I was back at Troy, NY, this past weekend for Dice Bubble, one of RPI’s weekends of small theater LARPs. I was only in two LARPs this time, which might be the fewest I’ve ever played at any of these sorts of events. I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it for awhile, and almost every game I hadn’t played yet had filled (most with a few people on the waitlist) within a couple of days. So I put myself on a few waitlists, but didn’t bother making travel arrangements.
Then someone dropped out of The Legend of Cottonmouth Hollow, and I was given their character. So I signed up for the one other remaining LARP I could play, and scrambled to arrange bus tickets and crash space.
I’m so glad I ended up attending! On Friday night, there was a last minute drop from Queen of Spades, so I filled in. On Saturday morning, I played Cottonmouth Hollow. In the afternoon, I attended a panel on costuming, and then I accidentally napped through the first hour of Date Night. (The GM had printed her list of players before I’d signed up, and the game is very flexible–there is no casting in advance–so no one thought to wake me.) But I did watch the second half of it, which was highly entertaining. Half of the players created a character who was a veterinarian, and the other half, coincidentally, came up with a mad cultist who liked to sacrifice cats. Quite the odd couple, no? Much to my surprise, the GM said this was the first run she had ever personally seen where the players decided that the couple agreed to go on more dates. I also got see the RPI crowd, whom I don’t see often enough, and hang out with some of the HSRFA crowd.
Queen of Spades is a small theater game for four to eight people, written by Shifting Forest. It falls squarely into a theater LARP genre I like to call You’re Locked in a Room and Fuzzy on the Details. (The writers have tagged it as having a theme of “discovery”.) The characters find themselves kidnapped and left on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a suspicious letter and the kingpin (queenpin?) of a criminal organization who has made enemies with them all. It’s a simple, solid LARP, well designed to keep the tension escalating. I particularly liked the way it opens by having players close their eyes and be lead by GMs into the game space, before being tapped one at a time as their cue to wake up. Having choreographed openings, I find, helps me get into the right mindset better than simply calling “game on.”
Queen of Spades also seems relatively easy to run, only requiring a single, small, room and some props and snacks. The GMs also mentioned to me that they thought the instructions and tips for running the LARP covered a lot of ground and were well detailed. So I recommend it for people who are looking for a small, easy LARP to run, for, say, Festival of the LARPs or similar events. It’s available online, and it costs whatever you think it’s worth. There are other Shifting Forest games available on their website as well, and I’ve heard that a number of their other LARPs are also quite good.
The Legend of Cottonmouth Hollow, I learned, was written when the writer offered to create a LARP on commision for a charity auction at Vericon, based on two writing prompts to be chosen by the winner. The player who won the auction chose “Southern Gothic” and “circus” as their themes. (Excellent choices, I think.) I find the fact that it was produced on demand fascinating and enviable–I rather wish I felt that I could take whatever prompts someone gave me and know that I could produce something this good with it. But on the plus side, it’s really nice to know one can commission LARPs of this quality. (I’ve been daydreaming about commissioning a LARP that can be played through the Labyrinth-themed masquerade I recently attended in Salem.
Cottonmouth Hollow is set in the small eponymous town, deep in the South, a peculiar place with its own subtle magic that seems immune to the passage of time. The wealthy Rookscroft family of Stillwater Manor have maintained their dynasty for generations, owning most of the land and employing most of the town. But now the patriarch of the Rookscroft family is dead, his body found in the swamp outside a brothel. And the Circus Chimerical comes to Cottonmouth Hollow once a year for one week, bringing excitement and glamour, after spending the rest of the year traveling to exotic locales. And now it’s back after missing last year’s annual performance in Cottonmouth Hollow for the first time in as long as anyone can remember.
My character proved to be a very reactive character, so initially, I found it a bit difficult to figure out what my character might say to the other, much more proactive characters around me. But once various occurrences started happening, it became much easier, and I think all of the players were really sucked into the story. There were also two in-game performances that were really impressive — a display of devil’s sticks and a reading of a well written and very much on-theme short story a player had written herself the night before. I particularly liked the way the theme of sacrifice was explored, and how the mechanics (or lack thereof) were handled. Actually, that’s been true of the supernatural elements in all of the HRSFA LARPs I’ve played so far. It’s arbitrary, ineffable, flexible, cosmic… sort of Neil Gaiman-esque. One of the other players described The Legend of Cottonmouth Hollow as one of the best LARPs she’s ever played, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I recommend signing up if it runs again (and I really hope it does.)
The panel I attended that ran during lunchtime was called Beginning to Costume, and was actually more of a presentation.
We went over the staples of a theater LARPers closet, both for male and female characters, and how to best use accessories for the most impact. Masks, unless required by a LARP, are often uncomfortable and end up getting removed, or, if they cover the whole face, can be hard to speak through. Gloves can make sorting through lots of paper and index cards difficult, but fingerless gloves are a great compromise if you really want to wear them. Undergarments, or foundation garments, are often overlooked, but go a long way in helping a costume by creating the right silhouette. We learned about the various elements of a character that can be conveyed through design, such as the character’s age and personality. On the issue of conveying secrets through costuming, there is a bit of a divide — some LARPers like using a costume to reflect secrets and trust other players to steer around them during the game as necessary, but others feel if something is meant to be hidden in character, it shouldn’t be hinted at or revealed by costuming because other players may not want to steer, or feel they can’t help but metagame.
I was quite amused to discover how many other people use pinterest to brainstorm for costuming–I often like to create boards of images that reflect a character, then go over the whole album and see what elements the various images I pinned have in common. Youtube is another great resource for costuming how-tos. If you need help, more experienced customers are often happy to lend their expertise (I’m certainly glad to know I can consult with the presenter when I need help, as I’m sure I will.) And, of course, we went over the importance of pockets–knowing how to add them when possible, and how to make bags that go with your costume when it isn’t. (I recently learned a technique for inserting pockets into seams for my Fifth Gate winter coat project.)
Now that Dice Bubble is behind me, it’s time to focus on finishing the last of my Intercon P projects (a Regency era dress). I can hardly believe it’s only a week away!