in Blog, LARP

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˜‰

14 Comments

  1. One thing I think it’s important to remember – even if you don’t come to the first two events, that doesn’t mean you can’t come at all. Sure, you’ll miss some stuff, but it doesn’t have to be “Health or ever playing this campaign at all,” it can be “health and having a slightly less optimal start” if that’s what you need.

    • Thank you — this is a very good point. And not having an optimal start would probably be fine with the concept I’ve come up with.

      • Chris and I are seriously considering starting in the Fall, after Cottington and Shadows have both ended and things are a little less insane.

    • I might compromise with myself on this and NPC the first couple of events — that way if I do want to PC, I at least have some small grasp on what’s been going on and so won’t be quite as behind if/when I do start PCing.

  2. Cliquish larps…

    There isn’t a lot staff can do about it. Well, maybe there is. In shadows we tried to blow up the cliques by creating Dark Secrets that made new cliques. The idea was that there would be a bunch of different circles.. Not sure if it worked. And with the Dom we designed them as a clique, with lots of incentive to break that mold.

    7V had the social space mostly be the cabins. That meant the cool kids with the cool cabins sat in them and plot came to them. There was some small social space, but since few people hung out there, few NPCs would hook there, and thus everyone went to the cabins. Putting everyone in one room does a lot to allow plot bleed-over, at least.

    Endgame we broke the team model, and we did it as players. Theoretically there were teams, almost everyone came in with one. You could even say I did, but ours was inherently broken. We were a shield wall that NEEDED other people. But early on we as players decided the town was more important, that elections were important. That working together was important. The one team that didn’t learn this quickly became isolated. All the other teams merged, faded away, and no one knew what Archive, Lead Pipe, Blackburns, or the Chain Gang really was anymore. We were just Temple.

    Mac, the lead writer for both Endgame and Crossover, wrote mechanics to encourage us. But mostly we, as players, built a culture of cooperation. If your character is isolated and only friends with a few people, then you won’t be adding to that culture. But if you are an outsider who is devoted to the community above individual cliques, will help anyone who needs it, and treats everyone on their own merits, then we may be able to make another reduced-clique game.

    • *nod* These are good insights. I don’t really expect cliquishness to be a problem solved by the writers/staff, tbh; it’s a function of human nature.

      I want to be a character that *wants* to find a new community. I’m just not certain how likely it is to succeed. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s kind of how I want to play?

      We’ll see.

      • It is also the hope to shuffle the Cliques around in a way similar to 5G. People will have teams, but there will be a lot of theme plot that will break up their teams by making them play with other people with their themes.

      • That’s interesting — I loved the way Temple felt like a community, but I felt the presence of player-created cliques very strongly, even though I only PCed maybe two or three games and NPCed one. (My perspective might be skewed because Sunshine was firmly in the 8th Street gang/frat, but I felt like there were others.)

        I don’t think cliquishness is a problem that must be solved by writers/staff, but I think some of the problems that grow out of them do eventually become writers/staff problems. For example, if somehow one group is hoarding information, and getting noticeably disproportionate amounts of attention/loot/plot, whatever. But I do think the staff has lots of ways to achieve more interactions among players who aren’t friends in real life (and ironically, I think some of the mechanics that reinforce or even create cliques can be powerful tools for that.) And I’d personally be really interested in playing a LARP that focused on it. (Or happy to see it happen more in the LARPs I’m already involved with.)

        • (and ironically, I think some of the mechanics that reinforce or even create cliques can be powerful tools for that.)

          I’m intrigued by this proposition, and want to hear more. You mean stuff like forcing members of disparate groups to work together in certain mods?

          In which case, I wonder if the hostage situation in 5G Silverfire this past weekend was exactly that… because otherwise the selection of who went vs. who stayed seemed pretty random.

          • Yes, exactly.

            Specifically, in Cottington Woods and Silverfire, the cliques have mechanical tags associated with them (hearths and warbands) which enables the staff to split us up along those lines. A magic ritual could easily have “five people must work together, with no more than one person from each hearth/warband”. Or “you can only enter the maze in groups of three, with no more than one person per warband/hearth”. Or “your magic healing has been cursed, and until you find the MacGuffin, it only applies to members of this warband/hearth that isn’t your own” or wandering monsters can call “BMV expose -warband/heart trait” then do “large/problematic effect X to Warband/Hearth Trait” if more than one person responds to the expose. I love my hearth in CW and my Warband in SF, but I would totally relish an experience where I’m encouraged to get to know some other PCs much better. I’ve played Cottington for three years now, and probably haven’t said more than two words to a fair number of them.

            The hostage situation encouraged a little bit of blending, although because there were multiple people from every warband, we could have spent much of the time only conversing with our usual people. (We spent a lot of it in small conversations with NPCs.) And some of the plot going on inside was specific to specific warbands. (I mean, at least one plot that I know of. No idea if the other warbands had their own plot going on in there.)

          • (I can apparently only reply to myself at this point; comments won’t nest any further, but:)

            I think I agree. It’s been my general observation that things that exist mechanically are easier to disrupt than things that don’t. So yes, you could have mods like, “we need one person from each warband!” to encourage warbands to work together.

