My Saturday evening and late Saturday night LARPs at Intercon N were boffer-theater hybrids. Both use the Accelerant rule set.
I have heard that these LARPs may run again, possibly just as they are, possibly through sequels or with alterations for new runs. If this is the case, then it’s important to mention that the descriptions of my experience below may contain some spoilers.
This post was originally intended to be a review of Rabbit Run and Welcome to the Dragon Palace, along with some thoughts on combining aspects of boffer LARP with theater LARP, but it proved too long, so I’m dividing my Intercon N, once again, into multiple smaller posts.
The first LARP was Rabbit Run, a cyberpunk LARP in which the remains of humanity are oppressed by human-machine hybrids operating as an organization called PryMor. The PCs are heroic survivors from a PryMor experiment who have escaped and created a resistance gang called the Rabbits. Their mission is to stage a rescue and assault and sabotage one of the PryMor compounds. (One of the writers put together a cool pinterest board to offer the players insight into the flavor of the LARP as well as possible inspiration for costuming. I think it’s a great use of pinterest, and I’d be curious to know people’s thoughts on it.)
The basic structure of Rabbit Run is what some boffer LARPers refer to as an “elevator module”. Elevator modules are essentially one possible strategy for dealing with limited space. It involves dividing up a module into stages or levels and sectioning off a piece of the usable space (or alternatively, using a vestibule or other small room off to the side) as an “elevator”. The PCs are brought into the elevator (or other form of transportation device, depending on the genre) and while they wait in there between stages of the module, the set dressing and content of the main space is shifted around. This allows the main space to represent several different locations (often floors in a building) without needing a different space for each one. As the set dressing for Rabbit Run was fairly minimal (there was dim lightning, ropes of light to designate significant spaces, and one or two other props, such as a laptop) the PCs did not have to wait long in the elevators.
For the first few levels, I played the various security robots who wandered about the compound, attacking the unauthorized biological infiltrators as they attempted to hack into the PryMor system, represented by various challenges and puzzles.
I think my favorite moment while crunching (playing one of the hordes of combatants for the PCs to battle their way through) came when the PCs had a challenge that involved disabling a security bot, standing it up against a pillar, and tracing it with masking tape. I think this represented using information from the robots’ programming and/or design to help hack into the system.
At one point, the PCs knocked down both me and another NPC, and then (as physically picking up other people is not allowed in Accelerant) said, “ok, we toss one of you aside and stand the other one up against the pillar.” Obligingly, I acted out being chucked to the side while the other NPC stood still.
“Wait,” one of them said, “let’s use the other one. It’s smaller; it’ll be easier to trace.” I admit I was smirking under the mask while they traced me, rather amused that the PCs had decided to use my short stature to their advantage.
In addition to crunchy security robots, I also played one roleplay-oriented NPC. Avery is the sister of one PC, the former patient of one of the medical characters, and a co-test subject and friend of a third. When PCs escape the experiments being conducted on them by PryMor, this NPC gets left behind, and now the PCs have a chance to go back and rescue her. There was another NPC there with her, Valentine, under very similar circumstances.
In order to distinguish Avery from my robot NPCs, I altered my outfit just a little, with articles of fake leather, a glow stick bracelet, and fish nets. (That’s all cyberpunk, right?) I also painted some stitches on my face because I figured she has been experimented on, and it would server as some little visual cue to indicate that she is a specific character.
I curled up on the floor behind one set of rope lights in one corner, while the other NPC waiting for rescue did likewise in the opposite corner. Meanwhile, the PCs came around to have a brief reunion with us, promising to free us, and we acted all relieved that they’d finally come back for us. Then they went off to do whatever hacking needed to be done and fight off more security robots as they did. I had all sorts of lines to deliver planned, with the intention of wracking them with guilt. (“When you escaped all those years ago, why didn’t you take me with you?” and that sort of thing.)
