Regency LARP

I got shot. It was one of the best things that happened all game.

I love it when I can say something like that, and mean it as a sincere statement of fun. ^_^

It’s easier to post about one-off games in a way that’s comprehensible (and, dare I hope, interesting?) to outside audiences, since they’re designed to be self-contained, so if you’re curious about how I got shot and why this was such a fabulous thing, look no further than beneath the cut.

The first thing to say by way of background was that in playing a nineteenth-century British naval officer, I was not actually playing a man; I was playing a woman pretending to be a man. Yes, Lieutenant Simon Ravenswood was in fact Miss Victoria Ravenswood, his twin sister who took his place when he vanished mysteriously some years ago. (I blame akashiver for posting about cross-dressing nineteenth-century women sailors two days before buzzermccain proposed the game.) The reason for this swap was suitably melodramatic: their parents had died, leaving them without much money, and their inheritance from their wealthy but unfriendly uncle was dependant upon Simon reaching the rank of post-captain in the Navy. Until he did so, they would not see a penny; ergo, without Simon, Victoria had no money and no future. So she began her masquerade, and did it well enough that she passed for lieutenant on her own merits.

But there were people who knew. One was Lady Ekatarin deCourcy (aka “Kate”), the hostess for the party, who was Victoria’s childhood friend; they’d had cross-dressing adventures in their youth before life took them their separate ways, and she recognized “Simon” on sight. Another was Captain Bartholomew Granger of the Hesperides, who found out her secret not long after she replaced her brother, but acted as her protector instead of exposing her. A third was Lieutenant Sir Edmund Byrom, and that was not good news; after being responsible for the wreck of the Persephone, which went down with all hands save him and Victoria (whose true sex he learned along the way), he blackmailed her into saying he had acted heroically, in exchange for keeping her secret.

One person who didn’t know: Lieutenant Harold Wycliffe, Simon’s best friend, with whom of course Victoria had fallen madly in love.

‘Cause you gotta have that.

So this is our opening scenario, as we go to a house party for a mummy-unwrapping (which set off a whole lotta plot I had almost zero involvement with; I was so busy with Personal Drama that I had no idea what was going on with 90% of the game). The major thing I expected — mothers and fathers with unwed daughters, of which there were many, trying to feel out whether I would be a suitable match — did not happen, mostly because everybody got quickly derailed with evil curses and plots to murder Lord deCourcy and the like, but a random addition to the backstory on the part of other players gave me an interesting opening. The players of the Worthington sisters decided they had a brother, Percy, who died aboard the Persephone, and not only did I have to tell the false story to his mother and two sisters, I had to tell each one separately. By the time I’d repeated the lie for the third time (twice with Byrom watching over my shoulder), I was about ready to be sick, and so I decided to take him down.

I took Captain Granger aside and told him the truth: that Byrom was an abominable sailor who did not in the least deserve the promotion his supposed heroics were about to earn him, and that I would rather scuttle my own future than let him be rewarded in such a fashion. We had orders to sail out a few days later, and so the plan Granger and I formed was this: that he would write to the Admiralty with the true story, withdrawing his own commendation, while we were out for another two or three months. At the end of that cruise, I would leave the Navy before Byrom could expose me, and he would likely be court-martialed for his cowardice in fleeing the Persephone. Also, Granger would forward to the Worthingtons my letter of apology and explanation.

This solution worked, but it didn’t make me real happy. I would take down my enemy at the cost of everything I had earned and loved. (Though Kate did offer to magic Byrom into forgetting or being unable to speak of my secret. Unlike most of the game, I had only just discovered magic was real, so I was very reluctant to accept her offer; it seemed ungentlemanly, and I was trying so very hard to be a gentleman. Except for, y’know, being a girl.)

Then Harry (my best friend) comes to me with the suspicion that (long story) Byrom had murdered his aunt some years ago. In the course of discussing whether it would be fitting for Harry to lie in an attempt to expose the truth, I end up admitting that I’ve been lying to him. A lengthy conversation ensues in which Harry gives me every opportunity not to tell him what that lie is. In truth, every factor but one argues against not telling him until I’m ready to leave the Navy; after all, we’re going to be on a ship together for another couple of months, and wow, won’t that be awkward. But the countervailing factor is this: it’s a game, and nearly the end of it to boot. It wouldn’t be half as fun to say afterward, “So, three months later Simon has this conversation with you . . . .” So in the middle of yet another distracting something-or-another from him, I blurt out, “Harry, I’m a woman.”

It’s a great pity when my own role-playing means I’m staring at my knees at the very moment I wish I could see the other player’s expression. Movies let you have it both ways; games do not.

