There were two LARP events this past weekend, and though I originally intended to stop by both, in the end, I had to pick one. I’m disappointed to have missed the Spar-b-q, where LARPers get together for a barbecue, boffer practice, and other fun stuff, but I’m really glad I was able to attend the LARP Forum.
I found out about this event through some LARP related groups I’ve joined on Facebook. I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from or how it came to fruition. I think it might have been just some random idea that someone happened to take and ran with it. This is something I love about the hobby of LARPing, especially the local community. LARP for profit is quite rare, so pretty much everything is done by volunteers for the sheer love of LARPing.
I had no idea what to expect, based on the event page on Facebook. I thought it might just be LARPers gathering a somewhat larger crowd than a typical group of friends going out on a Saturday evening to hang out in a bar and talk about LARP.
I was personally particularly keen to go because, while I have become fairly familiar with the Accelerant community in New England, I have remained very unfamiliar with the other boffer LARPs that run in the area. The local Accelerant games form and support a network of LARPers by offering incentive (CP) for people to NPC one another’s LARPs, I was hoping for a chance to meet LARPers from the New England area who are not part of the Accelerant community.
The LARP Forum turned out to be a casual event hosted in the Hiberian Hall. (I think it is the headquarters of some sort of local club?) There was a cash bar in the back, plenty of round tables to sit at, snacks, and a handful of tables organized around one end of the room, each one manned by a different LARP (along with one independent business that sells LARP related items and a group of dedicated NPCs.) The tables bore informational flyers and other reading material, examples of props and costumes, and photos and artwork that either were taken at the event or chosen to represent the LARP’s genre and flavor. They ran a raffle. The prizes were all quite excellent — free memberships to events, priority from the Violence Committee for your event, and some beautiful tapestries from Xeph Ink, which I’ve seen hanging up in LARPs and on sale at various events. I got a chance to meet a lot of new faces, talk to the LARPers behind all of the tables, and sort of ended up behind one of the tables trying to help represent one of the LARPs presented.
I only recognized maybe a handful of faces at the event, but I found it to be a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Almost immediately upon entering, some LARPers came over to say hello and talk about the various LARPs we play. There were also a few people who were friends of LARPers but had never tried LARPing themselves and were curious to learn about it. Many present weren’t familiar with theater LARPing, or only had a passing familiarity with the term, so I found myself describing theater to a few people, and talking about Intercon. (Hey, Intercon is around the corner, it was bound to be on my mind.) People seemed genuinely interested, and I found myself really wishing I had thought to ask to run a table for Intercon. Not that we’re hurting for players right now (though there are still plenty of games looking for more players!) but mostly because people seemed curious about theater style and interested in Intercon, and who knows. Maybe in the next few years, some of them will want to attend and run events of their own there.
The LARPs presented at tables at the Forum included Second Dawn, Steam & Cinders, Shadows of Amun, Draconis, and Witchwood. Xeph Ink and the Violence Committee were also present.
Second Dawn is a post-apocalyptic LARP “where the short term goal is always survival, but long term goals can be achieved.” The staff members there shared with me some basics about the different factions in their LARP, and explained a number of really neat looking costuming items and props set out on their table. The armor pictured above was borrowed from a player, who covered it with prayers to represent his character’s religious beliefs. I think it looks quite striking.
Draconis is a new LARP that will be starting up soon with a format I’ve yet to see in a boffer LARP. It seems to draw more from classic Dungeons and Dragons than any others I’ve seen, with players either showing up with a part of six or being sorted into parties by staff. They described their events as being more strongly directed by staff to reduce dead time while still maintaining player agency. Unless I’m mistaken, each weekend is its own standalone event, and it seems particularly welcoming to people who have never LARPed before. I’m rather curious to give it a try.
Witchwood is a classic high fantasy LARP I’ve been hearing about, as a lot of theater LARPers I know are trying boffer LARP for the first time through it. To its credit, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.
Steam & Cinders has been running for a number of years, and I believe it has been drawn to a close, and is being rebooted in the fall season of 2014.
Lastly, Shadows of Amun is an Accelerant LARP that began last year. I’ve been NPCing for them, though not as much as I’d like. I NPCed Saturday night through Sunday morning of the first event, and NPCed at a small non-combat event held for one faction prior to the start of the LARP. (I never blogged about it because, while it wasn’t a secret, the staff wanted to keep buzz about it to a minimum, as the other factions did not get their own events. The faction in question was the Dom, one of the ethnic groups present in WWI era Egypt, and the staff wanted the Dom PCs and NPCs to all be familiar with one another so that it would create a culture of one big family during the game. I think it was a very neat idea and quite successful.)
There was a costume WWI era British cap on Shadows of Amun‘s table (as WWI is coming to a close in the game). I tried it on. As you may guess from the images below, I frequently have trouble finding costume hats to fit my rather small head.
