The M stands for Epic!
I’m home from Intercon M, and I had an epic weekend. I have pages and pages worth of memories and thoughts to describe, so I think I’m going to start with a basic description of the LARPs I played, and work on my PreCon write up (I’ve got notes from panels to go through, and tons to say about the Ars Amandi workshop) and other thoughts over the next few days.
On Friday night, my first LARP was Serpent’s Spiral. I played William Townsend, a British soldier.
I’m going to quote its blurb here because it’s relevant to my review:
“The world is at war, but in Ireland a desperate bid for freedom plays out across the land. In a remote corner of Ireland, British soldiers and their prisoners take refuge in an ancient castle, knowing that rebels may be upon them at any moment. But what of the rumors of an ancient power lurking in the depths beneath the castle dungeons? And what do the strange fires in the distant village portend? And what do the stories of The Serpent’s Spiral mean?
The Serpent’s Spiral is a history-based theater game that takes place during the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland. Players include British soldiers, castle natives, and Irish prisoners trapped together for a night. Game space will include a full labyrinth.”
The early date and the line “ancient power lurking in the depths beneath the castle dungeons” initially made me worry it was a C’thulhu LARP, though I was reassured that it was not by people who played in previous runs. The set-up of British soldiers and their prisoners, as well as castle natives trapped and observing the situation sounded utterly fascinating and wonderfully tense, and I was extremely thrilled with my casting as one of the British soldiers. I’ve never even see any other LARPs set in Ireland during the Easter Uprising.
In practice, the beginning of the LARP opened just as I imagined it would, and there was some wonderful roleplaying going on between the prisoners and us soldiers, and various people who wanted to interact with us. For example, one of the prisoners was a teenage girl who seemed likely to have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her mother was in the castle and distressed about her daughter being in chains.
Side note, I figured the prisoner characters were not written with the intention of staying in chains the entire LARP, so whenever it was plausible, I tried to give them ample opportunity to escape. Specifically, my character had the ability to ignore certain mechanical effects, but I chose not to exercise this ability whenever someone showed me a card saying “you are now distracted and must wander off for a minute.”
It wasn’t too long before the door to the titular spiral opened, and Magic started happening, so people stopped focusing on the prisoner situation. Crazy things involving big dangerous Evils were clearly going on, though I decided my character would stay guarding the prisoners instead of trying to get into the labyrinth. Eventually, almost everyone was in the labyrinth except for me and a small handful of other people (in a 34 player LARP) and we were running out of stuff to do. A GM came out to play an NPC for us once or twice, but he was clearly very busy with events in the labyrinth.
Eventually, I decided I was concerned about my fellow soldiers and tried to get into the labyrinth (which looked very cool- there were moving walls and lights strung everywhere) but it was locked, and stayed locked for most of the LARP. By the time it opened, things were coming to a head, and people were discussing big magical things that meant utterly nothing to my character, so I mostly just watched, bewildered, until the LARP ended. Tellingly, at one point someone mentioned a type of magic, and I said “wait, there are real [magic things] here?” and everyone in the room laughed and said I must be completely out of the loop. I missed the game wrap, so I still have no idea what exactly was going on in the bulk of the LARP.
The setting was so unique and the situation with the prisoners started out so tense, that I thought that could have been a great LARP all by itself, without any magic at all. A few people who weren’t involved in the magic plots and/or got locked out of the labyrinth seemed disappointed and said they felt a bit left out and bored. Honestly, I was so enjoying my character and what little went on with the prisoner/Uprising plot that I still had a very good time, though I do feel sympathetic to them.
Overall, I still enjoyed myself and I think it’s a great LARP, though I would say it’s more for people who enjoy magic powers and items and saving the world than it is for people who want to delve into the politics and emotions of the Easter Uprising.
