Saving the World and Other Games

This past weekend, despite harsh conditions and overwhelming odds, we not only stopped the Machine Collective from demolishing Earth for materials in building a Dyson Sphere, but we made a huge step towards the regrowth of life on the surface and the eventual re-emergence of civilization out of underground bunkers. 

OK, so maybe I wasn't fighting against real cybernetic hordes intent on the final doom of humanity, but I was having a good time with a handful of friends and about 30 other players running around in character as we played make-believe. 

It was disgustingly hot though, and the wet field made our socks very very squishy.  Also there was the risk of ticks, which are creatures of my nightmares.

Send in the D-Team
LARPing (or Live Action Role-Playing) has a bit of a bad reputation.  It is connected with the much aligned world of Role (or Roll) Playing Games, historically accused of debauchery and Satanic rites (and while I find Mountain Dew repulsive, it certainly isn't Satanic), with the added bonus of actual risk of physical misadventure.  When boiled down, LARPing, like any other physically and mentally engaging activity, can be taken too far, but most of us do it for fun and social interaction.

Gaming has been a fantastic part of my social life for years.  It helps me circumvent quite a few areas of social anxiety and general awkwardness by providing a great excuse to gather with others.  It even helps with the pressure of finding something to talk about by creating its own subject matter.  Either way, regardless of the regularity that I meet with friends to play games, I had never gotten into LARP.

Why did I never LARP?  Well, for one thing if you are a socially anxious creature a LARP can seem a bit overwhelming.  Forget a game with 4-10 people, we're looking at a much larger group than that, and you're not just sitting around munching on awesome homemade bread (thanks, Anne) at a table, you are running around in character.  Conversation skills matter, not rolling a nat-20.  I'd have to remember my stats and abilities, plus possible fictional world knowledge and all sorts of rules.  Additionally most LARPs are long running games so I would be entering a pre-existing community with established characters and all sorts of power differentials (and likely social politics that I'm never good at).   Besides all that, LARPs are made of lots of things I like that can be boiled down to general geekiness.

Still, I just never got to trying a LARP.  Wasn't really sure where to jump in, and didn't really want to do it myself, but the interest was there.  Then two things happened to pull me in.  One is that my friend's started to invite me to one-shot games.  Games where everyone starts basically on the same footing.  The second factor was finding Leaving Mundania : Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games.  I found the information interesting if not written in an overly engaging manner, and if I felt there were things she just didn't quite get (and having since LARPed, I still hold to that opinion) it still brought LARP more to the forefront of my thoughts.  But the true junction between these two is Leaving Mundania did give me the impression that a C'thulhu one-shot would be a fantastic introduction to LARP, and this past fall there was a C'thulhu one-shot that a group of friends invited me to.

If you have no clue what I mean by C'thulhu I recommend going and reading some H. P. Lovecraft right now.  He was a master of suggestive horror, writing stories about creatures man is not meant to know that insidiously creep into your mind and might actually appear creepy until hours after you have finished his story.  The C'thulhu mythos is pulled into pop-culture all over the place, including in Hellboy and World of Warcraft.  For those who want the quick and dirty, the C'thulhu mythos is about elder beings who devour your sanity if you are lucky, your soul and/or the earth if you are unlucky.  In LARP terms this means your character very likely will die and/or go crazy by the end of the weekend, and if there happened to be any survivors from a previous one-shot in this game, they were burdened with disadvantages to balance any advantages they had.

Of my group, 3 of the 4 of us died acting as rear-guard as most of the players ran in terror from a boss, and we were completely OK with it.  It was an awesome death, and less than a quarter of the total players actually 'survived' the whole game.  After 'death' we got to actually sleep, or go to monster camp and try to hunt down the other players until game end sometime Sunday morning (around 6AM I think it was).  TL;DR: oh my god it was awesome.

Alright, so does this have anything to do with libraries?

Definitely.

I want to some day arrange an after-hours LARP in a library.  What system, what setting, which library?  No clue yet, beyond the need for a non-physical combat rules set.  Libraries often have interesting spaces and creative conglomerate architecture.  Some game settings, such as C'thulhu, actually lend themselves well to a space like a library, and the idea of an overnight 'lock-in' is not a new one.  Why not create a living story for members of the community to play within?

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