LARP Camp in the time of Covid

I work at a LARP camp. I love the community there, and my coworkers are some of my favorite people. And when it comes to making magic happen, I would be hard pressed to find a better group of collaborators. I think we do an excellent job giving kids both awesome experiences and tools to change their lives for the better.

Obviously, this spring and summer have been a little complicated because of Covid. We run day camps and overnight camps, we have one-day events, we organize games of capture the flag with swords. All those things happen in-person.

But I’m happy to say that Covid hasn’t stopped us. With some quick thinking on the part of our community, we’ve adapted. One of my friends threw together a discord server for our community as soon as the shutdown started (J. Dragon, the creator of indie horror RPG Sleepaway). Folks have stepped up to run games on our server, and there’s a good feeling of warmth and engagement there.

Better yet, we’re running digital camps this summer. I’d been worried about them at first; they clearly won’t be exactly the same as being together in person, and I’d feared that they wouldn’t capture enough of what makes our camps really sing. But after playtesting our first game last weekend, I’m happy to say that I think we’ve got something really cool to offer.

I was right that these digital camps won’t be exactly the same as our in-person ones. That’s inevitable. But our game writers have put together a really cool set of games for this summer, and I’m really excited about them. I’ll be working the first of them, from July 13th to 17th.

I’ve been playing RPGs since before I could read and write. I’ve played more LARPs than I can remember. And I’ve taught improv theater and LARP for years. These games are good.

Part of what has me so excited is that the games know what they are. They know their constraints, and they’ve embraced those constraints instead of trying to pretend they don’t exist. Because of that, the technological interfaces for our first game actually added to immersion instead of feeling like a barrier.

I love it when a game’s systems and fiction fit together and support each other. That’s a big part of what I like about Monsterhearts, for example. But having the underlying means of interacting with the game world be part of the fiction too is even more exciting. It offers the deep immersion that so many ARGs have sought to offer, blurring the lines between fiction and reality in a way that makes the whole experience far better.

Anyway, I’m excited about all of this. If you happen to be of age to be a camper, I suggest you check out the site.

World Building: The Thousand Year Empire

I’m putting together a game for teens stuck in social distancing mode due to Covid-19, to be played over Discord. I’m using Exemplars & Eidolons, which I mentioned here. This is all being run through the auspices of the LARP camp where I work. I created this setting years ago, and have expanded it through several games since; for the quick and dirty version, think Romance of the Three Kingdoms meets Avatar: TLA, with a soundtrack by Lustmord and Dead Can Dance.

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The Thousand Year Empress disappeared 20 years ago. No matter what else they disagree on, everyone can agree on that. Some say she was murdered, others that she died of disease or old age, and yet others claim that she ascended into the Celestial Firmament and left the mortal realm to its suffering.

Another thing all agree on: the Empire has suffered ever since.

Without the Empress’ guidance, her vast Empire has descended into chaos. Provinces take up arms against each other, proclaiming themselves Protectors of the Empire or rightful people’s rebellions. Several provinces claim to have the Empress’ true heir to guide them: sometimes one of her children or more distant descendants, sometimes claiming to have the reborn Empress herself.

Drought, flood, and famine scour the lands. Bandit armies rise and maraud. Some provinces fall to plague. There are rumors of disappearances, of demons, and of other worse things. And it is known that in some places the dead themselves rise and set themselves against the living. Some even say that the dead walk at the behest of the Empress, whose talking corpse leads them to retake her domain from beyond the grave.

The Empire as it was is gone.

But it need not be so forever; there are still pockets of stability, and many struggle to protect the land and each other. Many members of the Empress’ ancient knightly orders—both honorable and disgraced—and many of her ministers still strive to prevent bloodshed, to restore peace, and to build upon what they saved from that which came before. Here and there provinces band together in amity, supporting each other against the dangers of the world. It is a dangerous time, but it is a time when a dedicated few may make a difference.

What will YOU do?

Commence Radio Silence

I will be busy this week, running a larp at The Wayfinder Experience’s staff week. I’m afraid that this means that I’m unlikely to post anything this week. I know I’d only just gotten back into the rhythm of posting twice a week, but don’t worry. I’ll be back. Until then, enjoy yourselves, and maybe check out the beautiful cyberpunk hack of Lady BlackbirdAlways/Never/Now.

Good News & Current Projects

I’m settling back in to the East coast, my body is on the mend, and I’m waiting to find out whether or not I’m about to get sick again.  So far so good!

