Pirates and Cartoon Heroes

I have PCed and NPCed my first LARPs of 2020!

Both LARPs are of the one-shot boffer variety with pre-written characters, a format that continues to increase in popularity in the local communities, through Intercon and Little Boffer Con. The first was Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a pulp pirate adventure, and the second was They-Ro and the Rulers of Perpetua, a gender neutral version of the classic 80s cartoons He-Man and She-Ra. Both ran indoors in a hotel function room (though the weather was so strangely warm and mild for January.)

I had NPCed Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea twice before playing. Once at Intercon P, during its debut, where I mostly crunched (played the waves of nameless enemy combatants). Then again, very briefly, as a couple of “face roles” (roles primarily intended for PCs to talk with) at 2019’s Little Boffer Con. I tried to avoid learning too much information about what was going on so that I could still PC without being very spoiled, and I think I mostly succeeded. I did learn a few facts about some of the characters that made a number of them seem very appealing to play; two in particular stood out to me, and I was very happy to get cast as one of those two for the most recent run.

In the days leading up to the LARPs, I made Jolly Rogers for the two pirate ships sailed by PCs. A mermaid bearing a sword and shield for the Red Lady, and a triskelion of skeletal arms holding blades for the Shatterjack. (My character sailed on the Shatterjack.) I like how the Red Lady‘s flag came out, but I think I could have done better on the Shatterjack.


Deep Blue Sea is structured like a classic “elevator mod” — meaning, a small corner of the room is sectioned off, and players spend brief periods of time there between scenes while staff resets the main section of the room (often moving around room dividers, furniture, removing or adding set dressing and props, etc.) In the ur-example, the sectioned off area represents an elevator, and each time the main area gets reset, it represents a different floor. In the case of Deep Blue Sea, the elevator is a pirate ship, and the “floors” are different islands somewhere in the Caribbean.

I played Charity, the silent zombie gunner and assistant to the resident sorcerer on board the Shatterjack. For costuming, I went for classic low-ranking pirate — a white shirt with poofy sleeves, a sash tied around the waist, capris-length black leggings, brown sandals, hoop earrings. For the zombie aspect of my character, I wore the yellow contacts so many LARPers found creepy at Consequences, dark smudgy makeup around my eyes, and big black stitches painted over blue lipstick. The stitches were drawn on with an eyeliner that claimed to last “36 hours”… there was some flaking off by the end of the LARP, but the stitches were still identifiable. I think my favorite detail was some faux seaweed I pinned into my hair and stuck into my belt. I thought it gave a subtle drowned look.

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“…”

In the early days of my LARPing, I used to be nervous about the prospect of playing a non-speaking character — what if I got sick of the silence and pantomiming and found the frustration wasn’t worth it? But I’ve tried it out a handful of times in LARP and thus far, I’ve consistently really enjoyed it. (Though I do worry a bit that other players find it frustrating or unsatisfying to roleplay with a mute character.) Playing Charity was no exception.

This was also one of the first LARPs where I played a character whose combat skills focused primarily on firearms. There were some neat mechanics to represent the single-shot flintlock pistols appropriate for the genre, and the time it takes to reload them. (For those who speak Accelerant, you take a Destroy Firearm to Self each time you fire, with  different Repair Firearm speeds depending on a character’s skill at reloading.) I thought this felt very genre appropriate, and made guns useful without allowing them to dominate battles on either the PC or NPC side. That said, I’m pretty inexperienced with sword-and-gun as a boffer style, and I found my pistol misfired often enough to cause frustration (I think it was an issue of too many damaged Nerf bullets). As we were playing indoors, the PCs were often tightly clustered, which made it difficult for me to smoothly re-holster a gun and draw a sword (or vice versa.) I see the appeal of sword-and-gun in boffer combat, but I think I’m unlikely to choose it again for myself, at least for indoor combat, without first having a lot more practice via NPC roles.

Another element of this LARP I really enjoyed: every character has a Bad Idea skill — something with a significant impact and a high cost (either of high cost to the character using it, or to all of the PCs). They are designed to have 50% chance of being used. Examples include players permanently lowering their own hit points to heal another, or doing massive amounts of damage to everyone present, enemies and allies alike. I didn’t end up using mine, but a few other players used theirs, and I thought they were all very cool and interesting.

Another very cool mechanical thing — one of the characters had a “scout ahead” type of ability, which allowed him to quickly view the scenario outside the ship (without alerting the NPCs) and report back to their shipmates. I don’t think I’ve yet seen that in one of these one-shot boffer LARPs, and I think it’s a clever way to relay information to players, make a character seem special, and also enable players to do a little pre-encounter strategizing.

I also want to mention the sound effects for this LARP — the staff provided wind and waves sound effects while we were sailing our ships, jungle noises for when we went ashore, and tavern noises for the relevant scene. It made for nice cues for different scenes. And as a really nice bonus, one of the NPCs used his real musical skills to provide accordion music for the tavern. (I tried to coax him onto the Shatterjack so we could have music while we sailed, but I think he found the drowned looking zombie and her stitched up mouth creepy and bolted.) Alas!

