Kia Ora LARPers

Today's Topic: LARPy thoughts

Phoenix happened last weekend, the first time it has taken place at a campground and the result was pretty excellent. It was also the debut of S.W.I.P.E. (Symbiotes Will Inherit Planet Earth) the third instalment in my (rather arrogantly named, only barely thematically linked) Acronym Trilogy! With that game done and pretty well received, I will be looking to publish the set at some point in the future. There will definitely be some tweaking, especially to E.S.P.A., but I am excited to get them out there.

I have once again been reminded how crazy it is that more people don't LARP, having convinced a friend to come and try it for the first time at Phoenix. Though it is seen as a very geeky, almost antisocial hobby, it's one of the most social things you can do. It develops your skills in acting, costuming, negotiating, problem solving and much more. Sure, LARP can be about hitting each other with foam swords (and who doesn't want to do that?!), but most of the games I play are more about experiencing feelings and situations you otherwise wouldn't get to, and telling an interesting story with your friends. I was also excited to find out that the gender balance this year was 23 male, 19 female, 1 non-binary, so not just a bunch of dudes! Given how accepted video games have become as a hobby, it seems ludicrous to me that LARP often is not.

What I'm playing

Here is a (spoiler free) rundown of all the games I played at Phoenix this year:

Round 1: Baby It’s Cold Outside- Writer and GM Carla Bayard. This game was a fun and silly way to start off the convention. A huge turn of events resulted in me, (essentially Indiana Jones/Batman) feeling like the most sensible person there. Special thanks to Keegan for the hostility and the caring and Ella for really coming out swinging in your first game. You were insane. I recommend this game to anyone who likes a bit of a romp and some odd happenings.

Round 2: The Paragon’s Peril- Writer and GM Daniel Starky.
This game was a little heavier emotionally than I expected, which was excellent! It gave me a tale of crumbling dreams and rebuilding with what you’ve got. The moral of the story, never meet your heroes. Special thanks to Lee, for being the worst childhood idol ever. I recommend this to anyone who likes Masks (more on that later) and superheroes with feelings.

Round 3: Fool’s Gambit- Writer and GM Matt Swain.
Lord Charles Arthur Michael Barrington-Smythe was an interesting character study. I look forward to hearing about this game’s second run, as there is something great in there with some tweaks. My main recommendation is honing it down into a small group of highly focused characters. Special thanks to Mutu for the most intense three moves of chess I have played and Sally for making me really, really upset in the last five minutes. I recommend this to anyone who likes the Cold War and wants to see what it's like to be a part of it.

Round 4: The Beginner’s Guide to Buying and Selling Haunted Items. Writers and GMs- Chloe Sutherland and Robert Vincent. I’m not often much of a flagship person, but this was outstanding. Lots of clever and elegant mechanisms that didn’t bog down the game and an evocative range of props and other set items made this a real experience. Special thanks to Tayla for being just vicious and gullible enough and Jo for knocking me out at just the right time. I recommend this game to anyone who likes to have plenty to do in a game.

Round 5: Persephone’s Choice- Writer and GM Larp Wellington. I had a very, very difficult time trying to convince humans of my viewpoint, and my failure was truly rewarding. I definitely felt a lot of R. App Elby’s stress. Special thanks to William for trying extremely hard to keep me sane and Summer for nearly breaking through my programming and forcing a robotic tear. I recommend this to anyone who has a lot of Thoughts about robots, or wants to. For the truly unique experience I got out of it, I think this may have been my game of the weekend.

Round 6: S.W.I.P.E.- My own game.
I thiiiiiink everyone liked it. There was clear fatigue from a busy weekend but everyone gave it all they could and I
really appreciated that. Special thanks to Jeremy for voluntarily fainting at the strain of suppressing part of himself (might think about making a mechanic for that!) and spinning a whole tonne of BS and Izzy for bringing all of the emotional bleed. I'll let others recommend this. Hopefully they will.

