Ianthe’s star qualities

Stars

I recently re-read this old post on Fair Escape about creating a larp character that can be a “star” of the game. Definitely read the article for a fuller explanation of what “star” means, but for me, it means being recognizable to other players and having my plot hooks and personality acknowledged by Plot.

But does Ianthe, my Fifth Gate character, have these qualities?

1. It helps to be Big.

Ha, no. I am… maaaaaybe 5’3″ or 5’4″ with my stompy boots. I don’t even have a fabulous headdress to add height! And there are a looooooot of really tall people in this game.

2. It helps to have an outrageous costume.

Maybe? I mean, I don’t have a full mask, or face paint, or bulky armor, but I do have both my invocation circle, with its complex hand-sewing and -painting, and my Orb of Battle, which lights up in a multitude of colors. I think they’re eye-catching, at least. I also think the silver and blue owl hairclips I have, being at face level, are particularly noticeable.

3. Create a character from the unpopular options.

Sort of? I feel like all the Orders have gotten equal attention from Plot so far, but some are certainly smaller than others. I think Primarch is probably the least populated Order, but Arcane Circle is relatively small, too — 11 players out of ~74 at the first event.

(To be fair, this was not my intent at all. I saw “members of this Order wear cloaks and robes” and “circles!” and was like, “I’m going to make a character with a circle cloak of invocation!)

4. Show up regularly to the events.

Well, so far, yes ๐Ÿ˜‰ Barring major incidents, I don’t see me missing any in the first year.

5. Play a powerful character.

Eh. I haven’t done so great for this, yet. I started the game at 43cp, which was only 3 above the base 40 you get for creating a character and writing their history. I am hoping to be at cap for game 2, however.

I also not a badass at fighting, which is part of this equation.

6. Buy plot coupons, aka information skills.

Not yet! Next game.

7. Be loud.

8. Be stupid

9. Be weird.

These three all sort of go together for me as “have memorable character traits,” and I think they’re true for Ianthe in general, although I may have to play them up more.

Ianthe’s the sort of person who will badger Baron Sunderwynd on why he was allowing the Bloodred Moon to run rampant in his barony. (Anti-authoritarian, hoooooo).

She’s the one who is always saying, “May I ask an impertinent question?” — and then asking it, regardless of answer.

She’s the one rushing headlong into the forest to make sure there was no one lying unconscious out there.

She’ll spend time telling you about her ridiculous genetic experiments. Or her pet owl Snorri, who likes to get drunk. Or that embarrassing thing Rolant did once.

She is going to help the hell out of the Champions at Ebonfall — whether they want it or not.

10. Be evil.

Nah. Ianthe might have a darkness to her, but at the end of the day she’s still relentlessly good.

Then again, so was the Silverfire King, we thought! So, we’ll see how that goes.

In the final analysis, I scored 6/10. Some of these are things I can work on, like getting more CP and info skills, or making her reckless, anti-authoritarian, impertinent, short-sighted personality more evident. Some are never gonna change — not gonna be taller, not gonna wear stilts.

All of this gets me thinking about why we play the characters we play. For me personally, anti-authoritarianism is a theme that comes up a lot in characters I create, both in fiction (hi, Yfre) and in larp. It does tie into an aspect of my personality I’m still trying to get a handle on. It’s also just a fun thing to roleplay, and the consequences are more entertaining in fiction than in real life.

How about you, Dear Reader? What are the tropes you keep coming back to in creating characters? Do they have “star” quality?

Unending Circle

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Inspired by Chris S/Ren’s own bit of 5G Silverfire fanfiction… of course, Ianthe has a slightly different memory of how it went down ๐Ÿ˜‰

It had made Ianthe proud to see the two war banners flanking the entrance to the tavern — the Wing and the Talon on painted silk, glinting silver on blue in the torchlight. Now I am one of them, she had thought, as she had wanted since her earliest memories. She had stood up straighter to see them, thought herself a paladin, a champion for good–

Is war everything you hoped for?

Hush. She closed those thoughts out, watching Ren bundle his throwing blades in his silver and blue tabard. As if it were any other rag.

Last night, she had stood before the Veiled — under the banners, in that same torchlight — and Ren had regarded her, strange, appraising. “You are so much like your mother Eirene,” he had said, with a rasping sigh. He looked as if he had more memories than if he were a thousand years old.

Maybe he did. Maybe he was. Ianthe felt nearly that old, now.

Ren had followed her into the woods last night, too, after they had been attacked at the crossroads by the Bloodred Moon. When she thought she had heard someone cry out, saw the shape of a human form in the shadow of a rock, she had leapt into action, and Ren had stepped after her.

“Do you always run straight into danger?” he had asked her, with a gentle curiosity.

“All I know is that if I were out there, I’d want someone to come find me,” she replied. He’d had no response to that.

Later, in the tavern, Ianthe had asked him, “May I ask you an impertinent question?”

“I don’t see how I could possibly stop you,” he had replied, with something approaching mirth.

“Why does your Order wear the Veil?” She knew it was wrong to ask, even before Rolant set a hand to her arm in a gesture of warning. But she abhorred questions without answers, and took a perverse pleasure in being the sort of person to speak the unspeakable.

He had not answered then, either.

And then… what had happened, had happened. They had stood in front of Baron Kalaris, who spoke the word of the Silverfire King; arrayed at his back was the King’s might. An honor guard, merely, they had thought at the time.

Ianthe had been daydreaming — thinking of the counter-equations she had worked with the Arcane Circle last night, or pondering the ominous words of Selaine of the Ivory Gate, or perhaps just admiring the finely-turned calves of Kein Vyland. The tired platitudes about the great service the Champions had rendered didn’t apply to her; she hadn’t fought in the War, after all. She was yet half a Champion.

