LARPs from December 2021 through May 2022

Welp, the year is half gone and catching up on LARP review posts was on my list of New Year’s LARP resolutions, so no more procrastinating. Here we go.

Winter Boffer Con

In 2018 and 2019, NELCO (the New England LARP Conference) included multiple tracks of one shot boffer LARPs, which was called “Little Boffer Con”. In December of 2021, we went back to the same hotel for a standalone event, and it was dubbed Winter Boffer Con.

Winter Boffer Con 2021 hosted four LARPs, Bound in Blood, Heroes in a Half Shell, Package Deal, and Weaponfall. Initially, I planned to NPC Heroes in a Half Shell, and PC Weaponfall. But I made a rookie mistake when game sign ups opened — I had forgotten to buy a membership to the event! (LBC and WBC have different pricing structures than other NEIL events, which tripped me up.) Weaponfall filled almost instantly, so I ended up NPCing it instead. Since I was NPCing in my second slot, I was easily convinced to PC the first slot (though a part of me was a little sad to be missing out on an opportunity to play Bebop or Rocksteady or goombas and piranha plants.)

I’d heard some good things about Bound in Blood, and it didn’t disappoint! I played a rogue-ish archer with mechanical incentives to flirt with everyone. There were lots of emotional ties between characters to unravel through play, and an exciting ending that easily could have gone in multiple very different directions. I think this LARP would make a really great introductory LARP for people who like classic tabletop RPGs and want to try boffer LARPing — it plays with a lot of classic D&Dish tropes, and also displays a lot of the tropes that have become part of the common language of one shot boffer LARPs in our local community.

For costuming, I blended my black Sith robes with my Scottish princess costume from Kingsword to create a scrappy fantasy thief look.

NPCing Weaponfall was a lot of fun, too. Rather different from most other one-shot boffer LARPs, the premise involves half of the PCs playing weapon wielders, and half of the players playing the spirits who dwell within the weapons. Between waves of demon attacks, the players engage in speed-dating like activities to determine which weapon spirit is the right fit for which weapon wielder.

I tried to avoid too many spoilers, as I still intend to play it the next opportunity that I get, but I did play a small face role to warn the PCs of incoming waves of demons. Even better than the face role were all the crunchies we NPCs played — different types of creepy demons to challenge the various parings of PCs. Post game, I received compliments from the players on how creepy my movements were as the various demons, which was very nice to hear. As a nice side bonus, some masks I bought on impulse during post-Halloween sales finally got some good use.

I need more excuses to bust out this mask, right?

Parlor LARP Weekend

Back in April, a small weekend of theater LARPs ran in a private home. I only managed to make one work in my schedule — a two person, one and half-ish hour LARP titled The Last Time (Not the Last Time). As such as a small LARP, we were able to get five runs going simultaneously, and then gather after the game to discuss it in a large group.

Inspired by the book The Time Travelers Wife, the premise of the LARP revolves around a couple, one of whom travels in time for brief periods, visiting the other at various stages of life. The mechanics of time travel add a very interesting dynamic puzzle to the LARP, but the experience is primarily about exploring the relationship, with all its strengths and struggles and pain and beautiful moments. The post-game discussion was pretty unstructured — the mechanics let any given pair play as long as it feels right for them, so some of the runs went longer than others. And I really appreciated this — I think not forcing a run to either fill or end at the predesignated time is really good for lots of LARPs, but two player LARPs in particular benefit from it.

My non-time traveling spouse welcomed me to his year with a picnic.

Virtual Space Bubble 2021

In mid-April, Virtual Space Bubble ran (in place of an in-person Dice Bubble), and I played one LARP and ran another.

The LARP I ran for Virtual Bubble was called Stitchcraft. It was written by Liz Strong for the Golden Cobra Challenge in 2021, and you can find it here on the Golden Cobra website. I skimmed through a lot of Golden Cobra games while trying to figure out what to run at Virtual Bubble, but as soon as I saw that Stitchcraft included individual and collaborative drawing, I was sold.

