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As most Intercon attendees know, the snowstorm over the weekend made it so a lot of people were unable to make it-- including the main chunk of Alleged Entertainment. That meant without Nat, Vik, Susan, or Vito, the entire GM team of Spring River couldn't arrive. So in order to keep the game from having to be cancelled, I joined Dave Kapell and [livejournal.com profile] contradictacat in stepping in at the last minute to run the larp.

It did mean having to cram some information at the last moment, but fortunately the game is not that hard to run. It requires periodic action on the GMs' part, but a lot of it is scripted, and as long as you follow the schedule in the runtime notes, it's easy. And I've played it before, so I knew the shape of it and what to expect from the players. It's an unusual game, where every PC is playing one defining personality trait within a handful of larger characters, and must navigate through life's journey making important decisions by committee. As Nat told me, the players ask a lot of clarifying questions in the first hour or so, then mostly they get wrapped up in trying to work things out with their fellow personality traits and trying to communicate between groups. I actually made some incorrect calls about the larger world outside the main characters, but fortunately it doesn't really affect the trajectory as long as you run the life decisions according to plan.

Dave and Diana kindly let me leave a little early, because I had an hour drive home from the hotel, I missed the game's debrief. Apparently sometimes people have strong emotional reactions to the game and find it useful to talk it through with the GMs afterward. I didn't find it necessary in my own experience, though I will say I did have one of the strongest and strangest experiences of bleed when I played in my run that I'd ever had in a larp role. But the players seemed to be really enjoying it most of the time, so I was very glad to be able to contribute to that. I'm glad that I could report back to Nat that his game not only ran, but ran successfully to PC enjoyment. It takes a village, I guess, to raise a larp con. 😋

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The highlight of my weekend was the running of Silver Lines, my mystery tabletop-game-turned-larp set in the future of the Mrs. Hawking storyline. As I mentioned, this was the first time I ever ran it as a true larp, with physical locations and physical props, and I was nervous about how it would turn out. But I am pleased to report that with the invaluable support of [livejournal.com profile] in_water_writ as co-GM, it was a definite success!



I love mysteries, and if I may say so myself, I'm getting pretty good at writing them. Base Instruments is my most recent serious triumph in the genre, and this one turned out really strong as well. Good thing, because two of my players, specifically those who took on the roles of Mary and Arthur, signed up expressly because they wanted to solve a murder mystery. So it was important that it be good.

I really love this story, and I think the game itself works really well. It tells a moment of the greater Hawking story that is unlikely to ever make it into a play, but still is fitting and important. This run also drove home to me how flexible it is as a module. It only has five players, which is pretty easy to fill, but at least three out of five can be seamlessly any gender, and all but one can be turned into an NPC who the PCs can encounter and get necessary information from. It's as open to as much or as little character-based roleplaying as you like, or you can focus on making the mystery solving your primary drive.

The physicality of it, the props and the locations, worked well. Jenn and I divided the NPCs equally between us, which worked well because it enabled one of us to interact with players while the other prepared other aspects of the game. The players suggested that sound design could be used to further flesh out the locations, such as crowd noise or music to set the scenes.

The players went through it VERY efficiently. In previous forms, all of which were more tabletop-style, the game took about four hours, but this group reached the end in a little over two. That surprised me a little, but they seemed to have fun, so I didn't mind. And they didn't miss any of the planned parts of the game. I really enjoyed running it the whole time, and I'm really indebted to Jenn for helping me. She did an amazing job!

I'm looking forward to rerunning this larp version at Festival of the Larps 2017 April 28th-30th at Brandeis University. If you'd like to play, be sure to come out then!

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This was the only game I was playing this Intercon, and I was excited for it. I am most interested in period storytelling these days, and the clashing of ethnic gangs around the time of the great migration while fighting for women's rights sounded great to me.

I was able to costume quite easily-- I could tweak the Victorian stuff I've collected for the Mrs. Hawking plays --so I looked pretty on-point. I liked the character I got cast as too; I think I was one of the more villainous roles, an upper-class society girl who was out for herself. I love playing villains and having an excuse to be awful, so that was fun for me. I also had a lot of friends in this game with me, which always improves a larp experience, partially because of enjoying the company, and partially because it makes it easier to give yourself over to being a character with people you're comfortable with.

