April 2018

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The flag of the fourth Wyrd Con Interactive Storytelling Convention will wave September 12-15 this year, tethered to the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa, California, a few miles from Disneyland. Since its creation in 2010 by Joslyn Field, Adrianne Grady, Ira Ham, Richard McCoy, and Jessica Richards, the youthful Wyrd Con has already staked a claim on the […]

Jun 24, 2013

This is Part II in a series of blog posts that exposes the raw ego, naked agony, and rare raptures associated with designing a live action role playing event, The Dreamlands, from scratch. Part I can be found here. I hope this collection of self-reflections serves you as either an inspirational anthem or a cautionary tale of dire warning—it might be both.

No fun, my babe, no fun. –“No Fun” by The Stooges

When describing live action role playing, I surmise the most oft-used descriptor is FUN. I am not against fun, I think fun is…fun. But I don’t follow when fun becomes the sole driver or benchmark of success for a live action role playing event.

First, I always have to ask, fun for whom? The players? The designers? The majority of participants? Everyone?

Second, I always look at the fact that fun for me may not be fun for you, and vice versa.

Third, I don’t think larps are required to be fun to be valuable experiences.

What if your larp designer is working out issues and really, really wants to TPK in an explosion of misanthropic self-loathing? If fun for her is directly proportional to the misery of the players, is that OK? If not, why not?

morgan jarl

Morgan Jarl as the last man from “Mad About the Boy”, photo by Li Xin

One of my favorite stories from the New Yorker magazine is “The Dungeon Master” by Sam Lipsyte. It begins:

The Dungeon Master has detention. We wait at his house by the county road. The Dungeon Master’s little brother Marco puts out corn chips and orange soda.

Marco is a paladin. He fights for the glory of Christ. Marco has been many paladins since winter break. They are all named Valentine, and the Dungeon Master makes certain they die with the least possible amount of dignity.

It’s painful enough when he rolls the dice, announces that a drunken orc has unspooled some of Valentine’s guts for sport. Worse are the silly accidents. One Valentine tripped on a floor plank and cracked his head on a mead bucket. He died of trauma in the stable.

“Take it!” the Dungeon Master said that time. Spit sprayed over the top of his laminated screen. “Eat your fate,” he said. “Your thread just got the snippo!”

The Dungeon Master has a secret language that we don’t quite understand. They say he’s been treated for it.

Whenever the Dungeon Master kills another Valentine, Marco runs off and cries to their father. Dr. Varelli nudges his son back into the study, sticks his bushy head in the door, says, “Play nice, my beautiful puppies.”

“Father,” the Dungeon Master will say, “stay the fuck out of my mind realm.”

“I honor your wish, my beauty.”

Dr. Varelli says things like that. It’s not a secret language, just an embarrassing one. Maybe that’s why his wife left him, left Marco and the Dungeon Master, too. It’s not a decent reason to leave, but as the Dungeon Master hopes to teach us, the world is not a decent place to live.

Would you like to play in that DM’s D&D campaign? Wouldn’t that be fun? What if it was fun for him? Doesn’t he deserve fun in his role-playing game? Again: fun for whom?

In one of my more memorable moments as a PC, I played a fire mage in a long-running Southern California fantasy—excuse me, “dark fantasy”, like both kinds of music that Bob’s Country Bunker plays—campaign. This weekend camper was my first appearance as a PC, and the second time in my 25-year history of larping that I slept in a tent.

My fire mage was a graduate student that took 20 years to get a degree from the realm’s Hogwarts. He was past his expiration date, solely book-learned, socially awkward, had never witnessed combat, and, although a master of impressive fire spells, he had no idea to what extent they could be used to harm living things.

On the first night of the larp my mage celebrated graduation (at last!) from the magic academy and had too much to drink. After master swordsmen and swordswomen fought for sport, he/I staggered into the dueling pit to showcase my magical abilities in the hope that someone would hire me, since I was now out of school and had student loans to pay. I threw a few fireballs at a dummy target to little notice. I wanted to highlight my biggest spell, so infused with liquid courage and spurred by an NPC demon in disguise (I found out after the game that he was a demon), I screamed at the top of my lungs “By the sound of my voice, five fire damage!”