This little LARP is about a coven of fashion forward witches designing outfits for one another to wear to the Threat Gala (the witchy version of the Met Gala, of course) and then collaborating on an outfit for an NPC. We generated characters through a combination of answering a series of questions and then generating some information about our relationships. (I shared the questions in advance — I personally find it helpful to have the option to think about workshop questions in advance. I also found and shared links to some witch-related random generators, which I also find helpful for addressing creative block during a workshop.) Then we had a lot of fun sketching and coloring both online (using to collaborate) and on paper and sharing the art with one another. One of the players said they might like to run Stitchcraft themselves at a future event (and I would totally run it again, too.)

As for the LARP I played, I quite enjoyed both the book and tv show version of Good Omens (and even selected one of the characters to play and cosplay in a LARP called Reading Between the Lines.) So I was pretty excited to get a spot in a LARP inspired by the book, titled Bad Omens. It features three angels and three demons facing the apocalypse It also has full transparency (meaning players can read all the written materials before playing), and frankly, there wasn’t a single character I didn’t want to play… though one angel-demon pair had originated as a single being before being split in half, and that rather unusual character concept and relationship with another player really called to me. I was very happy to be cast as the angelic half of that pair. (It also afforded me an excuse to buy a halo headband, which I have wanted for a while.)

I had a lot of fun playing Bad Omens, even with a little bit of technology-based confusion. (We used Wonder to create a virtual space for video chats of varying sizes, and it mostly worked pretty well.) This LARP was originally written to run in a park, with players actually strolling around with one another, and now that I’ve played, maybe I’ll get a local run in a park going. I think more theater LARPing should happen outside.

Celediel, who was once half of Celedoniel

Romancing Jan: A Night at the Endicott

Romancing Jan was an alternate history Regency era letter LARP that began (I believe) in early 2020. I looked into it and while I never quite got around to joining it, I did continue to follow it from afar; I have been pretty interested in learning about different formats of Letter LARPing and it seemed like the staff of Romancing Jan was doing some pretty cool stuff with elaborate world building and newsletters and such. When announcements went out saying they were concluding with an in-person event that was open to all, I jumped at the opportunity. Like so many other people, I’d gotten a real kick out of the Bridgerton series on Netflix and had been hoping to get into some Regency era romance LARPing.

Since I didn’t have a character from the letter writing part of the LARP, I filled out a survey and received a basic character from staff, very well catered to my preferences. Nothing too elaborate — I was mostly attending to enjoy the dancing and feasting and lawn games as a proper lady of the Ton and not get too buried in intrigue or plot, though the staff did put in effort to integrate new characters into the game. Gossip was written up about all of the characters and seeded into the game, there were some very simple mechanics to enable people who to influence the various storylines reaching their conclusion at the afternoon tea and evening ball. (We got a list of attributes to pick from and I chose “good looking” and “rich” — it seemed like a good way to play social games of the Ton on easy mode.) The staff also wrote me a sweet little romance between my character and her charming but -alas!- title-less lawyer.

The event ran at the beautiful Endicott House, really a perfect location for this event. We had tea on the terrace, lawn games on the grounds (including croquet and badminton), dance lessons in the large living room, then the formal ball out on the terrace. It was a really lovely afternoon and evening for any fan of the genre.

To my surprise, the event was a pretty solid mix of LARPers who had played the letter LARP, LARPers who hadn’t, and people who had never tried LARP before (many of whom had recently finished the second season of Bridgerton). I think this event had a solid design to simultaneously engage these three very different groups. The simple mechanics, the newspaper that went out in advance, the avenues for spreading gossip, and the various options for character creation structure all helped. There were only a couple of scenes featuring NPCs that reflected the ongoing plot from the letters which I didn’t quite follow, and it didn’t detract from my overall experience. I think a number of people who had just dipped their toe into LARPing for the first time will be back for more.

