For Auld LARP Syne 2021

Last year, I added an extra note to the end of my LARP toast for the New Year. “And 2021 is going to be better. I know it.” When I wrote that, I was feeling pretty optimistic about vaccines becoming available. I might have actually thought we were going to wipe out COVID-19, like smallpox. I was super excited eager to get my vaccine. Wasn’t everyone?

Well, obviously, I was pretty far off the mark in multiple ways. 2021 really wasn’t a stellar LARPing year for me. Not just in terms of the low number and variety of LARPs I participated in (and the number of LARP related resolutions I missed). My joy of LARPing frequently felt somewhat overshadowed by pandemic-related concerns, as well as the fraught social politics of everyone’s different expectations and preferences and limits around safety precautions. Not to mention the guilt that went along with attending in-person events (and the raging FOMO over the ones I missed.) And lots of people were getting burnt out on online LARPing.

It was really hard for me to write about. Over 2021, I only wrote sixteen blog posts (eight shy of my goal). My most common type of blog post is post-LARP reviews and I had fewer opportunities to write those this year, but it wasn’t just that. Even when I was playing LARPs, it felt wrong to write about them while leaving out all COVID-related elements, such as thoughts about the safety precautions that were and weren’t included, how they worked out in practice, and the outcomes of those decisions. But it also felt really bad to include these elements — like it would come across as a harsh criticism and add even more post-event stress to everyone, especially the staff members who were honestly doing their best to navigate an impossible scenario.

Despite all that, there’s still a lot at which to look back fondly (and probably some value in recording thoughts about the rougher stuff), so here we go.

A look back at 2021…

LARP Count I participated in 25 LARPs this year, as a PC, NPC, or GM/aGM, down from my record breaking 54 LARPs last year. They were mostly online in the first half of the year, and mostly in person in the second half.

Events My first event of the year was Extracon 2021, the online convention that ran on the weekend originally scheduled to be Intercon U. I also participated in online versions of Relaxicon, Summer LARPin’, and Consequences. Time Bubble and Winter Boffer Con were in-person events.

Campaigns Some boffer campaign LARPs picked back up in the fall with primarily outdoor events, but I didn’t PC or NPC any. My Letter LARP, Hawthorn & Ink, more or less came to a close early in the year, and over the summer, I began a two person Letter LARP that came out of two journal-based RPGs (The Queen Returns and Princess With A Cursed Sword). I also played an international online LARP called Otherworldly over the course of about two months, which was a really unique and interesting spin on the medium. Otherworldly involved listening to (and sending comments and questions to) a podcast about “Otherworlders” (i.e. people who have had portal fantasy adventures as kids), then discussing the podcast episodes together on a dedicated Discord server.

LARP Adjacent Activities I have gotten really into boxed escape rooms — the kind that you can play at home. I particularly like Unlocked and Exit brand games. They aren’t replayable, so I have been passing them off to other LARPers in my community after finishing them, and they seem to be pretty popular! I also played through a twelve game campaign of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, one game per month (the in-game rate matched the out-of-game rate). I don’t normally include board games here, but it had a pretty epic storyline (which occasionally got a little too real for comfort) and character advancement, so I guess I’m including it.

In December, I participated for the third time in the Secret Santa Character Exchange and wrote a ringmaster character for another LARPer. And as I did in the past two years, I drew a sketch of the character I received. I would love to actually play this character in a LARP someday — there was a lot in it well tailored to my individual tastes.

Savirago and her bestest buddy, Buonarotti the Combat Turtle

I have also been participating in a number of Discord-based RPGs, as either a player or an NPC.

Contributions I continued serving as a board member of NEIL and was one of the LARP Coordinators for Extracon 2021, the online event NEIL ran in place of Intercon. I was also on Bid Com for Otherworldly Consequences (which was all online).

My Letter LARP, Hawthorn & Ink, ran for a bit in the earlier part of the year, and my co-writer and I completed Under the Faerie Hill, a secrets and powers lit-form LARP designed to run on Remo. It has run three times, and we’re now working on adapting it for future in-person runs. I aGMed (and also stepped in to replace last minute player drops) for a few LARPs. I donated a handcrafted tote bag to a LARP raffle. I created powerpoint presentations and gave talks about Letter LARPing and costuming for LARPs. I NPCed one one-shot boffer LARP, and helped with set up and tear down for Winter Boffer Con.