NPCing They-Ro and the Rulers of Perpetua was a lot of fun. Many of the NPC roles are over-the-top, cheesy bad guys with some sort of ridiculous shtick (very appropriate considering the source material). I did my best to keep up the puns and one-liners through combat, but it’s not easy! Some of my roles included Hammerhead Shark, Under-Koalafied (one of Bear-At-Arms foes, who distracts enemy combatants with his adorable fuzzy belly), and Sarcasmo, the sarcastic robot. I didn’t stick around too late afterwards for post-game chatter, but near as I could tell, the PCs were having a good time hamming it up and saving the day.

You can read more about They-Ro in my blog post about playing it at Intercon S. Quick summary of some of the highlights: cute, interactive content in the “elevator” between episodes (including a chance to create a little artwork), which are demarcated by moral lessons read aloud by the various PCs, llava mechanics (like lava, but less dangerous), scene setting projections covering one of the walls, and an adorably awkward dance scene to close out the LARP. (Shout out to my fellow NPC who returned to the final scene as one of his evil robots, announcing “I have been reprogrammed to boogie”.)

I’m amused by how much costuming for this LARP is getting reused. The armor worn by the captain of the guard (ersatz Teela, for those who familiar with He-Man) in the first run was re-worn by this run’s captain, the mesh shirt with strategically placed purple seashells worn by the first Mermada reappeared for this run, and Bear-At-Arms borrowed the fuzzy brown bear arms I made for my turn at that role.

If you’ve never played a LARP of this style, I highly recommend giving it a try. I think it’s a great way for boffer LARPers who usually create their own characters to give pre-written characters a try, and a great way for theater LARPers to give boffer a try. I expect there will be six such LARPs on the schedule at this year’s NELCO/Little Boffer Con, which is running on July 25th in Boxborough, MA, so mark your calendars!

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For Auld LARP Syne 2019

It’s New Year’s Eve, and so it’s time for my annual retrospective on my life in LARP.IMG_20181231_183619021


A Look Back at 2019…

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51 LARPs, Part II

Picking up where I left off in the first half of my summary of LARPs I played towards the end of 2019…

In early November, I PCed as my chipper A.I. character, DEXEMBER (aka DEX) in Threshold, the cyberpunk boffer campaign. It was the second to last event (time flies!) and as I’ve come to expect from Threshold, it was a solid mix of darkness and wackiness,  angst and absurdity. Highlights include successfully moving June to a new body (June being the technopath mentalist who has been sort of residing inside DEX and occasionally remote piloting her chassis — I have a lot of fun switching back and forth between roleplaying as June and roleplaying as DEXEMBER), which was intense and emotional. Also, I got to piece together an exploded squishy, bloody cyberbrain. Some of my artwork was on display in a gallery in one scene, which was pretty neat. And as DEX had somehow been appointed the handler of a mentalist (A.I. are not supposed to be handlers, but DEX is not complaining), I handed another player a series of charts to fill out, including a meal chart, a sleep chart, and a bathroom chart. His reaction was another highlight. (He says he’ll fill them all out except for the bathroom chart. …We’ll see.)

 


I played my second LARP with the Greater Boston LARP Society, or GBLS, in November. Fading Lights is one of the LARPs written for Iron GM at Intercon S. As one of the Iron GM readers, I had read the whole thing, but I found that I had forgotten enough of it to play it without spoilers being an issue, and it came highly recommended by a friend who had just recently played it herself. (She enjoyed it so much, she would be playing it a second time.) The LARP involves a dire situation facing the characters’ multiple homeworlds, and limited magical resources to save them all. The characters must negotiate and make very difficult compromises. It’s a challenging social situation to navigate, and I appreciated how trying to find the least bad solution for everyone wasn’t as likely to be rewarded as being a little underhanded and a little selfish in negotiation.

In mid-November, I played Tabula Rasa, a weekend long sci-fi amnesia theater LARP*. I knew this was an older LARP, and the GMs gave fair warning to prospective players that it was showing its age a little. I also was not sure I would be able to attend, so I told the GMs to cast me in the role that was least likely to be missed if the player didn’t show up (with the understanding that if another player who could commit wanted the part, the GMs were welcome to recast it.) And I really appreciated this accommodation. So I was entirely prepared for my character, who wasn’t well connected to other characters, nor of any particular importance to any of the ongoing plots. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my role (a softly spoken space nun who ran impromptu study sessions of holy texts), and it was nice to feel able to sleep in a little later in the mornings, and take breaks on Saturday afternoon without worrying about disrupting the LARP or other players’ experiences. Given that I’ve played most of the weekend long theater LARPs that have been made available for this GM team to run, I’m glad I got the chance to play in one of the rare few I hadn’t yet played.

Since attending Consequences (a LARP convention in the UK) in late November, I’ve played one additional LARP. Glamorous Night (some people call it the “fae domination game”) first ran at Be-Con (an all LARP convention that runs in the Chicago area), and one of the players got permission from the writer to do a private run with local LARPers. (You can read a full description of the LARP here on the Be-Con website.) It’s an unsual, abstract sort of LARP where spoken language is highly restricted. The focus is on two movement mechanics, Ars Rego (“the art of direction”) and Ars Canto (“the art of enchantment”). Ars Canto involved two players sharing weight via a single contact point (that they can move along their hands, arms, and upper back). In this game, this was also the primary means of conversation; people took turn saying individual words while engaged in Ars Canto. Ars Rego involved one player binding one another by tying ribbons around one another’s fingers, then directing the bind-ee’s movements via hand-to-hand contact, or even leading them from afar via gestures.

