Return to the Sceptered Isle(s), part one: Dublin

Last week I was in Ireland and England, doing some tourism and attending Imaginary Consequences, the British LARPing/freeform convention in the tradition of Intercon.

In the past, we’ve flown through Dublin on our way to England, as Aer Lingus, an Irish carrier, usually has some of the cheapest flights. This time, rather than spending hours in the Dublin airport in the middle of the night, we decided to stop for a couple of days and do some tourism and adjust to the time change.

We flew out from Boston last Monday evening, taking the usual transatlantic red-eye, and arrived, sleep-deprived, in Dublin on Tuesday morning. We shuffled off to a taxi rank and got one to take us to the Croke Park Hotel, right across from the stadium with the same name.

The hotel had been recommended to me by some FB friends who had stayed there, and it did not disappoint. I had contacted them ahead of time saying, “hey, we’re coming in on a red-eye, do you have early check-in?” They told me there wasn’t a formal process, but they’d try to have a room ready. Thus, when I arrived at their door at 9am, there was in fact a room ready! Delightful!

Did you know that some hotels in the British Isles have power only when a keycard is inserted into a slot by the door? Neither did we! Cue a few frantic minutes of trying to figure out why our room didn’t have power.

Tuesday was mostly a wash. We slept for a few hours, woke, and went out in search of food (in the middle of the afternoon, no less). It was rainy and windy, and there wasn’t much near us. I was hoping to find something like an Irish pub — because, goddamit, we were in Ireland! — but there was very little near our hotel except a closed Italian restaurant and a lot of sketchy bars. Bars are not pubs, as I learned, after I awkwardly walked into one, sat down, and then left, realizing this wasn’t going to get me food, since it clearly didn’t have a kitchen.

We returned to the hotel defeated, and visited the hotel bar instead, where I fortified myself with a cider and an egg mayo (egg salad) sandwich. I’m not sure why I thought cider was a good idea, but I was in a land where cider was taken seriously, and I was going to have some. (Orchard Thieves — good stuff. It has foxes on the label! I liked it a lot better than the Bulmer’s I tried later in the weekend. But I freely admit I have no taste, and prefer a sweeter cider).

There was more trying desperately not to fall asleep in our hotel room while watching RiffTrax on Matt’s phone, and then dinner at the hotel. I knew if I walked far enough I could probably be in the center of Dublin (I would later prove this true), but I had no energy for that. And I needed to stay up until midnight, I knew, for Intercon signups. (We managed).

Wednesday we did a little tourism. Our hotel stay came with tickets for the Dublin Bus Tour, a hop-on hop-off circuit of the main attractions of the city. We did the whole tour (and parts of it twice), getting off at Kilmainham Gaol and Trinity College.

Kilmainham brought up a lot of Shadows of Amun memories — it’s where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were imprisoned and executed, and there are plots around that in Shadows. Matt referred to the experience as “Bradford Reilly tours Kilmainham.”

Overall experience was sobering, but strangely beautiful — especially the panopticon, with its late 19th century stylings. (Used, apparently, for a lot of movies).

Here’s a photo, though it’s not my own:

Kilmainham Gaol

Another photo that I wish I had taken:

"Beware the risen people..."

The second place I went was Trinity College’s Old Library, to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room.

I found the Book of Kells experience … kind of underwhelming? There’s a lot of lead-in — you go through a whole exhibit about the life of a monk, other contemporary prayer books, pigments, symbolism, and practices in illumination, etc — before going into the Treasury and viewing four pages of illumination.

(I expected the pages would be laid out side-to-side, but nope, it’s bound, so you only see what pages the book is turned to at the moment).

That’s fine; I learned a lot, which is all I ask. Also, the title of the exhibit — “turning darkness into light” — is from the Robin Flowers translation of Pangur Bán, so hey, cats!

Here, have a public domain image of the famous Chi Ro page, which we only got to see pictures of (the book wasn’t turned to that page):

KellsFol034rChiRhoMonogram.jpg
KellsFol034rChiRhoMonogram“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Upstairs from the Treasury is the Long Room of the Old Library, which is a beautifully-architected mausoleum of books. I wish I could have seen more of the old, calfskin-bound volumes from (at latest) the 19th century, instead of the exhibit about YA lit inspired by mythology. There’s something beautiful and haunting about a room full of people’s lives’ works, lying forgotten and dusty.

Possibly I am just weird.

Long Room Interior, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland - Diliff.jpg
Long Room Interior, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland – Diliff” by DiliffOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.

Other than that we followed the bus tour around, hearing about attractions only glancingly seen. Twice we heard about the Duke of Wellington’s birthplace, and his attitude about that (“just because you’re born in a stable doesn’t make you a horse”); blessedly, we only had to hear once about James Joyce consummating his relationship with Nora Barnacle (or about a character in Ulysses buying something at Sweny’s). (I have no love for Joyce. Sorry-not-sorry).

