I recently played a weekend long theater LARP written by Nathan Richards, Richard Salmon, Richard Perry and Nickey Barnard, and run by Lime Shirts, called Siege of Troy. In my previous post, I talked about the various interesting mechanics in the LARP. In this post, I’ll talk a bit more about my personal experiences.
Beware, there are some mild-to-moderate spoilers in this post.
To my surprise, I was cast as Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. I thought playing a deity seemed like fun and suggested Artemis (my favorite) or Athena, if Artemis wasn’t in game, but I also indicated that ill-advised romance would be a fun element of Greek mythology to roleplay, and both of those goddesses are the sort to swear off men. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.
For costuming, I reused my outfit from Feast of the Minotaur, which I played back at Intercon L. It was inspired by Princess of Ancient Greece Barbie.
The laurels were long gone, so I picked up a substitute, along with a gold scallop shell necklace charm, and figured I’d be all set, with no last minute sewing. But then my friend, who was cast as Cheiron, King of the Centaurs, asked if I’d make him furry horse pants, and I couldn’t resist. I decided he needed to be a clydesdale, so we bought short brown fur and long shaggy white fur for the forelocks, and a pajama pants pattern (with pockets).
Between this project and sewing an Animal hood for Muppet Purgatory, I’ve been learning a lot about sewing with fake fur, but I think I still have a fair amount to learn. By the end of the weekend, the forelocks were in need of repair, but overall, I think the Cheiron costume looked smashing, and the pants didn’t hurt. (I also made horse tail out of yarn to hang down the back.)
There was lots of great costuming in general for Siege of Troy. One of the things I love about this genre is that people can pull bedsheets off their beds and create a costume that looks good and appropriate for the setting. One player, dressed in a gorgeous copper colored chiton, said her costume was made out of a curtain purchased at Wal-mart. A number of players had picked up costuming at post-Halloween sales (good timing for that); a few even wore full Grecian armor. And some of the guys grew beards for their roles, which is always a touch I appreciate in LARP costuming.
At the beginning of the LARP, I enjoyed playing up Aphrodite’s capricious, frivolous side, swanning about with my golden “For the Fairest” apple in hand for all to see (what was the point of it if not to flaunt?) and responding to every mortal who sufficiently played to my ego when praying for my attention. (They all did, though some took a little prompting.) I gave whatever help I could offer to anyone looking for love without asking for anything in return. Now and then, I attended gatherings of the gods on Mount Olympus. (Appropriately, Olympus was a lounge on the top floor.) I also got briefly sidetracked when I became the subject of my own high priestess’ prophecy.
At some point in the middle of Saturday, I realized that I hadn’t actually accomplished anything, nor even made any significant progress on any of my goals. I hadn’t found any of the mortals I was looking for, I hadn’t found various items I wanted to help some mortals find, and Troy came off rather badly in the first muster of the troops, with the outer walls getting breached, so I hadn’t even helped protect the city I’d put in danger. I think the only goal I’d checked off was having the gods vote to make Hades to give me back Adonis (or my “pool boy,” as some of the other gods called him), even though Persephone wanted to keep Adonis with her in the underworld.
I was having fun, but I wondered if I was damaging other people’s fun by not giving some of my rivals a sufficient challenge to overcome, or dooming my allies by not providing them with sufficient aid. So I became much more proactive, even though one or two of my goals seemed like they might have already slipped well beyond my grasp. I started trying to evoke oaths from people to aid Troy, or at least not take up arms against her, demanding sacrifices, and trading favors with other gods and immortals.
Fortunately, the High Priestess of Aphrodite was not a slacker like her patron goddess. (Matron goddess?) Even when I succumbed to the lack of sleep from the night before and took a nap on a couch on Mount Olympus, Andromache kept herself very busy advancing our mutual causes, assisting Troy, helping people find love, obtaining sacrifices of bullocks for me, and pressuring people who were already sacrificing to me to sacrifice more. When I didn’t know who should receive Aphrodite’s Blessing or Curse, she knew whom to pick. Honestly, I don’t think I would have received a single bull without Andromache.
At one point, I realized Troy really needed my help to remove a curse Hera had placed upon one of the Trojans, otherwise there was a high chance of Troy falling during the second muster on Sunday afternoon. But Hera wouldn’t remove the curse unless I gave her my golden apple. As loathe as a I was to give it up, I was resolved to aid Troy (it was, after all, kinda my fault there were armies at her doorstep to begin with), but I decided to pretend I was only considering giving Hera the apple and see how many demands I could make from the Trojans in exchange for helping them end the curse.
So I burst into Troy in the middle of one of the Trojans’ meetings, announced my own arrival dramatically (“Behold Princes of Troy, a goddess appears among you!”) and told them how they could earn my surrender of the apple to Hera. They promised to help me find various mortals (though none had any leads) and sacrifice bulls to me (though they didn’t have nearly enough to put me in the lead among the deities)… So, as a means to expand my power, I demanded that every virgin in Troy lose their virginity.
