Grand Larp: Epilogue


Like I said yesterday, Zikara is still embedded in my psyche, and her arc still pains me as a player. My right hand man, who if you haven’t put it together by now played Asbjørn, does his best to take care of me, in and out of particular roles (be them characters, or jobs relating to an event.) He’s been worried about me, lost in this pain and frustration. So he proposed a way to try to help: more roleplay.

We spend a lot of time roleplaying across all the games we play together. It is always a powerful experience. When we play, we both get so lost in our characters. I have no formal teaching regarding acting or roleplaying. My own brand of method acting is home-brewed and the only way I know. It is part of why characters like Zikara affect me so much. He understands the power of roleplay to devastate someone, but he also knows that it can be cathartic, and has incredible power to heal a player as the character wrestles with and conquers pain.

So we set up a scene. Some unspecified time not so far in the future when the talk among the Coalition reaches Zikara and she puts it all together. Her worldview is shattered. Ozda is not real; he does not exist. Nothing and no one is looking out for the Jeskeri, or for her. Scientific explanations were waiting, just under the surface (literally). She and the rest of the Jeskeri had refused for 500 years to search for answers. They we complicit in their own ignorance. She is broken in a way she’s never been broken before. Asbjørn notices that Zikara has shut herself away from the other Jeskeri and comes to investigate why.

Zikara wildly oscillates between utter despair and burning anger. She contemplates suicide because she doesn’t want to face a world without a higher power watching over her. She contemplates running away because she can’t bear to lie to the Jeskeri. She contemplates inflicting the same pain that claws at her on the Jeskeri with a  callous reveal of the truth. And through it all, she laments yet another loss in her life which it seems is doomed to forever be defined by loss.

Through it all, Asbjørn sits with her. He himself is in a unique position. He never believed that Ozda was real. He saw the beauty in the community that the Jeskeri built. That togetherness, that peace, that faith was what drew him in. That is what he tries to show her. He holds her when she cries. He begs her to stay when she threatens to leave.

At first her heart is too broken. Her faith has sustained her for the past 12 years. It has bolstered her through losses, comforted her in times of pain, and given her something to believe in when she couldn’t see the good in herself or the people around her. She took comfort – too much comfort it seems – from the idea that a benevolent deity would ultimately protect the innocent Jeskeri, even if it proved too much for her.

Eventually, with time and patience, Asbjørn convinces her to stay, even if she steps down from her leadership role. How could she leave the Jeskeri? She’s suffered so much loss, how could she choose to inflict that on them – on him? It may not have been the most elegant argument, or the most dignified, but Asbjørn had already tried those and he was getting desperate. The pain in his voice is finally enough to pierce the storm of emotions raging through her.

The rest of it is a harder sell. Asbjørn tries to convince Zikara that the thing worth protecting – the thing that makes the Jeskeri beautiful – is not Ozda, but their community. Zikara struggles to believe that the community can exist without Ozda. Still, in Asbjørn’s conviction and tenacity, Zikara sees a spark. Eventually, in defiance of all the pain she’s feeling – and contrary to her claim that she has nothing left to give – she offers Asbjørn a weak smile.

Asbjørn is right that it is not guaranteed that life in the Coalition will destroy the Jeskeri. But what Zikara chooses to do will go a long way toward protecting or destroying them. Ozda doesn’t have to exist for Zikara to live by the tenets ascribed to her. The Jeskeri give freely what is asked of them, and Asbjørn has asked Zikara to stay, and continue to protect the Jeskeri. So that is what she’ll do. Even if it all feels hollow. Even if it is secretly all a lie. She will keep living, for their sake. And maybe someday, she’ll find the faith in the Jeskeri that Asbjørn has. The flipped script is not lost on her.

When the scene was done, we were both emotionally exhausted. I didn’t hurt anymore, but I assumed that was because I just felt tired. It wasn’t until several hours later, in a break between playing NPCs for the campaign Larp I am Co-GMing, that I realized that something had been unblocked in my chest. I am still upset about the treatment of religion in the game. I still intend to reach for better. But I feel that I can put Zikara down. I can take that mask off, extract myself from that character, and move on. She won’t ever not be with me on some level, but that is true of all of my meaningful characters. Like letting go a paper boat on a river, Zikara can move on, and so can I.

Grand Larp: The Aftermath


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I’ve never played a LARP for as long as Grand Larp before. Neither have I played a character quite so tenacious in my psyche. I’m not sure how much of that was how good of a fit Zikara was for me, and how much of it was just how long I spent in her head. Regardless, the end of the game was heartbreaking for her. Despite her every attempt, the Jeskeri were swept up into the Coalition where they will be as sheep in a pack of wolves.