When Kalaris said the Orders and warbands were no longer needed, she had thought she’d misheard. When he talked of turning their Power over to the Silverfire King, who would be its final arbiter, she had drawn in a sharp breath. Wasn’t this — wasn’t this the same thing the Ebon Order had wanted?

Kalaris had strode down the first rank of Champions, calling on each of them to renounce their Orders. Each refused, in turn. Ianthe was glad she was in the back rank, as a late arrival; had Kalaris turned that immense presence towards her, she was unsure what she would have said. Others in the back ranks called out that the Ebon Order was still a threat, that they were still needed. Kalaris refused to listen.

Ianthe remembered the moment when he had proclaimed them all outlaws. When the killing had begun. She remembered it most vividly because Rolant had stepped in front of her, wrenched her behind his well-armored back and shield.

The ranks fell apart around her, and Ianthe couldn’t think, didn’t know what to do. These were the knights she had looked up to all her life, and they were slicing through her warband and her newly-made friends. These were the knights whose retreat her mother had died to defend, and now they gave no quarter to the fallen, mercilessly running them through.

In the end, she didn’t have to think. A warrior with a two-handed sword charged her, and instinctively she called on her talent, summoning tines of force. One, two, three, the arrows of air landed in rapid succession, and the man fell senseless. Later, she’d learn that the Silverfire Forge would call him back to life, but in the moment, she might as well have killed the man.

She remembered little of the battle after that. She stayed behind the lines, healing where healing was called for. Wise Nacera Umber, another Arcane Circle healer, gave her guidance on where to go and what to do. But neither could do anything for the fiery death that rained from the sky, or the silver-chased swords that struck killing blows.

Swords, perhaps, forged by the King himself.

The next thing Ianthe remembered, she was running for Rolant, seeking comfort from him, as if she were a girl awakened from a bad dream. But there was no comfort to be found there — he grieved, too, as his friend Nu, a Disciple of the Tempest and another member of the Talon, had been struck dead by the fiery rain. She wasn’t the only one of the Eyrie, either — Jayna of the Wing, a Golden Temple archer, had also died, and only lived again thanks to the Baron Sunderwynd’s own Power.

Nu would live again, too. That was the blessing and the curse of Champions — those whose bodies could be recovered, at least. Not Mother, buried forever under ice and poison of the Ebon Order. Not those who could not pay the toll of the Arbiter of Death.

The battlefield was a ruin of the only life Ianthe had ever wanted. When Tezac, the grizzled Golden Temple warrior from the Wing, found her resting beside the Gate, he had asked, “Is war everything you had hoped for?” She wanted to scream, to fly at him with nails bared. He was older, and wiser, sure, but he didn’t have to be smug.

That was hours past, and a world ago. In the present, Ren said, “I suppose it is time to put this away.” He gestured at the sad bundle of silver and blue and gleaming steel.

“You can always put it back on when this is settled,” Rolant offered.

Will there ever be a time when this is settled? Ianthe hardly believed it — any more than, sixteen hours ago, she could have believed the Silverfire King could betray them.

But…

Magic is an unending circle — Ianthe’s link to Power had taught her that. No, more than that — magic was a moebius strip, a circle turned in on itself to make a single surface.

And magic is life. Preserve me, she added mentally, recalling the words Rolant used when he called to healing.

“We can wear it to reclaim it,” Ianthe said at last, with an optimism she didn’t entirely feel, yet. “They are our colors, too.”

Which wood?

This past Saturday I NPCed for Witchwood at 4-H Camp Middlesex in Ashby, MA (a.k.a. Camp Stairmaster, Camp Fuck-That-Hill). As I said earlier, this destination was chosen mostly due to its proximity to my house — it’s about ten miles away, which on twisty country roads is about 25 mins.

I had a fine time, with some really fun moments, but there was some awkwardness of adjusting to a new system, group of people, setting, and site.

(Take everything I’m about to say with a grain of salt, as I was only there for one day).

The Site

The site, first — indeed, fuck that hill. I only had to climb it one time (while wearing a skeleton face-mask, and having to fight at the top), but that satisfied all my exercise needs for the week. The campsite really is just uphill both ways, even if you’re not scaling Mt. Stairmaster — it’s a climb to the dining hall, or back to your car, too.

And tick-ful. I found (I think) a dog tick crawling on me when I was changing my costume mid-day. I smooshed it with extreme prejudice. I am unsurprised by this, as I live in tick-endemic New England, and I’ve never had a worse time of it than in my own backyard.

Also biting flies, which are less than fun, but at least not bearers of terrible disease.

But here, I’m making it sound like a bad site, and it really isn’t — the site was in good repair and was located beside a lovely winding river. The lower field, where a lot of mods happened, definitely lent the sense of a village green to the fantasy town of Oak Harbor. The Monster Camp had no less than three bathrooms over two floors, with plenty of space for props and costuming.

People

Interestingly enough, I knew the players better than I knew the staff! The staff is mostly MIT grads, some of whom I know (i.e. laura47, Beth B, Peter L, Will L, etc), but many of whom I don’t. The players, on the other hand, were mostly familiar to me; this was a “starter” boffer larp for a lot of theater-style larpers, and I saw many people I mostly know from the Intercon community (i.e. Matt K, Kindness, Nuance, Seamus, Peter C — in fact one of my plots was called “make Peter feel bad about his life and his choices”).

It was also funny to have Matt go out in the same clothes he wears as his Cottington Woods PC, saying “Well, there’s no one here who has seen me as Johan”… only to walk right past Abrihette — who he not only plays Cottington with, but works closely with (i.e. she also plays a Sandman).

