Hourglass

The week after I played a student in New World Magischola, I traveled to Pennsburg, Pennsylvania to play in a one-shot boffer LARP that ran from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon put on by Source LARP Inc. It was called Sunadokei, which is Japanese for “hourglass”.

Bear in mind this LARP may run again (maybe in New England?) and this post contains spoilers!

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Heroes of Nihon

When the players signed up for the LARP, there were two options to pick from — Nihon, or feudal Japan, and modern Japan, so we knew off the bat there would be time travel shenanigans.

I picked feudal Japan as the more romantic option with more interesting costuming opportunities. I have a number of Japanese inspired costuming pieces from playing Fifth Gate, so I could have avoided having to do any sewing for this LARP, but that just isn’t my style, I guess. I asked to play a miko, a Shinto shrine maiden, and I knew I wanted to wear their traditional red and white accoutrements, which meant I had to sew my fourth pair of hakama pants, this time in red. It was a lot of work while prepping for New World Magischola, but at least I can say my skill in sewing hakama pants is improving. Then on top of that, I offered to sew tops for two other players. I ended up bringing my sewing machine, Mr. Sew-and-Sew, along with me on the trip and sewing in the hotel room between LARPs. But I finished it all in time for Sunadokei.

I was quite excited when I learned about the site we’d be on (despite knowing it lacked AC.) It was a boy scout camp that had several bunks designed to look a castle, a frontier town from the Old West, a fort, and a pirate ship. The PCs would be sleeping in the castle and using it as a base for the LARP. (The modern group started elsewhere, but joined us pretty quickly in the castle.) Between Sunadokei and New World Magischola, I’m getting spoiled on really cool LARP locations.

As we were getting ready on the feudal side, I was really impressed with the players’ costuming. I was relieved that the three pieces I had made all came out ok and fit. One was a tunic with a print of birds and waves, for a character who wielded air and water magic.

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Another was a tunic with subtle gray, brown, and navy stripes, for a peasant fisherman, seen below on the player on the right. On the left is me in my new red hakama pants (and matching red bow in my hair.)

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Photo by David Jacobitz.

But my favorite costumes on the feudal side were two sets of armor. One was a set of Japanese armor borrowed from a SCAdian, worn by a samurai. It looked excellent. The other was a homemade set of peasant armor made from bamboo, worn by the head of the peasant militia, which I think was my favorite costume of the weekend. You can see both below in a photo I really love, showing the samurai being helped into their armor, while the head of the militia adjusts his own and the master smith from the Kazan temple looks on.

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The same player who made and wore the peasant armor also brought a number of other props, including a calligraphy set, a tea set, and setting appropriate food, which I thought were really nice touches to help our immersion.

We played agents of the Shogun’s spymaster, refugees, and native Islanders, fleeing from the Yuan (Mongol) foe, who had summoned dark magics to banish most of the kami and conquer Nihon. We had gathered at the foot of Byobu-yama (Byobu Mountain) on Hirado Island to find the Oracle, and learn how to stop the Yuan invasion. It was a long hard slog up the mountain, fighting Yuan on the way up. We lost the Spymaster, who sacrificed himself to save the rest of us.

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I really love this photo by David Jacobitz.

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Surrounded by Yuan! Photo by David Jacobitz.

The weather, by the way, did not do us any favors in our fight against the Yuan, but we fought through it. Recently, I wrote a post describing the most brutally hot and humid LARP weekend I’d yet experienced at Fifth Gate: Silverfire, which was bad enough to cause players to take refuge in the walk-in fridge. I spoke too soon; it was in the 90s (30s in Celsius) at Fifth Gate, but the temperature climbed over 100 (37) during my weekend at New World Magischola. We weren’t boffer fighting in the sun, but the campus was huge, and simply walking between the buildings could be a surprisingly draining task. At Sunadokei, it wasn’t in the 100s, but the humidity was intense. We were sweating buckets, and even the rain wasn’t enough to cool us off. I have a great deal of admiration for the NPCs who worked so hard to entertain us despite the heat and humidity and lack of AC on the campsite.

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Almost ready to save Nihon.

We met the Oracle on the mountain, who brought us to Hirado Castle to perform a ritual to summon heroes from among our ancestors to joins us and help us fight the Yuan. They came to us through a massive rip in time that they had been performing scientific experiments on in the year 2023.  They helped us retrieve artifacts stolen by oni from the shrines in Hirado castle and re-consecrate the shrines. Over the course of the day, we also met the prince, who came from the front lines to hear about our progress, we stole artifact from the Yuan that enabled us to put up a protective ward at night, and crafted items out of gifts left to us by kami to thank us for the sacrifices we offered them. Late at night, I participated in a ritual with a spirit of Void who told us one of us would summon him in the future to this time. (I hope one of us remembered to perform the summoning ritual, or we may have created a paradox.)

I particularly liked the repeated encounters with the elemental oni — in the first fight, we lost but we learned about their strengths and weaknesses. Before we split up to face them again, we were able to make strategic decisions about who was best suited to face each one. This element of learning about the enemies’ unique nature and then being able to incorporate it into our decisions and strategies in a meaningful way is not as common as I’d like it to be in LARPing.

The next day, we moved the rip in time, defending it from attacks all along the way, out to a ship in the water (represented by the pirate ship pictured above, of course) in order to enable us to summon a kamikaze (divine wind) to drive the Yuan from Nihon once more, before we fought a final battle against the Yuan, their oni allies, and those they had managed to corrupt, including the spymaster who had sacrificed himself and the prince. (We were able to save the prince and the spymaster.) I learned from the Oracle which of the summoned heroes was my descendant, and bonded with him just before they returned to their own time. There were other plots involving clever things with time travel that I didn’t personally get very involved with, including a prophesized assistant for the Oracle, the fate of the two players who summoned the second kamikaze, and a romance that spanned the ages. And apparently, if an ancestor died, their descendant would be affected by the time travel paradox, which I thought was a neat twist.

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Getting the rip in time to the ship.

This was my first LARP with Source LARP, Inc., but I really hope it won’t be my last, especially if the idea about a musketeer themed LARP comes to fruition. (I would just love love love a musketeer themed LARP.) And if Sunadokei runs again, I’d love to NPC it.

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About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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One Response to Hourglass

  1. Pingback: For Auld LARP Syne | Fair Escape

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