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Journal of No. 118


June 24th, 2012

Wyrd Con - Saturday & Sunday @ 09:21 pm


First thanks of the post: to dark_of_night, who not only tolerated my absences this weekend, but let me steal her laptop and other stuff for the game.
I showed up with an hour and change before Death in Valhalla was scheduled. I strolled by the room, and the panel was still going on, so I headed to the bar for a beer and an 'appetizer' of sliders, which turned out to be a plate of cheeseburgers AND a plate of french fries. I ate what I could, but pre-game butterflies take up a lot of room. I fortuitously bumped into ian_tiberius and Eric. Ian was already signed up, and we managed to convince Eric to have another drink so that he couldn't drive, and then would have to play in my game. While at the bar, we managed to recruit another couple into the game as well. Second thanks go to I&E for playing, but also helping with transporting matter from my car to the room and helping to arrange the room for play.

For the room was set up for a panel discussion with all sorts of awkward tables and such. The hotel staff also deserve thanks for whisking away the unwanted furniture. Thanks are also due to many minions, including Shannon, TC, and Alejandro, and others unnamed, who also aided in this task of dismantling a panel room and leaving behind a LARP room. TC in particular gave clear instructions on what I needed to interface the laptop with the speaker, and it was so. In addition to set-up, Alejandro also Minioned for me during the game, and really made it possible for the soundtrack to run smoothly without my direct attention.

I would have liked more time to sit and think and regroup, but by the time everything was roughly in place, it was game-time, and the players were champing at the bit. Very sincere thanks go to my players, from those who registered weeks in advance, to those who strolled in at the last minute. As I mentioned in my previous post, Wyrd Con attendees are ready to have fun, and that makes it a lot easier to supply. I got about 20 players, which is what I was aiming for, and I think it worked just right. I tossed out character sheets and rules with wild abandon. Maybe slightly too much abandon, since Fafner remained uncast, leaving Fasolt with slightly less to do. As I gave out the last characters and we waited for a few players to return with costumes, the other players settled down to read the nonsense I had provided them.

Once we gathered together, I went through the rules. And then I hoped to set the scene. Everything had been a bit frantic (at least on my end) and I wanted a little breathing space for the players to get in the right frame of mind to switch from being con attendees in Orange County to gods and elves in Valhalla. I asked them to close their eyes, and I tried to lead them from here to there, and fired up the Wagner as background music: the Prelude from the very beginning of Das Rheingold. It's a great piece that just drones on a single chord, slowly growing in volume and complexity. Sure, it's supposed to portray the rippling waters of the Rhein, but it did a fine job of transporting people to Valhalla. Unfortunately, part of my conceit is that I would also transform from Mike to Wotan while their eyes were closed. I found some difficulties wrestling with my cloak, and I very much fear it sounded like (and I know damned well it felt like) I was making a poor go at Houdini's mail-bag escape.

But at least the text was intended to go from our world to Valhalla, so it was okay for me to be cursing muffledly at the beginning, and once I had my apparel under control, to get more stately and Wotanly. My next thanks go to doctorray for supplying a perfect prop for Gungnir my spear. So when I asked the players to open their eyes, Wotan was ready to greet them:
To Valhalla, Wotan bids you welcome.
An Oath of Peace you all have spoken on my spear, Gungnir: Guardian of Oaths. None need fear a foe!
If there be contests, let them be in sport and entertainment, to lighten our mood after the death of Wili, my brother.
I will reward whoever unravels the riddle of his death. So unlock your hoard of words and speak one to another to untangle the tale.
Again Wotan bids you welcome to Valhalla.

That greeting was the last thing created for the game. It was literally composed in my head while I couldn't sleep Friday night (or early Saturday morning, rather) and set down on paper later in the day. I almost trusted myself to do it from memory, but I was a wreck, and so I clutched my feather.

Anyway... Game on!

Everyone immediately ran to the corner of the room with food and drink and stayed there for an hour. It was like a plague of locusts. I keed. Slightly.

No, actually I could see that many people were trying to make their way through my patented(*) [* not patented] logic puzzle dealio. This is what I referred to as the 'Sherlock' method for solving the mystery. I know, because I made it that way, that there's only so far you can go with your starting material, even if a couple people work together. So I could feel the shift in the room, as people shifted over to what I called the 'Columbo' method for solving the mystery. Talking to people, and using the contests to squeeze information out of people.

The contests matched characters against each other in anything that wasn't forbidden combat. I think the first few were footraces and drinking contests. Loge started his winning ways by using his shapeshifting to turn into a falcon and win a footrace. And then things began branching out, as the players took ownership and came up with their own variations.

Two contests stood out for me. One I set up, one I didn't. Loge wished to make Donner appear foolish, and had a special spell arranged for the purpose. Loge convinced Donner and several of the other beefy types to have a contest of interpretive dance expressing violence. But just before their violence was to occur, Loge used his spell to convert them into chickens, and they did an arm-flapping slam-dance to Tomita's take on Mussorgsky's Ballet of the Hatched Chicks. Amazing, and gratifying that the players didn't bitch and moan at the switcheroo, but did their thing with gusto.

The second was instigated by Freia, goddess of love, who wished to have a wooing contest. This was certainly not something I had planned, but I did exert some executive privilege in turning it into an episode of The Dating Game. Surtr ran away with it with his smoldering straight-for-the-asbestos-bedsheets directness.