In wrap up, our GMs explained the underlying metaphysics of the world, including the scientific underpinnings for the perceived miracles of Ozda. As a player, I knew it was very likely, since I know the GMs. Still, it stung at the time. And to my surprise, it still hurts.

I don’t go in personally for organized religion. The hypocrisy I grew up with from both the LDS and Catholic churches turned me off from that. I consider myself reasonably spiritual, with a strong belief in people and their potential. But Zikara grew up without religion, and found it in her darkest moments. To Zikara, Ozda had reached out her hand and saved her. Ozda brought Zikara to the Jeskeri to help them, to protect them, to guide them. She had meaning, she had hope, trust, and faith. And technically she continues in that role. She does not not know that the entire religion is bullshit. She does not know that the entity in which she and her entire extended family puts their trust doesn’t exist. But as a player, I know. And it makes me want to cry.

Trying to explain why has proven challenging. Frankly I keep coming back to frustration over a lack of respect for religion. I find it ironic that I of all people should  be championing respectful treatment of religion, when I myself find very little to respect in the religions I am familiar with. Still, I’m tired of it even, or maybe especially, in science fiction settings.

In the same way that I made a plea for treating “Crazy” in it’s myriad forms with respect, this is me asking for respect for religion. What that looks like I’m not quite sure, but having a scientific explanation for everything the religion believes in, that is trivial to uncover in game is not it. Maybe it involves some mysteries that have no answer. It would leave your scientist characters frustrated, but I think you could get around it with enough other avenues of exploration that the could discover. Maybe it involves the scientific discovery of a being that is powerful enough to be a god? I’m not sure. And that frustrates me too. Not having an actionable answer frustrates me. Oh look, more irony…

I’ll keep thinking about this, and keep trying things. Expect the next few games I write to feature religion in some manner. I want to figure this out. I want to find a solution that doesn’t leave me feeling sick to my stomach and crying for made up characters that don’t even exist in a book such that others might share my frustration.

Grand Larp: Right Hand Man


Yesterday  I linked you to a song from “Hamilton: An American Musical” entitled “Right Hand Man” because it contained a line that I threw out as my character’s parting sentence as the game faded to black. Today I link it again, in case you didn’t go listen to it, and by some chance haven’t yet heard the musical in another context.

The song “Right Hand Man” was always just one song among many in a musical that I thought was fun but not my favorite, until my Co-Logistics manager played it for me on our drive up to Tahoe. He is my Right Hand Man. This is the same amazing person who served as the master mark to the magic that was Baycon 2016. I couldn’t have made Grand Larp happen without him. He handled so many things with such grace, from a massive list of tasks that I didn’t want or didn’t have time to do (eg: I hate chasing people around for carpools), to dealing with my meltdowns.

I’m one of those silly people who are adrenaline junkies, but are not properly equipped to handle the associated stress. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, and then I’m bad at asking for the help I need. My Right Hand Man is the one who calls it like he sees it. He steps in and lightens the load. He tries to talk me out of doing it again. Rarely, he even succeeds.

Grand Larp would not have happened without his help. I salute him, as an incredible logistics manager, as a dear friend, and as an amazing role-player. It is through the effort of people like him that amazing events like Grand Larp get put on among our friend group.

Grand Larp: Play Time


Of course the backstory of a character and a world is only the beginning. The real fun begins when the game does.

Arbiter Zikara met the two delegations as they arrived upon the Corazon, with the intent to separate them as soon as possible. That evening was a whirlwind of trying to warn the Jeskeri of the dangers of the newcomers, and watching as no one listened to me. I fought repeatedly with the Gold who led the Solarian Union, and listened politely as the Captain of the Coalition lied to my face and we both knew she was doing it.

Saturday was one blow after another to the character as she put bits and pieces together. The Ardent was desperate to learn from the newcomers, the Healer was in the coalition’s pocket. The Auspex was not human, neither was my own daughter any more. And Abigail, dear Abigail, was so naive as to believe that we could hold to the adage that we give what is asked for and Ozda provides. She begged for faith and change, but refused the Jeskeri the initiative to defend ourselves, or reach for our own destiny. And so Zikara felt she was the only one who cared to protect the Jeskeri, and understood the lengths it would take to do so. And she had no ally to turn to.

