Storytelling to the Back and the Front of the Room

Storytelling is hard.

The purpose of this article is to both communicate my personal storytelling style and refine it. I want to explore, with you, how I want to do things and why I should be doing them. I hope that you can find something in them that helps you too. I know that talking to, and roleplaying with, others over the years has helped to improve my storytelling and roleplaying. These will be written from the perspective of a World of Darkness larper, but many of these ideas should apply to other tabletop and larp games.

I want to talk about the difficulty in storytelling to the back and the front of the room. In theater it is important that the play read not just to the close seats, but to all the way in the back row. The actors must not only be able to be heard, but must emote in a way that everyone can understand. There are many ways that theater accomplishes this. Everything from the shape of the stage, to the costumes and props are meant to tell a story to the whole theater. We have to do the same things when running game. We have to reach the back of the room.
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For my purposes I divide players into four different categories. Many players will fall into more than one and will change over times. These are not meant to be groundbreaking or all inclusive, but I find them convenient. These categories are indicative of how players find their fun in a game.

Storytellers can address all of these player types by running an inclusive game. Inclusive games are founded with the idea that every player deserves a moment to shine and to have a chance to be part of the story. When writing plots the staff should create situations that have a theme and purpose that fits within the genre of your game and engages character driven by different things. These plots should require a variety of skills to complete or understand them and encourage players to recruit outside of their cliques for help.

Internally Driven

Sir Laurence, as Hamlet, Tragedy Embodied

These players self generate personal plots through history and roleplay. They tend to enter play with a goal that they wish to accomplish. That goal can drive inter-character conflict, like the quest to be Prince of a city or it can be driven by NPC interaction, like the drive to gain Pillar Status for your clan. These players enjoy working toward the goals they have set and like to feel as if they could accomplish them.

Seek to support their personal stories by integrating it into the plot of the game as much as you can. Let them climb their mountains, but do not give them easy success. If they succeed, it should be in spite of the trials and difficulties. Ensure that success and setback comes in turn. They want to feel a sense of accomplishment that is worthy of recognition. Give them both hope and the potential for failure.

Externally Driven

These players prefer Storyteller generated plot. They will create their characters with this in mind and will frequently seek to be very good in one or two areas of the game. Some of them will be focused on combat or investigation, but they could just as easily be experts in lore or influence. Players that are driven by plot like to complete missions and solve mysteries in game.

Support these players with interesting and engaging plot. It does not need to be complex to intrigue them, but it does need solid themes and story that fits within the genre of the game that is being run. Give them opportunities to use their skills to move plot along, but write plot that is not simple to bulldoze through. A solid foundation will allow you to improvise along with player action and ideas.

Experience Driven

Convention of Thorns 1 – Experience LARP

These players are seeking to have a “Moment”. They want to experience real emotions and drama. Their characters will have great histories and cool costumes and they will use those to pursue scenes where these moments can happen. Experience driven players prefer to stay in character and encourage others to do so as well. They are at game for the roleplay itself.

Storytellers can support them by involving them in divisive and difficult situations. Even if, and sometimes especially if, they have great setbacks and failures these players embrace the roller coaster of feeling. Allow them to play out these situations, but do not allow it to go so far as to detract from the rest of the players. When you are planning games, look for opportunities to include moral and ethical choices. This not only gives them a place to roleplay, but also creates depth for everyone.

Undriven

These players frequently struggling with either the rules, setting, or roleplay in general. They enjoy being involved and spending time with their friends. Sometimes, they are just uninterested in the game, but want to hang out. Everyone falls into this category at times. There are nights when you are too tired or burnt out to really engage plot. It is not always a bad thing. Taking a step back and allowing everyone else to shine can be refreshing for yourself and healthy for the game.

Engaging Undriven characters can be difficult, but the first step is education. When a player looks excluded, pay attention to them. If it is because they do not understand what is going on or how the rules work, then either you, or a designated helper, sit down with them and teach them the basics. Knowing the setting and rules will get them to the point where they know how they can interact, however learning to effectively roleplay helps even more. I like to attach them to an a divisive character or NPC in game. It gives them a goal and something to do. By throwing them in the deep end, they get to become immediately involved. If they still seek to stay on the periphery, give them space. Some players are satisfied with just being at game.

Conclusion

Players are more important than game, characters are more important than plot. Drive everything around creating an experience for your players. This does not mean that you hold back from negative consequences or even character death, just that you ensure they are meaningful. Meaning is the greatest thing you can give to a player’s actions. If you give their failure or death a cool story, they will remember it forever. Do not be afraid of a little boredom or breathing space. This gives players time to relax and characters time to reflect and plot their next move.

Player action and character agency is difficult to deal with at times, but your plot is not as important as player enjoyment and engagement. If the plot is not working or if the players have a better plan, let it go. Allow their solution to work if it makes sense and fits into the game setting. Be willing to script or storyboard scenes that have gotten bogged down or are uninteresting. If a mass combat has reached the point where it is just a series of bland challenges and it is no longer challenging or entertaining, then script the rest of it. Players are willing to negotiate appropriate consequences for a victory, if they feel that is fits with what is happening.

Ultimately, the way to reach every player in your game is to be interested in them. Give everyone, individually, a moment in the spotlight. Take the time to get to know them and to learn why they come to game. Watch yourself when you are writing stories and running NPCs that you do not get too caught up playing to the front. Those players deserve attention, they drive your plots and are usually the social leadership of your game. However, do not forget the back. Those players are at game to enjoy themselves too. Be interested in all the characters in your game and seek to integrate everyone into the larger story.

 

The Curse in MES Werewolf: The Apocalypse

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My Boss is Great, Scary, but Great

I love my boss, but he scares the crap out of me at the same time. Our meetings are usually only 10-15 minutes. We’ll be sitting around the table, running through power points, and he’ll drop in. “Mark, you’ve got 2 minutes today, 1 up, 1 down, 1 action,” is a common opening for him. We’ve trained for this, over and over again, generating quick highlights outside of our regular reports. He reads everything, it seems like, and there is no point in covering the minutiae. In fact, if you try, he’ll often scoff and glare. For some reason… his expression is enough to stop any of us mid-sentence.

I make it sound like he’s mean, or an asshole, but none of this is true. He listens with the time he has, he takes action, and he does everything he can to take care of those who work for him. He sent one person’s wife overseas for experimental surgery when she got cancer. She’s fine now. This is the type of man that will literally drop everything to help, but he’s never around physically for long. He’s got too much going on.

What would it take for me to leave this job? I’m not sure I would, even for triple my salary and 20 weeks of vacation. It’s weird working for someone like our boss, but he’s loyal to us, and I feel like he’s the best type of alpha leadership everyone asks for. That makes a lot of the odd behavior worth it.

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What is The Curse?

In Mind’s Eye Theatre Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Curse is a reaction that humanity as to the innate Rage which the Garou emit. Humanity is always uneasy around the Garou, instinctively cowering in fear or trying to leave their presence as soon as possible. The curse has less impact if a Garou had not gained Rage in the last 24 hours.

There are 5 stages to this version of The Curse. Introduction, 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes. Introduction raises the anxiety of all normal humans in the room. 5 minutes leads to stuttering and stress behaviors, like avoiding eye contact or hair pulling. 30 minutes leads to early panic attack behavior. In 60 minutes, humans and wolves become hostile to the Garou, and 90 minutes causes full Delirium. Bone Gnawers and Glass Walkers double the time before they cause these effects in humans, and the same for Red Talons with wolves.

What does this mean, mechanically and story-wise for Werewolf LARP using these rules? It is hard, almost impossible to be a Garou and interact successfully with human society. This is part of the reason Garou retreat into their Septs and focus so much on their own communities. The easiest way for a Garou to effect the normal world is to use Kinfolk intermediaries. That will require a lot of trust, and trust issues run deep in people with a lot of pent up anger (from personal experience). When crafting a backstory, it is possible for a character to have spent time in either human or wolf society, but they would have to have a lot of control over their Rage. That’s not easy, but it can happen. Garou can be great leaders. Rage and anger can be fantastic motivating forces from a leader in a team. Garou have to be careful how much they interact with people, but they can still be leaders to humans if they do so in a backroom leadership sort of way.

