Spring Again At Last: The Return of Changeling: The Dreaming

Now out for public consumption!


When most people describe the World of Darkness the first thing that tends to come up is gritty street wars fought between the undead and other horrors of the night. Sometimes that includes hyper violent Garou burning with deep bloody passions trying desperately to stop creeping death from consuming mother Earth, or Nephandi seeking to corrupt all they touch. However, for some, the World of Darkness is very different.  

Underlying the horrors of the first 4 WoD titles is the hidden chimerical world of Changeling: The Dreaming. When I started gaming in my mid-teens, I lived in a town where Changeling was so popular, our local LARP crew built home brew Mind’s Eye Theatre rules because they couldn’t wait for Shining Host to dive into the capricious machinations of the fae.  

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When I left my early gaming bubbles I was surprised to discover that Changeling is not the universally loved game I was familiar with. I have heard from more than a few people that Changeling is a fine game, but it doesn’t belong in the World of Darkness. So when the Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Kickstarter succeeded with flying colors I was excited, not only that Changeling might have another life, but that with a 20th Anniversary edition the full scope of tragedy and horror Changeling represents might be brought into focus for a wider swath of players.

In many ways, the writers for C20 faced greater challenges than previous 20th Anniversary developers. Changeling never got a Revised edition, but unlike the other games in the World of Darkness, Changeling changed focus and central themes more than once during its life. There are several corners of the world that haven’t received any meaningful attention since 1st edition. The result was almost every Changeling book broke new ground, creating a much broader array of content than the line’s relatively modest word count would indicate, with several concepts and rules that were woefully out of date.

Themes

C20 tackled this challenge head on, and accomplished transforming one of the most diverse and honestly inconsistent games in the World of Darkness into a poignant, modern role playing experience. The greatest testament to this accomplishment is the sheer number of WoD fan posts I’ve seen talking about how they didn’t like CtD, but they are loving C20.

Changeling is 1 part politics, 1 part Cthonic horror, 3 parts psychological tragedy built on a pathological fear of death and loss, and some indeterminate amount of whimsy and wonder which serves more than anything to bring the first three elements into deep and painful contrast. C20 is the first Changeling book that captures every emanation of that often indescribable, unshaped mass and weaves it into a coherent whole.

Woo Hoo by Lydia Burris (http://www.lydiaburris.com)

Rules

While the thematic cohesion is a huge win, C20’s greatest accomplishment is tackling the often misunderstood rules system of Changeling. This is done, not only by tying it up into a much more balanced and manageable package, but actually expanding on the system with the concept of Unleashing. Changelings from previous editions were powerful, but deeply limited in how they could apply that power.

With the new magic rules, they now feel much more like the fae of myth and legend, able to wield the raw force of creation, but with often unpredictable and occasionally terrifying results. I have run and played in con games that used the early version of Unleashing shared during the Kickstarter and it adds a satisfying and mythic scale to the game. Beyond Unleashing, the Arts and Realms received an extensive cleanup. They were expanded in some areas, and minimized in others, resulting in a far more coherent and thematically engaging whole.

Storytelling Banality

C20 also borrows a page from modern narrative systems and builds explicit systems around your character’s emotional relationship to the world. This emphasizes the omnipresent threat of banality. In previous editions of the game, characters had a toxic (but often generic) relationship with banality. Now when you build a character, you select a variety of banality triggers, including a trigger that is unique to your character called your antithesis.  

This trigger is something the rest of your motley may find to be a minor nuisance, or in extreme cases may even garner glamour from. To you, it is the epitome of the creeping death of the coming winter. Some of the trigger dynamics could stand to be broader than they currently are, including the seeming triggers, which feel entirely too specific to me and are occasionally inappropriate for Thallain or Gallain characters, but the overall system adds a deeply personal relationship to banality that meaningfully enriches the game.   

Changes in the World

There are several other accomplishments in this edition including the expansion of the Thallain, the reworking of the Dauntain and the Autumn People, and actually wrangling Hsien Alchemy into what feels like a sleek approachable magic system. While I would love to expound on all of the edition’s strengths it would paint an unbalanced picture of the text as a whole. Much like the systems, C20 takes an often radical approach to the backstory of Changeling, and dramatically changes the canon in several areas. Some of those changes were sorely needed, such as the reframing of House Leanhaun, which changes them from arguably more evil than the Baali or Nephandi,to deeply parasitic, but playable. However, some of the changes to the canon feel unnecessary, and more problematically aren’t always well explained.

The flavor section reframes the Sidhe as being split between the Autumn Sidhe who stayed behind during the Shattering and undertook the Changeling Way, and the Arcadian Sidhe. The Arcadian Sidhe came back with the Resurgence and refused to soil their souls by fully bonding with humans. Effectively this was performed as a more violent and incomplete form of the Changeling Way where they displaced a human soul and took its place.

The Autumn Sidhe

Occasionally the text reads as though only House Scatthach and Liam took part in the Changeling Way, sometimes it frames the Autumn Sidhe in generic terminology that could  be read to imply Sidhe from any house might have gone through the Changeling Way. In the House section intro, Liam is listed as a returning House, and only Scatthach is listed as having stayed behind, and then in some of the house writeups there are subtle references to other Sidhe who stayed behind, but often in ambiguous language. The final result is honestly confusing.

During an exchange on Facebook, one of the C20 writers confirmed that any Sidhe that stayed behind became an Autumn Sidhe, which clarified things a bit, but ultimately those sorts of exchanges shouldn’t be necessary. A few explicit sentences in the Autumn Sidhe two page spread would go a long way towards providing clarity on this point. This change also wipes out broad swaths of story centering on the tragedy of the Sidhe who died in the years after the shattering because they were either trapped or chose to stay behind.

I love the addition of the Autumn Sidhe as a general concept, but less absolute framing about how all Sidhe who stayed behind became Autumn Sidhe, and all the Sidhe who returned refused to go through the Changeling Way would have cut off far less existing canon, and created messier, but more diverse plot hooks.

