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?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guest Contributor: Trust is Not Transferable

by Maggie

Trust is vital to any roleplaying experience. You might not need much of it, if the situation is light, and you might need a lot more, if the topic is heavy and dark. If I'm meeting an NPC, and they're leading my group on a module, I don't need much trust at all. I just need to know that yes, they're NPCing, and have the basic faith that whatever they're running has been okayed by staff. This is a trust pretty inherent when an NPC comes up to talk to you about going to do something.

However, if a situation is somewhat intimate, highly emotional, or involves some sort of risky physical challenge, it's important to have a lot more trust in that person. Sometimes, you can take a leap of faith and discover you really like roleplaying/gaming with that person, and sometimes your trust is mislaid, and it turns out to be something you didn't want to get involved with.

My primary example happened many years ago in a game I was PCing.*

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tempering Toxicity

Toxicity, which I define as a special brand of negativity, can be a large problem in LARPs. I'm curious as to how readers understand gamecentric toxicity, and how they counter it. So, I'm going to give you my operative definition of "toxicity," and then ask a few questions that I feel are productive for bettering game environment.

"Toxicity" is, technically speaking, the extent to which a substance can cause damage to an organism-- in other words, the extent to which something is poisonous. In larp terms, I understand this as negativity, coming from individuals and groups, which spreads throughout the player base, and proceeds to damage a game. While every single player experiences negativity-- and can be negativity-- toxicity, to me, is that negativity channeled in a way that is detrimental to the larger community. Toxicity can hurt a game's reputation, damage staff relationships with players, damage players' relationships with one another, and drive talented people-- staff or pc-- away from the game. It has many causes, and can originate in things like valid complaints, justified interpersonal problems, and/or plain, old dysfunction. Some questions (answer some, all, or make up your own)...

1) What sorts of things cause toxicity? What are some of the most frequent causes of toxicity?
2) When does negativity (dissatisfaction with a game, either momentary or continuous) transition into toxicity?
3) How can toxicity be avoided (understanding that everyone is going to have bad events, from time to time)? How, once it starts can it be fixed?
4) Have you had any experiences with a toxic game environment? (No need to name names, if uncomfortable with doing so-- if you think it's productive, feel free. But, again, constructive work and productivity are the goals of this blog.)
5) Negativity can often be productive for games (it generates, for instance, constructive criticism). How do you channel negativity into something constructive?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

NPC Spot: Shade from Endgame

Shade's makeup consists of white cake makeup,
which is cheap and sadly streaky, and black and blue Mehron 
eye pencils, and some bronze eye-shadow powder.
So, I'm notoriously bad at taking pictures of any and all makeup that I do for NPCs. (It's the only reason I took "Alternate Appearance" in Mirror, Mirror.) For this reason, I decided to attempt to recreate and photograph some of the makeup I've done for larps. I did this for my benefit, but figured I'd make a blog post out of it. (I did this makeup project in humid, 88 degrees Farenheit weather-- poor choice). And, so, without further ado, I present to you Shade, one of my Endgame NPCs. I had a good time with her costuming, though I've only preserved her final form.

Shade was based on sea creatures. In her final form, she was like a jellyfish mermaid thing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Villainy and Demise

Villains, as I have mentioned before, are important parts of many games: they motivate plot; they stir players' emotional investments; they provide adversity and strife; they allow game writers to explore the less savory corners of the game universe; they let NPCs sink their teeth into rich and unpredictable characters. Crafting the villain arc, however, can be difficult. How does a staff introduce a villain? How does that villain bubble and boil into an evil that is greater than simply problematic? How does that villain, once made into an arch nemesis, maintain intensity over a long-running plot? I have seen many plots where the villain-- due to over-exposure, over-writing, and poor timing-- becomes a comical, unbelievable mess of excess. However, I have also seen many brilliant plots where the villain is a living, breathing, seething creature who garners both hatred and empathy from PCs.

