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.
I had a great and mellow time at Consequences!
I can confess now that I had a secret objective for this convention. Every year I ruin my non-smoker status at the con by smoking a pack or two in four days. It’s a little insane. This time I was determined (well, fairly determined) not to smoke. My tactic was to stay inside at all times and cover myself in people. It worked! I remained smoke free and scandalously comfortable. The downside was that I didn’t get to have a lot of porch conversations to catch up with people.
But I did get to play a ton of good games, so let’s get into those, shall we?
Spoiler warning: If you’re set to play The Prison, don’t read this, just go in blind. It’ll be great!
The Prison. My friend Chris Amherst had been ranting about this game and ran it at Consequences UK. I signed up mostly out of curiosity. It didn’t seem like much fun on paper:
The Prison is an adaptation of an emotionally intense and immersive Russian freeform focusing on class and identity in the not-so-distant yet plausible future where a new social order has been established. Unlike other games, players as their personas will decide who among their fellow ‘prisoners’ will be executed. Those selected for ‘execution’ will leave the game space until game wrap. As such, your play experience may last only for 40 minutes or may last upwards of 3+ hours. The ‘executed’ will still have an opportunity to influence the story
Before the game, people talk excitedly about negotiations and back stabbing. “Shit,” I think, “I’m playing the freeform version of Are you a Werewolf?”. I worry about the bright red sweater I’m wearing. Everyone else has dressed in dark prison colors, I stand out like a big target.
We all get sorted into four castes based on some unknown criteria. It seems personal, though. It feels personal, even though the GM isn’t even looking at us as he sorts us. Maybe especially because he’s not even looking at us.
I get sorted into Omega caste, the lowest of the low. Other than me, my caste is filled with burly men. Although we all arrive in the prison as strangers, we bond instantly over our common fate and over how all the other castes spit on us. The GM starts giving characters to the Alpha’s first and then goes down in rank. It’s a long time before he arrives at our corner. We are made to feel our rank.
I already put (or will put) the spotlight on my two favorite games at Consequences: The Curse and The Prison, but a lot of other games and shenanigans went down as well. Let me give you the highlights of our long weekend in this very nerdly looking holiday camp.
K300 SOS NYET
A LARP based on the board game Red November. We were all Russians on a submarine that was poised to crash and sink into the deep deep blue. Lots of hysterical running around, shouting at each other and trying to stay alive. There were a lot of minigames involved. Most of them involved tablets and the kind of puzzly games that do well on smartphones, but there was also a game of Operation (that drove our poor doctor mad).
I was very confused, because my character Georgi was a depressive (the sheet said “Roleplay note: think Eeyore”) and everyone had forgotten his birthday. I was looking forward to complaining about that all the time, but when we timed in the first thing that happened is that the crew threw a birthday party for me! Way to steal my drama, you guys! Fun game, even if I did almost kill everyone 20 minutes in by letting the reactor go supernova. Whoops!
I was fourth GM on this Victorian LARP based on Gail Carrigar’s Parasol Protectorate series of books. It was run by the amazing Heather and Clare, and I was happy to help out. I ordered the first book and soon found out that the first book was hilarious. Sadly, it wasn’t many other adjectives, so I never actually finished it :)
That was fine, because my job at the game was just to be GM for a particular plot device that would need a lot of care: a globe that people could sabotage, steal or even destroy. Pretty easy! I was afraid I’d be bored for four hours, but it was actually a lot of fun to see Team Evil to get up to their dastardly schemes and see people struggle through the moves needed to sabotage or fix the devices. Later on I got to play a series of guards that were dispatched by assassination, explosions, raiders…
It was very interesting to see a 4 GM LARP take place. It’s an interesting logistical problem brought up by the lack of hive mind capacities. There’s four people out there making calls about the game world that affect all the others. It was interesting to observe, but I don’t really have any ideas about how to make this run smoother or better. In any case, it was a small thing. From my own standpoint it was a great game!
The Kouros Intercept
Firefly, yay! I won’t say too much about this game, because I think it’ll still run a few more times and most characters have a lot of hidden information. That was also the main showstopper to the game: everyone was sticking to their hidden agenda’s something fierce and banding together with their allies, which meant play was clustered and not as dynamic as it could have been. I was just about to lay on the huge beat down my character was working on as time was called. Damnit, be faster, Jules! I did get a gun held to my head as a loyalty test, so that was awesome.
Only the brave
Finally we played our firefighter LARP, “Only the Brave”. We had an interesting gender balance: I think we were with 8 female and 4 male players. This lead to a lot of gender wars banter, fairly light-hearted but it was clear that if we would go in like this it would be a major theme in the game. Which would have been interesting, but the theme of the game was bravery.