We got off the bus for the day on O’Connell Street and wandered aimlessly for a bit, in the wrong direction for food. Finally we found ourselves in a restaurant called Flanagan’s, where I had fish & chips and Matt had beef & Guiness pie. Then we made the long-ish walk back to our hotel.

We had an absurdly early flight to Gatwick on Thursday, so that was pretty much the end of our Irish adventure! There was still much I would have liked to visit — Dublinia, the national museums, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, etc. — and that’s not even leaving Dublin.

Next time I’ll talk about my time at Consequences itself!

I Went To Math Hell and All I Got Was This Colorful Marble

I’m back from Fifth Gate Silverfire game 2!

I’ve written about it else-web, so I don’t want to repeat myself excessively. But to elaborate on some things I wrote there…

We were once again at Zion’s Camp, the LDS camp in Raymond, NH. The site was in somewhat better shape, coming to it right after the camp season. The bathhouse in our camp (Lower Staff/Priesthood Pavilion) was functional, which was a big plus. It was full of spiders and their webs, which was less ideal. The cabin I stayed in (the same one as last time), was equally filthy, covered in rodent droppings and acorn shells.

There was also the small obstacle that half the cabins in our camp were still locked when we arrived on site, and that we didn’t have enough mattresses… but those problems was quickly resolved.

I made some changes to my costuming this game. I purchased this lovely velveteen dress in dark blue (seen above) from Sofi’s Stitches via Medieval Collectibles, and made a chemise to go under it. (I also had to hem it up like… eight inches, because I am short and it is designed to be floor-length, which is less than ideal while tromping through the woods). Of course, this weekend turned out to be very hot during the day, so I only wore it at night, and even then without the tie-on sleeves.

Overall I was very happy with this addition to Ianthe’s wardrobe. It kept me sufficiently warm, even at bird o’clock, and it is relatively easy to move in. (Only problems I had were getting up from sitting/kneeling on the ground; I kept getting tangled in my hem).

One big change related to my comfort was… anti-chafing cream. (Perhaps TMI, this). Given how hot it was during the day, I didn’t want to wear an extra layer under my day dress (the same blue/yellow silk underdress plus brown suedecloth corseted overdress), so I needed something to keep my thighs from rubbing themselves raw. I invoked the power of science!!, purchasing some anti-chafing cream Friday afternoon. I’m happy to report it worked well! I walked something like 50,000 steps over the weekend, and it kept me going without discomfort. At least, not from chafing…. (ow muscles ow ow).

Enough about that! How was the actual game?

Just as great as last time. This one was… maybe less fighty than the last one? There were probably as many field fights (two on Friday, two on Saturday, and one weird hybrid one on Sunday), but there was less roving pain, overall.

One thing I struggled with this game was staying in character. I felt like I never really fully immersed in the Ianthe headspace this game. I don’t know why that is. I started to immerse on Saturday, but something about the first field fight of the day plus math hell threw me out. After that, as I got progressively more exhausted over the course of Saturday (I’d been up until 5 or 6am, and walked all over the place, while fighting), it was harder and harder to stay in character. While working on a code, I described a symbol as “looking like an Up arrow on a computer keyboard.” I mentioned email. I found myself talking about my skills mechanically (“I used my event skill that fight”). My friends gently teased me when I did, which usually brought me around temporarily. I just hope I didn’t throw anyone else off by my lapses.

Let me illustrate some of my most fun plot moments, via quotes! (Don’t read on, Wrathborn players, if you don’t want to be spoiled with Silverfire stuff).

“Or we could just make awkward small talk.”

The Arcane Circle got to meet the founder of their Order, Avelina. She was delightfully awkward, and we were delightfully fannish about her. She and Scholarch Vexus visited late Friday/early Saturday to explain a complex field fight to us, which has gone down to history as Algebraic Battleship.

Basically we had to defend three points on the field, while simultaneously solving for x and y in equations written on slates. Once we had those numbers, we then plugged them into a second equation to determine coordinates to “bomb” — basically, deflecting Avelina’s tremendous power to destroy armaments being used against the wards of the Arcane Circle’s Academy.

We took heavy losses in this fight — there was a lot of confusion about what to do, and Silverfire Knights were attacking us even as we took the field. It lent a sense of danger to the proceedings which I probably would have appreciated more if it weren’t already stupidly late. As is, I do appreciate how simultaneously merciless and yet clean fighters the Silverfire Knight NPCs are.

“So we got this math puzzle down to about forty permutations, and then we had the Veiled brute-force the rest and soak the one damage for every wrong answer.”

Another… interesting mod was one that was designed for the Golden Temple and the Arcane Circle to work together. Demons (who are the antithesis of the angels the Golden Temple draw their Power from) were protecting a lockbox with mathematical wards. We needed what was in the lockbox to bind a pair of demons I heard variously called the Infernal Brothers and the Princes of Perdition.

This would turn into the chain of adventures we called “math hell.”

