Last weekend was the final installment of a 3ish year long live action roleplaying campaign called The School of Seven Virtues. LARP is not always the most well-regarded of hobbies, but this really reminded me what I get from it, and specifically what I get from NPCing long campaigns.

For the uninitiated, NPC means "non-player character". Most people play "player characters", or PCs, the stars of the show; but no good show is complete without a supporting cast, and that's where the NPCs come in. Being an NPC means playing a whole host of roles, from random villagers to major villains, all of whom are there to help tell the game's story and add flavor to the world for the players; and that's one of the main things I like about NPCing: there's a peculiar but pleasant sense of purpose in, on one level, playing a character as "real" as any other in the game, but on another level knowing that you are secretly the Hand of God (aka the game's writers). Your character always exists for a reason, and there's a great sense of accomplishment when you play an NPC role well enough to know you really helped bring an imaginary world alive for someone. 

To give you a sense of the size of this event, the final installment of 7V had about 55 NPCs and about 80 PCs, all living in the woods and playing make-believe together for a weekend. If memory serves it was at least the 10th such installment of the game since it started in 2010, and they've all been about that size. It's pretty amazing, and there is nothing quite like walking into the combination backstage/green room where all the NPCs live, colloquially known as "Monster Camp", for the first time. It's a place of constant activity: at any given time there are people getting made up as everything from wounded soldiers to half-animals, rummaging around for costume pieces, checking in with scene writers to make sure everyone knows what they're about to do to/for some unsuspecting players, and occasionally even eating and sleeping. All this is happening all at once, round the clock. In my experience the hours between 6am and 9am are the only ones during which the majority of the people in Monster Camp are all just sleeping, finally completely exhausted.

But I could ramble on and on about this sort of thing forever. Let's get to something specific; I want to write a bit about how the final scene of The School of Seven Virtues went down, lest anyone think this sort of game is just about running around in the woods hitting one another with foam swords. 

First, we ran around in the woods, hitting one another with foam swords.

What? It's fun! 

But there's more (in fact one of the things I really liked about 7V was the emphasis on roleplay vs just combat).

By Sunday afternoon the last of two Epic Final Battles had just ended, finally ridding the world of an enemy it had taken most of the campaign for the PCs just to learn how to fight. One has to appreciate that at this point the campaign has totalled about 24 *days* of gametime spread over almost 3 years worth of events, during which hudreds of characters have lived and, in many cases, died. For the final battle, the NPCs split into two groups: about 2/3 played the big, bad villains of the climactic fight, and the rest played the spirits of NPCs who had died over the course of the campaign: friends, relatives, and spouses all of whom appeared to aid the PCs in their time of need. There were tearful reunions, then a big fight, and then the best ending of a game I've ever seen.

See, in the game world the dead are shepherded to the afterlife by mysterious figures called the Lantern Bearers. After the fight, those of us who'd played badguys in the fight ran back to monster camp and changed into Lantern Bearer costumes (the PCs had no notion that any of this was going to happen). Now, one of the chief NPCs and writers for the game is also a composer, and he wrote a song for the event, a lovely four-part choral piece about heroism, love, and never being truly alone. We rehearsed it several times in Monster Camp, and had it sounding pretty damn good by the end, if I do say so myself.

The PCs were still reeling from their victory and the bittersweet knowledge that their reunions with loved ones couldn't last forever, when they noticed our hooded, masked figures in the distance. As we approached, we began to sing, first the sopranos, then the basses, then the altos, and the tenors. With each verse the number of voices grew, and as we sang, the spirits among the PCs all joined in as well, one by one until, still singing, they left the PCs and walked over to join the Lantern Bearers. Then we reached the final chorus, which incorporated another song that had been used in a previous game, during which many of the PCs had learned it, so finally they were able to join in, and we all stood there on the field, singing. By the time the last notes had faded, and Melissa, the woman who'd made it all happen, said "And... that's game", there was literally not a dry eye there. I don't know if I'm doing the moment justice here in writing, but I'm choking up all over again just thinking about it.

I've only experienced the end of a multi-year campaign twice now, but both times it's been one of the most satisfying and moving fiction-based experiences I've ever had. There's just nothing quite like investing that much time and effort into a creative project and have it pay off in moments of beautiful, cathartic drama, followed by the knowledge that you've all just turned the final page of a book you wrote together. Everyone applauded, everyone hugged, and most of us spent a loooong time cleaning up a very messy campsite together. Everything hurt. Everything still hurts. But it was so, so worth it. 