From the perspective of her professional life, everything was lost late in the afternoon, when the Coalition staged a raid of the Sweet Serendipity, a small ship that had made its own way to Corazon. On the personal side, she had been searching among the newcomers for any converts who might be found. She had found peace in Ozda, and wanted to bring that peace to others. Eventually she found Asbjørn – the very Gold she had been fighting with for the last two days.

He was struggling with a literal split personality, and half was kind and gentle, and the other, the epitome of Gold-ness. With Abigail’s help, Zikara sat with Asbjørn for almost an hour in the med bay while combat raged upstairs. The Jeskeri women finally helped Asbjørn find the strength he needed to stand and keep fighting. And that night, the two characters retired together. In what was an incredible moment of defiance, Zikara opened herself body and soul to someone that represented the society that had taken everything from her. The Union had not broken her. She still had forgiveness, compassion, and faith to give. And she would give it to those that needed it.

In the morning, Zikara concentrated on protecting the Jeskeri. There was one last chance to stay on Corazon, so she took it, bringing to the surface Asbjørn’s cruel alternate personality in the hope that he would direct that cruelty primarily toward the Coalition. It was a gamble. She lost.

In the end, the Jeskeri left on the Coalition’s repaired ship, the Corazon station crashed into the surface of the planet, and it was only by chance that Zikara happened across the scene in which someone was in the middle of attempting to kill Asbjørn. The Jeskeri are together, for the most part, but at the mercy of the Coalition. Zikara would despair that all is lost, save that every pair of eyes is on her. If she falls apart, the Jeskeri will too. In her arms she shields Asbjørn, temporarily lost in his failure to protect the Jeskeri. But Zikara is strong. Stronger even that she knew before that moment. She looks Asbjørn in the eyes, and tells him that “Dying is easy, living is harder.

And that is what they will do. Live. Against all odds, the Jeskeri will stay together. They will rise up (yes, it is another reference to the same song). They will endure this exile from Ozda’s light, and they will return some day.

Okay, I think I’m done quoting Hamilton at you for today. Still, the song linked here is relevant to Grand Larp for more reasons than just providing a convenient quote to be my character’s parting statement.

Grand Larp: Zikara Piqivin



Of course, a LARP like this cannot be played particularly well without a character. And Zikara was, well, made for me. I know that sounds funny to say, since all the characters were written for each player by the GMs after soliciting requests, but Zikara was… clearly a reflection of the GMs knowing me so well. Possibly too well.

Zikara has such a desperate desire to protect those around her, driven by the classic tragic backstory of loss. Her family and friends had all been killed by the Golds, the most powerful group in the Solarian Union. She herself had been exploited like so many others by the twisted government system that had forced a genetic caste system on its citizens. When she gathered the courage to flee, her ship was attacked and damaged beyond repair. She should have died, but some higher power decreed that it was not her time.

Zikara found peace among the Jeskeri, a religious order living on a space station called Corazon, orbiting a weird planetoid called the Ametrine. She was rescued by the grace of Ozda (the God the Jeskeri worship) after by some miracle her damaged ship drifted within range of their tractor beams. She found happiness temporarily with a husband and child, but tragedy struck again, with a Gold killing her husband as his final act, then mysterious circumstances on the planet’s surface changing her child’s personality dramatically.

And finally, right at game start, the Solarian Union, which she had so desperately tried to outrun her entire life,  showed up on her station, led by a Gold as despicable as any she remembered.

And so began Grand Larp. Tune in tomorrow to learn what ended up happening to Zikara in game.

Grand Larp: The Buildup


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Okay, now that I’m on the far side of the crazy ride that was Grand Larp, it’s time to start a little series to bring you all along.

The build up to this event has been massive. The GMs and I started throwing the idea around some time last fall. We settled on a place to host the event in something like February. In April we started recruiting. In July, the logistics started in earnest. The month of October was complete chaos leading up to the event last weekend.

We got our character sketches in August I think, but our full character sheets weren’t delivered until two weeks before game, and changes and additions were still being made right up to game start. Hats off to our amazing GMs who managed to pull it all together, with very few unintentional inconsistencies (at least as far as I know).

We started arranging carpools and meal shifts in September. We were still chasing down people for rides a week before game. We started buying non-perishables the month before, but were still doing grocery runs during down time during game for the last little things that had gotten forgotten.

Logistics sent out half a dozen surveys to try to collect all the information we needed. We ran the numbers I don’t even know how many times to figure out how much it was going to cost everyone to attend. We called and texted and pounced on people in person whenever we could to solicit answers we needed.

