Threshold Space

Upon request, I’m going to talk a little bit more about modules in Threshold, the cyberpunk boffer campaign that concluded this past January, and its unusual use of space as a boffer LARP running in a hotel.

First of all, the space. (Interconners would recognize the venue — it was Intercon’s hotel from 2000 to 2015.) Threshold rented two large function spaces on the ground floor, and multiple suites on the upper floors. The smaller of the two function spaces was used as a staging area by staff, a room where set dressing, props, NPC costuming, and documentation for content waited. (Boffer communities often call this “Monster Camp”, some theater LARP communities might call this “GM Space”.)

The bigger function space was a large ballroom with two air walls that divided the space into three rooms. The air walls were closed most of the way. The open gaps in the air walls were filled with two giant pieces of set dressing/props, the Threshold Gates. In-game, the Gates enabled members of the Threshold Project (the PCs) to teleport anywhere on earth (and later, beyond earth…)

Gate A

The middle room created by the air walls was used as Threshold’s Forward Operating Base, or FOB — the space where Threshold personnel spent time between missions. The FOB was partitioned into various sections by means of a pop up tent, and tables stacked on top of one another. We could operate the Gates from inside the FOB, consult our schedule of missions, fill out corporate paperwork, meet with visitors, help ourselves to performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals, and jack into the Overlay (the internet/VR world). And when we died, we could interact with the automated Resleeving Station (Threshold‘s Resurrection mechanic).

We entered the rooms to either side of the FOB through the Gates. Throughout the day, staff would set up and strike the set dressing for various modules in those two rooms. Outside the doors to the hallway, staff had tables set up where NPCs could put props and weapons. Inside the doors, staff would block off small sections by stacking tables on top of one another and draping them with tablecloths. This was usually where NPCs could “respawn” during combat, and a place to keep props for individual modules as needed, set up lightning and sound systems out of view, etc.

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that the hotel staff either never noticed us stacking tables on top of one another in the various function rooms, or else noticed and voiced no objections.

All modules that featured combat happened in those rooms on either said of the FOB, along with the non-combat mods for larger numbers of players. Those spaces were fairly large and could be emptied of furniture or anything breakable. The suites that Threshold rented upstairs hosted modules without combat. One suite was always reserved for the cantina. During the evening break, dinner was served there, and at other times, there were always snacks and drinks to be had.

Somewhere tucked away in a corner of each of the other suites, there was a storage bin full of stuff for setting different scenes in the hotel rooms, such as colored lights and speakers. During suite modules, we did things like hold meetings, solve puzzles, undergo evaluations, and investigate staged murder scenes. Sometimes staff used weird sound tracks and lighting to transform these spaces into something more surreal, such a shared psychic plane for the mentalists, or a shared network for AIs in sleep mode.

So what kind of modules did we play in these spaces?

There were plenty of what one might consider a more “standard” modules (standard for an Accelerant campaign, anyway) — combat missions that ran in the rooms on either side of the FOB might be things like “someone has stolen a bunch of weapon prototypes. Retrieve the prototypes while fending off attacks from the terrorists, maybe rescue some hostages while you’re there.” (Or “terrorists have taken over the space elevator. Take it back while “The Girl From Ipanema” plays on loop in the background.) But there were also plenty of really unusual, often rather “out there” modules as well.

The Threshold writing staff was very clever in the creation of their setting. The baked in several concepts that functioned as excellent in-game excuses for lots of variety in player activities. I think Threshold had the most variety in terms of types of activities of any boffer LARP I’ve yet PCed or NPCed.

One example of a baked in concept was the aforementioned Overlay — in Virtual Reality, anything was possible. Sometimes we got to play Dragon Stabbers, an online fantasy video game in virtual reality. Sometimes we went on missions to rescue people who got trapped in online VR games that glitched or got hacked, and we found ourselves playing a live version of the board game RoboRally. Other times VR simulations went wrong and trapped people. One of the most memorable mods was an educational sim that trapped a teacher inside, and we had to fight off dinosaurs and planets spouting Fun Facts while solving puzzles with early education science themes.

