A week ago, I was in New York City to join LARPers from the HRSFA crowd (some of whom were new faces to me) for a Doctor Who themed theater LARP, The Oncoming Storm. Most of the characters in The Oncoming Storm were canonical, taken from a wide swath of seasons of the (incredibly long running) TV show. Unlike many of my friends in the LARPing community, I’m not actually terribly familiar with the source material, but I did watch a few episodes to prepare.
I played Ohica, Sister of the Vision, who originated in the thirteenth season, back when the universe was being saved by the fourth doctor.
Ohica’s costume was a strange, 1970s sci-fi look; a loose sienna red dress with large, gathered sleeves and a gathered skirt. She also wore a hat that looked to me a bit like a 1970s lampshade, embellished with trim from the home decor section of a fabric store. If I’d allotted more time to costuming, I might have really enjoyed trying to recreate that absurd hat. Instead, I decided to give the general impression of her dress with my favorite last minute costuming method — a (modified) chiton. I also found some beaded home decor trim that might have worked well for the hat. Instead, I used it for a belt.
I also attempted a toned down version of her red and gold makeup. I used a few different shades of lipstick for red eyeshadow and gold eyeliner for lipstick.
The costume stood out — most characters were dressed in modern suits (though I thought Romana‘s costume was particularly adorable and Innocet‘s costume particularly beautiful) but I think that was appropriate, as Ohica was distinctly dedicated to her Order’s archaic ways.
The Oncoming Storm was set in a time lock, where Time Lords, along with an army of the evil Daleks, are stuck. The Time Lords have just evacuated from their home planet of Gallifrey, which has just been destroyed by the Daleks. Key figures among the Time Lords have gathered to decide how to move forward. Meanwhile, two Daleks have entered the time lock to propose a peace treaty, and the Seventh and Tenth Doctors have also appeared, simultaneously.
We spent much of the LARP in political debates, arguing about the future of the Time Lords and over elements of the peace treaty proposed by the Daleks. In between our arguments, we used our TARDISes (and SIDRATs) to go on side-quest-like missions, mostly structured like brief choose-your-own-adventures. The character sheets were long, and contained a lot of depth and complexity for the characters and their relationships and roles in society, and the situation was complex and dire enough to keep conversation flowing freely for hour after hour. It was a very engaging experience, and I had a lot of fun.
Interestingly, the structure of the LARP was very similar to a previous LARP I’ve played, one of my favorites, Be Not Afraid. In Be Not Afraid, angels who have just been cast out of Heaven, meeting to determine the future of their society, as well as meeting with two demonic ambassadors from hell to hammer out a treaty. And between political meetings, we went on various side-adventures to complete various projects. As we played, I spotted more similarities, but I will leave them out here for spoiler reasons.
It’s a fascinating idea — take the structure and much of the premise of a successful LARP (and I think the Be Not Afraid has a very solid, successful structure) and “reskin” it with a new setting and new characters. This strikes me as particularly useful for settings with narrow but devoted audiences, and I wonder what other franchises with devoted fan bases might want to use this particular formula to create a theater LARPs? And maybe LARP writing communities could experiment more with creating bare bone structures for LARPs, for others to use as building blocks?