Glamorous Night has a fantasy setting, with players choosing to play wizards, humans with supernatural gifts, fae, or magical creatures. I was expecting most players to show up in plain blacks, since much of character creation was handled via workshopping, but as we were able to choose our category of characters in advance, many players showed up with really wonderful fantasy costuming. I had a nice pair of mouse ears and a tail I ordered from an etsy shop for a LARP that got cancelled, so I used Glamorous Night as an opportunity to put them to use. I played a mouse who lived in the walls of a palace, looking for someone to protect them, or teach them magic so they could defend themselves against the queen’s cat.

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a palace mouse

The LARP seems designed to run without any costuming, but I think the costuming proved to be a huge boon — the costumes offered a little context to our very limited communication.

The first half of the LARP is spent in workshops, creating characters, building relationships between characters, and practicing Ars Canto and Ars Rego. The second half is spent in-character, guided from scene to scene by verbal prompts describing the mystical locations the characters get pulled to, and which sets of characters can initiate an Ars Rego relationship.

Ars Rego was the star of the LARP — I think it was a really interesting, fun mechanic that captured the feeling of a variety of relationships created by the various magical characters, and I would be interested to see this mechanic used in other LARPs, or to try new mechanics inspired by it.

The aspect of the LARP I struggled most with was noticing people being left out. Both Ars Rego and Ars Canto heavily encourage one-on-one interaction and conversation, and both are very difficult to break up by someone outside of the interaction. (I did notice in the last scene, people were fudging the rules of conversation and Ars Canto to have conversations with three people.) I think some players who have a harder time initiating Ars Canto or Ars Rego, either because they chose a more reactive character concept, or simply because that’s their natural play style, ended up repeatedly on the outskirts of all of the action. In particular, the last scene was all about deciding whether or not to break the Ars Rego relationships, and those who had never gotten into one had nothing to decide.

In retrospect, I wish I had chosen a more active character concept — I envisioned the city mouse as being scared of many of the other characters, who was hoping to chosen as a familiar, and had nothing but a bit of thieving skill to offer in return. I couldn’t think of a reason to offer an Ars Rego relationship, only accept one. (Later in the LARP, I was determined to offer a ribbon and form an Ars Rego relationship with the only players without ribbons… but I ran out of time, as the Magical Creatures has the fewest options to do so.)

I do think it’s worth trying out Ars Rego, but I would recommend future players of Glamorous Nights try to create a character whom they can easily imagine initiating an Ars Rego relationship. (Also, costuming is super fun and helpful, so pick a concept in advance and go with it, if you can!)

That was my last LARP of 2019! It’s time to write my retrospective on LARP in my life over the last year. (Or is it time to write a retrospect on LARP in my life over the last decade?)

*Does this adjective ordering sound odd to anyone else? It sounds odd to me, but none of the other options sound better. Adjective ordering — it’s an interesting linguistic phenomenon!)

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51 LARPs, Part I

Somehow, my September went by without any LARPing in it, but then October, November, and December came along and made up for it. In fact, the last LARP I played at Mythic Consequences was my 50th LARP of the year. (My previous record was 47 LARPs in one year, set in 2017.) And in early December, I played my 51st.

Given that this post got a bit long, I’ll talk about the first four LARPs here in Part I, then finish up with another four LARPs in Part II.

My first LARP of October was Persephone’s Gift. Back in 2017, an idea for a local theater LARPing club got kicked around, and it resulted in the Greater Boston LARP Society. They run small theater LARPs, usually individually or in pairs, in various locations around the Boston area. I think it’s a great initiative, and I’ve been meaning to participate in their events, but somehow, it had never worked out with my schedule. At long last, I was available for one of their LARPs, which fortunately ran in a nearby location.

Persephone’s Gift is a four hour theater LARP for thirteen players, set in an Asimovian sci-fi world. It centers around two communities hammering out the terms of their merger. The meeting is complicated by their opposing views on robots and other issues, including the development of new robotic laws, the mystery of a recent space ship catastrophe, and hidden agendas. I played a representative of the anti-robot colony. I largely failed in most of my objectives, but I had a lot of fun trying, and I found that robot logic and culture provided plenty of fodder for roleplay, lots to discuss and explore and chew over, such that I was never bored.

A really nice bonus to getting to play this LARP was meeting new LARPers — a lot of faces at the game were new to me; others I recognized but didn’t know well and was very glad for a chance to LARP with them and get to know everyone better over our post-game dinner.

A week after Persephone’s Gift, I was in New York City for more LARPs. The first was the inaugural run of Persona L: Find Your Voice, a 6 hour theater LARP based on the Persona video game series.  (I’m not personally familiar with the source material, so I can say for certain you don’t need to be in order to enjoy the LARP, but my suspicion is that those who are familiar with the video games will appreciate the stuff they recognize on a level I couldn’t.)

The premise of the LARP revolves around a collection of college students, all minor internet celebrities of one sort or another, who find themselves able to access a mysterious placed called the Cosmic Underground, and to call upon a Persona, a magic wielding spirit of ancient legend that is also somehow part of your inner self.


