Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WyrdCon 2012 Recap

WyrdCon is a local convention here in Southern California, dedicated to live-action gaming. It's closely related to InterCon on the East Coast, and just wrapped up it's third year. I've attended all three years, and enjoyed myself each time. Here's a recap of my experience at this year's convention.

I've left buying convention badges behind me - I love running games and meeting new people (and saving money!), so I almost always try to take advantage of the fact that most gaming conventions offer free badges in exchange for running events. At last year's WyrdCon, a friend and I ran a very well-received Babylon 5 LARP, and we're still fielding requests to turn it into a campaign! This year, I designed a smaller game, though I did not actually end up running it (more on that later).


I arrived on Thursday night, just before the registration booth shut down and in time to attend the initial cocktail party. After a hectic, difficult day, I felt quite grateful for the chance to relax with friends and a gin & tonic. By the time the party was winding down, I decided to attend a ghost-hunting LARP/ARG that one of the designers had pitched to me in the elevator. The event was quite short, only about an hour long, and put on by the Los Angeles Ghost Patrol. After assembling a team of sufficient size, we were given a variety of ghost hunting equipment (a video camera, a few electricity meters and some dowsing rods) and led on a line course throughout the hotel, ostensibly looking for ghosts. I've always had a mild interest in ghost hunting, and the event was well-put on. The only quibble I have is that at the end of it, we were given small cards intended to kick off an ARG. I decoded the website fairly easily, and was able to log on in my room later that night. Unfortunately, something went wonky when I tried to send my text message to join - I never got any response, which was a little disappointing.


I am terrible when it comes to waking up early, so I didn't crawl out of bed until fairly late Friday morning. I decided to dress in costume, because why not? My next scheduled event was my Cobalt Nightmares game, so I got into my Irene gear: leather pants, a copper-colored shirt, black vest, ammo/pouch belt and handmade leather eyepatch, complete with boffer wrench and NERF derringer. I looked rather like this. I picked up a bottle of delicious Chocolate Peppermint Cordial from Oak, Ash & Thorn (and also traded a bottle of my homemade cider for a bottle of Lingonberry Cordial).

The Cobalt Nightmares game itself was quite fun - we somehow ended up ported from the Wastes to Qestera, the City of Games, currently holding a competition for the next Prince of the City. The event was mostly roleplay for me, though I did catch a dud shell during the bombing raid, and gained an ability called Luck of the Prince by drinking a mysterious potion (the Marshall's instructions were, "When someone is using an effect against you that you don't want, use this and then come find me"). Haven't used it yet, interested to know what will happen when I do. Also met my character's nemesis again, a rainbow lizard she has a grudge against (long story).

After that game was Big Damn Heroes, a Firefly-inspired LARP. I missed last years' game, but was extremely happy to make this one. My character, Shan Ivy, is a Shepherd from Higgins' Moon. She wears a little bracelet that says 'WWJD', and her Credo is "What Would Jayne Do?" All the PCs ended up unfairly imprisoned, so we got to roleplay out some interesting interrogation scenes (and some jailhouse preaching on the part of my PC) before staging a jailbreak. One of the innovations in this game was the setting up of an 'air vent' - two rows of chairs, about ten yards long, over which had been draped heavy pieces of canvas to create a tunnel. The trick was to crawl quietly through the tunnel, which led us over the Alliance guards' breakroom, and if we made too much noise, they'd hear us and flush the vents out with plasma. Fortunately, we all made it out alive!  Once I ended my PC shift, I switched to an NPC so the second group could fight their way though.


By the time Big Damn Heroes ended, I was exhausted. Back up to the room, and passing out in an incredibly soft bed with incredibly soft pillows. I unfortunately slept through the 9 am keynote address by Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner, but I did manage to make his next panel. And a few panels after that. I learned quite a lot about transmedia, and have even been inspired to expand the site using a few transmedia principles. All the panels were exceptionally interesting, and the only reason this paragraph is so brief is because I plan on giving transmedia whole blog posts later on.