Thus I nuked everyone to introduce my character.

I heard people screaming “Resist!” and the demon NPC, whom I thought was my friend (he was the only one who was talking to me), said “That was great! Can you do it again?” And then I slowly yelled “By the sound of my voice…” allowing the other PCs to subdue me with the flat of their blades.

I “woke up” in the tavern, sober due to the ice bucket of grievous error. I started crying (fer reals) asking if anyone died, if everyone was OK, I didn’t mean it, boo-hoo, emo me. Outwardly, my character was traumatized, and I spent the rest of the larp trying to make amends. Inwardly, I was having the time of my life! THIS WAS FUN!

But for other players, woodsy rangers and the like, they took serious damage and had to get healed. Was it fun for them to interrupt their role-playing to get mana bactine because some idiot PC firebombed them? Probably not. Different strokes for different folks.

As a larp designer, though, I have to consider everyone’s idea of fun, including my own. Therein lies one of the central conflicts in live action role playing: what makes a larp fun? It is always subjective, dependent on the participant’s personality at that point in time as well as the role-playing of others. What is un-fun at one point in time might lead to delicious joy a few moments later, depending on circumstances that I, as a designer and GM of a larp, can’t always (and often refuse to) control. In a future article I’ll examine the issue of responsibility in a larp; in short, there is a dance between everyone involved as to what is fun or not. I’ve run events, larp and not, that some people hated yet others considered the most magical, amazing time of their lives.


Finally, I don’t believe that an effective larp must be a fun larp. Markus Montola wrote a percipient essay entitled “The Positive Negative Experience in Extreme Role-Playing”, with the following abstract:

Fun is often seen a necessary gratification for recreational games. This paper studies two freeform role-playing games aiming to create extremely intense experiences of tragedy, horror, disgust, powerlessness and self-loathing, in order to gratify the self-selected group of experienced role-players. Almost all of the 15 interviewed players appreciated their experiences, despite crying, experiencing physiological stress reactions and feeling generally “bad” during the play.

I enjoy attending larp-like events such as Accomplice the Show and Halloween haunted houses like Delusion. Last year my wife and I went to Blackout, an “extreme haunted house” that began in New York and oozed into Los Angeles. You are required to sign a waiver and given a safeword before walking through the rooms alone where you will be cruelly pushed, roughly shoved, raw groped, your face smeared with fake blood, force-fed something nasty, your wrists cuffed tightly and pressed to kneel for a long time on concrete with a plastic bag wrapped around your head. In one room, a naked man crammed my face into a messy mattress and “masturbated” over me (onanistic experts would say he was faking)—before tossing me out of the room like soiled tissue because he couldn’t climax.

Blackout was chiefly a repulsive expenditure of two hours (mostly spent waiting in line) and sixty dollars. But I don’t consider it a waste of time nor money. It made me understand myself better in ways that don’t come easily in a semi-comfortable, cushioned first-world existence. I have no plans to attend again and rate it a zero on the fun meter, but do I regret it? Not hardly.

Please note:

  • I am not saying all or even most larps have to be like Blackout.
  • I am not saying you are required to experience an un-fun larp.
  • I am not saying un-fun larps are better than fun larps.
  • I am not saying fun is to be eschewed in larps.
  • Most importantly, I am not saying that I am designing The Dreamlands to be un-fun. I am aiming for fun as a component of that larp, but it is not the only nor the lead goal.

I am saying that defining and rating larps solely by their “fun quotient” is, to me, reductive.

For The Dreamlands I seek to provide an environment and tools so that participants, myself included, can have fun, but primarily I hope to create something that is meaningful, memorable, worthwhile, provocative, or, when my ego is especially bloated, epiphanic. If turns out only to be fun, that’s great, I don’t disparage fun larps in any way. The world is horrible, fun is palliative.