After Serpent’s Spiral, I dashed off to Day’s End, which was a very basic, straightforward zombie scenario. We played a handful of random people at a hotel for a biology conference, when a zombie plague breaks out and our room is surrounded by the undead. Meanwhile, some people in the room are looking sick and there’s one guy with a bloody shirt…
I had a great time. I liked it short and sweet and tense. Our characters were essentially ourselves with minor adjustments- basically, I was told to imagine myself as I would be, had I become a reporter who went to report on a conference. The mechanics were minimal and simple. That made it easy to get into character and react as naturally as possible. I’d recommend it for anyone who finds the whole zombie trend interesting.
Saturday morning, I went to Triple Blind, which is a simple 1 hour LARP with a very cool structure. There are nine players, and characters are randomly generated right as you walk in. Each player picks up three sheets- one describing your cover identity, one describing a secret group you belong to, and one describing your real identity. The cover identities were all people at a political party celebrating the signing of a peace treaty between two nations. The plots were pretty basic, and yes, the overall atmosphere is a bit contrived because it’s a room full of people with perfect disguises (generally), but it’s good fun and very easy to run and play with a minimum of paper goods (just some paper, nametags, a few index cards and a few post-its.) If you need another small game to round out a LARPing event, I’d definitely give it a look. It’s online and free to download here. Also very newbie-friendly.
Small confession: I totally forgot my cover identity was not my real identity, which led to a bit of confusion for me at the very end, but luckily it didn’t actually cause any problems for our run.
After Triple Blind, I dashed off to costume for The Great War Upon Us, the intro to the Roman-flavored boffer campaign Invictus.
I played Milius Nirenna, the Illaran dual-wieldng slave/scout. (Illara being the Rome-like province.) I had gotten very little sleep the night before, and drank two cups of coffee just before showing up, so I was pretty much bouncing off the walls. I was extremely surprised and excited to see two boffer friends of mine as NPCs. I never remembered my character’s name, or her master’s name… or anyone’s name. I forgot half my abilities. At one point, people were screaming at me to retreat, but I was so amped up on caffeine that I heard them but it just didn’t register. I think I was in full-on beserk mode. Eventually, it got through and I bolted. There was some great exciting combat, and some interesting RPing (my character’s old friend turned up as a prisoner.) I had a great moment where my master freed me (he used his boon from the NPC guide to do so.) There was a tough decision to make revolving around some very well played NPCs in the dungeon. And I got taken down spectacularly in the final battle, but instead of killing me, the NPCs inflicted some effect on me (the result of which was a mystery left unanswered.) It seems unlikely at this point that I will PC in Invictus, but I’d love to stop by and NPC for them a time or two.
My one complaint, which I’m sure the GMs were aware of- we received the basics of the rules the first day of Intercon, and there was no way I was able to review them before the LARP. Less of a problem for people who have Accelerant rules experience, potentially very problematic if any of the LARPers were newbies. But it seemed to work out in combat.
Small note on the costume- it didn’t come out half-bad, though the long cape turned out to be a mistake, as I tripped on it from time to time. I also cut the tunic too short and forgot the damn pair of pants I had decided to wear (kind of a basic neutral colored pair that tie off just below the knees.) So I improvised, wore a pair of shorts and wrapped a scrap of fabric around my waist, which didn’t look half bad at first, but by the time the battles were over, it was in complete disarray, as you can see above. Oh, well. Next time, hopefully, I won’t be so rushed when getting ready. Or maybe I’ll make a costume that requires fewer safety pins.
After lunch, I got ready to play the pharaoh Hatshepsut in Osiris’ Gate.
This LARP was set in the ancient Egyptian afterlife, between Duat, the dangerous Paths of the Dead, and Aaru, the paradise of reed fields, just prior to weighing the hearts of the characters against a feather. The LARP was populated by the souls of the greatest mortals- mostly pharaohs, but also great advisers and priests, as well as gods. The LARP had a great set design, with a glowing tent representing Osiris’ chamber, and trees scattered about the room, with colored green and blue lighting. It gave the room a very ethereal feel. And the costuming blew my mind- this was one of the best costumed LARPs I’ve been in.