Monster Camp

As for staff organization… well, in some ways it felt more disorganized than I am used to, but still very functional. For example, there’s no hour-based scheduling of modules. Mods are generally organized into what rough time period they will go out in (i.e. “Friday night,” “Saturday afternoon,” etc) and “fishbowl” mods, that can go out at any time. So it’s hard to say you’re running behind so long as your mod happens in approximately the right timeframe.

On the downside, it’s really hard to know if a building is in use with this system, and I several times overheard confusion on account of this. There was a ginormous board for keeping track of what mods were “on deck,” “running,” and “reported,” but no one seemed terribly committed to keeping it up to date (and as an NPC who showed up for one day, I wasn’t exactly empowered to update it myself).

Food in Monster Camp was also somewhat limited compared to other games I’ve been at (says the fat girl).

Overall, though, I’d say Witchwood does a good job of delegating writing and running mods to multiple people; staff seemed empowered to make their own plots happen. I worked closely with Kat, who was running several PCs’ personal plots, and with Ken C., who seemed to be organizing the field fights.

Setting

The setting, too, was a challenge to learn, but one I appreciated. It is in many ways traditional high fantasy, but with interesting twists and unique detail. Players choose from a number of different cultures and races; these are distinct axes, but also have pairs that go together (i.e. it often makes sense for characters of the galatura race to be from the Hurzicht culture). Some of the cultures clearly take inspiration from human cultures — although the association is never explicitly stated, it becomes clear from artwork, names, and costuming. (The Felicitoro, for example, give a very Renaissance Italian feel). I think this is a fine way to handle such associations without falling into parody of a real culture.

One other interesting thing is that Witchwood explicitly forbids anything having to do with rape or religion from game materials and character histories. Moreover, not only is it forbidden, but it is a world in which such things are presumed to not exist. I feel like this is a bold step, but one I definitely encourage. Relatedly, I think Witchwood is the only game I’ve ever heard of having a Code of Conduct.

Overall, the impression was one of a world stretching out beyond what I inhabited as an NPC… and I wanted more time to explore it! Already Kat is trying to coax me to come back and RP as a Velliar scholar, since she thinks the academic culture will appeal to me. (It does!)

Plot

Plot in this game tends towards the small and personal. As I’ve already said, there was a mod I was on which Kat called, “Make Peter regret his life and his choices.” Another mod was very much aimed at two other players of my acquaintance.

There were bigger threats to the town of Oak Harbor — like the undead, chimera beasts, the battle at the Bulwark between Void and Vigor, etc — but none of them seemed to dominate the day.

But maybe this is the consequence of a) being there for only one day, and not being in any major face roles, or b) coming in midway through an ongoing campaign.

Rules system

I think my biggest complaints are about the rules system — although it’s hard to know how much is my relative unfamiliarity vs. actual flaws in the system. I will preface my criticism by saying that my only exposure to live-combat larp has been Accelerant, and that has quickly become the standard by which I judge everything.

Combat just… feels weird in this game, in a way I find hard to articulate. It has something to do with the rhythm, I think? Without a flurry rule — and with too few PCs and NPCs to really form a line fight — so much of fighting just devolved into standing in doorways flailing endlessly at each other.

I say “too few PCs and NPCs for a line fight,” but there were probably 25-30 on each side. It’s just… most of them seemed less interested in combat, and tried to avoid it? Like, I went out on a mod which was basically, “give the PCs a chance to gank you,” and wasn’t attacked. So, you know. That’s a thing. I appreciate roleplaying out of combat as much as the next girl, but when all you have is a boffer staff, everything looks like a legal target area…

Players also can buy a skill that allows them to tap out of combat by crossing their arms over their chest and saying “Repose”; they can then call “Ward” to any attacks directed at them. It really was drummed home that these players were averse to conflict when we assaulted the teahouse and found half of the players reposing. It’s intended to be a way for characters to be present and witness combat without participating, and while I think that’s a cool goal, it’s easy to see when the players are just Done with fighting.

A lot of the “flailing in doorways” came from the sheer amount of turtling the PCs were doing. Even though they outnumbered us skeletons in the teahouse fight, for example, they stayed inside and only occasionally used their talismans to repel us. A similar thing happened when we assaulted the tavern as chimera beasts.

(Funny story related to that mod: Matt went out as a fox-eagle — full face fox mask and an eagle mask on his hand. It was fucking creepy. This led to the quote:

“What does the fox-eagle say?”
“Whhhhhhyyyy was I made? Please let me die!”)

I also found the calls hard to hear, as they were almost all one word (i.e. “Venom,” “Subdue,” etc) without the “by [trait]” calls of Accelerant. Which, when you’re standing beside a rushing stream, or wearing a full-face mask, tend to get lost. Several times I could not figure out what (if any) effect was supposed to have gone off, even after asking for a clarification. By losing the flavor traits of Accelerant, you get fewer cues to piece together what is actually happening. I didn’t think it would make a difference, but it does, and wildly so.

There’s also the fact that you can also use reach weapons (like staves and polearms) one-handed, which is just weird. One time, terrible-fighter-me strode up to a line of PCs — the one time there was a line of PCs –and heard, “oh no, she’s got reach!” It’s seriously like a superpower in this game.

My favorite mod

This turned out to be an unexpected one — playing a grindelow (water fae) who was very upset that they had found this body in the forest whose heart they couldn’t eat. I was teamed up with Matt and Chrisco (as fellow grindelow) and Kat (as the body in stasis, immune to our attacks). The sound grindelows make, I was told, is a “warp” sound, and we were soon warping in chorus with each other and the spring peepers in the wetlands nearby.