Edit: Oooh, and here's the behind-the-scenes story from the Melissa herself! 


...and the good news is, there's more! Not more 7V, but several people involved with it are going to be starting new campaigns soon, so I'll end with a few plugs:

- Cottington Woods: A dark fairy tale setting (this is the one I'll be playing in by default)
- Shadows of Amun: Horror adventure in 1918 Egypt
- Invictus: Supernatural intrigue in ancient Rome

Fri 20:00 - 00:00 Unhallowed Metropolis: Parliament of Ghouls
Sat 09:00 - 12:00 Pooka Support Group
Sat 14:00 - 17:00 Playground
Sat 20:00 - 00:00 Orgia Domi Lomaximus
Sun 11:00 - 13:00 The Other Other* All-Batman Game (finally)

I am seriously considering swapping Playground for "Power Ballad: Total Eclipse of the Eternal Flame" because, holy crap, 80s dance party and the bestest title ever. On the other hand, Playground is short and involves playing with blocks and crayons. Does a short game mean a break, or a waste of a slot? Hmm...

Anyone have an opinion?
In case you care and haven't heard, signups for games at Intercon, one of the biggest theater-style LARP cons in the country, start on 11/3. There are a lot of great looking games on the schedule, running throughout the weekend.

If you're interested in checking it out, but haven't done Intercon before, be aware that the signups work in such a way that it's best to be proactive. At 7pm on 11/3, everyone who is registered for the con will get to sign up for one game. This is to ensure that everyone gets a fair shot at their top choice, but also means that popular games fill up *fast*. On 11/10, everyone gets to sign up for a second game, and then on 11/17, everyone gets to sign up for as many games as they want.
R
Intercon is a great opportunity to meet players, writers and GMs from all over the world, and to play in a wide range of games. It's definitely one of my favorite cons of the year. If you've never gone, but you're curious about LARP, it's a good way to dive in!
(context here if you missed it)

Friday night I've already played both games, so I'll either show up late or just hang out at the gaming night. If you haven't played in either, both games are great! The Final Voyage of the Mary Celeste is one of the oldest and most run four-hour games out there, and Martha Stewart's Guide to Interdimensional Summoning and Basting a Turkey is a cross between a party and a singles bar, but with demons. Great fun!

Ooh! They just added Kind Friends Together to the Friday slot. I've been meaning to play in that for years. Guess I have a plan for Friday after all, and according KFT's reputation, that plan is AAAAAAANGST! :)

Saturday AM: Totally doing Crotchety Old People with Shotguns, a game about which the co-author emailed me this morning to remind me that it was inspired by a comment I once made while up way past my bedtime in a restaurant parking lot. Said co-author recently said of this game "Will probably be written a week before the con while we're drunk, because this is exactly the kind of game that you can do that with. Crack!". Neither of these may sound like compelling reasons to play in a game, but for me they are. :D

Saturday afternoon: The Sound of Drums by the same people who did Crotchety old People (and more serious games like Lifeline and The Treaty of Pallas (yes, that's an Escaflowne game. I played Dryden. Squee!), and about which I heard very good things after its debut last Intercon. I've also heard that Two Hours in London is very good and still want to play it, so it's my backup.

(more information on the above two games here)

Saturday evening: The Difficult Life of the Costumed Henchman looks like fun, so I'm there. Failing that, I'll try Nepenthe. If you are an experienced larper and haven't played An Evening With Clarence, I guarantee it will be one of the most... unusual games you've played, though, and I recommend it. A lot of the humor might be lost on newer players.

Sunday AM. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in The Road Not Taken, which has run several times recently but I keep missing it, before helping to GM another run of Diamond Geezers. If drinking tea, threatening people, and generally carrying on in over-the-top bad east-london gangster accents is your thing, it's a lot of fun. If you're looking for heavy plot or easily accomplishable goals, less so.
(reposted from [livejournal.com profile] nyren's journal:

Greetings everyone!

The WPI SFS will be hosting SFS Live Action Weekend (SLAW) this November on the weekend of the 19th to 21st on the WPI campus in scenic Worcester, MA. The event consists of a series of short (1-4 hour) theatrical live action roleplaying games of varying style, flair, and genre.


