This past weekend I was back in Troy, NY for Dice Bubble, RPI’s winter weekend of theater LARPing.
I was originally signed up for four LARPs, but unfortunately, my Friday night LARP was canceled. There was a valiant effort to replace it; three smaller LARPs were prepped and ready to go, but sadly, we no longer had the player numbers. I was even cast in a seven player LARP called Planes of Harmony, but hopefully, we’ll get a future run arranged. (And I’ll be able to costume with more than just black clothing and colorful makeup pulled out of my suitcase.)
My first LARP on Saturday morning was Speed Dating for Heiresses. It’s a speed dating game, naturally (another genre unique to LARPing, I think), featuring British aristocrats in need of money, and “dollar princesses” — wealthy American heiresses who want to marry someone with a title. (Downton Abbey‘s Cora Crawley née Levinson was one such.) In this LARP, all of the characters have some odd quirk, secret, and/or scandal to make matchmaking a challenge. The character sheets are pretty bare bones — just a handful of facts, and the players get to fill in the blanks. I decided, based on some of the details, that my character was fairly sheltered and innocent. I thought this would make her an undesirable partner, as a number of them had vices they’d surely want to continue indulging, but I did make a match with one of the gentlemen present. Amusingly, the player I exchanged flowers with filled in the details of his character’s life with the life of Scrooge McDuck. Heiresses makes for a nice, flexible, easy to run, easy to play pick-up game, especially for people who like to do a little on-the-spot creative improv with character creation and portrayal as part of the game.
After an hour lunch break, I attended a presentation titled, “Algorithms and Authoring,” which was about using math to estimate how much plot a LARP has and how busy the players will be, based on things like how many players there are overall, how many are involved in the various plotlines, how complex they are, etc. It was an interesting, unique take on evaluating theater LARPs, and I very much hope we can get this presentation to appear at a future NELCO or PreCon. The slides are available to view online here.
My next LARP was Boogieman Nights: A Game of Supernatural Pornography. Boogieman Nights is another game I was sad I didn’t get into for the Intercon Q run, so I was quite happy to see it up on the Dice Bubble schedule. The blurb made me laugh out loud when I read it. The premise involves humans discovering supernatural entities on earth, and many of them ending up in the industry most welcoming to things new and strange: the porn industry.
Boogieman Nights is very much a “secrets and powers” style LARP (a term I dislike and think gets too broadly applies, with a variety of supernatural characters (demons, mermaids, aliens, robots, etc.) but it’s gaining traction), over the top Lovecraftian plots, and wall-to-wall crude sexual humor. Everything from the character sheets, to item and ability descriptions, to the blue sheets, to the rule descriptions contains hilarious and odd jokes, references, and puns. One of the blue sheets, for example, is a long list of previous pornos Snatch Boogie, the director, has filmed. All are terrible sex puns based on names of other movies. It inspired me to create a list of suggestions for the three films being made during the course of the LARP. (Sadly, none of the names I came up with were selected, but I was particularly proud of Dr. Strangelover, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make Love to the Dong.) All of the written content, especially the random wacky props and seduction turn on/turn off mechanics, made it easy to get into a very silly mood and inspire hilarious pornographic shenanigans. Even the rules briefing was hilarious. (“If this LARP lasts longer than four hours, call your doctor.”)
I was cast as Linda Reagan, the SFX engineer of the studio, which I hear was a late addition character that was added sometime after the original run. I know add-on characters can often be less fun to play, as they’re not always well tied into other characters and plots, but I think Linda was one of the best add-on characters I’ve yet seen. I didn’t have many characters ties, but the nature of the plots and mechanics made it very easy to get involved, and I really liked how there were multiple, extremely different avenues to choose from to approach my most important goal, which enabled me to ally myself with whatever other characters I wanted to. If you like comical games and can laugh at a terrible penis joke, I highly recommend Boogieman Nights.
While I was playing Boogieman Nights, a run of Infinite Magic Glories, a LARP of the magical girl genre, was going on in the next building over. I saw a few of the costumes — really impressive stuff; I hope to see more photos of the ones I missed. All of the players I spoke to about it reported that they had a really great time.
My last LARP of Dice Bubble, Trapped in the Hangar Bay, ran on Sunday morning. I heard good things about this LARP from previous runs. It’s set in the mecha anime genre, and features a number of mecha pilots waiting in an underwater hangar bay for a final assault on the giant monsters who are attacking earth. It features dark themes like PTSD, the trauma of teenagers being compelled to fight in wars, and the cost of the sacrifices made for the sake of victory. The idea of exploring these kinds of themes intrigued me — I think we play a lot of young warriors in LARPs but often skip over the psychological effects of violence on our characters. (And this also applies to stories of warriors in lots of other media as well.)
I definitely received one of the angstiest characters in the LARP (which is saying something, considering the themes), which I found challenging, and definitely a departure from what I usually a play. I don’t think I’ve ever played a character with so much self-loathing before. There’s a mechanic in-game that really drives home the theme and the characters’ problems — the thoughts and experiences that the characters find most upsetting are listed on cards, and they have mechanical effects when they come up in game.
I’m not terribly familiar with the mecha genre, but I found I quite liked the setting. There are a lot of interesting variations on the style of mechas the characters can pilot, and possible upgrades to give them. And while most of the characters are human, there are some neat almost-human variants. I’m really glad I caught this run, and I would be very interested to sign up for more LARPs that explore these kinds of themes with violence, especially in fantasy settings.
One last thing about Dice Bubble — I’ve noticed at the past few Dice Bubbles and Time Bubbles, someone has left out a bucket in “con suite” (actually just a classroom with some snacks where everyone leaves their coats and bags) of random props and bits of costuming for people to borrow, which I think is really nice. Maybe it’s an idea that other cons, like SLAW or Festival, could steal. I bet some of the swords in the bucket got used by some magical knights in Infinite Magic Glories.