Two weekends ago, I tossed all of the costuming I hadn’t yet unpacked from Consequences out of my suitcase, and replaced it with all of the costuming and props I use for Threshold, the cyberpunk boffer LARP, for the closing event of the second year.
This is the LARP in which I play DEXEMBER, or DEX, a extremely chipper AI whose primary purpose is to provide encouragement and positive reinforcement to everyone, particularly psychically powered Mentalists. She’s the kind of AI who chirps reminders at other Threshold personnel to “do their best” and hands out stickers after missions.
I like to play around with this character’s silly, non-human nature. A few sessions back, I brought in a mayonnaise jar, and snacked on spoonfuls of its content throughout the event. When people asked, Sunday told them he had put DEX on a “mayonnaise cleanse” which was supposed to “make your skin glow”. The jar was actually full of vanilla pudding, but it had the desired effect, a lot of people grossed out or amused or some combination of both. (A “mayonnaise cleanse” card appeared in the homemade Threshold version of Cards Against Humanity, which staff and players like to play at the post-event suite parties; I was very proud.)
For this event, I tried another iteration of this prank; I washed out an empty bottle of dishwasher fluid and re-filled it with blue gatorade, and took sips throughout the day. When people asked what it was for, I pointed at the label and said, “it prevents build up and removes spots.”
I do worry that this character can get a little annoying — she pretty much only has the one mood, regardless of how terrible things get, say, when missions go horribly wrong, or when people express hatred of AIs. So I’m quite happy with how her personal storyline is developing; her body (“social chassis”) occasionally ends up remotely piloted by a technopath named June. June is also optimistic and encouraging, but her mannerisms are largely toned down.
Also, one of my favorite relationship tropes to roleplay in a LARP is one of a pair of a bodyguard and a ward, a protect-r and protectee. In Threshold, I feel like this relationship of mutual protection has developed between two characters, both of whom are played by me. You might not think this sort of relationship would be satisfying when it’s almost entirely internal roleplay, and the two characters cannot co-exist, but apparently, that isn’t the case.
In addition to occasionally taking breaks from playing DEX to play June, one of the other players has the ability where he can enable AIs to temporarily shed their own abilities and personality, and use a copy of his. (He has a “Cure Death” ability that is particularly useful to copy.) This character, Sunday*, is an ex-telenovela star and a self-assured diva, with a reputation for flirty eye contact, and that was a lot of fun to mimic. A few players came to speak to me post-game, and told me they felt like they were able to tell from observing my body language for just a moment which personality I was portraying (DEX, June, or Sunday), which was really nice to hear. I’m really enjoying the personality swapping roleplay.
This may sound rather weird, but one of the highlights of my weekend was filling out employee evaluation forms. We each had three forms to get filled out, one self-evaluation, one for any member of Command to fill out, and one for a peer to fill out. I filled out a few evaluations for others as DEX, then took on the Sunday template, and filled out a few more, trying to write them using Sunday’s voice. The eval forms provide a lot of potential for funny roleplay between PCs.
We also had another fashion show, much like the one last year. I missed the planning emails that went out, but the NPCs rolled with it when I requested to join last minute, which I really appreciate. This year’s show was a bit more chaotic than I remember the last one being, with multiple assassination attempts and an eco-terrorist attack.
I don’t mean to imply Threshold is all comedy — I think the staff has achieved that rare balance of comedy, tragedy, and darkness that is hard to strike in LARP, where the light elements serve as contrast to highlight the dark. Now that we’re headed into the final year, I can see how plot threads from over the past two years are coming together in complicated ways, and I’m really impressed with the storytelling going on.
In this event, the connections between the AI War in Berlin and various catastrophes that have struck, along with others still threatening to strike, came to the forefront, and retroactively, I saw the threads and connections stretching back to my first event, particularly through modules that were designed to be geared towards AI. And it all came to a head in the final two events of the day.
First, TARA, the agency responsible for creating and regulating AI, informed us that they were under attack. As our Cubes — the devices that contain our programming — were stored at the TARA facility, we had to assist, retrieve our Cubes, and move them to a new, secure location. This may have huge ramifications in the upcoming events for the AIs pursuing freedom from the Asimovian restrictions created and enforced by TARA.
Second, we received a message from ATLAS, the AI at the center of the war in Berlin, who informed us that we were past the point where humanity could be saved from the various looming catastrophes, and now it was just a matter of how many humans, if any, we could save.
I wish I could do the scene justice by describing it through text. The NPCs put all of the PCs under the paralyze effect, then took down the air-walls separating us from the next room over. It was an amazingly effective way to feel like the “fourth wall” was being removed, that reality was melting away to make space for a message being introduced directly into our minds. The next room was filled with glowing lights, trippy music, and surreal videos, reinforcing the “this is all in your Mind’s Eye” concept of the scene. Thanks to its one-day only, all indoor structure, Threshold has a really high NPC:PC ratio, and they made good use of it here. Each PC was taken into the next room by an NPC who was somehow meaningful and connected to their character, to relay ATLAS’ message in a way that would be most likely to be accepted. I heard the message from the fan who had exchanged letters and then cosplayed as DEXEMBER at a convention that ran at the previous event.
The whole thing was deeply weird and personal.
So humanity is doomed. We have some hard decisions in the next few events. And even in the face of the apocalypse, I feel like DEX isn’t distraught. She just wants to know, did humanity try its best? Things don’t always work out, but it’s ok, so long as everyone tried their best. (Besides, depending on the nature of the disaster that dooms humanity, the AI might come out of it just fine.)
*Technically, he sold his name and personality and is now… Mr. Zazou? Or The Artist Formally Known as Sunday?