How do you build The Curse into your games?

 

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.

Trans Representation and the Changing Face of Werewolf

Trans Representation and the Changing Face of Werewolf

by Lang Schmitt

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Early on in the new Werewolf: the Apocalypse BNS book we meet Verity Argyris.  Verity is a young Black Fury historian who’s working to record the oral histories of the Garou, and her observations are scattered throughout the book.

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Page 62

After many pages of meeting Verity through her observations, we learn on page 62 that Verity’s mothers in the Tribe were one of the first to keep male-born children, and that at her Rite of Passage she was proclaimed “not just their daughter, but a sister of the tribe”.  In other words, the text is obliquely saying that Verity is what we’d identify as a trans(*) woman.

 

A Societal Shift

 

I haven’t seen a lot of online discussion of Verity.  (Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.)  While I was searching, though, I found a lot of discussion from several years ago about if a character like Verity could exist among the Black Furies.

A lot of gamers came to the conclusion that she couldn’t.  The Black Furies, they argued, placed too much value on a person’s biology – and Garou would view sex-reassignment hormones or surgery as a tool of the Weaver.  (More on this in a minute.)

Let me be clear:  the first edition of the Black Furies book came out in the early ’90s, when including a radical second-wave feminist group in your fantasy world seemed progressive and forward-thinking.  The Black Furies were based on real-life trans-exclusive Wiccan groups, which emphasize the sacredness of female-bodied biology and experience and reject male-bodied people as equal members.

But the BNS book states:

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Black Fury Tribebook Revised Cover

“[The Black Furies’] viewpoints have evolved, due to their new leadership.

The Age of Apocalypse has shown them that the equality

they seek so viciously is a complex issue, involving more

than just women and children. They realized that their

exclusivity would damn them … Those who

identify as having the hearts women [sic] also received the

blessing of Artemis and have been welcomed to the tribe.

… Despite their newly opened mindset,

there are rumors of a rift between modern and traditional

Furies regarding how lenient and accepting present-day

Black Furies are perceived by other werewolves.” (p. 70-71)

 

Trans-exclusive radical feminist (TERF) groups still exist in real life.  They inspire harsh feelings from trans activists and their allies, who argue that excluding trans women from cis women’s spaces is pointless, and further marginalizes an already marginal population.  Some TERFs and their groups have not moved past their trans-excusionary worldviews – but many are evolving, like the Black Furies are.

Some gamers will cry foul, arguing that it’s a political act to write a world where the Black Furies are beginning to welcome trans women.  But this in-game change is tied to a real-world change, and it would be equally political to not include trans people in an era when we are becoming more visible and accepted.

 

How to Write a Trans Character

I am young and trans.  I am … blessed? … to have come of age at a time when trans people are newly visible in popular culture.

angel-rentSome people would tell you visibility is an unambiguous good.  I’m less certain.  There are a lot of lazily-written trans characters out there.  The Lazily-Written Trans Character is often a conventionally feminine trans woman.  She is non-threatening and non-sexual, although she may be a sex worker.

She is usually tragic in some way.  Often, she dies before the end of the story, to teach our cis protagonists some kind of lesson.  Think of Angel from RENT, or Rayon from Dallas Buyers Club.

To be completely fair, this type of character is far preferable to unsympathetic trans caricatures, who are grotesque, hypersexual, and dangerous.  (Think Buffalo Bill, or the attack ads that air about transphobic bathroom legislation.)  But lazily-written trans characters are toothless, and ancillary to cis characters’ stories.  They’re objects of pity (or vapid inspiration), rather than figures of genuine strength.  They are no one anyone would want to be, or could ever be.

There is tragedy in much of the trans experience – but we are still the heroes of our own stories.  But you wouldn’t know that from looking at these characters.

We are slowly seeing a broadening of the range of trans narratives that exists in mass media, but problematic characterizations remain.  And even as we see more progressive types appear, mass media portrayals of trans still have something pernicious to them:  the most interesting thing about us, in these stories, is that we are trans.  Our narrative arc is our transition.  Without our gender, we would be no one.

We don’t see a whole lot of Verity in the BNS book, past two vigniettes and her own observations.  But she shows herself to be strong, observant, curious, intelligent, and active.  She’s head and shoulders above the passive, pitiable trans “type” who furthers cis narratives.

Critically, she is more than her transition.  There’s plenty of hay to be made about Verity’s gender, in thinkpieces like this, but ultimately her trans-ness is a footnote.  It only comes up obliquely in the previously-mentioned quote, and in passing when she fears rejection from Black Fury elder in the second vignietteIt’s far more vital that she’s gathering information, and serves as our viewpoint character.

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Gaia

I can think of very few trans viewpoint characters in mass media, and even fewer who aren’t shown through the light of their transition.  Verity feels like something genuinely novel.

 

The Real-World Politics of Werewolf

Why does this matter?  Why does W:tA need trans representation?

When I was looking for discussions about trans in W:tA, I found that many anti-trans fans of the game have (or had) a medicalized and pathological view of trans people.  We are out-of-balance, the argument goes.  We are a product of modern medicine, not nature.  No Garou would ever have us (except for maybe Glasswalkers).

I reject this argument out of hand.  The medicalization and pathologicalization of trans is comparatively modern.  Pre-modern cultures often made (and make) a place for trans people:  Romans had galli; Indian society still has hijra; many American Indian cultures have third or fourth genders.  Our position has varied from place to place, and we have often been the first to be marginalized and scapegoated in times of trouble, but we most definitely existed and we were often accepted.

It is we, in our Weaver-ridden society, who want all genders (and all bodies, in the case of intersex people) in two boxes.  In fact, the BNS book gives a clear route for a non-medical transition for trans characters:  the first level Ajaba gift in this system, Mask of Night, which lets characters transform their body to that of the “opposite sex”.  Shun the Weaver’s medicalized works, and embrace the transformation nature offers you!

We are in fact very in-balance.  Thematically, we mesh perfectly with a game about shapeshifting and balance – even as societies, real and fictional, find dynamic points of balance around us as we re-take our place at the table.

This brings me to the biggest reason why I think W:tA needs trans representation.

Many of the gamers I’ve spoken with are a little leery of this game – and to be completely fair, that’s a feeling I share.  W:tA has a troubled legacy, in a lot of ways.  I found that a lot of female and trans gamers perceive W:tA as a “game for bros”.  Despite the game’s best intentions, they argue, W:tA players often create toxically masculine characters, who enact stereotypically masculine power fantasies without consequence.  (This is completely separate from the in-universe transphobia, or “noble savage” stereotyping of Indigenous peoples.)

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Werewolf 20th Anniversary Edition

Obviously, this is a generalization.  For any W:tA group I could point to that’s ridden with hyper-masculine power fantasies, I’m sure my readers could find several more that are thoughtful and well-balanced, that draw plenty of female and queer players.

But that’s not really my point:  fairly or not, this is the baggage the game carries with it.  A signature character like Verity isn’t a surefire medicine against W:tA‘s machismo, and I imagine a lot of gaming groups will choose to ignore the changes made to the Black Furies.  But I imagine Verity might take the air out of the sails of a few of the hardcore bros out there, and make Storytellers rethink the feel of the setting.

It takes all kinds to save the world – ranging from the classically masculine fearless and strong, to the classically feminine sensitive and nurturing.  It takes all kinds to build a healthy gaming community, too.

It remains to be seen what Storytellers and players do with BNS’ WerewolfBut I think BNS has taken a potentially polarizing, but critical step toward broadening the game’s world – and making it one female-bodied people and queers are more likely to find friendly to play in.