The website for this event is: http://slaw.wedgegaming.com. The game schedule is up on the site, but game signups do not open until tomorrow (Thursday, October 14th) at 7pm. Crash space can be provided if necessary - there will be a place to sign up for it on the schedule when signups open.


For those of you who are unfamiliar with theatrical live action roleplaying games, they lie somewhere on that overly specific spectrum between audience-less Improv sketches and those games of D&D where people talk more than they roll dice. In the game, you will be playing out a specific role in a specific situation, but how it plays out is entirely up to you. Before the game, you will be given a character sheet detailing the character you are playing. These often tell you things like, who you are, who you know, what you know, what you can do, and what you want to do. No acting or roleplaying experience is required or needed for these games, just an interest in having fun :) The games are all in different styles (serious, silly, bizarre, and so on) and different genres (sci-fi, fantasy, dinner party, mystery, parody, musical, and so on), and we try to make sure there's something for everyone. Costuming is encouraged but by no means required.


For those of you who ARE familiar with theatrical live action roleplaying games, uhh, there will be games! Yay!


On that note, we are (surprisingly) still possibly accepting game bids for SLAW. We should have enough games, but we may be able to fit more in. If you are really interested in running something, please send an email to nyrens@gmail.com.


If you have any questions regarding the event, please email me, and I'll do my best to answer them!

Nyren Knapp
nyrens@gmail.com
SLAW2010 Event Coordinator
http://slaw.wedgegaming.com
If anyone in the area larps or has considered trying it out but hasn't played in The Last Seder, the game will be running on 7/24, and still needs players.

TLS is very different from your average game in a lot of ways, but I really enjoyed playing in it. It is a re-telling of the story of the last supper, told in a dystopian future setting. This caused me to approach it with some trepidation because, to me, that's sensitive subject matter, but IMO it's handled in a way that is neither disrespectful nor preachy.

I suspect it might actually be a good first game if anyone is curious. It uses the telling of "parables" to periodically break from the main setting by having the cast play out small roles in the sub-story each parable represents, adding some variety to the characters one gets to play, and because it very linear and structured plot-wise. In other words, it's the story of the last supper, and you don't get to change the ending. What's important is the role-play between A and B, so in that sense it could be a relatively straightforward first dive into the genre.

In any case, signup sheet is here, and more information is here.
This is my first mostly-day-off in... damn, a really long time. Closing night of EDTM tonight, and hopefully will get some progress made on the workwork project on which I remain behind, but other than that, today has been spent either running low-stress errands (yay sunny day and things within walking distance!!) or sitting in bed with tea and goodfoods, trying to recover from the cast party. MIT's musical theater guild has some... ill-advised traditions, IMO, not least of which being having the cast party the night before closing. There's a rationale for doing it that way, but suffice it to say I am achey, grossly underslept, and, as Henry Rollins once put it, "my body feels like Billy Idol himself". I have no idea what that actually means, and yet it seems to capture what I feel like right now nonetheless. Still, just one more show. If can just baby my voice enough today to pull off one more non-sucky performance this evening, I will go out with a bang and all will be well.

In other news, I owe [livejournal.com profile] redfishie big time for introducing me to Raquy and The Cavemen. I can't decide whether listening to them makes me want to pick up my doumbek and play more, or never bother touching it ever again. Seriously, if this track in particular blows my mind. MUST. SEE. THIS. LIVE. I will dance until I break, and then I will die happy.

In other other news, I have officially run out of space for both clothes and costuming in my closet, which raises a serious question: where am I gonna put all my clothes now?
Have talked about Festival of the LARPs being in need of players before, but here is a nice summary of the games that still need people via [livejournal.com profile] captainecchi. Some of these won't be able to run if they don't get more, so spread the word!
Trying to continue posting a little about the bigger games I play in (though I still haven't written up the final two games of Threads of Damocles, Season 3-- short version: awesome. Dirk was a really interesting character that gave me some great RP experiences, and left on a trajectory where, hey, maybe he could come back some time).

Anyway, "Seven Virtues" is my first real boffer campaign. Threads had some light boffer scenes, but wasn't governed by that kind of (or really any) system overall. The drive up was interesting because the guy I got a ride with had been playing in NERO and Accelerant boffer campaigns for about 15 years, but wasn't familiar with theater-style larps at all, so we spent the drive having this weird cultural exchange, wherein two very experienced players took turns asking total noob questions about each others' styles.

