I was back at WPI this past weekend for another SLAW (SFS Live Action Weekend). I was in five LARPs — Trouble With Turnips, Murder at Elm Hall, Haven, When You Stop Running, and Lux: A Parliament of Souls.
Trouble With Turnips was a boffer LARP run by the local Realms LARPers. This is the first time I’ve seen boffer LARP at SLAW, but apparently the WPI Realms LARPers are pretty active.
The introduction to the rules was brief, but luckily, I had tried a very similar system before at a brief tournament at Origins. I found it a bit hard to adjust to the location-based system, when I’m used to a hit point based system, and I often forgot that heads were valid targets. We were given a bin of various bits of basic garb to root through for some costuming, so I threw on a green tabard and a garland and borrowed the lightest sword they offered.
The structure of the LARP was a very standard, and very silly, dungeon crawl. We made our way around much of the first floor of the building, moving past traps, solving a variety of puzzles, and answering a ghost’s riddles, all with a root vegetable theme. These challenges let us open doors and an unlock a treasure chest. We also fought a Frankenstein’s monster-like man-turnip creation and a slew of crunchy turnip monsters, before finally destroying a phylactery and taking down the Turnipmancer (a delightfully mad scientist type in a bright purple wig, who played his part with enthusiasm and panache).
I do wish those of us who were new to the system were given more options than a single sword, especially because shields proved very useful in getting through the room with the dangerous magic missile traps. I suspect it was done in the name of simplicity, which is understandable, but I might have liked to have seen new players get to try other roles, like healers. But I had a lot of fun, and I would love to see more Realms stuff run at SLAW. And who knows, maybe this sort of thing could be included at Festival of the LARPs and Dice/Time Bubble, too.
I solved one of the turnip ghost’s riddles, by the way. Where does a turnip go to get a drink? A salad bar!
Murder at Elm Hall was my first LARP on Saturday. It was a small, classic murder mystery scenario (a variety of guests at a mansion, cut off from the outside world, find their host dead), with an emphasis on connections between the characters and the drama of the situation, and less on solving the murder mystery itself. We had a good time hamming it up (occasionally tossing in a few terrible puns), trading accusations back and forth and trying to pin down one another’s alibis, though we never managed to solve the mystery.
Haven was a strange LARP, set in a psychiatric institution with odd, supernatural events going on. I had a rather meta sort of character, who was largely about trying to nudge the other characters along certain paths. My character, along with two others, were named for characters from the Pokemon franchise (Misty, Ash, and Gary), despite having no other connections to Pokemon. (I wore my pikachu sweatshirt as a little nod to that.) But surprisingly, some of the other characters were borrowed from a Young Adult sci-fi book series I used to adore as a kid, and that put a pretty significant spin on my experience. I saw unintentional connections between my own character and a minor character from the books, and found it rather fascinating to watch one LARPer interpret various characters and situations from the books without having read them.
The mechanics of Haven were rather unique, but I particularly want to mention the mechanic for searching through the dead body’s chest cavity. It was propped with a Halloween skeleton with a jar under its ribs, and the jar was full of red glitter. Searching the chest required only sticking one’s hand into the jar. Sparkles clinging to one’s clothes and spilled over the table represented the inevitable blood stains and mess, which I thought was a rather cute way to do it. It’s so hard to hide one’s guilt — glitter is clean, but near impossible to get rid of.
I had no idea what to expect for When You Stop Running, my last LARP on Saturday, as the blurb was deliberately vague and we were not given any reading materials or rules information until we arrived to play. It had some very surreal elements, along with dark, difficult, emotional themes involving mental illness. Combined with its unusual structure, it reminded me quite a bit of Nordic LARPs. I wonder if the author was directly influenced by any Nordic LARPs? The game wrap was highly unusual, as the game was not competitive and did not turn on secrets the way many theater LARPs do. We spent less time explaining our characters, and more talking about our impressions of the themes, and the author gave a very personal and emotional explanation of the writing process and what running the LARP meant to him.
On Sunday, I played in Lux: A Parliament of Souls, which was very much a political game set in an original fantasy world. I don’t typically get cast as the great evil characters, but in this LARP, I played the Horror, the playful yet terrifying ruler of the prison realm called Hell. I took it as an opportunity to wear my ao dai (for its black and red color scheme) and pink contacts. I had a great deal of fun acting very friendly yet creepy, and trying to wheel and deal with the other senators to get various bills passed. Then the LARP took something of a sudden turn in tone and style towards the end, and became much more of a typical fantasy scenario, and less about the politics of a parliament. It caught me entirely off-guard and I wasn’t quite sure how to play it out, but I’m still really glad I got to play the Horror.
I wish I’d gotten a chance to see more costuming from the other games at SLAW. I heard The Final Voyage of the Mary Celeste, considered something of a classic in this community, had another fun run. The topic of conversation for socializing between and after games was often Intercon, and people’s choices for sign-ups, of course, as we are currently right in the middle of the multi-week sign-up process. And on Saturday night, I had a rather interesting conversation in which our current con chair talked about possible ways I might gain the right kind of experience, should I ever decide I want to run for con chair. It seems unlikely, but definitely food for thought.