History Convoluted?

While the confusion about the Arcadian/Autumn Sidhe is definitely the most pronounced example of muddled narrative, there were several other smaller moments in the setting and history section that didn’t make a lot of sense, and occasionally even seemed to contradict material that appears elsewhere in the book. There is a lot to love in the C20 setting material. The conflict between the Tuatha and the Fomorians is far more dynamic than I remember in previous texts.

The role Christianity played in transforming the stories about the fae is included, which is something I’ve wanted to see in the game for a long time, but the history and setting content in C20 is best read with a strong eye towards the golden rule, especially if you have any investment in existing canon.

I’ve talked about the good and the bad of the edition’s treatment of Arcadian fae, but then there is my favorite and arguably the messiest part of Changeling, the Gallain. The Gallain are fae who are not a central part of Arcadian society. While there are a few European faeries who are considered Gallain, the term generally refers to non European faeries. Changeling has traditionally framed these spirits as either not being part of the Dreaming, such as the Asian Hsien, or in the case of the Nunnehi and Menehune, as being cut off from the Dreaming due to acts of genocide and violence committed against their dreamers. I’ve never been terribly comfortable with this framing, but I knew the writers wouldn’t have the leeway to dramatically change the way these groups functioned, but I was really hoping for a few more inclusive tweaks to the status quo.

Sprites Dance by Lydia Burris (http://www.lydiaburris.com)

Who is a part of Whom?

Occasionally the approach to non-European Changelings went above and beyond my expectations. The introduction of non-European Thallain gave the Nunnehi and Menehune a much more robust representation in the setting, but also occasionally drifted toward centering the Gallain around European stories more strongly than previous editions. The most pronounced instance of this is changing the Higher Hunting Grounds from being the Nunnehi Dreaming, which is invoked in the Changeling Player’s Guide as an equal but separate place from Arcadia, to being the Nunnehi’s home in Arcadia. On the surface this is a small change, but it recontextualizes the Nunnehi in a way that intentionally or not makes them a part of something fundamentally rooted in European mythology. The other examples of moving towards an even more European centering narrative are less blatant, but I honestly hope they are rectified in future texts.  

Overall, C20 brings Changeling into the 21st century. It is a deeply innovative take on the Storyteller System, and provides a more robust foundation to build a future line on than the game has ever enjoyed. It has done a huge service to the game by inspiring more fans to consider including Changeling in their personal World of Darkness. What C20 needs more than anything else is a full game line. It needs Gallain stories written by authors who have lived the truth of the myths being invoked, and full text expansion on the concepts that were completely reinvented for C20. This book is a monumental achievement, and it would be a tragedy of Arthurian proportions if this resurgence isn’t followed by a lasting and inspired spring of new material.

 

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Five Hidden Benefits of LARP: Creative Outlets

Ask people why they LARP, and they usually answer roughly the same. The most common answer is their own form of “because it’s fun” or “because my friends do it” and both of those answers are great. Did you know there are actual benefits to LARPing in addition? Examining LARP shows there are many benefits to it that are hidden just beneath the surface. In this series of articles five of these hidden benefits will be expanded upon and detailed. For more information check out the other articles on Education, Networking, Health, and Social Skills.

 

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LARP can help you express your creativity and help foster creativity in others. By putting together your costume, you learn ways to express yourself through clothing and makeup. LARP can inspire art and creative writing about your character’s situation. LARP can even inspire creativity in people who don’t LARP!

 

Creative Expression Through Costume

 

Credit: Anna Sharpton

Four of my own characters, all very different!

In the above picture, the common theme is that I am the player, and that is it. Each character has their own style of dress, makeup, hair and accessories. Different characters let me experience the different styles I present for a few hours in a non permanent way. Through these characters I have a creative outlet for trying new styles. I can get brave and try new styles and figure out what I like. Before I started playing the character in the bottom right, I couldn’t draw a good cat eye. Now I can do one well enough that I would wear it out in public. I’ve been able to creatively experiment with my appearance and enjoy myself because of LARP. Never in my life would I wear something like the bottom left or top right in public, but I can play with it at LARP and enjoy myself.

Sometimes I will even experiment at home with my look for LARP if I’m feeling creative. The expression has even gained me new topics to talk about with friends who also like makeup and body paint. It can even help spread creativity outside of LARP too! By commissioning costumes and asking friends for makeup help, you spread the creative process around. The artist or friend you ask for help may even end up liking the style you request and exploring it more on their own, which is a win for everyone.

 

Creative Expression Through Art

 

Credit: Anna Sharpton

The guns my character uses in After The End

 

LARP also offers many creative outlets to be found in the creation of art, props, and writing. Those guns (lovingly painted for me) were just regular NERF guns that were painted to match the style and aesthetic of my character in that game. Many artistic friends of mine will draw their characters for fun. Through commissions they will also draw other’s characters and that can really help to get the creative juice flowing. I (and many of my friends) also write small fictional works involving our characters.

They focus on many subject matters and can be either dramatic retelling of game events or ‘off-screen’ events. Many of them are of stories that work best on paper, such as dream sequences, internal monologues, or backstory reveals. Having the expression outlet of creative writing is one of the things that inspired me to begin writing for KotH, so I can certainly say it is a benefit.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Credit: Anna Sharpton

If my keyboard could be a tired cat, it would be Freyr.

 

This series of articles has been extremely fun for me to write. I’ve touched on so many things that LARP can help you do, and there is still so much more that I haven’t even covered. From educating yourself, to gaining valuable contacts, to improving your health, to gaining social skills, to exercising your creativity, there are so many wonderful things that LARP can help you with. I hope you all have had as much fun reading this series as I have had writing it. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to take a break from writing about LARP to actually go do it. See you in character!

 

Be sure to check out the other articles on Education, Networking, Health, and Social Skills for more ways that LARP can benefit you!