The first mod we went on for this wasn’t so bad — we fought off demons while we solved a puzzle to determine the combination for the lock. The problem was tricky — what four-digit number, when divided by 2 through 9, always has a remainder of one? The cleverer members of our Order determined that we only needed to figure 5, 7, 8, and 9 into the equation, as every other number was a factor of these, so they multiplied these together, got the result 2520, and then added one. Lo, the lock opened, and we received a chain, which we were given to understand could be used to bind the Princes of Perdition, with the proper ritual.

The actual “math hell” part came later. Next we needed to get sigils representing each of the four elements, in order to imbue the chain with power. This meant four groups went to do a very similar mod to the first — fight demons, get a combination to unlock a box.

Except there were complications. I was the first group, and we were tasked with an algebra problem with tangled wording. Despite all that, we found the solution fairly quickly.

But our guide had programmed the lock wrong, transposing two of the numbers.

We spent thirty more minutes banging our head against it before he realized it, and declared the lock opened by the power of Plot. I acquired the shiny yellow and black marble that represented Air (yellow for lightning, I was told).

Other groups faced their own challenges, some easier, some harder. Perhaps the most amusing one I heard of spawned the quote above!

Eventually on Saturday night/Sunday morning we had acquired all four symbols, and needed to do a ritual. Kaelin Umber (Melissa C) drafted the structure of a ritual to imbue the chain, and she and Friedrich Von Nida (Stephen G), Kein Vyland (Matt B), and myself carried it out. We each got to say a few words about the power of our element, and then we united all the sigils in a circle formed by the chain. It was a small thing, but this is one of my fondest memories from the weekend.

“That crown [of the Silverfire King] sure is something.”
“Yeah. Somebody’s compensating.”

The meta-plot of this game was that the Silverfire King — yanno, the guy who declared us all traitors last game — wanted to treat with us. He would come with only a few of his barons and have a chat with us, but in return he gave us a list of hostages he demanded. We could send others, but for every replacement we had to send two Champions instead of one.

Rolant was on the list of hostages, but Ianthe was not, so I got to play out being the worried sister. “If you die, I’ll be waiting at the Gate to kill you again,” might have been uttered.

This played out after lunch on Saturday, and a looooong time was spent in talks with His Royal Cuckoo McCrazypants Majesty. He seems to be under the impression that Power was something he gave to us all 50 years ago, and that any stories of the Orders having Power before then are just “legends.” He also has a telltale left-shift to his eyes when certain questions are asked — I would have read it as just deception, but some saw it as him listening to an invisible voice. Like the Silver Lady we’ve all heard so much about…

The king’s offer was this: help him defeat the Order of the Bloodred Moon, which is a threat to us all, and he won’t ask the Champions to give up Power again until after that threat is eliminated. He seems to have backed down on disbanding Orders and warbands. Still thinks the Veiled should just give up their Power and stop existing, though!

I believe he agreed to stop avenging himself on innocents, but as it transpired later in the weekend, he has an interesting definition of “innocents.” People who share a source of water with Ebonfall? Farmers who provide food to the town? Clearly not innocent, in his eyes.

At the end, someone out and out asked him about the Silver Lady. He vehemently denied knowing anything, of course.

Some of this I witnessed; some I heard secondhand, as Ianthe bored easily of the King’s evasions, and after I while I escaped to fight the Bloodred Moon (who of course chose this time to attack) and hang out by the Gate with other Champions and discuss our relative ages.

“So… do you study genetics in real life?”

… is what James, the game owner, asked me before game, while everyone was still gathering in the dining hall. This is relevant because Ianthe has an interest in heredity; lacking, say, genetic assays, though, her study is mostly probabilities. I told him that I did not (aside from the very basics), but I did study statics. “Good,” was his cryptic reply, before walking away.

Of course, then I wondered when I would be sent on the mod that involved filling out Punnett squares…

A use for Ianthe’s knowledge of heredity did come up, however! For Reasons, there is a question of heredity which the Umber sisters asked her to probe, with her newly-acquired Divination info skill…

“All you people with straw hats look the same.”

One of the mods we did on Saturday night involved helping the Disciples of the Tempest protect a monastery from an attack by Silverfire forces. The mod was hooked by Beaker* as one of the Tempest abbots. The quote in question was uttered by me, when I failed to tell him apart from Kaiden, another tall Tempest PC, played by Rob C.

* I don’t actually know Beaker’s really name, but he fits his nickname very well. I know him as the guy wot plays the Silverfire King, mostly. Which has led to us wanting to make image memes involving the muppet Beaker with a silver crown.

This turned out to be a fun, challenging mod. It started as a line fight where we were protecting the path to the monastery. Then the Tempest folks broke away and did their own thing for a time; when they came back, Kaala (Hannah R) gathered our warband and went to another point on the field, which we designated South. There were three other cardinal directions, too, and at each one, a Tempest PC had to do a two minute kata, wait for the next group, do a one minute kata, wait again, and finally do a thirty second kata, and then run around the points in order, as part of the ritual to push back the Silverfire attackers.

While, of course, still being attacked.