Here's a thing

Apart from all the LARPing, I have also just finished playing in an excellent little Masks campaign. As a character with high "Superior", I found myself using the "Assess the Situation" move a lot and finding it somewhat... lacking. My main issues were that the question list seemed to mostly include questions that should be readily apparent/already known, eg "What here is the biggest threat?" or provide answers that the GM doesn't really want to give/ the players don't really want, eg "How could we best end this quickly?". Of course, your results may vary but here is a version of the move that I made that solves the issues I had I borrowed a little from Dungeon World, but not much. There are also now six questions instead of five, but I always found I ran out of options before when I could ask three.

Assess the Situation



Kia Ora friends

Today's Topic: Games online!

I currently have friends who are not only all over New Zealand, but spread out across the world. If I was more of a video gamer, then MMORPGs or other multiplayer video games would be a good way to connect with them, but I really do prefer traditionally analogue games. That being said, I am by no means opposed to bringing technology into play. I harbour dreams of screens built into tables or hidden speakers playing soundscapes to liven up a game session.
I still haven't fully experimented with Play by Post or attempted to run a traditional RPG via webcam, but I am certainly interested in the possibilities there.
In a number of the RPGs I've played, the games have continued their lives online between sessions. In a Primetime Adventures game I ran, the players and I cast every character in the game as a real actor, posting a picture of them to our facebook group in a growing album. My game club's Living Dungeon World projects featured players posting in character to the facebook group with reports of adventures and requests for aid. While this occasionally could become a little overwhelming, I think that it really added to the collective worldbuilding that made those games great.
While there are a few tools out there for helping you run tabletop RPGs online, I can't help but feel that the big step that will really make it easy and rewarding is still to come.

What I'm playing

Yesterday I finally got around to organising a game of Viewscream, which is a kind of larp system that is designed to be played through a group video chat, using Google Hangouts or Skype. I was fortunate enough to play with three of the most experienced and competent LARPers I know, which really contributed to the game being a success. The system gives you characters who are the last surviving members of a starship crew, separated and dealing with emergencies before they can make their escape. The system is also set up so that it is impossible for everyone to make it out alive.
I am looking forward to trying the game again with a different scenario to make the most of the webcam format. Other players were prepared with props such as lights and cables to be messing with and code that they would throw up onto the screen as damage reports. I struggled a bit myself with coming up with suitable technobabble, but the other players carried it well. I'm also excited at how easy it seems to write a scenario yourself.
Viewscream's design necessitates the use of technology, and I think this is a good direction for making online play better. When the technology is inherent to the design, it feels less like a barrier and more like a tool.

Here's a thing

This isn't exactly new, but it does relate well to the topic I ended up writing about today. A while ago, I got quite excited about the idea of creating hypertext fiction. Essentially, that's digital choose your own adventure books. This is one I made based on a Ryuutama scenario I ran. The tool I used was Twine and I highly recommend it if you are interested in creating these playable stories. I found it fairly easy to use and intend to use it as a teaching tool when I have my own English classes as a different approach to creative writing.



Viewscream cover

Kia Ora friends

Today's Topic: Space!

It's my holidays right now, which means this is the time for me to do any work on creative things for myself, without having to worry about students and lesson planning. I've been thinking a lot about space.
Firstly, I'm writing my LARP, S.W.I.P.E., for Phoenix 2017. It's about a group of energy based aliens who have possessed some humans and are readying for the invasion. However, it's been a while with no contact and... maybe they're having second thoughts. This game has been really challenging to write as the human sides and the alien sides of these beings are both involved. It's pretty weird (as you will have come to expect from my games).
I also was recently gifted a copy of the new "Far Beyond Humanity" supplement for Uncharted Worlds. Uncharted Worlds is the PbtA equivalent of Traveller. I had been looking for a simple sci-fi game (prefereably PbtA) for aaages and this was finally it! In its basic form, it can tell stories like Firefly, The Expanse and Battlestar Galactica (somewhat realistic and mainly about humans). I am excited that this supplement opens things up to include things you might like from Star Trek, Star Wars, Mass Effect and more. I am now pretty excited to attempt a campaign. Maybe I even have time for one!

