Last Tuesday, I received an email from one of the HRSFA (Harvard University’s sci-fi club) LARPers. There was a chance he would be running a LARP called Soul of the World that Saturday in New York City, and though it seemed unlikely, would I want to play?
My initial reaction was as he predicted- I hesitated to commit to a last minute trip to New York, but then thought, what the hell. I’ve enjoyed previous LARPs with this group and want to get more involved with them, so I signed up.
Casting was unusual. The players received an email asking, “What sorts of things should really matter to your character? What sorts of things shouldn’t really matter to your character? What constitutes a good reason to tear down the universe and forge it anew?” Very broad, vague questions. The best response I could come up with was also very broad and vague, so I don’t think I helped my own casting at all.
Costuming was also quite broad and vague- we were free to interpret when and where our characters were from, so there was really no way to get costuming wrong. Interpreting our characters from some ancient culture, the modern world, or a sci-fi futuristic setting… whatever gender, age we thought of ourselves as, it was all valid.
I will say that when I got my character sheet and other reading materials for the LARP, I thought to myself, “what have I gotten myself into?” …which is actually a true statement for every HRSFA LARP I’ve played so far.
My character was something of a wise adviser, so I went digging through my costuming for anything that seemed like it could fit an austere political figure from some generic ancient culture. I ended combining pieces from four costumes- my mysterious utopian traveler costume from Second Dawn, my Pharoah Hatshepsut costume from Osiris’ Gate, my peasant costume from Ghost Fu, and my Grecian princess costume from Feast of the Minotaur. I stood out a bit more than intended, as most others had opted for more modern interpretations, but it was still nice to get some more use out of some old pieces.
Soul of the World was a highly competitive, political LARP, with heavy structure. We had a full schedule of conclaves, rounds of combat, and festivals.
Festivals were pretty much short periods of time for generic mingling.
Conclaves involved characters pairing up to have 10 minute conversations. Who was paired with whom for each conclave as dicated by mechanics- first, a calendar dictated the first 12 conclaves, then the last 6 were chosen by certain characters.
The rounds of battle represented our great Eidolons fighting for dominance. There were 11 rounds, each round eliminating one character’s eidolon until only one remained to become the new Soul of the World. We had a limited resource called Will, and how much Will we spent each round, on our own eidolons or others’, determined how we ranked in combat. It made for a very interesting mathematical puzzle- how much should we spend such that we wouldn’t risk elimination, but still have enough saved up for future rounds? Even after being eliminated, supporting the right person provided mechanical benefit, so everyone remained invested in the Eidolon battle.
Side note, much like the players of the campaign boffer LARP Lost Eidolons, nobody pronounces “eidolon” correctly, myself included. It’s eye-DOH-lun, not EYE-doh-lon. Go figure.
The first series of conclaves were dictated by a zodiac calendar- an inner circle bearing our characters’ names and an outer circle bearing our Eidolon’s images. Before each conclave, the calendar turned, and whomever’s eidolon your name lined up with (or vice versa), that was who your conclave would be with. Each conclave had characters choosing to either pray to one another, show grandeur to one another, or (if praying) which aspect of the other character to pray to, and the mechanical results made it not entirely unlike the Prisoner’s Dilemma. I thought this was a very clever design for mechanics, which made for interesting roleplay.
The calendar, I must say, was a beautiful prop I wish I’d gotten a shot of. The names of the characters were done out in fancy fonts that reflected the characters’ eidolons, and the art for the eidolons themselves was nicely stylized. The alternating white-on-black and black-on-white images created a nice effect.
There were also opportunities to explore the Void, and I rather liked how the staff represented that, though I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons.
My character did not seem personally ambitious, so I tried not to concern myself very much with making sure I made the most efficient, advantageous moves. In fact, I came second to last in the eidolon battle (losing only after another character threw the first round). There were also four divine thrones to win, which represented the four heads of the new pantheon. For a little while I thought I might win one throne by default (the other thrones seemed more popular) but it turns out I didn’t really come all that close. But I didn’t mind- I still had a fantastic time interacting with the mechanics, and using them as fodder for roleplaying with the other characters. Overall, I had a great time.
And to cap off a fun weekend, on my way out of the city, I had some really amazing sushi.