Boss monster: anticipatory anxiety

I was listening to the newest episode of Happier with Gretchen Rubin this morning — in particular, episode 85, “Ever Been Annoyed by a Gift?” One of the topics they discussed is giving yourself something to look forward to on the calendar. To paraphrase Gretchen, if there’s nothing on your calendar to look forward to, maybe reconsider your life and your choices.

There is very little for me to look forward to on my calendar.

Honestly, the things I look forward to the most are activities that mostly involve me being lazy, like my monthly massage. Or plonking down on the couch with a stack of books on a rainy day and just reading — which I almost never do.

To what extent is this a product of my personality and my hobbies, though?

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel a lot of anticipatory don’t-wannas about basically everything I ultimately enjoy. There is a part of Lise that really enjoys going out in the woods in silly costumes and hitting people with foam swords — and I’m often energized for weeks afterward — but there is another part of Lise that is really, really attached to creature comforts. These parts of me are constantly at war.

So, last week, for example. I knew I had 5G coming up. I knew there were some costuming and other prep tasks I needed to take care of. I dreaded them. Even convincing myself to make my character’s death mitigation tokens — which literally involves writing on a ribbon with a silver pen, then hot-gluing the ends together to form a moebius strip — was torture.

(Also guess which genius FORGOT these tokens at home and had to make them out of paper, on the fly?)

But around lunchtime on Friday, when I was writing in Ianthe’s character journal while waiting for the glue gun to warm, I realized I was actually doing okay. In fact, I was annoyed that I hadn’t started earlier, so that I could have done more.

I wish I could bottle this feeling, so I could sell it to future Lise.

The weekend itself was invigorating. I slogged around in the drizzling rain and slept in a stuffy cabin and I still felt great. I kept being annoyed I hadn’t done more costuming stuff, though. I keep meaning to put more symbols on my garb, for example. (The equivalent of “put some gears on it” for the Arcane Circle, I guess). I keep meaning to order ink cartridges so I can use my cartridge pen for writing in my IC journal. I want to make earrings for Ianthe, and decorate curtains for her bed, and make a dress for the winter ball, and and and…

I’m pretty sure the feeling will fade in about two weeks. And the next event isn’t until December January.

Now I have to get ready for Cafe Casablanca, and it’s the same thing. Worse, in some ways, because the prep involves flying to Chicago, and all that entails. I want to do pin curls for the event itself, and I keep telling myself I need to practice them ahead of time. Can I ever convince myself to do this? Of course not. Hell, I didn’t even read my whole character sheet until yesterday.

I like these things. I almost never feel bad while actually doing them. Why is it so hard to get myself to anticipate them positively?

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…

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.

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.”

Fifth Gate Silverfire Game 1

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

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

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

The Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Warband

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

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

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

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

Bear is For Fite (and Death)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roleplay

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

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

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

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

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

Arcane Circle

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

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

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

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

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

Crunchy Game-y Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will, needless to say, be back!

Fifth Gate is nigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hope it’s not too steep.

In which I remind myself why I do this crazy thing (larping)

I have not been posting much lately! It’s not that stuff hasn’t been going on; it’s more that I’ve lacked the capacity to write about it.

I feel very much like I want to curl up and go to sleep for a thousand years. It’s not that I’m physically tired, so much as I look at the stuff I have to get done in the next couple of months and it feels exhausting. I let myself believe that this means I can’t have any fun, even though I am doing all of this for the sake of fun, i.e., my hobbies.

Why so much to do? Well, the first thing to understand is that here in the Frozen Wasteland of New England, if you want to play boffer (live-combat) larps, you really only have a small window in which to do it. Two, actually — one in the spring, and one in the fall. The spring window is April-May (with occasional forays into late March or early June), and the second is September-October (with forays into late August/early November). The reason for this is primarily weather-related, but it is also a consequent of the fact that most campaign live-combat games take place at children’s summer camps, which are unsurprisingly in use during the summer months.

This spring, I am going to be PCing My Vewwy First Boffer LARP, Fifth Gate (Silverfire). The first game is the weekend of May 15th May 1st. I am also going to continue to NPC Shadows of Amun and Cottington Woods, both of which have two spring events. Finally, I’ve signed up to NPC on the Wrathborn side of things for Fifth Gate, which gives me one more event.