I had a solid conception of myself and my goals, though if I had any critique of the game, was that it could have used more thought as to what pursuit of those goals would mean for in-game play. All the ideas were definitely there, but I wasn't finding a ton of avenues to pursue the things I was supposed to be interested in. But I was okay with it, as I had fun with pure interactions, and I managed to find more things to do. I actually received a compliment from another player on my ability to actually be racist and classist, which a lot of players shy from due to squeamishness. That's understandable, I guess, but it sure takes a lot of tension out of a situation where the villain doesn't want to actually be bad. So I'm always happy to play that role.

I will say that players that didn't have much to do with the gang war "boardgame" aspect of it didn't have a ton of agency to affect the goings-on, which made me slightly disappointed, even if I tend away from mechanics-driven storytelling in games. I know the larp as a whole suffered because the GMs, the excellent Haz and Ada, had some personal issues that made it so they were not able to spend as much time putting it together as they might have otherwise. But the premise and concepts are solid, and with the time to rework some of the in-game function it'll be excellent, I'm sure of it. I'm glad I played and had a good time.

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I'm snowed in my house today; one of the advantages of working for schools is that you usually get the day off when it's really coming down. So I'm spending the day getting all my ducks in a row for Intercon this weekend, plus, if I can get my head into it, doing some writing.

I've got a LOT of Intercon stuff to pack. My game, Silver Lines, is totally ready, with pretty much a full complement of physical props. I think it will be a pretty cool experience, one I've never really managed before in a game, but it means there are a lot of pieces. Fortunately for me, [livejournal.com profile] inwaterwrit agreed to be my co-GM, which will make managing everything a million times easier than trying to do it on my own. But I also have costuming to bring, both for the game I'm playing and to return to people, as well as the pipes and drapes I'm lending to [livejournal.com profile] lightgamer for his game. And I'm bringing the remaining hard copies of the first issue of Game Wrap Magazine to sell at the registration desk. I'd love to do some of the packing of that stuff into my car, but I don't want to mess with it until the snow stops coming down.

But I'm excited. I think Silver Lines is going to be super fun to run. I really love the story of the game and think it's a great mystery. Also, I'm excited to see how the game runs with full props and environments. I think it's going to add a lot, and I'm super glad to have Jenn's help. This is the first time we've ever done it that way, so wish us luck!

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For once I'm actually on top of getting my game together for Intercon ahead of time. I have most of the materials for Silver Lines ready to go at this point, and I still have over a week to put the finishing touches on it, and make some decisions about how much I want to use things like physical props.

I said that I'd planned to test this "conversion to larp" at SLAW this past November, but honestly that didn't really happen. I had made a number of modification to the running style and the player materials, but I ended up having a visually impaired player sign up for the run. Since most of my modifications were visual aids or involved rearranging furniture to represent a space, it seemed like that version at best wasn't going to add anything, and at worst would be actively less accessible. So I basically ended up just running the original tabletop version, which seemed to avoid those issues, as well as gave the players a perfectly good time-- even if in that form you probably can't call it a larp. But it does mean I'm going into this Intercon run with an untested version of the game.

I am reasonably confident it's going to work okay, even if it's not perfect. It's basically the same game content-wise, just with some changes to HOW it's presented and run. I know the story works, which is the most important part. But I hope the players bear with me a bit if there are any bumps in the execution.
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I realized I never posted about how signups fell out for me at Intercon Q. So here's a bit on the current future of my larpy life.

I always like to have a game Friday night, so I signed up for Suffragette Slamdown, a fun period piece about the first wave of the women's right's movement set in the context of rival women's gangs clashing. It's by Haz and Ada Nakama, so I think it will be fun, though I confess it makes me a bit wistful, as I'd planned on taking a picture of myself dressed as a suffragette to celebrate if Clinton won the election.

My game, Silver Lines, is going to run on Saturday afternoon. It filled first round, the first time that's ever happened for a game I wrote other than Resonance, but in fairness it's only five players, so it was an easy thing to do. It's going to be interesting, as it's an experimental game in blending the party dynamic of a tabletop game with the physical activity of a larp, but I'm excited to see how it works.