I think this is the first time I’ve played a lit-form* theater LARP where a character was written with me in mind. I was cast as a LARPer who is really into costuming and writes a LARP-centric blog. The phrases, “Sweatpants in the streets, fabulous ballgowns in the tweets” and “JoAnn’s owns an ever-increasing share of my soul” appeared in my character’s online bio… that’s pretty on the nose. The person who was cast in this role for the upcoming run at Intercon T recognized me in it, which really made me smile to hear. I definitely felt this was a character whose mindset I could easily understand, dig into, and extrapolate on, so chalk one up for the “playing close to home” column.

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My costume, so meta.

This LARP is jam-packed with mechanics and plot; the pace of our run could be described as frenetic, especially towards the end. Actually, I think this LARP had more stuff in it than most of the weekend long theater LARPs I’ve played. I would rather like to see this LARP run as a weekend long event, the way Infinite Magic Glories was.

My favorite part of the LARP were the promotional projects our characters were encouraged to complete. One character is a J-Pop dance star, and she taught a number of other players a short choreographed dance routine, which we performed during a flash mob, while wearing and waving around glowing accessories. (This was the inspiration behind a certain social event on the Intercon schedule.) Another ran a short goth dance (which I’m sad to say I missed.)

My project was to run a 10 minute mini-LARP based on The Odyssey. The GMs wrote a perfectly valid short scenario to run, with brief character sheets and goals, but me being me, I layered stuff on top and tweaked it (and created set dressing and costuming) until it wasn’t recognizable, and ended up with something that didn’t at all fit into a 10 minute slot, which was problematic for such a busy LARP. My players had to duck out before it really got off the ground, but nonetheless, I had a lot of fun creating it. Even better, one of the players said they thought it was a fun scenario in its own right, and that I should publish it as a mini-LARP to run on its own. And that really meant a lot to me to hear. So I dunno, maybe keep an eye out for Nostos in the future. It features figures from Greek Mythology playing Skull.


On the same weekend as Persona L, I also played Toujours Pur and SBURB. Tourjurs Pur is a one hour LARP for two players, set in the world of Harry Potter, set 11 years after the Second Wizarding War concluded with the Battle of Hogwarts (ie the events of the seventh book.) The players play the sisters Narcissa Malfoy (Draco’s mother) and Andromeda Tonks (Tonks’ mother), who have a lot of baggage to unpack and some decisions to make regarding the future of House Black and Andromeda’s grandson, Teddy Lupin. In this run, we didn’t really commit to any concrete decisions, but I didn’t feel as though we needed to in order to have quietly intense roleplay. I’m really enjoying this developing genre/structure of one hour LARPs focused around a single very personal conversation between two players.

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Andromeda and Narcissa having tea.

SBURB is large inspired by Homestuck, which I was unfamiliar with. (Though I read some online summaries before the LARP.) It focuses on six friends who went through a Portal Fantasy adventure (i.e. got sucked into another world where they had magical adventures and gained fantastical powers) as teenagers, and are now adults in the real world, suddenly and unexpectedly reunited. This concept really appealed to me — I often find myself thinking about the characters of Portal Fantasy fiction (and other fiction with similar themes) and wonder about their lives when they have to return to the mundane. Can it still be satisfying, no matter how successful? It it a relief to be free from danger and/or the pressure of having to save the world (or worlds), or will the characters end up missing their days of magic and excitement, with everything else feeling dull by comparison?

There were also some interesting elements to the structure of this LARP; characters were somewhat modular, meaning some elements are reshuffled into different combinations for each run, depending on player preferences, there’s a tiny bit of workshopping to help players develop their characters, and gameplay makes use of flashbacks to fill out the details of key interpersonal moments between characters.  I particularly liked one element of my character which focused my experience around themes of identity (and generated a fair amount of angst!) In the fantasy world, my character had died, but rather than being revived (as others had been countless times), a new copy was made, with memories backed up from an earlier point. Each of the other characters had their own ideas about just what this meant, and related to my character in their own ways. Wrestling with this was the underpinning for many of my scenes. (“I may not be your Skylar, but you’re still my Alex!”)

Coming up in Part II: the second to last event in the Threshold campaign, Fading Lights, an Iron GM LARP I played with GBLS, Tabula Rasa, a weekend long theater LARP of the sci-fi and amnesia genres, and Glamorous Nights, a LARP some players call the “fae domination game”.

* “Lit-form” is a relatively new term that has been kicking around the local community in attempt to provide a better label for a category of LARP that often overlaps with a bunch of other categories that don’t all quite describe it, or else are problematic in other ways. I understand it to mean a type of LARP with a lot of pre-written materials, including full character sheets and setting descriptions.

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Mythic Consequences

I’m back home from my third Consequences, and like last year, I’m mired in the post-Con blues. Consequences is a LARP convention that runs in late November in the UK (specifically, at a holiday village in Christchurch, Dorset). It’s LARP-centric, but people also enjoy tabletop roleplay games and board games at Consequences.
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This year, my schedule was a bit lighter than I usually make it for a LARP con. I’m generally the “cram as much LARP as possible into my weekend” kind of LARPer (hence my intimidating schedule for Intercon T…) but for Mythic Consequences, my schedule was relatively light — I played three LARPs and ran one. I love LARPing at Consequences, but I also really love getting to know LARPers from other communities, and learning all about the various cool LARPs people are working on and attending. So I opted for the trivia quiz on Thursday evening, as I’ve found it to be a nice way to meet and socialize with new people. I also left my mornings free for the purposes of sleeping in, so that I could attend the parties as late as they went without worrying about being super tired the next day.

