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SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 14th, 2017, 7:50 pm
by lpsmith
I had the great privilege of participating in the 'Storm Cellar' LARP on Saturday night--the very first LARP I had ever participated in.

I... had a lot to say about it. I even revived my old livejournal account to talk about it. So if you're up for some reading, I give you:

Part 1: (as non-spoilery as I could make it, but still sort of spoilery).
Part 2: (Lots of spoilers! Skip if you ever want to play this! Which you do!)
Part 3: (No spoilers, and more about the experience of having played the game.)

Many many thanks to Brendan for running this, and for everyone else who participated and made this such an amazing experience. And Christian--I was browsing the forums and discovered that you and I were both in a game together at the very first GPNW in 2007! ('1001 Nights'). It was great gaming with you again here.

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 14th, 2017, 9:52 pm
by WallsBecomeDoors
This was a wonderful experience. For me, I got to feel probably the most bleed between a character and myself that I've felt so far. I would have had a hard time telling you what was the character and what was me. We were just sort of one person for a while.

...which, in case there is any doubt, was FANTASTIC!

Thank you Brendan for running another spectacular LARP and thank you everyone else who played for making it spectacular (and thank you Lucian for making a thread...I kept hoping a thread would start).

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 14th, 2017, 10:34 pm
by joryjammz
Ahhhhh! Yes, me too! It was such a welcome reprieve to be Theo for awhile - Brendan and I have talked about this game a little bit since then, and he was worried that I might be disappointed with Theo because he's essentially the simplest character. I loved that - I loved being someone whose intentions were so pure, and who really saw the best in people.
I really felt like I was in a different place, and thank you all for being a part of that! <3

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 14th, 2017, 10:36 pm
by lpsmith
Yeah, I think the character survey worked amazingly well--I certainly bonded with Emily instantly, and from my perspective at least, everyone else was pretty much perfectly cast.

If he's willing, I'd love to hear from Brendan how the casting process worked, and who was easy to cast, and who might have been harder. I'm also interested in the gender assignments--I know I wrote on my own survey that I was kind of torn, and was willing to play either, but would probably be more comfortable as a guy. But he cast me as a woman, and it feels now like that was the right call. I'd love to know the thinking behind those decisions, especially if I end up having to do it myself one day!

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 14th, 2017, 10:45 pm
by lpsmith
Theo may have been simple, but I feel like he had the largest burden to deal with in the whole crazy plot! Trying to be there for you to walk through that, watching your lip quiver and your eyes tear up was super hard and super rewarding.

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 15th, 2017, 12:14 pm
by EnricPDX
Yeah, this game was the highlight of an already excellent con. Thanks so much for posting your reflections, Lucian!

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 16th, 2017, 7:04 am
by xenopulse
Hey Lucian (and everyone :)!

Thanks for the write up. It definitely showed in the debriefing how the scenario and your character had connected with your own experiences. That was very touching.

I specifically asked Brendan to give me a character who was NOT like me, to challenge me. It's easy for me to be loyal, kind, conciliatory. But playing a character who was cold, hid his pain behind a wall of spite, and had given up on human connection was very challenging. The player-me wanted to go over to Harry and just hash it out, talk openly about my feelings, etc. The character, though, decided to immediately put up a wall and then later lord my successes over him. And the wall was too strong -- as was Harry's well-grounded "I don't deserve this shit" attitude -- to let us reconcile. And it turns out, those successes -- financial and professional -- were entirely hollow next to the love and caring of the family and friends my character was faced with. While the conclusion wasn't warm and fuzzy for the characters (at least mine, as I think Harry managed to get over me), it was validating the choices I make in my own life, putting family and friends before everything else.

So yeah, wonderful game, great experience, thanks to you all my friends <3 <3 <3

Oh yeah, and we did play together in 2007 Lucian! I remember sitting around the table with you and Lesley and Lukas and... James Brown? There was some story about a giant scorpion. And glass beads were exchanged. Hey, it was a long time ago :)

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 16th, 2017, 9:22 pm
by lpsmith
Thanks, Christian! And thanks for being willing to play an antagonist--if everyone had been reasonable people, it would have been a lot less interesting of a story ;-) That's interesting that you felt your bad choices as a character validated your better choices as a person--I can definitely see how that could work. I've played the antagonist in a play before, and of course I get to play a variety of antagonists as a GM, and the point there is to push the PCs towards finding a way to defeat 'you'. But it hasn't been as personal--I bet that would be interesting. I would also imagine you'd generate a certain amount of empathy for people that *do* act like that, too.

