Back from a magnificent Consequences. There were no bad games this year, no down moments. It was great all the way through. I am very pumped and I have to face cold, harsh reality tomorrow so I’d better get all of this out quickly. Spoilers for all games incoming.

Thursday

We arrive. I go swimming! For the first time in ten years, I make it into the Butlins pool. The pool is a little dreary but swimming the trip away feels lovely.

Mini-larps playtest

7 10-minute LARPs in one evening. This was a play test by Martin for a VR-machine in a sci-fi weekend freeform. Players would be able to use the VR-machine to play a 10 minute game in a game. Me and Ary are the only non-game designers in the room. Eek.

They all ran pretty smoothly. My favorite was a very cute vignette about two tough as nails space ship captains making a last stand against invading aliens. It’s a mission of almost certain death so it’s their last chance to confess their mutual attraction. Even in ten minutes it was so clear that talking about feelings was so unnatural to these two that death was really their preferred option compared to actually having to go on a date. “This is super awkward. We really need to die now. It’s the only way out of this”. Unfortunately for them, they lived. I’m very curious about their first date.

There was a firefly game with cute Simon and Kaylee fan service, a very silly Dune/ Girl Genius cross over, a Hitch-Hikers guide one (being Trillian, another life dream fulfilled), a Yakuza child court game and a warehouse 13 one where I bled to death on the floor in infinite time loops (I’ve always wanted to spend a free form slowly bleeding to death, these larps are making all my dreams come true!).

Afterwards we had a karaoke party where Karolina fed us soup and cava in a dark room illuminated only by lava lamp. We belted out songs over only faintly audible YouTube tracks while people did interpretive dance in the background. At some point Claire knocked over my full glass of prosecco. No one in the room even noticed. Except Mo, whose only response was to get up and refill my glass.

I am home.

Friday

Beautiful day. I go jogging on the beach. The sun hits the sea just right and great big waves splash encouragingly at me as I run past. Joy!

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Here comes a candle

Nordic dystopian prisoner dilemma with workshopped characters. Mine didn’t really work very well (a problem I often have with workshopping, unless I have a really strong idea going in). I wanted to have a vulnerable ‘heart of the group’ role, but I could only make that work in the final part of the game when the chips were really, really down.

Steve Basset (We played a game with Steve!) owned the game with some stellar roleplaying, before Linus stole his glory in the end. We spent 60 minutes deciding who should die for the resistance, 30 sad minutes saying goodbye to Steve, then in the last minute Linus knocked Steve out and volunteered himself so the group could survive. Some excellent dramatic moments there.

The game ended with the actual execution which was unexpected and very powerful.

It was unexpectedly intense. This is my third dystopian prisoner dilemma game in three years though, in the future I think I’ll give this theme a pass. Though all of those games have been consistently awesome. Hmms…

Love Letter

Love Letter was a romance game set in a British village during WII about the girls of the village and their men going off to war. Will they come back? Will their relationships last? Will the biggest shrapnel hit in combat, or in love?

This was my favorite game of the convention.

I played Penny, who is a bit of a floozy but in the end just a nice girl looking for a guy who is both passionate and dependable. Yeah, I know, a real stretch for my acting skills.

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I had a best friend Barbara (played by Alison) who was my rock, and a boyfriend Richard (played by Simon). I had a lot of bad news to break to him – a pregnancy and later on a rather unpleasant surprise about the paternity of said pregnancy. My boyfriend Richard had ‘fair weather‘ written all over his character blurb, and their relationship seemed to be mostly about passionate sex. The easiest way to his heart was easy to figure out.

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Me: I’ll have to ease him into this pregnancy news…
My best friend: I don’t think you can ease him into this, Peggy.
Me: Oh, you don’t know Richard.

Every time I had to introduce a bit of bad news I’d drag him off to the upper rooms of the bar, have sex with him first, and then break the news right afterwards. Sex and vulnerability was my winning combo, but for Peggy it was just the way their relationship worked. Richard never had to take responsibility before, so there was no telling if he actually would or even could. Scary!

Fortunately, Richard turned out to be a stand up guy (well, with a few indiscretions here and there. Nobody’s perfect, right?). He proposed when I told him I was pregnant, and when it turned out that our child looked a lot like his best friend instead of him, he eventually decided to weather on, stay and raise the child. And insisted we would have one of our own as well. (“What, right now?” I said.)

There were some fun mechanics in the game:

  • Writing love letters was a big part of the game. You were encouraged to write to as many people as you liked. Pretty stressful (playing opposite a professional writer was not helpful in this aspect!). Peggy was not a great writer and wrote manic postcards that flashed from passion to remorse to loneliness to love. In the final round Richard wrote a letter to his adopted child that made me very teary.
  • The men went off to war between the three scenes. Though actual deaths were scripted, they did have a little mini-game where they could actually get hurt. Richard came back with some shrapnel (but was quick to point out that “all the important parts still work just fine”).
  • After every round, you had to fill in a little form confessing who you desired most and what you felt the nature of your relationship was. Then you would find out what your partner had said. We stayed true all game. Our unwavering loyalty in the face of some rather massive fuckups was really touching.