It was challenging, fighting in small groups like this, and I blew through all my healing and my attributes, as did the other healer in our group (Renfield, Chris S’s Veiled PC, and the Heart of the Warband). But Kaala finally signaled that she was successful.

And that… that was not all, but it sure is a lot. I should save some of the floon for writing my PEL…

Crossover thoughts, or: the weightlessness of us as things around begin to shift

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Credit: crossfox.us (although they appear to no longer be selling this item on their site — I found it on Pinterest)

Crossover, a new Accelerant LARP starting in spring 2016, is now accepting character concepts.

I alluded else-web to having hesitations about playing, and I wanted to elaborate on that a bit.

To be clear, my hesitations have very little to do with the game itself. By all accounts the staff is experienced and talented, and this will be a great game.

What is — currently — keeping me from playing is a bevy of personal issues.

So here are my hesitations:

1. Do I even have time for another boffer larp?

Right now I only PC one boffer larp (5G Silverfire). Which, yes, is fewer games per year than most Accelerant larps.

But I have perm NPC commitments to Shadows of Amun and Cottington Woods. I also have promised to generally show up and NPC 5G Wrathborn games.

Shadows and Cottington are ending, but not until Crossover has already started. Which means that if I played XO, I’d have NO FREE WEEKENDS AT ALL OMG next spring.

I like free weekends. I like them a lot. I’d go so far as to say they are necessary to my physical and mental health. Last spring, I got very ill before I was supposed to NPC for Wrathborn 1, which was pretty much my body telling me “slow the fuck down, Lise.” Also I just begin to hate myself and the world and everybody else in it. So, you know. NBD.

It’s not just the larp weekends themselves, even. There are all the other weekends and week nights where I sacrifice whatever else I want to do (writing, playing ESO, reading, dicking around on the internet, getting drunk, whatever) to prep for the games. Writing character histories. Making costuming. Reading rules docs and generating a character. Memorizing calls and incants. Sparring/fight practice. NPCing other games to get CP.

I realize time is wibbly-wobbly, and to some extent it’s a question of priority. But that’s something only I can decide.

2. I’m not sure how well my character concept fits in the world.

See, I do have a character concept. I even have an entire Pinterest board for a character who may never exist.

Almost a year ago now, I saw the Faithful of the Moon theme and zeroed in on it. I decided I wanted to make some sort of elvish rogue, inspired partially by Warcraft’s night elves, partially by the Elder Scrolls Dunmer. Like the Dunmer’s Morag Tong, she was going to be from a culture that practiced sanctioned, legal assassination… until suddenly it wasn’t acceptable, and she was left holding the bag, banished from her homeland to make an example for the benefit of outsiders.

I did talk to Kat D, one of the staff, about my concept yesterday, and she seemed to think this was an idea that can fit in well as a native of Ariath — there are elves, there is a region which is, at the start of game, basically a mass of small warring countries that would be perfect for her to be from, and the concept would not need to be as melee-dependent as I feared. (I suck at melee).

So that was encouraging.

Then I went home and had CRAZY IDEAS and suddenly I was awake at 2am writing a character history for her. (Feel free to read, if you don’t mind being spoiled if I do play. It is… very rough, and everything you would expect from my 2am brain).

I still have hesitations — I think I am too much the writer, and not sure this character and culture I’ve created have a place in Ariath. I don’t love the name I’ve given her — it is quite literally the name of the nelf rogue I used to play in WoW.

But.

In the process of writing this, I came up with a concept which could get around my hesitation #3:

3. Other people

L’enfer, c’est les autres, eh?

This is not a slight on any of my MANY friends who are playing. It’s just… they’re all way more into this than I am?

The folks who are playing the faun race, the Hindren, have literally been planning this for two years now. They have all their ties already set up, already know their builds, already have their team. This is true of other, less furry groups, too.

Crossover already feels very cliqueish to me — not that I want to be part of any particular group I know exists. But I’m worried I’m always going to be on the outside looking in.

But if I have a character who has given up everything she has ever known, and who must build her life all over again… well, then it makes sense starting game with no more than weak ties to other characters. It will be challenging, but instead of a social challenge for Lise-the-player, it becomes an RP challenge. How does she fit in here, how does she show her value?

Relatedly, I just read a book which mentioned the story of a Dutch trader in the 17th century who was shipwrecked in Korea, and was forced to spend the rest of his life there, by edict of the king at the time. Quite unpredictably, he thrived; he became a gunsmith for the royal armory, married a Korean woman, and had two sons. When other Dutch showed up thirty years later, he could barely speak his native tongue any more. That second batch were held to the same edict; most of them tried to escape and were generally pretty unhappy there.

Which got me to thinking: what is it like to never be able to go home? What makes some people thrive in that situation, and others founder?

Having lived abroad, I know exactly how bewildering that first month, three months, a year are. I remember thinking, in my first weeks in France, how different everything was; how it was like learning to live again.

That’s the kind of feeling I want to capture with Melesarla — a native of Ariath, but still an outsider.

If I play.