After all my panels, I had just enough time to grab dinner and change into my costume for Hunter's Moon, an urban fantasy, vampire & werewolf LARP which reminds me quite a bit of the Underworld franchise (though the vampires and werewolves in this game have come to a tenuous treaty in the face of attempts by a paramilitary organization to exterminate both races). I've played World of Darkness games for years and years, and have a strong nostalgia for the Masquerade LARPs which were my first introduction to the hobby. I keep hoping an indie Masquerade or Sabbat game will pop up in my area, but so far the only local games are part of global orgs I'm not a huge fan of (for various reasons - I can certainly understand how they appeal to others, I just prefer indie games). The character I made had influences from the Sabbat and Clan Malkavian - a proud, psychic predator. The game itself was interesting - I mostly ignored the plot and enjoyed the chance to roleplay a vampire again, including a very interesting philosophical discussion between me, a werewolf and a werebear as to the proper role of supernatural races in the world (my view: we are superior and therefore deserve to rule humans; their view: you're bugfuck insane for thinking that).


After the game concluded was the post-game drinkathon, but I had to leave early, as I was running a game at 10 am. However, as I predicted - I didn't get many players showing up for my game. To drag a nerd out of bed on the fourth day of a convention early in the morning, I'd need to be running a game they already knew and loved. Not to mention I was up against some pretty stiff competition - there was a free brunch just across the hall from my room. Instead, we used the room allotted for my game to play 1000 Blank White Cards, which is rather like Calvinball: The Card Game. Soon enough, though, it was time to wend my way back home.

Overall, I had a fantastic time! I got to play in some of my favorite games, talk about some of my favorite games, spend some time with the friends I love and delve into the philosophy of gaming. Even though I was fairly tired by the end of the entire convention, I can't wait to do it again next year! 

Things I think would make the convention better:

  • A panel held sometime on Friday where the various game designers get a chance to stand up and talk about their game and why attendees should play it. I realize many convention goers have already made up their minds which game they want to attend, but many more enjoy having a flexible schedule. I would have appreciated a chance to get introduced to more larps and local (or non-local) designers. As a designer, I would love the chance to introduce my game to more people.

  •  Holding it on a three-day weekend. There's another local gaming convention in the area on the same weekend, but it's more geared towards strategy wargames than larp. I think geekery has gotten big enough and well developed enough that we can have two geek conventions, each covering a different aspect of geek fandom, happening on the same weekend within 100 miles of each other.

  • More vendors! The vendors' room was so small! I realized shortly before my Cobalt Nightmares game that I had forgotten part of my PCs' costume - a ring of particular importance. I figured that buying a costume jewelry ring shouldn't be that hard at a larp con, but the only vendor selling rings only had simple hematite bands.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back From Hiatus!

After an extended hiatus (partly due to hosting issues and partly due to Real Life), How to LARP is back!

A quick update of what's been going on since my last post (all of these are events which really deserve their own post; and they'll definitely get them - this is just the highlights):

  • In my favorite game, Dying Kingdoms, I retired my old PC, Thera. Dying Kingdoms has a unique policy involving character caps - after a character has earned a certain amount of experience points, it's time to retire them from active play (most characters get between 40 and 50 games before hitting retirement). Thera hit that cap, and so I let her ride off into the sunset. 

  • After retiring Thera, I spent one game as an NPC staff. I think it's generally a good idea to give back to one's favorite game by spending some time as an NPC before picking up a new PC. Part of my NPCing was writing and running a few mods for the game. Apparently, I executed my duties so well that I was offered the chance to join permanent Campaign Staff, which I accepted! I'm now part of a small team writing plot for a 50ish person game! 

  • As part of my Staff duties, I'm planning a tabletop day in conjunction with the Dying Kingdoms LARP. The intersection between the live games and the tabletops is an interesting one, and definitely something to write about further. 

  • I've been attending monthly meetups at a local bar with a few colleagues who are also interested in exploring the theory of LARP. We've discussed things like applying acting theory to LARP, what the Nordics are doing, the concept of bleed and whether or not LARP counts as art. 

  • I just got back from spending the weekend at WyrdCon, a convention in Southern California dedicated to live-action gaming - including not only LARP, but ARGs and transmedia as well. I had a great time, and will definitely be writing up my experiences.

Not to mention, continued banter with a friend as to whether or not we want to turn a one-shot Babylon 5 game we ran at last year's WyrdCon into a persistent campaign. I also eventually want to cover the issue of interpersonal conflict at LARPs, apart from bleed, and the best ways for both player and staff to handle such things

Watch this space for those thoughts and more!