Thursday, April 3, 2014

Player Catalysts

Sometimes, as a PC, all it takes is a particular encounter, NPC, interaction, or even single moment to redefine and/or expand character development. As a PC, these "catalysts" can serve to greatly enrich the game world and unique character perspectives. With this in mind, I have two questions:

Choose a PC or two from among your characters-- preferably a favorite one. No need to name names nor specifics.

1) What has been a defining interaction that fundamentally changed how you play(ed) that character? Why was it so meaningful?

2) What would be a moment that would serve as the needed catalyst for a PC's narrative development?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Intercon Reflections

This was my second year at Intercon, and I like to think it went very, very well. (I had some initial hesitation, as Madrigal ran the weekend before, and that's a fairly work intensive game for me.) I'm happy to say that both of the games I ran, Rabbit Run (which I co-GMd with the fabulous Albert Lin) and Dragon Palace, seemed to go very well. There are plenty of spots for improvement in both games, but, overall, we delivered stories and emotional experiences that will certainly stick with us, and will hopefully stick with the players. Moreover, in both games, we were very fortunate to have outstanding players.

I usually write about boffer larps, and the Accelerant community. Accordingly, I wanted to open up an entry to Intercon N, and people's experiences there. So, without further ado:

What were the highlights of your event? What new things did you try, and what sort of things did you learn?

Speaking for myself...

- The highlights of my event were certainly the endings of both of my games. Interacting with the players as two (entirely different) NPCs was a rewarding way to see, firsthand, how players interpreted their characters, and allowed me to explore the world with them. This is generally my highlight in full weekend events, and I was happy to see it translated over into the abbreviated time mod setting.

- The other highlight was the players-- NPCs and PCs alike. My Rabbit Run PCs are now writing (incredibly moving and evocative) post-game fiction-- fiction based on an event is one of the biggest tributes, I think, a player can offer a game runner. (I'm really spoiled in Clockwork Skies by similarly minded PCs.) And my Dragon Palace PCs completely ran with the crazy Heian-celestial cosmos I created (and one of them, the player of the Goat, gave me an awesome red dragon mask). Good PCs make a game what it is.

- In terms of places for improvement, I definitely want to run slightly longer games (standard four hours) and open up the extra hour to more time for RP. I sometimes forget, with boffer larps, the conventions of RP, and how, with the full weekend event, you have plenty of downtime to build characters.

I've had requests from players to run both games again next year. I'm pretty amenable to this idea, though Dragon Palace may be some sort of sequel or continuation, versus the same game (though you never know).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Problem Everyone Wants to Have

Generally, in larps, the problem of too few npcs plagues weekends: despite heartfelt recruitment efforts and promises from potential monsters, the fates conspire against you, and you find yourself, at 11pm on Friday night, with no npcs. Most people have probably felt the ramifications of a low-npc weekend-- mods are cut or downsized, pc-to-npc ratios are bad, and npc fatigue hits all-time highs. Accordingly, a lot of effort has been put into bolstering npc numbers, and helping people drive up monster camp attendance.

However, "too many npcs" can also be a problem, albeit one of the champagne problems of the larp world. Recently, probably because of the increased popularity of larping in my area, I've been on the staff side of massive influxes of npcs-- seemingly out of the woodwork, I've seen monster camps filled with 30+ non-staff npcs, of whom about half are new to, if not larping, at least the Accelerant system.

This is, in many ways, a wonderful problem. However, it's still a problem: with that many people, it can be hard to find meaningful things for everyone to do-- especially if the new npcs really want to do RP parts. The combination of lack of preparation, and potential lack of comfort with brand-new npcs (especially if they arrive unexpected), can make it difficult to fully plan for npcs. Accordingly, in an over-staffed monster camp, it becomes harder to give volunteers as good an experience as possible-- this is really detrimental to the game as a whole. If people have a negative experience, not only will they be less likely to come back, but they'll be more likely to encourage friends to npc. An over-abundance of npcs, handled poorly, can quickly turn into npc shortage.

How do you deal with huge influxes of npcs (especially if those npcs include non-combat/rp-preferred people)? What are good ways to combat boredom, while simultaneously making sure that everyone is as well-briefed and prepared as possible?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy New Year!

Well, I'm actually a bit late with this, but Happy New Year nonetheless. I wanted to do a post specifically about the next year of larping: last year was a busy year that was punctuated by the endings and openings of various games. Now, in 2014, things have started to settle into place. So, what are you most excited about in the coming year? What sort of games do you want to try, and what games are you enthusiastic to continue? Are you instituting any major changes in your play? My answers, to get the ball rolling, follow:

  • I have a few plots that are very near and dear to my creative core. Some of their big narrative arcs are going to get going this year, and I'm excited to see in what directions players take my plot children.
  • A team of close friends and I started playing Ascendant-- not only do I love the world, but the community is really different from my (much beloved) New England one. The change of pace, and the new (to me) faces, are refreshing and add a new dynamic to my gameplay. (Also, I have discovered that eight hour road trips, with the right company, are not only bearable, but fun.)
  • I've been getting into a lot more creative writing lately-- though I mostly write for myself, game-based writing has been a welcome re-entry into storytelling.
  • I have some super secrets in the works, but, for now, they are super secrets. Nevertheless, I'll vaguely hint at them here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Once Upon A Text Prop

by Zoe

Hello everyone! Due to a double load of teaching and classes, plus a full larp schedule, I have been sadly bereft of freetime. As I happily move into my winter break, however, I find myself once more with time for larp blogging. As I was prepping for a larp this morning, a questions came to mind...

