It’s been a little while since I posted, even though I’m trying to get back on a minimum one post per week (ideally twice per week)ish schedule. Recently, I’ve busy working on costuming for Threshold, a new cyberbunk boffer campaign LARP, along with costuming, LARP prep, and administrative stuff for Festival of the LARPs 2017.)
I missed the first event of Threshold (labeled “Event 0” as it was Training Day for the characters), but I made it to the second event, which ran a few weekends ago at the Chelmsford Radisson, one of Intercon’s old hotels.
Thus far, nearly every boffer campaign I’ve been involved with, as either a PC or an NPC, has been set in a fantastical setting with technology levels well below modern day. The highest level tech has been part of Shadows of Amun, which started and ended in WWI-era Egypt. (In the middle there, events took place during the Crusades and in Cleopatra’s Egypt. Cyberpunk would be a solid change of pace for me.
For character creation in LARPs (and tabletop RPGs), I often like to choose the farther-from-standard-human options. So I was torn between an A.I. or a mentalist (human with psychic powers) and settled on the former; I liked the idea of exploring what it means to be sentient and have free will through role-play. Every character is backed by a major corporation (this is cyberpunk, after all) and I chose Vanderson Pharmaceuticals, primarily for its color scheme (“White or greys with orange/grey motifs. Occasionally black with strong orange motifs.”) Personality and function-wise, I took inspiration from Baymax, Clippy, BB-8, and the voice-over character of Dance Dance Revolution. (“Yours is the dance of tomorrow!”)
For my stat build, I chose to play a drone pilot, because the notion of being flexible and being able to serve in whatever role a task force might need appealed to me. The downside is that the drone version of some role is much weaker than someone who fills that role as their primary function (for example, a medic drone will not be as good at healing as a standard medic.) But relative power level doesn’t concern me much (and I tend to be very conservative with ability-use in combat, anyway.) On the upside, it’s much harder to kill someone who pilots drones, since they’re typically not actually present on missions, but operating remotely.
For costuming, I threw together a black, silver, and bright orange (or “Vanderson Orange,” as I’ve been calling it) outfit, and made two cropped hoodies (with a McCalls pattern meant for Pokemon Go cosplay), one dark one to throw on when piloting a combat drones, and one white and orange one to represent the medic drone. (A people told me the medic hoodie reminded them of a creamsicle.)
The premise of the LARP is that in a dystopian cyberpunk world, the Threshold project has exclusive access to new teleportation technology and is using it to “meet global challenges and opportunities.” It’s backed by five megacorporations. The PCs hang out in the forward operating base and travel through one of two giant portals to go on their various assigned missions. As an A.I., my character has a handler responsible for her (one of the “command” PCs) and occasionally meets with representatives of TARA, the organization responsible for all A.I.
I think Threshold took full advantage of the cyberpunk genre to handle a variety of common logistical issues that lots of local boffer campaign LARPs face in smart ways that fit seamlessly into the diegesis of the game.
A few examples:
- smartphones, tablets, and laptops are all common in-game items, which makes communication between characters in various locations very easy without breaking character. Access to information and the ability to share is also much quicker and easier than it is in your typical medieval-ish setting. A player on their smartphone doesn’t damage immersion.
- the options for missions/modules are available in advance, PCs with the Command header get access to them and can influence which ones happen and who goes on which mission. The schedule is also posted on the wall; players generally know to be in the right place a the right time. (This is frequently one of the largest logistic hassles of running a module-based boffer campaign. This Threshold event followed its schedule more faithfully than any other LARP I’ve PCed of NPCed for to date.) Additionally, command PCs take responsibility for keeping their teams informed and reminded of their mission schedule, so much of the module “hooking” is nicely in the hands of the PCs, instead of NPCs.
- In-game, the portals only remain open for a specified amount of time, and only let a specified number of people through. This means that modules don’t run longer than intended, and there’s never an issue with too many people trying to crowd onto a single module. The large timer visible at the top of the portals lets players know exactly how much time left they have before they must return to the operating base, and PCs regulate the pace of their role-playing accordingly for reasons that feel very much in-game and don’t interfere with immersion. (The set pieces for the portals — large circular structures with lights and timers and an industrial, high tech design, are probably some of the nicest, coolest set pieces I’ve ever seen in a LARP.)
- This LARP is entirely played indoors (which doesn’t interfere with immersion because cyberpunk isn’t the sort of genre suited to outdoor campsites), and this avoids issues with weather and nature.
- The resurrection mechanic is automated — players go to a computer to run through the “re-sleeving” process. No waiting for staff to take care of (and keep track of) resurrection or NPCs needed to take PCs on a death mod.
The staff also made two smart choices that I think will end up having a strong influence on the local Accelerant community. One, the PC player base is kept pretty small (I think fewer than 30), where the typical Accelerant LARP around here usually aims for something like 70 to 80 players. This might pose challenges with budgeting later on, but I quite like the smaller player number experience. I feel like I’m already far more familiar with a much higher percentage of my fellow players than I was after a year of events in much larger LARPs.
And two, instead of the typical weekend-long event, Threshold runs Saturday-only events. I know some people really like the extended time to get into character and enjoy being in character for several days in a row, with at least one day from the moment they wake to the moment they sleep, but I found it didn’t negatively affect my immersion. It made the logistics of traveling and scheduling easier. And lots of people stayed an extra night at the hotel after the event ended, which gave us time to socialize out of character and talk about the LARP, which I think will have a real positive effect on community building.
I want to mention a few highlights from the game — the new players had orientation, which involved a psych evaluation. We went into one of the hotel suites, and were interviewed by NPC A.I.s, who had a series of questions, ranging from normal to bizarre, Rorschach inkblots, and (fake) cheek swabs before and after for us. It was surprisingly fun to role-play, and helped me develop my character a bit before joining the rest of the cast. Later on, the A.I.s were taken aside by a representative of TARA and an A.I. liaison from the Threshold project, where we talked about our experiences and they ran us through a series of scenarios to test our decision making processes. (Things like, which humans to save first, and when violence was warranted.) Very unlike most other modules I’ve played through in boffer LARPs, and lots of fun. There was also a module where we got to play a virtual reality (in the “Overlay”) old school fantasy RPG called “Dragon Stabbers”, which was a ton of fun.
I definitely need to rework my character’s stats (I had four drone options, and only used two) and fix and replace various parts of my costume, but I’m really looking forward to the next event.