Mostly, I was told, we were there to fall down when the PCs hit us. But grindelows do have a Subdue — basically they can hit someone on the back between the shoulders, and if the target is surprised, it knocks them unconscious. “But you probably won’t get a chance to use it,” Kat told me. “Unless someone turns their back on you.”

Kindness, as his PC Galen, turned his back on me.

He got Subdued.

I mean, it was really meaningless, and totally just for RP purposes — we had already been driven off, and I was slain shortly thereafter (and thrown into the nearby river).

But it was such a perfect moment –such a perfect target! — I had to take it.

The final analysis

How likely I am to come back and NPC for Witchwood again?

Well, the location close to my house is a real plus. So is the setting, which I’m interested in learning more about. In fact, I suspect Kat has already convinced me to come back and be a Velliar scholar of some stripe.

On the other hand, I did not love the fights or the non-Accelerant rules. Also, while it offers a CP exchange/cast swap with 5G, it isn’t one with a bonus.

I think in the final analysis, I’ll be back, but I will still have to prioritize other games I NPC for higher than this.

Three Things of Awesome

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1. Spring is beautiful — perhaps made sweeter by how bitter the winter was. Yesterday over lunch I went for a walk along the Cochituate Brook Reservoir Trail, a new-ish bike path which runs along a stream/canal in Framingham. Apples and cherries and locusts were blooming, grackles were… grackling? and I even saw a red-tailed hawk, sitting in a white pine tree.

2. I had dinner at Tempo in Waltham last night with Sprrwhwk, which proved to be a delicious choice. I know every gastro pub in the world these days offers truffle fries, but theirs are seriously the best I’ve had, and they come in a nearly endless horn. The gnocchi I had were fabulous, too, braised and pleasantly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. I liked their Sexy Old-Fashioned of bourbon, rye, Benedictine, allspice and bitters, as well.

3. While waiting for my aforementioned guest, I wrote 500 words on Lioness. It’s been over a month since I last touched it, other than submitting portions to writing group. I was definitely rusty — it felt sort of like touching the world through a glove. I am getting back into it, slowly, though.

So tired…

Not a lot of sleep this week. I’ve only had Monday night to recover from the weekend, and then I’ve had date night Tuesday (dinner at Rye & Thyme with the hubby; predictable but not boring), RiffTrax Live last night, and tonight, dinner with a friend in Waltham.

Friday night is still open, but then I had the genius idea that, hey, Witchwood is this weekend! Witchwood takes place close to my house! Witchwood has a CP exchange with Fifth Gate! I want to be at season cap for Silverfire 2! I should NPC for Witchwood on Saturday!

Of course, Witchwood is also not an Accelerant game. It bears some resemblances, but there are a lot of different rules, which I am busily trying to cram into my brain. Also a really in-depth culture, which I do not have time to absorb — sadly, because I usually love detailed world-building.

I suppose in some ways it would have been easier to NPC Madrigal this weekend, since it’s at least an Accelerant game (run by the creator of Accelerant, I believe?), but the 20-min drive to Camp Stairmaster vs. the hour drive to Camp Mormon won out.

That said, I’m getting more exercise than I usually do thanks to spring boffer larp season, and despite the inevitable muscle soreness (fuck you, statins), I feel great, and I want this to continue.

Sometime this week — Friday and Sunday, probably — I need to get some writing in, if I want to stay on track for the Codex Novel Contest. I admit I have lacked both time and focus to accomplish this lately. I’ve been overcome by 5G prep, followed by 5G floon. Instead of writing the adventures of Yfre, diplomat and spy extraordinaire, I’m more interested in coming up with playlists for Ianthe (send me recs! my music collection is sad), planning out new costuming for her (didn’t I say NO MORE SEWING for a while??), or imagining how she would react in certain situations.

I’m having fun, though. Life is good. Can’t complain too much.

Things I learned about sewing while making my 5G costume

As always, I continue to be amazed how little I know about sewing. I’ve been doing this for over ten years, and I still am learning new things with every new project. I truly believe the only reason that sewing isn’t valued as a skill is because it’s classed as “women’s work.”

Mitering corners with ribbon. I used the video below to teach myself how to miter corners with ribbon. This is the treatment around the neckline of Ianthe’s underdress.

How to make a cloak. Believe it or not, I had never made a cloak before. For Reasons, it was important that it be a circle. I used this full circle cloak tutorial.

How to work with velvet(een). As my cloak was made of velveteen, I needed to learn how to work with fabric with pile and a nap. This article on Sewing with Velveteen helped. The main thing I learned? Don’t apply the iron directly to it, but steam from a short distance from the non-plush side, over another plush surface, like a towel.

More about full bust adjustments (FBAs). I had originally read how to do an FBA on Sewaholic and knew the basic theory, as well as when one should use an FBA. (I am the perfect candidate for one, as I am generally small-framed with a large-ish bust). Unfortunately I found the Sewaholic tutorial didn’t work for my particular case (I forget why — did it have darts?), but I found some other ones that did:

Narrow shoulder adjustment. This is an adjustment I did not do, and now I really wish I did. Having made a few of the Simplicity costume patterns, I must conclude that whoever the size 20 fit model is, she must have impressive shoulders. The next iteration of this dress that I make, I will take guidance from these articles:

The joys of Fray-Check. Not really much to say here, except that Fray-Check (or other seam treatments) is something I vaguely knew existed but had never used until this project. There were a lot of seams that I couldn’t hide with binding or double up material without adding unwanted bulk in this project. So I bought some Fray-Check, and holy hell is it awesome. How have I done without it before?

