On Sunday at Intercon R, I played one of the Iron GM LARPs, then a new boffer LARP called Breadcrumbs.
Iron GM is Intercon’s annual competition, where teams of writers are given mystery ingredients and 24 hours to write a two hour LARP based around them. They run at Intercon on Sunday morning, the players score them; the winners win cash prizes, and hopefully, they end up in a state where others can download and run them. (More details on the rules can be found on the Intercon website.)
This year, the ingredients were sea stories, math, and transformation, with silver eggs as the prop. Once I heard the ingredients (after playing the LARP), I was retroactively not surprised that I ended up playing a Lovecraftian LARP, involving a number of sailors gathering in a tavern in the 1800s to swap tales of the weird encounters they’ve had; meanwhile, the storm around them seems to be bringing its own weirdness with it. Heart of the Sea was heavy on RP and light on mechanics.
I won’t say more about the content for spoiler reasons here, but I will say I hear it won second place (out of four entries.)
After Heart of the Sea, I went to the Atrium to play in Breadcrumbs. I was really excited to see this LARP on the schedule for multiple reasons. Intercon has all of the game spaces until Sunday evening, so even though the con traditionally wraps up in the early afternoon with closing ceremonies (labeled “Raffle, Announcements and Thank Yous” on this year’s schedule, which cleverly avoids the indication that this is the conclusion of the con), it seems a shame to let the spaces go to waste and not just run more LARPs. In particular, I’m glad to see boffer LARPs making use of the available space, as boffer LARPs can often derive a lot of benefit from lots of space for fewer players, and space is at at premium at Intercon. Most LARPs only get a single room to run in, but LARPs that run on Sunday could potentially take multiple rooms (perhaps even one of the largest rooms that are usually divided by airwalls?) and I think there’s a lot of potential there, and I wanted to support LARPs expanding into the later Sunday slots.
This boffer LARP in particular was described in the blurb as being welcoming to people who had never tried boffer combat before, and that combat would not be the focus, and as a means to express one’s character and tell a story, and not an end in and of itself. I was very interested to see how this LARP might incorporate combat differently. (Though I do want to mention that I’m trying to imply that other boffer LARPs at Intercon do use combat as an end in and of itself, or that combat is the focus of those LARPs, though I do think combat is often a significant element.)
I was also intrigued by the concept that players would not have a clear idea what was happening going into the LARP, that the LARP would have swift and significant changes to the situation, and to that end, players are discouraged from discussing their characters with one another before the LARP. Our community seems to have moved a long way away from “major twist” LARPs (or, as I heard one LARPer call it, “a LARP that has been M. Night Shyamalan-ed”) in favor of setting expectations and full disclosures, which has its benefits, but I think there has been something lost in having a community be very unforgiving towards paradigm-shifting surprises. (This was a major part of the conversation during the “Establishing World Boundaries” discussion, where we talked about how this sort of thing was very popular during the 90s, and then fell out of favor.) Breadcrumbs walks the line between surprising players with a major shift and informing players in advance, by telegraphing in the blurb that the shift was coming without specifying much else besides that.
This of course makes the LARP highly spoilerable, so I won’t go into much more detail here, other than the fact that my favorite part of the LARP was early on, when the GMs and staff made very clever use of the room dividers and the players lack of mutual ground. (This was another major benefit to running a LARP, especially a boffer LARP, on Sunday afternoon — there were very few other LARPs running in the same time slot, so the GMs were able to request all of the room dividers that Intercon provides for GMs available and put them to good use. I would love to see other LARPs take inspiration from their use of the room dividers. (Let’s just say NPCs moving them around while we were roleplaying was a major part of it.)
The combat is, as promised, not a major element of the LARP; players in this run who lacked interest in it were entirely able to avoid it if they chose. (As far as I could tell — in fairness, there were short parts of the LARP where I was unaware of what was happening to many of the other players.) In fact, I ended up engaged in multiple short combat scenarios because many other players declined to get into combat. The combat also occurs in a more controlled, localized manner than most of the other boffer LARPs I’ve PCed or NPCed at Intercon, which I think can be really beneficial for players who are only just learning boffer combat for the first time, and want to test the waters rather than diving in head first. (I think I had a somewhat easier time of it because the system had some similarities to the Accelerant system, but it was not identical.) Rabbit Run, for example, is more of a “dive in head first” introduction to boffer combat.
Much to Breadcrumbs‘ credit, I heard two of the players who were completely new to boffer combat express a desire to try more of it. I had a really good time, myself.
After Breadcrumbs, I helped clean up the room and deconstruct and pack away the room dividers for transportation. By this point, the con had more or less wound down, though there was still a fair number of people around — some people like to hang out for the evening or even until the next day. The parlors were full Interconners hanging out, discussing the games they had just played and LARP theory, playing board games, and enjoying giant heaps of ice cream that the con ordered from the hotel. A number of us stayed on until Monday morning.
Over the course of Intercon R, I aGMed two games (well, two runs of the same LARP), played in three LARPs, and NPCed three LARPs (plus one final fight). So at eight, it ties with Intercon M for number of LARPs I participated in at an LARP convention. But thanks to the LARP schedule expanding into Thursday and later on Sunday, I still managed to get more sleep than usual. Those are I’d like to continue.
We’ve already got some LARPs for Intercon S, by the way, and some very exciting changes to the way Intercon handles sign ups, so needless to say, I’m already excited for next year’s Intercon. If you’re curious, here are some videos about the new sign up system: Intercode 2 Presentation, What’s New — GM Edition and What’s New Player Edition.)