With the event over, I kind of don’t know what to do now. I mean there are plenty of things I could do that have found themselves neglected (like this blog, or any of the half a dozen games I am in the process of writing), but still it feels weird to have only a few to do list items left for this event.

Con-Volution 2016: Report 5


Convolution 2016 wrapped up on Sunday. My Consort and I ran “All the President’s Zombies” at 10 am on Sunday morning, less than 11 hours after we’d extracted ourselves from the aftermath of DnD. In a pleasantly surprising turn of events, we did not need to run around like crazy people looking for players. We actually had enough by 10:10 to play, and 7/8 characters by 10:20. (Still, that situation might have been helped by having registration open slightly before 10 am such that day-trippers have a chance of making it to 10am programming on time.)

This run of the game was as brilliant as the last one. I believe I forgot to mention that the first run decided to blame the zombies on a bad batch of narcotics. The second run quickly settled on terrorists. I believe the final conclusion was an offshoot of Isis, henceforth to be referred to as “Cobra”, based in North Korea, but operating a domestic terror cell out of Atlanta. Oh, and something about moral fiber… Anyway, everyone had a splendid time being ridiculous and over the top caricatures.

And then, after game, we got some of the best news I’d had all weekend. My bag, which had gone missing the night before, was turned in to Con Ops, literally minutes before the LARP ended and we walked over to check in about it. I got all my stuff back! Including the LARP ribbons so I could give them to players. I was so happy.

Then my Consort and I took two of the players who we know IRL off to lunch. There were epic, massive desserts, and I believe the first 3 raindrops of the season fell, one on each of my three accomplices. I didn’t get any rain. I did get a succulent though! As we were walking back from the restaurant, we came across a bunch of plants that had been uprooted in someone’s landscaping endeavors, including a couple of pieces of some succulent or another. I couldn’t resist bringing it along with me. I’ll plant it at home.

Having run 3 games in less than 48 hours hit me after that. Total mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. The LARP Mistress and her Consort retired to our room for the rest of the afternoon and evening, declining to attend further programming or even really acknowledge anything from the world outside our hotel room for the rest of the day. And of course, managing to only write up a few things related to Con, so now we have post-facto reports. It was hands down the right call to get the Hotel room through Sunday night.

With the Con officially over, I continue to collect the last of my thoughts. I expect another post or two, but I may save them for tomorrow.

Con-Volution 2016: Report 4



Alright, it is about 3 pm on Sunday afternoon. I am settled into what I can now think of only as my writing chair. The atrium space is quiet outside the window. Closing ceremonies is less than an hour away. I don’t feel ready for con to be over. The weekend seems to have flown by.The feeling is emphasized by the fact that I still have so much to tell you. The down side of running 3 larps in less than 48 hours is the utter exhaustion that sweeps over me the moment I have any down time.

So, to pick things up from where I left them after Report 3, we skipped our way down to the parlor room where our game was to be held just before 5 pm. In short order we had the very small space (for 15 players, +2 GMs + NPCs) in working order. All the signs were up on the walls, everyone had responded to questions on our improptu app, and off we went into rules explanation. Since my Consort was busy casting, people didn’t have their character packets yet, and so rules explanation was much more like what we have when we run at Stanford (where the rule is: no character packets until after rules explanation. Otherwise players don’t pay attention to you.)

After everyone had their characters and time to read through the ridiculous amount of materials that the game involves, we started game. As with every other game con or otherwise, I spent the first 15 minutes worrying that everyone was going to be bored out of their minds. This is of course because everyone is trying to get into the rhythm of game. It is always slow at first – no need to panic. And soon enough, the chaos began as my co-GMs and I realized things that were not functioning as intended because of some clerical error in printing and assembling the game. Oh the joys of damage control…

Speaking of co-GMs, my  Consort and I got some unexpected help from a good friend of ours who was around for the day, brought friends to play in the game, and then elected to stick around and help us GM, even though in doing so he spoiled himself to the game and forfeited a chance to play himself some day in the future. Having the extra help was a great boon, and it is hats off to him for doing it. It is kindness like this that really makes Con into such a wonderful experience.

Speaking of kindness, we had an interesting encounter around 7:15 pm. Now, having 15 people in a room talking and moving around can get a little noisy, but the parlor room was on the party floor, and quiet hours (which are enforced in the halls only, btw.) don’t start till 9 pm. Regardless, we had a request to keep the noise down. Fearing a situation not unlike what we addressed during Persephone’s Gift at Baycon 2016, I immediately scampered down stairs and went in search of Con-Ops. I got extra lucky and ran into our social media guru who connected me to exactly the right people on Security. They helped liason with the Hotel to make sure that the Con sanctioned event would not be disturbed. Hopefully, as with last year, the players have no idea it happened.