Iron-on studs. Another thing I knew existed but had not worked with before. They are basically bits of metal with a reservoir of something like hot glue in the base. You apply heat for 15 seconds to each side, and they’re on! No idea how well it will hold up in the dryer, tho. (I generally Dryel most of my larp garments).

Using large washers as pattern weights. I’ve dithered on buying pattern weights before, but keep not doing it because I find something wrong about spending money on unitaskers. However! The aforementioned Curvy Sewing Collective FBA tutorial uses plain ol’ hardware washers as pattern weights, and, as it turns out, pattern weights are essential to doing adjustments that pivot the pattern.

Two guest posts

I’ve never (?) written a guest post before, but I’ve had two published in the past few days.

First, while I was in the woods getting hit with foam swords, Kate Heartfield, a fellow Codexian, published my piece on What I Learned About Writing from LARPing as part of her Unlikely Influences series. I learned a lot about storytelling and my own process just thinking on the question, and I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with my conclusions.

Then, yesterday, Joanna Meyer, another writer I met through last year’s Pitch Wars, published my querying author interview. If you yearn to know things like how I take my coffee, go read it!

Thanks, ladies, for letting me visit your corner of Blogsylvania!

Fifth Gate Silverfire Game 1

First game of Fifth Gate – Silverfire this past weekend! I hardly know where to start! Exclamation points!

The most important thing first: I had fun and was never bored.

I regrettably have no photos from the weekend itself, but here, have one of me as Ianthe on the way to fight practice the weekend before.
I regrettably have no photos from the weekend itself, but here, have one of me as Ianthe on the way to fight practice the weekend before.

The Site

I’m not sure how important this is, since we won’t be back to Zion’s Camp again for a while. But…

This was not the nicest site I’ve been to. It was about on par with East Boston Camps — the cabins were nastier than East Boston, but the main buildings were better overall.

The cabins — at least, ours, in the “Priesthood Pavilion” — had just been opened for the season, but had not been cleaned out, and were full of mouse nests and squirrel caches. (I greeted members of my group when they arrived with “Welcome to Camp Hantavirus!”) The bed I slept on might have been better used as a tetanus delivery device, and was in no state to have anyone on the top bunk. The bathhouse in Lower Staff was non-functional, since water hadn’t been turned on yet (This is a recurring theme this spring larp season). Walking to the main bathhouse, while not terrible, is no fun at 6:30am when it’s 38 degrees out.

Our campsite was also large — plenty of room for tenting, which is good, but so large that you would have to shout to be heard between cabins. Which, when you’re being attacked at 10am, is not so convenient.

The dining hall — our tavern — was fine, although it did have creepy things like photos of Mormon Elders (I assume? Three old white dudes, at least) next to a painting of Jesus, and signs on the bathroom that said “NO YOUNG WOMEN ALLOWED.” The bathhouse had low water pressure, which made flushing the toilet an exercise in frustration. (I never found them prone to clog, as the cutesy signs — with rhymes — warned, though). I never managed to check out the showers, since (see below) I was perpetually afraid of attack.

The site, in general, is just REALLY LARGE and spread out. The most distant place they did mods was the rifle and archery range, which was about as far as the walk from the parking lot at East Boston Camps. The site was also more hilly than East Boston and Frank A. Day, although I suspect it is nothing compared to Camp Stairmaster in Ashby.

But really, my major regret about the site is that I didn’t get housed in the cabins called Virtuous Women.

Our Warband

Our warband — actually technically two warbands, encompassing a group of sixteen or so members — is great. It is largely composed of theater-style larpers who also do boffer larp, and we seem to have common goals of having a high-roleplay experience. We also took the time to create a shared history, which means we always have something to chat about IC.

I bunked with Megan C, playing Namei Nu, a Disciple of the Tempest, as well as Matt, who is playing my brother Rolant. We decorated our cabin (dubbed Squirrelstown); Megan hung scarves over the rafters as her “lacy underthings” and put Japanese art on the walls, and Matt and I added electric candles and a big glowing, color-changing orb.

I know other games have de-emphasized the group aspect, but coming in with a group of people with shared goals and history has, I think, made a big difference in my enjoyment. It also seems crucial to be part of a warband for gamist reasons; there are many benefits that accrue only to one’s warband, including mitigating the consequences of death (more about that below).

Matt's Rolant shield, in progress
Matt’s Rolant shield, in progress

Bear is For Fite (and Death)

The game felt heavier on fights than I am used to. I wasn’t sure of my impression, but I asked some more experienced folks afterwards, and they confirmed that on a relative scale, this game is very fight-y.

There are amazing fighters on both sides, though, so I’m glad that they get the chance to strut their stuff. It also means organizations of fights is strong — the front line mostly stays together, people call out if they need someone to take their spot or if they need healing, people call out incomings and numbers, etc.

We had… maybe four large field fights? Three on Saturday, and one on Sunday; Friday was mostly just skirmishes. Speaking of which…

Part of the overall fightiness was constant roving pain, i.e. random NPCs harassing you on the roads or in your camps any time stuff is running. Cottington and Shadows only use it sparingly, so it was new for me to not know if I was safe traveling to the bathhouse. I didn’t mind so much; it added to the sense of danger.

Another aspect of the fightiness: seems like almost all the NPCs were deathstrike-active, and would readily kill PCs. This is odd to me, because I’m used to Shadows, where there’s a big sign on the wall of Monster Camp, saying, “You are not deathstrike active!”

Several of our warband were killed over the weekend as a result of all this. While death happens more readily in this game than in some, it is not meaningless or without cost. Several people who went through the gates of death came back with burdens of some sort. Then again, many had favors from their warband members to mitigate the effects, and several lucked out and ended up with the boon that allows you to ask Death a question.