This is something that never ceases to amaze me about the local larp scene. I think of myself as someone who has a lot of experience, is well-known, and knows a lot of people in the scene; not just MA, but in NY and the mid-atlantic area as well. But I have to keep reminding myself that what I really mean by that is "in the theater-style scene". There are all of these large-ish groups out here, but they all exist in bubbles with what seems to be very little interaction. That the scene can support this is really cool, and indicative of the high level of interest in the hobby out here, but it's also a little sad that the sub-scenes are so disconnected.

...which brings me to my interest in 7V. It's an Accelerant game in which a fair number of people I know from the theater-style scene were playing. To be fair, the same could be said of Endgame, but the timing worked out better for 7V, and the latter was able to promise me more RP roles than combat-mooking, which is pretty much a requirement for any game I'm going to spend a nontrivial amount of time or effort on.

Anyway, the basic premise of the game is that there is an institution called The School Of Seven Virtues. Think "high-fantasy Hogwarts for grownups" if you like, though I suspect that the game's creators will wince if you do. The school once taught scholars and heroes, but the track of heroic training has been shut down for decades, since the world has kind of chilled out and become a relatively pleasant place of late. But then along comes The Ancient Enemy, Banished by Heroes of Legend in Days of Yore But Returned Again To Wreak Havoc Upon the Land, etc etc, and the path of the hero has been re-opened to train those with the potential to drive them back. Most of the PCs are new students in that track, seeking achievement in some combination of the virtues: Wisdom, Selflessness, Compassion, Honor, Courage, Grace and Wholeness. The first game was the orientation for new students which, conveniently, also served as an effective orientation for the players to the way the school worked.

The game started late, around 1:30p, and ended even later, around 2a, but was quite worth it. I was really flattered that the people running the game, none of whom actually knew me, were willing to take me at my word that I could handle non-trivial RP roles, and enjoyed playing more on the theatrical side than the combat side. This brings me to this post's Thing I Learned About Myself as A Roleplayer: Many of the roles I got were of a favorite type of mine, though I'd not been able to articulate it as such before: ill-defined, but with a compelling core of interesting possibilities. It's kind of like something [livejournal.com profile] londo once said about being cast in theater-style games, which I think he attributed to [livejournal.com profile] elenuial: "Give me the shortest or the longest character description, and I'll probably have a great time".

So, a bit about the characters I did:

(this got reeeeally long, because I ended up summarizing the characters as much for my own reference when I need to use them next as anything else, so I'm lj-cutting them)

Sir Ulric Lancashire, legendary badass )

Thaleus DeRandt, cursed refugee )

Cragga Illius, ornery teacher of Honor )

Bobkayak, extra-planar seeker of joy and novelty )

So, in summary: four fun characters, three of whom I'm eager to bring back is a pretty good haul for a one-day game. Also, holy crap that took a long time. I've basically spent the better part of the day I'd set aside for getting caught up with work writing this (yeah, I write slowly). Ah well. The experience is now thoroughly chronicled for posterity. Huzzah?

Did I mention that I didn't actually get home from this game until 4:30ish am? And that I have EDTM rehearsal in 90 mins? Methinks it's time for a nap.

Festival

Mar. 21st, 2010 10:42 pm
Have signed up for games.

Friday: Kind Friends Together. When this game first came out, people who knew me well seemed concerned that it might be difficult for me to deal with. This has of course made me curious. Also, I've changed a lot in the years since then. Also also, I just apped for a game in a few months wherein I will be locked in a basement for 24hrs while [livejournal.com profile] zrealm messes with my head. So I guess this could be called part of my training plan for building up a tolerance for mindfuckery. ;) Looking forward to it regardless. A dead-serious game will be a nice change from my usual. I also really wanted to do LXHS, but KFT has been on my "wish I'd played in that" list for a long time now.

Saturday: School for Young Women. At first i wasnt going to be free for this because of a conflict with Evil Dead, but got that worked out at the last minute so woo! Which game to play was a really tough call, because I really want to play in both Carry On Camp David and Two Hours in London. It came down to which game I figure is least likely to run again, and I'm still tempted to swap. So many good games out there!

