Intercon M Post-Con Report Part II

This post is going to be a bit more of a jumble… about everything about Intercon outside the LARPs themselves and the Pre-Con panels.

As I’ve mentioned, this was the biggest Intercon so far. We went from around 290 members at J, to 310 members at K, to around 327 at L, then shot up to well over 400 for M. I was vaguely concerned that the con would feel a lot more crowded and less personal. Intercon is a relatively small convention, and I kinda like it that way. It’s gotten to the point where I generally recognize most faces and can spot newcomers in the crowd. A couple years back, in anticipation of outgrowing our current hotel, the Radisson, we tried a larger hotel for Intercon K with only mixed success. The drawbacks of the new hotel were enough to send us back to the Radisson (who had wisely reserved a weekend for us before being asked.)

And I thought Intercon M’s membership numbers would result in a convention that would convince us to permanently move on to a larger hotel. But I like the Radisson. I have a lot of fond memories there. They’ve been very good to us for years, and it’s not easy to accommodate our convention. As an all LARPing event, we have strange and unique needs. Most notably, we need a lot more space per member than most conventions. As much as I support the idea of Intercon growing, I’d be happy if we never had to move to a larger hotel.

I’m happy to say that I think the Intercon M went remarkably smoothly. The convention rented a bunch of suites to host smaller LARPs in order to give the whole convention more room outside of the function spaces, and it seemed successful to me. (My two Sunday LARPs were well suited to the suites they were in.) And it didn’t feel overcrowded or impersonal to me, which was great.

One of my favorite moments of the convention happened during my first LARP, Serpent’s Spiral. I like to wander the hallways right before LARPs start, and try to catch a glimpse of all of the awesome costuming going on. And there were a handful of non-LARPers — just regular hotel guests — doing the same thing. A handful seemed particularly curious about what was going on in Serpent’s Spiral (the toy rifles might have had something to do with that). Three teenage boys poked their heads in to ask what was going on and if it was too late to sign up. I pointed them towards Ops. I don’t think they actually ended up registering for the convention, but there’s something incredibly gratifying about seeing people who have never had any interaction with the hobby get their first glimpse of it. And decide that it looks fun and exciting and cool and like something they’d like to try.

The parties at Intercon are also worth mentioning. I received two invitations on Friday for parties happening after the evening LARPs ended. One celebrated the 10 year Anniversary of Alleged Entertainment, (a LARP writing group) and the invitation was, frankly, adorable. It took the form of a theater LARP ability card.

Unfortunately, I never made it to this party, but I did make it to a birthday party where the guests were trying out miracle fruit — a fruit that supposedly makes sour things taste sweet and sweet things taste sour. Other guests were marveling at it and having fun trying out various sweet and sour foods. Me, I don’t know what I did wrong — someone even gave me specific instructions on how to get the best effect- but I couldn’t really taste the difference. I bit into a lemon… it tasted like a lemon to me.

Every year, Intercon hosts a dance on Saturday night. (And if they didn’t, I’d probably have played nine LARPs instead of eight.) Despite the fact that my numerous costumes already take up a lot of room (needed two suitcases this year,) I still like to bring a dress to party in. Not gonna lie, my shoes were killing me by the end of the night,  but people seemed to like the outfit, so my vanity prevented me from taking them off early.

Incidentally, the DJs played plenty of swing music, which I love, and I think the LARPers at Intercon completely smash the stereotype that geeks can’t dance. I could barely keep up with any of my partners on the dance floor. But I had fun trying.

Ready for dancing.

There’s also a party that happens at Intercon every year (I think) in one of the suites in honor of a con-goer’s birthday, and it’s somewhat legendary for all kinds of shenanigans. I hear about it all the time but this is the first  year I attended, and I rather think it lived up to its expectations. I’ve never seen so many people jammed into one hotel suite before. The best part of it, though, was that I had the chance to hang out and talk with some LARPers from the local community that I’ve seen at various events but never really gotten to know. I ended up staying until well past sunrise, just enjoying their company. And if you were there and you’re reading this, thanks for entertaining me. Let’s do it again sometime. There are too many LARPers that I know as their characters, but barely know as real people. I should make more of an effort to attend these kinds of social events outside of the LARPs in the future.

Actually, there were several other instances of great conversation over the weekend. I took a break during the dance and found two of the Californian LARPers in the con suite, and finally got a chance to talk to them. Mostly about LARPing, naturally. There were a few ideas mentioned that I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll end up on Intercon N’s list of LARPs.