Roleplay

Despite the Accelerant rule being “Always in character,” people seem to vary tremendously in how dedicated they are to this. Megan, who shared a cabin with us, was very committed, and we even chatted IC until we fell asleep on Friday night/Saturday morning. OTOH, on the walk to a mod at the firing range on Saturday night, two of the gentlemen walking beside me were discussing a wrestling gym(?) they were part of.

I try to stay IC at all times, but I trip up, too. For some reason I always want to insert pop culture references. I caught myself more than once saying “Bueller? Bueller?” when no one responded to my queries about who needed healing. Clearly someone needs to call me on it, so that I can respond that Bueller was a fellow student of mine at the Academy, in a class with a particularly droning teacher ๐Ÿ˜‰

Matt and I had fun improvising our shared history as siblings — his reminding me of my abysmal table manners as a kid, my covering my ears and saying NAH NAH NAH I’M NOT LISTENING whenever he was flirting with Nu.

When things did slow down (rarely), I wrote in my journal, which quickly turned into my IC journal. Ianthe really likes to CAPITALIZE THINGS she finds IMPORTANT. And doodle interlocking circles and triangles.

Ianthe's Orb of Battle, her focus for her offensive powers. It lights up in different colors!
Ianthe’s Orb of Battle, her focus for her offensive powers. It lights up in different colors!

Arcane Circle

This is the Order I belong to, which determines what headers and skills I have access to. I’ve jokingly heard us called “mathletes,” since we are basically math mages. Members are called Scholars, the central focus of the Order is the Academy, and unsurprisingly, when we introduce ourselves to each other, it’s by our Exegesis projects (i.e. the thesis-like project we must do in order to be allowed to access Power)

Funnily enough, of the eleven members of this Order at the first game, eight were in sibling pairs! I think I bonded especially with Kein and Kallum Vyland, with whom I was defending the tavern and the Gate before the big field fight on Saturday night, and Nacera and Kaaelin Umber, another Halo of Deflection/Circle of Enlightened Invocation pair, like Ianthe and Rolant. The player of Nacera actually advised me on a bunch of stuff over emails before game, since she is an experienced Accelerant larper who was also playing a healer.

There were definitely mods aimed at each Order. The first Arcane Circle mod was a repeater involving solving puzzles (framed as “balancing counter-equations” of an explosive incantation that needed to be defused) while being attacked. As it turns out, the in-game mathletes were not at all OOC mathletes (and those who were, tended to be front-line fighters!) Also it is really hard to do math-based sudoku-type puzzles by the light of glowsticks.

As a final note on my Order, this exchange, from my warband:

“I’m glad to see we use decimal currency in the Silverfire Kingdom.”
“We must not have let the Arcane Circle design it. They wanted a base-pi currency.”

Crunchy Game-y Stuff

I wasn’t — I don’t think! — as incompetent as I feared. The fight practices really helped, both in terms of correcting weaknesses in my build, and in getting familiar with my incants and verbals. I still blanked on my incants occasionally, or mixed up similar ones, or did a few things incorrectly, but mostly it went smoothly and no one told me I was doin’ it wrong ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Though if I was, please give me feedback!)

Skills I am so glad I took: Resist Fear. (So nice when they were calling out BMV Waste Vitality by Fear in Sunday’s field fight, even if it did cost Mind). I also used Endless Circle of Magic, my event/Power skill that allows me to rest inside my Circle for two minutes and refresh my attributes, as much as I could.

(Waste seems to be used differently in this game — it was just meant to be damage that bypassed armor, rather than lowering your total until rested off. Which is good for the healer with only two Vitality ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Skills I found less useful: my Cure Metabolic — everything I saw that was curable was Mental (Fear) or Elemental (Fire). I thought there would be a lot of Poison and Disease, but so far nothing. I also never used my Inscribed Circle (allows me to cure twice for the cost of one); there were plenty of field fights where it would have been safe to set it up, but I never really needed it.

Verbal I probably said the most over the weekend: “Diagnose Damage.” I always felt a little uncomfortable walking up behind line fighters and doing this, afraid I would distract them or they would back into me or kick me, but I was told this was okay? Most of the line fighters were good about getting off the field to repair their armor before their Vitality red-lined, too.

As I suggested above, if anyone has feedback on how I did as a healer, please let me know. I felt a little useless walking the back of the line just waiting for people to take damage, but that was what a lot of other healers seemed to be doing?

As predicted, even though I took the Melee Weapons skill, and carried a staff, it was continually set aside and forgotten ๐Ÿ˜‰ I will probably keep it, though — it’s good if the line breaks, and I did manage to use it in the final field fight. But I will get The Rod and the Will so I can hold it while casting, which will at least make me less likely to leave it somewhere.

(Also, Matt assures me that Rolant kept reminding me about it for totally in-game reasons. Totally not because it’s the staff he uses as Johan in Cottington Woods ;))

Oh, and I suck at the “deathblossom” — holding multiple packets tucked between your fingers, with the tails held in your palm and the heads out. I can only do a three-packet blossom for any length of time, and that’s with ones with relatively long tails. But I have sore spots between my fingers on my left hand from trying ๐Ÿ™

Related quote:
Me, when I dropped one of my packets: “My aura is more powerful than my hand is big.”
Kallum (I think?): “It’s good to have a powerful aura.”
Rolant: “No, it’s more that she just has a small hand.”

Plot

If you wish to remain “unspoiled” (not sure that is really a thing for boffer larps) for Silverfire, you can stop reading now. But I do want to say, first, that the heavy combat element of this game IN NO WAY interfered with the emotional intensity of the plot. In fact, it enhanced it.

Random photo interlude! Rolant's hair decoration.
Random photo interlude! Rolant’s hair decoration.