I don’t have a new fiction post for you today, or a new review, but I can tell you all about a fun thing that I’m doing for The Wayfinder Experience (a large scale improv theater summer camp… aka LARP camp for kids). I wrote a game at the beginning of this year that loosely uses the setting of the stories Trouble Close Behind, Bloody Expanse, and Hot Mess, and which follows the events of Bloody Expanse by seeing what happens to the town of Shepherd’s Brook many years later. Read on for more details!

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Godseat, a Wayfinder Adventure

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I should note, I have no idea whether or not this game will actually be chosen for use by Wayfinder.  In fact, I still have to finish writing it and submitting it.  I think it’s a pretty cool concept, and it experiments further with some of the player vs. player mechanics that I explored in the 2014 Staff game (along with my excellent co-writers, you rock).  In the interest of not spoiling you for anything, I’ll refrain from telling you too much about the flow of game.  Instead, this post will give you a brief overview of the setting and what the game is all about.

A Brief History

There are many gods and godlings, but there is only one Most-High.  The Most-High reigns over all from the Godseat, the Throne of Supremacy, the Seat of Knowledge, the Bringer of Good Tidings and Ill News.  Whichever being sits upon the Godseat is acknowledged as the ruler of all, but no one being can sit upon the Throne forever.  The prayers of faithful worshippers, and their propitiations, may sometimes elevate a new being to the Godseat, replacing the previous Most-High and beginning a new reign.  There are some times, perhaps once or twice a decade, when the cycles of the moon and the stars and the seasons coincide just so, when the prayers and rituals of worshippers take on special power in the area around the Godseat; these times are known as the Nights of Ascension.

Long ago, before the Years of Ruin, Continue reading

Adventurer’s Rest, WFE Intro Game 2014

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I mentioned previously that I would be working at The Wayfinder Experience, and just last week I finished up my first time working there as Story staff, running the game Adventurer’s Rest.  I had a marvelous time, though I was frazzled for the first half of the week and teetered between mild euphoria and continued anxiety for the other half.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I think I’d be far better prepared for the incipient chaos and drain on my personal energy the second time around.

Now that the game has actually finished, I’ve got some good stories to share with you.  I’ll even spill the beans and let you know how the game worked and came into being, though I do hope that you won’t read it all if you want to be able to play it at some point in the future.  It turns out that, despite my certainty that game would be a mess, the players had a great time both getting into character and running around with swords.  After the fact, I could see several obvious mistakes that Thom and I had made when it came to balancing the game, but I think that things both went well and still have a great deal of potential for future sessions.

First, an introduction: the game of Adventurer’s Rest was designed to offer several things that I remember being rare in many other adventure games.  Most obviously, I wanted to make it possible for nearly every single player to use magic items and magical artifacts with special abilities.  Second, I intended it to show off just how completely overpowered specific class options are, in a tremendously underplayed class.  You see, Artisans at WFE rarely get much attention, since most people would rather be almost anything else (i.e. Warriors, Wizards, Rogues, or Clerics).  Artisans create talismans that are able to empower people, but they generally require very careful forethought and good situational awareness in order to be effective.  With those things, an Artisan can take on just about anyone… but without those things, an Artisan is likely to be steamrolled by nearly anyone else in the system.  I hoped that Adventurer’s Rest would encourage players to respect the class a bit more.

Finally, I wanted to give people an opportunity to play a newer version of something like the Techna game that I remembered playing for my first intro game at Omega in 1999.  There’s something very special about introducing the option of joining the villain’s team and working against the people that you had thought were your allies.  On further reflection, it seems clear that the Techna game that I played had been better balanced than Adventurer’s Rest (possibly because it had been run more times).  It’s also now clear to me that I’d like to have a chance to play Adventurer’s Rest at a camp where I can tell the villains to go wild without fear of ruining the players’ experience.  There are certain things that are difficult to allow when you’re running an intro camp and you need to design the game around introductory expectations rather than simply allowing the fiction to run its course.

Here’s a much overdue page break.  After this, I’ll start telling you more about the game’s inner workings.

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Teasers for Adventurer’s Rest

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Sorry about last Wednesday, here’s a present to make up for it.

My apologies for missing my usual post last Wednesday.  I was busy collaborating with several friends to write and produce a LARP game for Staff Week at The Wayfinder Experience (where I’ll be running another game for a considerably younger audience in a few weeks), and as such was pretty much entirely incommunicado.  I still have yet to say happy birthday to my mother and step-father.  I’ll try to get to that as soon as I finish this.

Since Wayfinder (WFE) is all still very much on my mind, I thought I’d offer you a collection of the teasers that I and my friend Thom have made for our upcoming game (Adventurer’s Rest, at WFE’s Intro Camp, July 20th-25th), and some of our thinking behind them.  If you know anyone who might be interested, you should totally tell them about it.  I want lots of players for my game!  Actual entertainment follows after the break…

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