For these latter plots, a singularly important questions pops into my mind: how does one end a villain's narrative? What makes a satisfying end for a well-crafted villain? I think there are many answers to this question, and I'm curious to hear responses (one of my responses is below). How have your favorite villains been successfully ended? Why was it satisfying?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Farewell Toast

On Sunday, the long-running campaign, Endgame, came to its conclusion. There are many things that could be said about this game-- and many discussions about how games end, and how, in my opinion, this did LARP endings proud. But, instead, I will be brief.

For me personally, Endgame has meant a lot. It's the first game I really NPC'd. It's the first game I staffed. It's also the game that taught me-- to borrow from a fellow player-- that LARPing isn't just a hobby, it's an art form. It taught me that modules and encounters can be difficult, challenging, and deeply personal. It taught me that PCs will usually surprise you. It taught me how to write characters that are as dynamic and unpredictable as those PCs. It taught me that narrative is fluid, and I should never have expectations of where "my" story will go. It taught me how to collaborate with like-minded people. It taught me, in short, how to LARP.

To my fellow players-- I raise my glass (of water-- I'm still mildly dehydrated). Thank you, Mac, for leading us into places unknown. Thank you, staff, for trusting me with parts of your gameworld. Thank you, NPCs, for helping me make stories come alive (and for being really patient when climatic modules required, essentially, a hike through the camp grounds). And thank you, PCs, for teaching me what it means to really, deeply care about a player-base.

(And thanks to all of you for dealing with a few of my bouts of extreme profanity, which were just a little loud. It was never planned, but it always seemed appropriate.)

Cheers, Endgamers. I think we've made something just a little bit magic.

(I open the floor to all of you-- share your favorite moments, your reflections, your appreciations... whatever you want.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Commemorative Address on the Eve of the Nepalu Expedition

Most of you have probably seen this already, but, hey... I'm just about out of brain power at this point. The Clockwork Skies "teaser," put together by myself and a few other staff members. There is relatively little mention of the weather, per a certain individual's well-taken predilection. Monday or Tuesday will involve a Clockwork related blog post, but, for now... enjoy!

Commemorative Address on the Eve of the Nepalu Expedition
The League of Arcane Sciences, East Meridian
(Susan Grimsheld, Madhuri Lalit, Theodore Marlin, Thomas Moorehouse, and Jayanthi Nayan)

On this day,
the 23rd day of the 5th month in the 13th year,
in celebration of the Nepalu Expedition,
with the collaboration of the fine minds at the University of Jhumar,
we present to you a synthesized report from the first ever International Crystal Communications Network. While we could, enthusiastically, supply you-- our international friends and allies-- with political, diplomatic, and/or scientific conversation concerning the Expedition, we have decided, in the spirit of exploration, to instead celebrate those who are boldly venturing towards the new island. Based on the developments from the University of Jumar School of Lithomancy, we have collected personal accounts from each of the Nations represented on the Nepalu Expedition. It is our pleasure, using such networks, to present individual narrative accounts of those involved in the Expedition. To quote our Jhumari colleague, Professor Madhuri Lalit, “You will be able to read, for the first time, the narrative trajectory of those living across the known world.” By offering these personal accounts, reactions and perspectives on the Expedition, we hope to foster a spirit of international cooperation and camaraderie. May we move forward, together, with vigor and friendship! From Sindrissil to Meridian, our fellow islanders have offered to us their innermost thoughts. Please, allow yourselves to settle into moments of quiet and intimate reflection.

From the deep forests of Sindrissil...

He hefts his boar-spear, and adjusts the pack slung over his shoulder. His father and mother stand in the crowd gathered to watch the Citizens departing for the expedition. They are stoic and stone-faced, but he can see the pride in their eyes. A bittersweet moment, leaving family behind, but striding forward to adventure and glory.
A shove from behind sends him forward up the gangway.
"Walk, Osser. Mother and Father will be here when you return. The sooner we arrive the sooner I can start brewing," his sister says-- she is hauling twice the weight in gear that he is, most of it affixed to a broad shield on her back. "You represent Sindrissil, that means you're a warrior and a trader. You've strong arms and quick wits. Gawking mournfully at your parents like a child before his first hunt does the Empire disservice. Stop being a damn poet and be a man."
Had anyone other than his sister had spoken such words to him, he would have their blood to grease his scabbard. But she is his kin, and she is right: the expedition will rely on his skills in trade. Plus, she is faster than he, and he has no desire to see his own blood today...