Luckily one player piped up and pointed out that this really wasn’t creating the safe space we were shooting for. People quieted down and then during character creation she said she would be playing a transgender man. So she pretty much single handedly created a safe space and inhabited it. Talk about brave! We ended up having a romance that was very interesting.
The game was pretty good. There were three acts: A slow night at the station, a fire & a heroic firefight and the aftermath. They were all great, but the third act was far too slow. The fire was a bit game changer and it would have impacted our roleplay quickly. But the third act was tiny, so we didn’t get to do much with it.
There were two really neat mechanisms that I want to steal. They had a very nice group warm up exercise that involved everyone chaotically grabbing each other’s hands, and then having to twist and turn to ‘untie’ the knot without letting go. Really fun. The second and coolest mechanism was the “ching” rule. You could tap your coffee or tea mug (and we were on a slow shift so we all had one) to someone else’s and they would have to monologue about what they were thinking at the moment. I loved it! I kept chinging everyone.
We’ve been going to Consequences for about five years now. It’s a little bit like coming home. We know the feel of the con to be very happy, open and accepting.
One new development that is slightly disconcerting: the reaction to the rise of improv LARPs and Nordic LARPs that have come to enrich the standard UK freeform. UK freeforms tend to be 1) generally lighthearted and fun 2) come with a strict scenario and a rather impressive character sheet for you to memorize. A lot of the new fare does away with one or both of these standards. This had lead to a few scathing remarks about “Misery Games” before the con.
Fortunately that trend didn’t continue into the actual convention. There were a fair few newcomers this year and it was great to see them acclimatize and make friends quickly.
A big part of the convention is the parties and the socializing. Many people here only see each other a few times a year and it’s great to catch up. We spend about 24 hours in total just partying.
On sunday we were all played and partied out, and decided to have an anti-party: “no energy, no fun. Phones encouraged”. That turned out to be a lot of fun. Well… anti-fun. We played Cards against Humanity, watched Scream 2, looked at the stars, friended people on facebook, and generally just bummed around. Surprisingly touching end to the con. I mean, we see these people once a year, so their presence is always classified as “special and limited”. It was fun to hung out like we do at home and pretend we had all the time in the world.
We are back from Heroic Consequences, the best UK-based LARP convention: four days of freeforms, parties and curly fries in a Butlins holiday camp in Dorset. It was terrific, as usual. This year was all about American freeforms for me. I got to play both The Curse and The Prison. Wow!
I dragged myself up at 8 am to play The Curse with Graham Walmsey, Mik Reed, Elina and CJ. I was a little daunted to play this beautiful 4-hour LARP about relationships and breast cancer at such an early hour, but fortunately Graham makes great coffee.
We struggled a bit getting started and switched a few parts around. Elina and me had already divvied up the women beforehand, and thus had plenty of time to sink into the intimate and psychological character sheets.
I played Elle, the younger woman who is uncertain if her 20-something passionate relationship will survive the consequences of her genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Elina played Rita, the older sister who has to decide if she wants to risk passing the genetic deficiency onto her children. Mik played Elina’s overly analytical husband who was struggling to support his wife and deal with the changed releationship. CJ played my passionate painter boyfriend, an eternal manchild who had filled our small apartment with nude paintings of me.
We went through a structured set of scenes that told the story of how these women dealt with their medical problems with or without the men in their life. CJ played the part of the deadbeat boyfriend very well. He was charming, passionate, crude and irresponsible. And decidedly not relationship material!
Elle: I fucking love you!
Peter: And I love fucking you.
In contrast to our shouting and other dramatics, Mik and Elina were having a series of mature conversations that invariably seemed to take place at the kitchen table. Their conflicts and frustrations were subdued and intense. I only met Mik at this game. He seemed like a lovely player and I’m bummed I didn’t get to play anything else with him.
There are also two important props in the game: two envelopes filled with a test result, one for each sister. Holding that envelope in your hands and feeling the stress that come with it while your partner is rambling on about their day…. It carries a very powerful impact. Opening it and reading the results equally so. I had read them wrong first, and CJ had to correct me. Right then and there (and I think most Elle’s with me), I decided I would have a mastectomy. “Will you still paint me… afterwards?”
Near the end of the game I everyone in the room seemed to wonder why my character was still with CJ’s Peter, especially after the bar scene where the two guys got together.
Jared: Our relationship has hit some lumps.
Peter: So did ours, but she’s thinking of having hers removed.
But I felt she genuinely needed his manic pixie dream guy influence and he was so sincerely trying. I could only break it off with him in the epilogue. So much for learning from my 20s! In the epilogue my character was married to a dependable accountant named Tom and had two IVF children. But it was clear that there was joyous part of her life she had to sacrifice in order to get her life on the rails.