            But if what you have is a group of people who don’t have a single trait or characteristic that makes them a ‘group,’ but who all came into game together and only want to interact with each other…. that’s harder to break up.

            I do like that Silverfire seems to be encouraging the Orders to work together — like, math hell wasn’t *just* an Arcane Circle mod; it was Arcane Circle and Golden Temple. The whole town had to fight the Necromancers that were the concern of the Veiled. And the final fight on Sunday broke us down not by warbands or groups, but by combat roles, which was interesting. Indeed, it introduced me to Torias Drakesford, and probably the rest of the Eyrie to Kein Vyland and Friedrich Von Nida.

            In conclusion, the way to fight cliques is apparently by making more cliques ๐Ÿ™‚

          • I’ve been pondering the “if the group doesn’t have some mechanical label, how do you enforce mingling” for awhile. I had an idea where sometime during the first or second event of a campaign, there’s some magic spell where you cannot join up with people whose names you know. So, “you can only go into the maze three at a time, and only people whose names you don’t know can accompany you” or “this one-time healing spell will only work if you don’t know the person’s name”. I think that could be really cool for the first event or two, but after that it works less and less well, and if you use this more than a few times, you start to incentivize people to not get to know one another, because there might be future spells where you need to have people you don’t know.

            Other options might be “you have to team up with someone you haven’t known for more than a day” or “someone you have not spoken to yet this weekend” or “someone you have not cast a healing spell on this year”.

            Then there’s always just… randomly assigning teams “in order to defeat this demon, the whole town must work in teams of three, and everyone pulls a random number out of a bag” or having NPCs show up asking for help from a group of people the staff knows don’t hang out together. (Which will either need them to come up with a reason, or else use another “this is the Demon of Randomness and he wants you three, randomly!” kind of a thing.)

            I also really liked the required cooperation of two different Orders — it’s usually only one Order, or everyone, so the Arcane Circle/Horned One mod was really cool that way. The Veiled one was cool because I often really want to know what’s going on with Orders/Headers other than my own, but to me it didn’t really interact with relationships at all.

            The final battle where we broke down by battle roles was really cool — I felt like I was actually interacting with other ranged people in a meaningful way (though I did still end up working a lot with other Eyrie people), and it’s really important to make sure ranged fighters and healers aren’t just backing up the front line stars of the show.

            (Eventually this is all going to end up in a post about group dynamics…)

          • In theater LARPs, players are often grouped into teams in multiple ways, with extensive overlap between teams. (Ex Ignorantia is a very good example of this.) Is there a way to do that in boffer LARPs?

            Possible answers, some or all of which may be crackpot ideas:

            1. Actually encouraging players to pick 2 (or 3?) orthogonal factions. Maybe there are warbands, but also a closed list of deities, who give their followers small mechanical advantages or disadvantages in a skill or two so that there’s incentive for warband members to specialize, with different members following different deities.

            2. Trying to set up a non-mechanized 2*2 system, let’s say country and profession. It can be formal (a guild of healers – guild in the medieval sense, not in the WoW sense), or it can be informal, e.g. a boss monster yelling at each warband to send over its best champion for a duel or a magical puzzle or something.

            All of this is easy to do if it’s a theater LARP and the writers come up with all the characters. Then it’s even possible to play with parallels – i.e. vary the relationship between (say) healer 1 and the rest of party 1, healer 2 and the rest of party 2, etc. In a boffer LARP, I don’t know to what extent people write their characters in groups in Accelerant, and I don’t feel like this is easy to do if people write characters individually.

          • Alon: those are good ideas, and you can do a fair amount of that in boffer larps. 5G Silverfire, for example, has both warbands and Orders, and you can also break things down by combat roles (which is true in any boffer game, I suppose). In Shadows, people tend to break down by header (class), Dark Secrets, Western vs. non-Western vs. Dom, and other dimensions I’m probably oblivious to as an NPC. (There are also a lot of “silent” dimensions, which are people who came in together with shared histories and want to interact in game).

            But of course, since people write their own characters, it’s harder to *enforce* diversity across these lines. In 5G, t largest Order, for example, is the Veiled; there are more than twice as many Veiled as the Primarchs (the smallest Order). And I’m not sure what one can do about that… except maybe to incentivize/handicap smaller numbers in some ways.

            The extent to which much boffer larpers collaborate on characters seems to vary tremendously. Since Accelerant tends very much to be “what you know, you know,” and eschews the idea of OOC knowledge, people don’t often share their written backstories/character concepts with other players. That said, creating ties with other players (i.e. “ooh, wouldn’t it be cool if you were my sister?”) is very encouraged, and often incentivized, and sharing builds is pretty typical. Within groups, especially. (And groups can be mechanically recognized — hearths in Cottington, warbands in 5G — or just groups of people with shared history, as I mentioned above).

            All of this, I think, speaks to breaking up cliques by adding more cliques ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Where cliques is really just another dimension you can divide players by).

            Adina, I also really like your ideas about incentivizing team-ups outside of the usual factions/dimensions! That could be really neat. As you’re more experienced than I am, have you ever seen a larp do something like that?

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