From the hallowed halls of the University of Jhumar...

A young man, stooped of shoulder and thin, attempts to cram the last of several dozen scrolls into an over-stuffed trunk.
“Is that the last of them, Mr. Maresh?” an impatient voice calls from the corner of the room.
“Yes, professor. Fifteen field guides on expected categories of flora and fauna, Five accounts of arcanical manipulations across international borders, Professor Kajaltha’s predictive model on the Kajaltha-4 caves, and--”
“What about Damedra’s index of probable elemental collision matrices?”
“I had, uh, forgotten it, professor,” the young man’s face colors slightly, “and my trunk is full.”
“Oh, honestly, Mr. Maresh! How pointless was your semester at the School of Illusions?”
“Wha-- oh. Er, of course... Mabhradi’s Circle of Expansion...” the young man moves to the trunk, and begins to move his fingers in oppositional spirals. The trunk, stuffed with books and supplies, begins to glow a radiant indigo...

From the deserts of Saliana...
“What about your-”
“Got it, mere.”
“You don’t even know what I was going to say!”
The young woman smiles, and kisses her mother on the forehead. “Ne vous inquietez pas, Maman....don’t worry. There ain’t another lick of room in the trunk, anyhow.”
She looks into her mother’s red-rimmed eyes, fighting to smile when all she wants to do is cry as much as her parents have in the past weeks and months. Travelling so far away has been her dream since childhood, but now that it is here, she isn’t sure she is cut out for the Nepalu Expedition after all. She rubs the small pendant around her neck and forces the grin wider-- instead of thinking about all the possibilities.
“Les Feux sont bons. Fire is good, Maman, I’ll be alright. I hear Papa and the’s time to go.” She picks up the handle of one side of the trunk, allowing the squeaky old wheels to take most of the weight, and goes out into the bright sunlight...

From the tulip-filled gardens of Vandervelde...

“And you’re quite ready to leave, Mr. Kemperman?” asks a rotund man with an impressively bushy mustache.
“Why, of course, Mr. Kemperman!” responds another man, sporting the national symbol as his lapel pin.
“Jansen, Jansen, and Spronk is lucky to have you as an employee-representative on this Expedition, Mr. Kemperman,” says the mustached man.
“Why thank you, Mr. Kemperman. I couldn’t do it without the Company. Ms. Kemperman, of Gaslight Dramatics, has even provided me with a new series of advertisements to bring to potential consumers,” Mr. Kemperman, the pinned, nods proudly.
“Fantastic! That woman is so productive... might I hear the newest one?” asks the somewhat walrusine Mr. Kemperman.
“Of course... Ms. Kemperman wrote this item specifically for the JJS line of lady’s rouge:
‘Sugar smile defeated!
A wrinkle! Eye baggy dreamtime!
Face touch with the blush and red,
the soul is vibrant peach pinkly,’” the not-so-walrusine Mr. Kemperman finishes with a smug smile.
“Marvelous! That Ms. Kemperman-- an ear for the populace, I say!” claps Mr. Kemperman...

From the mountain groves of Aeolia...

"I'm scared," he says candidly.
His tribesman squeezes him on the arm, and offers a lopsided smile before returning to the carving he is working on. "Really, it would be strange if you weren't. That just makes you smart, more than anything." The two sit for a few minutes in a quiet broken only by the soft wooden sounds of chips being worn from the carving. "What is it you are most scared of?"
"Their ways are not our ways," he sighs and shakes his head, "but... truly... it's the idea that I might not be able to live with the spirits as we do here."
Anything further he might have to say is cut off by the enthusiastic scolding of a squirrel in a nearby tree. As the squirrel scrambles down and approaches, the young man smiles a little, in recognition of squirrel and genuine scolding alike.
The squirrel darts back and forth between the two, tail twitching furiously. "Is it that you think the spirits are not so strong, is that it?"
The young man shakes his head, "Of course not, it's that --"
"It's that you are thinking the spirits are bound by the same terms as you!" scolds the squirrel. "You think we need some ship of air to go where we choose, as you do?" Sitting on its back legs, it declares with arrogant assurance, "We do not."
The young man's smile is full and genuine now, and he heaves a deep breath of relief. "No. You're right! Of course you do not."