My flight was Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning. Luckily, the plane was pretty empty so I had a row to myself and did get at least a little sleep. I was still pretty tired and jet-lagged all day Wednesday, but my travel buddy and I managed to get a little sight-seeing done. We walked around Kensington Gardens for awhile, which was lovely, and met swans, starlings, and some rather bold pigeons. Then we spent a few hours walking around the Natural History Museum. And over dinner, I met up with a couple of British friends from my year abroad between high school and college. It was so nice to catch up.

Thursday evening at Consequences, my quiz team came in second to last, and as per usual, I really didn’t contribute much. (One of the few answers I was able to contribute on was, unsurprisingly, a Game of Thrones related question.) But the context of the quiz offers a good excuse for introducing myself to unfamiliar faces (“hi, I don’t have a team, can I join yours?”) and fodder for small talk. My teammates were very welcoming and I met new people; it made for a fun evening (which also raised money for charity.)

On Friday afternoon, I was one of two GMs for Faustian Speed Dating. I played this LARP at Summer LARPin’ 2019, as one of the demons, and really enjoyed it. It was added to the Consequences schedule late, so I was worried it might not fill, but the last spot got taken about a week and half before the con. Demons proved more popular than sorcerers among the players, but everyone was pretty flexible on casting.

The GM’s NPC role for this LARP is Cambysion, the Blasphemous Union of Demon and Mortal Flesh, and host of the speed dating event where demons and sorcerers have a chance to find someone to make an Faustian bargain with. The writer told me she envisions Cambysion as being literally half sorcerer, half demon, with their makeup and costume split down the middle, Two-Face style. As this run had two GMs, we decided to each dress as a sorcerer and a demon, but tried to speak in ways that implied we shared one mind. (Mixing up “I” and “we” pronouns, and saying things like, “I must go confer with myself”.)

My demon costume consisted of red and black pieces (some from my Sith costume from two Consequences back), borrowed horns, heavy eyeliner, red contacts, and blue lipstick. Part of me wishes I’d done a more elaborate makeup; working on makeup skills was one of my New Year’s LARP resolutions. (Sadly, I failed to get any decent shots of this costume or any other costume over the weekend.)

My fellow GM and I set up five small tables with two chairs each, and decorated with skull patterned tablecloths (post-Halloween sale items purchased on a whim). We also set up a table and chairs for ourselves on the stage by the game space, which seemed appropriate for our NPC role, and gave us a nice vantage point from which to observe all of the players in their one-on-one conversations, without hovering over shoulders.

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A table for sorcerers and demons.

From the stage, it looked like conversation was generally flowing throughout the LARP, which I take as a good sign. I’m pretty sure I heard a sorcerer, the Wanderer, say to the Demon of Desire, “come with me and I’ll show you everything that isn’t Hell” which I thought was a wonderfully delivered line. At another point, I’m think I heard the Demon of Regret try to convince the Wanderer that they had met and made deals in alternate timelines, a nice bit of improv. And the player of the Demon of Protection sent me a little in-character email prior to the LARP, thanking Cambysion for their invitation and signing it with a creative title, “Shield against the hazards of earthly realm”. It was a really nice little surprise for a GM. (I shared it with the writer, who liked it too.)

I think in the end two or three bargains were struck? I hope the players had a good time.

On Friday evening, I played Reading Between the Lines. This LARP is set at a costumed gala at small library which is danger of closing. Meanwhile, the fabled Booklands are also in danger, and characters from well known literature are temporarily possessing the attendees of the gala who are costumed as them. The gala attendee characters are pre-written and cast by the GMs, but their costumes/the Bookland characters are up to the players. This concept really appealed to me; I’ve often enjoyed LARP roles that involve multiple consciousnesses, and I liked the idea of getting to pick a famous character to cosplay as. The GMs offered a list of suggestions, but I asked if it would be alright if I and another player came dressed as Crowley and Aziraphale from Good Omens, and the GMs were on board. I really appreciated the GMs being willing to write new characters sheets depending on the requests of the players.

Aziraphale proved to be a very good match for his gala attendee, both of them being the old fashioned sort, with affable natures and love for books. Crowley was a bigger departure from my sweet and nerdy gala character, though they did overlap in their interest in technology. I really enjoyed swapping back and forth from two very different personalities. I had fun creating awkward moments when people overheard my teenaged character call an adult mentor as “angel” (as Crowley addresses Aziraphale) and trying to convince another adult (who was sometimes Hagrid from Harry Potter) to bring me a stiff drink. I also whined a bit about the idea of some of the library’s books being relocated to a church.

I was feeling doubtful about my portrayal of Crowley, which was heavily influenced by the tv show (which I saw before reading the book.) I didn’t think I managed to capture his sarcasm or tendency to tease, but after the LARP a couple of players complimented my body language — I had been trying to mimic David Tennant’s slouching and sprawling and head tilts — and that really meant a lot to me to hear. Props to the player who played Hagrid, whose voice and accent work made the character swaps apparent, and Ebenezer Scrooge, who found ways to insert “bah, humbug!” into multiple conversations and speeches.