(*)  For the purposes of this article, I’m using “trans” as an umbrella term that includes anyone who is not cisgender.  “Cisgender” or “cis” means having a gender identity that corresponds with one’s biological sex.  Trans, here, includes people who have taken medical steps to bring their body closer in line with their identity, those who want to take medical steps but have not done so yet, and those who feel no need to do so.  I also mean it to include people who fall outside the gender binary.

 

Lang Schmitt is a transmasculine genderqueer person.  He lives in Madison, WI and makes his living writing.  He currently plays in Underground Theater.  Find him on Facebook, or email him at langschmitt@gmail.com.

GUEST REVIEW MET WEREWOLF 2016


So a quick history: White Wolf published a LARP (Live Action Role Play) variant of their Old World of Darkness (oWoD) series in the early and mid-90s dubbed Mind’s Eye Theater (MET). By Night Studios (BNS) recently acquired the right to make new LARP materials from oWoD and have set out to create newly revamped systems that are based today  incorporate more recent societal themes. This is a review  of their newest book in this reimagining, Werewolf:The Apocalypse.

                                                                   The Story

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In the original setting, the world ended around 2000. To allow for the game to be more modern, BNS had to work from the point where the world would have ended, forward, and continue to build the world. This was a monumental job that could have fallen flat if they had gone in the wrong direction. Instead, they hit it out of the ballpark.

The story moving in to the current era is plausible, interesting, and makes for a large amount of story hooks for any storyteller. The feeling of something akin to an Apocalypse happening was preserved. At the same time, the authors moved both the game and the setting forward. I feel the most impressive thing they did was characterizing the cyber generation, especially in a game historically defined by hatred of technology (and sometimes progress). The inclusion of two political factions (The Concordat of Stars and the Sanctum of Gaia) working both together and against one another while fighting the same war also adds a new angle that storytellers can use if heavy meta-politics are their players’ jam.

Most importantly to me, some of the tribes have moved forward to become fully fleshed out, living groups of people. Black Furies accept all women and cubs of both genders born to the tribe, the Wendigo aren’t solely just angry native people, and in general, the setting incorporates globalization of our culture in a very appropriate and respectful way. I’m not saying that if you hadn’t dug deeper in to those tribes I mentioned before you wouldn’t have found life and spark, but this is an area where I feel the previous LARP books did a disservice. I feel like BNS went above and beyond to truly give new players a glance in to a living, breathing cultural organization of people, especially ones with more sensitive themes.

Mechanics

If you are familiar with rock-paper-scissors, you can play this game. Mechanically not much is changed from BNS’s MET: Vampire: the Masquerade (VtM). You have test pools determined by your sheet, you throw rock-paper-scissors, you compare your results and then things happen. Some elements are new, but if you are familiar with the other book, this book is an almost seamless transition. It’s also obvious that this is BNS’s second book, because concerns with MET: VtM have either been corrected or elaborated upon (backgrounds, etc.).

The only mechanic that is truly new, and I feel makes the game stand out from its companion, is the Quest System. Players develop a Quest, work together to determine requirements, and then, regardless of success or failure, collectively create a shared narrative. This emphasizes player cooperation and agency, while reducing storyteller stress. It’s a great example of a system promoting positive play and I am very impressed with it. I have heard a lot of Vampire storytellers that want to incorporate it in to their game and I look forward to that.

Relevance to New and Old Playersrokea

I would like to preface this section with the fact that BNS talked with the community at large about what they liked and disliked about Werewolf, and it’s pretty obvious that they took those suggestions to heart in their development of the new book. They made a lot of changes to make the game more palatable, easier to run, and easier to play.

My old group of players has an adage. “Forget what you knew before, read through the book and that’s what you have.” There is a lot of difference between the original Werewolf and this one. But these changes aren’t bad, especially considering the backstory of the book. If you like Werewolf, you’ll definitely find the old Werewolf you love deep inside the heart of this book, as well as a whole new world to explore

For newer players, this book is a great introduction to the genre. With the inclusion of definite mechanics and story hooks that allow for inexperienced players to play as Kinfolk (the human relatives of werewolves), and Cubs (newly changed werewolves), and also to become actively involved in the story, even as low powered creatures (I’m looking at you Den Mother), even the greenest oWoD player can truly become involved and captured by the system and story. Don’t try and read the whole thing in one sitting though.

Storytellers are given a lot of information and a lot of meat to sink their fangs in to. The Umbra section alone could be an entire 5 year chronicles. This makes the book great for someone trying to run a game, especially if paired with its sister book, Vampire the Masquerade. There are 750+ pages of pure information to sink your teeth into and you have all the time in the world to get to know it.

Art:

This needed its own section. The art is amazing, representative, evocative, and while the style may be slightly strange at first, it meshes well. There are depictions of strength and serenity in both genders. It’s some great stuff.

skin-dancerBut… it’s not perfect.

My major gripe is that there are firmly more depictions of men than women (by a factor of maybe ¼ from a quick count through the book) and there are a few ‘sexy poses’ that women are in that you don’t see the men paralleling (I’m looking at you page 735). There’s nothing wrong with sexy, but similar poses could have been employed in some of the male images. Also the bewildered and bored look that the two women in the Pentex scene respectively have (page 610) hurt my soul a little bit compared to the businesslike and serious look the men have.

These seem like petty gripes, but I hold BNS to high standards in regards to being open and accommodating to the community, and art is one of the major ways that the gaming community has majorly failed to do this in the past.

Overall, the art is stunning, and despite these issues the full color renderings of them make me want an art book with more.

Portability:

So there is one Were-Elephant in the room I’d like to address. The original LARP books were small and portable. This book is not. While the 750+ pages are absolutely glorious and give you all the information you could ever need, it’s also a monster of a book. There are ways around this (printing and creating subsection binders, e-readers, etc.), but those are hoops that the consumer has to jump through themselves. Also, the size does seem to mess with certain e-readers and PDF readers, so a B&W option of the pdf at some point in the future would be appreciated.mourning

Final Verdict

This is an amazing book. It’s a great re-imagining of Werewolf that addresses and deals with a large amount of the issues that the community was vocal about. It’s obvious that the two years of work that both BNS and the community put in to it have paid off and I feel like this is definitely going to revitalize a once dying subset of the LARP community. They have taken a part of oWoD that I loved but was always hesitant to suggest due to problematic issues in the original source material and morphed it in to something I would suggest to most, if not all, of my LARPing friends to try out at least once.

 

 

Will Martin has been LARPing since college and has found no reason to stop yet and is quite fond of being able to watch the age where the art of gaming has become more self-aware and critical of itself. This is accented by his job working in Public Health with a focus on underprivileged communities. Currently he is the head Storyteller for a yet to be named Werewolf LARP out of Washington DC, run through Underground Theater.

*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.

HOW THE DARKNESS CAN LEAD US TO THE LIGHT

Preface to this article. I started this in the hours after I left The Grand Masquerade, and finished working on it after reading extensive responses in the community discussing our interview with White Wolf and the Keynote and Q&A at The Grand Masquerade.

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What is the value of darkness? Darkness teaches us to value the light.

 What is the value of difficult literature? It teaches us things about ourselves, as human beings.

What is the value of media that addresses dark themes? It can teach us about a side of life we do not witness. It can teach us about lives unlike our own at every level.

These questions and answers are at the core of what the World of Darkness can teach us, if we let it. I want to preface this article with this, we need to be sensitive to everyone involved in discussions surrounding themes in WoD games. Player comfort and safety, and consent to address dark, mature themes are essential. That being said, I might pose more questions than answers here and I want to help encourage a healthy dialogue.

