in Blog, LARP

It was an exhausting and exhilarating and strange weekend at Intercon O, and I am feeling some serious con crash now πŸ™

For posterity, what I did:

I spent much of Thursday daytime having a panic attack, because this is how I greet Intercon, apparently. Maybe one day this won’t be so, but this year, at least, I was freaking out about preparing my panels and getting up to speed with all the characters I’d be playing.

Pre-con: I participated in a bunch of panels — so many that I was basically incoherent at the end of Thursday, having talked and thought too much that day. These panels were:

  • Turning a Work of Fiction Into a LARP (moderator), with Quinn D and Lisa P.
  • Film Noir Fashion: Dress of the 1940s (a presentation I did all by my lonesome). Three people showed up, counting Matt, and one of them left halfway through πŸ™
  • Why We LARP (moderator, again), with Tony M and… I don’t even remember who else.
  • Useful Handsewing Techniques for LARPs. No one showed up, except Steve K, who had no interest in learning about hand-sewing. It ended up being “social hour with Lise.”
  • So You Want to Run a Game: Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself, with Steve K and Chad B.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of interest in the stuff I put together. I think this is the last year I’m going to do presentations/workshops on costuming topics, at least by myself.

Friday afternoon I played in run A of Shadow Over Mars, a first in a series of one-shot larps set in the Space 1889 setting. I was Chloe Monteil, an angry Frenchwoman, gunner on the ship The Moon of Shastapsh.

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Imagine I’m saying, “Zese British bastards!”

It’s amazing how much mileage I can get out of being French and angry — four hours worth, at least. I got to shoot things, and swear in French a lot, and I ended the game by dying(?) dramatically — I was stabbed and pulled off the ship, yelling “MEEEEEEEERRRRRDDDDDEEEE!” on the way down.

Quote from the game: “Ze only people I trust right now are zese two,” (points to A.J. and Jeff D’s characters, two ex-naval officers), “because zhey are trying to sleep with me.”

Bingley, A.J’s character, nodded and said, “I admit there may be some truth in that observation.”

Also, I got to play off Steve B, Consequences con chair, who was returning to Intercon for the first time since G. That was delightful πŸ™‚ I’m looking forward to seeing him and all my Consequences crew again in November!

Finally, the game was responsible for this sign, which entertained me greatly:
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Friday evening I ran Midsummer Mischief, that delightful Wodehousian game which I like so much that I keep running it for Americans. The game ran very smoothly, many people got engaged (and un-engaged, and re-engaged, and re-un-engaged), pigs were loosed, and Nuance wore a fabulous hat as Lady Constance. She also was part of one of the best exchanges in game:

“Was that before or after you started blackmailing my brother?”
“Before! I mean, after! I mean…”

Warren T, who played Lord Emsworth (and who was one of the writers/GMs for my Saturday game), also showed up wearing a bathrobe and carrying a book about pigs, which I think says everything you need to know about that dreamy peer, Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth.

Most of Saturday I was in Ex Ignorantia, an eight-hour game of Lovecraft in academia. I played Briony Travis, socially clueless grad student in the physics department. It will surprise no one to learn that there was, in fact, some Mythos stuff going on in my plots πŸ˜‰

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Nothing says “srs bzns grad student” like a Rowsdower MST3K t-shirt, a suit jacket (with bonus cat hair), red shoes, red button earrings, and a Nyankochan sakuramochi purse.

I think what I liked so much about this game was the fact that… it’s a lot like a game I would write! By which I mean, it has fairly detailed mechanics, but it also has great writing, and characters that are much, much more than cardboard cutouts.

Like seriously, the writing. From what I understand, most of what I interacted with was done by Kristen H, as she was primarily the writer for my faction’s plot. Everything from my character I identified a leetle too much with, to the adventures in the sacred groves, to our trip to Carcosa to stop the summoning of Hastur, was beautifully evocative.

The upshot of the game was that Dagon/Cthulhu got control of the earth, minus a few patches carved out by lesser summonings. Briony ended up in one of those with Geoffrey, Will F’s character, after losing most of her faction to the trip to Carcosa.

(Also, as far as HPL knowledge goes, these people knew their stuff <3)

Alsoalso, I got snubbed by Nyarlathotep, so there’s that.

Alsoalsoalso, the fact that the game was mostly run by people who had been in MM the night before makes me wish there were such thing as a Lovecraftian Wodehouse game. Of course, it would have to be named after that chapter in LoEG Black Dossier: “Wot Ho, Gods of the Abyss.”