Anna uses she/her pronouns, is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire or werewolf she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, console gamer, and is the proud owner of two loving cats with three eyes between them. She can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.

 

Credit to ryanmcguire on PIXABAY

Five Hidden Benefits of LARP: Social Skills

Ask people why they LARP, and they usually answer roughly the same. The most common answer is their own form of “because it’s fun” or “because my friends do it” and both of those answers are great. Did you know there are actual benefits to LARPing in addition? Examining LARP shows there are many benefits to it that are hidden just beneath the surface. In this series of articles five of these hidden benefits will be expanded upon and detailed. For more information check out the other articles on Education, Networking, Health, and Creative Outlets.

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Have you ever heard the phrase “fake it til you make it?” That phrase is more true than you may think. Many social skills can be gained through role-playing as a character who is more socially adept than you are. You will become more confident and more empathic through your characters. We’ll be exploring exactly what that means below.

 

“You Talkin’ To Me?”

Credit to ryanmcguire on PIXABAY

Not what I was originally going to put here, but I couldn’t keep this picture to myself after I found it.

 

While talking to yourself in a mirror (ala the scene Taxi Driver) is good practice, nothing beats real human interaction for practicing talking to people. When you play a character or NPC that exudes confidence, it will start rubbing off on you. Interacting as the super confident Sept Alpha will help you the next time you have a business meeting or job interview. Giving out orders as the Seneschal of the city can help you be in charge of others at your job. Mediation in a scene can help you learn to accept less than perfect situations that arise.

 

Leading in character at LARP with no out of game risks is great practice for leading in real life. You won’t get fired from LARP for making risky choices in game, so you can try them out in a safe environment. It helps you gain confidence in your decision making, and learn what you need to improve. Having to speak during a scene that is focused on you helps you improve your ability to do so outside of game. It also helps you learn to withstand the pressure of having all eyes on you. Entering into mediation to resolve a scene faster helps you learn to do it in real life. It helps you learn to negotiate for things in real life and accept that you’re coming out relatively equal instead of completely on top.

 

It also helps you cope with losing. In a safe environment like this you can learn to cope with losses and be ready to cope with them in real life. Losing in LARP has basically no real life consequence whatsoever. Losing things or people in real life hurts, but learning to cope with it can greatly help you heal and move on.

 

I Feel You

Feels Guy from Know Your Meme

Feels Guy feels you too

 

LARPing can also make you more empathic and supportive of your friends. By slipping into another role it allows you to get a glimpse of a different worldview. Maybe you played a Catiff in a Camarilla city and got a taste of discrimination based on nothing but how you were born (or made in this case). Maybe you played a male Black Fury and you experienced some gender-based discrimination. While playing one of these will not give you exact mirrors of real issues, you will start to understand the discrimination some of your friends face.

 

By taking on these differing personas, you can begin to understand the people around you. Maybe that Catiff is angry and protests her treatment by the Camarilla around her. Maybe that Black Fury rails against the system, or breaks ties with it entirely. Through these experiences you grow more sympathetic to their real world parallels. The expansion of world view through LARP has changed many people. Some of my best friends self-admitted to being homophobic, sexist, racist, misogynistic awful people.  Through LARP (and actual education, LARP isn’t a miracle worker) they gained a better sense of others and viewed them as people too.

 

LARP not only makes you more empathic, but also more supportive, which helps you and the people around you. When your friends have a bad time, you’re more aware and able to help them because you’re more empathetic. This works both ways too, because your friends will also be more empathetic. The support network that LARP provides can be crucial for some people. While LARP is NOT a replacement for professional therapy and medication, it can help to have friends to talk to.

 

What LARP Can’t Do

Credit to tnamd on PIXABAY

Dressing as Sweeny Todd doesn’t give you a cosmetology degree, or make you into Johnny Depp.

LARP is not a cure-all, a magical confidence machine, or a replacement for therapy. While you can become more socially skilled, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to try to become those things. It does not just magically happen nor does LARP ‘fix’ actual mental or social disorders. The benefit involving LARP however is it makes trying take less effort. You’re put in the shoes of different people more often, and you hear stories of other players and characters. You become exposed to 100% risk-free chances to step up, speak out, and change your mind. Through these scenes and chances, you can become more confident or more empathic if you try.

 

Be sure to check out the other articles on Education, Networking, Health, and Creative Outlets for more ways that LARP can benefit you!

Anna uses she/her pronouns, is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire or werewolf she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, console gamer, and is the proud owner of two loving cats with three eyes between them. She can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.

 

Credit: Dylan Coffey

Five Hidden Benefits of LARP: Health

Ask people why they LARP, and they usually answer roughly the same. The most common answer is their own form of “because it’s fun” or “because my friends do it” and both of those answers are great. Did you know there are actual benefits to LARPing in addition? Examining LARP shows there are many benefits to it that are hidden just beneath the surface. In this series of articles five of these hidden benefits will be expanded upon and detailed. For more information check out the other articles on EducationNetworking, Social Skills, and Creative Outlets.

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While this article focuses primarily on Boffer style LARPs, being healthy is good for you in general!

Uh-oh…RUN!

In the dark of the cave Mal, Lucy, and Virginia blew the computer, allowing Capillary to escape the cave. Everything began to rumble and shake as the cave began to fall around them. The three hackers ran back to the main group as everyone ran for their lives.

The above scenario happened at a Boffer LARP I play called After the End (which you should come play if you’re in the Tennessee/Georgia area!). If it were a parlor LARP we may not need to physically run in real life. In Boffer style LARPs however there are situations where you’re going to need to actually run. Most people are going to be able to run some without being winded too badly. However if the person chasing you is much more fit, you get caught. If it is a long chase, you might run out of stamina. For people who aren’t very fit the running may prove difficult. Sometimes I even have trouble with running up and down stairs a lot, which can make LARPing out in the woods super tiring.