My last game was picked rather on a whim, A Wolf by Any Other Name on Saturday night. It's a fantasy game about a clash of different kinds of werewolves. Not exactly sure what made me pick it, but I think it will be fun. It's been a long time since I played a true fantasy; lately I've been more inclined (as in other things) to historical fiction.

Also, Silver Lines filled at SFS Live Action Weekend 2016 on December 2nd-4th at WPI. That will be the first run of the game, so I'm considering that the test for Intercon. I sent out the casting questionnaire today. It will also be an exercise in seeing how the cast stands gender-flipping, as it's a very female game and most of the signups are male. I think some games still need players at SLAW, so please head to the website if you'd like to sign up.
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[livejournal.com profile] offside7, the chair of the bid committee, just let me know that my bid for Intercon Q was accepted. That would be Silver Lines, my idea for an experiment in combining live action and tabletop RPG forms, based on the mod I wrote for [livejournal.com profile] inwaterwrit's bachelorette party. I think some of the members of the bid committee are skeptical about the combination working, but I've pretty explicitly billed it as an experiment, so it's clear that players will have to bear with it a little. I am confident, however, that it's a solid mystery game-- I've gotten pretty good at writing mysteries --and I'm actually really excited to implement some of the ideas I've had about physicalizing some of the in-game events that in the pure tabletop version were simply talked through.

I have run it by myself pretty effectively, but for this it might be nice to have another GM to take on some of the NPC roles. And to set up other upcoming locations while one locations while one location is occupied. Ten people have played this game so far-- it's only a five-person party --so maybe I'll ask one of the former players. Or maybe Bernie would be able to be there. I'll have to make some plans.
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Had the urge to experiment with other game forms recently. I didn't really want to get into a new game, as I decided to take the week off from writing as a break. But since my summer is ending and the new semester beginning, I felt driven to take advantage of the little remaining free time. So I messed around with a game I've already written, Silver Lines, a four-hour RPG I wrote for [livejournal.com profile] inwaterwrit's bachelorette party. Set in 1889 in the Hawking universe, it is a mystery story for five players done purely by roleplaying; there are no formal mechanics of any kind. I experimented with putting the story in different forms.

One of them is Twine, an online program for building text adventure games. I am slowly adapting the story to the text adventure form, with one central protagonist moving through the story by choosing from among options. I'm not very far along, but I'm learning the interface slowly. It's based in a programming language, of which I know nothing, but I'm using trial and error and googling the questions I have when I run into a problem. My one concern is that it'll probably turn out to be the sort of game where you just explore all the options exhaustively, when I'd prefer the player have to use some cleverness to figure things out. But the form may not support it. I'll have to investigate further to see if the capability exists to make it so you can't just redo any old choice you make to see what you gave up.

The second form is turning it into more of a traditional theater-style larp. The challenge there was the fact that it's designed for a small party of PCs who can travel to basically any location they deem necessary, like in a tabletop game. So I redesign the mod to translate that stuff to the larp form. It will entail the GM teams taking on a number of NPCs, and making what the players experience a combination of the GM-talks-you-through-it, like in a tabletop game, and some pre-designed representations (with props and the arrangement of the "set") for the players to physically examine and interaction with. The more thought I gave it, the more I thought it would be an interesting experiment in blending the tabletop and larp form. So I bid it for Intercon, and they're debating it now. I think some people are a little thrown by how that blending will work, but I am deliberately interested in it as a test of game design, and I really like some of my ideas for physicalizing specific events.

The one thing is while I know I can run it alone, it would be really nice to have another GM. They could help with the setting up and the transitions within the space, as well as taking on certain NPC roles. Anybody who's played before, it would be great to have another person's help, so let me know.
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The only game I actually played this Intercon was a game by [livejournal.com profile] wired_lizard on Saturday night, The Inversion of Me and My Room. I admire her larp writing so much she is on my short list of GMs whose games I will always sign up for regardless of what they're about. This is a tough game to talk about without spoiling it, so I'll do my best.

You know very little about this game going in, so you just kind of need to be ready for it to wash over you. I don't think it gives anything much away to say that it's basically traveling through various stages of a dream state, where hidden meaning slowly rises to the surface and the world is highly symbolic instead of literal. It's structurally on rails, with various phases you pass through with more information being revealed at each point. You also cycle between characters through the phases, at least on the surface, in a way that's related to the meaning of each stage.