From the well-scrubbed decks of the Independent Fleet...

After kissing it three times, the young woman removes the crystal, and places it in the small crate. It is nestled in between the other things: the violet ink-pot, the snapped wishbone, the molar, and the tiny, bald porcelain doll. She sighs, staring at the empty shelf in front of her-- it has never looked so lonely before.
“Imagine that,” a voice interrupts her quiet packing, “I never thought I would live to see the day you got rid of that creepy thing.”
As a red-headed woman enters, the young voyager laughs lightly, “I guess I have to find a new shelf for all this stuff.”
The red-head crouches beside her, peering into the box of objects. “It’s going to be weird, you know, living on land all the time,” she says.
“I’ll get used to it... and, besides, you can’t fly without running into a Fleet ship, y’know? I’ll get my fair share of wind and rain, I’m sure.”
The red-head smiles, and, with a gentle hesitation, asks, “Why are you going, anyways?”
The girl smirks vaguely, and, after a beat, says, “Fate, I guess.”
The red-head stands up again, and clucking her tongue lightly, chides “You’re getting predictable.”

From the tumbling valleys of the Caerleon Directive...
“It is so nice to have met you. I understand that you recently attained a great honor from Miss Kindersley?” The Minister smiles, although it does not touch his eyes.
“She did give me a scrying mirror of her own design and make,” the girl’s voice is very small in this large room, yet she dares not speak above a whisper.
“I do hope that you will put it to good use once you join the expedition. Do not allow such talents to go to waste.” He takes her hand, and leans in towards her conspiratorially. “You carry the reputation of the Directive upon your shoulders. Do not forget that.” All trace of a smile is gone, and she simply nods, wanting to return to her trunks and packages.
As quickly as it disappeared, the smile is back, “Travel safely, citizen!”

From the sweeping cathedrals of Vox...

Her hands pressed against her chest, and her head bowed, the robed woman whispers fervently to herself. The church is dark and empty-- only a few dozen candles, guttering noisily, cast light upon the many panes of stained glass. In the half-dark, the faces of long-dead clerics and paladins, usually smiling benevolently from the windowpanes, seem ominous and uneasy.
“Lady, give me the strength to guide those who would walk the path of Light,” murmurs the woman. “Lady, grant me the love to purify my own defilement. Let me walk not in the alleys of Contempt, Pride, Guilt, Obsession. Let me walk, free of these well-trod roads.”
“Sister, are you ready to depart?” asks a cool voice, unseen in the billowy shadows.
“Lady, in your Light, offer me the wisdom to show them their weaknesses, and gather with them their strengths. Vox veritas vita.” She bows her head once more, and, slowly, rises...

And from our noble nation-city of Meridian...

The soldier looks to the throngs of people behind him. His final glance home. He has no words, and, really, he should have no fear. This is one more mission. One more campaign.
But... it’s not, is it? This is different.
This is something... new.
He takes the first step forward. The crowd behind him feels distant and strange.

Presented by the League of Arcane Sciences, in collaboration with the University of Jhumar.
23rd Day, 5th Month, 13th Year

Monday, May 6, 2013

What makes a good RP encounter?

This is a fairly simple question, but one that's important for most players: what makes a good RP encounter?

Whether you're a PC or an NPC, I find, it's really easy to tell when you've had a solid RP encounter. It's a feeling. For me, the best RP encounters are understated: a mostly unspoken understanding that occurs between players. Something you can't really describe, because it belongs so wholly to a particular moment. As an NPC, it's rewarding for me when this happens-- it means, in a somewhat limited time frame, I've facilitated a meaningful narrative. As a PC, good RP anchors me to the gameworld. I'm easily distracted, and I need this.