The security robots on this level proved a bit too much for the PCs, so they had to retreat back to the elevator and move on the next level (I believe after finishing whatever it was on the higher level, they’d be able to come back and free us without further robot interruption.) But the staff took the opportunity to really twist the knife. One of the Big Bad antagonists came out and shouted Accelerant calls, indicating that they were hurting the poor trapped NPCs that the PCs had failed to rescue. (“By your name, Avery, agony by electricity!” “By your name, Valentine, one damage by medicine!” etc).
So the PCs listened to us screaming our guts out as they retreated. We could hear them yelling from across the room, promising to come back. I heard one of them try to reassure another, “if they’re screaming, they’re still alive!” I tried to ratchet up the guilt by calling after them, shouting things like “you promised you’d take me with you! Don’t leave me!”
This scene was a rather significant moment for me. Not just because I don’t play talking PCs very often, and this was probably the best opportunity I’ve had thus far to try and really mess with PC emotions, but it was the first time I’ve ever produced actual tears on command. My acting skills, I’d say, are average for a non-actor, at best, and improving my acting skills for LARP has been a goal of mine for awhile. (One of these days, I’m going to take an improv class.) I’ve tried fake crying in LARPs before, and I’ve always kind of marveled at how Hollywood actors can produce tears at will. I’ve often assumed it was done with CGI, squirting water on their cheeks, or cutting onions between takes. To me, forcing tears is like wiggling your ears. If you don’t have the muscles/know what muscles to flex, it’s just not possible.
And crying in a LARP is actually something a goal of mine. Well, I don’t know if it can actually be described as a goal, since it’s not something I feel I can really choose to put much effort towards. It’s either going to happen or it’s not, right? That is, I’d like to be moved to genuine tears. Other people have described LARPing moments that made them cry, and I’m a bit envious of that. Forcing tears is not quite my ultimate goal, but still. I was pleasantly surprised that I was suddenly able to do it, and maybe that’s a sign that it’s possible for tears to come during a LARP that I didn’t actively intend.
At any rate, the tears put an audible catch in my voice, and I hope that had some kind of impact on the PCs.
Once the PCs were back in the elevator, we cleared the room for the next level. On the final level, the PCs achieved one of their ultimate goals, but in doing so, killed the other NPC. My NPC managed to escape through a ventilation shaft, dragging a body in tow. Luckily, the PCs were able to revive the fallen NPC, and there was a happy reunion/escape scene with a lot of relief and hugging.
One thing that strikes me about Rabbit Run was the wide variety of boffer LARP tropes that all got blended into it. Even though it was essentially a single long module, it still felt as though things were fresh and in motion throughout. It opened with rescuing some PCs who started out captured by PryMor, which I think was a cool, tense way to open the event with drama. PCs were invited to scavenge weapons as they went, which I think reinforced the “scrappy underdog rebels” flavor of the LARP, as did allowing the hackers of the group to take over a powerful NPC enemy robot, and turn him over to their side. (Which reinforced a theme introduced early on in the form of Judas, the A.I. they hacked to force into the role of guide.)
In addition to upgrades in weapons, there were ways to improve or alter the PCs’ mechanical abilities, with the help of the group’s mechanics and doctors. There were memories to unlock, which revealed twists in the PCs’ histories and relationships. And the Rabbits were divided into subgroups, which largely had the same goals, but disagreed in some fundamental ways, which meant the focus of the plot was PvE, but there were still PvP elements to provide fodder for complex roleplay.
At the conclusion of Rabbit Run, the PCs as a group seemed pretty exhilarated from the action and intense emotion, and I joined the group around the door as they babbled excitedly about their experiences. There were some rough edges around the event, and we probably could have done a bit better to introduce the Accelerant system to those unfamiliar with it (which is bound to be relevant when bringing a boffer LARP to Intercon, which is primarily populated by theater LARPers) but overall, I think Rabbit Run was incredibly successful.