Many of my friends (and myself to a lesser extent) have begun simple or complex exercise routines in order to combat LARP fatigue. LARP itself can be it’s own form of exercise as well, and exercise can be incorporated into your LARP routine. We’ll be going over those topics below.

 

Exercise For LARP

Credit: Dylan Coffey

Wuxia Workout!

A lot of people that I know have begun hitting the gym to be in top shape for their Boffer LARP experience. They range from beginners at Couch to 5K to regular gym attendees to ones who have started their own podcast for more broad health topics (shout out to Ty and Sky!) and everywhere in between. Even something as simple as walking outside once a day can help you keep up your endurance for a LARP weekend. Many of the people I know exercising have already started seeing benefits in the relatively short time they have been exercising. They are less tired after intense weekends and are eating better and noticing muscle gain and fat loss. Exercising for LARP has begun helping improve the non-LARP life of many of my friends, and I think (if able) everyone should give it a try.

Exercise As LARP

 

Credit Niantic & Nintendo

#TeamValor

With the popularity of apps like Zombies, Run and plenty of other augmented reality exercise games, exercise is easily made into a game. Go out walking and catch Pokemon or capture bases for the Enlightened. Run from zombies, aliens, spies, ghosts and tour virtual facilities all while exercising. There is little stopping a group of friends from turning their progress in these apps into a LARP game. The Ingress and Pokemon Go communities are massive and global, and people take their teams very seriously sometimes!

Exercise In LARP

Anthem, Irving, and Vitez (characters at After the End) discuss the meaning of “feather in your cap.”

This picture illustrates a very easy way to incorporate a small amount of exercise into your LARP routine. Did you notice it? Did you know standing burns roughly your body weight in calories per hour that you do it? Anthem and Irving (who work out separate from LARP) are resting in the photo. Vitez, however, remains standing and does a small amount of exercise while having an in-character chat. Patrolling the borders of the site is another good way to add a little exercise to your routine. It also has in-character benefits too, because you help keep your town area safe.

For Parlor LARPs, you can walk around site while having a private chat.

LARPing can be tiring, but with some dedication it doesn’t have to always be. By choosing to exercise for, at, or by LARPing you will begin to see some serious benefits. Eventually you will look back on old character photos and be proud of how far you have come. Be sure to check out the other articles on Education, Networking, Social Skills, and Creative Outlets for more ways that LARP can benefit you!

Anna uses she/her pronouns, is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire or werewolf she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, console gamer, and is the proud owner of two loving cats with three eyes between them. She can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.

Camp!? Guest Blog by THE Jason Hughes

I play in, and am a Storyteller for, the Underground Theater Vampire: the Masquerade LARP. For two years, I served as the Organizational Storyteller for the Camarilla, Anarch, Independent Alliance venue. During that time I ran a game that was heavy, dark, and brooding. Players were forced to make difficult choices at every turn and were in constant danger. Winning was surviving. The story was dark, but was it good? I had players burning out constantly.

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I stepped down from the position and spent some time thinking about how to run games that embraced the themes of Vampire and the World of Darkness, but didn’t drive players to burn out or Out of Character conflict. After a time, I realized that the great villains (which is essentially what we are all playing in Vampire) were a bit campy and weird. They all had character traits that drove them to make poor, but interesting and entertaining choices. The best of them had a touch of ridiculous about them. Victory was never enough, it had to be gained in a certain way or through certain actions. Ultimately, great villains were campy.

 

Camp can be zany or subtle. A primary complaint about injecting camp into serious games is that too many Storytellers are already doing it badly. Vampires are battling anthropomorphic snowmen with little story beyond, “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” I am not a fan of genre-breaking silliness. Stories must have depth and connection to the world that we choose to mutually inhabit. Always ask yourself, “Will the story my Players tell sound ridiculous?”

Sinister, isn’t he?

Subtle camp is the difference between executing the prisoners and creating a death trap. When I defeat someone, if I want the best outcome for my character, that defeat should be resounding and complete. However, we shouldn’t want the best outcome for our characters, we should want the best outcome for ourselves as players. Instead of a resounding defeat or complete victory, we want story – a death trap that the rival can possibly escape creates that. A Roll Squad is no fun, a Death Trap could be.

 

Camp is a difficult word. Words have meaning and power, especially in roleplaying games, especially in LARP. I choose camp because it describes the absurd, slightly tongue-in-cheek way that good LARP interaction begins with. We encourage players to be be larger than life and play fearlessly. That requires them to act in ways that are theatrical, not realistic. Subtlety does not need to be lost.

 

“Theatrically” is not a bad word for the style of play that I advocate. However, I want to draw a line between Hamlet, in which a character does some patently ridiculous things in pursuit of revenge, and Titus Andronicus, a play so violent that it makes modern slashers look tame. Both are very theatrical. The characters make big choices and extreme actions, however Hamlet has a subtlety to it that makes it more interesting. Hamlet is also a touch campy (the right kind of campy). He suffers and monologues and wallows. Hamlet acts, but indirectly and in ways that would be less than advantageous for his “player.” That’s what I seek.

 

Sir Laurence, as Hamlet, Tragedy Embodied

The unrelenting gloom and horror of the World of Darkness (and other such games) needs a tinge of the ridiculous to be great. Batman’s greatest villain should be Salvatore Maroni, the Boss of Gotham. He is deadly, smart, and has managed to keep operating, more or less, in a city protected by Batman. There are plenty of fans of Boss Maroni, but he is not the Joker. The Joker is terrifying, homicidal, and campy. In Vampire, do you want to be “Black Suit Person #27” or do you want to be “The Rabid Mongoose of the South?”

 

The purpose of camp in serious games is to increase the potential story and to not leave behind fun in the unrelenting darkness. A small amount of mustache twirling creates a rivalry instead of a enemy. A small amount of the absurd gives players that moment of relief that stands in stark contrast to the serious drama around them. Both create more, and better, story and that is the ultimate goal.

