime according to their own needs, and GMs should ideally only step in if their inability to do so is negatively affecting other players in a way that they can’t handle without GM assistance.

Also related to scheduling flexibility — it’s very difficult to predict how much content needs to go into a game for a given length of time and/or a given number of players. Players themselves may not be able to predict how much time they will end up spending on the game — an hour a day? A half an hour or so three or four times a day? From the time they’re up to the time they sleep?

Scheduling of missions can present a difficult logistical challenge, to ensure they run when the relevant group of players and GM(s) can all be present, and ensure that players all get to participate in a roughly equal number of them, and feel like their preferences for which ones they attend and with whom are taken into consideration, especially if GMs want them to be unspoiled surprises.

Additionally, like many other forms of RPGs that don’t primarily consist of a single central ongoing scene/conversation, this format seems to have an issue with players feeling as though inter-character relationships and roleplay are developing unevenly. That is, it can seem as though some players are connecting strongly with multiple other players, or having lots of great conversations, while others are struggling to connect to anyone or get involved in conversations. It’s possible this issue is highlighted by the transparency of nearly all scenes that happen in-game. If I can read all of the long, deep conversations going on between other players, I might wonder why no one is responding to me when I indicate my character is hanging around the public areas and available to chat.

There are lots of design strategies and mechanics that exist from other RPG formats to borrow to address these issues, particularly ones related to character creation, and I’m sure as more games run, this is an issue we’ll see some experimentation with. I’m really looking forward to the next forum based RPG and seeing where this innovative style goes!

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Magic and Camouflage

Back in February, some LARPers asked if I’d give a talk about costuming at an online salon. I put together a 39 slide powerpoint presentation, in part covering my thoughts about costuming and my basic approach to costume design and building a costuming closet, and in part addressing a few specific questions people submitted in advance.

I’m not actually particularly talented when it comes to things like sewing, makeup, or hair styling. I suspect I was asked to give this salon because a) it’s a topic I’m pretty passionate about, and b) I relatively consistently put in the effort to costume, even for very casual LARP events where many participants don’t. So on the one hand, I suspect 95% of the content is not novel or useful for anyone but the beginniest of beginners. On the other hand, it’s all pretty accessible; if I can do the stuff I put into these slides, anyone can.

It’s probably worth noting in advance that while I do like to play campaigns (where I wear the same set of costuming for one character for many events over the course of years), this presentation was created with a particular audience in mind, one that mostly comprises short-form theater LARPers. That is, people who play lots of short one-shot LARPs, with a different character for each, often in the contexts of weekends where people play multiple LARPs back-to-back. So versatility (and low prep-time) are key.

It’s also, somewhat unfortunately but not surprisingly, kind of femme-centric, given that I mostly get cast as femme presenting characters. But I hope there’s something interesting and/or useful for everyone.

(I also do want to mention that a number of LARPers kindly responded to my call for stories of really creative last minute costuming projects, which were included in the salon, but I removed them from the slides before sharing them here for reasons of permission and privacy.)

Fair warning, most of the photos are of me in my costuming, because that’s what I had easy access to when creating it. It may come across as a little… uh, self absorbed.

I think the most interesting part, to me, are the early slides about costuming goals — what we want out of costuming (and the process of creating it) and how we get it. I feel like there’s some potential costuming theory that could be developed out of that stuff.

Here are the slides, along with a cleaned up version of the speaker notes. Enjoy!

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Letter LARPs

As mentioned in my Extracon 2021 post, on Sunday morning of Extracon, I gave a powerpoint presentation about letter LARPs as part of the Forum@Extracon track.

I talked about both letter LARPs in general, and also a lot about how I designed and ran one of my own, Hawthorn & Ink, and what lessons I learned from it.

Here is the presentation, with cleaned up speaker notes for clarity. Enjoy!

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Extracon 2021

Extracon 2021 ran about three weeks ago. It was the first event of its kind, but hopefully not the last.

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Posted in conventions, events, LARP, online LARP | Tagged | 5 Comments

Make a Scene LARP Anthologies

The first Extracon (NEIL’s online weekend convention of LARPs and more) ran last weekend, (and I have a blog post about it just about half finished.) Attendees may have noticed information about a LARP-related Kickstarter that popped up on the event’s Discord.

Make a Scene is an event run out of Minnesota that focuses on newly written LARPs. With the pandemic going on, it was hard, if not impossible to run many of the LARPs written in 2020 that would have run at Make a Scene. Instead, the LARPs were collected into an anthology, titled Gender, Role, Play, so that anyone can run them. The LARPs from 2019 were similarly collected into an anthology, titled Wild, Heart, Land.

You can check out the kickstarter here for more information! It has already been successfully funded, but there are still twelve more days to get your own copies, and there are a few more stretch goals that have not yet been unlocked.

I thought it would be neat to share a little insider information from some of the writers, so I have been in touch with a few via email, who graciously answered a few questions for me.

Below the cut, three writers for LARPs in these anthologies answers to four questions: what inspiration went into your LARP? What unusual mechanics did you include, and how do they shape gameplay? Did this LARP undergo any significant revisions during the writing process, and if so, what were they and what made you decide to make those changes? And lastly, was there anything during a playtest that surprised you, and if so, what was it?

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Secret Santa Character Sheets

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in LARP, on a more personal note, theater, writing | 2 Comments

Hellgate Hotel Artwork

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

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

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For Auld LARP Syne 2020

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

A look back at 2020…

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Long Time Player, First Time Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Virtual Space Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Air Raid Warden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in ARG, conventions, LARP, LARP Reviews, online LARP, theater | Tagged | 2 Comments