Some interesting things about that conversation: Harry had already more or less said he forgave me for whatever the lie was, so as drydem put it, he couldn’t exactly take that back and get upset at me. He did, however, nearly go for the comic value of responding “Simon, just because you’re getting emotional doesn’t mean you’re a woman . . . .” There was also a great moment when, in discussing my service to the Navy, he said “You have done very well, for a woman.” Long pause. “Or for a man.” Very near miss on crushing my heart, there. But speaking of crushing my heart, did I mention he was engaged to be married? And I, of course, had to tell him I was in love with him. (Thus explaining that rather-too-intimate moment we had shared some years before.) And drydem, of course, had to leave me dangling in that conversation, without saying anything one way or another to let me know whether he returned my affections.

So we pretty much leave the conversation there, since out of character drydem and I had wandered off to the courtyard and were half-afraid the game had wrapped without us knowing it. It’s still in full swing when we go back, though, and so we part with the less-than-reassuring reassurance that we’re still friends. I notify Granger and Kate that I’ve told Harry the truth (which Kate wanted me to do for most of the game), and a few minutes later, the main plot goes careening past me waving guns and swords and soon-to-be-sacrificed chickens, chasing the mostly-invisible Irish doctor/spy who’s been possessed by the spirit of the recently-murdered Lord deCourcy (did I mention how oblivious I was to most of the plot?), and I get shot.

This is how it happens. I’ve stationed myself on a small flight of steps in the ballroom, representing that there are several Marines with me keeping people from leaving the hall. There’s a scuffle in a nearby corner; Granger’s trying to grab the doctor, whom I can’t see. Failing at this, he draws his pistol and orders the doctor to halt. deadmanwade, who’s adjudicating this, tells me it looks like he’s pointing the gun at me, but judging the angle of dyrecorn‘s arm, I say it’s a little to my left. We agree that it’s pointed about halfway between me and Byrom, who’s behind my left shoulder. (Privately I figure Victoria thinks he’s aiming at Byrom, since she kind of hopes the bastard will die.) We’re in quasi-rounds now, so the doctor takes a few more steps. Granger’s gun moves to follow. He fires, and throws a chop with austenebrous to see if it hits: it doesn’t.

Me: <looking at his arm again, which is now pointed directly at me> “If he missed the doctor, does he shoot me instead?”
deadmanwade: “Throw a chop to see if you can dodge.”
<dyrecorn and I do so, me wondering if I maybe don’t just want to relent. We tie.>
Me: “I think I’d rather get shot. It’ll be more interesting that way.”

So it was that my own captain shot me in the stomach. As drydem said afterward, any woman cross-dressing as a man in this kind of genre should lose on ties for getting wounded; after all, it’s the classic difficulty to fall into.

Turns out that while all this was going on, Harry and Kate were hatching a plot in a nearby room. They come out just in time to see me falling to the ground while most of the game stampedes off in pursuit of the invisible doctor. I refuse several people offering medical help (of course) in favor of them sending for the ship’s doctor, who knows my secret, then lie on the floor of that nearby room bleeding and waiting for him to show up.

At which point Harry begins, in a very roundabout and inefficient manner, to set forth his plan. He starts by explaining to Kate (and maybe Granger? I don’t remember if he was in the room at that point) that he’s the head of his household since his father’s death, and they’re reasonably well-off; I prepare to tell him that it isn’t adoption I want from him. But no: he suggests that Lt. Simon Ravenswood should tragically die, and that on his deathbed, he should beg his dear friend Harry to take care of his penniless sister Victoria. Harry would convince Miss Feathershire to break off their engagement, I would be honorably and non-suspiciously out of the Navy, and my future would be assured. Beautiful — except for one thing.

Me: “I don’t want your pity, Harry.”
Him: “It isn’t pity. It’s . . . .” <fairly long pause> “It’s affection.”
Me: “It’s a fitting moment in my strange life that I should be proposed to while bleeding on Kate’s floor.”


Turns out he had this plan in mind before I got shot; I saved him the trouble of having to engineer a mock-fatal accident. (You see what I mean about how getting shot was the best thing that happened to me all game? I love it when the drama falls neatly in place.)

So in the last half-hour of the game, I confessed to my best friend/love interest, got shot, faked my own death, and secured a happy marriage. We also imagined a hypothetical little scene — think of it as the tag that runs after the credits roll — a few months later: Victoria, now in female clothing, strolling in a garden with the rather bluestocking Miss Worthington, Harry’s childhood friend, whose medical aid Harry refused when I got shot mostly because he was planning to fake my death.

Me: “You spotted me as Simon, didn’t you?”
Her: “Yes.” <pause> “Do you think it’s possible that Percy survived the wreck of the Persephone? . . . I’m only a little bit older than him, you know.”

Cut to black, and thus the cross-dressing flag is passed on to a new bearer.