Another setting concept example — the Threshold Project was incredibly expensive to run (operating the Gate cost millions of dollars,) so we relied on mega-corporations to sponsor us. One of the megacorps was a media company, and as members of the Threshold Project, our characters were minor (and a few major) celebrities, so they often insisted we perform publicity stunts. At the bidding of our corporate sponsors, we were special guests on an dance reality show, did taste testing on new beverages and recorded our reactions (“So refreshing!”), participated in runway shows, attended (and contributed art to) art exhibits, and staged scenes for the pilot of a documentary tv show about our members. This stuff was weird and wacky and tons of fun. As minor celebrities, we also got to attend a convention dedicated to us, meet our fans (cosplaying as us!), received fan art of our characters, and read erotic fanfiction written about us.

Corporate culture was another gateway to activities I’d never done in boffer LARP. Filling out employee evaluations can actually be a lot of fun, who knew? We underwent psych evaluations on our first day, and the A.I. underwent quality assessment other times; we performed weird tasks, played memory games, and solved logic puzzles. One time we engaged in corporate espionage in the form of presenting an impromptu powerpoint presentation with stolen slides.

I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the electronic games. Hacking was represented by mini-games played on smart phones. Staff printed out QR codes represented nodes where hackers could gain access to a system. Scanning the QR codes initiated one of a few mini games, and printed instructions at the node told players what to do in the event of a success or failure. Computer games also featured in other ways — for example, we played Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes to represent bomb defusing missions.

Threshold was by turns dark, weird, surreal, droll. I really hope it inspires lots of LARP creators in our community.

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Beyond the Threshold

Back in January, I played in the final event of a cyberpunk campaign boffer LARP called Threshold. An introductory event (dubbed “Mission Day 0”) ran at the end of 2016, and it began in earnest in early 2017. It ran four events per year for three years, and when it came to its dramatic conclusion early this year, it was of my last major LARP events before the pandemic brought in-person LARPing to a screeching halt.

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I know I’ve mentioned much of this in previous blog posts about Threshold, but for my last blog post about this campaign, I wanted to sum up the various elements made this LARP special, and talk about the cool way the staff ended the finale.

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Three More Online LARPs

Just a quick post on my lastest adventures in online LARP — thoughts on the Summer LARPin’ event, a Eurovision inspired LARP run out of the UK, and two runs of a speed dating style LARP for mortals and fae.

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Resolutions Mid-Year Check-In 2020

Last year, I set a reminder on my calendar to evaluate progress on my LARP-related New Year Resolutions half-way through the year. I found it to be very helpful, so I set another reminder for the mid-point of 2020.

According to my New Year’s Eve blog post, my resolutions were:

  1. Thank GMs post-games, give feedback when requested, send in my PELs on time.
  2. Work on hair and makeup skills. Try at least two full face makeups, and at least one hair styling accessory.
  3. Write at least an average of two posts per month. Plug my blog at least four times. Replace photos on old blog posts.
  4. Finish my Great Costume Organization Totes Bag project.
  5. Finish my costume and the set dressing for Wicked Hearts before the Monday before Intercon.

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More Online LARPs

2020 is not yet half way over, and I have played some 36 LARPs since Jan 1st, 21 of which have been online. At this rate, I’m going to break my old record (51 LARPs PCed, NPCed, or GMed in one year.)
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Intercon T Costuming

At this year’s Intercon, I did a bit more costuming than I usually do. There wasn’t as much actual sewing as most years, but there was a still a fair amount of designing and crafting. I thought it would be better to write a separate post about the costumes, rather than either cluttering up the event description posts, or else feeling like I had to cut everything I wanted to say way down. (And this way, it’s a lot easier to skip for those not really interested in costuming.)