These are all weekend-long events, going from Friday night to late Sunday afternoon. They can also be very physically demanding — a lot of running around the woods hitting people (or being hit by people) with foam swords. They’re demanding in other ways, too. Boffer larp in this region is big on immersion, and playing a character 24/7 can be tiring. Even as an NPC, you need to more or less always “on.” There’s a sign by the door in Shadows NPC base camp which reads “Beyond this point you are always in character.” It’s not literally true — how many times have I stood on the porch and bullshitted with my fellow mooks! — but it is pretty close to it.

Also, one of the Shadows events is the weekend of the Festival of the LARPs, and I am going to be spending one Saturday driving back and forth between Westford and Waltham, MA, as I head out to play Phoebe’s new larp Woodplum House, a silly Wodehousian parody game. This is especially fun for Shadows, where leaving the site involves, no lie, a one mile walk out to your car (or from your car back to the campsite). Because immersion means no cars on site, logically enough.

If you guessed this means I have almost no free weekends in April and May, you’d be right! What free weekends I have will be full of prep for future games.

Speaking of prep… that can be tiring and stressful, too, especially for PCing games. The organization or disorganization of the game in question can make it more or less stressful for me as an NPC, too. But let’s focus on the PC side of things, here — I have a LOT of costuming I am trying to get done before May 15th May 1st. Probably more than I realistically have time to finish — I’m not sure yet.

So… larp is clearly my most exhausting hobby. I’m pretty sure I’ve stood at this point before and made the decision to throw in the towel. Hell, it was probably about this time in 2013 that I decided not to play Cottington Woods, after writing a character history, plotting with a team, having a boffer weapon made, and ordering a realistic plush chicken. (Checking — yup, that’s about right).

I’m not going to wimp out this time. The difference between two years ago is multifold. One, I’m a lot more familiar with the Accelerant system, and that helps to allay my fear of the unknown. Two… it’s easy to forget off-season, but some of my peak moments have come from these sorts of games.

I remember crying from the intense emotions my (throwaway, one-shot!) NPC was experiencing in my very first Shadows game.

I have fond memories of emotional conversations in the rain, sheltered under a dripping eave; of jasmine tea in a leaking tent.

I remember the sheer fun of covering myself in fake blood and lying in wait for the PCs. Or the same thing, minus the fake blood but plus a mirror mask.

I recall the excitement of landing an exceptionally well-timed attack.

I remember standing in a field, covered in LED wires, shouting out calls at the top of my lungs to keep my teammates up.

And all of this is just NPCing. How much better can it be, I wonder, when I get to play the same character, game after game, for a few years, when staff is writing plot just for me?

This is why I do this — and remembering that helps get through the work.

Since a post isn’t complete without a to-do list around here, here’s what I’m trying to get done before Fifth Gate starts, for my character, Ianthe Florizel. (Unless otherwise noted, due date is game start on May 15th May 1st).

  • Finish writing character history (due date: April 2nd)
  • Add character events to warband timeline (also April 2nd)
  • Finalize character build (due date unknown; builds aren’t being accepted yet, and I don’t know my CP total)
  • Finish the epic amount of applique and hand-sewing for my invocation circle — at least enough so that it’s recognizably an invocation circle!
  • Finish the mockup of the underdress of my outfit (due date: Real Soon Now, so that I can make the real thing)
  • Complete the mockup of the overdress (due date: Slightly Less Soon Now)
  • Make the real underdress(es)
  • Make the real overdress
  • Check with Plot to make sure my Orb of Battle won’t be too big (pictured in the cover photo, above)
  • If acceptably-sized, decorate my Orb of Battle with runes
  • Make (or otherwise procure) something to carry my Orb of Battle (chain, mesh bag, handle, dunno)
  • Do a more extensive try-on/break-in of my new boots, and decide if I’m happy with the sizing
  • Lock-tite the buttons on my new boots, if so

I’ll see you in June? I just hope my writing doesn’t take a permanent sabbatical…

Guess which genius thought the first event was May 15th up until yesterday? Yeah, this girl. (Y)(Y).