My costume also received a lot of positive feedback, which made me happy. I tried to recreate Crowley’s modern outfit from the tv show. I didn’t do any sewing for this costume, but I did dye a snakeskin belt and snakeskin boots, and created a tasseled scarf out of faux chain-mail trim, tassels, and hot glue. I even tried to style my bangs a bit into an approximation of the swoop David Tennant sports in this role, and wore a temporary tattoo of a snake on the side of my face, just like his. The best part might have been my vivid yellow contact lenses — they received a lot of comments on how creepy they looked. People even expressed relief when I took them off. (That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.)

…Sadly, I got no photos, of either me or Aziraphale, who did a wonderful job recreating Michael Sheen’s look with two different colors of hair wax. But I’m sure we’ll reprise these costumes for cosplay at conventions in the future. In the meantime, here is a photo of me trying on the sunglasses, and another of the costume’s accessories.

On Saturday, I played in Better Living Through Robotics, a sci-fi LARP featuring Asimovian robots, written at a Peaky Midwest event. It was a last minute replacement for another LARP I had signed up for that didn’t end up running, and I’m incredibly grateful to the GMs, who stepped up despite being busy as members of con staff (and GMs for other LARPs).

I had recently played another Asimovian LARP (Persephone’s Gift) and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to playing another. Better Living revolved around a CEO’s decision of which of her children should inherit control of her megacorporation. I knew I wanted to play a robot again — I really like non-human roles, so I was happy to be cast as 1UN4 (“LOO-nah”), the assistant to the CEO’s son and head of Public Outreach and Marketing.

I really liked how the human characters of Better Living each represent a very different outlook towards robots, and the robots each have a unique perspective on their existence and their relationships towards humans. I spent much of the LARP exploring my own feelings towards romance, sexuality, freedom, and mortality/immortality. For example, I had the opportunity to inspire jealousy in a fellow robot while exploring the idea of romance with him, and toyed with that idea for a bit (though I ended up avoiding it, when I realized jealousy often comes hand in hand with pain.)

You can read more about and purchase the LARP on the Peaky website.

For costuming, rather coincidentally, I had picked up a pair of tights at a clearance sale for a party store — they give your knees and ankles the appearance of articulated ball joints (they sold under the label, “Creepy Doll Tights”.) I think they were just the right detail for a last minute robot costume (although I’m tempted to also find a version that doesn’t include cracks.)

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I played the magician’s assistant. The magician is her brother, but she’s the brains behind the act, the designer of the tricks. I started out as the resident skeptic of the circus. I don’t want to spoil this LARP for future players, but let’s just say it opens with an atmosphere of tension and wistfulness, and it gets eerier as it goes on. Our run concluded with a very emotional, dramatic scene involving (almost) the entire cast.

For costuming, I spent awhile looking up vintage circus photos online. I ended up wearing a borrowed black tailcoat over a fluffy white shirt and a red corset, with black boy shorts (actually a pair of high waisted knickers from a superhero costume) over dancers’ tights and sparkly Mary Jane shoes. I also put fluffy white feathers in my hair and went heavy on the makeup for a stage look. I liked the tights in particular for this costume; they really look meant for someone who expects to be performing under bright lights and doesn’t want to appear too pale and washed out.

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the magician and his assistant

It only felt a little awkward to have my legs so visible in the context of a circus LARP with lots of fun costuming, but for awhile, I found myself too self-conscious to leave game space with only dancer’s tights covering my legs; someone else had to fetch me coffee. I suppose I was feeling unsure about Consequences’ cultural norms around costuming?

At my previous two Consequences, I found time on Sunday for board gaming, but not this year. But that’s ok — as mentioned above, thanks to keeping my mornings free for sleeping in, I had plenty of time for socializing at the parties all four nights. The parties do get fairly loud and crowded (though they felt somewhat less so to me this year) but I really enjoyed talking with people from different LARP communities. I learned a lot about some of the blockbuster LARPs running, particularly Conscious, a Westworld inspired LARP that really pushes the envelope. (I think I’d like to play a future run!) I also heard a lot of excited chatter about Tutankhamen, the new weekend long theater/freeform LARP running in the UK in February. (Much to my dismay, I hear this LARP is highly unlikely to ever run again.)

I also found time during the Saturday night party to take a dip in a hot tub, which was really nice (and actually an easier location to have a conversation than inside the chalets.) I hear there was a LARP designed to run in a hot tub that ran at Consequences — if I can manage to track it down online, I’d like to run and/or play it in the near future.

And this year I was one of the party hosts, along with my travel buddy/chalet roommate. It seems the LARPers who usually host on Saturday night were not there this year, so we volunteered. I was worried about not having any booze to offer, but so many guests brought their own to share, there was more than enough, with tons leftover. People seemed just grateful to have a place to gather, which I was happy to provide. Really, so long as you don’t have to be up early the next morning, the only downside is the clean up. (A lot of leftover wine and beer went down the sink.) Some folks are saying once is enough to make it a tradition, and I’d be up for hosting… so long as there isn’t LARP the next morning calling my name. (If the Friday night party is the Dutch Party, would that make the Saturday night party the American Party…?)