I would hesitantly say the goal of role-playing in the World of Darkness is to generate an understanding of the dark things that occur in our world, and to find ways to address that darkness and ways to change our world. Vampire is essentially a game of immortal parasites that dominate and leech off humanity. By playing one of these monsters we can see the dark aspects of our society reflected back to us. If I play a woman in these games, if those games are run by a sensitive storyteller, I can hopefully begin to understand some of the layers of systemic sexism inherent in the real world. I will never be an expert on that experience, and such a thing should not be played for *shock* factor, but it can have deeper impacts. These games may be one stage in understanding, perhaps a strong first step into embracing feminism and striving to make the world a more gender equal place. By addressing gender inequality, in a place that is safe (with fellow gamers that I trust to respect my consent) I can find tools to identify actions or thoughts I take that tacitly support the sexist world we live in.

self-reflection

Some players don’t want to play games that address societal faults. They enjoy other aspects of Vampire’s mythology, they like the clan politics, or monster’s hiding in the darkness of society. Whatever it is about Vampire, they like the game, they enjoy spending time in the World of Darkness. This style of play is totally understandable. Not everyone looks to games as literature. Like enjoyable fiction, sometimes you read something because the story is fun, it makes you smile, perhaps it makes you excited. The World of Darkness can be played in both ways.

white_wolf_publishingWhite Wolf’s new leadership says they want to create books that address the first style, they want to write books that address the darkness in the World of Darkness. They also want to support players that choose either style of play. Are these goals incompatible? I, for one, don’t think so. White Wolf wants to create books that can be used to run games that are fun, or self-reflective, or both. They want to engage writers that are looking to explore elements of the world that they know intimately. By doing so, they can hopefully create a true reflection of the power of their experiences. At the same time, for those gamers who wish to play for fun, they will have materials that are truer to life, alive with those experiences and that will reflect in the games played. By providing the best material, all of us gain.

I personally think we, as people, have to challenge ourselves if we wish to grow. We can use a lot of various media to work this growth. We can read works by great authors, we can watch great movies, and we can play great games. Great games allow us to learn skills we can apply to our world. There is academic evidence to suggest that gamers either have more or gain empathy skills from gaming. At the same time, I believe gaming can be used as an effective method to perform inter-cultural dialogue. Gaming, in my humble opinion, can be a force of individual and cultural benefit. Sometimes the method to that growth is through the darkness of the world. Yet, darkness is not the only element of the World of Darkness.

Iconoclasm, Punk, and Anarchist mentality are also themes in Vampire the Masquerade. Why? Because they are methods of challenging the status-quo. In the World of Darkness, we see a world run by the patriarchy (in this case immortal or with powerful magic), entrenched in systemic racism, mired in conflict on every side, we have a world beset by severe income inequality, and a devastated ecology. At the same time, many Vampires have tossed mortal concerns around gender roles, Avatars choose Mages regardless of social status, Werewolves exist of every race. These characters have the ability to challenge the systemic problems of the world.the_players_guide_to_the_sabbat

These themes, though changed to some degree, have not left our world since 1991, when Vampire first addressed them. I would argue, as others have, that White Wolf games were essentially subversive at heart. They sought to dismantle the constructs of the world we live in, by making some of the worst aspects of our world stark. I wouldn’t say these elements were eliminated in later editions, but they were tempered, they were certainly more nuanced. Understanding the underlying reality of those themes is important in our modern world, we need to understand how to challenge the status-quo, how to stand up against oppression, and how to advocate for positive change. The World of Darkness can help teach us effective methods of doing so.

At the same time as investigating darkness to understand light, we need to be cognizant of individual player buy-in and acceptance of the topics being addressed. How do we work with darkness, even playing elements of the darkness with respect to real player backgrounds? Consent. Consent is integral to running White Wolf games. If your players want to play a game that only peripherally touches on the darkest themes in the World of Darkness, LISTEN to them. If a woman at your table says stop, stop. If a man in your LARP asks not to run a scene with rape involved, listen to them, fade-to-black, ask for feedback and adjust where appropriate. If you have a player that wants to explore their gender identity, find ways to do so with respect and with their investment.

One way to do this well is to ask for feedback ahead of time before you run plots. For example, I recently asked my players if they wanted to move our Dark Ages game a few years in time in between sessions. I did this to get a feel for what they wanted. They didn’t want a time jump, they still have things they want their characters to learn and do. This helped me to develop the next 5-10 game sessions (give or take). This wasn’t an issue of dealing with dark elements, but it is a good example of how to work with your players to give them an experience you enjoy facilitating and that reflects their gaming interests.

castle_keep_1

I will do this with other aspects of the game, as well. If I wanted to run a plot where the characters have to kill an entire family (a possibility in the Medieval era), or a plot where children were killed, I would check with the players to ensure that such a plot would not be a surprise and would not cause any trauma related triggers. I ended up running a side scene with one player where I had initially planned to have his ghoul betray him. Both characters are young, both around 12, one a vampire and the other his childhood friend who he had ghouled. The ghoul felt his friend was putting himself in danger, and though he was betraying him, it was for his best friend’s safety. However, the emotional intensity of the scene between player character and NPC changed my mind. There was too much power in keeping their bond strong, in ensuring that no betrayal occurred. I knew some of the needs of this player, and I know a bit of his personal history and I’m glad we chose the route we did. This scene created a powerful resonance for my player, who thanked me for the scene later. There were still very dark elements of this scene, horror, danger for friends loved and loved deeply, but it didn’t cross over into a territory that would have hurt my friend.

vtm-banner

During Grand Masquerade, fans made it clear that they want more representation in White Wolf game products. They want sensitivity in dealing with dark storylines and themes, and they want players to feel welcome playing games in the World of Darkness. Particularly in LARP, because of concerns for player safety in the LARP community. From my perspective, White Wolf is listening, but I think we are in a sensitive era in the gaming hobby, and this has caused some strong emotion to boil to the surface. This emotion is not a negative thing. This emotion is a call for us all to take these concerns seriously and ensure that darkness is not simply inserted for some misunderstood shock attempt.

wod-gypsiesIn our recent interview with White Wolf, Martin Ericsson, Lead Storyteller of the new White Wolf, stated his interest in re-investigating one of the most controversial of books ever produced by White Wolf, World of Darkness: Gypsies. However, Martin’s comments about wanting writers to write about topics they know should illuminate some of his deeper thinking. He mentions perhaps calling the new book, Opre Roma. This is an alternative name for the Romani anthem Gelem, Gelem and has been used as a rallying call by Roma movements for equality and representation in Europe. Some have expressed concern about rewriting a book that has a lot of negative implications and has been fairly accused of othering a people that have experienced severe and consistent discrimination.
That being said, if White Wolf can investigate the history of the Roma in Europe, using the lens of the World of Darkness to show their common humanity and to help understand how they have been persecuted over the years, isn’t this something that could be beneficial? I think we can see that there is value about writing what one knows, and if White Wolf can engage a writer or writers of Roma descent who are interested in producing a book that encourages understanding of the Roma, I’m all for giving it a try.

The World of Darkness has had 25 years to make an impact on role-playing. I think it has done so. I won’t say that White Wolf is the only reason that we now have deeper themes in gaming, but their emergence into the world of gaming 25 years ago helped to create the gaming landscape we have today. White Wolf is waking up from torpor, there are a lot of great ideas hiding in the darkness still and we have much to learn before we can step into a world that is more light than dark. For now, let’s strive together to learn about ourselves, our world, and each other by looking at the darkest element of our lives. Let us examine the darkness and find it within ourselves, and root it out.

Josh is the Admin@KeepontheHeathlands

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

THE FUTURE OF DARKNESS: AN INTERVIEW WITH WHITE WOLF PUBLISHING

white_wolf_publishingThe staff at White Wolf were willing to do an interview with the staff of columnists here at Keep On The Heathlands. Some of the following questions reference discussions had at The 25th Anniversary Grand Masquerade event in New Orleans over the Labor Day Weekend. Videos to the Keynote and the Q&A are now available to give context for anyone reading this interview. We want to thank White Wolf for taking the time to do this interview. Our staff are huge fans of the World of Darkness and other games created by White Wolf over the years. 