Saturday night, I played in A Song of Mergers and Acquisitions, which promised Game of Thrones-style politics in a corporate setting. I was Helen Zakarian, assistant to the president of the Congress, with no particular house affiliation. (There is a GoT character who is my analog, but it would be spoilery to say who).

I wanted to like this game — I very much like the type of character I was cast as — but in many ways it didn’t work for me. On the whole, it was a rare game that would have benefited from more mechanics.

For one thing, it’s the sort of game which needs an information economy, and there just… isn’t one. Plus, my character sheet gave me very little sense of my character and what I wanted, and so bargaining couldn’t really happen. I had so many conversations that were, “I can tell you incriminating things about Stark! In return could you… oh. I see you’re already going to vote the way I want you to.”

There was also the fact that no one apparently knew until the end of game that all the votes required a two-thirds majority. Which, despite the fact that almost everybody agreed on everything (another problem: not enough conflict for a GoT game), meant that nothing passed. (In part this was my own oversight: I said to Baratheon — played by Kevin R — something like “Everyone agrees on reducing tariffs!” and he conveniently decided not to correct me).

On the whole, I think this game has a lot of potential, but the writers might not want to shy away from mechanics so much, as it would do a great deal to make the game feel like a GoT game.

And that was basically my con, game-wise. I sadly did not have wakefulness for any parties, which was to my detriment πŸ™

Sunday was Packing the Car: the LARP, which I always have to play alone because Matt is in Sunday games πŸ™ There was also the “chatting in con suite” part of the day, in which I discovered that Alex P’s first Intercon game was also my own (A Question of Faith, at Intercon F). I also received a bag full of real British Cadbury from Suey, listened to Mike Young talk about the terrible games he has been in, and went to the now-traditional Chicago/Brit-contingent dead dog at Priya, an Indian restaurant in Lowell. I spent most of that chatting with Laurie and Ian, first-time Interconners who turned out to have a ton in common with us.

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This is what a fuckton (metric) of Cadbury Dairy Milk looks like.

Oh, and I went to closing ceremonies long enough to learn that a) Sharp & Sensibility is running in Delaware in October, and b) it’s the same weekend as the final event of Cottington Woods πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™ I may decide to go without Matt. We’ll see.

I also learned that there will be another Whateley’s game in the fall, and Matt insists that this year is the year we finally get out to Chicago to play.

And now… Intercon P is Pirates, and I’m cogitating ideas for new games. Oh no…

14 Comments

  1. So glad to hear you liked Ex Ig! I’m very curious to know how you got murdered in Shadow Over Mars. Sounds like your run went very differently from ours. And I love hearing about all these great experiences people are having with/as first time Interconners.

    I’m sorry about your costuming PreCon panels. I really wish I could have attended, but the noir one ran against one of mine, and my ride was not available early enough on Friday. (I’ve learned my lesson — it’s worth the money to stay overnight at the hotel.) I actually had two bits of repair on costuming that never got repaired because I deliberately left off doing it until I had your professional help.

    I don’t know what it is about costuming (and related art) panels. There often seems to be some kind of preliminary interest, but they seem to be universally very poorly attended. (Jenn reported the same thing.) I don’t get it. Isn’t costuming one of the most fun aspects of LARP and one of the most fun to talk about?

  2. Once again I am jealous of Intercon’s great games.

    And if you liked Midsummer Mischief, can I interest you in Boffo’s Birthday Bash? It’s a delightful comedy of young Drones getting engaged and un-engaged. Dogs, imposters, and aunts may also be involved.

    (Also, Cadburys? I know US chocolate is bad, but surely its not that dire, is it? In NZ they’re now the textbook example of how to destroy the value of your brand…)

  3. So apparently I don’t have threaded comments on my blog. Good to know… I may have to remedy that.

    Fair Escape: Without getting too spoilery, I got murdered because 1) I trusted Matt’s character, and 2) I was distracted by reading a contingency envelope. So in practice it ended up being, “Oh, wow, look at that gunship on the horizon!” Then *shank* by a not-so-friendly Martian.

    Regarding panel attendance: I could say something jaded like, “People don’t actually want to attend panels they learn something from,” but I suspect that’s not (entirely) true. More likely, with four tracks of panels, people have to make hard decisions. I think it might be too many, honestly — I would try to keep it to two, myself. But then, that means the pre-con chair has to make tougher decisions about what panels make the cut…

    idiotsavant23: I have heard of Boffo’s Birthday Bash, but missed the opportunity to play in it when it ran at (I think?) RPI’s Weekend of Minigames. I might indeed check it out! It’s nice to have games you didn’t write to run once in a while.