Instead of board gaming on Sunday, I volunteered for an Ops shift, which was mostly spent dismantling room dividers. On a whim, I bought raffle tickets with my change from buying coffee (it was for charity, so why not) and won three prizes. I didn’t see when the homemade Batman tote I donated was selected, but I hear the person who chose it seemed happy with it.

 

I also made it down to the beach for the first time. The weather was as rainy as one can expect from England in November, but I was ready for it with my Wellingtons and Captain America umbrella. It was so muddy on the path down to the beach that I slipped and cartoonishly flung a cup of coffee into my own face. (Fortunately, it had already cooled.) Still glad I went — the view was very pretty, and there were lots of cute rabbits hopping around.

Now I’m back home in the States and, like last year, feeling those post-con/post-LARP blues pretty hard. At least there is another event coming up later next year where I might see a few of the UK LARPers again… but I’ll wait on announcements before saying more. I should probably distract myself by turning my focus to Intercon… now that open sign ups have happened, I have a very full schedule of LARPs and other events to start preparing for. (…Maybe a little too full…) But right now, I just miss everyone from Consequences.

As a little bonus…
Words I Learned at Consequences
kwtch – Welsh for cuddle
muppet – British slang for idiot
alsjeblieft – Dutch for please

 

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Fall LARP Projects

One of my New Year LARP Resolutions was to write an average of two posts per month. I was on track around August, then started slipping again in September. I’m currently feeling loaded up with LARP-related projects that usually take precedence over blogging… So for the sake of both mental organization and my resolution, here is a summary of my recent and current projects:

1. Usual LARP Prep
Lots of LARPs, lots of prep! September somehow passed without me attending any LARPs, but my October and November have lots.

I played a delightful LARP, (Persephone’s Gift), with the Greater Boston LARP Society, though prep was mostly an above average amount of reading. After that, there was a weekend of three LARPs, all of which involved a fair amount of reading (and re-reading) and costuming prep. Blog post about all of those is in progress.

There’s also Consequences in November, for which I have begun costuming. The first costume mostly involves shopping for items online and in department stores, but I’ve also had my first go at dying faux leather boots and I plan to alter a tasseled scarf. (Sadly, I’m having trouble finding sunglasses that fit my face.) The second costume is a magician’s assistant in a Dust Bowl era circus. I’m looking at vintage photos and circus posters for inspiration. That leaves one LARP for which I’m still waiting on casting (but I expect the costume will involve mouse ears and a tail) and a demonic costume for the NPC role in Faustian Speed Dating. (GMing Faustian also means some amount of reading, printing, and casting.)


2. Nostos
In one of the LARPs I recently played, I was cast as a LARP Blogger (at last, a typecast?) and as such, my character ran a ten minute mini-LARP based on The Odyssey. The writers gave me about a page of writing materials that would have sufficed, but me being me, I expanded on the concept and altered it almost beyond recognition and included a mechanic based around the card game Skull. I also threw together a poster and a little bit of costuming to go with it. More on that in the aforemetioned upcoming blog post.


3. Costuming Organization
I’m sure lots of LARPers reach a point where they look at their costuming collection and realize it’s a total disorganized mess. Besides my overstuffed sewing/crafting/costuming closet, I also had a giant Pile of Costuming Stuff that should never have been permitted to exist in the first place. I managed to sort the Dreaded Pile into categories and fold everything, but there’s nowhere to really put it, and as I pack and unpack for various LARP events, the folded stacks are slowly coming undone and morphing back into the Dreaded Pile.

To address this, I’ve started sewing large tote bags that are thematically appropriate to the costuming categories they will contain. I’ve finished the first one, a Star Wars themed tote, for my Jedi, Sith, and Wookie costuming. One pocket has a print of porgs and R2-D2, the other a print of red and blue lightsabers. Altogether, I have maybe seven totes planned for myself, and another… five? planned that will be gifts and raffle prizes.

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Star Wars tote bag preview

4. Inktober
Inktober is a drawing challenge in which participants ink one drawing per day for the whole month of October, based on a series of one word prompts. It’s flexible, in that one can do multiple on one day, and none the next, and there’s no minimum requirement on time or effort. It’s simply meant to encourage you to practice. I personally decided to put a LARP and Cosplay based spin on it; all of my sketches relate to LARPs I’ve been involved with, or cosplays I’ve done.

I’ve only managed to do five so far this year; I’ve been busy with travel and holidays, and it’s hard to get it done with more pressing projects on my plate. But I do like how it motivates me to practice drawing, so I accept that I will not finish it before Halloween. (Last time, I finished in April.)

5. Intercon 
Intercon T is still months away, but it’s a busy time for staff. The schedule has just gone live, and we always get a flood of bids right before and after it gets published. As a proposal com member and social media coordinator, this is one of the busier times of the year.

I’m terribly excited for the event itself and have my first two rounds of sign ups picked out.

…Oh, and not quite LARP related, (but it’s costuming, so close enough) I put together a Halloween costume. (No crafting involved this year, just online shopping and pulling things from my closet.) It’s Mugman, from the beautifully animated video game Cuphead.
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This photo is a selfie. The lighting combined with my black shirt resulted in this image, which I think captures the striking effect of the mask that my fellow party attendees were reacting to. (A lot of “that’s cute but also pretty creepy.”)