I also spent a number of days cleaning out and organizing an extremely cluttered basement that was filled with just heaps and heaps of costuming, props, set dressing, and paper goods, all for a number of large theater LARPs. Now it’s all packed away in neat rows of labeled bins, and I’m actually pretty freaking proud of this project. It feels like a real accomplishment.

I don’t have permission to share the Before photos, but I am very happy to share this After photo.

Glorious.

Travel/Other Communities: I think the only LARP trips I took this year were two weekends in New Jersey, and one in New York. I did connect online with two distant communities when I attended Relaxicon, (which is based out of Delaware), and Consequences (which is based out of the UK).

I am really looking forward to the day I can attend Consequences in person again.

Blogging/Social Media As mentioned above, I only wrote sixteen posts, and I think I only posted a single LARP related photo on Instagram. Weirdly, I think I got more hits this year than last year, which feels kind of encouraging.

Costuming and Other Artistic Projects Given that many of my LARPs were online (and thus mostly inspired shoulders-up costuming) my first instinct was to say I didn’t do much costuming this year. But looking back over my list of LARPs, there are a few I feel are worth mentioning. One was my Lord Commander S. Tyrell of the Kingsguard costume for A Game of Scones, for which I sewed a white cloak and tunic. For Culture Crash, I made epaulettes, a sash, and a bug-leg corset (with detachable legs!) in order to play the general of an insectoid alien race. (Instead of a ceremonial sword, I carried a ceremonial fly swatter.) I also liked two of my costumes for Time Bubble, (Drift the transformer and a Victorian pastor of Dagon), though neither involved any sewing. (Outside of the masks — I did have fun sewing custom masks for a number of costumes this year.)

My biggest project was probably the two looks for the Goth LARP, and my favorite costume of the year was probably the dirndl I bought to play a hobbit at The Shiretown Shindig. (I have wanted an excuse to own a dirndl for a long time!)

Art projects this year included a set of invitations to the tsar’s ball for a run of Wicked Hearts and decorating character packets for Wicked Hearts and Venezia. I guess I really got into things like calligraphy, wax seals, and acrylic stamps through letter LARPing, and was looking for additional excuses to use them.

I also made some banners featuring Nicholas II’s coat of arms for Wicked Hearts, and started crafting some banners and flags to serve as set dressing for two LARPs set in the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender. It has proved very difficult to get runs of these Avatar LARPs going during the pandemic, but I am hopeful to see them run in 2022.

And when they do, they will be well decorated.

2021 Resolutions On giving thanks and feedback, I did my best, though I couldn’t say if I did it perfectly. I definitely missed my goal for number of blog posts, but I did promote my blog posts a few times and replace the images on a large number of old posts. (Photobucket has not improved at all.) I did not complete the Great Costume Tote Bag Organization Project, but I did make more progress, and my hair and makeup — and jewelry!– remain relatively organized. I did try one new hairstyling tool — flexible loops on sticks, and found them pretty easy to use. The results were at least a moderate improvement for costuming over my go-to boring bun.

I did go through my costuming (and day-to-day) closet, along with my sewing and crafting supplies closet, and threw out, donated, and gave away a remarkable amount. Having less clutter and extra space has made an enormous difference in my life, especially when it comes time to pack for LARPs.

I put my Letter LARP slides up online, and ran my online LARP at Consequences, which ticks off another resolution of mine.

I did not finish my calligraphy workbook. I used to have weekly video chat meetings for a LARP (it didn’t end up running), and I would work through the workbook while we chatted. When those meetings came to an end, I stopped going through the workbook. I think I should be looking for a new way to incorporate it into my weekly schedule in order to increase my odds of making progress.

Overall, if I were to grade myself on resolutions for 2021, it’d be maybe a B-. Around June, I started working on my third annual mid-year resolutions check-in blog post, decided these posts were navel gazing of no interest to anyone other than myself, and left it unfinished. I do think this had a negative impact on my resolutions, so this year, I’m just gonna write that mid-year check-in. And if I’m the only one who reads it, it will still have served its primary purpose.

...And a look forward into 2022.