My only struggle that I tend to have with Tory's games is that the plot usually relies on a lot of complicated metaphysics that make up the rules of the world. I am NOTORIOUSLY bad at keeping stuff like that in my head, and unfortunately that has put me at a disadvantage to playing in the past. This time, however, the metaphysics were much simplified, and not hard to absorb the necessary information about quickly and in the moment. I appreciated that.

It's hard to really explain what's going on, as you don't know until very late what the real deal is. But I enjoyed the ride of the game, and I recommend players go through it experientially, just taking things as they come. I enjoyed seeing the layers of meaning slowly become clear, and found it interesting to see how the writer chose to represent the ideas that were surfacing in the dream. I also admired Tory for allowing it to run the amount of time it needed in each moment, without artificially pushing it along or trying to stretch it out. Overall, a very good and interesting game that was outside of my typical narrative box. I recommend it.
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Friday night was the debut run of the newest larp I worked on with [livejournal.com profile] natbudin, [livejournal.com profile] emp42ress, and [livejournal.com profile] twilighttremolo under the banner of Alleged Entertainment. Pub Crawl, as it’s called, takes place on New Year’s Eve in a dying former industrial town as many of its residents celebrate by traveling around the local bars. It’s supposed to be an exploration of new beginnings and possibilities for the future centered around an interesting mechanical design— it’s made entirely up of horde characters. There is no consistent cast of any kind, instead intended for the players to swap out their horde roles between leaving the previous pub and arriving at the next. I’d never seen a game with only horde characters, so I was interested to see if it would work.

I had an odd experience of this one. Though it seemed out design was functional, as a GM I was not particularly engaged with the game. I had some interest initially in seeing how the characters we wrote would work, but I found it difficult to follow who was who. All roles are designed to be gender neutral and as such are given only last names, but allowing the players choose what to call themselves made it tough to keep track of who they were playing. I usually really love listening in on player conversations, but through no apparent fault of the players, I found myself checking out on them. I had some fun playing a drag queen NPC who was the bartender at the gay club location, but honestly, overall, I was kind of bored.

I’m not exactly sure why. It could just be that, as a modern, mundane-setting, low-stakes game with no consistent characters to follow, it just didn’t spark my interest. That tends not to be my cup of tea; I probably would not sign up to play a game like this if I saw it on a con schedule. But I’m concerned the failure is on our end, in the writing of it. The players cycled through the characters a LOT faster than we anticipated, which indicates to me that they were too thin, not substantial enough to sustain playing them longer than one pub. I know a number of players had fun with the game, but I think others probably were bored, or at least not really getting the experience they hoped for. I am one of them, unfortunately.

I’m not sure how to approach editing something like that. We may need to poll more players to figure out what the problem is. It might be possible to fix up and improve, but at the moment I can’t really put my finger on the issue with it.
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I ran Woodplum House on Saturday morning, as I thought it would be a nice place for a short silly game in the style of P.G. Wodehouse. I think it largely went well, as the cast mostly seemed to enjoy themselves, but I kind of got the vibe that the play style did not suit all the players. As with my other short silly game, Break a Leg, this game really requires active, creative players to really make it work. Like, the characters are given outsized, absurd personality traits and a series of exaggerated wants, the players of which are supposed to think up ways to pursue. That's where the comedy is supposed to come from, the crazy things they come up with to pursue their desires. But if you're not the type of player who likes to be proactive or come up with your own tactics, especially with the added burden of making them funny, then it's probably hard for you. The other alternative to playing this game is just to riff on your character's schtick-- like, be the horrible aunt haranguing everybody for their life choices and the various ways they've disappointed you --but again, that requires improvisation that not everybody is good at. That's probably the sort of thing I should make clear in the blurb. As it was, a handful of the players seemed a bit adrift, not doing much of anything. Fortunately the energy and efforts of the rest mostly seemed to carry things. And this is the first run where people actually made an effort, and a successful one no less, to ousting the troupe of carnies living in the west wing! Ah, well. I like the game, and I know with the right people in the right roles it works fine. I'll have to advertise it a bit more carefully in the future.

Shot

Feb. 17th, 2016 07:42 pm
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I don't know what wrong with me recently. I have had minimal motivation or energy for anything. I was sick for a while and was blaming it on that, but now that I've recovered I don't know what's up. I've been having a hell of a time getting my head into anything, whether work, projects, or play, which keeps leaving me scrambling at the last minute to get things done. I hate when that happens, especially given that I chose to give up procrastination for Lent. Looks like I'm already doing a terrible job of it.