Steady State

Originally slated to run in 2020, this was a long-awaited weekend long theater LARP for 30 players, set in a science-fantasy world of five agrarian communities (“Towers”) that have fled the threat of a galactic empire and now live in their own versions of pre-industrial utopias. Their leaders have gathered for a summit meeting to address both ongoing and new issues and dangers.

I made heraldic banners for the five Towers

To be honest, I probably would have signed up for any new weekend long LARP, especially a small one running in a secluded rural location with friends, but the elements that really called to me were the Tower rituals and meals. In Steady State, each Tower has a time slot on the schedule to present a ritual to share with everyone, one that represents important elements of their culture. Players were invited to, out-of-character, collaboratively create and develop these rituals. Additionally, each one of the meals was assigned to a Tower, and the members were invited to plan and prepare the meal together for the everyone.

These elements weren’t without their challenges — it can be really difficult to wrangle players to collaborate on the planning process, and as it turns out, not everyone finds the idea of cooking a huge meal in the middle of a LARP appealing. And some unexpected challenges popped up along the way (For example, some players who would have been an integral part of preparation had to drop last minute and were replaced with new players who had extremely little time to get up to speed on everything. Or the conundrum of how best to deal with leftovers both during and after the LARP.)

Despite these challenges, the players really pulled it off. Some players opted for recipes that reflected elements of their in-game cultures, some players focused on what they most enjoyed cooking and eating out-of-character. (And helpfully, the GM made it clear that a simple plan, such as providing sandwich fixings, was totally valid.) My Tower, Sangbelles, with French inspirations in our culture, opted for a French entree and dessert — coq-au-vin (it smelled so good) and macarons in our heraldic colors. There was also some kind of yummy blended fruit drink. My contributions were primarily to the aesthetics — we dressed and set the table in our colors (purple, black, and green), I looked up some napkin origami, and we arranged centerpieces of glittery black trees and lanterns to reflect our dark forest witchy vibes.

la plus belle table

If you’ll excuse a little shamelessness, Tower Sangbelles was awarded the laurels for the Contest of Sustenance, and I think my tower mates who took care of the shopping and took charge in the kitchen really earned it, along with our Unaligned (read: part of all Towers and none) hostess who made the macarons and lent much of the table dressing.

And while the weekend was full of politicking and mechanics and roleplay around complex inter- and intra-tower dynamics, the Tower Rituals were definitely my highlight of the weekend. The players all did an excellent job of encapsulating the beliefs and structures and aesthetics of their Towers. We had a meditation session and drum circle from the egalitarian hippy commune-like Tower, a tightly structured memorial service with call and response elements from the conservative and strictly hierarchical militaristic Tower, and a loosely formatted debate and discussion from the legalistic, scripture-centric Tower. Amusingly, the academia-centric Tower gave us all a pop-quiz, and it actually had some pretty challenging questions! Then they graded them all and posted the results.

And yes, I’m more than a little biased, but Tower Sangbelles was my favorite, despite the massive technical difficulties that plagued our attempts to provide music. We gave out creepy blank white animal masks, played a game of hunting one another in the dark, then returned to the fire to decorate the masks. There was supposed to be wild dancing around the fire, but we just couldn’t get the music to reach it, so instead we danced in the gazebo.

Decorated masks from the Sangbelles Ritual

We also had a second smaller ritual on Sunday morning to sacrifice one of our tower members, which felt poignant and magical despite its impromptu nature, and that was another highlight.

I can’t close out this post without a mention the location — the indoor areas were spacious enough for us to comfortably sleep, cook, and roleplay, and the outdoor area was really lovely — plenty of space on the grass, a big gazebo, a fire pit, and a pretty pond with a path around it for strolling. (The little peninsula on the pond made for a very atmospheric location for our sacrifice.) There was even a trampoline and a pedal boat, both of which I really enjoyed, and I managed to squeeze in time for an afternoon swim. I would absolutely love to play another LARP there.

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.
This entry was posted in boffer, conventions, LARP, LARP Reviews, online LARP, theater. Bookmark the permalink.

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