It was brilliant how expectations were subverted sixteen hours into game, in a way that was game-changing yet not entirely unexpected, and emotionally wrenching, to boot. At the gathering early Saturday afternoon, where we were supposed to greet the Silverfire King, my train of thought went something like, “Oh, huh, the king isn’t here, he sent this baron with a boring speech…. yay telling us how awesome we are… wait, what? You want us to do WHAT??

Then James, the game owner (playing the baron who was the King’s messenger) started confronting folks in the front of the crowd, demanding that they renounce their Order, their warbands, and Power. They refused, one by one, all the while trying to talk him down, convince him that the Ebon Order was still a threat. But it was to no avail; the baron named us outlaws, and ordered his warriors to kill us all. In that moment, Rolant yanked me behind him, always the protective older brother. I spent the first few minutes of the fight wandering around in a haze, being unsure if I should attack these Champions I had revered my whole life.

Later, there was the nightmare where we saw the Silverfire King rip off Jarlath’s horns and sever him from Power. That was… intense. It helped that Jarlath was painted so well as a character, both before and during game — in the Silverfire Sunday blurbs, and in James’ portrayal of him as this light-hearted Horned One who tells goofy stories about his lack of pants.

Oh god, and the Horned Ones singing Jarlath to his death, after he returned as evil!Jarlath for Sunday’s field fight….

And Selaine (sp?), the representative of the Ivory Gate, trying to cleanse Ianthe’s nightmares, and finding something unexpected…

Andand doing the ritual to replenish the land the Harvesters had claimed, with Teph/Heddie on Sunday…

And, and, and everything. Seriously, I wanted to hug James (the game owner, who I suspect writes much of the plot, and who played Jarlath, Selaine, and the Silverfire baron, to name just a few). If you see this, James ::virtual hugs:: And to Robin, and the staff and NPCs, and alllll the many Wrathborn players who showed up to NPC for us. I’ll return the favor in a few weeks.

I will, needless to say, be back!

Fifth Gate is nigh

I finished pretty much everything I spelled out in this earlier post, but there’s more to do for Fifth Gate!

  • Finish overdress (I’m on like step 7 out of 42)
  • Finish cloak/invocation circle (see: featured image for this post)
    • Fix the gnarly hand-sewing bits
    • Attach hood
    • Cut lining fabric
    • Apply lining
    • Hem
    • Apply closure
    • Scotchguard it (since it’s going to be on the ground and I’m going to be standing on it, I’ll need something to protect the intricate embroidery and painting)
  • Acquire some sort of belt
  • Acquire/make some sort of pouch to hold packets (could use the leather purse I use for NPCing, but it’s pretty small. Then again, I don’t have that many packet attacks)
  • Finish Orb of Battle (Matt is helping with this)
    • paint the remaining symbols
    • second layer of paint on all symbols
    • attach chain to orb and to belt
  • Figure out what I’m wearing on my legs (black fleece leggings? buy leggings to match brown overdress? Wear brown costume pants over thermal underlayer?)
  • Try on full outfit
  • Memorize my incants! Or, more generally, my abilities (how many Heal by Magics do I have? What costs Spirit, how much Spirit do I have, and how much do I have left? If I’m casting, what the heck do I do with my staff, since I didn’t buy the ability that allows me to cast with a staff in one hand?)
  • Acquire some appropriate-looking note-taking supplies. This could just be the notebook I use for the same thing while NPCing, I suppose.

Other things I’d like long-term, which I won’t get to for game 1:

  • additional outfits
  • a full-length cloak to go with the small one that doubles as my invocation circle
  • better belt and pouches, to match my costume
  • fancy hangings to go around my bunk? The “old sheets” method is less than attractive.
  • incorporate an Orb of Battle into a staff (can’t use the current one, alas, as it’s not boffer-safe)

Our warband, the Eyrie — the “team” I belong to in 5G Silverfire — had a fight practice on Sunday, organized by the lovely Fair Escape. Some Wrathborn players also showed up, as well as a bunch of random Festival of the LARPs congoers who wanted to learn about Accelerant. Together, they provided convenient mooks for us to fight.

The two Wrathborn players, who are very experienced larpers, even created fake mods for us to do, like “fight your way to the top of the hill, where you will find the artifact called the Jade Bedroll (i.e. someone’s sleeping bag).” Once there, we each needed to rest for one minute on the Jade Bedroll to be successful. Despite the silliness of it, I would play that mod again!

The biggest thing I learned, flexing Ianthe on the battlefield the first time? PCing is nothing like NPCing.

NPCing has taught me enough about Accelerant that I recognize the calls and know the etiquette. On the other hand, it’s taught me almost nothing about keeping track of economy — Vitality, Spirit, other attributes; number of heals, number of packet attacks, etc. Most NPCs, after all, are written to have abilities that are limited by number of uses (i.e. “3 x Grant 1 Protection by Magic”) or by how often you can use them (“an uncalled packet every 10 seconds”).

And most NPCs don’t have incantations (“incants”) — those flavorful phrases you need to say before an effect verbal. I thought I had my incants memorized, but it’s one thing to remember them while sitting in your room, and another when someone is charging you. I have literally made myself flash cards to remember them, because as a heavy healer, I have no less than seven, each of them eight syllables or more.

Looking at this, and analyzing the amount of flailing around pointlessly I did, it’s tempting to say I haven’t learned anything from my Two Years of NPCing Dangerously. But there are folks on my team who are even less experienced than I am, and that reminds me of what it was like starting from zero.

When they talk about how hard it is to even notice they are being hit, I remember having that problem at my first fight practice back in 2013. Now, I have a lot more situational awareness. (Still not enough, I feel — but some!)

