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’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 — 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).
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.
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 😉
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.
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 😉
(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 😉 )
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 😉 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 🙁
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.”
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.
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!