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Journal of No. 118


June 14th, 2010

Wyrd Con Recap @ 07:21 pm


Friday I packed up the car with gear, game, liquor and citrus fruits, and headed down to Wyrd Con. I delivered stuff to the ELGL suite, which is almost better described as an imperial bathroom, with attached suite. It was a great space, and it's amazing how much better the ambience is for a LARP in such a space, compared with the cavernous empty boxes in the hotel. At least for a LARP where the setting is amenable.

So having delivered stuff to the bar for M. Beauregard's Speakeasy (and my own game, make no mistake) I was too jittery and anxious about running Casino Arcana to think straight, much less attempt to enjoy a LARP. So I hung out with citizenbrown & Chris for a while in the adjoining room. Chun and I later went down to get something to eat in the hotel restaurant. britgeekgrrl breezed by and joined us for a bit, also demonstrating the symptoms of being too jittery and anxious about running her event to think straight. But she still managed to cast Chun and brief him.

On the way back up, we stopped by the designer relations booth and dealt with a problem that Chun had. Ira was near at hand, and he swiftly solved the problem by fiat, while Jessica(?) ably provided efficient and concerned help. Chun felt special (and I felt special vicariously) and my esteem for the organizers grew enormously (my pity/sympathy for them was already at a historic high -- better you than me, my friends).

I dithered for a few more minutes until Beauregard wrapped, snuck in and got changed into my suit during the wrap-up. The crowd was very enthusiastic -- it was a big hit. And I nearly plotzed when I saw Larry Niven there. Larry Niven LARPed in one of our games. We win.

Happily, we dispersed the crowd more or less on time, and set to work setting things up for Casino Arcana. I got myself set-up, and casketgirl worked her butt off to clean things up. For a while the door was still open and extremely-creepy-vibe dude wandered around for a bit. Don't know if he was looking to steal something, or just to sniff a freshly used furry costume, or what, but we eventually shut everyone out while we cleaned and set up.


Now I fretted about whether I'd get enough players. Ostensibly, all of the tickets for my game were snapped up, so I should have a full 12 out of 12. But who knew how many of them would show up? Most of them, but not all, so a few more people snuck in, but I had to tell Nat Budin to buzz off. So I'd been in email contact with about half the people, and they'd had a chance to read their character info and glance at the rules. The other half was tossed in, some literally at the last minute.

I went through the rules, which took up at least three of my four hours. I think I definitely pushed the edge of complexity. The Major Arcana powered up the deck, and we got going in earnest.

Now, I've run this before, but only with the players at the table. Since I figgered WyrdCon didn't want a LARP with 6 players, I came to the snap decision to give each player an assistant. Easy-peasy, now we're up to 12, that'll do. Only later did I come to the panic-stricken realization that I hadn't the faintest idea what these assistants would be doing.

I eventually came up with what I thought was a neat plan. Too long to explain, I will sum up. They were tasked with examining souls trapped in bottles to identify the names of enclosed souls. It required cooperation and information sharing, and I hoped that would help foster opportunities for role-playing to get that accomplished. I have very little idea what went on with the assistants, but that seems to have been reasonably successful, even if they got a little more murderous than I expected.

At the gaming table, we played poker with tarot cards, and it went as usual. Things go slowly for a while, since people have a few ways to get more chips when they run out, but then those extra lives disappear and the players drop out rapidly at the end.

But maybe not rapidly enough. I think the major problem with the run was that the assistants were pretty much done with their efforts, while the game was still dragging on. They got either stabby, or bored.

When the table got down to the Fool, The Chariot and Justice, I ramped up the antes to get it over with. And, having been unusually quiet for most of the night, this is where the Fool cleaned up again. The Chariot got knocked out, and Justice tore The Hermit's soul in half to get some of his last chips (though I confess the Fool took some as well), and then it was showdown time with The Fool and Justice. Justice got happy with two pair, but the Fool dealt himself a 9-10-Page-Knight-Queen straight. Once again, the Fool walked off with most or all of the money on the table.

But of course, money is the least signficant thing. The Devil not only retrieved his own soul, but also bought the soul of his enemy, the High Priestess -- that's a fantastic achievement. She, for her part, seduced everything in sight, so that's a win. Assistant Harry Jacobs used the soul of Judge Jeffreys to replace Judge Lee (demoralized by his loss to the Fool) as Justice. Unfortunately, Jacobs needed to become Death in order to avoid succumbing to his dread illness. Maybe the power of the Major Arcana will keep him alive long enough to make the next game. The Hermit and the Empress ended up dead, as did several Assistants (some returning as ghosts to peek at cards). The Chariot survived, but I believe she lost her soul.

