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Conventions Larp

Passionate Consequences

Last weekend was the 16th (or thereabouts) iteration of Consequences, a UK chamber larp festival that I’ve been to every time it’s run. The last one in-person was pre-pandemic (there were online versions inbetween), so this was a nice opportunity to see friends after a long gap. There were around 150 people in attendance, I think — including quite a lot of newcomers, so that was great to see.

I ran four larps — three on the programme, and one unofficially — which was a bit rash really, and quite demanding. But ah well, it’s done now, I survived! And I got to participate in a few as well, and did plenty of socializing and catching up.

Keep it in the Family

This is a larp from 2015, which I don’t seem to have written about on here (ahem…) — here it is on my website. It was inspired by the excellent tabletop rpg A Family Affair, by Ashley Griffiths. Which is not easy to get hold of these days, unfortunately, so you may have to make to with this larp instead 😀

I ran it at Consequences in 2016, and it was run by other people a few times back then too, but nothing for a while — so I thought it might be about time for a revival. It’s for six players, who play members of a family and their guests, around an awkward dinner. Each of them has a big and awful secret — and these secrets definitely will come out. It’s not about how to keep secrets, but about what happens once they have emerged.

The run went pretty well, I thought — there was laughter, there was anger, there were tears. I spotted that one of the characters could use to be a bit more tightly woven in, and also there are a couple of design elements that could be smoothed. So I might do a little update for it… this was one of the first Nordic-influenced chamber larps that I created, and hopefully I’ve learned a bit since then.

The Ashlight Labyrinth

A new larp, designed earlier this year — at the Peaky weekend — by Ben Cole, Christi Scarborough, Michael Jones, Natalie Curd, and Nick Curd. It was run for us by Christi and Ben. They say: “The Ashlight Labyrinth is a character and relationship focused freeform of fantasy angst for eight players.”

This was huge fun to participate in, as Kaelin, the misunderstood (and rightly so) magekin. It more than delivered on that expressed design intention, being riddled with accusations, betrayals, declarations of love, stabbings, and all sorts of other excellent happenings. We had a great bunch of participants, who picked up the threads and went for it full-throatedly.

The Ashlight Labyrinth is maybe a larp for people who are quite experienced, because it requires a lot of absorbing and responding to rapidly-changing circumstances and on-the-fly character and background adjustments. (I won’t go into more detail than that, because, spoilers. But you can read here what the GMs feel that it’s ok to say about it.)

Still Waters

This was not on the programme, just a gathering with friends who had one of the lodges with hot-tubs. Consequences is the spiritual home of hot-tub larping in the UK, and Still Waters is the second larp that I’ve written for it — I’ve written about it before here on this blog, and you can find it here on my website.

Together with the excellent Agnes Hultén, I’m currently putting together an anthology of hot-tub larps — to be called Bubbles — and Still Waters will be in there. So it was good to have the chance to test it again.

I felt that one of the three pairs of characters — the Revolutionary and the Assassin — could maybe use a stronger interpersonal connection, to give them more to play on that’s not just political. So I will work on that quite briskly, as the deadline for the book is soon!

Murder on the Dancefloor

So this one was actually for work — it’s one of the murder mystery party games that we publish and sell, and we hadn’t run it ourselves for quite a while, so we thought it was about time to test it out again.

The author of Murder on the Dancefloor is Terence Smith, who had been having one of our games for his birthday party from the age of 12 — and, having reached 17, pitched us this idea for a new one. We loved it, and helped him work it up into a finished game — and then he and his parents were at the playtest, on a visit from Australia to the old country, so we were able to meet. It was a really fun and nice occasion — and the game has been selling ever since.

This run at Consequences was nice too, and people seemed to enjoy it, despite it being designed for non-gamers — experienced uk-freeformers don’t really need the various mechanisms that we’ve built in to ensure that newcomers can have a satisfying experience.

The setting of Murder on the Dancefloor is a small-town-USA diner in the 1950s, and the story centres around teen drama — and I think it does have a good strong feeling of its setting, or at least of the stereotype of its setting as seen in our rear-view mirror.