THE Jason Hughes thinks about Larp constantly. He probably has a problem. His wife is very understanding.

Credit GDJ at Pixabay

Five Hidden Benefits of LARP: Networking

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When you ask people why they LARP, the most common answer is their own varied form of “because it’s fun” or “because my friends do it and I want to spend time with them” and both of those answers are great, but did you know there are actual benefits to LARPing? When you examine LARP there are many benefits to it that are hidden just beneath the surface. In this series of articles five of these hidden benefits will be expanded upon and detailed. For more information check out the other articles on Education, Health, Social Skills, and Creative Outlets.

 

What is Networking?

Credit: geralt at PIXABAY

Yes this, but also not this.

 

Merriam Webster defines networking as “the exchange of information or services among individuals” specifically for business or employment. Talking about networking, most people picture people in suits trading business cards. Networking, however, is about more than just getting a job. While it can help you find a job, it can also help you with so much more in your life.

 

How LARP Helps You Network

Credit geralt at PIXABAY

Digital Networking!

Thinking about the games I play, here is a rough estimate of some demographics of the player bases:

  • Parents
  • Graphic Artists
  • Traditional Artists
  • Carpenters
  • College Professors
  • Retail Workers
  • Writers
  • Tech Support
  • Musicians
  • Costume Makers
  • Cosplayers
  • Law Enforcement
  • Health Care Professionals
  • Published Authors
  • …and more!

 

Now initially, this may not seem super impressive on the surface. The thing that makes this impressive is the people who know the players. Knowing the parents helps you meet other parents, babysitters, teachers, etc. Knowing artists helps you connect to other artists, people wanting to buy art, and studios. Networking with the other players can help you find other types of people you may need to contact in the future.

Not only can LARP help you form a commodity network, but also one for support. You may meet other people suffering from the same sicknesses or illnesses as you. You may also meet people who have gone through your hardships previously, and who can offer advice.  LARP is NOT a replacement for seeing a professional or taking medication, at all. However it can help you with a small bit of emotional support and meeting friends going through the same woes. In addition, speaking with a professional can be a bit intimidating, but having one recommended by a friend can help easy that worry.

 

But, What Does Networking Do For Me?

Credit GDJ at Pixabay

Now you’ve got it!

Let’s say you need a babysitter for game night and your normal one is unavailable. The other parents at the game may also be using a babysitter who can watch your kid at the same time. Want to hire music for your event? Your musician player might be a perfect choice to hire, or they may know someone who is. Need something proofread? Your professor friend or writer friends might be able to recommend a good service to use. Require a unique gift made for a special someone? Your artist friends are hopefully available for commission or know an artist who is. Wish you hadn’t ripped your pants? Your costume making or cosplay friends can likely be hired to patch a quick hole or fix a seam.

Networking will also help you find a job or help your friends find one. Say that healthcare professional above says their office is hiring for another CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant). You aren’t a CNA, but you have another friend who is. The two are connected and suddenly your friend has a new job they needed! You might lament at afters that your current job just doesn’t pay enough for the work you do. Another player has a friend who knows of an opening in their company that isn’t posted publicly. You apply and get hired at a new and better job just because of who you know! If you didn’t know the people you did, you’d have never heard about that job.

Networking is Great!

Credit: martinelle at Pixabay

You couldn’t read this article without at least one type of networking!

Networking at LARP will be one of the most useful things you do, and most of the time you won’t even realize you’re doing it! From finding new jobs, to babysitters, to support, and more, it is a seriously helpful benefit of so many different people coming together to enjoy a common hobby.  Be sure to check out the other articles on Education, Health, Social Skills, and Creative Outlets for more ways that LARP can benefit you!

 

Anna uses she/her pronouns, is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire or werewolf she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, console gamer, and is the proud owner of two loving cats with three eyes between them. Find her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Pugmire Review – ARE YOU A GOOD DOG?

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Do You Like Dogs?

No? (I’m not sure we can be friends) Even if you don’t like dogs, buy this book. Seriously. This will be the #1 RPG of 2017, hands down. I’m calling it now. You can go home other games.

Now that is out of the way, let’s get into the review.

Buy It

Pugmire will be out this year, likely in a few short months. The final PDF is already in the hands of backers. If you would like to pre-order a physical copy, you can do that here. Buy it. If you buy no other book of any kind this year, buy this one. If you don’t think you’ll ever play it, I don’t care, buy it. That being said, this is the only RPG book that has ever made me cry. I love my dog. I love all the animals I’ve had as companions over the years and this book is filled with elements both cute, and touching.

At the same time, it is a deep fantasy RPG that includes intrigue, horror, action-adventure, and practically any genre you could imagine. This could be Game of Thrones with Dogs if you wanted it to be. The animals in this book will remind you of Redwall, NIMH, CS Lewis’ work, and other deep works. Or, you could play a light-hearted game just as easily.

 

What is Pugmire?

Pugmire is a fantasy RPG from Onyx Path Publishing, largely written by Eddy Webb. Full credits will be at the end of the review. Now, for those of you familiar with OPP you might be expecting the game to be a Storypath/Storyteller/d10 game. You’d be wrong in this case. Pugmire is a gloss for D&D 5th edition. So, you’ll need a d20, and the rest of the standard array of dice you’d need for any D&D game. I’ll talk more about the system later.

The World

Pugmire is a medieval fantasy world, much like the Shannara series is a medieval fantasy world. That is, the game is a far-future post-apocalyptic world where Humanity as we know it no longer exists. Dogs, and other animals, were uplifted at some point in the distant past, and have struggled to survive and build a civilization in the wake of the disappearance of Man, also called The Old Ones. Mankind left behind troves of artifacts, which act as a source of ancient magic for Dogs.