    And yes, American chocolate is that bad. (And also, I just really like a good milk chocolate — in many ways it’s harder to find than a good dark chocolate). Let’s just say that the first ingredient of proper British Cadbury Dairy Milk is still milk, not high-fructose corn syrup. It’s actually gotten to the point where Hershey’s and Cadbury have a deal that doesn’t allow British Cadbury products to be imported into the U.S. Because, theoretically, of brand dilution, but really because their chocolate is still so much better than Hershey’s (or the terrible Dairy Milk that’s made in the U.S. under the same name). That’s okay with me; I just get my fix twice a year (once, when Sue brings it over to Intercon; once when I go to Consequences).

  4. Idiotsavant23: wow, you found this fast. Have you been searching for Intercon reports online?

    Lise: This sounds like an uncommonly discussed problem with contigency envelopes and combat bubbles (and any other form of mechanic that causes some people to temporarily step out of time). Even if no one is directly attacking you during the contigency/combat bubble, plots stil go on churning and people still act around you. I remember Brian saying he hated how combat bubbles trapped a villian in one space. Even if you don’t let people attack a villian in a combat bubble (because they weren’t there in time), his escape often gets cut off because people circled around and waited to jump him while he was stuck.

    I have some similar jaded thoughts of my own regarding PreCon and NELCO panels. I do think the volume of events was a factor, but I’ve also noticed this about costuming and crafting panels that don’t have much or any competing events.

  5. Fair Escape: I see you point about contingency envelopes. In this case I was okay with it, because it was totally legit I’d be distracted by the event I was reading about.

    I suspect idiotsavant23 found this because it was cross-posted to LJ, where we’re friends.

  6. Nyarlathotep does not take kindly to people trying to make him do things! (And for a being like him, “making him feel things” is isomorphic to that). I was considering attacking you as earned reprisal, but decided that had too much risk of complicating things unduly. In any event, I’m glad you had fun, and your costume was great!

    I really enjoyed Midsummer Mischief. I’m not personally familiar with Wodehouse, but many of my friends (like Warren) are, and I feel I was cast perfectly. I got an extremely happy ending, which makes it perfectly dramatically and genre appropriate that Freddie pranked me so hard at the end. Lovecraftian Wodehouse sounds like an excellent time, and Eliot Grissolm could even survive the transition without changing too much!

    -Pickle/David K

  7. Lise: Yep, it was LJ. Though I am also looking for Intercon and Precon reports online, just as I do for Knudepunkt.

    Oh, and re; Lovecraftian Wodehouse, there’s mention on the Peaky Midwest page of a game tentatively titled “H. P. Wodehouse”. Maybe it’ll emerge soon?

  8. There’s decent chocolate in the US! It’s all imported, of course. Lindt’s pretty nice, and I don’t think there’s a difference in quality between what you can get in the States and what you can get in Europe. Some cool kinds of Lindt I haven’t seen in the US, like the stuff with the chocolate mousse or the caramel filling, but there are enough nice ones that I have.

    How did the Why We LARP panel go? I’m sorry I missed it – it ran against Gaming as the Other.

    About combat bubbles and contingency envelopes: hmmm. Bad Apples specifically has live combat but also contingency envelopes, so in principle you could get killed while reading an envelope. It hasn’t happened yet, but maybe we should explicitly restrict that. I don’t want to ban attacks on people reading envelopes because that’s abuse-prone, but maybe people reading envelopes should get a reasonable amount of time to respond to attacks.

    About P for Pirates: what sort of game do you have in mind? I feel like Devil to Pay takes care of the high concept, high plot genre, so anything that’s Golden Age-themed that’s original would have to jettison the “put all historic pirates in a room” idea. Would people really be willing to play an escaped slave who’s on a pirate crew and who history will forget?

    • I think there’s room for more than one high plot Golden Age all historical pirates in one room LARP.

  9. I had the same issue with my character being not very well defined. I had a trope I could play, at least — the tired intelligencer with too many secrets — and a thing I wanted — which I lost, for similar “well it seems like everyone is in favor” reasons — and a friend. Which was enough, barely, but was pretty thin. I didn’t really grok why I cared about the big thing I wanted, though, to say nothing of the little things like the tariffs bill, which was all of a line on my sheet.

    I’m still chewing over the issues with the mechanics (or lack thereof), but I think the basic issues were that what mechanics there were were badly communicated, and there were a couple simple design issues which severely compromised the mechanics’ ability to create in-game drama.