What I'm playing

I've been playing more board games lately, which has been nice. To continue the space theme, Tiny Epic Galaxies with the new "Beyond the Black" expansion has hit the table a few times. I've also played quite a lot of Mystic Vale, which I really enjoy for its unique mechanic.
I played in a one-off guest role as part of a D&D campaign with some people I didn't know, which was rather fun. When I arrived, the GM presented me with a list of meta-rules about how he wants everyone to behave and the kind of stories he wanted to tell. I found this super useful! I immediately felt put at ease about playing with people I didn't know and knew what the expectations were. I will probably talk more about pre-game communication between GM and players in another entry because I think it's very important and I know I haven't always used this as well as I could in the past.
I have also now run two sessions of the game I am going to present to you in the next segment!

Here's a thing

There's a pretty good chance that you have come across the wonderful microsystem called Roll for Shoes. I have recently put together a scenario using the system to tell the story of a group of alien beings readying Earth for invasion. The premise of the game is similar to that of my LARP, S.W.I.P.E. but much lighter and sillier (no spoilers either). Both sessions I have run involved a lot of laughter and fun.

Roll for Invasion


Uncharted Worlds logo

Kia Ora exhausted people

Today's Topic: On Demand

Being in Christchurch as I am, this last weekend was our largest annual convention, Buckets of Dice! This was the 23rd year of the convention, and just as strong as ever. For those of you not in the know, Buckets includes board games, RPGs and LARP.
I oversaw the "Games on Demand" room, ours modelled after what I have seen at Kapcon in Wellington. Rather than submitting particular RPGs, this meant that I was taking an unknown number of players and GMs, pitching games and seeing what stuck. The room was never especially busy, but I did get to facilitate something in each of the four rounds I ran Games on Demand, with each of them being relatively successful.
As a GM who loves to improvise, I enjoy the unstructured feel of the GoD room and the ability to play what I feel like in the moment. However, this doesn't mean that a bit of prep can't go a long way. I got my first game of Monsterhearts 2 going, and really valued the new "Small Towns" pdf that came with it. Each town is a one page description that gives you everything you need to run a rich and interesting game.
I also love games that I would describe as "prepless". Games like Fiasco, A Taste for Murder and Enter the Avenger (the three other games I ran are, by necessity, games you cannot prepare for. I would say that most GMless games fit this category and few that aren't don't, however, I did GM or at least facilitate the game of Taste for Murder we played so it is not always the case.

What I'm playing

Buckets of Dice has been my main gaming intake recently, so I will talk about the three big games that I did not facilitate.
  1. The Storm- a LARP by Inveighed. I can't say too much about this one while avoiding spoilers, but I truly appreciated the human and emotional quality of many of the characters written, despite the wild mix of settings. I also got the feeling that the number of combinations of how things might end and who could work with who was staggering.
  2. The Lark Rises- a LARP by Jan-Yves Ruzicka. I've been excited about this one for quite some time and I am pleased to say that the hype did not fail. This was a lot more gamey than most LARPs I have been involved in, but rather than removing from the characters or emotional content, it struck home that all actions had consequences. A tense and thrilling game, which was surprisingly smooth given its complexity.
  3. The Colour of Credits- a grand strategy board game by Matthew Smith. I almost didn't play this as I was only roped in at the last minute, but I'm certainly glad I was. After assuring everyone I would have to leave partway through, I ended up staying through to the end. The production values were high and despite not even having seen the rulebook before the game, I managed to get a reasonable grasp on what I needed to do through play. I was astounded at just how asymmetrical the factions were and yet how smooth and balanced it all seemed. This was clearly a labour of love.

Here's a thing

Last week, I made a wee Dread hack that I hoped to maybe run at Buckets. It turns out I didn't have chance, so fair warning; this is entirely un-playtested. Let me know if it works!

Tower of Temptation



Dread logo



August 2017

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