The core setting is Pugmire, a small castle city built atop a reclaimed swamp. The city has several tributary villages, and large towns, and is a decade out from a conflict with the Monarchies of Mau. Yes, Cats are here too, as are Badgers, Rats, and Lizards. Each of these societies is only briefly touched on in the Pugmire core-book, but Monarchies of Mau is already in production. Hopefully we will see the Rats and Lizards further examined, because I find their brief synopses compelling.

The Characters

You have two major choices in character creation. What breed of dog will you be, and what place do you have in society? The latter are called Callings and the former Breeds. The callings are Artisans (Wizards), Guardians (Fighters), Hunters (Rangers), Ratters (Rogues), Shepherds (Clerics), and Strays (Barbarians). These loosely correlate to the D&D classes noted in parentheses.

Of particular interest, at least to me, are Shepherds and Artisans. Shepherds are part of the religious tradition that worships Man, and promulgate the Code of Man. The Code of Man is derived from recovered texts and artifacts. It exhorts Dogs to Be Good, Loyal, and to fight the Unseen, and more. Artisans collect the artifacts of Man, and use them to create magical effects. Both Callings are incredibly deep and offer nuanced options for players.

Breeds

There are 7 overarching Breeds. These are Companions (Pugs), Fettles (Bulldog), Herders (Corgi), Pointers (Labrador), Runners (Greyhound), Workers (Husky), and Mutts (Mutts). Each has an example of a modern dog breed associated with each in parentheses. These breeds are divided into family groups that match their breed to some degree, but the world of Pugmire offers a lot of freedom in these elements of character creation.

The Mechanics

Pugmire uses a system based on the OGL license for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. These mechanics are expertly explained in Pugmire. Character creation is straightforward, and it is easy to make a character in a very short amount of time. Mechanical discussions are well presented, thoroughly and expertly explained in the main text and asides are presented from a semi-in-character view.

This is the most effectively explained RPG book I have ever read. This makes Pugmire an excellent starting point for new gamers of all ages. On top of that, there is enough crunch inherent to the system to make the most mechanic focused player happy. The mechanics and the story merge with each other in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I’m sure it isn’t perfect, but I personally don’t see any real flaws here. In fact, reading through this has made me understand some 5th edition mechanics in a way I wasn’t before.

What Stories Will You Tell?

We, the players of this fine game, are provided a starting adventure at the end of the book, starting at page 200. This is a great module. Play it. Now, what other stories will you tell? This book is filled to the brim with story hooks, chronicle concepts, and threads that can keep you coming back for years. If Onyx Path collapsed the day we all get this book (I hope they don’t), we would still have decades of story to fall back on.

If you would like a standard adventuring hook, we are provided with the Royal Pioneers of Pugmire, who are explorers and adventurers looking to recover the artifacts of Man. If you are interested in war, you can pit Dogs against Cats, or any of the other uplifted beings. As I’ve said before, there is enough here to run almost any genre of game. Also, there are the demonic Unseen stalking the world, seeking to destroy Dogs. In case you want some horror gaming to go along with your cute Pugs and Corgis wearing armor.

Inclusive?

Without a doubt, Pugmire is an inclusive game. It is easy to learn for young players, and deep enough for any grognard. Gender and sexuality are explicitly non-issues in the world of Pugmire. The world of Pugmire isn’t Utopia, there are inter-species conflicts and elements of discrimination and classism. These issues are presented to allow for deep introspection, if your group wants to explore them. Pugmire is an impressive game.

May Man watch over you.

Pre-Order It.

Actually, It’s About Ethics in Media Consumption


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Anyone who has ever been part of a subculture knows the bright red sting of controversy.  Sometimes the controversy is low stakes like the general fan rejection of Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. Sometimes controversies go to the core of a community’s values like the ongoing controversy about whitewashing in Hollywood, and more specifically, to the likely interests of this blog’s readers, the continuing whitewashing of Asian characters by Marvel comics.

Boycotts

Over the years I’ve seen a number of calls for boycotts over these types of issues, and I’ve wondered how useful this tactic is.  Recently, I’ve heard similar calls within the role-playing community over a variety of events that have been litigated enough in the public square that I’d rather not discuss them here, but I do think it’s worth talking about the broader concept of “boycotting” work, especially work in a tightly integrated media landscape like the role-playing industry.

While many people find the idea of a dramatic boycott satisfying, how we make day to day media consumption choices within our hobby and why those choices may or may not have an impact on the industry has the potential to be a much more productive conversation.  Think of it like going on a binge diet, or trying to make long term adjustments to the way you promote health through food choices.  Binge diets do more harm than good, but holistically training yourself to eat in a healthy manner one step at a time is a path to healthy consumption habits. The same thing applies to the commercial choices we make.

Does that work for RPGs?

Role-playing games are unusual media beasts in a lot of ways.  With the exception of Dungeons and Dragons, which is in the hands of a wholly owned subsidiary of Hasbro, RPGs are generally produced by small companies, and in many cases aren’t produced by their IP owners.  The majority of new White Wolf games are produced by Onyx Path Studios, or By Night Studios.  Chill is produced under license by Growling Door Games.  Shadowrun is produced under license by Catalyst Studios.  While there are also plenty of titles being produced that aren’t under license, several of the biggest names in RPGs are developed in this manner.  This complicates any situation where you want to use your economic activity to influence the behavior of a corporation, because it often puts you in a position where you may well be punishing a company you feel behaves in an exemplary manner for the behavior of an only vaguely involved IP owner.

So first let’s address the elephant in the room.  Trying to influence companies through consumption patterns gets a really bad rap because in many cases it’s a lost cause. Ethical consumption is all too often reduced to a marketing opportunity.  Free  Range and/or Pasture Raised chicken, Fair Trade Coffee and Chocolate, and any variety of attempts to patronize kinder, gentler, more labor friendly corporations tend to fall apart upon particularly close inspection.  It takes such massive bad press to impact the bottom line of most big companies that being seen as ethical is at best a matter of appearance and branding for most companies. So the question becomes, why bother?

Ethics?