We’ve seen a lot of commentary regarding the White Wolf Keynote at The Grand Masquerade – specifically around the statements made regarding the content presented within the World of Darkness and the call for games and communities to not censor various topics with a broad brush. Would you be willing to share exactly what was said, as well as the follow-up statements that were made during the beginning of the Q&A session at The Grand Masquerade?


dhaunaeDhaunae De Vir (Manager of Availability – Business Development):
Of course. We have just released the full-length video for the keynote and the Q&A at The Grand Masquerade. Additionally, I would like to reiterate once more that no clubs were targeted at the keynote, that we do not intend to meddle in fan clubs management, and that we fully support the idea that game spaces should be safe for everyone.

With the One World of Darkness, it seems like cross genre play will be integrated from the beginning. How do you anticipate having this work?


martinMartin Ericsson (Lead Storyteller and Brand Architect):
 We’re imagining a world where the shadows are shrinking. The awakened monsters have always brushed shoulders, but the vastly different art direction and surface tonality (not to mention the slightly messy rules) of the different game lines have made crossovers run a risk of being a bit campy. This time we try to place them all in our own world, in dangerous and fascinating places where their rising conflicts makes WoD’s mysteries, political themes and menacing horror come to the forefront. For example, we are developing Werewolf in close parallel to Vampire, hoping to make the most of the tension between the cold corporate predation of the Camarilla elite and the just but oh-so uncontrollable just war of the Garou Nation. The games will be perfectly standalone, but still manage to link up in specific ways. We’re not imagining a game made for multi-creature parties, rather set them up as perfect antagonists and philosophical counterpoints, as well as rivals for the fate of humanity in desperate times.

What, if any, less explored books, supplements, or ideas from the original game lines are you planning to bring back or explore deeper in the One World of Darkness?

Martin: There are many early books that deserve to be updated to contemporary times and get hooked into the development of the metaplot, a lot of great but underused ideas that popped up in fiction anthologies have also caught my eye. To name some personal impulses: ”Shoah: Charnel Houses of Europe” and ”Gypsies” (Should be called something like “Opre Roma!”) could use new editions in our age, as the horrors of the fear of the Other is again on the rise in Europe. I read a lot about the Ashirra and Middle Eastern WoD for obvious reasons. I think a lot of greatness is found in books like ”Love Beyond Death” and ”Ghouls – Fatal Addiction” and you’ll probably see us inspired by stories where the supernatural meets the mortal world a lot more. Also, Dark Ages of all kinds! Holy shit, there’s a lot of treasures there. I also love the first and second edition of Mummy…

One World of Darkness

White Wolf has talked about increasing and supporting diversity of thought, and identity, at the same time, you are not shying away from using role-playing to explore the darkness in the One World of Darkness. Can you tell us how you are planning to address both of these?

Dhaunae: We are going to give voice to groups that did not have a voice before. This means some topics might be revisited from a different point of view, and some new topics that were never considered before that are relevant to these new voices will be brought up. I personally think it will be thought-provoking to see what darkness means for these new voices, and what dark topics they consider interesting and appropriate to talk about. It might be something that we never thought about before, it might be an eye-opener, and it might even be helpful to understand other human beings better by walking on someone else’s shoes.

At the same time, when exploring dark topics, everyone should be free to choose what experiences and what level of intensity they want to be exposed to and participate in. If some topics are not interesting or if the subject matter is too harsh, there should always be the possibility to opt-out. I want to clarify when I say “too harsh”, I don’t necessarily mean rape. We are role-players, and our imagination is vast and ever-growing.

Martin: Write about what you know! We will continue to represent all ethnicities and the legends of the whole world as basis for our creatures and we will make sure to do it with less rose-tinted goggles and prejudice than maybe done before and really do our best to have people with relevant experiences writing about it.
lore-of-the-clans

Martin mentioned at Grand Masquerade that he sees the World of Darkness in a similar light to important literature. This may tie into the previous question as well, how do you see the World of Darkness having a literature like impact on players, storytellers, and other consumers of WoD related media?

Martin: WoD has always dealt with the most difficult questions in life, from the unflinching exploration of addiction, loss of self-control, transgressive and inhuman morality in Vampire, the price of violent activism and the lure of heroic fascism in Werewolf, lost vulnerable souls on the brink in Changeling, dealing with our fear of death in Wraith as well as constantly challenging and smartly transgressive expressions of sex, love, death, toxic relationships, depression, class and gender inequalities, monsters as metaphors for personal insecurities, exploration of insanity and all the other worthy themes of great culture. Personally, I think these issues were handled best in early supplements, but the desire to mean something to players and readers, with loaded themes and moods is a core part of the setting. We want WoD to be the thinking person’s fictional universe, where the questions ”what is this is real” and ”what important questions can we ask” constantly guide us. With an eye to social justice issues we shine a light in the darkest places and assume monstrous perspectives on the real world to learn more about it and ourselves. In practice it also means working with excellent writers and be obsessive about artistic quality.

 

sfwa

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America organization recently changed their membership rules to include game writers. As this gap between game writers and speculative fiction writers shrinks (around the world), what value do you see in integrating game writing into the broader writing/publishing industry?


tobias
Tobias (CEO White Wolf): Isn’t it about time that cultures around larps, RPGs and similar forms of entertainment finally get the credit they deserve? Look at the impact World of Darkness had on the modern vampire and werewolf myth today established in numerous film, television and other forms of entertainment. This is serious work by great authors and we do appreciate and applaud the recognition of it.

White Wolf has talked about moving the emphasis of the World of Darkness to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia due to the previous focus being in North America. Has there been any discussion about what process you’ll use to determine who to provide a license to write content for other underrepresented parts of the world, such as Central and South America, or Australia?

Tobias: About moving the emphasis, there is an unfortunate misunderstanding there, so I am very happy to elaborate and clarify that. What we have said is that we will now include stories and perspectives from the rest of the world, which means adding more but definitely does not mean to lessen then number or importance of products or stories taking place in North America. We are not slicing the pie differently, we are making a new much bigger pie. At The Grand Masquerade we announced that our distributor in South Korea have written a Seoul By Night book* which they will publish, and I think that is a great example of how to create content that is relevant to the specific audiences. Have people who knows about the actual place and cultures to write about it.

We are constantly searching for and being approached by talented people from all over the world who want to do amazing things with our IPs including Russia, the Middle East, and Africa to the places you mention in your question. We are working actively to increase our number of content creators all over the world as well as keeping the strong core markets filled with new, relevant and exciting content.

*Random Editor Burst of Excitement: THIS SOUNDS AMAZING!

The World of Darkness setting was brought to video games with mixed results. Do you have any ideas on how to successfully bring the WoD setting to this medium, and what sort of games are you considering developing?

bloodlines

We’ll wait while you reinstall it.

Tobias: Bloodlines from Activision is still played and patched 12 years after its release, which I think is pretty amazing. Personally, I have spent well over 20 years in the computer games industry so what I bring to the table is the network and profound understanding of that industry. By presenting the IP and our vision for World of Darkness at various game industry trade shows and events around the world, in addition to travelling and visiting game developers and publishers, we have already received  unbelievably positive and enthusiastic responses.

Our goal is to find computer game developers and publishers who can do fantastic games for various genres and platforms. Our goal in the next few years is to eventually release games on a yearly basis. I see no limit to what kind of games might be produced, the World of Darkness lends itself too many genres and cross promotional opportunities. For example, at The Grand Masquerade one of our partners EarPlay showcased a voice controlled choose-your-own-adventure game based on the Orpheus property. Isn’t that cool?

How can we, as fans, support and encourage White Wolf moving forward?