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My three big costuming projects for Intercon T were a fae/Slavic folk-wear inspired outfit for the role of the Samodiva in Wicked Hearts, my Michelangelo costume for Heroes in a Half-Shell, and my mermaid costume for The Neptune Ball. Minor projects included pulling outfits together for aGMing a Mayfair in the Colonies and Murder at Downton Abbey. Plus, in honor of the theme for Intercon T, there were some turtle-inspired casual outfits for downtime.
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Intercon T Part IV — Sunday and Monday

On Sunday of Intercon T, I played in two Iron GM LARPs.
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Usually, playing two Iron GM LARPs on Sunday at Intercon involves getting up early on Sunday morning, which can be rough after a late night of parties and dancing and post-LARP chit-chat. But this year, the first Iron GM slot started at 11am. It did mean the announcement of the winners got delayed, but as someone who tends to stay up late and then sleep in, this was a huge improvement over the 9am start time of previous years.

Here are the ingredients for Intercon T’s Iron GM — Genre: monster stories, theme: immortality, general ingredient: silence, and the prop: a lantern. I had volunteered as a reader for Iron GM in the weeks leading up to Intercon T (readers read through all of the written materials of the LARPs and then score them on various criteria.) I made sure to sign up for two LARPs I hadn’t yet read — In the Hall of the Beast, by Liminality Octopus, and Respawn by Hanging Lantern (which won third and second place, respectively.)

In the Hall of the Beast was about villagers finding themselves in a gambling den run by the Devil Themselves, where anything can be wagered, (including, of course, but not limited to, your soul), and the Devil has very tempting offers to make. I found this LARP to be very atmospheric, with a very evocative setting description, and some really neat mechanics that I won’t spoil here. I played a priest who failed to steer gamblers away from temptation, including myself.

Respawn is a LARP about the monsters that live in a dungeon that get repeatedly slaughtered by adventuring heroes. This LARP is very cute, but also a little dark and bittersweet. It reminded me a lot of a classic children’s bedtime story.

I’m hoping to get a chance to play some of the other games from this Iron GM — the ones I read sounded really cool.

Those were the last LARPs of Intercon T for me. The rest of Sunday is a bit of a blur for me — I remember briefly napping in my hotel room, and then attending the ice cream social, and trying to bounce from room to room so that I could at least briefly chat with everyone up for socializing. At some point I must have helped load a van and a couple of cars? On Monday, I was the very last to leave. I found the Iron Throne (the giant prop from Dance of the Dragons) left behind in my hotel room, and I stayed behind in the lobby to keep a lonely vigil from atop the throne until it could be picked up. (It ended up stored temporarily in the room off the lobby with the luggage carts.)

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“…Uh, I think we forgot something in our hotel room…”

I have one blog post left in me for Intercon T left — a summary of my big costuming projects.

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Intercon T Part III — Saturday

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On Saturday morning at Intercon T, I played in a boffer LARP titled Heroes in a Half Shell. When I first heard that the theme of Intercon T was going to be Turtles, I had my hopes up that someone would write and run a Ninja Turtles LARP… and I mentioned these hopes at gatherings of LARPers, often and loudly.

…And it paid off!
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LARPing Online

It occurs to me that the most useful part of my recent post, “LARPing in the Age of Quarantine” was probably the bits where I talked about the structures and experiences of the various online LARPing formats (also sometimes called “virtual LARP” or “digital LARPing”.) I went for brevity there, and buried the whole thing at the bottom of the post.
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So I’m writing a follow-up post, of sorts, this one focusing and expanding on that last section.
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Intercon T Part II — Friday

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The first LARP I played at Intercon T was on Friday morning. It was called Queen of Queens, and in the blurb describes it as exploring themes of faith, power, and identity, and a workshop where players create pipe cleaner bees. The blurb had me at “creating pipe cleaner bees”. (Being a shorter LARP in a morning slot also helped.)
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