Hatshepsut was part of a trio of souls who acted as guides for new mortal souls through the dangerous Paths, but by avoiding judgment was weighing down her own heart. We had a really great dynamic going, and though I didn’t know either of the players personally, it was a ton of fun to roleplay off them. I was really impressed with the atmosphere generated by the writing and the way the LARP’s conflicts was presented- it was very much unlike most LARPs I play in a way that’s very difficult to describe. I think one of the best ways I’ve heard it described so far was that it had a lot of gravity. Often when gods are walking about, it becomes over-the-top- lightning bolts get thrown around and such. But not in this LARP. I will admit a few players said they felt as though they didn’t have enough to do, but overall I thought it was a very cool LARP.
Also, one LARPer brought her infant to the LARP, and the GMs declared it was the soul of a baby also about to have its heart weighed against a feather. At one point, I kneeled down beside the baby and played with her tiny feet and cooed at her, all in character. It was actually kind of a great RPing moment for me.
My last LARP of Saturday was Second Dawn.
It was a post-post-apocalyptic sci-fi, meaning a setting where the apocalypse happened and the world had been slowly recovering over the last several hundred years or so. My character was one of a trio of travelers in white who had come from a utopian society that was faring a lot better than the rest of the world. When I first read my character sheet, I thought my character was pretty much a nutjob, though a rather wide-eyed and friendly nutjob who was curious about the outside world. A little while after the LARP began, I started to realize maybe the writers didn’t actually intend for me to be quite so batty, but I was already having fun with it, so I just kept going. My one concern was that the LARPer playing my romantic interest (who was incredibly cool) would be uncomfortable receiving romantic attention from someone who was both somewhat cracked and incredibly immature, but luckily she told me after the LARP that she had fun.
Incidentally, the LARPer who played my brother in Second Dawn has played my brother in multiple other LARPs in the past, and we have something of a recurring theme of him chasing me around and failing to keep me out of trouble. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if he played my brother in a million more LARPs.
Second Dawn was another LARP for which I missed the game wrap, so I have no idea what sort of plots were going on that didn’t involve the travelers in white. It seemed like a lot of fun, and very busy, with themes of the moral implications of technology running throughout.
Sunday morning started off with AGENT Bobo and the Resistance, an Iron GM LARP. The writers were given three surprise “ingredients” to use to write a short LARP the week before, and afterwards, the players rated various aspects of the LARP. I believe the winners received a cash prize. The three themes were time travel, secret societies, and stuffed animals. I was a bit surprised, because the first two ingredients are very common in theater LARPs, and the last one involved each team receiving 15 beanie babies to use as props, which violates the idea of the LARPs being able to run with under $20 worth of supplies that one can buy in your typical convenience store. And the reason for this idea is that this contest is designed to generate LARPs they are meant to be publicly available and easy for anyone to run. But they made an exception for this year’s contest and included the beanie babies.
Now, I got less than half an hour of sleep the night before. Literally. And the night before that, I got under 5 hours. I had a weird, fuzzy, vibrating feeling in my skull on Sunday morning. When I went to get coffee in the con suite, the urn labled “coffee” was producing hot water, and I was too sleep-deprived and short on time to figure out how to remedy this. So I was moving towards brain-dead for this LARP. I showed up in pajamas. And though I was expecting to roleplay with little stuffed animals (and apparently there is a whole genre of LARPs called “stuffies” that include this sort of thing,) I discovered that I wasn’t really up for it at the time. I felt a bit silly waving the doll around and even though it was a short, simple character sheet of a teddy bear, I found myself forgetting basic facts while playing. That all said, I could tell everyone around me was having a great time, and it was described as a great “feel good LARP” and I hear it got great scores over all. I also appreciated the theme of child psychology running through it, and it included a professionally written IEP/psychological assessment for the boy who owned the toys, which made for a really great blue sheet. It’s running at Festival in April if you’d like to try it for yourself.
