“Aka “A touchy-feely game about being an asshole”
I played the first” run of Marked: a school for heroes! It was very much Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters with the serial numbers filed off. The game was set in the beautiful Ingestre Hall in Stafford. They couldn’t have found a better location. It was perfect!
I played Katie Gill. Katie can hear when people are lying. She can’t turn it off, so she hears a lot more lies than she is comfortable with. All the lies (“I’m not cheating on your father”, “We don’t fear you”, “I love you”) really eroded her trust and she vowed never to tell a lie herself. We left home at a very early age, and joined the other Marked at the Heap, the best time in her life. Now at Mistry, Katie tries to control her temper with meditation and iron self-discipline. Perhaps, here, Katie can finally find people she trusts.
I’m horrible at doing prep for LARPS. I’m a lazy costumer, I prefer to keep my pre-game links weak, and I usually read the design document on the way to the LARP. I did buy a beautifully tacky matching pink Adidas tracksuit to wear, and I found my theme song.
Radical Honesty #1
I also bought Radical Honesty, the book that started both the movement and the commercial cash-in of a therapist who claims being radically honest is the only way to lead a happy life.
I’ll save my review for Goodreads, but it basically read like a flimsy excuse for being an asshole. I didn’t know at the time this would be a fairly apt summary of my game ;-)
I was in Team Hurricane. It quickly turned out that Team Hurricane was a collection of angry, resentful people with no social skills. We had
- Marino, who had spent his life in prison or in a torture lab and who had highly destructive laser eyes
- Josefson, an angsty bullied kid who can absorb kinetic energy
- Felstrike, a child soldier from space with lightning reflexes
- Violet Mystry, the daughter of the recently deceased founder of the school and who creates powerful illusions
- Kenny Woodley, an angry social justice paladin who controls gravity
- and our teacher, Boomstick, who could turn anything into an explosive
Welcome to testosterone world! To make matters worse, Marino and Josefson developed an abject hatred for each other the very moment they met (Hate at First Sight?). Our main ways of communicating seemed to be 1) beating the crap out of each other 2) telling each other to fuck off.
I had no clue what to do in the group! Katie was pretty chill and utterly non-combative. Since everyone in my group was angry and dangerous, I figured I would play Katie as having her shit together fairly well. She went for morning runs, stretched on the lawn, had some amount of social skills, and tried to loosen up her fellow team mates. I also figured it would be fun to learn how to box to get a little more combat worthy.
Becoming a team
After our first in game dinner, Marino and Felstrike went upstairs to drink, and I invited myself to their drinking party. We traded horrible backstories. I made fun of their friendless existence and their twitchy pessimism. Marino hit on me and I shot him down. We made a bond. This hour established most of my game!
Then it was time for our first Team practice, where we got the first of many, many bombs chucked at us. Dismantling bombs was Boomstick’s standard tactic, despite us pointing out that the Beacons never Ever Ever used grenades or any other kind of ballistics. But hey, “When all you can do is make bombs, everything looks like a nail”. It was neat to see how our powers could be combined. At one point during the game a teacher Delphi (who could foresee possible futures) gave me a vibranium box that I could use to safely detonate boxes on my own \o/
We also did quite a few training missions in the Virtual Room – a kind of holodeck that you could safely play out all kinds of scenes in. Those missions were the most fun combat. I especially enjoyed a fully “turn-based combat” game of capture-the-chair with us and Team Blizzard, that really allowed everyone to play on each others’ powers.
We had quite a few places to drink. Early on, a hologram showed us the secret room and we spent a lovely quiet hour in there with just the three of us, before it became mainstream and the entire school started hanging in there. After that, we started a drinking club on the benches outside of the school.
I got both Marino and Josefson to give me boxing classes. I put their players on the spot, but happily they both managed to improvise a great boxing 101. Fittingly, they gave me opposite information on everything! Stance, body position, hand position, the works (it warmed my emergent play heart something fierce). This was really fun! It also lead to Groundskeeper Dias fighting me to check out my potential in a weird, provocative kind of way.
We got to see Marino’s background story play out, and see him discover that his memories were fake. And we were there to back him up as he confronted the person who engineered them. He asked me to the dance I told him “Jesus, no, Marino! And stop asking me, it’s fucking awkward!”