Due to the nature of the relationship, there was a lot of touching in this game. It could have worked without, but I was very happy to be able to express the relationship dynamics properly. When things were going well, our touching was passionate and mutual, but when my darkest confessions came out, Richard pushed my hands off of him quite forcefully and for these two people that felt like a worse rejection than anything he could say.

Being on the same page about boundaries, and regular use of time jumps made for a very intimate but safe game. Very nice!

***

Party was a patio party in the cold with a lot of creative cake and whisky delivery systems.

I drink whisky from a wine glass: my yearly Consequences mistake.

Saturday

I regret my life’s choices and swear never to drink again.

Ex Nihilo

The game I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint.

Half of the players were scientists teaching their developing AI’s (the other players) different emotions. What a great theme.

I was really excited about being the upturned turtoise tester from Blade Runner, or one of those engineers who push poor unsuspecting robots around all day. Bring on the robot torture!

Instead, I was cast as a nice doctor with a few second doubts about the project, and a one-night stand with one of the other researchers that I was keen to develop into more. Sadly no robot torture.

I had a ton of fun tests prepared but the game ran away with us before I could do them. The AI’s had a few surprises for us, and soon us scientists were being made uncomfortable in various different ways. The AI’s learning about love was the most dramatic. One AI kept declaring his love to our military specialist until she fled in a panic.

Jan’s AI noticed the subtle signs of attraction I was giving around Dr. Forrester (Brian) and inquired about it. I had to step out for a different science emergency and when I got back the AI’s asked: “Dr King, do you love Dr Forrester?”. It was pretty clear from the context that Dr. Forrester had turned my feelings into an AI teaching opportunity. Abort, abort!

The worst part was that Dr. Forrester was ecstatically happy about this incident…. because it showed how good the AI’s were at reading emotion. Then he went off to excitedly tell the other scientists all about this great scientific discovery.

THANKS, BRIAN.

Though he warmed up to me when I left my cushy job to flee into the woods with our new AI friends before the military could nuke our complex.

There were a few mechanics on the AI’s side about how to acquire traits and combine them into other traits, but other than that it was easy lightweight freeform roleplay. What a fun game. This is the one I am most excited about running myself for our local community.

The Living Embers

In the evening I played a Nordic game about a dysfunctional family and abuse. Again I had trouble getting into my character or really embodying it properly, but the game had a lot of interesting things going on.

The feel of the game was about the repressive atmosphere in families, where certain things are taboo even though no one remembers why, where things HAVE to be done a certain way because “That’s how we’ve always done it”. It’s about all the subtle ways of disapproval and shaming that keeps these systems in place.

The warm up exercises and game setting did a great job of setting up this mood. It felt really suffocating and almost uncomfortable. It gave at least one player bleed, and I imagine everyone could empathize with it to a degree (do not suggest changes to the annual Christmas menu at Jan’s family!).

The game was very structured with a list of preset scenes. Every character had an arc that worked up to a climatic choice for individuality vs. family that was presented in a very extravagant surrealistic way and with voice-in-ear technique for extra pressure. It was a great way to make the decision very intense.

Say, for the engaged son, a bridal planner would come rushing in and present the couple with tons of exciting options (“You could make that trip around the world you always wanted! You could go to Vegas? Wouldn’t that be nice! Or you could go to the stuffy family’s cottage in Wales like your family always does.”) and kept talking at him until he finally decided one way or the other. I think my favorite moment in the game was when the son chose family tradition over his individual desires in a depressing bout of defeatism.

My character was tough to play! I was the twin sister of the pater familias. I had failed to make in the real world, and had come back into the fold. I hated and adored my older twin brother. I wanted to be him, take his place *and* take his wife, our adopted sister. My only way to individuality was to subsume him. Quite bleak.

It’s the kind of subtle character that appeals to me, but is hard to actually bring it out. I had a fun time playing very physically. I crept around and smelled her hair. I scurried around trying to open windows to help relieve her headaches. My own posture was small and constrained, but I tried to imitate his posture which was big and broad, so I kept switching between the two. I definitely had the right feel and internal struggle for the character. I loved and hated my brother with a passion. That feeling came so easy. But I failed to externalize it as well as I’d liked.

The power struggle I was working with felt stereotypically male-vs-male, and I had a hard time putting strength into it from a female perspective. I lacked a kind of assertive aggression. Only by the end I realized I could have used  the scenes with the other family members to establish myself as pater familias, by bringing them over on my side, and being what they wanted in a father. I could really have stepped up as the challenger. But I was such a sad, pathetic character that it seemed impossible to do.

I do enjoy playing sad pathetic characters a lot (Damned Love!!) but they do leave me with some bleedy disgust that no debrief can shake off. This’ll stick with me for a while!

***

This party had a body painting table, lots of muppets, shameless coat thievery, foot massages, and Renaissance Twister: a game where you tie two or four people together with string and then you have to get out of it. It was like brain melting twister. It kept oscillating between “this is kind of hot”, “okay, now it’s just awkward” and “how the fuck do we get out of this?!”. Clearly I need this game in my life, especially since I still don’t know what the solution is (don’t tell me!).

Sunday

I slept for a gloriously long time. We played Castle Panic where, to our great shame, the final, limping goblin kicked our last pile of bricks down. We had a very civilised party with only a bare minimum of massages.

Life is good.

 

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