I want to sleep a lot. I've been sleeping longer than usual lately. In recent years I've struggled a lot with focus, but it's been ridiculous in the last few weeks. It usually manifests in me having a hard time getting into everything without some spark of interest, and that spark has been dead for pretty much everything. I don't know what wrong with me. My ability to buckle down is even more shot than usual.

I really hope I perk up when I'm at Intercon. It's one of my favorite weekends of the year, but right now I just feel meh. I really hope I'm able to enjoy it. Of course, that means I've got to get all this grading done around it. I don't want to worry about it over the weekend.
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Last night second round signups happened for Intercon P, and I am pleased to say both of the games I am running and am listed as an author for are full!

The first is Woodplum House, my silly two-hour Woodhouse parody game I wrote for last Festival of the Larps. It's only ten players, so this round I only needed two more, and now I have ten plus one on the waitlist. I will be sending out the casting questionnaire soon. I like to get them out early, so people have plenty of time, and I have plenty of time to chase people who don't get them filled out quickly.

The second is Pub Crawl, the newest game from Alleged Entertainment. It's a realistic full horde game, with a totally rotating cast, set in a New Year's Eve pub crawl in a dying working class town. I love how working with AE makes me branch out in both the style and subject matter of the games I write, and this definitely is something new for me. It's now full with a waitlist of three. I don't actually know what we're doing about the casting questionnaire yet, if anything, because it's completely a horde game. But we have plenty of time to figure it out. I'm sure we'll discuss it at our next writers' meeting.

The only thing I am signed up to play is The Inversion of Me and My Room on Saturday night. I'm really looking forward to that. I decided to take the afternoon free. I'm only doing three games that weekend, but I find for me that's the right number.

I was kind of hoping with the small size of these games, ten and twelve, that I might have a game that filled in the first round of signups at Intercon this year. But alas, that did not happen. Other than Resonance, I have yet to achieve that honor, and never with one of my solo games. Ah, well. Someday, maybe. Guess I need to write a hotter game!
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The schedule of games for Intercon P is now available for viewing, and I've made my signup plan for this year.

Friday night I will be helping to run Pub Crawl, the new three-hour horde game I'm writing with Alleged Entertainment. It's interesting because it's ENTIRELY horde, and the cast rotates at player discretion the entire game.

Saturday morning I am running Woodplum House, my silly two-hour Woodhouse-inspired comedy of manners. Happily, it starts at 11AM who want a light fun larp and don't want to get up early.

That's what I'm certain of. I am trying to decide whether to sign up for one or both of the following games.

I am not wowed by any of the games in the Saturday afternoon slot, but I tend to like historical fiction dramas, so I might go for The Congress of Vienna. It should have some fun costuming and takes place after the defeat of Napolean, which is a cool time period.

On Saturday night I will probably go for wired_lizard's game, The Inversion of Me and My Room. It sounds weird and trippy, but I generally enjoy her games enormously, so that's good enough for me.

I think I will be signing up for Inversion first, and then we'll see how I feel about The Congress of Vienna by the time the second round comes around.
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Saturday night I played in Spring River, the newest from Alleged Entertainment, written by [livejournal.com profile] natbudin, [livejournal.com profile] emp42ress, [livejournal.com profile] simplewordsmith, and [livejournal.com profile] v_cat. I always try to play their stuff, at least when I'm not on the writing team myself, as they do some excellent innovative stuff with the form of larp. I was actually invited to be on the team for this one, which I regretfully had to decline due to other commitments, but the upside was I got to play in it.

The premise of the game is that every player is one personality trait within a complete character, so four of you make up one complete person who must battle it out to figure out what decisions your shared person will make. While not on rails, there are few secrets in the game, and you are actively encouraged to temporarily drop out of character to plan what the most dramatic trajectory for your person. By the end your character will have lived a mostly complete life as determined by how the various personality traits determine their choices.