As either an NPC or a PC, how do you know/intuit that you've had a good RP encounter? Of what does a good RP encounter consist? Moreover, how do you work towards positive RP encounters? Or do you try not to think about it?

So many feelings.*

* Yes. I'm aware that I just sabotaged the integrity of my own blog.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Getting to Know You

Last weekend, I had the good fortune to be at a really interesting Mirror, Mirror event. The game was, as per usual, fun and more than a little exhausting. However, the really interesting part was the huge influx of PCs. Honestly, I have never seen so many PCs enter a game at one time.* This meant that there were many, many introductions. Introductions at MM are kind of fascinating for a few reasons. We're working with some pretty unique "getting to know you factors":

1) This game is high fantasy with a little extra high fantasy, just for kicks. People come in as really bizarre and unexpected things.

2) Because of IG and OoG rules, players can't necessarily say exactly what they are. So if someone says, "This, uh, might be rude, but... what exactly are you?" A typical answer might be, "Gee, well. I wish I could say, but, in this land, I just can't seem to say." The conversation then turns into an elaborate description that talks around the missing word.

3) Because most PCs come from disparate places, most PCs don't have experience with the majority of IG species and/or have different experiences of IG species. A related conversation: Person 1: I'm an elf.; Person 2: You, sir, are not an elf.

While MM has a reputation as a combat-heavy game (and it is very combat heavy), it's also some kind of expansive, elaborate brain puzzle that never ends. And that's what makes it so great, in my opinion.

However, as I mentioned earlier, this whole situation-- coupled with a huge influx of new PCs-- makes for some fairly interesting introductions. On that note...

Pick a character, any character. Well, pick a character (PC or NPC) with an interesting introduction. How does that individual introduce itself to new people? What have been some particularly good interactions?

* The frat house at Endgame being a somewhat close second.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

LARP Heals

by Zoe

So, as everyone knows, last week-- the week of the Boston marathon bombings, the MIT shooting, the "manhunt" for the suspects, and the city and surrounding areas in lockdown-- was hellish. As someone who grew up in Maine, and has spent much of her life in Boston, I have always felt relatively safe here. (Like everyone, I've had my fears and reservations. But, privileged as I am, I have never felt "unsafe" in my city.) And this past week changed that. For those of us who lived through it, last week was a strange dystopia wherein innocents were killed and injured, peopled streets were emptied, and we were told to stay inside and lock our doors. Speaking personally, after the lockdown ended, I stepped into the warm spring evening, and felt at a loss. I hadn't really slept well; I had watched, on the television, hours upon hours of breaking news; I had relived, in a way only wrought possible by new media, the many tragedies that occurred this past week.

And, around 7 pm on Friday evening, I said to Chris, "I don't want to go to Cottington." I wanted to stay in my (almost) safe little den, and shut out the rest of the world. But, after some over-tired reflection, I reluctantly agreed.

This isn't going to be a play-by-play of the Cottington Woods first weekend event. It could be. I could tell you, in detail, about the wonderful things I experienced, and the equally wonderful people with whom I journeyed. I could tell you about the true magic that the staff created. Or I I could tell you how the enthusiasm of all players, PCs and NPCs alike, made the game spaces fizzle. Or the chills I got from interactions large and small. Or the special beauty of 40 or so people, from many walks of life, huddled around the same crackling fireplace. Or just how damn good it felt to run, fight, and sweat out all of the nervous, cloying tensions I had been keeping in my chest.

But I'm not going to go into too much more detail. But I am going to say is, yes, after all of the scary mess of the past week, I did indeed go to a LARP. And, despite my hesitation, I'm glad I did. And here's why.

LARP heals. I know this personally, and through the experiences of friends. No-- LARP doesn't make the world instantly better. It doesn't change everything in your life into issues tolerable and easy. It doesn't even provide a particularly believable escape from the so-called "real world."