Sunday: running Diamond Geezers... which was full as of five minutes after signups and now has a waitlist. O.O When I saw that, I assumed it was all people I'd pimped the game to, but there are a bunch I don't even know. Huh. Plus there are great folks on the wait list... hmm. Maybe another run is in order? Stay tuned!
This is probably old-hat to a lot of you, but to anyone on my flist who boggles at me going on and on about larp, especially if your main experience of it is that one vampire game you saw in high school, I've got something to share. Last night I happened upon an article written by Andrew "Looney Labs" Looney, circa 1988 about his experience with theater-style larping. I was really interested by the fact that despite being over 20 years old, it still pretty accurately describes the structure and appeal of the hobby as it is today. The main thing that's changed, from what I can tell, is that there's a lot more nowadays: more games, more players, and more variety in terms of format and genre. Perhaps indicative of this is that fact that, despite enjoying what the article says and how it says it, many of the specific games he describes don't actually sound that interesting to me, because since the article was written they've almost all become sub-genres unto themselves, examples of most of which I've played in.

Anyway, here it is.




...ok, one class down for today. Off to grab lunch and prep/teach my afternoon class. *kermitflail*
Gah, there are already three games I reeeeally want to play in at next year's Intercon (Interesting Times, Resonance, and Victoria Junction). Now watch me wait all year only to have them all scheduled against one another! ;)


Oh, also I just bid Diamond Geezers for Festival! :)
Every year I look forward to Intercon, and every year it proves to be totally worth the wait. The intersection of geek and theater is definitely where I fit, and spending the weekend with so many of my favorite people is always magical. One of my favorite parts is the beginning, when people are first showing up, and it seems like everyone who walks around the corner is someone I know and like, and who knows and likes me. There are the locals, the college groups from Worcester and NY, contingents from Chicago and Madison, the trio of fabulous psychos from Florida (who I learned this year are no longer all from Florida, but still get together each year at the con), the hardcore folks from England, whom I've gotten to know better over the past year, and this year a new contingent from California, who were all really good and a lot of fun. It turns out they're running an Intercon-like con in SoCal this year, and boy am I tempted to go. Then again, the Brits have been hawking their annual convention, too, and... hmm. I'm going to stop thinking about this before I do something impulsive. ;)

In short, I had a great time. Played in a lot of games that were experimental and/or new styles for me, though the highlight of the con for me games-wise was Diamond Geezers, a relatively traditional but very solid game the Brits had brought with them. Think the LARP equivalent of caper comedies like Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, etc: lots of banter in terrible east-london accents, gratuitous cursing and brandishing of firearms. I had a blast both because the game is really good (bought a copy and may run it at some point-especially as it strikes me as a great game for new players), and because almost every member of my household saw the description, drooled a bit, and jumped on it, so I got to play with my housies, which was fantastic. We made the gm laugh so hard she spilled her coffee, and [profile] zapf and [livejournal.com profile] aeries_walker (not a housie, but still fantastic) had me on the floor with one of the best spontaneous comic schticks I've ever seen in a game. Good stuff. Also, I love playing stupid characters. :)

But even without that, Intercon can't be anything but an awesome experience for me, because you just can't get that many of my favorite people in the world in one place and expect me to not have a ball.

Anyway, got home this evening with enough time for a nap before going to Evil Dead rehearsal (heard our Linda and Cheryl for the first time, and they are both great!!), and now I'm off to bed for reals, as I've got a crazy-big week ahead of me at work. I'm actually a bit worried about my cope-levels for next week, since I'm going to be under-slept (though not as much as I could have been), and dealing with both workstress and coming down from the con-high. Wish me luck! ;)
For those interested, there's a wild west (the genre, not the movie) larp called "Redemption: High Noon at the Devil's Luck" running at Brandeis Saturday, Jan 30th from 2-6pm. Western isn't normally my genre of choice, but what the heck? I'll be in it. Will you?

Signups and more info are here.
Changing teams at work and learning a bunch of new software (a bunch of internal stuff, plus Plone-- because apparently I need as many python webapp frameworks in my life as possible ;) to get on-board with that, plus multiple ongoing discussions with other Serendipity Station players as we sort out character ties, story-so-far, etc, plus Second Shift (hopefully releasing 2.12 (which is almost 1.5 hrs long!!) on Sunday), plus needing to record lines for another Doctor Who fan audio I'm going to be in, plus having been asked to help out with a fun-sounding recording project tonight...