On the whole, it went... okay. In addition to the problems of timing between the two halves of the game, there was something about the whole tone that somehow never got established the right way; some intangible thing didn't gel. It went okay, and I think most people enjoyed the experience (unless and until they ran out of things to do), but I was a little unsatisfied with my game. Possibly, it could be improved upon, but I don't personally think it's worthwhile, since I think the card-game is too much of a distraction to insert into a larger LARP. I still like my card-game, but I think I could provide a much more fun con-LARP with (frankly) a lot less effort on my part than I put into Casino Arcana. One tentative idea is to rip-off Murder by Death.

Many thanks to my referee richardabecker, my bartender hagdirt, and my cocktail waitress rsheslin.
And many thanks are also due to my players, who threw themselves into my strange world with abandon. If I wanted my characters to do exactly as I want, I'd write fiction (well, I do, but that's not the point). I write LARPs so my own characters can surprise and entertain me, and you all did.


After that wrapped up, I really should have gone to 10 Bad LARPS. But I thought I wanted sleep, and I thought certain people couldn't keep flirting and talking about sex for more than an hour or so. I was wrong. My second mistake was not moving the rollaway bed back into the bedroom and joining Rachel in angry mostly-sleep. So quietness eventually reigned around 4:15, I got a couple hours sleep, and by a considerable margin I got the first. shower. ever. In a bathroom the size of the average state in New England.

Despite the shower, my lack of sleep really didn't have me in a good mood. And my non-good mood was exacerbated by the highly-demanding aaronjv that soon appeared. I know he and Morgan had slept hardly at all (in order to finish writing Rock Band Murder Mystery) so he was probably in an even non-gooder mood, but this was small consolation. I was not moved to credible death threats, as others were, but my enthusiasm for altruism was severely tested.

I fulfilled my contractual obligations and left in search of fun. Fortunately, fun was on tap at Foundations, an sf LARP run by the Hampden-Turners. Some years in the future, Earth was largely destroyed by asteroids smashing into it, and a century later, various political factions based on space stations were tasked with protecting Earth from further immanent impacts. Fairly elaborate background, well-drawn characters, shake, stir and serve.

ian_tiberius, graydons, and I wound up as the representatives of the Cyrillic Clans. Russia had been smacked by the asteroids, and it was something of a mystery how the Cyrillic clans managed to survive. Warlike and not-too technically sophisticated, the clans were perfect for outrageous Russian accents, vodka drinking, and idiocy. I don't know if the Designers enjoyed us, but we enjoyed us. We enjoyed us a lot.
Dr. Li (notjenschiz) told us that just as antibodies can be used to fight germs, to fight asteroids we use... "Antirocks!" I shout. I also enjoyed counting 'one... two... many'. Which is not to say that we were ineffective. Dash, our pilot, is a solar system hero, and the remaining rhodium will be fashioned into a statue of him. I was not as obviously heroic, but I managed to steal information and black market goods for the benefit of the clans, and managed to get a blood sample from the other security chief with only a small loss of blood of my own. In the end... we saved the earth, but with a giant asterisk. Given my zombie like state, I had more fun than was really explicable.

But after that, I felt sure I couldn't survive another 4 hours on my feet. And the game I most wanted to play was supposed to run til 3am, and I thought there was little chance of that happening either. So I bailed. I just bailed. It also allowed me to carry home a carload of stuff, so there would actually be room in my car to take Chun home Sunday.


I returned Sunday morning. Ditched my suite key and made a quick change into a foofy shirt and made my way to the Houses of the Blooded LARP. This was also a great deal of fun. It was a little odd, because it seemed like half the group was basically John Wick's own troupe of players. They had a better grasp on the rules and milieu, and I felt a danger that they would run rings around the new people, but quite the contrary, they were very open and welcoming. I was also worried that the 'characters' we chose were really just a list of stats. And yet the whole experience was a really good example of group story telling. It didn't take long before we had created the necessary histories and relationships that allowed us to interact. Freshly slept and showered, I felt pretty good and I think I held my own on witty banter and conniving, even if my ex-lover thelastmehina trumped me at the end, by stealing away my next conquest from me.
But Prime and ChrisW brought the house down with their reconciled love. But at least I instigated it by calling Prime a bitter twisted cripple.
It's a neat milieu, and (not to detract from Wick's originality in any way) I see it as a very Moorcockian milieu. It's ancient Melnibonè with a dash of Dancers at the End of Time. At least, that's how I approached it, and I think that's parallel to his vision.

After that, I made my way back to the ELGL suite and feasted on Danish and champagne and spent a splendid hour or more with the folk present before ferrying Chun back to his abode.
 