But it does heal. LARPs, good LARPs at least, give you a place to be yourself. A place to be with loved ones who make you laugh and think. A place to narrate your stories, accompanied by the voices of friends and strangers alike. A place to be both brave and weak. A place to where you can return, again and again, and discover at least one new thing. A place with a community who reminds us that many other people, living in the same world, are kind, funny, and creative.

Like most other people in this country, after the Boston marathon tragedy, I needed some healing. Not a lot, because my life, in comparison, was only minutely affected. But, to be sure, I needed some healing. And I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a healing community. They didn't even have to try to help me-- they just were LARPers, at a beautifully written LARP. And that was what I needed. As I move on, still sad and increasingly more reflective about tragedies and loss at home and around the world, I raise my cup to all of you: thanks, Cottington. You were what many of us needed.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Guest Contributor: LARP in the Media Series

I write on LARP in popular Media relatively frequently, so I’m always excited to get other perspectives. Inspired by recent conversations on facebook and elsewhere, Anthony was inspired to write this essay on the use of LARP in popular media. As a media-positive person, I think this is really provocative. I’m curious to hear people’s responses, as well as possible solutions to this problem.

Why LARP Should Not Be Portrayed in Film and Television
by Anthony Reed

Recently, Zoe made a post on her facebook page about a clip from the IFC show Portlandia; the clip was about some steampunks in a hotel, and the larger conversation spoke to the representation of LARP in media. Related to this, the Portlandia clip really bugged me, and I love Portlandia (Seth Meyers is fantastic). Within the facebook threat, people were springing to defend the clip as being what Portlandia “does”: Carrie and Fred, acting like idiots while existing inside a subculture (this time steampunk RPers), is the whole point. I understand that argument and would mostly agree, except it wasn’t Carrie and Fred being idiots that got me about this skit. It was a discussion they have with an old woman outside of the elevator. I couldn’t nail down specifically what bugged me about it, but I knew that was the scene that was sticking in my craw.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Hi everyone,
Humor me-- I know updates have been infrequent, as real life is... crazy. However, a thought just randomly occurred to me. I know there are many players who enjoy puzzles in modules-- and I know many of these same players become frustrated with puzzles that are too easy/too complicated/too frequently used. So, very simply, what makes a good module puzzle?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Absence from those we love: Saying Goodbye

In more than a few of the LARPs I staff/play, there have been some very poignant player exits. These have involved a variety of circumstances, including player deaths and players electing to go "off-screen" in dramatic and meaningful ways. Exiting, as a player, is a topic unto itself-- how do you do it? Why do you do it? When do you do it? These are excellent questions (and, if the fodder feeds you, discuss), however, I'm more interested in the people left behind.

I recently wrote on the end of plot arcs. This generated some excellent comments-- many of the notes included that narrative resolutions can leave players disconnected and/or sad. Accordingly, it falls on staff (and the players themselves) to provide ways for those players to get re-involved. The exit of PC characters poses a similar, though more complicated, problem. Since my last quest on this topic was directed at staffers, this is directed at PCs.

Imagine, for a moment, you are in the climatic moment of whatever battle in whatever realm you frequent. Suddenly, one of your friends-- perhaps your closest friend and confidant-- does something heroic, unforeseen, and, ultimately, final: the player impacts the game in such a way that takes them permanently off-screen. Your friend, as a PC, has made their exit.

Take another situation-- a teammate, in a difficult and hard-won battle, is struck down, and, unexpectedly, fails to resurrect. The teammate's IG death is final, and they will no longer appear, fighting alongside you.

Or a slightly more complicated situation: your favorite teammate has OoG reasons that prevent them from playing. They have a new baby, a new job, or need to leave the country. Logistically, they have decided to quit the game, and the character is making an off-screen exit. In any case, neither you nor your character will see them IG.

Farewells, in whatever form they take, are inevitable and sometimes necessary. IG, player-exits can motivate narrative and heighten drama. OoG exits are necessary and productive for a variety of reasons. However, those absent certainly leave a hole: both IG and OoG, people feels the absence of friends and comrades. As a player, how do you deal with farewells from players to whom you are emotionally attached? How do you RP the drama of loss without making the game upsetting? How do you create new relationships that are equally meaningful? How do you commemorate players who have left the stage?