I was cast as Noah's Hedonism, a role that I was not immediately sure how to approach. I didn't want to go creepy or gross, and I didn't want to box myself into something repetitive that wouldn't be applicable in all situations. Like, if I chose to interpret it as fixated on, like, animal appetites, like always wanting to go off and have sex or eat or something, it would get old fast and I wouldn't have much to contribute to actual conversations. So I decided to go with the idea of "I want what I want when I want it," with no ability to suck it up and deal in situations I didn't want to be in. Being obsessed with pleasure, in this case, meant always wanting to do the comfortable, pleasant, easy thing, rather than ever work, struggle, or suffer. I found this to be a workable perspective in the context of the game.

It was clear from the beginning that I was the worst part of Noah-- the weakest, the most immature, the most wrong. I believe I existed, from a game design standpoint, as the force of conflict in Noah's brain, as the others were his Idealism, his Nuturing, and his Competitiveness. I played it like a self-centered teenager, and whiny, loud, and actually pretty funny, advocating for the easy, fun, impulsive choices. This had the effect, I think, of establishing me as both really absurd, and always wrong. I think that made sense, as I knew I was the shoulder devil of the group. All that seemed to work, and I think I did a pretty good job of it. I even think I was the only person to make in-character use of the fact that we were all tied together at the wrist. When they were having a boring conversation I didn't want to be in, I pulled as far away as I could and slumped on the floor so that they couldn't forget my deadweight pulling on them; when I wanted them to go my way, sometimes I tried to pull them over towards me by it. But I have to say, I ended up having probably the strangest moment I've ever had in a larp because of it.

There was a moment where my team seemed inclined to go down a path that I as Hedonism felt was not just a pain, but CATACLYSMIC for our character. We'd become too workaholic, our stress was huge and we weren't really enjoying our life, our family, or anything. Since this was such an extreme moment, I decided that was the point that Hedonism would throw a fit. I mostly had just whined and made demands up to then, so I thought the time had come to escalate. And that's where the strangeness started. They literally ignored me. They didn't just tell me they weren't going to do what I wanted; they started talking to each other and paid no attention to me at all. So I escalated. I actually started yelling things like, "I NEED YOU TO TAKE CARE OF ME." And they STILL ignored me, despite the fact that I had, albeit in a whiny obnoxious fashion, descended into nakedly begging to be addressed. That was the moment that Phoebe was yanked outside of the character of Hedonism for a moment and became really aware of the circumstances. And believe it or not, I experienced my first-ever moment of bleed in a larp.

I'm pretty much ninety-nine percent bleed-proof in larps; I am a technique actor, not method. But, if you know me at all, you probably know that about half of everything I do is influenced by the desire to prove to the universe that I am not lazy or needy-- basically trying to avoid anything that could ever be construed as hedonism. Not that it's exactly the same, but I never want to be the kind of person who imposes on other people for their own comfort. As Hedonism in that moment, I was doing exactly that. It was totally in character for Hedonism, but not only would Phoebe NEVER demand to be taken care of, but she's fairly convinced that it's the fastest way to give people contempt for you. So they'd never actually indulge that. So Phoebe had a weird moment where she saw people ignoring Hedonism's BEGGING for care and it confirmed for her that deep-set fear and belief of, "Wow. Even if you're desperate, you really can't expect help from anyone. They won't be there." And that caused that weird emotional bleed through where Hedonism's situation made Phoebe have a little moment of upset.

Now, it totally made sense for my scene partners to act that way. As I said, my performance taught them to regard Hedonism as both absurd and always wrong. And while it made sense to me that Hedonism wanted to be heard in that moment, I was not feeling like other players were being unfair in any way; I certainly didn't care that I wasn't getting my way. Ultimately, Hedonism pointed out that they NEVER gave in to what Hedonism wanted, and it was about damn time. It led to the other characters realizing that they'd never fed their desire to feel good and have fun and it had boiled over. I think it's notable that while many traits, such as Nuturing/Overbearing in Noah, had both a positive and negative aspect specified to them. Hedonism only had the negative, but it occurs to me that the positive side of it could be considered to be "Self-care." And that part definitely got neglected in Noah! And you know, having that be a crisis point actually gave an interesting turn to our character's story. He NEEDED to struggle through this problem, and that conflict shaped our arc. As [livejournal.com profile] natbudin pointed out, it led to a startlingly diagetic representation of a midlife crisis.

