like riding a bike

It hurt my soul a little bit to play a changeling in a Vampire game — but man, it was fun getting to LARP again last night.

The problem is that all the nearby games I know about — where “nearby” is generously described as “within a half-hour drive” — are One World By Night Vampire games, and it really isn’t my genre. Their politics make me want to spork my eyes out, and the alternative to politics is generally Superheroes With Fangs, as they send out boot parties to take down whatever ridiculously overpowered beastie is causing trouble now. Despite that, I’d still probably play in the San Francisco game, except they play outside and it being San Francisco, I froze my toes off the one time I went.

I froze last night, too, but apparently I’ll do that for Changeling, when I won’t do it for Vampire. (The truth of the matter is that I was told the game had a partially-indoor location; what nobody told me was that it would turn out to be 43 degrees that night and the heat had, as near as I can tell, been turned off.) kniedzw having recently become the Changeling Coord for OWbN, he agreed to go up to Santa Rosa to help them finish off a faerie plot that’s been going on there. And when he asked me if I’d be interested in joining him . . . hell yeah! I miss LARPing. amysun and zunger‘s murder mysteries have been my only other fix since I moved out here, aside from my one attempt at the SF OWbN game; that’s three games in nearly a year and a half. I like tabletop gaming, too, but LARPs have a theatrical element that I really enjoy: costumes and body language and physical interaction, the spatial arrangement of a scene.

So I got to cameo as a Liam baroness, negotiating with a group of vampires whose previous leader was stupid enough to let himself be manipulated by a Balor Shadow Court operative into trying to assassinate me. It’s a pretty well-constructed plot, if by “well-constructed” I mean certain characters will be screwed if they make the wrong choice, and others will be screwed no matter what happens. <g> (Those in the latter category brought it upon themselves; the stupidity of the previous leader goes well beyond the nutshell description given above. People: DON’T SWEAR OATHS WITH FAERIES.) Negotiations did not go well, but they aren’t over yet; they have a chance to redeem themselves, and I may have a chance to play the baroness again.

Need moar LARPing. I have a closetful of costumes going to waste. <sigh>

0 Responses to “like riding a bike”

  1. coraa

    Oh, hurrah for Changeling. My favorite White Wolf RPG, in either the old or the new World of Darkness.

    • Marie Brennan

      I haven’t played new!Changeling, though I like the fact that it’s about actual changelings, in the more accepted use of the term. It looks interesting, and a little bit less inclined toward crayon-eating than the original game. (I couldn’t ever shake the feeling that White Wolf didn’t quite respect their own product, the first time around.)

      • coraa

        I enjoyed old!Changeling quite a bit, and played many a character in that ‘verse, but new!Changeling is brilliant, in my opinion. It takes itself seriously, respects its inspirations more, and has a lot more complexity and depth. And it’s a lot less… uhhh, ren-faire faerie, if that makes sense.

        (Not that I have a problem with ren faires! I go to them, I like them, I have fun. But there’s more to being a fae creature than pretty clothes and Wicca and wenching, if that makes sense. Also, apart from the ‘takes itself more seriously,’ new!Changeling isn’t culturally bound in quite the same way, so there’s less of the three-quarters-of-the-kiths-are-Celtic problem; you can play as Chinese or Peruvian or Egyptian or Nimíipuu-inspired creatures if you prefer, without having to hunt down additional supplements.)

        • Marie Brennan

          Yes, I was very glad to see the new game be less culturally bound. Hunting down additional supplements wasn’t the problem; the abysmal treatment of other cultures in those supplements was. (One kith for all of Africa and the Middle East and also the Rom? Really? Two if you count the oba, which is generous given that they’re eshu with a sidhe template stamped onto it.)

          “Ren-faire” is a good description for old!Changeling, I think, with (as you said) no insult meant to Ren faires. Especially in the way that it really just loved the sidhe above all other kiths; they had monopoly rights on the coolest Arts, and on the occasion that the game tried to say something was a commoner Art, it never made any sense — seriously, can you give me a legitimate argument for why nobles wouldn’t be interested in practicing Soothsay? And something about the way conflict was built into that game always just bugged me; I couldn’t put my finger on it, since I don’t see anything structurally wrong with nobles vs. commoners, or Seelie Court vs. Unseelie Court (such as it is) vs. Shadow Court, but it just didn’t work for me.

          Maybe it’s just the politics of the game I was in. They drove me batty, such that when I ran Memento I didn’t touch that stuff with a ten-foot pole.

        • Marie Brennan

          Actually, let me revise the second half of that comment. I think my issue is that White Wolf likes to build a basic binary conflict into all of its games — Camarilla vs. Sabbat, Traditions vs. Technocracy, etc — and those annoy me. And old!Changeling had two of them, nobles vs. commoners and Seelie Court vs. Shadow Court (since there was no Unseelie Court to speak of, except in a few random places). Granted, nobles weren’t the bad guys per se, but the history of Concordia had so much bad blood woven into it that you were pretty well reading against the text if you tried to bypass that. I guess I can understand that for game design purposes, it’s useful to provide players with a Big Obvious Conflict Engine for them to get their games started, and that subtler conflicts with more sides may not work as well for that purpose, but I don’t like the deck-stacking that the binaries entail.

