Summer LARPin’

Had me a blast at WPI a little over a week ago for Summer LARPin’, a day of theater LARPs. I played in two LARPs, then aGMed a third. The event staff, which was mostly a single person with some help from a few other individuals, did a great job putting together an event from scratch and spending a ton of time, money, and effort making it run, providing food and drinks, and setting up and cleaning up.

My first LARP was Wrestlemania! a LARP I first saw on the schedule for Intercon and thought it sounded adorably funny, but it ran against another game I was planning to play. I was glad to see it on the Summer LARPin’ schedule. (How can you resist a game with a character named Napoleon Bone-depart?)

To say Wrestlemania! is an affectionate parody of pro wrestling isn’t quite right, as a lot of the goofier stuff in this LARP is actually straight out of pro wrestling… so in some ways, it’s a parody, but in other ways, it actually reflects some of the characters and story lines you’ll come across in the real thing.

I was cast as Axel Thunder, the golden boy, the poster child, a Face character (read: someone the crowd is expected to cheer for.) Axel is inspired by John Cena and Hulk Hogan, so I watched some videos on youtube to prepare for the LARP. (Fair warning, some of the content of those videos is comically sexist.) Players are encouraged to pick signature moves, catch phrases, and themes songs to play when entering the ring; I ran with the thunder theme and picked AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” for my theme song and The Perfect Storm for the name of my signature move. (I forgot my character already had one, the “Thunder Strike”.) I used a few different catchphrases, all varieties on things like “a storm is coming!” or “are you ready for the Thunder!!”

For my costume, I bought a bright red tank top and red bandanna (an homage to Hulk Hogan’s iconic accessory). I tried to find some classic American symbol or a thunderbolt to iron onto the front, but couldn’t find one I liked, so I went with a rhinestone cupcake applique, and planned to tell everyone that my momma made it for me, and Axel Thunder loves his momma. (Sadly, no one brought it up.)

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“Cupcake”

The game was just as energetic and over-the-top as the blurb promised. There are some shady management deals going on, and even some supernatural shenanigans, but Axel Thunder spent most of his time in the ring. (The mechanic for resolving wrestling matches is Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, which is now among my favorite LARP combat mechanics.) We were also encouraged to act out the results, though I think a number of the players weren’t expecting that kind of physicality. I tried it out a few times (my favorite was a double clothesline during a round with two sets of partners), but it probably would have been easier with a little more negotiation in advance and some kind of surface other than a tiled floor.

I think Axel came in second place in the end. We couldn’t get the sound system to work, sadly, so we didn’t hear any of our theme songs as we entered the ring, but we definitely kept the Hype going.

My second LARP of the day was All Stories Are True, a LARP set in the world of the “Kingkiller Chronicle” books, about students and staff at the university of magic. I have to confess, I have read the first two books of the series (and one short story) and… I’m not really a fan. But I am a fan of the writers of the LARP, which is why I wanted to sign up for All Stories.

I played one of the students, and I had four main plots/goals — figure out how to pay my tuition, get a professor to sponsor me for advanced studies, figure out the medical mystery of a strange affliction going around, and puzzle out my rather complicated love life, which involved a betrothal to a childhood friend and crushes on the wrong people.

I think I utterly failed to make any progress on the mysterious affliction plot, though I did manage to make progress in figuring out my romantic issues. I also succeeded in getting sponsored by the professor of medicine (I think, in part, thanks to some anatomy facts I offered during one of the students’ lectures.) Covering the cost of tuition was a much more time consuming, complicated process, but my friends among my fellow students and I all paid tuition, room and board by the end (…we cheated at gambling.) Much to my surprise, I also won the storytelling contest that concluded the LARP (I read a funny poem about a pig I found on the internet) though I personally feel the other two storytellers did a much better job, with an original romantic tragedy tale featuring Naming magic, and a tale about the moon that reflected the canonical cosmology of the setting.

There were some deep magic plots going on in this LARP as well, though my character never really got any insight into them. I won’t spoil what I learned about them here, but I will say they involved my favorite concept from the book, a really unusual form of malevolence, and some popular fan theories about the books. I had a good time playing, though I do think the die-hard fans of The Kingkiller Chronicle series had an even better time.

My last LARP of the day was Kingsword, for which I was an assistant GM. I use the term rather loosely, as I did very little prep work (none of the casting or stuffing) and had little to do during the LARP itself. I did help a bit with set-up (put up some of the tents) and a lot with clean-up, if that counts. You can read more about it from the run I played at Festival of the LARPs.

I think the Summer LARPin’ run of Kingsword went pretty well overall. Gawain was crowned High King of Britain, which I think has been the case for all three runs so far, but the various marriages pacts have worked out differently every time, which I think says something great about the openness of the writing in that regard.

I really liked the space we had for Summer LARPin’ — we basically had our own wing of the student center at WPI, in rooms called the “odeums”. I like Salisbury a lot, which is where SLAW has been running, though I wouldn’t complain if we got the odeums again in the future. The rooms were large and designed for events (rather than classes and lectures) and there was a nice space outside of them for snacks and lounging. There was also a conference room mostly occupied by a table and comfortable looking chairs, which I think is just asking for one of those around-a-table diplomacy style LARPs.

Speaking of SLAW, the date has been announced for this year — it will be a one day event (instead of a weekend, as it has been in the past) and it’s running November 18th, from 10am to midnight. Sadly, this is running against both Threshold and After Dark, two local boffer campaigns that I’m involved with, but I hope everyone attending SLAW has fun and will let me know all about how their games go.

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About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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