Setting aside the issues with ethical consumption of non-media products, and even ethical consumption of AAA media, the situation is a little bit different in the world of the RPG. No matter what behavior you want to promote in the industry, it’s fair to say our dollars count for a lot more to a company selling a product like Numenera that had a mere 4,658 backers on its original Kickstarter, or even moreso, a game like Chill that had 793 backers on its original Kickstarter, than Kellog or Dell.  Losing a handful of customers hits most RPG producers in a way it just doesn’t hit the other companies we tend to give our money.

The impact of of our economic choices is amplified for those of us who choose to run games, as opposed to just play in them.  I’m going to be dropping cash on Exalted Charm cards in the near future because a close friend of mine chose to run Exalted and I want to have those cards during game. So, he has effectively made a sale for OPP without spending any money by running that game, and some of my fellow players may follow suit once my cards arrive. The question that has been nagging at the back of my mind is, given the influence we have, what choices will have the most positive impact on our hobby, and how should we interact with those who make different decisions?

Making a Difference

The first question is in many ways easier to answer, though it is far from simple.  The most significant way we can make a difference with the gaming money we spend is by focusing on supporting the creators and narratives we want to see flourish in the world.  Unlike consumption of things like food where we may or may not have the economic affluence to afford the most “ethical” options out there, the money we spend on RPGs is by its very nature disposable and we are not lessened by devoting some of that money to more experimental and inclusive media.  That might mean supporting something entirely new but somewhat traditional, like Ehdrighor because it dramatically expands the potential of big book role playing games, it might be supporting something completely experimental like Bluebeard’s Bride, or it might be supporting a company producing for an established product line telling inclusive stories in a more nuanced way than their lines have been known for in the past. Conscious engagement with these choices help us shape the gaming industry we will enjoy in the future, albeit in small ways.

The other question I posed above is a more difficult one to tackle.  In the past couple months I’ve seen several people upset at events in our community make personal decisions about who they would and would not give their money to and then openly shame others for making different choices.  Often those different choices were well thought out, and a reflection of different ethical priorities.  These choices were not based on willful ignorance or ethical laziness, and even if they were I have yet to see shaming someone for not sharing one’s values change a mind or even inspire greater thoughtfulness on an issue.  I feel that as our hobby grows there is a vital place for discussing our values and who we want to be as a community. While we will never be a monolith, that discourse is a vital part the growth of any community, and with events like the inclusion of game writers in the SFWA, and White Wolf pushing to produce more mainstream World of Darkness related media there is no question that we are growing. We can expect to face several of the same problems other fandoms have struggled with as they have moved out of obscurity and farther into the mainstream.  

Balancing Act

As that happens, it is important to engage with other fans who are thinking about these dynamics in good faith in the spirit of discourse, and not as though they are an enemy. Many people make an unfortunately meager livelihood producing the games we all love so much, and part of our ethical calculus should be the collateral damage of saying we’re going to pull back from supporting a given IP owner and every company that licenses from them.  Some people will care more about drawing a line in the sand based on corporate actions, others will care much more deeply about that collateral damage, and neither group is necessarily wrong.  If we choose to try to effect change through the media we consume then we should try to be aware of the good and ill caused by all our choices, and recognize that the choice to try to effect change through consumption is imperfect, and opinions on its validity will vary.  We should all go forth and be ready to be the change we want in the world, but know our view on that process is not a monolith, much like our community.

HEXENMEISTER

Five Hidden Benefits of LARP: Education

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Ask people why they LARP, and they usually answer roughly the same. The most common answer is their own form of “because it’s fun” or “because my friends do it” and both of those answers are great. Did you know there are actual benefits to LARPing in addition? Examining LARP shows there are many benefits to it that are hidden just beneath the surface. In this series of articles five of these hidden benefits will be expanded upon and detailed. For more information check out the other articles on Networking, Health, Social Skills, and Creative Outlets.

Wait, LARP helps you LEARN!?

Did you know that during the Civil War, if a lady was unmarried and under thirty, she was never to be in the company of a man unchaperoned? Except for a walk to church or a park in the early morning, she was not supposed walk alone; and should have always been accompanied by another lady, a man, or a servant. How about in 1240, Mongols led by Batu Khan sacked Kiev and killed 48,000 people? Do you know the date the first Black Sabbath album came out? Roughly how many nightclubs there are in the United States? The German word for ‘sorcerer’?

 

HEXENMEISTER

It’s this, by the way.

Facts, Trivia, and Practical Knowledge

The questions above are things that I learned for the characters I’m playing now.  I play in Underground Theater, which  I’ve only started playing in the last two years. In such a relatively short time period I have learned so much unrelated to LARP specifically because of LARP. For LARPs based in the real world, you end up learning tons of trivia and other fun facts that you can bring out at parties or trivia night and discuss with friends. For boffer LARPs, you may end up researching different weapon types or clothing styles of a particular era. You may even learn how to write some words in another language. When I played a survivalist who would be up at dawn to explore, I researched on different animal tracks so I could identify trails, so I knew if I might run into a dangerous animal, or just a deer.

 

Credit: Antranias at PIXABAY

Or this “human” creature that I’ve heard about.

Expanding Worldviews

Another facet of the educational aspects of LARP is the challenge to your worldview. You will meet many people who have a worldview different than your own, and it can help to expand yours.

Because of where I live and where I grew up, nearly everyone I knew growing up was white. My schools were primarily white or Hispanic students. Most came from lower-middle class, mostly from families where the parents worked in manufacturing or retail. I had a couple of out LGBTQ* friends but I didn’t really know what that was all about. I didn’t know any of the PoC at my school as close friends or even acquaintances.

Even when I went to college my worldview didn’t expand too much at first, but then I joined a D&D game and the DM was always going LARPing. Eventually I decided to check out this LARPing thing and I was hooked! Now I have so many friends who are LGBTQ*, myself included! Not all of my friends are white, and I consider myself much more receptive and accepting of differing world views.  I realized that ultimately we’re all people and we share a common love of the game.