Dhaunae: We share a common goal, we can work together, and I think that is beautiful. I am a long-time World of Darkness fan myself, and I know what it feels like not to know what White Wolf’s next move will be. If it will be something that I will applaud, or if it will be something that will hurt me. So I would say trust is crucial here. We would ask you to trust that we at White Wolf really want the best for World of Darkness and its fans. We might make mistakes down the road, because we are human, but we are working like crazy and very enthusiastically to take World of Darkness to the place it very much deserves. In order for trust to happen, good communication is essential, so please feel free to contact us: write us e-mails, talk to us at events… We do want to know what you think.

jp

Admin Josh Heath as Jean-Pierre at The Grand Masquerade

In some rare occasions, the path forward to get to this fantastic place with

World of Darkness might not seem logical from the outside, and we might not be in a position to disclose all the information just yet. We hope that, by then, we will have gained your trust.

Other than that, keep doing what you are doing. We trust you and think you are also doing your best to make World of Darkness a great hobby.

Martin: Let your black flag fly. With so many exciting things around the corner, this is a good time to talk to people
about why we need a smart and grown-up horror universe as a part of the geek-cultural landscape next to lighter adventure-style fare like Star Wars and Marvel. Come meet us at cons, run that game you’ve been thinking about for years and send us the very best thing you’ve written, drawn, etched, carved or sung about the dark world. Army of the Abandoned; the time has come to rise! Blood and Souls!

Considering the joint statement from US based LARP fan groups, would you like to address how you will be working with those groups on the issue of player safety? 

Tobias: Player safety is naturally absolute key to any business, no one should have to feel unsafe at an events. We don’t organize events ourselves but in our contracts we do our best to set the level for what we consider is required by our partners in terms of quality.  But contracts aside, we always talk with our partners about how they can ensure the best possible experience at their events.

What we did our best to message at The Grand Masquerade was that even though our world is dark and mirrors all kinds of really heavy topics it is important that when larping or participating in any our products, that people do it on the level they think is ok and safe for them. We are also absolutely behind the fan groups playing our games in a way that fits their individual preferences. I mean, how could you possibly have it any other way?

We do our very best to work closely with our event licensees, and we will as originally planned from the start eleven months ago get into the nitty gritty with our fan clubs very soon. We had great initial meetings with the fan clubs at The Grand Masquerade and look forward to working with them in the future as we now have the resources available to focus on that.

But in specific as to what we can do, I think the best use of White Wolf as a licensor (except setting a clear level in our contracts as to what is acceptable and what is not) is as a coordinator between the different LARP licensees and the fan clubs to make sure they share their experiences and best practices regarding safety and consent and all other aspects of participatory entertainment. In the end it is them who deal with the players on a daily basis, and it’s our responsibility is to support them as much as possible and to help make what they do easier. The goal is to have the best possible and enjoyable events set in the World of Darkness.

 

Final Editor Comments
We believe White Wolf takes a positive stance here. They are dedicated to shining a reflective light on our reality to ensure that we recognize the darkness in our own lives and create methods to change or eliminate that darkness. Safety of players is supported, at the same time as encouraging a deep investigation into human behavior, identity, and action that is as beneficial as great literature. Please reach out to us or White Wolf if you have any questions or concerns. 

 

 

 

LARP & THE DISBELIEF DEFICIENCY

A first level witch was my first character in the Forever’s Destiny LARP, and the first character of any LARP I had made. Until then I had just attended the first few events, was playing monsters, trying to understand the ropes, and getting a feel for the atmosphere of gamers in the middle of the English countryside. There I was, not quite the “starry-eyed youth” discovering a new environment, but still excited by all that was going on around me. One evening, I was with everyone at the High Table, the communal dinner event in the main site cabin, listening to the high-level players. I overheard someone mention that yeah, they’d just come back from a trip to Hell.

I was surprised to hear someone mention that trip so casually. Hell is a big deal in mythologies that have it; whenever we hear the name, we know to imagine horrors and suffering beyond our wildest imaginations (assuming Judeo-Christian beliefs, which are common in role-playing games). But there they were, a player just blurting out the reality of their character. A tiny bit of the suspension of disbelief was burned away.

That event was not the only time I witnessed this kind of situation. Years later, in World of Darkness LARPs, the same thing happened multiple times. For example, I noticed a recurring theme of Werewolf characters, at higher ranks, talking about going to the extremely dangerous realms Erebus, Flux, Malfeas, etc as if they were taking a trip to the local grocery store.

Demon reading a book.

I dubbed these kinds of situation the “Hell and Back Syndrome”: phenomena of traditional gaming where players – often new – have their suspension of disbelief shattered due to others treating the fantastic as mundane. For a while, I considered it disrespectful on the part of players to do that. “Why would you ruin the game for newcomers?” I asked myself. “Why don’t the game staff enforce the rarity of rare events, use more descriptive language, tone down the times they funnel players into higher-level areas?”

As some of you reading this will understand, once you play for long enough, it stops being that simple.

Being an active participant in gaming culture leads to these accomplishments:

  • Learning the general forms and concepts that most games rely on
  • Acquiring familiarity and competence with the systems one uses
  • Becoming more intimate with the world one’s character is a part of
  • Navigating the social spaces formed around the above

In these accomplishments, I believe that we find another failing of LARP. All of the above are skills to be mastered, and much like outside of games, mastery often brings boredom. Unlike some non-gaming skills, though, there are definite ceilings. Once you know a system like the back of your hand, there isn’t anything more to learn. Game settings can be relatively static once established, and it’s possible to see an end to the things you can know. For those people who want to try something new, they may find themselves stymied by the shared world of LARP, where the settings has to be enforced for the sake of balance and consistency among all players. Before you know it – BAM! You’re burnt out, the fantastic becomes mundane, and we hit the Hell and Back Syndrome.

Talking GentlemenTabletop RPGs don’t sidestep all these problems, but benefit from organizing games around a single group of people. Navigating smaller social spaces affords a greater flexibility in how game sessions develop: fewer people are needed for consensus. There’s irony in a big draw of LARP – the social aspect, – being one of its bigger problems to tackle.

Particularly in LARP, we have a shared responsibility to make gaming enjoyable. If you run into these situations, a few strategies might help.

If other people are spoiling the setting, talk to them, preferably outside of live game time. Communication is the cornerstone of just about any social experience. There’s no need to be hostile, and it might lead to better role-play in general. You may also want to talk to the people running the game. They may be able to employ strategies to help other players, and may need to see if they’re contributing.

When it’s you doing it, it might be burnout. Treat it that way: take a break, switch games, discuss your issues with staff, or all the above. Yes, even if you’re staff yourself – you’re not doing yourself or other people favors running a game in a bad mental state. I’m pretty sure I’ve been a part of the problem by now (and if I haven’t, it’ll happen some time in the future). Years in LARP have bred familiarity, and occasional burnout.

It’s by no means the end of the world for LARP to have issues with the spoiling of players’ sense of disbelief, but it’s one of the reasons I look towards other, less math-driven, more story-focused, game systems these days. Maybe I’m seeing the consequence of system-driven gaming in the USA compared to, say, Nordic LARP. More flexibility, and fewer systems, could make LARP more enjoyable over sustainable periods, for a lot of people. Why not bring the flexibility of free-form acting to more events, and seek out tabletop gaming for more math-heavy fun?

Grand Masquerade – What ELSE To Do

Hey everyone!

 

Enjoying New Orleans and the Grand Masquerade? I know I am!

However I do plan on leaving the hotel at some point this weekend, and I figure I would share some of my interesting finds as a first time visitor to the city. I have never been here before, so all of these recommendations are just from what I could find online. There are lots of other places other than what I’m listing here, but these are the ones that seemed the most interesting and required no more than about 15 minutes of walk or trolley ride from the main hotel in most cases. Directions to any of these places can be found by a very easy Google search of the name of the shop, restaurant, attraction, or bar.

If you aren’t at Grand Masquerade this weekend, consider seeking out similar places to these in your home town. Locally owned restaurants, specialty stores, museums, and other local curiosities can really be fun places to go, even in your own home town. Reach out to your other locals and find somewhere interesting to go this weekend.

midnightboheme at pixabay.com

If I covered 1/4 of the French Quarter, would it be the French Sixteenth?



