Early in December, I attended SLAW, a weekend of LARPing at WPI in Worcester, MA. Because I had another event on Saturday evening and the Sunday game I signed up for dropped, I was only involved in two games, one as a player and one as a GM. (Sadly, the boffer LARP I signed up for on Sunday got canceled.)
On Friday night, I played in the first run of The Sharing. The Sharing takes place in the universe of a YA sci-fi book series titled Animorphs. I was a very big fan when I was younger, so I was really excited to sign up for a LARP inspired by it. The series is about a group of teenagers (naturally) who are given the ability to turn into animals in order to fight off an invasion of aliens who can control human bodies like puppets.
I tried to go back and reread some of my old copies before the LARP, but I’m afraid the style of prose doesn’t quite hold up; it often reads like adults trying too hard to sound like kids. It also occasionally gets fairly silly, but it is also often quite serious, and delves into surprisingly dark themes and storylines. I rambled at length about this in the free-response section of the casting questionnaire. (Hey, we were invited to geek out.)
The LARP is set in the year 2000, so I prepared my costume by searching through my closet for some authentic stuff (found a number of items, including a pair of jeans), and shopping for a plaid flannel shirt (amusingly, another player bought a nearly identical plaid flannel shirt for this LARP). I also listened to the most popular songs of the year 2000 (that took me back) and reading through an online fan-created wikipedia of the setting. (The Seerowpedia.)
I don’t want to go into detail about the content LARP itself because I think it’s highly spoiler-able, but I will say I would definitely recommend it, even to people who have no familiarity with the setting. But if you’re a fan, do not miss an opportunity to play. The authors are fans of the books and it really shows. I always thought I was one of the biggest fans around (though I’ve always been reluctant to admit it and talk about it, so I guess I wasn’t basing that assumption on much), but at least one of the authors’ knowledge of it vastly outstrips my own. In a conversation after the LARP, they identified off-hand which books were written by the main author and which were written by specific ghostwriters. (I never even knew the names of any ghostwriters.)
I think I expected a very quite, subtle game going into it; I was pretty surprised when our run erupted into a lot of public revelations and violence towards the end. My suspicion is that this was at least in part the result of a lot of players being unfamiliar with the source material, which emphasizes paranoia and the need for secrecy. I had expected a lot of fans to pounce on the opportunity to play in the first run, but I think a number of the fans in the community signed up for the Intercon run in February, which was open for sign-ups before SLAW. It’s not a bad thing, just an interesting effect of how the player base affects the outcome of a run.
The LARP I GMed was Tales of the Cradle, which I played back at Time Bubble at RPI. When the author asked if I’d run it at SLAW, I was more than happy to (and it was awfully nice of him to do the printing for me, so I had very little to do to prepare.) It’s a sci-fi game about mankind’s first contact with aliens. It involves a series of scenes which revolve around discussion and a decision on the parts of the players, some of which create branching storylines and result in different scenarios and decisions to make down the road. And the content goes surprisingly dark.
Interestingly, the players of the SLAW run made all of the same decisions as we had during the run at Time Bubble. I wonder if the decisions are skewed more heavily than it seems? I don’t think this negatively affects any individual run, as the choices still seem extremely difficult and always result in a lot of discussion before they’re made.
The run at SLAW was initially scheduled for Saturday night, before I realized my schedule conflict, so I had it moved to Saturday afternoon. Players had already signed up and couldn’t play during the new time, which I felt bad about, so I offered to run it a second time. For various reasons, I haven’t run it a second time yet, but I’m hoping to in the near future. Luckily for me, the author printed up a second run, and I still have all of the props for a little while longer.