Best quote of the LARP: at one point, during a chaotic playtime scene in which the boy was using the dolls to play out a typical little boy imagined scene (secret agents using ninjas and dinosaurs to save the president from aliens) one of the dolls yelled out in a panicked German accent, “does anyone here have fingers?!”
And lastly, after AGENT Bobo, I went off to play G.I Joe: Metamorphosis, the LARP based on the 90s cartoon that I got roped into last minute to play Snake Eyes the ninja.
It occurs to me that I should explain G.I. Joe for any international readers because it’s probably not that big outside of the US.
G.I. Joe was a line of action figures that spawned various other media, including a cheesy cartoon series in the 1980s. It glamorizes the American military and idealizes the idea of being all-American (the title “A Real American Hero” kinda says it all.) It famously included short public service announcements at the end of every episode, in which characters would teach random children basic safety rules (such as wearing a helmet while biking) followed by the catch phrase “And knowing is half the battle! G.I. Joooooe!” The characters also used the catchphrase “Yo, Joe!” frequently during the show. It shamelessly indulged in lots of classic action cartoon tropes (lasers and ninjas and mad scientists, oh my!) which is what made it such great fodder for an over-the-top Sunday morning LARP. The LARP series takes each year’s theme for Intercon and using it to generate a silly cartoon plot line.
When I arrived at the LARP, I was actually very impressed with the costuming. Sunday morning LARPs typically have very simple costuming, or none at all, but people showed up in full-blown outfits, complete with wigs, ninja gi, and even a big puffy muscle suit. The only guy who didn’t costume still did a brilliant version of Cobra Commander’s voice (complete with tons of hilarious one-liners.) The two LARPers playing the two Sargent Slaughters were also brilliantly voicing their characters. I’m hoping to have access some group photos soon.
The LARP opened with an impressive bang. They divided us into two hotel suites. One contained most of the heroes, the other contained all of the villians and two kidnapped heroes. Then they told those of us in the first suite that a video was coming in, and turned on a live feed on the television of what was being filmed in the other room. The LARPers acted out a silly scene of the bad guys trying to run a telethon, with two heroes bound back to back and fighting off lobster monsters (balloon lobsters being waved on sticks.) Remarkably well done. The heroes then escaped, and we went to confront the bad guys, then were promptly thrown into a situation forcing the Joes and the Cobra team to work together. We had some strange chemical spilled on us, which forced us to undergo a metamorphosis, represented by some silly animal props (a cat nose, bear paws, bunny ears etc.) Most of the LARP involved us moving around the suite, playing with silly props, playing out basic challenges, and describing how we got out of one over-the-top scenario after another. There were submarines and evil science lab fires, and a rescued native girl (represented with a cardboard cut out of a hula girl.) There were several hilarious parody versions of the public service announcements (“Remember kids, always use a condom! And now you know. And knowing is half the battle! G. I. Jooooe!”)
It ended with the evil scientist Dr. Mindbender brewing an antidote for the metamorphosis (in the form of mocktails), and we ducked into a closet to remove our animal accessories.
I loved playing Snake Eyes. Playing a mute character was a real challenge, and I would definitely jump at the chance to do it again. I think in the cartoon Snake Eyes is a lot more dignified, and I was gesticulating wildly most of the time, but that’s ok. Maybe I’ll get a chance to play him again and I’ll watch more episodes as prep. The GMs were clearly enthusiastic fans of the cartoon series, and it showed in the LARP.
So those were my LARPs of Intercon M. They were amazing and I’m extremely grateful to all of the GMs and NPCs and players who made them possible. 8 LARPs in one weekend took a lot out of me, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Next up, all the awesome non-LARP aspects of the LARP convention.