CASUAL FOOD:

  • Daisy Dukes – Open 24/7, delivery is available, they have a bit of everything, it’s barely two blocks from the hotel, and it is not expensive. These people will know my name and face by the end of the weekend.
  • Country Flame Restaurant  – About a block and a half away, they have Mexican, Spanish, Cuban and Latin American food, and they deliver.
  • Merchant – This coffee shop is close, about two blocks away. They serve fresh made in front of you crepes and good coffee, as well as some sparkling bottled natural fruit drinks.
  • Addiction Coffee House – This was a tie for the closest coffee shop I could find, less than 2 blocks from the hotel, and it doesn’t seem any more expensive than Starbucks, and it’s local blends.
  • Jimmy J’s – NOT Jimmy John’s, but a tiny little cafe about three blocks away. A good place to pop in for snacks or a full blown meal.
  • The Ruby Slipper Cafe  –  Open for breakfast and lunch about 3 to 4 blocks away, this will be a good place to trek to for an omelette as that seems to be their specialty.
  • Salt n’ Pepper – About a 5 minute walk away, here is the Indian place for all of you. I am a bit of a spice wimp so Indian food is not for me, but I know so many people who like it that I found a place just for them.
  • Mona Lisa – About a mile from the hotel, Mona Lisa is a moderately priced Italian joint. I’m not a big Italian food fan, but this place also makes custom pizzas so really anyone can eat here as long as you’re not avoiding carbs.
  • Angeli – About 15 minutes away, Angeli does delivery as well as is open until 2am for all of us vampires in the area.
  • Croissant D’or Patisserie – 15 minutes away by trolley, this one is a cute little bakery and it’s open at 6am, so those of you who stay up all night can pop out for a quick snack before sleeping all day.

 

UPSCALE DINING:

  • Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak – This one is only a bit more than a block away, an American style steakhouse. Dinner jackets required for men, this place looks very fancy. Ventrue only.
  • Cafe Giovanni – 3 blocks from the hotel, this is the upscale italian joint for the trip. Vampire the Masquerade players will appreciate the name of the business for sure, and sometimes there are even opera singers in the lounge. Be sure to dress appropriately in business casual, like a good Giovanni.
  • Broussard’s – An upscale French and Creole style restaurant located about 3 blocks from the hotel. This place will serve nice upscale versions of what you would consider local New Orleans fare.  You will need to make reservations, and dinner jackets are preferred.
  • Attiki Bar and Grill – 5 Minutes from the hotel, this Mediterranean seemed very interesting. They have a full hookah bar and sometimes feature belly dancers. They are open until 4am, so have fun being a well dressed (business casual) night owl here.
  • El Gato Negro – About 15 minutes away, this is the fancy Mexican restaurant for all the Lasombra out there, they make fresh guacamole at your table and have a ton of gluten free and vegetarian options, so if you have dietary restrictions and want to go eat fancy, this is a good place for you. Business casual dress, so no jeans here.

 

SHOPS:

  • Boutique du Vampyre – This was an amazing Google find. It’s all vampire themed accessories, props, jewelry, and more. It looks so amazing, and it’s only half a mile from the hotel. I am definitely going there before my big game on Friday to do last minute shopping.
  • Southern Candymakers – This one is about half a mile from the hotel. It’s one of those candy shops you see in most tourist towns, but if you’re like me you have a need to go in these places when you are on vacation. I personally am curious about their sweet potato candy.
  • Papier Plume Stationary – A little over half a mile away near the VooDoo Museum, this place carries lots of stationary tools. Interested in getting that letter writing trend started back up in the Underground Theater? This would be a good place to go. I loved that myself, and I’m hoping they carry sealing wax because I want more.
  • Cigar Factory New Orleans – While I don’t smoke, I know that quality makes a difference, and by all accounts this place is quality. They’re about half a mile away and make everything locally from what I can tell, so cigar connoisseurs enjoy yourselves.
  • Brass Monkey  – This one is about 5 minutes away at 407 Royal Street (I included the address on this one because Google will put you in Shreveport which is a few hours away!) It’s an antique kitsch shop and I am all about these. I can spend all day in here, and I’m very excited to take home a little piece of history.
  • French Market – Located on Jackson Square about 15 minutes away, this is an open air stall market with food, accessories, and more. There is a lot of stuff here and I’m excited to browse.
  • World Famous N’awlins Cafe & Spice Emporium – About 15 minutes away by trolley, this one is going to be fun. It’s a small cafe and place you can buy some of the spices they would be cooking your food in, so if you order something delicious you buy the spice blend they used. I’m excited to get some new cooking spices here.

 

ATTRACTIONS:

  • Audubon Butterfly Garden – About five minutes from the hotel, this is a cute butterfly garden and insect museum. There is even the opportunity to eat a bug if you’re feeling brave, which I am not.
  • St. Louis Cathedral – About ten minutes from the hotel, this is the oldest continually active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the US. The current one was built in 1794, but the original is 70 years older!
  • Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans – Only open Friday and Saturday from 11am to 3pm, this is a museum of 200 years of Irish history in New Orleans. It’s located about ten minutes from the hotel in the French Quarter.
  • Audubon Aquarium –  On the riverfront about 15 minutes away, this aquarium has region specific exhibits, and you get to feed parakeets! I am most excited about going here, because I love going to aquariums.
  • 1850 House – About 15 minutes by trolley, this house is furnished with art and furnitiure from the period, the 1850 House showcases a middle class home from the most prosperous period in New Orleans History.
  • Jackson Square & Cafe du Monde – About 15 minutes away by trolley or walking, I only have one thing to say about it: beignets. Seriously. Jackson Square is a great place to people watch and browse the shops nearby and Cafe du Monde is famous for their coffee and their beignets.
  • VooDoo Museum – About 15 minutes away by walking or trolley, why would you not go to a VooDoo museum while you’re in New Orleans? It’s a good place to learn about why it’s so popular even now and how it got that way in the first place.
  • Adventure Quest Laser Tag – This one is a little far from the hotel, about 15-20 minutes by car, but it is worth it if you like this kind of thing. Featuring laser tag, bumper cars, mini golf, an outdoor maze, rock climbing, and a huge arcade, if you want some family fun this is the place to go
  • Audubon Zoo – About a 20 minute drive away, this is a pretty neat urban zoo. Plus, if you play Pokemon, it’s got around 30 pokestops!

 

BARS WITH LIVE MUSIC:

  • Carousel Bar and Lounge – It’s a bar that is built onto a carousel, and it actually spins! They have live music most nights, and it’s only about a block over from the hotel!
  • 21st Amendment – Another bar with less moving parts that features live jazz most nights, and it’s also only about a block away from the hotel. It’s got a mobster, speakeasy vibe and is named after the amendment that introduced Prohibition.

 

SPECIALTY BARS:

  • Patrick’s Bar Vin – About two blocks over from the hotel, this is a wine bar, but they do serve a few cocktails and a few beers. It’s clientele is apparently mostly locals and the owner is there most nights and friendly. The tourist reviews I could find really liked the calm and inviting atmosphere.
  • Bourbon “O”  – This one is about a half mile away, and is located in what claims to be the most haunted hotel in New Orleans. They have a seasonal menu that changes often so it’s a mystery what they will be serving when you get there!

 

There are a TON of other places that I didn’t list on here; I didn’t even cover Bourbon Street! Hopefully this gives you a fun starting point to branch out to other places and enjoy yourselves out of character this weekend as well. I look forward to seeing you all in different places around the city, if I can ever bring myself to leave Daisy Dukes, Brass Monkey or the Grand Masquerade hotel. You’ll probably find me out of character at the gaming hall most of the time, losing at board games. Look for me in character at the Grand Conclave event for Underground Theater, I’ll be the one wearing dragonfly jewelry and slightly ridiculous heels.