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From:thelastmehina
Date:June 15th, 2010 04:48 am (UTC)
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Houses is pretty much exactly what you describe vis a vis Moorcock. John's gone to describe that Houses is what D&D would be if it was more Moorcock and less Howard.

My long-term plan was to break up Paul & his lover, seduce Paul's character and then jilt my own lover... because that's how Houses rolls! Game got called too early, though.

It's much more fun with an awake-er group of people. And if you want to get into some good Houses fiction, I suggest going to John's blog and hitting the tag, "Game of Tears" for something I wrote with John awhile back.

And I had fun at Casino Arcana! Though if I ever have the chance to play again, I'll opt to be an assistant.
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 15th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
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And I had fun at Casino Arcana! Though if I ever have the chance to play again, I'll opt to be an assistant.

I guess Alex A is thinking about running it!
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From:richardabecker
Date:June 15th, 2010 07:14 am (UTC)
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"I think the major problem with the run was that the assistants were pretty much done with their efforts, while the game was still dragging on. They got either stabby, or bored."

I should say not. Emphatically not. Their violence was the result of suddenly realizing, delightedly, that your game had a real place for them and that they were a part of it just like the table players were.

In my perception, they were fascinated by what was going on at the table, but were soon caught up in their own shenaningans (which at first seemed to give them some trepidations, not having any idea what I would do to them). It took only a nudge to put the assistants into full-on "find allies and learn about each other's soul vials" and "kill your rivals, even though they're not 'truly' dead" mode. They soon got deeply into the idea that even though (as a famous writer would say) the gods had arrived (in the form of the players at the table), they were very much the half-gods and could have their own fun.

They had bizarro sex, religious debates, fist fights, glimpses of the infinite (I had a hard time not laughing when Satan bitch-slapped the born-again preacher's face when he prayed over Anton LaVey's bottled soul), hilarious dialogue and a world of their own.

To put it more succinctly: We'll never know who had more fun between the players at the table and their assistants, but the assistants had no complaints at all about being assistants and carrying on through the table-players' game -- so you gave every one of your players a damn fine evening...
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 15th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
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I should say not. Emphatically not. Their violence was the result of suddenly realizing, delightedly, that your game had a real place for them and that they were a part of it just like the table players were.

Wow. Shows how much I know. It occured to me while writing my wrap-up that I never really had a chance to 'debrief' you on the game, so I was just guessing from what I saw from my end of the room. Though I guess Prime did get bored enough to wander away for a bit. stab.

Thanks for the pep-talk! I understand The Devil is thinking about running Casino Arcana himself.
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From:aaronjv
Date:June 15th, 2010 07:23 am (UTC)
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Thanks for clearing out of the suite in time for Rock Band Murder Mystery.

I know I warned everyone ahead of time that I was going to use the whole suite, but in the flurry of emails, it probably got buried and forgotten.

It was, ultimately, worth it. Someone, I think it was Nat, said I achieved a Nordic LARP level, with 360 degree immersion (or something like that).

And for the record, I got exactly ONE hour of sleep between 9am Friday and 7am Saturday. Morgan almost had a seizure because he forgot to take his medicine.

And as much as I regret not bartending Casino, we really needed every minute to put the larp together.

Thanks for all your contributions, both time and money. There will be a next year.
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 15th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
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No problemo, dude. I've also heard great things about Road Not Taken. Can't wait to hear your wrapup of WC.
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From:aaronjv
Date:June 15th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
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Wait, I have to do a wrap up?
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 15th, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC)
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You certainly don't have to. I'm just saying I know there would be an audience for it. Including me.
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From:ian_tiberius
Date:June 15th, 2010 04:01 pm (UTC)
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As a testament to your good humor, I will note that I had no idea during Foundations that you were powered only by grumpiness and lack of sleep. I am, however, sorry to learn that you had intended to make it to "Scearbridge University" (I assume that's the til-3-a.m. game you mentioned) as I'm sure it would have been even more fun had you been there (well, Scearbridge University didn't run, but the replacement game was great.)

Also, I think the GMs for Foundations liked our crazy drunk idiot Russians just fine, or at least they were still speaking to me after the game. :-)

Finally, I just realized (upon reading your post) that after months or possibly years of seeing her name pop up occasionally on your LJ, I finally know who britgeekgrrl is! And I have played in one of her games!
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 15th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
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And I have played in one of her games!

You're one up on me. Wah!
From:stevenkaye
Date:June 16th, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
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See, this is why you need to come to one of the cons Oop North. Although come to think of it I haven't been in one of her LARPs yet either.

Journal of No. 118