That 1001 Nights game was definitely a highlight of that con for me. You're right that James and Lesley and Lukas were there, as well as my friend Dan. Don't remember the scorpion, but I do remember Lukas's nigh-retired character telling a story about dogs where at the end, it turned out he had managed to craft a perfect story to illustrate his own situation, and we all tossed him dice appreciatively ;-)

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 17th, 2017, 2:42 pm
by Brendan
Hi friends. I was so grateful to get you all to devote your Saturday night to this game, and very happy that the overall experience was so positive. Thank you so much for writing up your after-report, Lucian! Would it be okay if I sent this thread and that link along to the authors of the game? I understand your post-con feelings, and I am sorry for the difficult parts of what they encompassed. If I run something like this again, maybe I'll try to plan out a time for the players to reconvene, later in the weekend, and allow for some relaxation of the sacred-circle boundaries that you and Tim discussed.

Thank you to everyone else, also, for your extraordinary contributions to the game and for popping in here to talk about how it felt. I mentioned to a couple of people that I felt some anxiousness in my role as GM, first because casting is always a bit chancy, second because I thought I failed to prepare enough for my pre-game talk, and third, as I drifted around quietly monitoring the game, that the general hush meant that the game was missing dramatic moments or motivation for some players. (I know Marc, who played Olive, achieved some goals early on and felt a bit at a loose end after.) But all those things seem to have turned out well. I admit I stacked the cast with people I knew from last year could carry this off on their own, and it's clear that all the newer recruits had that same level of inspiration and ability.

As for the casting, Lucian, the full set of game documents has a casting guide that was very helpful--each character is rated in terms of how well they are targeted toward drama/character/gamism focus, and then among the different character attributes you were asked to rate, each is keyed to one or two of the characters. That was a good start, but obviously there's no guarantee that the people who sign up will fit into the right distribution.

First, I made myself print out and read all the character packets, keeping the original "[he/she]" pre-determined language so I didn't get too focused on any gender for each one. Then I tried to focus first on eliminating matchups that would have given someone an attribute they had rated at 1 or 2, and then went back and looked for more subjective things people had asked to avoid (like Christian's request to be cast against type). In general, it felt like avoiding bad matches (and people's limits) was my most important job.

After that, I let intuition take over, though I think I did make sure that everyone had at least one 4- or 5-rated trait in their eventual casting. I'm pretty sure I cast Adrienne as Mira first, since giving someone the major antagonist seemed like the biggest ask and I was pretty sure she could handle it. I wanted to have gender parity in the roles, if not necessarily among the players, so I knew I'd have to do some cross-gender casting. Jackson and Jory were the responses that most strongly requested a current romance, and Jackson specifically requested not to play an ingenue, so I thought they'd make a good Dottie/Theo and Cora/Corbin. As I think Jory mentioned at the wrap-up, it would have felt a little too simplistic for this crowd to just have a farm girl swept off her feet by a boy from out of town, so I made them Theo and Cora.

Harry and Christian had the strongest indications of interest in a past relationship, and I didn't want all the romance in the game to be heteronormative, so I gave them Stan and Lenny. That left me with two spots that I wanted to be women in-game. I already knew that the Rayne parent seemed pretty tailored to your responses, Lucian, and you seemed flexible enough on the gender question to let me come down on the side of Emily instead of Emery. Then I just printed out the Olive (as oppposed to Oswald) Ziegler sheet and trusted that whoever we got at the con would be able to run with it, and I think Marc did a fine job.

Re: SAT 03: "Storm Cellar" LARP

Posted: July 18th, 2017, 12:17 pm
by lpsmith
Thanks, Brendan! I will admit that I beat you to the punch and already emailed the authors ;-) In general, though, I'm happy for people to share the link(s) with whoever they feel would appreciate it. (Can we assume at this point that everyone who was actually in the game has had a chance to see this thread? I tracked down who I could, and I don't want to be pushy, but I also don't want people to feel left out.)

I don't know if a post-LARP reunion/hangout would work or not, but it's an interesting idea. In one sense, we've shared these intense moments together, and it seems almost mean to sever everything entirely afterwards. On the other, being able to step away at the end seems like it could be an important part of the premise for some, and the artificial intimacy of the game might not always translate that well to real life. (Alternatively, knowing beforehand you're going to be interacting with these people later might make you more inhibited during the game.) Maybe just making sure everyone knew it was optional would be sufficient to bridge that gap? It seems like a kind of complicated ethics question.

Your casting description was really interesting! I was really impressed by how well cast the LARP was, and it's cool to hear how that came together. I think you're absolutely right that casting Mira well is key--props again to Adrienne for how well she pulled that off.

I was amused to re-read my answers to the casting survey and see in retrospect that I basically had said I wanted to be Emily, straight down the line, even to the point of me saying "I do have a <spoiler> kid, if that comes up and you need someone who's familiar with that." Small wonder I bonded with her!

Thanks again; it was totally worth the awumbuk to have participated in such an amazing thing.