Anna is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire 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, and is the proud owner of two loving cats, and another that’s kind of mean but loves her anyway (probably). She can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/squeenoodles

IMPORTANCE OF LANGUAGE PT 2: PVP VS CVC

Generally when we are role-playing characters in conflict, we aren’t also having conflict with the players.

 

Jensjunge at pixabay.com

Unless you take your Witcher cosplay VERY seriously.

 

Notating the difference between the use of “Player versus Player” and “Character versus Character” is very important to maintain a healthy gaming relationship with those around you, especially those that your character comes into conflict with. These articles aim to help you conquer one of the topics that is the most harmful to out of character interactions: the language you use. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Today we will discuss the the difference between the phrases “character versus character” and “player versus player” or PvP and CvC for short.

 

Player versus Player (PvP) and Character vs Character (CvC)

Think of a videogame that you play against another person, like Street Fighter or Mario Kart. In those games, you the player is playing against the other player. Your avatar in these games has no motivation or thought driving them to their actions other than your thumbs. No one else wins if you win, and no one else loses if you lose.

Nintendo & nazo-gema.deviantart.com

Except Luigi. He always wins.

Videogames are a perfect example of Player versus Player, or PvP for short. In a video game you are a Player, and the other person is a Player. You as players are using your own skills and abilities in a contest to see who comes out on top. In a LARP setting, the opposite is true. In LARP it is not Player versus Player, but instead Character versus Character. Your character Taylor is fighting Janet’s character Kara. Would you go over and actually injure Janet? If not, then you the player is not fighting Janet the player. Taylor the character is fighting Kara the character. The reason it is important to refer to character’s competing as CvC instead of PvP is that we as players are not competing with each other.

Using the term PvP to refer to your character’s conflict with another character can be harmful to the out of game perception of what is going on. People who are not you or the player of the character that your character is fighting with could perceive it as you the player not liking the other player involved. It can lead to hurt feelings when someone finally wins, as sometimes CvC actions can lead to the death of one or more characters involved. Using the term CvC helps keep that perception from happening and helps separate the negative emotion of the loss so that way you can speak to the player afterwards to make sure everything is okay out of character.

Recently some LARPing organizations, such as Underground Theater, have begun using CvC to describe times when characters fight with each other, and it has been very helpful in reducing hurt feelings and miscommunication issues related to the scenes. In a recent game one character kidnapped another character. The scene went smoothly and after the game the two players were laughing and shook hands, smiles all around. These two players used a combination of possessive and objective language throughout the night, and made sure to frame the conflict as CvC instead of PvP. Both contributed to the general good mood after the game.

 

Be Respectful, Get Respected, Have A Good Time

unsplash at pixabay.com

Only imagine those as beers if you’re 21+

 

Language is the most important tool you as a player have when interacting with other players. It can make the difference between leaving your game with a new friend or the other player leaving the game and not coming back. Remembering to use your words as a barrier between yourself and your character can help soothe bad moods and make interactions positive for everyone. Using CvC instead of PvP can also reframe the situation and separate it from the negative in character feelings.

When you respect other players through language, you get respect in return. Treat other players respectfully and you may make a new friend, even (especially?) if your character just murdered theirs and left them in a ditch somewhere.

Anna is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire 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, and is the proud owner of two loving cats, and another that’s kind of mean but loves her anyway (probably). She can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/squeenoodles

LARP & THE SOCIAL DEFICIENCY

Despite the social, shared experience that is Live Action Role Playing, the social aspect sometimes falls short.

Awkward

 

I started gaming as a late teenager, first in AIM chat rooms in a friend’s D&D campaign, then moving on to weekly tabletop games at a local store. Boy, was I awkward! That guy who raises his voice a bit too high when laughing, or seems to not quite get the flow of conversation? Yeah, pretty sure that was me. It took me some time to improve, but I credit gaming for a large part of that success. It gave me an environment to watch how other people interacted on a typical basis, and emulate them. I got to act out characters, help in group decisions, and come together to craft wonderful stories.

 

LARP taught me social interaction a bit differently, given its much broader scope: the first event I played in had dozens of people playing monsters or their own character. The game I play in now averages over 40 attendees a month, and the largest LARP event I’ve been to had almost 400 players in one night! Through LARP, I learned more about personal display and expression on a larger scale, as player and storyteller. I learned to act and reign in emotions better. I’m not the only one, either. My game has other players who, over years of playing, also improved their ability to relate to and get along with others. If that’s beneficial, I’m really happy for them.

 

Even if you don’t care about the social skill-building aspect, just having friends you regularly see, and spending time together, generally makes us feel good. The stories we make are fun! Character improvement is fun! Practicing your acting skills is a kind of fun! I can’t think of another experience quite like Live Action Role Playing, which is why I’m disappointed when the social aspect fails its players.

 

Let’s imagine these scenarios from a LARP game:

  • You’re taking a bit of a breather after finishing a scene. Coming back to the main room, you notice that someone’s been sitting on the couch since the game started.
  • The game has ended, and the players are giving a nod to who they thought displayed great role play. Good role players get extra experience. You hear a lot of familiar names.
  • An event happens, and it seems that like usual, a certain group is going off to deal with it rather than you.

 

Are any of those scenarios familiar? I’ve seen them many times myself. Some players appear to be waiting around forever, or are just bored, but we might be unsure how to approach them or we’re busy. Nods for experience, going to the same players, could just means those players learned how to get attention, have good friends, or are superb actors. It’s the same with the last case: players who know how to form their parties and participate will get a lot of the hooks. Games may have an equalizing factor – our abilities in real life don’t need to have anything to do with our characters’ – but they are not egalitarian. Social systems, too, are played and gamed.

 

Split the party

Get Everyone Involved

Why does this matter? Because some people constantly feel left behind.

 

I still see myself as the awkward kid who never quite grew out of it. I still struggle with joining events, getting myself noticed, or keeping my energy up in large groups. I know I’m not the only one out there who finds the social aspects difficult, even if the game can be a lot of fun. Sure, everyone shares responsibility to improve themselves and fit in, but there’s only so much one person can sometimes do; our internal resources are limited.

 

It’s not as if there’s a single cause for this situation. There are plenty of active players and storytellers who try to extend plot and scenes to those who don’t participate as much, but keeping track of everything and everyone is a tough job. At the same time, there are also plenty of less active players who don’t want to make as much of an effort to be active in the game. Maybe they’re less invested for personal or historical reason. Cliques will also happen anywhere we have people – you can try to stop them from forming, but that won’t happen.

 

That said, I wonder if something could actually be done on a larger scale. I’ve seen increasing numbers of LARP organizations, and individual games alike, make strong statements of various inclusivity in their policies. It looks like a trend of increasing acceptance and diversity. If we understand that LARP is an intrinsically social activity, and we want to be inclusive, what do we do with people who have more trouble on the social part? We could put our foot down and say that some people just aren’t a good fit, but that’s exclusive. Maybe those of us who aren’t as easily social come because we harbor a hope of improvement, as at odds with the systems as we are. Maybe it’s our only outlet, or only way of keeping up with our friends. We’re not here for real life!

 

Could there be a more systematic approach to fair inclusion and participation? Do we want our games to just be games, or acknowledge and further develop the aspects of personal development? I’m not sure. I can imagine the push-back from people who fear the game becoming less about gaming and more about support. Even so, I think it wouldn’t be impossible to have an organization promoting conscientious behavior to its players, a “best practices” kind of deal.

 

For those of us who are a bit less comfortable but still having fun, I hope we can at least have the conversation.

 

Ariel is a player and former head of a World of Darkness LARP, as well as an officer of its parent organization, The Garou Nation. He enjoys trying different game systems ever since he encountered his first rulebooks at the age of 13. In the rest of his time, he works on many projects ranging from computer tech and language learning all the way to Queer media, when he’s not trying to find the best bowl of ramen outside of Japan.