    To the first, nothing was written down or communicated to the group, and inevitably when different people asked the GMs they took away different answers. Players should not be surprised if, for instance, votes are open- rather than closed ballot.

    In a game which has a single, core mechanic which everyone in game will interact with, it’s not too much to expect a greensheet or a five-minute briefing, or ideally both.

    To the second, the mechanics either gave the GMs the ability to override all but a fully united player coalition or were opaque enough that they gave that appearance. I don’t think that in this kind of game the mechanics need to be fully transparent — I’m fine if the GMs or players have ways to covertly tilt the scales up to a point — but 28% of the total votes (when 66% are required to pass anything) shouldn’t be apparently in GM control. Why should I bother trying to get votes together to pass anything then?

    Most importantly, taking all votes at the end of game gave no one any in-game incentive not to renege on their promises, and eliminated all the dramatic potential of someone doing so (which I’ve used to great effect in previous games).

    Also, there being no way to non-consensually remove players from the game, even after a kill moratorium, in the Song of Ice and Fire setting, was just honestly a bit silly.

    I really wish the GMs had stolen Peter Litwack’s mechanics from Dreams of Peace, Dreams of War directly — they weren’t appreciably more heavy-weight than what ran here, but were much better-explained and much more effective at creating drama.

    • Small nitpick: the term greensheet doesn’t exist outside MIT. We use it in Bad Apples because we rewrote the mechanics for the MIT run and have maintained them for subsequent runs (including the one at the Intercon that just ended), but we had to explain to the players what a greensheet is and still got complained that it’s basically the same as a bluesheet.

      • I’m happy to spread the term further, then, because I think it’s an important concept. I’m glad you found it useful enough for Bad Apples that you kept it. πŸ™‚

        (I believe ‘bluesheet’ is also a term of MIT origin. Yes, the names are terrible and opaque. If I were going to popularize alternatives, I would advance ‘mechanics sheet’ for greensheet and ‘group sheet’ for bluesheet.)

        The distinction I draw is that greensheets convey out-of-character information whereas bluesheets convey in-character information. You can look at a bluesheet as similar to a character sheet — it’s information about the world from your group’s particular perspective, which may supersede information in the scenario or be superseded by information in your character sheet. Whereas a greensheet describes a mechanic which exists, out of character, regardless of whether your character knows about it or not.

  10. I just realized I have somehow accidentally turned off LJ comments for this post. Oddly, this is even though “allow comments” is checked. So, uh, sorry for those of you who would have preferred those πŸ™ This comment system kind of sucks and I apologize. This blog is sort of a new thing, so please excuse the mess.

    More about chocolate: oh, yes, the imported options in the U.S. are quite good. I enjoy Lindt myself, although I’ve mostly only sampled their dark chocolates. I don’t have strong memories/impressions of their milk.

    My very favorite milk chocolate is imported Michel Cluizel single-origin (Maralumi or Mangaro Lait), but seeing as I can pretty much only get them in wholesale amounts from this one friend who set himself up as an LLC JUST to import Michel Cluizel chocolate… yeah. I don’t get that as often as I would like.

    So Cadbury Dairy Milk is a nice milk chocolate that’s better than what I can pick up in the grocery store. Plus I have fond memories of going to a contradance weekend in Ely in England and coming out of the dance, sweaty and dehydrated, and being greeted by PILES of CDM bars. I totally admit there’s a nostalgia component there.

    Alon: As for what game I have in mind for Pirates — that will have to wait for another post!

    Kevin: I pretty much agree with everything you wrote. Moreover, I thought some of my goals were pretty silly given my character. Like, if I’m [GoT character who is my equivalent], why would I WANT there to be more transparency? Seems like it would put me out of business. But that was in fact what I wanted, according to, again, one line in the sheet we were handed at game. It was even trickier for me because I didn’t have votes — I just had things I could theoretically bargain with to get what I wanted. Except that didn’t work out so well in practice, for reasons I’ve already gotten into…

    I also would have preferred getting stuff more than a week before game, because that bluesheet was kind of a wall of text, and I didn’t have time until right before game to try to read it, and…. whoa. That did not so much happen.

    Pickle: It was great getting to meet you and the Harvard contingent! I suspect we have much in common in terms of what sorts of games we like. I hope I’ll be able to run one of my own games at future Intercons, so I hope you’ll be in attendance.

    • Oh geez. If you didn’t have votes, and you didn’t have secret ability to influence one of the groups not represented directly in game, then given that the votes only happened at the end… yeah. You were up a creek.

      This game could have been so much better with just a *little* extra effort on the mechanics.

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