Suffice it to say I haven't been on lj/twitter much lately and probably won't be for the next coupla days. If anything goes on what I should know about, please send me an IM/email. ;)

...and just for the record, this is a good kind of busy. Still having fun with everything. :)

...oh, and one other random thing: Strange Brew is playing at the Brattle next Weds evening. I have never seen it. Should I? If so, is it the kind of movie that's worth paying extra for the theater experience?

...Ok fine, one other other thing, because it amuses me: I am drinking tea from a pint mug. I believe this may be the most concentratedly British thing ever.
Damn. Many tough choices for this year's Intercon!

Friday has Story Wars, about which I heard so much wacky last year that I really want to try it out, and Tonight at 8, which sounds delightful, and Shadow Over Babylon, which is by AE, which is good enough for me. May have to flip some coins. At least I'll have backups?

Saturday morning is easier, since Lifeline sounds cool and is written by friends of mine, whereas Super Villain Academy just sounds cool, so that'll be my backup.

Saturday afternoon has Life at the Securemarket, which is written by a friend, related to another game I enjoyed, and to a third game I was sad I didn't play in last time because everybody went nuts with costuming and looked amazing, so it'll probably be my first choice. Then again, its predecessor filled up fast, so as a backup I'm looking at Fuzzies Live, because it looks... special.

Saturday evening seems to be the slot of "this game contains mature themes". There's Like Putting a Leash on a Rocket Launcher, which looks like it could be fun but challenging for me, possibly in an uncomfortable way, but then maybe in a good way. After all, the same could have been said of Martha Stewart's, by the same author, which I ended up really enjoying partly because it was a bit challenging. Then again, if I really wanted to "challenge" myself, I could always do Green Fairy, but... no, probably not. And then there's Slash... I look forward to hearing about that one, but probably not playing in it. So yeah, some options, but no MUST PLAYs for me in this slot. Possibly Veteran's Day, though the blurb is a bit sparse. Anyone have recs here?

Sunday has Diamond Geezers, a larp in the style of Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Sign. Me. Up. If that falls through, it's probably time I played one of those ubiquitous All Batman games.
For those who aren't registered for Intercon or don't check their email, signups for Intercon J begin Wednesday at 3pm 7pm Eastern!. Expect the more popular games to fill up very quickly thereafter. More info at the website, including the detailed list of game descriptions and schedule of what's running when.

If you're in New England and interested in LARP, it's a great way to try out a bunch of games with a bunch of very fun people!
Some of the GMs and players from Boston Between The Cracks are starting a new campaign that centers around the crew of an old space station, set in the Firefly/Serenity universe. Because some aspects of the game were dependent upon details of the character that owns the station, the GMs pre-cast that role and worked with the player to devise the character concept. Ok, fine, you've pried it out of me, that player is me, and feel really honored to have been asked. =:) So for the past month or so I've been involved in periodic sooper seekrit talks about the premise, character background, etc, and it looks like it's going to be a really neat game. It's set in the Firefly 'verse, but will have no involvement with the major canon characters.

They've also got a really neat system for NPCing (which they call "Guest PCing"), where NPCs will generally play one or two major, game specific, roles instead of the usual larger number of small roles. If I hadn't already been tapped as a PC, I would totally be doing that, and if, like me, you prefer to play characters someone else has written, this is a good place to do it.

Here is the official announcement email from the GMs, full of linky goodness.

=========================================================================================
Freed from Alliance control by a new owner, Serendipity Station orbits lazily through the Lagrange points of the gas giant Zeus and its teraformed moons. The massive, aging frontier space station is officially a refueling and cargo transfer station for ships avoiding planetfall. But margins are slim, and the gray side of the law, closer than one might think. Can a private owner make a profit without breaking the law, where the Alliance itself has failed? The station is a last chance for stricken ships, and a haven for traders, both criminal and legitimate, who operate within that hairs breadth of profit and loss. Serendipity Station may be old, but she still possesses secrets, and has at least a few adventures left.

Serendipity Station is a theatre-style (no live combat), character-focused LARP campaign set in the universe of Joss Whedon?s Firefly television series and Serenity movie. Serendipity Station will run approximately 3 games per year, for two years (6 games total). Each game will be a full day, 8-12 hour event. Most (if not all) of the games will be held in Pepperell, MA. The first game is scheduled for April 10th, 2010.

