I’m back from my second Consequences — the all (mostly? there was some tabletop) LARP convention that runs in the UK in November.
On the Tuesday and Wednesday before the con, I got in a little touring around London. Highlights included the London Mithraeum, a visit to the Tate Modern, walking along the Thames, and a ride on the London Eye. (I’m not normally afraid of heights, but the Eye inspires a little acrophobia, though it’s worth it for the view.) One evening, I attended a performance of The Play Where Everything Goes Wrong, which was very funny. I also got to catch up with a couple of British friends for dinner and drinks, and had tea in a cafe in a crypt.
My schedule at Consequences this year was a bit lighter than last year (in part because I was deep in the woods of Maine with spotty internet access during the final round of sign-ups), but as it allowed for later sleep in the mornings, and thus later nights at the chalet parties, it still felt like I had a jam-packed weekend, especially with GMing two LARPs.
On Thursday evening, I didn’t have a LARP, so I joined the trivia contest. My team, the Masters of Cat Lore, came in second place, within a point of first place! And I actually managed to contribute a few answers, which is a large step up from last year (and every other trivia contest I’ve participated in thus far.)
Friday morning, I played in The Omega Expedition, which is about a scientific research mission to Antarctica, and the unexpected discovery the team makes there. It’s highly spoilerable, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but I will say I got to play one of the characters not from the original expedition, and I loved my casting. The GMs told us that our run had a particularly unusual ending, compared to earlier runs. I get the sense that how players choose to play out the first moments of the LARP can have a really big impact on the tone of the rest of the LARP.
On Friday afternoon, I ran Toil and Trouble with a friend. When we saw there were no open player slots on Friday afternoon after the last round of sign-ups opened (and a number of people on waitlists) we decided to bid a small LARP. Toil and Trouble is a six person LARP about three witches casting a spell to alter the fates of three heroes: one will be king, one will be happy, and one will die.
For awhile, I didn’t think Toil and Trouble was going to run; it went up on the schedule very late, and didn’t see any sign ups for awhile, (though we posted about it on the Consequences Facebook group). Then, with only a few weeks until the convention, we got six players, so I rushed to get casting done. I was a little worried about casting — a couple of characters didn’t quite fit any of the responses we got, but we did the best we could and crossed our fingers.
Set up took a bit longer than we expected — we tried to give a corner of the room a dark, magical feel with string lights, loosely woven fabrics, and a cauldron. I hope the players weren’t too bothered by waiting for that to be finished. The LARP itself ran for the remaining hour and a half, and I think it went pretty well. I try very hard not to be the sort of GM who hovers over players’ shoulders, so I don’t really know what was said during the many hushed conversations, but from where I was sitting, the players seemed to embody their roles well (as far as I could tell, the casting worked out), and kept tense conversations going throughout.
The players also mentioned after the end that they wish it could have gone another half an hour, which makes me feel a drop guilty about the set up time, but I also think with this LARP, there’s a chance that players will want extra time at the end regardless of how long it runs. I suspect having stronger cues for the end of the LARP and making them clear during the introduction would be helpful. I’ll try to keep this in mind should I run the LARP again. I think there’s a good chance of that, since the LARP seems to have gotten some good press at Consequences.
On Friday evening, I assisted with GMing Stars of Al-Ashtara. I helped run this LARP twice at the last Intercon, and I remember the process of digging up all of the old materials and trying to piece together plotlines and puzzles, which wasn’t easy. This LARP hasn’t really been properly boxed, but the lead GM did a really impressive job creating a functional run out of materials we had. I made a few mistakes while GMing, but I think nothing disastrous. Overall, it looked like the players were having fun. I wonder what other LARPs by these writers would go over well at Consequences.
After a late night of hanging out at a chalet party, I slept late on Saturday morning. Then on Saturday afternoon, I played in Five for Silver. The scenario involves a group of pirates gathering one year after the loss of their captain to toast her memory, with lots of classic pirate tropes sprinkled in. The experimental twist on this LARP is that the players run through the scenario five times. One standard run, then once with exaggerated emotions, once with heightened sexual tension, once with muted emotions, and the final run is totally silent.
It was interesting to see how the directional instructions affected the experiences. For example, three of the runs ended up much faster than the original. In the heightened emotions run, instead of letting anger build slowly, characters exploded with anger right away, and this tended to bring about the conclusions of interactions much faster. Muted emotions also sped up the scenario — characters just couldn’t be bothered to discuss things or stay focused on a particular topic or moment very long. The silent run was also very fast — no one was spending any time on the small talk, or hemming and hawing, that happened in the first run. We mostly just hit the highlights and the moments that could be made obvious with dramatic motions and interactions with props. I think a lot also got forgotten, without us able to give verbal cues to one another as reminders.
I also noticed the anticipation of future runs impacted the first run. For example, I think during the first run, players were setting themselves up for innuendo and double entendres in the third run. I also think some of the more dramatic gestures and interactions with some of the props in the first run might have been done with the intention of creating markers for the future runs, especially the silent one.
I think we also strayed a bit from the original intentions in two of the runs. For the sexual tension run, I’m not sure it was intended to be so farcical, but in LARP, where overt sexual tension is concerned, it’s easy to go very silly. In the muted emotions run, I think the original intention was to just try and express all emotions very subtly, but instead, we played it out as though we were all dreadfully apathetic, which came across to me as though the entire cast were rather depressed.