I got to spend a lot of time chilling with Felstrike, stealing his cider, translating dating into combat tactics so he could understand, and trying to convince him that it’s okay to maybe like people even if they could die at some point in the future. He gave me my superhero name, Closure. “Because she keeps exposing people’s bullshit so that they are forced to deal with it”. D’aww. At some point a hologram was asked who they were shipping. It pointed at the two of us, and we simultaneously turned around to see who it was pointing at. Team Hurricane was fucked up as is without dating in the mix!
During the last night, I got kidnapped by Beacons of Purity who teleported in, grabbed people and teleported out. We ended up being captured, and walking through the woods so we could be transported to secret testing facilities to be made into super soldiers. By some coincidence Marino, Felstrik and me were in the same transport group, and the men had a great time winding up their kidnappers, getting beaten up and trying to exploit their weaknesses. It was fun to see them play out their survival instincts! They would be so elated after every combat (with Felstrike getting stuck in hyper superspeed mode).
Our epilogue was our plan to become a Marked retrieval unit. To go out into the real world, find Marked and offer to bring them the opportunity to go back to the school. Go team asshole!
I really enjoyed hanging out in the aggressive anger-fueled Team Hurricane! It very quickly became a very open place where you could be as angry, crude and mean as you wanted while still being accepted. I loved seeing the team grow as people and become slightly more functional… while still all being huge assholes <3
Radical Honesty #2
The second and third day, I got to talk to a lot of people and use my powers of truthiness on them.
We had decided that if people were lying while talking, they would flash an L-sign. This worked really well, and was not disruptive to a conversation at all. It also meant my power was fairly opt-in, people could play along with it as they wished. If they were put on the spot by players around them, I would remind them in IC that they could also just not answer. So I was fairly sure that if people did play along, I was free to push them on it. Because I wanted them to be able to time their own plot, I would usually say: “Look, I’m going to tell X what you just told me the very next time I see them. But it’s probably a lot better if they hear it directly from you. So go talk to them!”.
I did make good on that threat, though, and I spilled a lot of secrets (in what I’m told was a “casual, almost snide way”). At first, this gave me some anxiety (in a good way – I enjoy having immersive feelings pop up). In real life, I try very hard to give people the confidentiality they deserve.
But after a while, this completely flipped. I started feeling very anxious when I wasn’t telling the truth. When Atkins had erased her own memories because they were too much too bear, I saw her again only an hour later. As a player I knew that it wouldn’t be very cool to bring the truth again right now, so I limited myself to a “You’re not 16, you know”, and left it at that. But I really felt under duress because I wasn’t telling the truth!
So all in all, Radical Honesty was great in game, but in real life I would feel like a massive dick all the time. And just replace one type of anxiety with another. Not a big fan.
RH 0 – Jules 1.
The Heap / Slipstream
Katie’s origin story centered around the Heap. A squat in New Jersey where Josh and Katie had made a safe space for Marked. They mostly used it for hanging out and parties. There was friendship and for Katie it was the best place ever. Josh had far more ambition than just using his powers for parties, and left for Mistry academy.
Katie had a romantic link with Josh Park / Slipstream. Our interactions mostly focused on the fact that Slipstream had completely changed personalities since the Heap. He had become a wealthy-looking marketed consultant type in a suit WITH A FRIKKING TIE. The cool dude I knew and idealized from the Heap sold out! I have huge nostalgia for the Heap, because it’s the only happy period in my life. I’m devastated that it’s over, and I’m pretty sure that if I could only get Josh to be cool and amazing again, we could have it all back. Perfect ingredients for a relationship, right? Aggressive, resentful and judgmental is a valid flirting style, right? Yeah, turns out I belong in Team Asshole after all.
Slipstream was played by Mike, whose roleplay skills I had a chance to admire from afar in Death Boat. Mike preferred to stay away from full-on romance, but was happy for me to bring it in terms of awkwardness. Challenge accepted! Mike is a player who is very comfortable with checking in a lot, so I felt fairly safe to bring it.
At the early stages of the game, me and the other Heap people confronted Josh with his changed persona. I say helpful things like “I used to have such a crush on you back when you were still cool”. We exchanged stories of what happened at the Heap, and expressed a desire to get together again. They had a psychic dreamscape together which I sadly missed (My only regret of the game! So much missed awkwardness there).