And that was the game! Graham did a great job directing, and it was good to see an example of how to call for cuts, inner monologues, repeats, and so on. I was also very happy our debrief exercise, which made us focus on the one thing we felt we did badly during the game, and throw it away.
We all stepped out of the cabin feeling decidedly light and content. The game slowly simmered in my mind throughout the day. Though I had not suffered from bleed much at all while playing, I was surprised to find myself angry at CJ at random parts throughout the day. Usually after remembering something outrageous he had said.
Fortunately, CJ and me get on very well and we shared a few laughs about it. We even arranged to play a board game on sunday. Then he callously ditched me an hour beforehand because he had booked two games at once… Some things never change!
After these two brilliant games, I still had about three to go! I had to get up early in the morning for Time Travel Review Board. I was chairperson of the board, accepting and denying Time Travel applications – there were a whole lot of people playing different crazy applicants.
What worked really well
It was a fun silly game. There was a time line in the room that kept changing as more crazy projects got approved, and Elvis (who was also on the board) would sometimes change into Evil Hitler or Sensitive Artist Hitler. Jesus had also somehow gotten replaced by Steve, and the church of Steve got quite strong in the end!
I enjoyed seeing a young teen girl enter her first game: she convinced the council to go back in time and make sure D&D was never invented, so young people would spend their time being productive instead!
What worked less well
The only downside to the game was that the Horde characters had to queue and so couldn’t provide as much mayhem as one likes to see, and were a bit bored. I generally always sign up for Horde LARPs, but in future I’ll try to make sure if they are board or mayhem larps before I do.
What happened in blackpool was basically Fiasco: the LARP, with 12 people. This resulted in a typical fiasco web of relationships and a corresponding fall out. I played the bride’s best friend who had had a tragic childhood and had spent a lot of time in her friend’s household. She had a very unhealthy crush on the bride’s father, and had kissed the bride’s mother on the hag night! She was also caught in an emberassing situation with the groom. Quite a lot to go along with, but my twisted daddy-issues didn’t really mesh with the loud gregarious nature of the game. It was over before I got to ask Brian Williams if I could call him daddy ;)
I managed to get some twistedness in there regardless.
What worked well
The collaborative setup was really fun and a good way to get to kknow the other players beforehand
What was a bit weird
I didn’t like that there were secrets in the game that weren’t created together – it seemed more in the spirit of the game to lay everything out on the table and work it in together. They seemed mechanically very useful, though, the end game was all about them, and they added a lot of the spice to the game – Otherwise we might have run out of juice. I guess you can see it as the tilt mechanic in Fiasco?
Early 1980s, Sheffield. Thatcher’s Britain. Millions out of work. A decrepit block of council flats on the outskirts of the city. One of the flats is vacated – an empty space, in the neutral zone between two territories. Two groups move in on the flat, to try and take it over. This is the story of what happens next.
A really cool Nordic Larp type game, preceded by a workshop and an intense group and character building session. I played Ashe, the leader of the more hierachrical group, a control-freak. We each got to tell the group what we wanted for our character: I told everyone I wanted my character to lose control and break down because of it. Yes, I basically wanted to play Rick Grimes.
(not really the speech I was going for, but you get the idea!)
In our James Potter (The Next Generation) game, I played Veronica Dexter, a secret muggle! My kid sister was the one who got the letter, and she preferred to stay popular and go to high school, so I (being brilliant) leaned all about magic theory and made a potion that tranferred a bit of her magical power to me.
I’m also 27 so I had to de-age myself to be able to go to Hogwarts, and pretend to be very stupid so no one will think it’s suspicious that I’m so bad at magic. 17 year old me is a crack at Arithmancy (math for wizards) though, and is secretly corresponding with Arithmancy Professor (who is also headmaster of Slyherin) about it. Recently, the correspondence has turned from snarky to kind of sexy snarky. What will happen!
The background was very extensive and a little daunting, but the game seemed fun. A lot of different parties were holed up in front of a kind of clockwork temple that they would like to raid. I was a secret necromancer working on achieving my own immortality. I was posing as a medic and there was a big plague going on, so I was covered in blood all the time. There were blood hunters out looking for the necromancer, but they never found me! I did get to listen in on a lot of conversation about how it could be and what awful things they were doing.
I reached my goal of building a machine that sound transfer my soul into other bodies, and decided to transfer my soul into the facility itself! I thought I would probably die (but at least in a funny way), but as it turned out, the facility was already run by a group of very powerful souls that could pour themselves into one of the many automatons and any point, and I was able to join them! So a good end for me.