As always, your comments are appreciated.

p.s. Mirror, Mirror players-- I see a lot of enthusiasm floating around the netscape. If anyone is interested in doing some collaborative MM stuff, shoot me an email at If there are enough people interested, mayhaps we can do something fun before the first event.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Guest Contributor: How We Impact Our Games

Contributor: Amanda/"Istamira"
LARP System: Accelerant (Madrigal, Mirror Mirror)
Location: Boston, USA
PC Name: Istamira "Mira" Nascirus
Years LARPing: 1 years, 7 months 
Website: Istamira's Quill

A guest contribution about the various ways that we can help (and hurt) our larp communities.

If you're reading this, no matter who you are, there is something terribly important that you must be made aware of immediately.... 

You have power

... the power to create game experiences.
... the power to change the course of the game.
... a power to manipulate how things are perceived, received, and more.

You wield this power every single day - often without even knowing it. It's a radiating aura that travels with you wherever you go, and all who so much as tangentially touch your existence are influenced by this power. For that reason, it is inherently dangerous for you - yes YOU (myself included) - to make any contact with other larpers. Why danger?

We each have the power of creation, influence, and perception, but note that it is in the most neutral sense of the words. For example, if we have the power to create "good" game experiences, so too do we have the power to create "bad" ones. Ignorance of this duality of our inherent power is the most dangerous part of the equation! Yet every day, we each go out into the world, interact with one another, and life and the game plays out according to how we're wielding our power. The results are the cocktail that makes up your larp community. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

All Good Things Must Come to An End

This past year, at least in the New England LARP community, has seen the end of some long-running and/or much beloved games. As one of the games I staff is coming to an end, I keep returning to questions about narrative arcs, and how to best complete them. (To be clear, narrative arcs are not the same as the game narrative: they are "sub-plots," of varying magnitude, that exist within the larger game framework.) Arguably, for many LARPers, continuous, interconnected narratives are what keep them coming back to game: over time, they become invested in a given narrative, and committed to, in some way, seeing in through. However, when a narrative arc comes to a close, players can sometimes feel sad, unsatisfied, and/or without purpose. I have known a few people that, following the end of their favorite IG narrative, felt almost entirely disconnected from the game. With this in mind, I have a few questions...

- As a player or as a staffer, what are some successful ways you've seen story arcs ended? What hasn't worked as well?
- How do you make the ending of a narrative meaningful for invested players? Do you give them anything (such as in-game skills, objects, titles etc.)?
- How do you create an ending that is satisfying for players? For players, what sorts of things are you looking for in narrative completion?
- How do you deal with transitions between narratives? What are good ways to get players re-invested in new storylines?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creating Religion

Given my own research interests, and related pursuits these past months, I've had some questions, percolating slowly, about IG religion. My questions are mostly from a narrative, storyteller perspective, but I'd be interested to hear from players as well.

I'm interested in religion for a variety of reasons. Firstly, a well-crafted, IG religion can make a world feel richer. Moreover, it's a good way to get players invested in a game in a purposeful way. However, it certainly has its problems. There are all sorts of taboos surrounding religions, IG or otherwise, that can make fictitious faith hard to implement, even in a fantasy setting. Also, in a fantasy setting, it can be really hard to avoid longstanding fantasy-faith cliches. So, some questions...

Firstly, as a staff member/world developer, how do you create a fictional religion? What sort of components do you make sure you include (and why)? What sort of rituals, documents, and/or relics do you make available to the gameworld?

Secondly, as a staffer, how do you implement religions into your gameworld? How do you interact with players to make a faith seem meaningful and "real"? How do you allow players to participate in a fantasy religion structure?

Finally, for players, how do you interact with IG religions? What meaning do they have for your PC? Do you enjoy them? Avoid them? How do you choose what faith to play?

(Also, I've been a bit slow to respond/update this lately, but I wanted to thank readers for their responses to the costuming. Everyone had great advice/ideas for developing wardrobes/makeup.)