I had an exciting weekend running about playing pretend. Really, that was the theme of this last weekend.
Now, I’ve never really hidden the fact I’ve tumbled down the geek rabbithole and started larping. In fact, I’ve posted some about it on different social media platforms like Facebook. I came about the hobby after I moved to Western New York to pursue graduate school in anthropology. I fell in with some friends involved in the hobby, and with some cajoling they persuaded me to show up. Literally, it was all for science. (“But think of what an interesting ethnography it would be!”)
And then, to put it in the words of my old dead liberal racist forebears (because what else are you going to call early anthropologists?), I “went native”.
Where’s one of those “I regret nothing!” memes when you need them? I suppose I’ll slip one in here later.
Well, almost nothing. To say my experience with the gaming community was all sunshine and roses would be a fat sack of lies. So I certainly regret some things, which I’ll probably talk about some other day. What I don’t regret was the creative outlet and the wonderful people I met through the hobby.
I stopped for a while, taking a break after the toxicity of the local community became too much. Around this time, many of my friends also walked away. Since, we’ve started a couple invite-only games, which persuaded many of the locals to return to the gaming scene and so far have worked out wonderfully. My attempt to return to the Buffalo gaming scene at large has left me with luke warm feelings. Often, I feel that those left in the general population are mostly people I’m not keen on playing with for one reason or another.
Regardless, this is a story about the wonderful experience I had this weekend out by Syracuse and not past woes. I’m the Queen of Digressions!
The reason I brought up my past experience is that I’ve mostly played in “theater-style larps”, which are minimal-contact and often use rock-paper-scissors or other methods to determine challenges. I know most people think of boffer-style larps with the foam swords when they think of the hobby, and I was aware that was a popular style but I’d never actually attended one.
That is, unless you count the one time someone tricked me into showing up at Dagohir practice to talk and shoved a sword and shield in my hands. I found that some people there get cranky about hits to the back during free-for-alls. (“This isn’t honorable combat!” “You’re right, this is a skirmish. Watch your six.”) I haven’t been back since.
The game my friends invited me to was a fully immersive larp with an equal focus on combat and roleplay. It seemed more my style. Interestingly, you could only play certain creature types if you had the costuming for it. Want to be an elf? Grab some pointy ears! Want to play a Drake? Hope you have a draconic mask and lots of reptile make-up. So in this way, the playerbase kind of sorts itself out based on commitment.
This game, Novitas, had an amazingly friendly staff. I was told about the game the weekend before the event so I barely had any time to prepare. I wanted to play a faekin more of the unsidhe bent, which required both a wig and colored contacts. There was no way I’d be able to get prescription contacts in a week, so I reached out to the staff. There was some rule saying you could switch up a character after the first event, but I was warned it was a bit shady to make such a big change. Instead, the plot-staff worked with me to explain away why I had blue eyes. So instead, we got some great story about why my eyes weren’t red yet.
The place is at a campground, and for a really reasonable fee the game provided both cabin space and food for the weekend. First event was free, which helped me quite a bit.
I left right after work, arriving around 9 pm. They helped set up the character sheet, and I went through a new player orientation. The game is larger than the theater style games I’m used to, even with low attendance due to December cold. As a result, players are expected to play their characters for two of the four shifts, and NPC (non-player characters for those that don’t play RPGs) for the other two. New players are expected to be on NPC shifts for the first two. Each shift is roughly 6 hours long.
The first shift is Friday night until 2 am. The first thing I did was play a skeleton. It was really hard to see and breathe in the mask, and I ended up bumping into people a lot. The guy in charge of the group was our necromancer, and he had a dry wit I found entertaining. We wandered for a while, but most people weren’t out. So our necromancer asked for a volunteer. I jumped at the chance, because this noob likes the deep end of the pool.
I changed from playing a skeleton, to a farm girl named Sarah. They were casting a dark necromantic ritual over my corpse, ringing a bell to alert people nearby. Eventually, characters intervened and saved me. I went with them back to the inn and eventually excused myself.
The inn was neat. It had a stove and drinks that could be bought for in-game coin. If you were on an NPC shift you could grab coins from Logistics to eat at anytime. So essentially food was included all weekend.
I landed a hit the second event I was part of as an NPC, but it was friendly fire. My excuse is that my evil character was back-stabbing her boss.
At this point, I started joking about being the Moon-Moon of characters. “Moon-moon, don’t apologize to your undead horde!”
I woke up late the second day, and felt awful about it. I’m not a morning person, and my entire cabin managed to sleep in. Oops! The second shift for NPCing was fun, as we were able to have some moral quandaries for the heroes. Some rushed up to stop an evil cult from sacrificing a child, only to find out the evil cult was a family mourning the passing of their daughter. We just happened to also worship the evil pantheon. While our lead debated theology with the heroes, two of us sobbed over her body coming up with terrible things like they were touching stories. “Remember when she tore the wings off that beautiful butterfly and wore them as hair ornaments? Remember how much she hated the birds singing?” Kudos to Mary, who played our dead body, for keeping it together as we got more and more ridiculous.
Third shift I played my character. I introduced her at the inn, and fell in with a group that decided that slavery was bad. My character, Malory, could get behind this sentiment. We backed off the confrontation because it looked like the temple was handling the issue civilly.
My character, Malory, is faekin, so she recently had her hair (and soon eyes) transform bright red per her fae heritage. She isn’t aware she’s descended from dark fae (I didn’t want to play Tinkerbell, I wanted to explore folklore legitimately). As a result, she’s not trusted by many.
Malory went into the temple to pray, because she’s really devout after the last night’s experiences. In her backstory, she thought she was going to die as she fled the theocracy she grew up in. The Stranger, goddess of death and secrets, told her it wasn’t time yet. So she went to the temple to thank the Lady for her blessing.
Noise erupted outside, and the sound of fighting followed. Malory paid no mind. It wasn’t long before a bandit burst into a temple and slew her while unarmed.
Yeah, less than ten minutes in play and I was downed. The temple priest revived me thankfully.
Shortly after, she found a girl carrying the sword of her dead friend’s family. She confronted the girl, only to find out this person was her friend and that she’d survived the purge the murdered her line. The two girls looked vastly different than in childhood, and had a tearful reunion. The girl, Lori, is played by my friend and the scene was a lot of fun.
We chased down the bandits, and that’s how I found out my boots were not waterproofed. Squish squish!
The rest of the shift was spent talking theology at the temple (which was also our cabin). I loved it. I was exhausted though, so I chose to NPC the last shift instead of play my character.
I didn’t know what to expect going into this experience, but I loved it. Okay, so I was kind of expecting something like Knights of Badassdom, and that’s kind of what I saw. Except the people are friendlier than the movie, and I didn’t get to summon Peter Dinklage with the power of rock.
My own complaints are with myself for not being better prepared for the elements, but that can easily be changed. I’ll definitely be back when they start up again in April.