Of course, not all is jollity in Valhalla. Our mortal heroes, Siegmund and Sieglinde, discovered that hours among the gods are like decades for poor mortals. They die of old age. And Wotan arranged a funeral procession in their honor. I felt it slowed things down a lot, as I used GM fiat to demand this performance, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a few minutes out of a few hours. And I got to use Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary, so that's all to the good. (I seem to be mentioning all the non-Wagner that I played, but I assure you there was plenty of Wagner on tap.)

Siegmund and Sieglinde had been gathering oaths of protection for their children Siegfried and Siegfrieda. With the parents dead, the players then assumed the roles of their (now-grown) children. The oaths sworn to protect them conferred various bonuses upon their new characters.

As time waned, people used more focused contests to try to wring information out of each other, and then the third way to solve the mystery came to the fore... the Clue version. Characters could make Accusations to Mimir, the severed head that Wotan keeps to speak wisdom to him. You had to identify the murderer, the World in which the murder occured, and the method of murder. If your answer was not correct, Mimir would tell you one of the things you had wrong.

So near the end, Mimir was busy, and people gathered about. Partially through Sherlocking and Columboing, the possibilities had been narrowed, and Mimir helped reduce them further until ultimately Loge came up with the correct combination. I've already ruined several secrets of the game, but I'll leave that one be... people have already asked if I'll run it again. Doubtful, but maybe I'll package it for distribution (though I said the same thing about Casino Arcana and that hasn't happened either.) Rewards and punishment were meted out, and the game was over.

Some debriefing and story-telling, and deconstruction and packing out, and then I hung out for a bit, and before the party really got started I headed back home. Which is probably wise, since I got home, caught a tiny amount of sleep, woke up as regular, hit Facebook, and then found posted pictures of people drinking and carousing with the notice "posted three hours ago".


I zipped back, by way of Randy's Donuts, to pick up some raw material for the Live Game Labs brunch, now a tradition for Wyrd Con.

Hung out, talked with players and designers. Always a nice relaxing end for the convention. One unexpected occurrence was being called away with Chun to the press room to do some video'd PR for the con. As usual, my wittiest statement occurred when the camera wasn't rolling. I remarked on how hot and close the room was, and Angelique made excuses that the door needed to be closed for quiet, blah blah, and I said something to the effect of "Well, I've done a lot more uncomfortable things for a LARP, so no worries."

Made my goodbyes all round, or at least those I could find, and back home again.
 
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 25th, 2012 04:44 am (UTC)

Additional thoughts

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I was well-pleased with the overall experience. I try to do more than the average bear to leave nothing to chance, but things never run perfectly. But in the end, things went just fine, and, more importantly, it appeared that fun was had. I think most of the players were mostly pleased with it, and that's the appropriate standard, since you can't fool please all of the people all the time.

aaronjv in fact pointed out a hideously grotesque flaw in my sleuthing logic puzzle. Not something that ruined the entire edifice, but one logic statement was at least as bad as a dirty fork -- something on the order of "If Bob ate lunch on Tuesday, then Bob ate lunch on the weekend."
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 25th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)

Still standing dominoes

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I often describe my live game designing philosophy as setting up a table full of dominoes on end, and letting the players loose in this arena. Some get knocked over intentionally, some accidentally, and some get ignored. Here's a few of the dominoes I set up that I regret were still standing on the table at the end.

Some contests had some music cued up for them (like the Chicken Dance, which I'm so glad was a domino that got toppled)

Alas, there was no dragonboat rowing, to go along with The Immigrant Song.
Alas, there was no fashion show/catwalk/Zoolander walk-off, to go along with the Suzanne Vega/StreetLab/Immigrant Song mashup.
Alas, no singing challenges that allowed me to use a segment of What's Opera Doc.
Alas, there was no Mr. Universe style flexing contest, because that would have been awesome, and there was some great music to go with that also.


Edited at 2012-06-25 05:17 am (UTC)
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From:aaronjv
Date:June 25th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC)

Re: Still standing dominoes

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One direct quote from Surtr: "I will speak with you after I retrieve my magic helmet. MAGIC HEL-MET!"
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From:hagdirt
Date:June 26th, 2012 05:14 am (UTC)

Re: Still standing dominoes

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I must say, I am glad I am not the only one who puts serious time and effort into the soundtrack for a game, and then gets sad when I don't get to play all of it...
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:June 26th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Still standing dominoes

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Ditto. I think I'm a frustrated DJ.

Speaking of which, watching the dance invaded by the LARP made me think of a dance-LARP, where the different teams (team Goth, team Rave, team Hip-Hop...) carry out their game machinations in order to control the brain of the DJ and get the music they want. I doubt that'll be my bid for Tetra Wyrd.
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From:dustchick
Date:June 27th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)

Re: Still standing dominoes

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Add in soundtracks, and that would be awesome. ;)
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From:aaronjv
Date:June 29th, 2012 07:12 am (UTC)

Re: Still standing dominoes

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Fastaval 2012 had "Dancing with the Clans," a vampire (as in White Wolf) game, but all powers are decided by dance. Or something like that. Someone there talked about how the Malkavians mambo or the Toreadors tap, but I glazed over and the words never penetrated.

Yes, every great idea y'all had was already done by the Nordics (Lucha Libre: the larp being another). That's why I want to get us together, faster, so we can start blowing their minds.

Journal of No. 118