So I really liked this game. While I'm not really in larp for bleed, I prefer to just tell compelling stories, it was interesting that this happened to me. And I loved the acting challenge the strange role offered. So I highly recommend this game, which will be running at Festival this April!
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Friday night at Intercon I ran my most recent game, Brockhurst, a Downton Abbey-inspired larp that ties into my greater Breaking History universe written in collaboration with Bernie. I was a bit nervous, due to some weird issues the first run had at last year's Festival. There were some problems with power dynamics, and certain players had a hard time getting into their characters. There was some indication that it was out-of-game stuff affecting it, or bad casting matches, rather than nececessary fatal design flaws with those parts of the game, but you can't be sure with only one run. So after some thought, I decided I wasn't going to edit the game in any substantial way, in order to have another data point for assessing what needs work.

I'm glad to say I think things went really well, certainly better than the first. I even think we may have achieved a full cast that had fun, even if maybe not everybody loving every minute. Certainly nobody brought any problems to me, though certain plots went better or worse than they did last time. The villain roles were yet again cast with very clever people, who damn near ate the whole game, but not to the point where their opposites felt like they had no agency. [livejournal.com profile] bronzite was also a huge help. I shouldn't have been surprised, as Bernie told me it was like this when he ran it last time, but he ended up occupied with manning the telegram message-sending system pretty much the entire time. He did a great job with it, and it was a big weight off of me to know that it was being handled so well.

I made two small tweaks to the way I ran things, both of which were suggested by previous players, and I think they helped. First, I made an announcement at the end of briefing that even though everybody is roleplaying bosses and servants, people should not abuse that power dynamic. Nobody has the right to boss anybody else around, and nobody has to take orders they don't want to take. We're here to have fun, so don't be a jerk. I think it helped, as it didn't seem to ever be a problem. The other thing was I had the dancing happen first. I was told it might help mix the players who might otherwise might not find reason to blend. Again, I think it helped, maybe even with keeping the upstairs and downstairs people on a more equal footing as the tone of the Servant's Ball dictates.

The game needs a little editing, but not nearly as much as I was worried it might. There are still a handful of character who could probably use a little more. No character is thin, in my opinion, but it's such a high-plot game that some characters a bit light by comparison. So I could use maybe an extra plot or two. Also, I think I need to make some evidence of the various mysteries that cannot be destroyed. A consistent problem is that when the villains are clever, they can fairly easily conceal all signs of their misdeeds such that the characters on their trail will never get a hold of them. Not exactly sure how to do that, but it's a direction for the edit. Maybe I'll be able to get that done in time for the Festival run. At any rate, I was really pleased by how happy the players seemed to be, which made me feel more secure in the game.
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
Home from Intercon, and as I feared, put-off responsibilities are crashing down on me, but I had a lovely weekend. Intercon really is one of the high points of my year, and this was no exception. I will now write about it in pieces, out of order, beginning not with the Friday night run of Brockhurst, but instead about the first game I played, The Dying of the Light.

About the right balance for me at a larp weekend is to run two things and play two things, preferably equally distributed across the weekend. I wanted to play The Dying of the Light because of the writer team— [livejournal.com profile] wired_lizard, [livejournal.com profile] mllelaurel, [livejournal.com profile] staystrong62805, and [livejournal.com profile] bleemoo —and because they beat Agent Bobo of the Resistance in the Iron GM of two years ago by something like a third of a point. It’s a high weirdness game, the sort where nobody is what they seem, which doesn’t usually interest me anymore, but this was a particularly well-done example.

Without spoiling too much, I was a chaos character, working to bring about the end of the world, and I believe, unless I’m mistaken, to have been the first player to actually make that happen. I love characters that give me an opportunity to have a socially acceptable outlet for my deeply-ingrained desire to lie and manipulate that I usually have to suppress in order to not be a terrible person. I told hideous untruths to my son with a monster inside him in order to enrage him enough to bring out his beast, then set him against my enemies, and then turned away any attempts to subdue him out of feigned motherly concern. At last, when everyone learned they had to execute him in order to save the universe, I told him to run and not look back, while using my shape shifting powers to impersonate him and die in his place. When they believed he was out of the way, they would think everything would be okay when in fact I had beaten them. Thusly, I lied and screwed my way to the end of everything, and it was very fun. I love being villains and manipulators, and it pleases me when I do a good job of it. I do not to be that person in real life, but frankly I get a little charge knowing I can pull it off when I want to. I also got to exchange bitchy bon mots with my ex-wife, and if there's anything I can do besides lie, it's be a Mean Girl. ;-)