From the business point of view we were happy with how it went, and there are a couple of little things that we will tweak — improving consistency and clarity. And hopefully it also means that we can treat at least some of Consequences as a business expense 😀

Pictures on Life

A fascinating larp experience, designed by Quinn D and Alyse Leung (and GMed on this occasion by Quinn). In Pictures on Life we played members of a society that resolves difficult personal questions by means of a drawing ritual. Each character has an issue that they are stuck on — in my case, for example, it was a sibling rivalry — and they are paired with another. You explain your issue, and they respond by drawing with coloured pens on part of your body. Then you switch: they explain, you draw. This goes in three rounds, looking at the past, the present, and the future of your issues. You then get together with another pair, who interpret the drawings on you (without having heard what you earlier explained). You then have time to form your own conclusions from what you see and what you have heard.

I called it a ‘larp experience’ because there isn’t much of what we generally consider as larping — talk and action — but lots of sensation and emotion. It is quite an unusual feeling, drawing on someone else’s body, and them drawing on yours. Of course it is all made as safe and comfortable as possible — each person decides where they want to be drawn on (with certain blanket restrictions), and there is a considerable level of trust in the room.

I found it creative, charming, and overall a very nice experience — I had a lovely rapport with my pair, and it seemed like overall the group was harmonious and happy. The only slight issue for me was that I felt embarrassed by how bad I am at drawing — both in creativity and execution — so I sometimes felt that I was disappointing my partner, and I was overawed by the other drawings that I saw. (This is why, in Life Lessons, I made a rule that you don’t have to let anyone other than yourself see your drawings.) But I accept that thus is very much a problem of my insecurities, rather than a flaw in the excellent design of Pictures on Life.

Costa del Crime

Another hot-tub larp intended for the Bubbles anthology, Costa del Crime is by Elina Gouliou and Simon Rogers. This was I think its first playtest, but from the point of view of a participant, it was pretty much perfect already — we were able to get into the action right away, and the internal timing of developments felt very natural.

The characters are London gangsters, meeting in a hot-tub on the Costa del Sol to determine who will take charge of the gang now that the boss has recently met his sad demise. Each character brief is just a couple of lines — and there’s a clever mechanism where you draw a random secret about one of the other characters, and then choose which of them to endow with it.

Play is just through talking, until the denouement, at which each reveals that they secretly smuggled (don’t ask how…) a gun into the hot-tub. Then there is shooting… until either only one survives, or other survivors are happy to shoot no more. I’m not sure exactly how it works over multiple rounds, because we ended up all shooting each other right away, and goodness knows what will happen to the gang now. But anyway Costa del Crime is large amounts of silliness, improvisation, dodgy accents, and senseless slaughter — recommended.

Life of a House

This larp was designed by Ruth Trenery-Leach and Willoh Osmond, with a little of my help, as part of a Game Kitchen meeting, back in 2017 I think it must have been. It’s about how continuous inhabitation of a house shapes it, and how it in turn can shape the people who live within it — or, at least, that’s one reading. It really is intended to be quite an open experience, in which participants can find what meaning they wish.

Life of a House takes place in three scenes, set in 1870, 1940, and 2016: each including 12 characters who are living in or visiting the house at that time. Each of the 12 participants plays a different character in each scene. The characters are very slimly designed, for this reason: their ways of being, and their feelings towards each other, etc, are largely workshopped together by the participants, and improvised during play.

The larp had run a couple of times before, including at The Smoke in 2018, but Ruth and I thought it would be nice to try it out again in a different setting, in the hope of eventually writing it up to be publishable.

As an observer, I found it quite a profound and moving experience, watching the participants inhabiting our house (laid out with masking tape on the floor) and living through their successes, arguments, decisions, and reconciliations. Hopefully they also had a good experience with it — this was the last slot of the programme, so there wasn’t much time to talk afterwards.

The future

Next year Consequences is moving to a new venue, after having been in the same place each time up till now — that will be interesting, to see whether it brings a different dynamic. (Again it’ll be towards the end of November.) It is a friendly community-type event, with a cosy feel, and a decent variety of larps — as is hopefully clear from the above, which was just my personal selection from the 40 or so larps on the programme. Come along and try it!

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