There are two types of player characters (PCs) in Serendipity Station, to accommodate a variety of playing styles. The first are the crew PCs, who form the permanent crew of the station, and create their own characters, with input from the GMs, and play them continuously through the campaign, similar to the sort of PCs found in other campaign LARPs. The second are the guest PCs. These are the ?guest stars?, important characters who visit the station and cross paths with the crew PCs for a single adventure, and receive characters created by the GMs based on the player?s preferences, and tailored for a particular game?s plots. They are similar to the sorts of characters provided for players in a one-shot LARP.
To learn more, check out the Serendipity Station web site:
http://serendipitystation.org

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the GMs at:
gm.serendipitystation@gmail.com

If you are interested and want to be involved, join the Serendipity Station Google group:
http://groups.google.com/group/players-serendipitystation

The deadline for submitting crew character concepts is 11/22/09 (be sure to read the character section of the web site first). Players interested in playing guest PCs just need to join the Google group, we will be sending out a Game 1 signup notice at a later date.

Feel free to pass this email or the web link on to others who you think might be interested, but please do not post to groups or mailing lists without our permission (blog postings are fine).

Thanks,
The Serendipity Station GMs, Lisa, Andy, Lucas, Jeffo and Aaron
Continuing my attempts to summarize the bigger LARPs I play in and reflect on what I learned as a roleplayer, few notes about Tales of Pendragon, the game I played in at RPI this weekend...

First a spoiler-free mini-review:

Tales of Pendragon is a fun and novel game. There are others that follow a similar format, but to my knowledge Pendragon was the first to do so. In the game, everyone plays a base character who has some dilemma they need to make an important decision about, and who has strong opinions about what a couple of other characters should do with their dilemmas and the goal of influencing those characters' decisions. That part of the game is pretty straightforward. The novelty comes in the form of a band of bards (played by the GMs), who have come to town and will "tell tales" for those who ask. When a group of characters go to hear a tale, they are given an envelope with a mini-larp for the appropriate number of characters in it. Everyone takes a minute or so to read their new character sheets, and maybe runs to the room full of donated costume bits to throw on something new, and then improvs the new scene as their base characters imagining themselves into the tale. When the scene is done, everyone returns to their base characters and recounts to the "bard" what they learned from the tale, for which they are rewarded with stats or other bonuses.

This is where the game gets "interesting". In a lot of ways, Tales of Pendragon is a very broken game, in the sense that there are a lot of elements that are not just nonsensical from the characters' perspectives, but for which there are simply no reasonable in-game explanations. This has the effect of harming immersion because you can't really deal with such things other than saying "it's just a game" and rolling with the absurdity. For example, people involved in tales are encouraged to interact with other tales in the vicinity, so you end up with a tale of the formation of the round table that somehow involves three Kings Arthur, two of whom look strangely female, and two Gwenevere's, one of whom has a beard. Then the vikings show up.

Questions like "so, is this all happening in one of the character's heads and everyone else is just a figment therein, or is it some sort of shared hallucination due to the bard's magic, or what?", are answered with entreaties not to think about it too hard. The interesting thing is that despite so many of the game's most fundamental conceits being unapologetically ridiculous, Tales of Pendragon is a game that succeeds not in spite of, but because of its flaws. If you can get past needing some kind of in-game explanation for what's going on, the game has a quality I can only describe as "cracktastic fun" in quantities that few others do. By eschewing tedious things like plausibility, it boils LARP down to what is, for me, its essence: grown-ups playing make-believe.

It also has, I think, one of my favorites challenge/combat mechanics I've ever encountered. The stats are a simple set of virtues: Honor, Wisdom, Piety, etc. An example challenge might go like this:

Character 1: "Sir, you have impugned my family's honor and I cannot let this stand!"
Character 2: "Your pride prevents you from hearing the truth. I would council you against such impiety."

With this exchange, a challenge of Honor vs Piety has been initiated, all without breaking character (yay!). The players each add their Honor and Piety to arrive at a total, and continue the exchange, which might go like this:

Character 1: "My lineage goes back for 15 generations of noble service. We have earned our pride!"
Character 2: "You should study your scriptures more, my son, for I could recite at least 17 tales of such hubris, and they end well for none."