Now, since everybody asked for it — and we’re putting this outside the cut so that people who don’t want to read through the saga can find it — you can, in fact, see a picture of me in costume. It’s the only one I happen to have (i.e. on my own camera), but I know a bunch of other people took some; I’ll link to those as they go up, I suppose. Especially since I don’t have pictures of anybody else, and there were a lot of fabulous costumes at the game.

Yeah. Oodles of fun, most of it crammed into half an hour or so at the end, though that’s not to knock the earlier parts of the game. My thanks to everybody I got to interact with, and especially to buzzermccain for running it.

0 Responses to “Regency LARP”

  1. danielmc

    so wish i could have stayed longer.
    it was just beginning to get interesting.
    always throws interesting games.

    “the invisible doctor”. heh.

    • kniedzw

      I’m sort of sad you weren’t able to stay longer, as well. It’d have been nice to have another crazy person to play off.

    • Marie Brennan

      I’m not at all sure I’ve been in one of her LARPs before — certainly every one I can think of, I haven’t been in. (Barring BAPA, of course, which originated with .) But ’twas very fun indeed.

  2. d_c_m

    Your story rocks!!! What fun!! It was a blast of a game. 🙂 I loved playing someone of no particular power or importance who, with her wonderful sister, got to steal from you stuck-up, er, high ranking lot. 🙂

    Let’s do it again. Especially of feyangel and akashiver will give me another manners lesson. 😉

    • Marie Brennan

      You were stealing?

      Eh, not like I had anything you could take. And Lady deCourcy is rolling in it now that her husband’s dead, so she can probably afford it.

      • d_c_m

        Hee heee!! Yes!! Kasi and I actually stole three items including one of the Egyptian props!!!! It was soooo fun!!!!


      • d_c_m


        You were quite a dashing young man!!!

        I love danielmc’s last pick of the navy boys. You all looked hawt!

        • Marie Brennan

          I’m amused by the several centuries of naval costuming we covered amongst ourselves. <g>

          • coyotewatches

            Well… I WASN’T going to say anything…

            I had a whole story ready about having my actual coat being too torn and bloody from the prize taking on the way back to England and having to get a “spare.” I was ready… I was!!!

          • Marie Brennan

            <lol> Hey, as long as we were recognizably Not Civilians, it worked for me. Though a teeny-tiny voice at the back of Obsessive Costumer Brain mourns how awesome it would have been to have us look truly uniform, like they did back then.

            But I think that part of me really just wants to be in movies.

  3. drydem

    I will say, I did rather intentionally vague things up at the beginning of that conversation about lying and honor for dramatic purposes. And I will also say, it was pretty spiffy overall playing that out with you. And really really hard to be the quiet guy, I’m used to being charming and witty and Harry was neither of those things.

    • Marie Brennan

      Oh, I’m all for dramatic purposes. ^_^ In fact, had circumstances been different, I might well have approached my own attempt to tell you by delivering vague questions about lying and honor. You beat me to it, was all. <g>

      I am unutterably pleased by how it turned out. My thanks, again.

    • Marie Brennan

      BTW, I said this to k8 and it’s worth repeating to you — I think the reason our part of the game worked out so satisfyingly was that you and I had compatible ideas about the type of story we were in, and the tropes that comprise it, so we were able to head in the appropriate direction without a whole lot of really obvious manipulation and meta-gaming. Things like (as I mentioned last night) me assuming I could rely on you to make the association with Blackadder, etc. I’m really coming to believe that compatible frameworks of that type are key to having a game cohere.

  4. raisinfish

    That costume is fantastic!

    • Marie Brennan

      Thank you! I worked from a pattern (Butterick 4891), but modified it to match pictures I’d found of a naval lieutenant’s uniform from 1812, the year of the game.

  5. sarcastibich

    A) the outfit looks great. well done!
    2) Good LARP story! That is the kind of RP and fun and spontaneity you can get from a good one-shot, and I totally understand the joy you had. Hell, some of my favorite personal “war stories” from LARPs are from one-shots, both in Changeling (the summer of “everyone but David runs a game”) and in Mayghin Brown’s Cthulhu one-shot.

    • Marie Brennan

      While I love the long-term development that happens with an ongoing game, I also quite enjoy the freedoms of a one-shot. I’m much more inclined to take big risks when I know this will be my only chance to do so.

  6. gollumgollum

    Oh, brilliant!1 That’s exactly the kind of game i’d hoped you’d have when you told me about this character. Fantastic. Sounds like you had a blast. (:

    And nice costume, too. You pull it off very well.

    • Marie Brennan

      Up until the last half-hour or so — basically, whenever I went off into the conversation with Wycliffe — I didn’t think it was going to turn out to be the game I was hoping I would have. Then it avalanched into it, quite without warning, and I’m still grinning over how everything worked out.