All told, the game went splendidly, and everyone had a great time. At the last minute, the monsters scrambled together an army that well dwarfed the humans, and despite the long, drawn out fight, they humans were in fact turned back. Hurray!

Still, the night ended on a distressing note when we cleaned everything up and I realized that my bag was gone, and with it, my brand new compact, my favorite lipstick, and my LARP ribbons! Needless to say, tired and sad I was in no mood to write up these reports last night. (More to come on this  saga.)

Con-Volution 2016: Report 3



The last 20 hours or so has  been quite a roller coaster. As predicted, we didn’t make it to any panels yesterday, but we did make it to dealers and the gallery. To my wallet’s great preference, I didn’t actually find much that jumped out at me. A couple of the vendors who have been here in past years were conspicuously absent, and I was sad. The art, while beautiful in it’s own right, did not fit the aesthetic that I’ve been throwing willy-nilly at the walls of my house. And so, I didn’t actually buy anything. We’ll try to swing by and make another pass this afternoon just before they close up and see if we missed anything, but this may be a con with minimal souvenirs.

The afternoon passed in a most pleasant manner. My Consort and I holed up in our room and figured out how to do casting for DnD. Usually I cast in kind of a reckless manner of sorting people in real time based on their answers to questions. It works, but it can be a little arbitrary. Since there were two of us this time,  we were able to do things a little differently. We had everyone  answer a series of questions on a piece of paper and my Consort did casting while I ran rules.

We also got to draw a map! It seemed  most appropriate that for a war council that we lay out the territories of land on the continent. So we rolled out the massive 3’x4′ wet erase map board we have, and got to drawing, with like 8 different colors of markers. It made a great prop for people to stand over and gesture.

For once, it was in good time that we took off for game space. And even so, players beat us there.

You’ll have to wait for the report on game until later, as it is almost 10 am, and we have our last event to run to!

Con-Volution 2016: Report 2



As noon approaches today, I am still in our room. I’ve just finished putting on my command seals for the cosplay. I shoo my partner out the door to get coffee, and contemplate the mess I’ve made.

Normally I save any and all critique of the con until after the event, but  in this case, it was entirely my fault. Event Ops asked me a few months back how long we needed the space for each of the LARPs. And so I ball-parked it at 4 hours for “All the President’s Zombies” and 6 hours for “Dungeons and Delegates.” What I failed to specify however, was how long the events should be billed for on the program. I don’t actually need, in fact it would be easier to NOT have players around for the first hour of DnD while my Consort and I scramble to prep the space. Alas, there is no remedying the issue now, since the full time the space is booked for us is on the program.

On the surface, it is a solvable problem. I can find things to occupy players, the most important of which is of course “run around and recruit more because we are short players.” But there are more significant challenges lurking under the surface. The most obvious of which is that the LARPs are scheduled to start at 5 pm and run until 11 pm. Intimidating much? Especially for a 3 day con, that is a massive time commitment. It doesn’t help that the game is scheduled to run over dinner. So we lose potential players who don’t want to figure out how to have an early dinner. And there is no good way to fix this.

So I am worried about the game. As I sit in the corner of my room, and look out over the atrium, temporarily quiet in the calm before the lunch storm, I worry. I see smiling faces I recognize, either by name or by position, and I wish I could hitch a smile up on my own face and go mingle. But  I am consumed with worry over a problem I can’t fix.

Then, to top everything off, I think of the two programming events that I would dearly love to go to. One of which is this afternoon, in the slot just before DnD tonight. Which would not give me time to change out of the cosplay and into the outfit for tonight, and get the game stuff together and down to the room and do all the other prep that needs to happen. And so it seems I can’t go. The other programming pieces I’d really enjoy going to is scheduled against the LARP tomorrow morning. Oops. This is of course the risk (and frankly sort of expected outcome) of working Con. Even as a guest, which has fewer time constraints than staff, I rarely ever get to events I want to go to.

Still, it is at times like this that I touch up my cosplay make-up, smile anyway and go make appearances. If I don’t, the event tonight might not happen. And then future events are harder instead of easier. And so, we have a “fake it till you make it” situation. If I smile and laugh and pretend that mingling is easy and fun, eventually I’ll fool even myself, right? See you on the Con floor!