Since the second character's total of 17 is higher than the first's of 15, the challenge is resolved in favor of character 2, allowing the victor to do different things to the loser, depending on the virtue involved. I loved this system because in all my years of playing in theater-style (ie non-boffer) games, I've never encountered as transparent a mechanic. The author pointed out to me that in a normal game it would be flawed because it lacks a randomizer, thus making the outcomes of challenges predictable, but everyone's stats are constantly changing as they "learn" from the tales, so this isn't a problem here. Even if a simple rock-paper-scissors throw were added for a random bonus to one side, the biggest thing for me is that ability to issue, respond to, and resolve the challenge with in-character dialog.

So ok, that review turned out to not be so mini after all.


Player Appreciation:

Big thanks to everyone who played in the game. Your creativity and willingness to just be silly for a weekend led to a grand, grand time for me. Special thanks to the people who played my family, though I don't think any of them are on LJ. When I showed up to the game I really felt my character was a little bland. There wasn't much on the sheet that made him very interesting to me and I really wasn't sure how I was going to characterize him. Fortunately, my good lady wife was played by one of the contingent who fly out to Intercon every year from London (read: friggin hardcore, though she recently moved to New Jersey), and from the moment she first spoke, complete with Authentic Brittish Accent, we started playing off of each other beautifully and got into this wonderful feedback loop of fopishness that only increased as the game went on. It was delightful, and one of the best compliments I received was the number of people who were shocked to learn that we'd never so much as spoken to one another before we began interacting in-character.


Things I learned about myself as a role-player:

This isn't really a new revelation, but I'm not sure if I've articulated it before or not: If I can make a character humorous, I will. It comes naturally to me, I'm good at it, and afterward people tell me I'm good at it, which I like. I usually make some kind of protestation when people compliment me, but that's more an act of trying to keep my ego from running with it and making me over-confident than actually not believing that this is something I'm good at. There are few things I enjoy more than laughing and making people laugh.

And yet, because comedy comes relatively naturally to me, comedic characters have become less and less fulfilling to me creatively and artistically. That's not to say I didn't have a great time making people laugh during Pendragon, but I tend to leave games like this thinking to myself "yeah, but what did you do that was new?", and not having a very good answer for it. Edit, just realized something-- dramatic characters are more likely to have to make meaningful decisions, and as I mentioned in my writeup for Dragon, making decisions in-character is particularly difficult for me-- so I guess if I improved that, I'd find heavier roles easier /Edit.

That said, this is reminding me that I should really finish my writeup of the last Threads game, where I did some heavy emo stuff, and to good effect, I think.


Another thing that was rather new is the extent to which characterization can flow from a prop. My character for Pendragon's health was failing and it occurred to me on my way to the game that it would be a nice touch for him to have a handkerchief to cough into from from time to time. I borrowed one from another player and tied it to the end of one of the arms of my shirt, and somehow having that little touch really made the character for me. Every time I moved my arm, there was this little bourgeois banner fluttering behind my hand, reminding me to stay proud, aloof, and to express that mix of delicacy and comical arrogance that so defines the particular nobleman archetype my characterization came to center around.

I'd never had a prop contribute so much to my characterization, and it's something I'll have to play with more consciously in the future.
One of the reasons I keep coming back to Threads is that it has provided me with some exceptionally challenging characters. One such type of character I've been given on a few occasions is the devil's advocate, the character who is there to represent, often antagonistically, an opposing point of view for the players to deal with. In some of these cases I've read the description and said "I don't think I can do this", like playing a racist border guard or a crusader bent on killing everyone that won't convert in an "infidel" city. And yet, as with many of the things I've said that about, I've never regretted doing it anyway. I find the exercise of trying to squeeze myself into the headspace of a character, even one whose position I would never personally espouse, very rewarding. Everyone has assumptions, preferences and prejudices that allow them to believe the things they believe, and the challenge of attempting to understand (or at least approximate) that kind of headspace provides insight both into how one who believes such things could justify it to one's self and into my own assumptions by defining alternatives. I don't presume to say I understand completely how group X thinks, as I have a lot of problems with those kinds of assertions in general, but it is useful to explore how one member of group X could think, and how and why I differ from him.

This brings me to the character who has been dubbed by some, "Dirk the friendly magical Nazi", and who has strangely become one of my all-time favorites to think about and play.

First, some background about the character and the game, then a roleplaying dilemma with which I am currently dealing, and about with I welcome advice (Threads players, be warned, this could be a bit spoilery, but probably not too much).

The Character )

The Issue )

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