On Saturday afternoon at Intercon O, I played in a LARP called The Tattered Veil.
I’ll admit I had some reservations about it when I signed up. The Tattered Veil sounded like it had a fascinating setting — I always find mythical fantasy and fae characters very appealing. (And the costuming opportunities such settings provide is always a major plus for me.) The characters mentioned in the blurb and on the website seemed like very flavorful concepts. But it was unusually long — five hours, which would cut the dinner break in my schedule in half. And it was open to ages 10 and up, which is fantastic — it’s great to open up the con to younger players, but I’ve personally only had very limited experience LARPing with small children, and those experiences have been somewhat awkward. As hard as it is to navigate another person’s boundaries and comfort levels with various forms of RP, it’s that much harder with someone underage. (I once threw an in-game tournament because I was afraid of making my very young opponent cry.)
Additionally, the description of The Tattered Veil being “light on mechanics, rich in storytelling” left me unclear on how unusual the format of the LARP would be. But besides the setting sounding intriguing, and the costuming seeming fun, I was interested in trying something that was likely going to be unlike anything I’d ever played, so I signed up.
The structure of the LARP turned out to be quite unusual — it was a combination of more typical roleplay — interacting in real time as our characters — and storytelling, in which we collaboratively narrated whatever minor tales or epic sagas we were inspired to tell about our characters. We switched back and forth between the two formats, sometimes at whatever moment felt appropriate, sometimes at the prompting of a small collection of bards (who functioned as both GMs and NPCs).
The introduction to the LARP went on a bit long for me — I think I would have liked to have heard some of the content describing the various characters from the characters themselves in-game. After we divided into our various clans, we were given a sheet of questions that prompted us to create various aspects of our cultures for ourselves. We came up with things like greetings, farewells, rituals for inducting people into our tribe, and descriptions of how our clan celebrates the changing of the seasons. At first I wasn’t sure what the purpose was, but as we got into it, I realized it was very useful for getting our creative juices flowing, and for helping the players feel enabled to create truths about ourselves and one another as we liked. In other LARPs, players often feel somewhat inhibited when it comes to ad-libbing facts about our characters and the world, lest we accidentally create something inconsistent with content the writers have created. In The Tattered Veil, this wasn’t an issue — inconsistency is often a feature of mythology.
The kids, by the way, seemed to have a blast in the primary role as mischievous thieves who kicked off stories that started with sacred artifacts going missing. I often purposefully left various notable objects (like my bow carved from the Rosestar tree) out in plain view to give them something to snatch and run off with.
I was surprised to discover that I was having an excellent time creating stories with the other LARPers. I might have worried about a creative block, but the players all kept the stories flowing the entire time. I particularly liked the inclusion of tarot decks as a mechanic for resolving contests — it was simple to compare numbers of whatever Major Arcana card we drew, but we also used the Major Arcana itself and the content of the pictures on the card to inspire the directions the stories took. This mechanic led to my character’s love story and its eventual tragic ending when he and I accidentally slew one another on a hunt, a la Otos and Ephialtes (the two hunters tricked into slaying one another by Artemis.)
Two things I wanted to mention about this experience in particular. One of the players was cast as the Meadmaker, and he actually brought in a trunk full of bottles and ingredients. It was apple cider, not real mead (children were present and welcomed to partake, after all) but he ground up ingredients like basil and ginger and added them at the request of any fae who came to drink with the nomad clan. I thought it was a really nice touch. Another player, whose character was one of my character’s lovers, brought in clementines to share, and we expressed intimacy by feeding one another slices of the fruit. I’ve read about this idea of players feeding one another fruit to simulate or express intimacy in-game, but this is the first time I’ve tried it. It’s an excellent compromise for such situations, I think — clearly an expression of fondness, very emotionally immersive, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s risking violating boundaries, so it’s not as awkward as other forms of in-character gestures of intimacy might be. I would definitely bring this idea into other LARPs.
Overall, I had a fantastic time in The Tattered Veil. I’m very glad I decided to try something new.