      As for the costume, I told people after the game that it really was a part of the character: Victoria was doing everything in her power to be the perfect lieutenant as if to make up for her sex, and so I needed the costume to be as perfect as it could be.

      • kniedzw

        As for the costume, I told people after the game that it really was a part of the character: Victoria was doing everything in her power to be the perfect lieutenant as if to make up for her sex, and so I needed the costume to be as perfect as it could be.Also, you’re nuts.

        Just thought I’d amplify your narrative a bit.

  7. kendokamel

    Goodness! It seems that all of the exciting details came out after I had to leave!

    I didn’t get to interact much with your character in the game, but your costume looked fabulous! (I hope the cuff tacking was sufficient… and not too hard to get out, afterward.)

    • kendokamel

      (Also, I hope you don’t mind terribly if I add you. It seems that we have quite a number of friends and interests in common.)

    • Marie Brennan

      No, feel free to add me; I don’t ever mind.

      Thanks again for the cuff tacking. I hadn’t had a chance to try on everything together, so I didn’t realize until I got there that I would need them pinned back, and then I’d forgotten my sewing kit.

  8. mastergode

    Man, I’m so jealous. I used to play in some great games when I was in school over in Gainesville, at UF. I had a group of pretty dedicated players.

    But down here in Miami, it’s just terrible. Not only can I not find anyone to play, but when I DO find people, they’re terribly non-comittal and can’t be relied upon. That goes for pretty much everyone in Miami. =(

    In other news, that costume was TOTALLY AWESOME. You should totally wear it often, now that you have it. *grins*
    Going to the supermarket? What the hell, dress up. *snickers*

    Also, when I met you at ICFA, I’d had no idea that you’d had any novels published. So, I happened to be in Barnes and Noble the other day, and I decided to pick up a copy of your books. I’ll give ’em a read and let you know what I think, if you care. Otherwise, I’ll read them and keep my opinions to myself. *grins*

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah, I’ll be sad if wherever I go after here doesn’t have a good gaming community. I’ll probably take it as a challenge to build one, but that takes a lot of time and effort.

      I didn’t realize I’d somehow failed to communicate my novelist status — bad self-promoting author, eh? <g> I hope you like the books. Feel free to say whatever you like; most of the time, the criticisms I’ve seen have either been things that are so much a matter of I shrug and think “whatever,” or aspects I agree could have been improved.

      • mastergode

        Building a gaming community isn’t only alot of work, but it also depends highly on what sort of people you get involved. Because, really, no amount of effort on your part is going to compensate for other peoples’ lack of interest and/or reliability. Which makes me terribly sad.

        But yes, you’re terrible. You didn’t even have a business card to give me. *chuckles*

        Also, I thought that I was the only geek left who still uses “”! I picked it up back in my Prodigy days, back when bulletin boards were the way to go. *chuckles*
        I don’t use it on livejournal because it tends mistake the brackets for HTML code, which makes me sad; quite possibly more sad than the lack of reliable gaming communities.

        • mastergode

          OMG, see, it did it in that comment! Between the quotation marks was a *g*, but with little HTML brackets (whose name I still don’t know). Is there some code that will allow me to use them, or something?

        • Marie Brennan

          The brackets version is pretty ingrained in me, though I picked it up on Compuserve.

          You can get angle brackets to display by using the following code, minus spaces: & l t ; for < and & g t ; for >.

          Yes, I really do type that every time I want to use the brackets. It’s become habitual. (And, btw, any time you need to know how to display an odd character, google “escape characters” and you’ll find similar codes for everything you might ever want to type.)

  9. moonartemis76

    very incredible story!!!

    glad you had so much fun and your costume was spot-on

    • Marie Brennan

      I did indeed have fun. And though I doubt this particular story will reappear as a novel <g> the cool bits of it are definitely in the mental compost pile, where they will get recycled into something else.

  10. ellen_kushner

    Great photo! Loved the other ones, too. I’m sure many stitches were finely-stitiched, but what I love is that you’ve really mastered the body language (at least, when you’re standing still) – lack if it’s what makes most folks come a cropper. Brava! Glad you enjoyed yourself thoroughly – and thanks again for the ride.

    • Marie Brennan

      I was a dancer from the age of five until the end of high school; body language is a big part of performance for me, both in terms of what I do and what I notice in other people. When I’m creating a character, posture is often as big a component as how I talk. One time, preparing to play someone who was supposed to be a perfect little lady, I walked around the house before the game with things balanced on my head. <g> And of course costume feeds back into that, as shoes and corsets and sword-belts and the like change how I’m going to walk or sit.

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