There are already a number of LARP events on my calendar for this year, but each one has a giant freaking asterisk next to it. Which ones will happen? Which ones will get canceled or delayed? Intercon U was just recently delayed another year. It was the right call, and in many ways, it’s a relief, but of course, it’s also a bummer. I had a full slate of amazing sounding LARPs, Forum@Intercon events, and social events, and even an early casting I was extremely excited about.

…And all those challenges I mentioned above — the pandemic concerns, the social politics around safety, and the guilt and the FOMO — those will all still be relevant for the foreseeable future. It’s tricky maintaining cautious optimism without setting myself up for too much disappointment… or sliding too far into pessimism.

So I’m not going to list specific events here, like I have in past years. I’m just gonna keep my fingers crossed.

Resolutions for 2022 If I had a goal last year that I found useful to mentally frame as a New Year resolution, I’m renewing (and adjusting them as need be) here.

  1. Thank GMs post LARP. Give serious thought to feedback when requested (and send it if I feel I have something constructive to say.) Send in PELs on time (if applicable.)
  2. 24 blog posts seems like a lot when I’m unsure how much actual LARPing will happen this year, so I’m amending this to one blog post per month. (Starting with this one, sneaking in just under the wire before February.) Twelve feels kinda low, but the important bit is not to go multiple months at a time without at least attempting some writing — momentum is helpful to me when it comes to blogging.

    Specifically, I have four posts I meant to write last year that I’d like to have written before, say, the end of April. For accountability’s sake, they are: a post about the hobbit festival LARP The Shiretown Shindig, a post about the depiction of LARP in the tv show Hawkeye, a post about Winter Boffer Con, and a tutorial for making costume epaulets. (Also, I’m renewing my resolution to promote this blog at least three times.)
  3. Try to follow at least three hairstyle tutorials with the loop tool.
  4. Replace the photobucket photos on ten more blog posts.
  5. Complete the Great Costume Tote Bag Organization project. It’s nearly complete, and I have the furniture and the fabric. Now I just need to spend the time.
  6. Fix and donate the pteruges that about a year ago, I offered to a campaign LARP that could actually make good use of them. This is very last thing I meant to do when I cleared out a bunch of costuming. I’m hoping if I frame it as a resolution, it will actually get done.
  7. Finish my calligraphy workbook. There re lots of ways calligraphy can be useful in LARP. It’s a good skill to work on.
  8. My sewing and crafting closet has accumulated the supplies for a number of generic LARP costuming projects, but there’s an unfortunate pattern that keeps repeating. I don’t have a specific event serving as a deadline, so they keep getting moved to the bottom of the to-do list. But then some LARP event with little advance notice will pop up, but it will be too late to start any of these projects from scratch.

    Clearly, I need to start these projects even without waiting for an event to serve as deadline with sufficient advanced notice. So I’m adding “finish at least three of these backlogged projects” to my list of resolutions.
    For accountability’s sake, this list includes:
    1. peasant tops out of two embroidered eyelet cottons
    2. a Regency era dress out of one of two velvets (and something out of the other velvet?)
    3. a robe (or dress?) out of the deep blue minky fabric with the metallic gold celestial print
    4. a dirndl out of coordinating cotton prints.
      (There are some non-LARP project materials in my closet a well, but let’s just say they’re outside the scope of this blog.)
  9. Play Twain, the one-player LARP I kickstarted. I have had the book for over a year now.
  10. I have a small theater LARP idea that has been percolating for some time now… It feels a little daunting to include “write a LARP” as a resolution, but then, not including it hasn’t gotten it written either…
Top row, l to r: two cottons, two velvets, celestial minky.
Botton row: coordinating cotton prints

My usual LARP-centric New Year’s Toast feels a little glib for this year’s retrospective post. Instead, I will just say I wish all my fellow LARPers a joyful and healthy year, with lots of good LARPing in it.

Cheers!

The Jack of LARPs

About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years, in all different styles. I love trying out all different styles and genres and formats. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serving as a board member of NEIL, as LARP Coordinator for Extracon, and a member of bid com for the British convention Consequences. I was also the coordinator of Festival of the LARPs in 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I've also served as an editor for Game Wrap, NEIL's publication about the art and craft of LARP, and served on Intercon staff in various roles over the years.
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