Which I still don’t know ๐Ÿ™

How about you? Are you playing? Will you try to sway me one way or another? ๐Ÿ˜‰

A view from the monster desk

Tentacle Monster Working

So Fair Escape is dying to know what it was like staffing “monster desk” for Cottington Woods. She wants to know:

What were the biggest challenges, the busiest moments, the last minute fixes? Methods used to keep track of stuff?… Did most stuff run much longer than expected? Most interesting modules to prep? Unexpected setbacks?

First, a definition: “monster desk” is what some larps call the person(s) responsible for keeping monster camp (i.e. the staff/cast headquarters) running. What exactly this involves varies from game to game, but I think it’s legit to say it involves tactical response to needs that arise in the game. They aren’t writing plot, and for the most part, they aren’t going on mods, but they are doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make sure the game keeps running — preferably on time.

Basically, it’s logistics.

In Cottington those urgent needs are often like “I need stats for a giant plant,” “can you print these tags?” or “can I look at the writeup for this mod?” In other games, monster desk might handle costuming, makeup, or NPC food.

I’ve also been in games that didn’t have monster desks — arguably it’s a role you don’t need someone to do permanently if the individual staff can do these things on a self-service basis. Shadows of Amun, for example, doesn’t have a monster desk, but there’s a printer if, say, you’ve realized you forgot to print something you need; and there’s usually at least one staff member in monster camp at all times.

But anyway. My first big responsibility for monster desk was something I took on myself. Cottington almost never has writeups (or tags, or stat cards) for mods printed out beforehand, which can cause significant delays when it comes time to run those mods. On hearing I was slotted to work the desk, I decided to at least handle the printing for Friday’s mods.

In particular, I wanted to get a headstart on the printing needs for the mod called “Alice Rescues the Cat,” which was a giant, all-town mod which would take up the entire early evening. Among the moving parts were pages of letters which the NPCs were going to give out as loot, seventeen trivia questions with a complex “lift a flap to reveal a letter” mechanic, tags for each of eight vision circles, tags for a few different gates, and tags for another seventeen or eighteen nodes of insight.

Printing this was a massive undertaking, and I’m SO GLAD I decided to do it beforehand — I can’t imagine printing all those tags at game. Assembling the tags then took even more work. I ended up arriving on site at around 6:30pm — late for me — and spending until 9pm assembling everything — cutting out the hundreds of letters, filing the mod writeups I’d printed out, and putting together the question tags. (Thanks to Gaylord and new larper Kristina, who helped with these). The truck with all the Monster Camp gear (including printers, scissors, tape, etc) arrived on the early side, which was helpful, as I desperately needed tape for assembling the question tags.

By the time I was done assembling, it was time to set up — well past it, in fact. It’s all kind of a blur in here, but basically my work at this junction involved getting the NPCs stats (a printing need I had neglected, requiring the printer to get set up before I could do anything), making sure all the equipment we needed went up to the mod space at the hangar (nightmare costumes, fairy costumes, rope lights, fog machine, speakers and iPods, etc), getting myself into costume (because I had not one, but two roles to play in this mod!), running up to the hangar (already late), and trying to follow Michelle (the plot writer’s) instructions to set the mod up.

Setup for this mod was the worst part of the evening. I was dehydrated, being eaten alive by mosquitos, and trying to figure out obscure instructions by flashlight.

A word on obscure instructions: When I had printed the tags, I remember having a moment of “oh, I have no idea how these are supposed to work… oh well, Michelle can tell me that.” In fact Michelle could not tell me, as she was busy playing her NPC Gwyndalyne and entertaining the PCs until we could get this mod rolling. This is often the case at this game — Michelle cannot bi-locate, and as the game owner often needs to be sixteen different places at once — and so I don’t know why I had the illusion that she would be there for setup. But that was the expectation I had, and nothing seems to trouble me more than rumpled expectations.

Did I mention it was raining? And that half of the battery-powered rope lights were not working? And that while I had a few able assistants (Alex P, Scott M, and Gaylord deserve massive kudos for the work they did), the majority of the NPCs were standing around in the hangar shooting the breeze? (To be fair, it’s what I’d be doing if I weren’t given a job, too. And I was far too busy to give more than a couple people jobs).

And the clock was ticking. We were already… an hour late? I was overwhelmed with a sense of “everything is going wrong and it’s all my fault.” In the past I’ve gotten through stressful times at Cottington by telling myself “not my circus, not my monkeys” — but now it was my circus*, and the monkeys weren’t dancing in time.

* It may not in fact have been my circus, but it felt like it more than it ever had.

As a result, I ended up acting embarrassingly childish. I threw the battery lights. I reamed out John (Michelle’s husband, plot writer, and game co-owner) when he came up to brief the NPCs. Scott later described me as “flipping tables”. During my lapse in sanity, however, Alex and the other helpful NPCs acted like adults and made the judgement calls I seemed mentally incapable of making.

Anyway, the mod finally got started, I have no idea how late. The PCs progressed through it veeeeery slooooowly. At one point the PCs were stymied because they needed a letter T for one of the question tags, and none of the NPCs had any to give as loot. We ended up turning an I into a T with a pen. (Problem solving!)