After Five for Silver, we sat around in the chalet where it ran to discuss our impressions. The GM wanted to know how it was for the non-British players in particular. I wish I’d given a more thoughtful response, but I mostly talked about how the British accents reminded me of Hollywood depictions of pirates (and one player’s performance reminded me of Captain Barbossa in particular.) I also noticed that I was repressing the urge to do my own yarr-stereotypical-pirate voice, which players likely would have been doing if this had run in the US (especially during the heightened emotions run) — I didn’t want to offend people with my own terrible version of a British accent.
On Saturday evening, I played in Mean Street, which was my pick for the first round of sign ups. Ever since I saw the first season of Westworld, I knew I wanted to play in a LARP inspired by it, so seeing “a dark science-fiction game inspired by Westworld, Dollhouse and the 1920s noir genre” in the blurb grabbed my attention.
I got to play Butterscotch, one of the chorus girls working in a club frequented by gangsters. I reused most of my costume from Thicker Than Water. I also wasted a bunch of time fussing with my hair and makeup for this costume, and didn’t really like the results. I think it’s sort of a shame that after some 15 years of LARPing, with costuming being one of the things I love most about it, I still haven’t managed to learn even the basics of either hair-styling or makeup. (I’ve tried following youtube tutorials; it usually ends with me giving up.)
Mean Street was as advertised — a angst filled story, low on mechanics and high on roleplaying intense relationships in a dark situation. I somehow found the guts to do a quasi-lip synch performance. The music in the background was all vintage covers of modern songs (I think by Postmodern Jukebox?); I picked “Sweet Child of Mine” because I thought I knew the lyrics well enough, and would be able to mostly muddle along even though I wasn’t familiar with the arrangement. I had a great time in Mean Street, and particularly enjoyed some roleplay moments with other characters who knew much more about my character than I did.
On Sunday, I played in Best of the Wurst, a LARP heavily inspired by the British sitcom, ‘Allo, ‘Allo. Like the sitcom, the LARP is set in occupied France, and involves the characters getting into shenanigans at a wurst contest, thanks to stolen art (“St. Francis with the Large Boobies and the Great Tits”) and the schemes of the French Resistance.
I marathoned all 85 episodes of the tv show in the months leading up to Consequences, but I don’t think I did my character, the source material, or the LARP itself justice. (I’d like to blame the lack of sleep.) There were a few moments where the situation worked out rather nicely to set-up some quips or over the top excuses, but I just couldn’t think of anything clever enough in the moment. I very much appreciate my fellow players, who ran with the wackiness and references to the tv show. (Amusingly, I did notice players once or twice accidentally calling one another by the names of the tv show characters who directly inspired the LARP characters.) Best of the Wurst is a very funny game, and I recommend it to fans of the show.
Besides playing LARPs, I also really enjoyed the late night chalet parties, where I got to know a number of my fellow Consequences attendees better. I never got around to trying out the hot tubs, which were new features for some of the chalets and were left running all weekend, but I hear there was an impromptu LARP about early life forms floating in bubbling primordial ooze that I’d would love to see get put down on paper so that it can run again.
On Sunday afternoon, I watched the prizes go out for the Consequences charity raffle, and I was rather happy to see my own donation (a homemade Harry Potter tote bag) was selected second. After the end of the closing ceremonies, I tried out Dragoon, a board game about dragons demanding tribute from or burning villages for gold. I spent most of the game being uncharacteristically nice (for a dragon) to my villages, building them up into cities and failing to collect any tribute from them, before burning them all to the ground in the last round for the win. I like how Consequences slowly winds down over the course of Sunday evening; it makes saying good bye a little easier.
The ride home was also rather nice — the locals who gave me a ride back to London made a few stops along the way at some really cool sites, which included lunch in Dorchester, the Cerne Abbas Giant (which might be iron age art, or 17th century political satire), the Nine Stones near Winterbourne Abbas, and the ruins of Old Sarum, (where Henry II used to imprison Eleanor of Aquitaine from time to time.) We also stopped for tea at a beautiful historic hotel, called Great Fosters.
Now I’m back in the US and finally getting over my jet lag… and I have a pretty hardcore case of the post-con blues. I think it’s hitting me harder than it ever has before, not just because Consequences is such a nice convention, with really friendly attendees and a welcoming atmosphere (and I really enjoy meeting new LARPers and experiencing new cultures and communities.) I think the post-con blues are particularly bad this time, because at other events and conventions I attend, I generally know I’m going to see a large percentage of the attendees again in the foreseeable future. And last year, at my first Consequences, I knew I had Shogun in about three months, so I’d be seeing a lot of the attendees again soon. This year, the UK Freeform weekend event in February is Torch of Freedom, which I’ve already played. Right now, I’m wishing I was signed up to play again.
I guess I should be focusing on upcoming LARP events (I have a boffer event this weekend, and I’m making plans for another trip to NYC for theater LARPS in January). Casting questionnaires have started going out for Intercon, and I have some sewing projects I should get started on. (More banners for set dressing.) But I miss Consequences! Here’s hoping I’ll be back next year.