Consequences happened! We managed to convince one of my best friends to join us for the first time, and she liked it enough to come back next year! I had a great time as well, although the aftermath of my burn-out earlier this year made for less energy and much more trouble with the noise level of the parties. Next year, I’ll have to see if I can spend my time a bit more strategically, and catch up with people in more quiet surroundings.
Anyhow, onwards to the games!
As a warmup game on Thursday night, we played Nina Essendrop’s Strangers, a non-verbal larp. It was like The Sims on immigration!
Strangers is an abstract larp which uses physical methods such as sign language and simple movement routines to create two cultures and the feeling of belonging or not belonging to these. It aims to explore refugees trying to fit in, and the reactions among the people who they try to fit in amongst.
This larp was a powerful and sensitive commentary on refugees and immigration. The game was very effective at rapidly establishing small but comfortable cultures, consisting of a daily routine, a day closing ritual, a small language, and a few relationships. Thanks to some clever design choices, the cultures tend to turn out very differently.
I was part of the more aggressive culture, we were very angular and angry. Our most important word was sorry. I had a nice routine of work, with a work romance that made me be late for my second shift every day – pissing off the more punctual members of my culture. During free time, we played angular games to goof off.
It was a surprise that we turned into the refugees. At the start, we only lost one member and that wasn’t so bad. We mourned the loss, but it also gave us some more opportunities. The next change was a huge immigration wave, with nearly all of us ending up in a new place.
The culture clash was big, and chaos was everywhere. The host culture tried to teach us what to do, but since they couldn’t explain anything, it was far easier to just to things the traditional way. Plus, it just felt right. The host culture was very nice and hospitable, and they tried to teach us their gestures, but there was no time and work to do. So it was very hard to know exactly what was what. Our two different closing rituals were different, but somehow compatible, so they started to blend together somewhat over the next days. We tried to teach them our own customs. They were mostly polite about it, but they really liked or off-time games (they didn’t have any). But it also felt weird to share our culture with them. It was clear to everyone how close our culture was to our identity, and how letting go of one meant letting go of the other.
It was my favourite game of the con and I can’t wait to run it for my friends back home.
Fallen Stars is a game about old things, once beloved by their owners, but now discarded and no longer cared for. As they languish at a flea market, they dream back to their glory days and hope to find new lives with new owners. They also worry about the uncertain future of those whom buyers will not rescue.
This was great! We each had to take our own item, and then we played that item like a sentient being, except when humans were around. Like in Toy Story.
I brought a discarded friendship bracelet, I thought that could make for good drama. In groups, we made up the stories of our owners and how we felt about them. Then we entered the flea market. I got priced at 10 pence, not a fortuitous start.
At the flea market, we hung out and took turns telling the stories of our lives. We waited around for humans to come buy us. Cat and Mo played an assortment of buyers who we hoped or feared would give us a new purpose.
Sadly, I was not sold and ended up in the trash compactor: a small dark storage room. There we could say our final words before we got trash compacted. It got quite teary in there! What an odd larp. Most people didn’t tear up from their own stories, but from listening to the sad stories of other objects. What an interesting design!
Reading between the lines
It’s World Book Night at Casterham branch library, and there’s a gala party. Locals and dignitaries are celebrating the joy of reading: although some are uneasily aware that the future of the library itself hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, in the fabled Booklands, beloved characters have been weakening, thinning, even dissipating out of existence. What’s causing this curse? And why does stopping it depend upon the events of tonight in one small, impoverished branch library?
I played Scratchy, the scratch ticket seller in town, and I was dressed up as Lady MacBeth. Scratchy was not much of a lady, so that was fun.
In real life, we were lobbying to save a library, and our book characters possessed us because the library needed to be torn down (for convoluted reasons). But our real-life dudes remembered everything the book characters did, and we realised why we had to change our goals.. So as soon as we were possessed once, the game seemed to be kind of over?
Odd design, felt like we missed something.
The Earth is dying. The last stable government left on Earth found a habitable planet and put together two colony ships to travel there, in the hope of creating a new start for the human race. The voyage has taken 2000 years, and everyone has been in stasis while an AI computer looked after the ship.
Now, at last, you have arrived ….
Awakening is a game of angst and decisions about settling on a new world, set in a relatively hard-SF universe. Adult themes include dealing with the loss of loved ones.
Awakening was a cool and fast sci-fi game that reminded me a lot of Critical Path: using sci-fi shenanigans to bring the drama at light speed. Once again, we were instructed not to try to solve the problem. But contrary to CP, I felt like we actually did solve quite a few problems. My unfortunate condition got reversed, for instance, and we messed around quite a lot with ship’s mainframes and AI.
I enjoyed it a lot, in all of its fast-pacedness. I should probably keep this spoiler-free since the fun of these games is the surprise of the sudden drama inflicted upon you.
One of my surprises, however, was a bit complicated. I and another player found ourselves thrown into a bodyswap storyline! We didn’t make it into a slapstick subject, but there was no real way to play on it except by talking about each others’ bodies. Including a quiet scene where we started eating chocolate at each other because “It’s not MY body that’s going to get fat anyway”. We had a trusted set of players, and we were very body positive, but I’m wondering if it will run well in any game. People’s own bodies are a sensitive subject for nearly anyone, and I often feel like an outlier for having good body esteem. At the very least it should be on the casting form (at least, I don’t think it was there).
Sins of the Others
After a bitter galactic-wide civil war against the forces of the Revolution, the victorious Terran Empire’s flagship is returning to Earth with a collection of prisoners of war and political captives.
Alex wrote a new sci-fi game! We went full ham on costuming. Well, Jan went full ham, and I actually did my best for once. I spent 30 minutes getting stabbed in the eye by Iris to get my makeup done, even. She maintains eye stabbing is an essential part of makeup. But Jan actually had a tiger stripe beard! For years I’ve been trying to talk him into doing a beard like Seneca from Hunger Games, and I think this is as close as I can get!
The rebels had lost the war and were being transported back as political prisoners. For one night, they were allowed to walk around the ship and mingle. I was an imperial spy that had infiltrated the rebel army. My task was to get close to rebel leader Amaro and I did my job super well! But I didn’t foresee that I would fall in love with them and with another rebel activist called Cassidy. Together we formed a poly triad! I still sent the empire some bits of negligible information, and didn’t tell my triad I was a turncoat – it would break their hearts!
Our triad was made up of tactile players, so we spent a lot of the game hugging, holding hands, sitting on each other’s lap, etc. It was lovely! It felt like we had four relationships: one between each two of us, and then one overarching one that encompassed all of us. If one of had died (a realistic danger), the other two could have “continued” their relationship, but it would change completely after having that overarching connection ripped from it. So it really felt like sharing something precious with three.
That I then almost fucked up by being a secret spy! I felt super guilty, and whenever they started talking about who the secret spies could be, I would withdraw my hands or even leave. Of course, I did confide in the other spy and told her not to tell anyone. And then, of course, she told the rebel leader to show her loyalty and then I had to make a tearful confession. Fortunately, we were all about to be condemned to death, which put a lot of things in perspective.
I don’t want to say too much about the spoilers that followed, but the game had some twists to keep us (very) occupied. In the end, just as it seemed everything would get resolved, we ran off this three into the ship to finally have some quality time together. Good stuff!