Across the ‘Verse

In a week and a half, I’ll be headed up to RPI to play in a weekend long LARP, The King’s Musketeers.

When I heard this LARP was running, I was mad excited for two reasons.

One, I’ve played in Torch of Freedom, another weekend long LARP, also of the swashbuckler genre, which is one of my favorite LARPs (certainly my favorite weekend long), and I hear that many of the fun mechanics in Torch of Freedom were inspired by The King’s Musketeers.

Two, I just adore the genre- swashbuckling in general, and the theme in particular. I had a Three Musketeers phase back in… what, middle school? I went as Aramis for Purim (a holiday with the tradition of dressing up in costumes) when I was… 12? 13? I can’t recall. The Man in the Iron Mask was my favorite movie for awhile.

I have played one LARP set in 17th century France before. To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed. I had one nigh impossible goal (a MacGuffin hunt, and the majority of characters in game were looking for the same thing) with only one ability to find it… which turned out to be just my character being delusional. The GMs had a good chuckle at my expense when I was crawling around on my hands and knees, trying to use my ability… This is often the example I give when people are discussing one of the golden rules of LARP writing,”mess with the characters; don’t mess with the players.”

At any rate, it never really scratched my itch for a good musketeer LARP, so I was thrilled when The King’s Musketeers was announced.

My questionnaire for this LARP read pretty much as follows: “a musketeer, a musketeer, please cast me as a musketeer.”

A couple weeks ago, I got my character hint, and was thrilled, even though it wasn’t a musketeer. Then I got the whole character sheet and was a bit… crestfallen. I had misunderstood the thing I’d liked about the character.

I’m determined to make the best of it, though. That discussion will have to wait until after the LARP though. I’m a big believer in avoiding spoilers.

However, I will say that this LARP is based on an amalgamation of famous swashbuckling books and movies. The Three Musketeers (along with its sequels) is, of course, one source, as is The Scarlet Pimpernel. There are others as well, I’m sure. And now, having read my character sheet and the rules, I’m a bit concerned that this LARP will fall afoul of an unfortunate pitfall that many LARPs set in a pre-existing ‘verse (or combination of ‘verses)- that some characters are the stars, and others are the supporting cast.

(By “‘verse,” I mean the setting- the universe in which a story takes place.)

Most LARPs take place in a ‘verse that is created wholesale from the writer’s (or writers’) imagination. For boffer LARPs (or rather, most campaign LARPs), characters are written by each players, there’s no real risk of one character being more central to the ‘verse, or more central to the plot(s) of the LARP than others.

But if you’re working with a pre-established ‘verse, especially when you’re not creating new characters for it, but using pre-existing characters, it can be very tempting to make the main characters of the original source into the stars of the LARP.

Quick example. Let’s say you’re writing a Harry Potter LARP, and your character list includes characters right out of the books. It’s very tempting to make Harry Potter the star of the show- to make him key to solving the main problem, give him the best anti-Dark Arts powers, etc.

There are two common methods writers use to avoid this pitfall and still provide fans with the opportunity to play in the ‘verse of their favorite books and movies.

One is to use the setting, but another time and place within that ‘verse, with a new cast of characters (or a cast of only lesser known characters.) For example, I played in a Harry Potter LARP that took place in an American wizarding school. The magic was all there, but Harry and Co. were off in England. We played all original characters. Same world, same time, different place, different people.

Another example was a LARP I played (and one of my all-time favorites) that took place in the setting of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, but not in the same era as the books; it took place about 100 years prior, during the Blackfyre Rebellion. Same ‘verse, same place, different time. (Though I often find one character’s name being in the title — Blackfyre Rising — to be a potential Red Flag. It sounds like Daemon Blackfyre might be central to the LARP.)

The other take on this type of LARP is to use a pastiche of different books (and/or movies, video games, etc.) so that you have plenty of main characters to choose from. Sometimes the various sources are all of the same genre, as The King’s Musketeers is all approximately Age of Cavaliers swashbuckling. Storywars is a six hour theater style LARP that combines characters from various famous works of science fiction.

But it doesn’t always work out perfectly. If you take, say, 15 characters all from The Three Musketeers, they can’t all be, D’Artagnan, the three musketeers, and the Big Bad Villains (Cardinal Richelieu, Milady, and possibly Rochefort.) I can see it being easy to turn secondary characters who are fanatically powerful into stars, too- the Duke of Buckingham and Queen Anne can probably be made into great characters.

But I’m having trouble seeing Planchet (D’Artagnan’s manservant) or Kitty being made into characters who don’t get outshined by D’Artagnan. And yet Planchet has popped up on the cast list. (And possibly Kitty.)

Normally,  I would try to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the lackeys are only lackeys on the surface, and secretly very exciting, busy badasses when their masters’ backs are turned. Another golden rule of LARP writing: “every character should be the star from their own point of view.” (Gems picked up from previous Pre-Cons panels at Intercon.)

But I’m feeling a bit skeptical based on my character sheet and the rules… and I guess the specifics will have to wait until after the LARP is played.

Still. The attitude going in to a LARP has a huge impact on how much fun it is, or so it’s been my experience. So I’m going to try to keep an open mind.

And worst comes to worst? They do have backup characters for those who die before Sunday.

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About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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One Response to Across the ‘Verse

  1. Pingback: The Squeaky Wheel « FairEscape

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