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Conventions Larp

Kaleidoscopic Consequences

This year was the eleventh edition of Consequences, the UK’s national chamber larp convention. As ever, it was a lot of fun! One innovation this year was a support programme for new attenders – to help them find their feet, learn the unwritten social conventions, meet other newcomers, and so on. I was very keen to get involved in this – I think that without this sort of attention, a gathering mostly of old friends can be in danger of becoming a bit cliquish and impenetrable – and it was really nice to see so many new people having a good time.
I initially only planned to run one larp, because of the proximity of On Location (which I realize I haven’t written about here yet…) – I thought I might be pretty strung out by this point. As it turned out, I wasn’t, really; but on the other hand I was quite ill. But then, I ended up running a second larp anyway, because the original GM wasn’t able to make it down in time.

Marinara

So the extra one was Marinara, by Graham Walmsley. A contemplative larp about an immigrant family of three generations, who get together to cook a shared meal – which the players actually do for real, during play. I’d originally signed up to play in it, but GMing was fun too (although not as filling). It was an interesting experience, because although it is broadly the sort of game I might have designed myself (except I wouldn’t have had such a good idea), it was different in a number of details from my own practice. I need to think about what to learn from it.

The Life of Mermaids

I also had the converse unusual experience, that of playing in a larp of which I was a designer. Christi S was running The Life of Mermaids, the larp that came out of the workshop I ran at Solmukohta last year – co-written with Olga Rudak, Mira Suovanen, and Jouni Karppinen – and I made up the numbers. It’d been a while since I ran it myself, and longer since if played it, so I was slightly caught out by how affecting it was. Even such a quick building of family relationships can generate real emotional depth. (Which had been the point of the workshop, after all.)

Delta Sector Helter Skelter

The other larp I ran was Delta Sector Helter Skelter, the latest scenario for Picking up the Pieces – the flexible larp-building framework that Alli Mawhinney, Cat Tobin, Heidi Kaye, Traci Whitehead and I designed at Peaky a few years back now. In response to would-be-player requests, this was a science-fictional setting – an interstellar scoutship lost in a remote galactic sector. It worked pretty well, and players had fun and managed to collectively invent some good stuff and tie off the personal and group storylines satisfyingly. There was the general issue with improvised SF games that there can’t be exact instinctive consensus about exactly which vision of the future we are in, and I might include a round of calibration statements next time. But basically it did have the feel of a fairly decent pilot episode of a ripoff of Star Trek: Voyager; which had been the intention.

Volcano’s Edge

So I did get to play some other stuff too. Including on the Friday night Volcano’s Edge, which was a terrific classic uk-freeform set in a pulpy 1930s, written by Nickey Barnard together with Steve Bassett, Dream Cloutman-Green, Sue Lee, Cat Tobin and Janet Young. My character was a psychiatrist with a neat line in mesmerism, and member of a society for investigating strange goings-on… of which there were plenty. This is the sort of larp that is easily spoilered, so suffice to say that the fun tropes of the genre were well represented, and that I had a lot of fun betraying, being betrayed, investigating, and being bemused.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Saturday night’s larp, although with a similar period setting, was a very different affair. Dulce et Decorum Est, by Alison Rider-Hill, is set at the estate of an aristocratic British family, in 1938: Europe is on the brink of war (or, in several places, already amidst it). Will the Allies stand up to the German threat? Should they even try? It’s a tense political and interpersonal drama, played out among the family members and their guests. Emphasis is on emotional development and revelation of feeling, rather than plot and secrets (although there are enough of those to keep fuelling the angst). I found it a powerful and affecting experience, comparable perhaps with Burning Orchid and Love Letter among recent uk-freeforms that have emphasized the emotional side.

So then

I think it’s great that Consequences, which has done such a lot of good for the hobby here in the UK in recent years, seems to be still thriving and attracting new people. The venue is lovely, but is also a limiting factor – it’s not really possible for the convention to grow, which is a pity. I’m this year stepping down from running the website, although I am in exchange taking on a formal safety role – I’m glad that I can still contribute. And already thinking about what larps to bid for next year!

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