As for how it compares to Bobo, the two games are honestly apples and oranges. DotL is a beautifully executed example of a larp form that is very difficult to keep from being tired at this point in the development of the form, while Bobo is experimental and innovative. Both are very well-thought out and provide an engaging play experience, but it is very possible to hate either of them if the form is not to your taste. But I was impressed at how well they made that larp style work, and I definitely had a good time in the game.
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
Very excited for Intercon this weekend, but due to the various committments in my life, I'm unfortunately going to be a bit stressed about the time I'm not getting things done. Over-committed is of course my typical state, but I've taken on certain things recently out of necessity even though I didn't particularly want to. I'm costuming a production of Tartuffe that opens the weekend after this one, which is a nice experience and normally I'm very happy to do this sort of job, but I'm busy enough that I probably wouldn't have gone for it if I didn't really badly need the money. It's not super-convenient for that to be away all weekend for Intercon, but I'm just going to have to deal. :-P Also, for the first time ever, I have elected to not get a hotel room, in the interest of economizing. I hope this isn't a huge pain, but I really can't swing it this year.

It turns out that due to a crisis his family is dealing with, Bernie isn't available to come up this weekend to help me run Brockhurst. [livejournal.com profile] bronzite is kindly stepping in to take his place, for which I am very grateful. It is mostly unedited from the original version. This will be only the second run ever of Brockhurst, and I've always believed you need at least two goes-through to decide if your design is functional. One player may have an unusual experience, making a given design choice succeed or fail, but if it happens to two or more, than you can make a pretty accurate assessment. The first run in particular seemed plagued by outside problems that I think were a factor in how people experienced the game, and I'd love to see how things go in the absense of that. At the very least, two data points should provide a better metric of what's working and what needs addressing when I seriously edit.
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
So I'm in a bit of a jam. Just now I was trying to print my game for Intercon, but my stupid full-sized computer, which is six or so years old at this point, and which I do not use much anymore because I have transitioned to an iPad, seems to have chosen TWENTY MINUTES AGO to have died. I wouldn't bother with the thing anymore, except that there's a bunch of things my iPad can't do, like play Flash videos, attach and upload files easily, or print. My printer, which of course I just bought ink for before I realized the problem with the computer, is too old to be compatible in any way with my iPad. I was able to print the plain paper sheets at my work, but I can't do that for the index cards.

Is there any chance that somebody with a laptop would mind bringing it over in the next week and letting me print my game from it? I know it's short notice, but I'm not sure what else to do given Intercon is this coming weekend. I would be happy to make dinner for any kind soul willing to help me out. I am available tonight, Monday night, Wednesday night, and Tuesday and Thursday after 9.

Please let me know! I really don't want to have to print everything on plain paper at work and cut it apart. The amount of labor goes up, and the production quality really goes down. :-P Thank you, and apologies for the imposition!
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
At 7PM the second round of Intercon signups go live!

I'm going to shoot for the Saturday afternoon run of The Return to Gray, a post-WWII small-player-count historical larp written by twilighttremolo. It sounds very interesting and intense, and I know of at least one person I'd like to play with already signed up for it. It's only got a handful of slots, however, so I'd better be quick on the uptake.

Brockhurst, my Edwardian/WWI-era Downton Abbey-inspired game running Friday night, currently has four players out of a total of nineteen. I'm hoping it will fill this round, but we'll see. I'm confident I won't have any trouble ultimately having enough players, but it's validating to see people eager to play. Hell, Resonance, which I'm not running but for which I was a writer, is also running Friday night, is on its eighth run and still managed to max out in the first round. :-) Her Eternal Majesty's Privy Council on Sunday morning only has one player so far, but silly Sunday games always are people's last concern.

Intercon also needs more games, as the con is growing in attendance and it's harder to have enough player slots. So if you could bid your game for Intercon it would be greatly appreciated! Running a game is a great way to enjoy yourself in a timeslot where no other game appealed to you, and it gets you a comped membership to the con!

Otherwise, be sure to sign up tonight! Make certain you set your alarms!

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