My first LARP on Saturday morning at Intercon O was Stop That Moon! a one-shot boffer LARP that used the Accelerant system. The genre was classic comic book superheroes, and the premise involved a team of sidekicks who are training in space when a Mad Scientist type villain takes over the International Space Station, and the sidekicks (all in the process of training to become full fledged heroes) are the only ones who can stop him.
I think it’s fair to say this was the LARP I was most jazzed up about coming into the convention — it was definitely the LARP for which I received the most written material prior to Intercon (also definitely the earliest game in my roster to get stuff out to players.) The writers/GMs were very enthusiastic about the genre, and it showed in the LARP. The characters were also largely written to suit the players’ preferences. I asked for the sort of superhero who was created and raised with a specific purpose in mind, and I was cast as a clone raised and trained by IACOM (the International Allied Council of Metahumans). There are current plans for future runs with the same basic structure and setting, but the cast of PCs will be written from scratch to suit a new roster of players. More work per run, but I think it’s an excellent way to combine the strengths of character creation processes common to boffer and theater.
The LARP was run like a giant elevator module — much like the now rather popular Rabbit Run. Elevator modules basically involve dividing the game space into two sections — a large section where most of the action will take place, and the “elevator”: a small section where the players can rest, refresh, rehydrate, and wait. In the case of Rabbit Run, I think the sectioned off small area represents a literal elevator, while in Stop That Moon! it represented a tram of sorts that traveled around the International Space Station. While the PCs wait in the small elevator, the staff can rearrange the larger room: move furniture, remove and set out props, change signs on the wall, etc. to represent the elevator arriving at a new floor (or the tram arriving at a new section of the ISS, or whatever.) The elevator can be sectioned off with furniture or temporary pipe-and-drape walls, or it can be a second room, or a vestibule or particularly large closet, depending on what’s available.
This sort of structure is ideal for LARPs run in limited indoor spaces — it allows the players to feel like they’re exploring a much larger area. It also encourages built-in breaks: the players can recharge both in and of character (by refitting their armor, healing, drinking water or eating small snacks). The staff can also control the players’ location by simply having the elevator not arrive and the doors not open until they are done setting up. And as players don’t have to worry about when the next attack is coming so long as they’re inside the elevator, they’ll be able to use the time in there for dynamic interpersonal roleplay — even the small space enables and encourages roleplay by preventing characters from sitting by themselves in a remote corner to avoid confrontations.
I don’t want to spoil the fun surprises of Stop That Moon!, but I will say that there were added interactive elements inside the tram that provided really fun fodder for roleplay.
The PCs in our group varied a great deal in terms of experience with boffer — some players had done boffer (especially Accelerant) for years, while others had only ever done theater, and one player had only just given LARP a first try that weekend. It looked to me like everyone was having a great time, and I hope I’ll see this crowd again at future boffer LARPs at Intercon.
One really cool aspect of Stop That Moon! that I wanted to remark upon — one of the players was pregnant (I think around six or seven months?) and the writers wrote a part to accommodate that. The pregnancy was written into the LARP’s background materials and plots, and the character herself, Sp@rkle, was written as a technomancer, which enabled her to participate by focusing her interactions on the various forms of tech on the space station (instead of on combat with killer robots.) She was in charge of operating the computer interface (a laptop) inside the tram, and in each area of the station, she had a series of puzzles to solve to represent her hacking into various terminals in the station’s computer system. This let her turn off various aspects of the security system that attacked us, enabled us to gain information about science and medical labs on board, etc. She was a non-combatant, so the enemy robots weren’t allowed to directly attack her, but they could use a gesture-based ranged attack that encouraged us to take protecting her into consideration when coordinating our plans for attack.
And adorably, her character — the cheerful, mischievous sort, had a history of hacking into the intercom systems in our training facility to play our characters’ favorite pop songs. Once or twice during the LARP, we suddenly heard pop music playing throughout the room, which was her way of letting us know she had successfully hacked into the system. One killer robot she hacked started dancing the macarena instead of shooting us.
My own character, by the way, was a speedster sort by the name of Mach III. (She was the clone of Mach II, who was in turn the clone of Mach I.) I thought I was going to have trouble both representing the superspeed and feeling like a super-speedster, but I think my mechanics did a decent job of representing it. I only wished I hadn’t let a few of my cooler abilities go unused.
I looked to various comic book speedsters for costume inspiration (mostly the Flash family from DC and Quicksilver from Marvel) — I knew I wanted goggles instead of a mask (Mach III’s alter-ego wasn’t a secret), and an overall sleek look because speedsters typically look like they’re trying to minimize drag. (Superman doesn’t count; he has superspeed, but he fits the trope of the flying brick better than the speedster trope.) As Edna Mode of The Incredibles would say, no capes! But I still wanted to evoke the classic superhero look, so I stuck with the underwear-over-the-tights. The black and silver/grey scheme was a little more dark age of comic books than the bronze age I imagined the setting to be, but it was convenient to use the colors of the (fake) leather jacket I already owned and the goggles I found online and liked. I made a silver symbol out of fabric and iron-on interfacing that was meant to look like a stylized version of something breaking the sound barrier, although one person saw it and said it looked like a manta ray.
You can judge for yourself.
The goggles, sadly, broke within several minutes of the game starting. I’m sure I can find a way to re-attach the strap permanently, but it was still a bummer to lose them so soon into this LARP. The strap on one of my boots also snapped that morning, so I decided it to use it in-game and point out that it was a sign that Mach III is unusually harsh on her gear. I think all speedsters must be.
I struggled a little bit to get into the emotional, interpersonal conflicts and relationships with the other characters — it often felt like the wrong time to bring up something that could wait until we landed back on earth. I ended up blurting out my biggest fear concerning my character’s romantic relationship while waiting for the tech-based heroes to finish a puzzle. Impulsively blurting things out seems in character for speedster with an upbringing that limited social interactions, but I’m not sure Mach III’s romantic interest wanted to resolve it right then. (The writers of Stop That Moon!, by the way, had an adorable little post-game sort of thing prepped for the eventuality that we did work things out.)
The other characters embraced a variety of classic comic book tropes — on top of the speedster, there was a reformed mad-scientist type villain, various tech themed heroes, an archer, a sniper, elementalists, a nature-themed hero, a martial artist, a self-healing fighter and a well rounded, strong-type fighter, and a couple of empaths who had been the subjects of evil experimentation. We made a very colorful bunch.
Rabbit Run, from what I hear, had a fantastic second run at Intercon O. I’m so thrilled and excited to see boffer LARPs running so successfully at Intercon. I think the diversity of LARPing styles can only help, and I’m hoping to see more of them at future Intercons, and maybe even one or two at some of the other smaller cons (Time/Dice Bubble, Festival, another one at SLAW?) I know when Stop That Moon! runs again, I’ll be very tempted to NPC for it.