But I also believe that larps can be — and some already are — so much more than fun-making activities. Fulfillment might not be fun, but it is a worthy aspiration, even for live action role playing.

What is your definition of a fun larp experience? Do you enjoy ‘bad’ experiences in character, or does it take away from your ideal game? Join in the discussion below!

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Jun 10, 2013

A few weeks ago, veteran larp designer Stephen Tihor posted this link to Stitch Kingdom on Facebook. The headline is “Disney Seeks to Patent Live Action Role Play for Theme Parks.” There are some illustrations of their process at Stitch Kingdom, and the actual text of the patent is here. The patent definitions are interesting to read:

[0004] A long-form role-play experience is a simulation of an experience in which participants are assigned particular roles in the simulation. As an example, an amusement park may provide a long-form role-play experience that includes performers interacting with guests throughout different geographical locations in the amusement park. As an example, a performer may be an actor. The performers may act out particular actions and lines, and the participants have the opportunity to be active within the role-play experience rather than passive audience members. Other types of performers that do not act may also be utilized in a role-play environment. For example, an amusement park guest may have the opportunity to dress up in a costume and take on the role of a character such as a protagonist in a narrative. Many amusement park guests have exhibited satisfaction with the long-form role-play experience.

But don’t think the Mouse is going to contain their “long-form role-play experience” to just Disneyland:

[0006] The example of an amusement park is provided only as an example. Long-form role-play experiences may be provided in a variety of other geographic locations and contexts other than amusement parks. The large scale implementation of a long-form role-play experience is a difficult operational challenge irrespective of the location and the context.

The application goes on to explain a method, a process, of directing the participants in the larp via computer through both software and hardware. This is similar to a GM releasing crunchy NPCs out of monster camp or Combat Trainers controlling operations at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center (larp) for the military. Nowhere in the patent is the word “larp” or “live action role-playing” used.

[0007] In one aspect of the disclosure, a system includes a coordination processor that receives data from a simulated role-play environment and composes an instruction to a performer to perform an action in the simulated role-play environment. Further, the system includes an interface that receives the instruction from the coordination processor and provides the instruction to the performer.

To some, this means Disney is trying to patent the happy version of Westworld. To others, Disney is making a play to own larp, and if you are coordinating PCs and NPCs via a central processor–even if it’s a human one–you’re in violation of their process. Let’s remind everyone that Disney sues daycare centers.

The Mouse has been talking to people versed in interactive role-play, such as Accomplice: The Show creator Tom Salomon, now under contract with them, and Swede Teresa Axner, an instructor at the Larpwriter Summer School, a Nordic Larp creation. Teresa had lunch at Disney days before Stitch Kingdom posted their article. When the patent was brought up to her, she commented “I’ll be over here in a corner hoping I haven’t spent a day coaching Sauron. 😉 ”

But according to Asa K. Kalama, the first name on the application, “it is a technical patent.” When told about larpers fear and anger that Disney was trying to own the process of controlling NPCs and even PCs, he added “Ack, Oh No…what an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Another group of larpers are excited to hear this news and are anticipating an amazing theme park experience. They are also overjoyed that corporate America is taking an interest in larping, even if the suits don’t call it that. They hope Disney’s role-playing experience will introduce  live action role-playing to a new generation, increasing the larper population as the years go by. There might even be business opportunities for larp designers.

What do you think? Are you thrilled to hear that Disney will be bringing an interactive experience to their theme parks and beyond, or are you terrified that a Cease and Desist letter will be making its way to your larp’s mailbox in a few years?раскруткаaracer.mobideeo.ruкак взломать вконтактсумка для apple macbook air 13где получить кредитную картуbest internet casino usauk asian escortseuropa casinobeste-onlinecasinos.comподготовка к подъему на килиманджарополотенцесушители дизайнерские

Apr 10, 2013
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