A few more random thoughts:

I was posing for pictures in my Serpent’s Spiral WWI-era British soldier costume (aka my “Littlest Cadet” costume), using the standard American salute (palm facing down), when someone pointed out to me that the British military salute was different (palm facing out.) So I corrected it. (Though in the photo, my pinky looks unceremoniously lax. What would King George V say?) Since Intercon, I’ve done a little bit of research on salutes, and it gets fairly complex. Things like whether or not you’re indoors, whether or not you’re wearing a hat, whether or not you’re a prisoner currently under armed guard… these things are all relevant to the etiquette of salutes. I wouldn’t suggest trying to memorize it all for one four hour LARP, but knowing the very basics could give you an extra little boost in getting into character. It could also be used for fleshing out an imagined culture for a boffer LARP. Introducing a unique salute could help make it feel more real, and give a way to call attention to the military’s presence in your setting. Think about how Katniss’ three fingered kiss-and-salute rounds out the relatable-yet-foreign culture of The Hunger Games. Imagine using a secret salute in character to address a fellow member of an assassin’s guild, then seeing a random NPC return it. Just food for thought.

I peaked into the room set up for Devil to Pay, the pirate themed LARPon Friday night, and I think it looked fantastic. I was curious to see how my flags, East India Company boxes, and barrel of rum would be incorporated into the set dressing.

New Providence

I think it came out very nice, especially with the beach-themed wall dressings and trees scattered around the room. The picture doesn’t quite do it justice. I’ve signed up to play Devil to Pay at Festival of the LARPs, and I know there won’t be a nice empty hotel room to put it all in. So I doubt it will look this good, which is kind of a shame.

Two things that made me glow during Intercon- one, I received a number of compliments on my various costumes. It never gets old. Second, a number of people let me know that they had found and read this blog. That alone makes me remarkably happy to hear, but on top of that, people had really nice feedback, which inspires me to keep at this. Thank you.

Actually, it came up at the Saturday night party I attended. I was going to say something in response, then promptly forgot what I was going to say… and now I’ve remembered. So here it is.

I think my LARP reviews tend to be remarkably bland and uninformative. There are two reasons for this. One is that I always shy away from potentially spoiling LARPs as much as possible. I go back and forth on the whole spoiler argument (are players entitled to spoilers if they want it? Are GMs entitled to demand no spoilers? That’s probably a good, contentious topic for a future post) but until I figure it out, I err on the side of no spoilers in this blog at all, which can make for some very non-specific reviews.

The other reason is that I am an utterly non-confrontational person, and I don’t feel nearly bold enough to post negative reviews. I’m terribly worried about offending writers and GMs who are friends of mine because they’re friends, and I’m terribly averse to offending random strangers because then I’ve offended strangers out there. And there really aren’t any complete strangers because this is a pretty tight-knit community. I worry the negative feedback won’t be taken seriously, that I’ll develop a reputation as a whiny, entitled player. I think a lot of LARPers feel this way, and I feel this is actually a genuine problem in the LARPing community. A lot of LARPs could be improved and aren’t because no one offers complete feedback, and people are signing up for LARPs they’ll dislike because there isn’t enough genuine information out there and the blurbs aren’t enough.

I realize I’m being a massive hypocrite. I see this thing I consider a problem and I consider myself one of the worst offenders. I think to say this affects my integrity as a blogger sounds utterly pretentious, and there’s really no actual value in trying to maintain “integrity” for a blog that gets a mere 40 hits a day, not when the alternative is offending various members of the community.

I guess the best thing I can say is that when people ask for my private opinions on LARPs that they’re considering signing up for, I offer it (under the condition anything negative not be repeated without my explicit permission.) And when writers specifically request feedback, I take it seriously (although I tend to overuse the compliment sandwich.)

To end on a higher note, one of the Intercon regulars has a jacket that I usually spot at some point during the convention.

 

How cool is that? All of the patches are cut from past Intercon t-shirts. I love this jacket!

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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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12 Responses to Intercon M Post-Con Report Part II

  1. Aaron says:

    Awesome, thank you!
    For larp reviews, I try not to be negative but constructive, i.e., “I didn’t like this part, and I think it could improve if you did this…”

    For example, one thing I intensely dislike that Intercon often does is hand out character packets to players, GM explains rules, we all sit down to read, and suddenly the GM yells “GAME ON!”

    I haven’t finished refreshing myself with my character, and what’s worse, I have no idea who my enemies/allies are, nor who the real people are.

    I much prefer meeting the real players first, then getting or developing my character, and then knowing who is playing whom, then triggering my own entry into the larp by say, walking through a door. We did this when we ran Limbo at Intercon J: players could mill about in the hall until they were ready, make sure to look at everyone’s badge to see who their friends were (so they could recognize them by outfit or face, instead of leaning in to see the badge in game), and then walk into the ballroom. Once inside, they were in character.

    That’s just my personal preference. It’s very difficult for me to get into character when I’m still figuring things out. Others can probably handle it without issue, but I need more foreplay before I role-play.

    (from one of the Californians)

    • Fair Escape says:

      Heh, “more foreplay before I role-play.” I like that!

      The game-on thing never really bothered me- maybe I just got used to it because that’s how my first LARPs did it?- but I do like the opening you describe better. Maybe I can convince one of the GMs at Festival to try it that way.