Despite the limited time I’ve NPCed for them, I’ve had a really great time with Shadows of Amun so far, and described it in detail to anyone who came by the table and was willing to listen. There seems to be a lot of good buzz about it, both in the Accelerant community and the theater community. Like Witchwood, Shadows has a sizable percentage of its players who have lots of theater experience but are trying boffer for the first time, and I think it’s making a really positive impression on them. Seeing the LARP communities mingle more and learn from one another’s styles makes me quite happy.
Also, while the Shadows of Amun table was being cleared, I heard a few hints about plans for upcoming plots and events, and I’m really quite excited to be part of them as an NPC.
I’ve run into the Violence Committee once before. A few members showed up to one of the Clockwork Skies events (another LARP I NPC.) They’re a group of guys who provide an organized group of NPCs to fill out the ranks of enemies and monsters at LARP events. And they do it out of love for boffer LARP, not for money or even CP (which is what motivates the rest of us!) Most of us dressed casually for the LARP Forum, but they showed up in business suits to portray the professional attitude they like to bring to NPCing.
Interestingly, though they enjoy combat (and take pride in being able to fight well) and I think primarily serve as combat NPCs (as opposed to roleplay NPCs), they disliked the term “crunches.” I don’t know how widespread this term is, but the local community, at least, uses the term to describe monsters who serve the purpose of providing players with enemies to fight, typically with the expectation that players will be unlikely to engage with them in other ways. (For example, if NPCs take the form mindless skeletons summoned by a necromancer to plague a village, PCs will be unable to try to communicate with them or stop them from attacking in any way but destroying them until they confront the source.) There is a small streak of bias against LARPer who enjoy combat above all other aspects, or challenges in LARP that are exclusively about combat, but I’ve never thought of “crunches” as a negative term before. Though crunching has a somewhat dismissive flavor (the monsters are typically nameless masses who have no individual identity or importance — they’re expected to die fairly quickly, and there is often no set number of them), I think there might even be certain amount of respect for crunching, because it can be a tiring repetitive task, especially when the weather is less than ideal. I think the anti-combat-loving streak is much more evident in the term “stick joke”. Unfortunately, the term “stick jock,” which, as far as I can tell, describes a player who enjoys and focuses on primarily combat (or exclusively combat) often seems to carry a distinctly negative connotation. But the Violence Committee member I spoke to was quite clear that he really prefers not to be described as a “crunch.” (I wish I’d thought to ask him about his feelings on the term stick jock.)
The prize the Violence Committee offered was the ability to name an event that they would treat as a priority, with a guarantee that they would send a large number of NPCs. The winner, a theater LARPer who has yet to try boffer, left before she won the prize, and the person holding her ticket and accepting her prize for her is someone who NPCs for Shadows of Amun. With permission from the actual prize winner, the prize was bequeathed through him to the Shadows of Amun staff member present. One of the upcoming events should have plenty of NPCs, which is great, because NPCs are such an important yet limited resource for boffer events. (Though we did discuss using the Violence Committee to take advantage of the 5 CP referral bonus that PCs get for bringing NPCs to Cottington Woods events. He might have gotten 55 to 80 CP out of it, potentially doubled if all of the Violence Committee members agreed to give him the CP they would earn for themselves but not use!)
Xeph Ink, as I’ve mentioned, sells LARP related items, such as blankets, cloaks, and tapestries that I’ve seen hanging at many LARP events. (LARPers love to hang them from bunk beds to create privacy for changing into costumes in a way that makes the cabin look prettier and more atmospheric.) One of the owners of Xeph Ink was at last year’s NELCO and sat one or more panels, and he let me know that he’ll be back for PreCon. (Their website also has useful calendar of local LARP events, and they talk about the many LARPs they’ve attended in their blog.) I see they’ve picked the Clockwork Skies website as their favorite in a recent post about LARP websites.
As an amusing note to end on, I saw the following sign above the bar:
Normally I avoid glitter in costumes, but I am currently working on a costume for Intercon (a circus performer in Cirque du Fey) which just begs for glitter. It’s often jokingly referred to as the “herpes of the art/costuming world” because once you have it, you can never get rid of it, and it spreads to everyone you come into contact with very easily. The largest LARPer I’ve ever met (if I recall correctly, he’s 6’8, and when I greet him and get a hug, my head often brushes ceilings) once backed away from me in terror when I had glitter on my face (a costuming requirement) because he said it would be impossible to get off his leather armor.
I don’t think this sign was put up for the LARP Forum specifically, but it’s probably a very good thing that they did. We LARPers are capable of spreading glitter wherever we go.
EDIT: Apparently, Dystopia Rising was also there. I guess I never got around to visiting their table.