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Intercon S: Part IV

It occurs to me I never quite finished my post-Intercon S reports.
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On Sunday at Intercon, I played in two LARPs.

The first was an Iron GM LARP. Iron GM is an annual LARP writing contest that Intercon runs, where teams of writers are given a group of ingredients (a genre, a theme, an element, plus a secret prop to incorporate) and a weekend to produce a two hour LARP for five to twelve players.

I try to play an Iron GM LARP most years for a few reasons. It’s a project I like to support, even if it’s just as a player in the Intercon runs, because it’s a great way to encourage new LARPs to be written. And there’s something fun and low pressure about having a LARP that is a surprise on your schedule — you never quite know what you’re going to get, for style, genre, setting, or character. It often means I’ll be stepping outside of my comfort zone, and there’s no prep to be done. You just show up at the door and see what happens.

This year, Iron GM needed a few more readers, so I volunteered. This means I read all of the written materials for a number of the Iron GM LARPs, and evaluated them based on a handful of criteria, such as presence and completion of required documents and how well incorporated the secret ingredients were.

I thought being a reader would preclude me from being a player, but then there was some concern over a character in one of the LARPs, and the Iron GM coordinators asked me if I would play that particular role. So I did end up playing an Iron GM LARP on Sunday morning, and, unlike a typical Iron GM LARP experience, I knew my character and a bit about the setting of the LARP going in.

I usually roll out of bed on Sunday morning at Intercon and head straight to Iron GM LARPs in my pajamas (can’t costume in advance, so might as well!), but this year, amusingly, I was the only one perfectly costumed. The LARP I played, The Call, was set at a boarding school, and opens with students responding to mysterious screaming in the middle of the night. The GMs described the costuming aesthetic for the LARP as something like, “3am Fire Alarm Chic”. (I love that descriptor and I’m stealing it.)

The Call is centered around the students, who are still coming to terms with their supernatural sides, unraveling the mystery of the screams and confronting the ancient mysteries of their campus. I don’t want to spoil it here, but I will say it has kind of an X-Men meets Lovecraft vibe. Also, I particularly liked their use of the prop ingredient (a mirror) and their evocative descriptions of the school and its campus in their setting document are really good. One would not think this LARP was written in a single rushed weekend.

My second LARP on Sunday at Intercon was Strangers. I’ve heard really good things about, so I was excited to get a chance to play at Intercon S. (Also, it ran from 2-6pm, and I’m also very happy to see Interconners take advantage of the fact that we have the function rooms until late on Sunday.  There’s no reason for the fun to stop Sunday morning.)

Strangers is a blackbox LARP by Nina Essendrop, the LARP writer behind White Death. (Which has now run a fair number of times in the local community.) Like White Death, strangers is an abstract sort of LARP, without any speaking. Both LARPs explore community as a theme; Strangers also explores culture clash between refugees and native populations.

The LARP opens by dividing the players into two populations, the greens and the blues. (Indicated with colored ribbons pinned to your shirt.) One population will end up fleeing one by one to the other. I should mention I have, since Intercon, played this LARP a second time, and so I have seen it both from the perspective of the native population and the refugee population.

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A room divided by furniture and tablecloths.

Through a series of workshops, the players establish a very limited vocabulary of gestures, and their culture’s daily routines — a series of abstract activities involving interactions with props and one another, cued by short runs of instrumental music, along with brief periods of sleep. After several runs through the daily routines, with each culture operating independently on their separate sides of the room, the GM begins moving members of the refugee population one at a time to the other side of the room during the sleep periods. This migration creates disturbances in both sides’ routines, and it’s up to the players how well (or how poorly) this integration works. Will the cultures blend? Will one get overtaken  by the other? Will they end up still largely separate, even while together in the same half of the room? Or some combination?

It was a really interesting experience both times. The workshops are a ton of fun. It’s playful and not too mentally or physically demanding. Also, this LARP does something most LARPs struggle with — it establishes the baseline of the setting, the routine, such that players have a clear idea of how the routine is getting interrupted. A common problem a lot of LARPs, of all different styles and genres, run into is failure to establish the norms. (For example, how many of us have played a LARP where players are told their characters are among the most powerful or unique in the world, but then run into endless NPCs who are of similar power and it muddies the understanding of the setting? Or characters are meant to think the setting is perfectly mundane, and players aren’t quite sure how readily they’re meant to accept claims of ghost sightings?) It would be interesting to extrapolate the workshops of this setting into other styles of LARP, perhaps less abstract ones.

Like White Death, this LARP’s structure lends itself to lots of poignant little moments that are very much open to individual, equally valid, interpretation (which may or may not be compared during post-game chatter). In particular, trying to understand the language (hand gestures) of the other culture leads to some very interesting moments of confusion, and lead to us all making a series of decisions — when we would we compromise with people from a different culture? When would we try to impose our own culture on them, or let them interrupt our routines, or adapt to include them, or try to stay as separate as possible? It was fun, but also very thought-provoking, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I recommend playing it twice and seeing it from the perspective of both populations.

And that concludes my Intercon S posts! It only took about seven months. Time to look over the LARPs already listed for Intercon T

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