Anyone who knows me, as a staffer or players, knows that I love text props. Too much. My strength, in larps, tends to rest in writing, and text props are one of my preferred modes of communication. I enjoy them because they allow me to express things, about a character, in a way that can't happen face-to-face; they also allow me to preemptively "characterize" NPCs before they hit game. Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I love text props. For instance, take the following examples as reasons why I love textprops:

Communicating the Surreal
In larp, it can be hard to communicate the surreal: while costuming and acting, as well as set-dressing and narrative, can go a long way, larps don't have the expressive freedom of text. In my opinion, text props allow for staffers to communicate dreamy, unreal landscapes to their PCs in a way that conditions the PCs towards understanding a specific plotline as surreal. One of my favorite examples of this was Albert's work in Endgame: he and I worked on a range of textprops connected to the mourner plotline. They created the expectation of a very alien landscape-- when players were finally introduced to the characters and settings from this landscape, they already had the expectation of the surreal.

Yes, really. This NPC is mean.
I don't have a hard time producing bitchy NPCs... at all, really. However, when I have them deliver letters to PCs, prior to their onstage entrance, that writhe with acidity, frigidity, and/or flat-out nastiness, it sets a good precedent for when I roll in, and meet them face-to-face: when I've already insulted their morale foundations and/or competence, I find PCs more than willing to enter into thorny relationships.

Unwritten/Unspoken Tensions
As both an NPC and a PC, I play a lot of introverted, frustrated characters. (This should be telling.) One of my favorite interactions in larp is the tension of "things left unsaid": that moment when you both know what you want to say, but, due to character reasons, refuse to say it. Letters, especially, allow me to further those moments. In general, I think there's a human expectation that letters are more revealing than spoken word-- I enjoy the art of making my textual communication with other players equally, if not more, frustratingly vague, but simultaneously painfully honest. I appreciate the knowledge that, post a text-prop from me, other players have more questions than answers-- to me, that's the real strength of a well-used text prop.

Hey, PC. I love you.
One of the biggest problems of larp is the issue of "so many things to do, so little time." Especially as a staffer, I often find myself out as a role that can only interact with individual PCs for so long. Text props-- letters, diaries etc.-- allow me to give PCs a little bit more interaction with an NPC. While this doesn't replace face-to-face, IG time, it provides PCs with some personal attention, and often allows them to use letters/journals to engage other PCs in their plot (in a material way).

Soo... with my unabashed love for text props revealed, I have a question...

What is your favorite text prop (or text props, should you be so lucky) that you have received? Why was it your favorite, and what sort of interactions/player developments did it encourage? Grazi!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Having just finished the first season of Clockwork Skies, I find myself musing on one of the most satisfyingly frustrating parts of LARP: the Cliffhanger. We've all experienced them-- you, the player, know that there are about fifteen minutes left within a game, and then 3 or more months until the next event. And, just as you're settling into a restful, end of session complacency, an NPC of Some Import struts, limps, swaggers, or sprints into town. Said NPC gives you just enough information-- or just enough of an emotional wallop-- to make you want answers and closure immediately. Just as you open your mouth, struggling to make a connection or offer a modicum of coherence, the game ends. You're left hungry for more, and wishing you could enter stasis mode (so that you wouldn't have to experience the 3 month wait before next session).

The cliffhanger is an art: it gets people to think wistfully on the upcoming session, and it engages people, over a break, in a narrative. With that being said, what have been some of your favorite "cliffhangers," either ending an event itself, or simply a plot arc? Why were they so good? Have they been resolved, or are you still waiting for resolution?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Team Player

Hello everyone!

I'm back from a hiatus-- as some of you know, I'm an archaeologist, so this past summer was spent on excavation in Japan. I had little-to-no internet access, so this blog was on a summer break. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given my tendencies, the weekend I returned from Japan, I headed straight to a LARP (no better cure for jet-lag), and that LARP, in particular, started me thinking about in-game teams. I wanted to throw some thoughts and questions to my readers.

Full disclosure: I love IG teams, especially when they're small and relatively close. They make me invested in the game. They give me something to do when there's downtime. They provide structure and support for my ideas. My best PC experiences have resulted from an extant team, while my worst ones have largely come from the absence of a team. All this being said, I also see the limitations of teams: they can, for instance, come across as cliquish and exclusive. They can make things difficult in terms of fairly hooking multiple people for modules.

What do you think about coming into game as a team? Or forming a team in-game? What are the advantages and disadvantages of teams? What have been your experiences with a team, and of what things are you cautious when entering game with a complete team?