A lot of our conversations center around his suit, which is the symbol of everything that has changed about Slipstream. I’m very pushy about him ditching the suit and wearing some cool clothes again (“Remember when you had baggy jeans and a crew cut?”). He agrees to take off the coat. I give him a make-over by removing his tie and doing the top button of this shirt, and popping the collar.
Katie: He looks better, now. Right Deon?
Deon: Well, I wouldn’t say that. I mean, I really like the suit too, and if he likes it…
Katie: But he looks hotter now, doesn’t he?
Deon: Oh yeah, definitely hotter.
Josh: Is your plan really just to undress me until it makes me cool again?
Katie: …It is now.
Josh: Come on, Katie, do you really think just removing the suit is going to change me that much?
Katie: Well, that and removing the stick from your ass.
Josh: I see…
Josh organizes a stargazing trip around midnight. We take blankets, drape them on the grass, lie down and stare the the sky. Josh has a kind of space-laser with him that allows him to point out specific stars like slides in a Powerpoint presentation. He shows off various constellations and planets. People chat excitedly, everyone is relaxed and it reminds me *exactly* of our time in the Heap. “This is really cool, Josh. Thanks”, I say, and everyone heaps on their thanks.
Eventually Josh realizes he’s been pushing his real personality away to become a commercial success. He really did sell out! He has no idea what his personality is anymore, and wants to have a Heap party to remember how things used to be. He does explain that my incessant pushing for him to be one type of person isn’t helping.
The next day I ask him to the dance.
Katie: Josh, will you go to the ball with me?
Josh: I’m sorry, but I’m already going with Deon. We’re going as friends, but I can’t cancel now.
Katie: Oh, okay. Do you like me, though?
Josh: …Yes! But I need to find myself before I can talk about that more. You’re… really hard to talk to when I don’t even know my own mind yet, Katie. You keep pushing me.
Katie: Yeah, okay, I get that…. I’ll try to convince my team not to beat you up for not going to the dance with me.
Josh: Thank you?
I apologize for pushing him into being the cool guy he was five years ago. It was unfair of me to expect him to be who I wanted him to be just to hang on to the best time of my life. “I guess you don’t have to be a cool guy if you don’t want to be”. He is very relieved. A while later I catch him wearing the entire suit again :/
Katie: I’m disappointed in you!
Josh: But I’m proud of myself!
Katie: … Good on you, I guess!
At the talent show, we watch Josh sing. He never used to do that in the Heap! He is discovering new sides of himself, and I get to see them develop. Maybe he is kind of cool just the way he is. Felstrike catches my pensive gaze.
Felstrike: Are you sure you don’t want us to beat him up for you?
Katie: …I’m mostly sure.
Radical honesty #3
My proudest moment of Radical Honesty was not exposing some plot or embarrassing other characters. It was telling another character that what he just said right now hurt me (Josh had asked me “How my date hunt was going?” after he had rejected me. I wasn’t on a hunt, I wanted to go with my crush!) and I said it right as it was happening! Something I am never, ever, ever able to do in real life! Committing to being honest meant constantly paying a lot of attention to my own thoughts and feelings. I couldn’t muffle them away like I normally do. This was really amazing to me, and I’d love to take that with me into real life!
RH: 1 – Jules 1
It was very nice to play a (kind of) romance as a Radical Honesty person. Expressing your feelings as soon as they solidify means you never bottle up any emotion. This isn’t always easy to deal with, but I does mean that people know exactly where they stand with you, and it makes rejection really easy to deal with. Obviously, you might want to be slightly less of a dick about it in real life. But I am becoming a big fan of … maybe not radical honesty, but perhaps radical sincerity?
RH 2 – Jules 1
Even though Gill was only my 5th choice for a character, I was very happy to be cast as them! I don’t much enjoy hamming it up in theatrical play but I very much enjoy social interaction characters. I heard some of the other non-combat characters felt useless in the combat parts of the game. I adore useless characters! I have very little need to look cool at any point in my life, and I love empowering story lines. In this case, learning how to box was a great way to express gearing up to become an action hero.