          Makes me wish I had more experience of Exalted. I don’t know how that game read when it was initially just Solar Exalted vs. Dragon-blooded, but my impression of that one is that both sides were more justified — and once you bring in the Lunars and Sidereals and Abyssals and Alchemicals and so on, you’ve got a complex setup chock-full of possibility, all parts of which play together a hell of a lot better than (say) vampires and changelings and mages do.

          • dawn_metcalf

            Interesting. I loved Changeling but wrote for Wraith & Aeon/Trinity which, to be fair, did *not* have the duality that you see in some of the other divisions but Wraith always struck me as a tad limiting since, you know, you’re dead and not in the cool amongst-the-living sort of way.

            My buddy, Richard Dansky, was the genius behind a lot of Vampire the Masquerade, notably the LARP (which is how I know him).

          • Marie Brennan

            The non-WoD stuff tends to be less binary, yes. (My knowledge of Wraith is very minimal, except that its fans are die-hard passionate about it and everybody else wonders how you can make a decent game out of it.)

            I have intriguingly mixed feelings about both Vampire and LARPing. I think I’m much more interested in Vampire as a tabletop setup, because what draws me to the setting is the original core concept, the notion that you’re struggling to hold onto your humanity in an existence that will inevitably take it from you. This, however, is not what OWbN LARPs tend to be about, and I get the impression that the interests of that player base have exerted a pressure on game development over the years, away from the stuff I found more engaging.

            As for the concept of Mind’s Eye Theater — my hat is unquestionably off to the people who developed it, because that really laid the foundation for LARPing as a thing to do. MET as a system, on the other hand . . . it maps *abominably* badly to the tabletop rules in many cases, which means you have to rewrite various things wholesale to even make them work. My views on this are admittedly partly skewed by the fact that the MET rules I know best are the ones for Changeling, which appear to have been written over the course of a weekend without any proofreading, but I think original MET has some structural defects independent of genre. (Example: ablative Traits. Or the granulation of probability. Or the success-or-failure binary, without the distinction of “number of successes” offered by dice.) Friends with experience of its oldest forms tell me MET was kind of designed not to be used, in the sense that LARPs were supposed to be for socially-oriented events where you shouldn’t be throwing a lot of chops anyway. I can believe it, and am in fact much happier when I can get through a whole game with no challenges at all.

            I haven’t played in any nWoD games, but I was relieved to see that this time they designed the LARP rules as a coherent system of their own from the start. The new set looks much more functional.

            None of which, btw, should be meant as a slam on your buddy or his work. Some of it’s simple taste on my part, and some of it’s basically the result of extensive and long-term real-world playtesting; if a way exists to break a ruleset, players will (and have) found it. 🙂

  2. sapphohestia

    You should start a game out there! 🙂

    And I’ve found the key to outdoor gaming is long underwear. Paired with Jeans and a long coat I’m generally OK. Until I get a lungful of smoke and spend the rest of the night coughing up those lungs, of course.

    • Marie Brennan

      This is me, remember? Delicate southern flower. And in this case, delicate southern flower playing a baroness in a diplomatic meeting, which mean I couldn’t bundle up in jeans and long underwear and a coat; I had to be wearing an evening dress. :-/

  3. cuddlejunkie1

    Chuckle…I used to play OWBN vampire and still have friends who do, both here on the east coast and on the west, and your discription is about right..or is exactly right for most games. My husband I went back for a bit and kept away from nation wide or org wide politics and such, it help the people running the game were focused on a more local level but even then there were five or six games (here at least) to play with and as much as there was effort to keep out complicated politics or the superhero with fangs stuff it didn’t always work

    • Marie Brennan

      If I could hook into a good cluster of people for interpersonal RP, I could probably put up with the politics and monster-mashing. But it’s hard to start that from a dead halt, and, well, it was cold. 🙂

  4. d_c_m

    YAY and congrats!!

    Frankly I LOVE x-genre and think it should happen more. Then again, my HST email signature did read: “I’m not going to screw the Old World of Darkness rules. I’m just going to take them out to dinner.”

    And cool about playing a Liam!! I so want to do a Liam based one shot sometime.

    • Marie Brennan

      I think cross-genre shouldn’t happen more mostly because the rules, which don’t work so well in general, work even worse when you mash up different components. (Witness the “Days of Future Past” game, when the mages stomped the changelings into the ground because they didn’t have to worry about Paradox.) I think it could be made to work in a scenario where you’re free to house-rule stuff at will and thus avoid the worst breakages, but it’s a bit tougher in a OWbN setup, where the default assumption really is that you’ll be going by the book.

      • d_c_m

        Hello! Yup, yup. That’s why you hammer out the power differences BEFORE you start the game and tell everyone right off the top that here are the rules, here is how power is balanced, and now deal with it. 🙂

        And frankly, if I were doing a x-genre thing again, the Changeling’s would have as much power if not more than the mages ’cause like in Margaret’s World Changeling’s are magic and thus are powerful and can stand up to mages.

        But hey, that’s me and well, I’m a bit of a rule bender. 😉

  5. dawn_metcalf

    *gasp* Another LARPer?!


    Oh, gawd, I miss LARPing, too…

    • Marie Brennan

      Yep! Spent six years in the world’s weirdest LARPing town: the Vampire and Werewolf games kept dying for lack of interest, but the Changeling game lasted six years and at its high point pulled in eighty people a month.

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