At the end of Festival of the LARPs 2016, I volunteered to coordinate Festival for 2017, and it’s been in the back of my mind since then. Festival was the first of the local university-based small theater conventions, and Brandeis use to be a pretty active locus in theater LARPing. But over the years, as the population of LARPers at Brandeis graduated, fewer and fewer new students got involved, until we reached the point where there were zero current students attending Festival, or something very close to it.
It’s not, as of yet, actively a problem. The coordinators of Festival of the LARPs simply reach out to the Brandeis Society for Creative Fantasy, or BSCF, the gaming club, and request that they reserve space for us, and so far, they always have. But I think if we want to ensure future presidents of BSCF will want to help Festival run, we could benefit from involving some current students.
To that end, I decided to try and run a theater LARP for some students in early November, and see if I couldn’t encourage them to attend Festival. Maybe a single small LARP would seem more accessible than a weekend of LARPs?
I had a number of conversations about which LARP to run. What elements make up a good theater LARP to introduce to new players (some of whom have a background in tabletop RPGs and other forms of gaming) is an interesting topic that should probably be its own post. The Final Voyage of the Mary Celeste came up as a suggestion a number of times, and I knew Lime Shirts had a collection of props for it (which they graciously let me borrow)
Written in 1992, The Finale Voyage of the Mary Celeste is a LARP inspired by the story of a real ship that was found in adrift in 1872, with her crew and passengers and a life boat missing, but all of their personal belongings and cargo intact. There are a variety of bizarre theories about what happened; this LARP asks the question, what if they were all true? There have been a few different versions of the mechanics of this LARP created over the years. (I used one of the later ones.) And it’s something of a staple in the local community; it’s run so many times, a huge percentage of the local theater LARPers have played it. One of the nice perks of running this for new LARPers — it gives them a common experience to talk about with other LARPers should they attend Festival of the LARPs. (It’s available to run online for free here.)
Before running the LARP, I attended a couple of BSCF meetings to introduce myself to current students and try to drum up interest in the LARP. In the end, I only got eight students to sign up, through the LARP requires a minimum of thirteen. Luckily, a number of local LARPers (with much more experience GMing than I have, some of whom have even run Mary Celeste a number of times) offered to help. I ended up asking a number of them to step in for the roles that didn’t get cast.
Printing and prepping the LARP took much longer than I expected; I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone feels this way the first few times they GM a theater LARP. Fortunately, one of my co-GMs was up late printing and stuffing with me. He got all of the item cards done.
Unfortunately, two of my players never showed up. I tried to contact them a few times, but never got through. Still not sure what happened, but the same co-GM who had printed the item cards stepped in to fill one missing role, and I tried to fill the other, in between playing the other uncast PC role and NPCs who pop up during the game.
Overall, I think the run went fairly smoothly, despite my nerves and the no-shows. I had been worried that if I did a particularly terrible job, I might actually drive away a few players who otherwise might have considered signing up for a LARP at Festival. But I think the players seemed to be having fun, and all of the LARPers who had stepped up to GM with me really smoothed over the various mistakes I made. I think there’s a solid chance at least a few of them will sign up for Festival. Here’s hoping!
Festival of the LARPs 2017, by the way, is running April 28-30. (And we’re already accepting game bids.)