      • Lise says:

        Heh. I think I might like to try that for the run of Cracks at Festival. I have so much room to work in in Golding, and it would be setting-appropriate for the herald to “announce” them.

        Then again, the characters are supposed to be locked in the ballroom *already*, so perhaps it would not really work to have them saunter in.

        • Aaron says:

          The idea is a “rolling start”, but it’s not always needed. I usually like some kind of warm up, however, mainly so I can gauge my fellow players: are they veteran or novice? Do I know them? How far can I push my role-playing? If I’m playing a very dark character, I also like to introduce myself first so the first impression people have of me isn’t the evil character (they’ll discover my own villainy later).

          Secondly, I much prefer knowing who my IG or IC enemies, friends, and frenemies are without having to look at the name badges. I prefer not having name badges at all, unless the larp is a convention or event where people would normally have badges.

          Thirdly, I like having control as to when I step onstage, so to speak. If I want to make an entrance–and I usually do–I want to control the circumstances around which I introduce the character to the narrative.

          But again, this is just my personal preference, albeit a strong one.

          Lise, if they are already locked in, you can still do many things to indicate when they are ready to join the narrative: start everyone seated, and when a character stands up, they’re IG. Or maybe when they start dancing, or, if a masquerade, pull their mask off, etc.

          Example: for Rock Band Murder Mystery, I did call “game on”, but it was still after we all met, went over rules, characters, who was whom, etc. We then blindfolded all the players and led them into the hotel suite, where loud crowd noises were playing. Once everyone was inside, I turned the cheering off and told everyone to remove their blindfolds, and that indicated game was on.

          It’s not necessarily the starting gun to the larp that distresses me, it’s when I don’t have any moments to mentally or emotionally compose myself and “get into character.” And not knowing who the other characters are is just an immersion thing: I think I should be able to recognize someone close to me from across the room. Now, if playing an amnesia game, or one where I don’t know anyone, this prep won’t be necessary, though it is still nice to know the players without their masks on.

          • Philip Kelley says:

            Regarding “game on”, and the kinds of games often run at Intercon:

            If they’ve sent out character info before the game, read it several times before the game day (not game, but day of the game). Make notes and reminders on a single piece of paper. When you show up to the game site, pick through any game packet they give you (*always* ask if they changed any of the materials they sent you), pull out item and ability cards and the like, and ditch their sheets in favor of the ones you’ve already printed and marked up (see comment regarding Clickbook elsewhere in this blog). Then, while everyone else is reading their character sheets for what I really hope is not the first time, wander around, read the name tags, and figure out who “your” key figures are by face, or perhaps by outfit. (This really helps if you’re going to play without your glasses…) If they don’t send character sheets out early, if they’re still writing it the day of, that’s generally not a good sign.

            I really like the workshopping idea, that would help to familiarize yourself with the players and perhaps characters. I went through one once in a “here’s how to do stage combat, which is the combat mechanic for our pirate game” one-hour pre-game session (“Red Skies” by Sandy Antunes at Intercon wayBackWhen). Alas, workshops don’t fit in too well with the Intercon schedule (1-2 hour break to eat food and get dressed for next game). To mention, debriefing generally equals Game Wrap, which suffers the same fate (players have to rush off for food and outfitting), and beware the game wrap that drags on for hours as each facet of each character’s game is discussed in lugubrious detail, when you could be hanging out at a room party.

            When running games, I try to stage the opening—such as, these few players start in the game space, this small group of friend arrives immediately, this next group arrives in a few minutes (and get to talk/plot/plan in the hallway as they approach). Unless part of the game, “Shazam! You’re there!” has always seemed a pretty weak start to me.

            When I play in a game with a GM “game on!” start, I’ll walk out of the room and re-enter, or at least face a wall, set my mind, and then enter game space in character.

          • Ivan Zalac says:

            I did the rolling start (and slow take-off once the game ended) on A Party Full of Secrets (http://www.crolarper.com/2013/03/a-party-full-of-secrets.html) last weekend. It worked well. But it all depends on the effect you want to achieve, e.g. Death of the Japanese Emperor had a very fast and sharp cut at the end to keep players on the emotional high at the game end.

            Regarding recognition – in a workshop that I ran, four other people made a larp in less than 48 hours called (Re)union which was about two sides of a family arguing over the inheritance. We drew a family tree on the whiteboard which remained for the duration of the larp as a meta-tool to help recognition in the game: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2fPesig-ZP4/UTZTyTdCdQI/AAAAAAAADQU/FrhnjLh9Tss/s1600/WP_000621.jpg – the players mostly knew each other out-of-game, so names written under character names were usually enough.

  2. Ivan Zalac says:

    A nice read! 🙂
    BTW, lots of photo links seem to be broken…

  3. Pingback: Intercon M Post-Con Report Part IV: Friday at Pre-Con | FairEscape

  4. Ajit G. says:

    You were a pretty good dancer. And your outfit and heels were killer. 😉

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