At my first game NPCing for Shadows, I didn’t know how to answer if someone used “Diagnose Stable” on me. Now, I can reliably recall if I took uncalled or called damage.

Nowadays, too, I know why it’s important to have enough armor and Vitality to take a three-point uncalled flurry!

So, NPCing has been valuable, but it’s only part of the equation. I would definitely recommend it before PCing, especially to folks who feel a lot of anxiety about “doin’ it wrong,” as I did. (I’m one of those people who HATES that whole “incompetence” phase of learning). I would just caution that it won’t teach you everything you need, and there’s going to be another learning curve when you start PCing.

Let’s hope it’s not too steep.

The Tarantiniest Birthday of All

Monday was my (35th) birthday. Hooray?

In any case, I found myself watching Django Unchained (2012) this weekend, and followed it up with a chaser of Inglourious Basterds (2009). It started just as “let’s put on a movie to watch with my dad” (who was visiting this weekend) but I liked the first enough that I decided I wanted to see the second.

I’m not… excessively a Tarantino fan? I liked his stuff a lot when I was younger, and I still own a DVD of True Romance and a VHS (!) of Pulp Fiction. I appreciate what he does with theme and symbolism and absurdism, but as get older I find I have less and less tolerance for the old ultra-violence. I also see very few movies in theaters these days, and both Django and Basterds came out in a time period when I saw almost no new movies.

Let’s be honest: Django Unchained is a brutal movie, full of violence and virulent, slavery-era racism. It is hard to watch, even cut down significantly from what it was originally. In most places, though, it feels genuine and not gratuitous — although, on the other hand, gratuitous violence is genuine to how Tarantino tells stories.

I remember reading that Will Smith turned down the role of Django because he felt he wasn’t the main character, which is how Jamie Foxx ended up in the role. I can see that, and it’s a real problem — the protagonist doesn’t get to protag. Foxx does have some wonderful moments of characterization despite that — a subtly shaking hand as he puts his smoked glasses back on, for example, betraying he’s not so cool as he seems.

I feel like the movie is more about King Schultz, Christoph Waltz’s German bounty hunter character, and in a lot of ways when he wasn’t onscreen I stopped being interested in the story. (Which becomes another “rescue another damsel in distress” story when those details are stripped away).

That said, Christoph Waltz is amazing. He will always be the Cardinal Richelieu of my heart. I was moved by how his mercenary and his conscientious sides were on display. He’s both the guy gunning down bounties in the street as well the one offering $500 to keep a slave from being torn apart by dogs. And, in that final moment where he shoots someone, and turns back to Django with a look on his face of mischief, saying, “I couldn’t help myself”… gah. That got me.

DiCaprio was amazing, too, as insanowitz plantation owner Calvin Candie — apparently the scene with the skull, where he cuts his hand? He actually smashed his hand down on a glass, and just kept on going, while bleeding.

(Also entertained by the speech Schultz gave to Candie about Alexandre Dumas, considering Waltz played Richelieu in the 2011 Musketeers, and diCaprio played Louis XIV and Philippe in The Man in the Iron Mask. And pleased that they remembered that Dumas was mixed-race).

Also, a word about Samuel L. Jackson: !!!! I was entertained to read that at one point in shooting, when diCaprio wanted to break because all the racial slurs he was throwing around were troubling him, Jackson said something to him like, “Motherfucker, this is Tuesday for us!”

Moment of Tarantinian absurdism: the ten-minute interlude of racists arguing about the quality of the bags on their heads.

Overall, there’s something not-good to be said for the fact that a white guy makes a movie all about slavery and makes it largely about the actions of white guys >.< And I can't excuse that. But despite that all I still enjoyed large chunks of the movie, in part due to the fantastic acting. Inglourious Basterds I was less sold on. After watching Django, I really just wanted a fix of Christoph Waltz, but as it turned out, Hans Landa, the SS colonel he plays in this movie, is just not a very interesting villain. He knows everything and everyone, speaks flawless French*, English, and Italian, and maintains a cool and polite facade while being an utter villain. And it’s just… boring, to be honest. I don’t know what he wants, really, and it’s implied he goes through this huge change as a character, to do what he does at the end, but it’s not on-screen.

I kind of felt that way about all the characters, especially the titular Basterds. Like… we only get brief snippets about some of them (Stiglitz, Donowitz), and not even all of them. I wanted more scenes of them doin’ their thing, basically… we only get one, really, which is when they’re interrogating the German soldiers near the bridge. And no, I don’t want to see people get beat to death with bats, but there was more characterization in that scene than in the rest of the movie combined.

And don’t even get me started on Brad Pitt. Next to other more talented folks, it becomes evident he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. His portrayal of Raine seems to be mostly composed of squinting.

I wish they had done more with the character of Zoller — he could have had an interesting redemption arc — although I thought it appropriate that when he’s rejected, he turns into a raging asshole who can’t take no for an answer.

I felt similarly blandly about Shoshanna as I did the other characters. Like most of them, her characterization boils down to “hating Nazis.” Which, while we can all get behind, is just not very interesting in the final analysis.

Moment of Tarantinian symbolism: all the rat symbolism in chapter one, post Landa’s speech.

The best part of the movie overall was the standoff in the bar. It kind of felt like the film was made just for that moment of awesome. Hard to buy that Fassbender’s character would be that culturally ignorant if he learned all his German from movies, tho…

* Christoph Waltz does speak a beautiful French, though *swoon* It’s kind of hilarious to hear him say, in the opening scene, that he’s “just about exhausted his French,” when he speaks it as well as English. I assume his German is flawless, too, as he’s German-born, but I have less of a scale on which to judge that.