When you’re at LARP, you realize that despite all of their other differences, everyone there likes to LARP and you can talk to them about LARP. Being around them when character is broken, at afters, or social events lets you gently become educated on what life is like for them. When you add these friends on social media after the game you get to see what they go through. You learn what they like and what they dislike, which tends to leave you more open to accepting the differences.

 

Credit 3dman_eu at PIXABAY


However LARP will not help you accept using 7 different fonts on the same sign.

What Else Can I Learn?

There are so many more ways that LARP can educate you, but this is an article and not a textbook. Researching for a character can help you learn more about the world in which we live, and inspire you to educate yourself further. LARP can also help you expand your worldview and make you more open to becoming accepting of other races, religions, gender identities, sexual preferences, relationship types, and even simple stuff such as music preference. Be sure to check out the other articles on Networking, Health, Social Skills, and Creative Outlets for more ways that LARP can benefit you!

Anna uses she/her pronouns, is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire or werewolf she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, console gamer, and is the proud owner of two loving cats with three eyes between them. She can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.

Dark, Deep, and Scary: Horror Games

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What’s Wrong With Horror?

Dark horror games often have tropes, concepts, and downright terrible elements that make them rife for abuse by the wrong people. At the same time, games that are willing to address and be open about addressing injustices in our world, through the horror lens, often have created the most inclusive communities in our hobby. These two elements coexist uncomfortably in the same space.

Horror makes us uncomfortable, and that can be an amazing tool to help wake us to systemic problems in society. The recent movie Get Out is a great example of this. This movie is about the visceral fear that many Black members of American society experience in all-white spaces. Some may wish to dismiss that fear, but that will not eliminate it. This method of entertainment allows us to to understand experiences in a way that simply telling may not effectively communicate. Horror games allow us a similar window. For the time in-game, you are living the experience of your character and this can be eye-opening. It can teach through immersive simulation.

Investment

Years ago, Piers Anthony wrote a book called Killobyte, which has a segment that occurs in a digital recreation of Beirut. At the time of writing, Beirut was in the middle of a 15 year civil war which ripped apart society. The characters in the book are stuck in various VR simulations of different worlds. One of them is this digital recreation of Beirut. The players of this game have become invested in their various roles in their simulation. They empathize strongly with the real struggles of the people they are portraying, and even some that empathy bleeds over into the real world.

RPGs may not be Virtual Reality worlds, but they are shared imaginative experiences that allow us to empathize and experience the lives of others. We can experience bleed, having actual emotional and intellectual reactions from our experiences in-character impact us out-of-character. The danger inherent are those players and game masters who use this capacity to abuse, harass, or ignore the real experiences of those they are gaming with. Or, to perpetuate behavior that negatively impacts members of various communities in and out of game spaces.

My Table

We often hear, “it’s my table, don’t tell me what is ok or not ok at my table.” Which, on the surface, is a fair argument. However, if you have 5-6 players and a GM who play to stereotypes, your behavior around that table becomes normalized. If you allow for players to portray stereotypes, they will begin to reinforce those stereotypes in their mind. If you encourage your players to dig deeper and understand the people they are representing, they will either begin to recognize their common connection, or choose not to portray that character’s background because they recognize they are missing some shared experience to connect over. Both appear to be valid learning experiences. Stereotypes and prejudice can be elements of game worlds, but we must endeavor to recognize when we are using them. We must also be able to recognize when they are harming people at or outside of our tables.

Horror games often include violence, abuse, harassment, stereotypes, racism, sexism, body dysmorphia, and many other elements. These elements are present because they are things that scare us as humans. Some people are more impacted by these things than others. Some of these players will enjoy other elements of these games, but will ask not to focus on things that remind them of experiences that were traumatic for them in real life. We need to listen to our players, talk to them, and encourage an open dialogue about what game elements are appropriate for the entire table to investigate.

Some Still Don’t Care

There are some people that will refuse to care about moderating these concerns. They will run scenes with sexual assault without care. They will ignore the triggers of their players and will act abusively if called out on their behavior. If you are reading this article then I’m hoping you are not this type of person, but if you are, let’s talk real quick. By acting like this, you are not being cool, edgy, or artistic. You are making it harder to convince people that horror games are a powerful, beneficial, and fun experience.

There is a fine line between pushing boundaries and negatively impacting people. Talking to your players will help you to modulate that. If you don’t care, then don’t be surprised when people stop playing your games. Don’t be surprised when people that care about player investment and consent disagree with you online and work to limit your involvement in our communities.

It is possible to play horror games and care about consent, investment, and player care. Really. It is possible to ‘tell the story you want to tell’ and do these things. It is possible to scare your players, to make them question what it means to be a monster or human, and to care about your players. It is possible to have your player’s characters breakdown, cry, experience loss, it is possible to have bleed during these events, and it is possible to care about your player’s needs at the same time. I would argue, that is is possible to invest even more of oneself, if you know that your thoughts, expectations, and triggers were taken into account during the creation process of the game.

Moving Forward

It is also possible to fail at doing so, and not lose your players in the future by acknowledging your missteps. During play, elements may come up that you couldn’t account for. Nothing will hurt your game if you stop, talk through what happened, and move forward. If there were a single underlying piece of advice to offer any gaming group? Talk, talk a lot, if something seems off, wrong, or even perfectly right, talk about it. You should talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, and then work together to get more of the good.

Don’t be afraid to write horror games, run horror games, or play in horror games. The issue isn’t horror.

Here are is a short list of horror type games I’d recommend checking out. There are dozens more, some that are better than others.

Urban Shadows
Call of Cthulhu

World of Darkness
Several from Savage Worlds

Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network, and the owner of this site. 

*Note, all opinions are the opinions of their respective Authors and may not represent the opinion of the Editor or any other Author of Keep On the Heathlands