After my stint as an NPC in Rabbit Run ended, I rushed off to get into costume for the next boffer-theater hybrid, in which I was PCing. Luckily, there was a bit of a gap before Welcome to the Dragon Palace, in which I played the champion of the Rabbit Lady, a goddess who dwells in a palace on the moon.
The premise of the LARP involves 12 champions, each chosen by an animal god to fight in an epic battle to prevent bloodshed from reaching the mortal realm. The characters of this LARP were highly conceptual; in some ways (such as a lack of detail in their personal histories, and being largely defined by their personal philosophies and role in the universe more than their individual experiences and relationships) they were more like archetypes than individuals.
At the beginning of the LARP, the Dragon champion has just fallen, and the remaining 11 find themselves at the entrance of the Sea Palace of the Dragon King, ready to face the Sea Witch.
In order to open the portal, we each made some sort of sacrificial gesture, reflective of courtly Japanese culture. We all shared various art forms, mostly poetry. I’d originally planned to memorize how to fold an origami rabbit, but last minute rushing got in the way. Instead, I just started reciting some poetic sounding lyrics, translated from another language, banking on the fact that no one present would recognize them.
Inside, there were two sections of a room cordoned off with makeshift barriers. One of them, blessedly, hid pitchers of water and cups from the hotel. (Opportunity for hydration is a rather crucial element of boffer LARPing.) We moved back and forth between the two sections, coming out to battle a variety of sea monsters in between. Moving in and out of the two sectioned off areas required passing through gates that were unlocked by various means. Most commonly, we solved riddles or made some sort of required gesture. Some of the materials were specifically aimed at particular champions, ensuring that all of the PCs had a chance to engage with the gates. Occasionally, dragon spirits would come by to see how we were doing and point us in the right direction if we needed help.
I rather liked the sea creatures. A few were dressed as sharks, one came out with fish make up, and one was draped in what looked like seaweed. Occasionally, one came out bearing a giant tentacle. (When the boffer tentacle prop was first moved into the hotel, I had fun chasing hapless con-goers around with it.)
Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the riddles presented to us. Most of the time, I let people who find less joy in combat work on them and concentrated my own effort towards keeping the sea demons back. Don’t get me wrong, I love solving puzzles, but I like combat just as much, and I knew there were other people PCing who had a much stronger preference for riddles over combat.
But I do know that, occasionally, we PCs utterly failed at the puzzles presented. I think the late hour was a contributing factor here. A few times, a spirit came out to whisper hints, and even with their help, the LARP still ran an hour longer than the originally scheduled two hours. (Luckily, there was no LARP after Dragon Palace waiting for the room.)
For example, at one point we were collecting pieces off defeated sea monsters and trying to assemble them into a construction mimicking a picture by the gate, but it was taking us a very long time. Eventually, one of the sea monsters whispered to me, as he was heading off to re-spawn, that we didn’t need to match the colors. So I headed over to the other champions and tried to couch the advice in in-character speech. “I have consulted with spirits, and it occurs to me that the resulting image will be beautiful, regardless of the colors.”
It a certain light, it was sort of an interesting look into human thought process when presented with a puzzle. If we’d been given all of the pieces at the start, for example, we might have noticed that matching the colors was simply not possible, and concluded that only the shapes were relevant. But since we began without any pieces, and the picture included color, we concluded that color was likely a factor. The pieces came one at a time, so we never had a particular moment that forced us to rework our original mental model of the solution. So we persisted under our own false assumptions for a time.
Overall, I had a really wonderful experience playing this LARP. The flavor of it, which was very well developed and implemented (which comes as no surprise, considering the writer’s academic background and familiarity with the source material,) appeals very much to my particular tastes — I love fantasy settings that carry some sort of heavy flavor other than generic medieval European. (I do love classic period European settings too, but I can get excited when the opportunity for a different form of fantasy comes along.)
Along with the setting, I was incredibly fond of my character. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I have a particular fondness for rabbits (though let’s be honest, I’m a sucker for pretty much all animals). Willow Rabbit (or just Rabbit, as we PCs called one another solely by our respective animal names) is described as hailing from a gleaming, opalescent palace, filled with white and silver flowers, on the moon. She is also dedicated to the concept of beauty, particularly when it comes to finding beauty in very unlikely places. Which of course lends itself to really fun costuming.
I also found Rabbit’s personality rather intriguing and appealing to try to roleplay. I picture her as the sort of person whose speech seems erratic and confusing, but not because she’s simply random or unintelligent. Rather, she makes several leaps of logic in her mind and doesn’t share the intermediate stages of her trains of thought out loud, so most people she interacts with can’t follow and she comes off as batty. But she has impeccable courtly manners, a sweet, playful, optimistic nature, and an air of grace, so most people are drawn to her charms, despite her utterly weird she is.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I pulled any of this off. I think if I had put more time into prepping this character, I might have come closer to her mien as I envisioned it when I first read the description, but instead, I think my portrayal of her, especially her dedication to beauty as a virtue, came off as ditzy and prissy.
Additionally, Rabbit is supposed to be the epitome of grace, and very shortly after the LARP began, I found myself deeply regretting the floor skimming length of the hakama pants. I knew, when I made it, that it would be a problem during boffer fights, but I liked the way it looked so much, I left the legnth as it was the first time I tried them on. During the first or second wave of sea monsters, I was right in the middle of the room when I stepped backwards onto the hem of my pants and fell spectacularly, cotton tail over tea kettle, and landed square on my back, both feet in the air. So much for grace. After that, I kept the pants tucked up in such a way that it looked a bit awkward, but at least I wasn’t tripping over the hem anymore.
On the subject of costuming, I was dismayed when I realized I’d forgotten to a single full body shot of the completed Rabbit costume. (It’s particularly bothersome when I remember there was a very talented photographer offering to take photos with professional equipment in a makeshift studio.) To rectify this, I plan to put the costume back on, complete with pink contact lenses, absurd makeup, and excessive assortment of hair adornments, and take a few full shots in the near future. Ideally, I’d like to wait until there’s a snowy background available. Possibly sometime this week, if the local meteorologists can be believed.
In the meantime, here is another quick shot I took of Rabbit and Monkey. Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t do justice to the piles of ribbon, pussy willow twigs, and white cherry blossoms in my hair, but it’s a good shot of Monkey’s makeup (inspired, I assume, by theaterical depictions of Sun Wukong, or Son Goku, the Monkey King). I rather like how it looks; it makes me wish I had include more dramatic blue shapes in Rabbit’s look.
Once again, my post is getting rather long, so I will be saving some thoughts on the overall concept of boffer-theater LARPs and my experiences participating in them as an NPC and PC for an upcoming post.
I’ll end with one more photo — an indication that Welcome to the Dragon Palace was the topic of conversation during my post-Intercon trip to Starbucks.