The Trojans’ somewhat shocked and baffled expressions upon hearing this demand was one of the highlights of my weekend. They then worked out that every important Trojan (read: every Trojan PC) was present and none were virgins. Undeterred, I suggested they ensure as many Trojan citizens (read: every NPC in their possession) lose their virginities, or perhaps that they each should arrange to have one non-Trojan lose their virginity for each Trojan present. To my immense amusement, they started pulling out all of their NPC index cards and deliberating over which were likely virgins of an appropriate age. (“This is my son… I think he’s over 18, we can get him laid…” “…Hm, not this one, I think this one’s still a baby…”) I left them to it.
Sometime later, Paris, Prince of Troy, prayed for my attention and asked if I cared who did the deflowering. I said no. He said they had a plan involving Zeus. I said great, just please don’t let Hera find out whose fault this was. Later, I heard Zeus bragging about having just deflowered every virgin in Troy.
That was another highlight.
So I traded the golden apple to Hera, and then promptly started scheming to get it back. After one assembly of the gods in Olympus, after most of the gods and immortals had left, and the rest were standing around by the door, I noticed Zeus had left his thunderbolt on the table.
This was followed by a very brief internal debate. I know how frustrating it can be to lose an item in a LARP just because you put it down on a table for a minute (certainly, I had dropped and forgotten my own item cards a number of times) but the opportunity for mischief seemed too great. So I swiped the thunderbolt and hastened out the door before anyone noticed.
I decided to hold the thunderbolt for random and pressure Zeus into retrieving the golden apple for me. I thought I’d try pretending someone else had it and offering to be the go-between so that Zeus’s anger wouldn’t be directed towards me. I knew he likely had special abilities to force me to return the thunderbolt, but I thought, what the hell, I’ll give it a try. He did use an ability to force me to admit I was the one who’d stolen it, but I wouldn’t tell him where I’d hid it, though he threatened to make me mortal and kick me out of Mount Olympus. In the end, with most of the Olympians pretty angry with me, he made Hera trade back the apple in return for the thunderbolt. Then a few minutes later, Hera came up to me and used an ability to command me to return the apple.
On Sunday, I was asked to help judge a music contest between Apollo, Hermes, and Pan. (Alas, Orpheus had been slain.) I tried hinting to all of the contestants to bribe me (clearly, Aphrodite was not above such things), then asked Hermes flat out to steal the apple back for me in return for naming him the winner. I never got the apple back, but I did name Hermes the winner with the hopes that he’d try… which I feel terribly guilty about, because the player who played Pan had actually taught himself to play the pan pipes in the weeks leading up to the LARP, and rather deserved a win for it.
Stealing Zeus’s thunderbolt and using it to try and get the golden apple, a beauty contest trophy, is among the most disruptive, petty, mischievous things I’ve ever done in a LARP, and it was definitely another highlight.
I spent most of Sunday scurrying around, trying to drum up some more last minute support for Troy, help people who had still not found true love, and help random mortals in other ways (such as trying to fulfill one of Jocasta‘s last goals, because I felt bad about her terrible fate.) This was the part where the gods only responding to mortals who prayed out loud for their intervention got put by the wayside in favor of convenience and efficiency. By and large, though I had been a little skeptical, I found this mechanic for interactions between gods and mortals had worked pretty well over the weekend… though there was the occasional bout of confusion when one of the three immortals (Cheiron, Pan, and Prometheus) were involved, as immortals could always see gods and were always visible to mortals. Conversing with immortals often left mortals confused as to whether or not the gods had manifested, but this was only a minor hiccough.
For a goddess of love, I didn’t manage to make many matches over this LARP. The romance mechanic involves people comparing their “heart cards.” If they match in color, the two people care for one another. If they match in suit, they are passionate for one another, and if they match in number and suite, the love is unconditional. I had the ability to swap people’s heart cards to make their love stronger (or weaker.) But it hadn’t occurred to me to keep track of people’s hearts — if I’d written them down, I might have had an easier time finding strong matches. I also think I misunderstood my ability; at first I thought I could only hand out the cards, which would limit me to using it only three times, and would only be helpful if one of the couples already had a card matching one of mine. Later, I realized my ability wasn’t to just hand out new hearts, but rather was to swap them, so I could use multiple steps to create romance, and do it as many times as I liked. This is one of my biggest regrets from the weekend, as I think a number of players who were trying to find love never did, and I probably could have helped them.
But on the positive side, Troy was victorious during the final muster, so the city was saved. Prince Hector of Troy was deemed most heroic, and became an immortal, and had his image placed among the stars.
Game wrap went surprisingly smoothly, for such a large crowd, thanks in part to the one minute timer that went up on the board. My favorite part was when it was Oedipus’ turn to talk about what he’d been up to over the weekend, and the player sang Tom Lehrer’s “Oedipus Rex”.
The other highlight from game wrap was when one of the players described a little prank she had played on the GMs. Mirroring Discord’s golden apple labeled “For the Fairest” that had started three goddesses squabbling and eventually brought about a ten year war between Greece and Troy, she’d had a chocolate shop cover a chocolate apple in gold and labeled it “For the Best GM,” then left it in GM Space for the GMs to discover. I thought that was ridiculously funny.