This past Sunday was Dia de Los Sobres. Originally, four games were scheduled to run at Brandeis, but unfortunately, one of the two I was signed up for, Tales of Irnh, was canceled for lack of players. It’s a shame, but I am sure I will be able to catch a future run. And I hear Star-crossed and Dying of the Light ran well.
I showed up around 6pm for The Return to Gray, a LARP set in France just after the close of WWII. I pulled the closest thing I could find to 1940s fashion out of my closet — a black, double breasted dress, and looked up a few online tutorials for 1940s hair. I probably should have practiced — I gave up after several failed attempts.
As per usual, I won’t go too far into detail for spoiler reasons, but I will say it was a really cool, unique experience. It was written to feel somewhat subtler, more real, than LARPs usually are, I think. This was one of the most down-to-earth LARPs I’ve ever played, with only minor plot (the rent on the office is due) that served as a vehicle for exploring the bigger themes of the LARP. The premise involves a party of the staff of Le Phare, a small underground newspaper of the French resistance. They’re celebrating their 200th issue and deciding the future of their publication in the wake of the Allies’ victory and the recent suicide of their benefactor.
The Return to the Gray explored themes such as the effect of war on identity, on an individual, organizational, and national level, and the role of journalism in both wartime and peacetime.
The atmosphere was nicely created with simple yet effective set design. We used a small conference room, just big enough to hold an oval table and a few chairs, which easily translated into a small, makeshift office. French books were scattered on the table, 1940s music played softly in the background, and Italian cookies were served. (A local bakery has just begun baking Italian style treats again, which created a nice talking point for the characters.) The character sheets were printed in a typerwriter font, which made them look, at a casual glance, like they could actually be part of the environment — it was easy to imagine the office might have random typed pages floating about. I think that was a rather clever idea. And prior to the LARP, the players were sent a timeline of the basic history of WWII, along with links to a handful of news clips and videos shot of the French celebrating the declaration of victory and the end of the war, which really helped me imagine the tone of the setting. (A pronunciation guide to the French names was also quite helpful — I wish more LARPs with foreign or imaginary names had pronunciation guides.)
I think it’s safe to say this was the most low key Dia de los Sobres for me yet — one LARP with minimal costuming to prep and a quiet, thoughtful tone. I thought Dia de los Sobres might not happen this year, and then without momentum, it might cease to be. I’m really glad it’s still going. Maybe next year I should either bid a LARP or offer to aGM again.