So that was most of my Friday night. It answers “biggest challenge,” “busiest moments,” and “last minute fixes” questions in one fell swoop!

It got better from there. To be fair, I don’t think I would have been doing so much setup if it weren’t for the fact that I was in the mod. Plus, the rest of the weekend I had the ever-competent Holly, fellow logistics person, to hold my hand and assure me that the monkeys were, in fact, going to be all right.

As a result, the prep for the back-to-back Invasive Fight/Mothlands mods on Saturday night went much more smoothly. There, my part involved:

  • Making sure there were stats for the Invasive Animals attacking in the first mod
  • Making sure there were stats for the Aranea, the giant invasive-eating moths in the second mod. (Here I employed my time-tested strategy of “make somebody do it who knows Accelerant better than I do.”)
  • Making sure there were printouts for the “hive mother” Aranea who were going to be doing a series of terrible calls to the invasive-infected PCs.
  • Giving instructions to the half of the NPCs who weren’t going to be in the first mod to set up Alumni Field. This may have led to two NPCs holding up glow-in-the-dark spider webs to the light in Monster Camp for a half hour. (Their idea, not mine. I’m not a cruel taskmistress).
  • Made sure all the Aranea costumes got carted up to Alumni Field along with the spider webbing.

Notice how none of this involves setting up glow-in-the-dark spiderwebs in the dark myself? That’s how it’s supposed to work. It does, sadly, mean I never got to see how it looked, but I’ll live with that.

Other questions…

Methods used to keep track of stuff?

Like most games I’ve NPCed, Cottington has a color-coded schedule on the wall that lists mod names, NPCs, and mod spaces. We typically schedule in 1.5 hour blocks (an improvement from the one-hour blocks we had when I started NPCing); the Friday night mod was scheduled for 3 hours, and it still ran over.

On top of that, we have a Google Drive folder with all the writeups (such as they are — some are more sketchy than others), and the staff site, which has a “Book of Beasts” that lists stats for common monsters. (Pro-tip: not nearly as much is in the Book of Beasts as you would hope).

The usual workflow of an NPC is read the schedule –> read the writeup (if it’s printed; otherwise get a logistics person to print it out first) –> grab a costume (with help from our talented costume/makeup maven, Sarah N, if needed) –> grab stats –> go help with setup. Stats may just be rambled at you (“you have 8 Vitality, take a Maim or an Agony every other life,” etc) or you may get a slip of paper with stats. I tried to make sure there were stat printouts for the bigger combat mods ahead of time, but I didn’t always succeed.

I also tried to keep a donations sheet (which we never seem to do, and I worry that PCs don’t get their donation CP) and an NPC sign-in sheet.

Did most stuff run much longer than expected?

Hmm… we’re always off-schedule, but I’m not sure it’s that stuff runs long so much as there’s slippage due to various factors.

Factor number one is not giving ourselves enough time for prep — the Friday night Alice mod, for example, probably should have had an hour of prep written into it, in addition to the three-hour run time.

Factor number two is, I think, an issue of NPC empowerment. It’s not always clear who the mod runner is — who’s responsible for pulling the NPCs together, gathering props, setting up the space, and hooking the mod. Sometimes it’s the author, but 80% of the mods are written by Michelle, and she generally isn’t available to do this stuff. And when it’s something anyone can do, no one does it.

In general if I’m written up to be the hook, I consider myself to be the mod runner. If someone tells me I’m the mod runner, I’m the mod runner. When in doubt, I read the writeup, put on a costume, and look helpful. Unfortunately, not everyone does the same thing.

Sunday was arguably our most on-track day, and I think it’s because at the beginning of the day I said, “Okay, NPCs, check the schedule and see what mod you’re in at 10am. Consider yourself empowered to run it, if necessary.” Stuff still went askew (a lot of stuff had to get canceled because the prerequisite mod from Friday or Saturday hadn’t run) but a greater percentage of mods ran than on any other day.

Factor number three in time slippage is definitely just the sheer number of mods that are supposed to run at any given time. It varies between five and ten mods in any given spot! I think part of this is an artifact of the campaign ending soon — we only have three more games to fit everything in.

We typically deal with slippage with a Saturday night huddle — this game was no different. Here, we (meaning Holly and myself) sat down with Michelle and John and prioritized what mods must run and what can be deferred until tomorrow or until next game. Sometimes it’s three mods that must run before dinner, and we have no idea how we’ll get through that, but we somehow manage. If you saw Robin and his letter from Silk, that was a mod that had to happen which we pulled off against all odds.

Most interesting modules to prep?

I think prepping the back-to-back Invasive Fight/Mothlands mod was the most interesting — it also went arguably the smoothest. There was interesting costuming, interesting mechanics, and interesting set dressing to arrange. And, for the most part, we pulled it off!

Unexpected setbacks?

