Together Forever

It’s 2020. We are all home due to the Rona. All of our LARPS got cancelled, one by one, like a line of depressing domino’s in a deterministic universe. A bunch of nerds saw all of this and thought: “You know, this would make a great setting for a dystopian LARP”.

They were absolutely right.

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How to survive bleed

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What do you do when you get back from an intense LARP and you find yourself dealing with post-larp drop and emotional bleed?

I couldn’t find a good guide online, but I’ve developed my own best pracices over time. I wrote them up after Conscience, easily the toughest bleed I ever had to live through.

I’m making a separate post for it here, so I can link to it after LARPs that I’m playing in. I believe in using bleed as a self-reflective tool for life improvement, and that’s a big part of my post-larp process. Your mileage may vary!

Accept..

  • ..that you’re going to bleed, and that it’s going to suck. Feel your feelings.
  • ..that you’re not going to get many things done in the coming days, and you’re not going to have a productive week
  • ..that you will have to go to things: jobs, birthday parties, lunches, and that you are not going to be the life of the party there

Take care of yourself

  • Apply time: sleep, binge-watch a show, listen to songs on repeat, look at endless facebook updates, or whatever you want to do
  • Get your oxytocin: Ask for many hugs, get a massage
  • Nudge yourself to do things that you know are good for you: taking a shower, mindfulness, sports, taking a walk in nature, creative pursuits, etc.
  • Nudge yourself to clean up your larp stuff, do laundry, etc.
  • If you have the budget: buy comfort food that’s also healthy. Otherwise, alternate comfort food with healthy food.

Separate yourself from the character

  • As soon as you are able after the game, stop referring to your character in “I” form and to your fellow players as “you”. “I loved it when my character said this and then your character said that”
  • Change your hair back, put on normal clothes, go back to being you
  • Start listening to normal music again, instead of the songs that remind you of the game.
  • Feel free to transition this slowly if that makes you more comfortable. I will often have one song on repeat on my first post-larp day, and one or more items of larp clothes. Gradually, I’ll be able to put them away.

Engage with your game intellectually

  • Write your game report, from first-person perspective if you like.
  • Reflect on your play experience. What personal lessons did you learn from your character? In which way are you like your character, in which way are you different? What aspects from your character did you admire and do you want to develop in real life? How can you develop those traits in yourself?
  • What in-game interpersonal relationships reminded you of your real-life interpersonal relationships? Did you gain a new perspective on them?
  • Put your story into a broader perspective, look at it abstractly and draw parallels to the real world. What did the larp teach you about the way the world works? What societal structures did you experience? Who do you empathize with more now?
  • Reflect on the game design. How did the game design work to make an intense experience? How do the cogs fit together?

Interpersonal bleed

  • Get in touch with people after the game and talk about it. Ask them some questions about their real-life: do they have a steady partner, kids, pets? What do they do in real life? What is their life like? How is it different from their character? Get to know the person behind the character, and realise this is who they really are!
  • Reflect on the difference between your relationship with this person, and the relationship between your characters. How do they differ? In what ways are they the same? In what ways would you like them to be the same? Does this tell you more about what kind of relationships you would like to foster in real life? How can you find and develop those kind of relationships?
  • If you can’t get in touch, write a small story about the character and contrast it with the player. Compare your feelings for both. Say goodbye to this fictional person.

That’s all that I’ve learned so far.

If you’re reading this while you’re bleeding. Take care! <3

Mythic Consequences

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!

Strangers

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.

strangersThis 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

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.

Awakening

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!

 

 

 

 

Conscience (run 4)

Conscience is one of the hottest blockbuster games this year. At 92 players per run, I think they could have filled three runs with all the signups they received. The game is played in Fort Bravo, an old movie set in Tabernas where Sergio Leone filmed his spaghetti westerns. If that wasn’t enticing enough, it’s not just a Western game, but a Westworld game!

Framed in a mixture of western and corporate themes, Conscience intends to address subjects such as ethical choices, the nature of humanity, the consequences of one’s actions, and the limits of consciousness in AI. Who can resist?

I had a great time playing Conscience. To process my game, I wrote a lengthy report of my experience. All the scenes described below are scenes players gave me consent to publish, some scenes are left out. It is rife with both spoilers and mature content, so please think twice about clicking “read more”.

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Walpurgis

I went to Walpurgis, in the beautiful wilderness of the Baza caves in Spain. In Walpurgis, we played a Satanic Cult preparing to sacrifice one of their own for Walpurgis night. I attended because I loved the sensual, surreal experience offered, the “play to flow” style, and because it was a great opportunity for me to combine two hobbies: larp and shibari.

It’ll be hard to write a report because the play was often conflicting and surreal, but I’ll give it a try.

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Lampposts in Bloom

(old game, just found the review for it in a stray folder)

During newyears Stannie ran Lampposts in Bloom for us. What a great little scenario. On the surface it seems like the standard relationship drama fare, but then it turns out to be SO much more. Fun fun fun!

I played Len Travalian, who is mostly on the outside of the many drama’s happening, except that he’s also kind of the cause of everything and feels terribly, terribly guilty for it all. He’s trying to make up for it with baked goods, but it’s not working!

Len is a really fun character. There’s a lot of amusing misconceptions around him that I liked playing into. He got beaten up *and* shot, and generally martyred his way through the entire scenario. I actually won the “I punch Len in the face” conflict, which means I got to narrate how Len actually steps into the punch because he feels so bad that he has a few punches coming. It was only at the end that he decided to leave these guys and flee to France and research what the hell had been going on from relative safety.

He’s also tragically cooky, because he’s kind of the only one who has a bit of an idea of what’s going on… but he can’t really do anything about it. I enjoyed interrupting people’s drama to ask really weird sounding questions (“SHUT UP, LEN!” was a recurring statement) and doing laughably useless wiccan chanting.

In between, people we having some high quality shouting and drama. We opted to stick together and go the full on drama route instead of splitting up and being more investigative. Definitely the better choice. Stannie did a great job of keeping the tension and the horror high. What a cool game!

It’s only the system that’s very confusing and not really necessary? I mean, I think A system is necessary for the complicated conflicts that can arise – the game can turn pretty PvP. But the Unknown Armies system is pretty complicated to learn just for a one-off.

Marked: a school for heroes

“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!

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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.

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Kessel Run X

Kessel Run X happened. I can’t believe we’ve had ten of these already! Our little RPG housecon has all grown up, and is still introducing new people to good roleplay every time. I love it! <3

We ran five tables and two slots for a total of 10 games with 32 players. These were the games that ran (with a big thanks to Saki for the pictures! <3):

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