I’ve been listening to Larpcast, “a podcast about live-action roleplaying and all that goes with” (primarily boffer style LARPing) by Mickey Golosovker and Bill Tobin, since it started a little over a year ago.
Their most recent podcast was an interview with Ira Ham, co-creator of Wyrdcon, a LARPing convention in California (and a sister convention to Intercon- I believe they’re licensed as Intercon West).
In it, Ira Ham makes the comment, “one of the interesting things about Wyrdcon compared to most other live action conventions is wyrdcon allows combat.” And also that he’s only aware of two other LARP style conventions- Knutepunkt (the Nordic convention) and Intercon.
I know he technically said “most other live action conventions” and not “all other live action conventions” but I do want to set the record straight- though Intercon primarily hosts theater style LARPs, it welcomes and has had boffer style events.
My first taste of boffer LARPing was at Intercon H, where End of Seasons ran a sort of sample one-shot event for a small group of players. They cast me as a healer of Spring, so I showed up in a light green linen robe with ivy leaves in my hair, and leaves painted across my face (along with a lot of glitter, as per my costuming hint. I remember one player showing up in high quality leather armor- he kept clear of me, as “glitter is impossible to get out of leather.”) They didn’t have a particularly large room, but they’d brought piping to support tarps in order to section off the room into a sort of small maze to play the role of the cave we were exploring. The plot was a classic “dungeon dive”- a group of adventurers come together to explore a cave, with the expectation of traps, puzzles, and monsters along the way to a magical McGuffin to retrieve from within.
My fellow adventurers were a sampling of all the classes and races that End of Seasons had to offer. I recall two badass warriors from the Winter culture, a spell caster from the Autumn culture, another spell caster from the Summer culture. The cave was extremely well dressed- it was full of tapestries, treasure chests full of gold coins, goblets, jewelery… there were items to find for each of us- I recall picking up a necklace of wooden beads that would enhance my healing power. I think there was a powerful weapon was picked up by one of the Winter warriors. For a simple dungeon dive, they had put in quite a bit of effort- the winter warrior had a personal challenge against a powerful NPC monster. I remember feeling rather tense as we fought off wandering beasts while scrambling to piece together a puzzle that would allow us to advance. We met a cool NPC- a lost clockwork girl who needed a name and followed us out of the cave. I believe the staff was moving the tarp walls and set dressing around as we advanced, so that way we could keep on exploring new rooms even though the hotel space wasn’t that large. The NPCs moved fast, changing costumes to represent new monsters to fight. And at the end, the cave collapsed and we made a daring escape with the neat McGuffin prop (a dragon scepter, if my memory serves.)
It was a memorable experience- I remember being distinctly impressed. And though I didn’t end up playing End of Seasons, I did get into boffing.
My other boffing experience at Intercon was at Intercon K, where friends of mine ran a one-shot set in The Calling. We were at a different hotel than usual, and they gave us a rather large room next to the pool, right by an outdoor patio. We only had maybe 5 NPCs to start with, for a crowd of over 25, which proved a bit problematic, but as characters died, some of them came to join us as monsters, so the combats improved. I had never NPCd for a boffer LARP before, and I developed a whole new respect for the staff and NPCs of boffer staffs- playing a monster can be scary! Even with a reminder not to gang up more than 3 players on an NPC and to pull your punches, I think players got a little excited. The rubber masks were also enormous on me, which made it very difficult to see out of the eyeholes, large as they were.
I spent most of my time getting swarmed by PCs or waiting to re-spawn in either the hallway or behind some bushes surrounding the patio, so I’m not entirely sure how the players were getting on between combats, or how the plot was progressing. I think it went a bit slow for the first half of the LARP- there may have been some mismatched expectations in terms of plot guidance on the parts of the players, who were mostly theater LARPers trying out boffer style for the first time (not all- there was a handful of boffer veterans in the crowd) and the GMs, who had little theater experience. But it picked up, and there was an exciting conclusion when the NPCs all came in as an army to arrest one of the players, and the surviving characters all rallied to his defense.
We did rather shock some of the non-LARPer hotel guests, who watched us from the pool through large glass windows, and I’m sure wondered why people in goblin masks and robes with padded swords and nerf weapons were attacking people in odd costumes out on the patio. I also recall being spotted by a young girl, maybe 6 or 7, while I was standing in the hallway, preparing to launch another attack with my goblin minions. She pointed excitedly at me and said to the adult with her, “look, it’s Darth Vader!”
I know some LARPers prefer not to be seen in costume, doing weird LARPy things by “the mundanes”… I’m one of the LARPers who gets a kick out of it.
One thing I take away from these experiences- one, amazing things can be done with small spaces in hotels (though it took a fair amount of effort from the staff to achieve it) and some hotels have great spaces for it, even indoors. Intercon won’t be going back to the hotel they were at for Intercon K, it is likely we’ll be moving to a bigger hotel in the future- hopefully one that will also support boffer LARPing.
I think it’s a bit a pity we haven’t had more such boffer events at Intercon.
For one thing, even though my favorite sorts of theater LARPs are common at Intercon, it could always use more variety. Intercon strives for variety in LARPs, and though we get many different writers and genres, they are mostly in the classic theater format.
For another, I think boffer LARPs could really benefit from these kinds of venues- boffing at Intercon introduced me to that style of LARPing, and now I love it. LARPs that are just starting up could use it to give potential players a sample of what their LARP is about and reach a large group of new potential LARPers, as could boffer campaigns interested in expanding their player pool (as well as their NPC pool!) And for those that don’t sign up for the game, there are always LARPers wandering the hall interested in a peek, plus the advertising potential in the ConSuite (mostly in the form of fliers) and at Con Wrap (in the form of Shameless Plugs.)
And third, though there is a substantial overlap between theater style and boffer style LARPers (I’m always happy to see faces from Intercon at the boffers I play in), there’s also kind of an odd rift between the two. LARPers who have only tried theater seem to be put off by the notion that they might be bad at the physical skill of boffer fighting, and that it’s mostly monster crunching, and not real role playing… while boffer LARPers can sometimes look down on the notion of people fighting monsters by throwing rock, paper, or scissors at them… rather than actually fighting them.
I’m kind of proud to be one of the LARPers who loves both. But I also wish there were more chances for people from each side to just give the other a chance. Boffer in particular has a sort of high level of requirement just to sample it. Intercon costs me $25 to attend. My first boffer event cost me $100. Most theater style LARPs I have played take up 4 hours in an indoor environment. Boffer LARPs often require a weekend at remote campsites with unheated cabins. Character creation can be a bit daunting, and and if gear isn’t available to borrow, can add another substantial cost. It’s hard to convince theater LARPers to give boffer LARPing a try… which is why introducing them to samples at Intercon is such a great alternative. I know many boffer LARPs start off with one day events to introduce people to the LARP (Cottington Woods has one planned for this autumn)… those should probably be better advertised, too.
Hmm. I missed an Intercon staff meeting today to help my sister move, but maybe if I make it to the next meeting, I can bring up reaching out to more boffer LARPs in the area.
Intercon goers- if you’re reading this, would you be happy to see more boffer LARPing at Intercon?