I didn’t expect us to be operating with one printer that would only print in color. If you saw any tags printed in dark blue instead of black, that was why…

I also didn’t expect that so much stuff would be in Word files that Jay (the usual monster desk person) saved to John’s computer… once I realized that, it made finding things a lot easier…

I guess that’s all I have to say about working monster desk. It is hard work, but it is tremendously rewarding when a mod goes off on time and the PCs enjoy it.

Obligatory disclaimer: Nothing I write here should be construed as the official word of Cottington Woods. I’m not even a staffer — I’m just someone who didn’t step back fast enough when they were looking for logistics people ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m alive; Dickens isn’t

R.W. Buss' unfinished watercolor, "Dickens's Dream."
R.W. Buss’ unfinished watercolor, “Dickens’s Dream.”

Have not been posting because I’ve been run ragged. I’ve finally got a moment to catch my breath, so here, enjoy a summary post.

LARP

The spring of living most larpily is almost over. Cottington Woods was last weekend, and I worked logistics/monster desk, and it was stressful, but I learned a lot, and would do it again.

(One day someone will ask me to staff a campaign larp, and Matt won’t give me a meaningful stare quickly enough).

This upcoming weekend I may go out to Witchwood for a few hours on Saturday — or not, depending on if someone can be found for a certain role. Then on Sunday the Eyrie, my 5G group, is crashing the high tea at Camelot Co-Housing and having an RP day.

Health

I am almost over my nasty cold that has lingered far longer than expected. I thought I was better going into this weekend, actually, but then it was 4am in the woods on Saturday and I couldn’t stop coughing long enough to fall asleep.

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot.

Still in the middle of Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend. (How appropriate to mention — today is the anniversary of his death). It’s still delightful. I am developing a deep love of Dickens’ character studies. My reading is enhanced by the Our Mutual Friend Reading Project, and the related Our Mutual Friend Tweets. Of course I love the Eugene Wrayburn tweets the best:

Thanks to the exquisite Maggie D. for pointing me towards this wonder.

While I couldn’t sleep in the woods, I started reading Mistress of Fortune by Holly West. I’d picked up the epub over a year ago now, when I saw a promotional post West had written for it on Chuck Wendig’s blog. It sounded interesting — a mistress of Charles II secretly works as a fortune teller and investigates murders and tries to keep the king from being assassinated. And it is interesting, but I have hesitations.

West knows her history, I’ll give her that, and she paints a vivid picture of the time period. My issues aren’t with any of that.

The prose is workman-like, nothing to write home about, except for a few weird non-sequiturs which I feel should have been caught in editing. (This is small press? Or self-pub? I’m not sure which, but definitely not Big 3).

The plot is strange, and yet strangely compelling. The main character, Isabel, has all this busy backstory that informs her character, but it often times feels dropped on the reader. Isabel also starts the novel estranged from the king — whose assassination she is trying to prevent — and it takes a third of the book for us to even meet the character of Charles. It feels a bit like West is veering violently away from any interesting conflict. At one point Isabel goes to meet Lord Danby, and Charles starts walking towards them… and then literally turns around and walks away. It feels like the plot walking out the door.

Of course, that’s only an illusion, because stuff is happening. We’re just not sure of the significance of it yet.

Found it interesting that Sam, Isabel’s… bodyguard(?), is just casually gay, too.

Weird how Isabel reacts to Charles’ other mistresses. I mean, historically, he had tons, and I often wonder how they felt about each other. Isabel has this oddly acute jealousy; the book is full of moments where one historical mistress or another is name dropped (Lady Castlemaine, Nell Gwyn, etc) and Isabel is all, “ugh, I don’t like her.” I mean, I understand jockeying for position among the various lovers, but I guess I don’t understand this feeling Isabel has of wanting to be the only one in the king’s heart. It seems a completely unreasonable expectation for that situation.

We’ll see where it goes from here. So far it’s keeping me engaged.

Finally, I’ve also been reading Barbara Oakley’s A Mind for Numbers, and working through the related Coursera course, Learning How to Learn.

Writing

I made progress on Lioness in May, though not the 10k words I had hoped for. (It was more like 3k). I also edited my two Weekend Warrior flash pieces and sent them out to betas. Got some useful feedback which I am still digesting, but I probably won’t send it to anyone else, as I’ve already got more to think about than I know how to resolve. Thank you to everyone who offered, though.

Other

I will be at Readercon. I’m skipping the Cottington summer one-day to attend.

I have a one-week staycation coming up in July. My current plan is to devote it entirely to writing and cleaning.

Our second mortgage will be paid off this month — woohoo! On a related note, I need to buy airfare for Consequences. Matt and I are thinking of stopping over in Dublin for a couple of days on the way there.

Penny the Scarab goes to Luxor

Shadows of Amun was this weekend, and as a perm NPC, I was there. It was our first game in 30BC, and I had fun being various characters, from murderous slaves to Roman charioteers.

But the most fun I had was being a talking bug.

When I got to Monster Camp on Friday, I heard those magical words from Quick: “I have a role for you.” Apparently I was slated to play a scarab drone gifted to the PCs as part of a truce with the local hive. I was initially a little bit dismayed, as I’d planned to go home in this time slot (12am-2am on Saturday night/Sunday morning), but once the module was explained to me I looked forward to it all weekend.

(For a little context as to why this was so awesome, scarabs are a recurring monster in this game. Indeed, the whole reason we’re time traveling is to prevent the Scarabpocalypse of 1919. The equivalent in a high fantasy larp would be something like “go play this baby goblin that was gifted to the PCs”).

“Do I have a name?” I asked Quick.
“No — you don’t have a concept of names. Though if the PCs give you one, you’ll answer to it.”

“Any bets on how long it will take the PCs to put ribbons in your mandibles?” Matt said.

It didn’t take long at all for me to get named — pretty much the trip from the beach to Monster Camp. I was gifted to Mrs. Loring, the PCs’ own hive queen (played by Amy W), and she decided I should be named Penny, because as a sister to the hive queen I was a proto-princess. Though Loring’s first instructions were to hide, I warned her I would come to her if she was in danger — because I knew I was scheduled to go out and fight on the side of the PCs in Sunday’s field fight.

On Sunday morning Quick and Lackey were discussing the field fight, and who would brief the PCs — usually an NPC who is fighting on the side of the PCs is the one who explains how the fight will work. They ruled out Jesse doing it as Marcus Antonius (as he had no IC reason to know how it would work), which basically left the task to me. Right — free three buildings of “food,” lure out the Priestess of Serket. It was my first time fulfilling so important a role, and… I think I did all right?

BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY. When I came out as Penny, Mrs. Loring decided that I needed something to distinguish me, so that the other PCs wouldn’t think I was a hostile scarab and attack me. She sent Malcolm to grab a scarf from her cabin. Hence, while not bows in my mandibles, I did end up with a colorful sash.

IMG_0640
Penny’s identifying markings. I was urged to keep this, both IC and OOC, and since in Shadows individual NPCs generally hold on to their own face costuming…

… I have my first token from a player. It’s kind of adorable.

I hope I can come back as Penny in a future game. I have so many embarrassing things to say to the rest of the hive!

The Eyrie Goes to the Beach, part 1 of ??

“What is this?” Breath hissed through Falcon’s veil as he spoke. Snarling would be too much emotion for one of his Order, but his voice teetered on a precipice.

“It’s a lake,” Ianthe replied. “With water. You do remember water, don’t you?” She had traded her heavy boots for sandals, and she lifted a foot out of one, and toed the water.

“I have never seen water this… color.” He surveyed the far shore, his eyes flicking. “And I don’t recall there being a lake here. Before Ebonfall–”

“It wasn’t here before Ebonfall, I don’t think.”

The crack of a twig, and Ren joined them, leaning on his bone polearm. “The legend goes that this is where the Abomination called Shattershank fell, rending the earth beneath it. It bled ice for three days, and made a lake of this hollow. The ice melted after some long time, but the water never regained its… natural color.”

The water was the color of the sky at twilight — a deep, clouded blue, lit as if from beneath.

More footsteps behind them. Nu gasped. “It looks like… the Periphery!”

Ianthe sighed, rolled her eyes. “Nothing so dramatic. It’s perfectly safe to swim in.” She shucked off her sandals, stripped down to her chemise.

She didn’t reach the water before Kaala, who raced past her companions, down a pier, to take a cannonball leap into the water. The Tempest warrior was soon swimming for a distant island, red panda makeup streaking off her face.

“Did she just–” Nu began, pointing toward the retreating Disciple.

“I believe she had no clothes on, yes,” Ren confirmed. “Is that not how one swims?”

Rolant was there, too, now. “Care to join her?” He raised an eyebrow suggestively at Nu.

“I’M NOT LISTENING,” Ianthe replied, making a show of covering her ears. She waded into the shallows. The water was cool, and little white fishes swarmed around her ankles.

Cadi and Hedi arrived next, in a pair. “Uncle Ren,” Cadi said, her tone one of a patient teacher, “Remember how some people guard their smallclothes like you guard your veil?”

His eyes narrowed thoughtfully, “I remember, yes. Modesty just strikes me as a strange pretense, these days. But as you will.” With a nod, he wandered off, towards the line of pine trees that lined the beach.

Falcon seemed unmoved. He crossed his arms in front of him. “Veiled cannot swim. We lack the necessary air and fat to provide buoyancy.”

Ianthe waded up to her knees in the water. “I… don’t think it works like that.”

Ren appeared from the tree line, baring more skin that Ianthe had never seen on a Veiled before. He had stripped to a loin-cloth — black, of course. His corpse-white pallor reflected the sun with blinding radiance. Of course, he still wore his Veil, perfectly in place. “I have prepared myself,” he announced, spreading his arms wide.

Rolant grinned, leaning on his sword. “What’s your excuse now, Falcon?”

Join us next time, when Ianthe and Rolant conjure up an inflatable raft, and explain Boyle’s Law in the process!

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

mรถbius strip test

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.