Monday, December 3, 2012

Strange Tales on the Road to Virginia: NekoCon 2012 (part 3)

           Saturday began with the sound of a klaxon jolting my semi-lucid dreams away. As it turned out, Agnes had also set an alarm, and I'd woken up to that. As I stared up at the ceiling, I felt around for my phone so my own alarm wouldn't go off. And then something hit me about that. I was looking at the ceiling. A quick stock of my surroundings also told me that my throat hurt. A sudden spike of adrenaline ran up my spine. Oh hell.

          See, I don't ever sleep on my back. I sleep sort of on my stomach, half on my side. There is a very good reason for this-- when I sleep on my back, I start to talk in my sleep-- loudly, I might add, and when I'm not doing that, I snore loudly. This hurts my throat, annoys everyone around me, and usually means I wind up with a headcold because everything drains through the updrafts and downdrafts coming from my massive sinus cavity1 and wake up feeling like crap. Since everyone was still asleep, there was no time for a mass apology to the room, so I dredged myself out of the sleeping bag, got dressed, and headed to the shower with all the grace of a drunken ox. 

      This time, I decided to skip the buffet, instead picking up a muffin and a hot chocolate from the slightly-overpriced coffee bar in the hotel lobby. Normally, I'd be worried about a sugar-crash2, but today didn't feel like the kind of day to worry about a sugar crash. No, today felt full of promise, and I had sort of a relaxed start. LARP didn't open for a while, so I took my time enjoying my breakfast before I headed over to the convention hall. There was already a crowd starting to form in front of the door when I got there, and I  sat and chatted about things with the rest of the players. Finally, the doors opened and we all gathered inside.

      After the aftermath of the golf course fight, Shizuo had become infected with some kind of virus. This had the effect of getting me to play more angry and more volatile, as well as giving me a pretty strict time limit. Now, death isn't permanent in a LARP, if it were, it'd make things a lot more of a hassle for players-- but it does put you down for a while, and before this point, I'd had a perfect record3. So I was a little jumpy, but  it was a deadline. I can work with deadlines5. And I still hadn't completely felt The Drop, but then something happened that changed that around quick. In the universe of the show my character comes from, he has a rival named Izaya. I played the rival before, and it was a whole ton of fun6. And someone had taken the character for NekoCon. And who should walk in while I'm deciding what to do, but Izaya's player?

      I immediately went into what I would call "the happy dance" and what most people would call "an overweight man waving his arms wildly". I've heard it's banned by the Geneva Convention. I don't care. But a plan immediately formed. I could play this character by going "Show up, beat people up, leave". I could do it as long as I had someone to initiate the chaos. And that's when my plan started to form. See, the LARP has big events on each day. Things with a lot of players where most of the major public plotlines converge. And all it took to get this plan in motion? One sentence. I walked up to the Izaya player and asked her, "Hey, so, you're in the audience at this event, right?"

   She said yes, I sprung into action. And then we were off. I felt The Drop hit as I put the plan in motion, disrupted the event with a loud battle-cry, and entered into a combat involving four players and a GM trying to put my character down for the time being. The plan was as follows:

- Show up at an event
- Disrupt event by beating people up
- Leave

     As you can see, it perfectly suited the character. So I sort of went off on my own tangent and it actually worked out pretty between I had some good "angry" scenes with the rest of the group, and during major events, I would show up to trash things. Or that was the plan, anyway, until eventually, the plot intervened. 

    The plot is a tricky beast in a LARP. It's necessary for one, and ties all the players together, but the individual players are going to have so much going on that sometimes when they interact with the main plot, things start to drag a little. Because characters usually have to figure out a lot of stuff, then sometimes groups wind up trying out everything in a scene, in what Robin Laws once called "dragging". This ties up people's characters for a while, but eventually when things are figured out, there's a wonderful sense of accomplishment and a mad dash to let everyone else know what's going on. So once Shizuo's deadline came to a head, he was sedated so the rest of the LARP group I was in (that being Abby, Matt, Mr. Ellis, the Izaya player, Del (though she headed off), and several others) could experiment on him and figure out how to fix him before he literally exploded. 

     And that's when a Drop of a different kind happened. I kind of have a secondary mindset I use for roleplay. It requires me to take a passive role, but I start developing plans. The problem with this, of course, is that in this case, I wasn't playing a character known for his smarts under fire, and more importantly, anything I discovered or planned would have to be thought of by the characters in the scene. However, I'd sorta lucked out a little bit. Mr. Ellis was playing a sort of kill-happy solipsist, and I happened to need a definite exit from the scene. Also, Shizuo was pretty due for a death-respawn right around now, considering that his condition had worsened throughout the day. So I floated the idea of just ganking7 the character, and after some discussion, Mr. Ellis accepted and I went to tell the GMs.

        However, due to a mishap involving communications and the lovely thing we like to call "desync", instead of killing my character off in isolation, Mr. Ellis inadverdently killed the character off and then the death effect blew out and infected the whole room. Which led to the following exchange:

Caius (Storming back into the scene): You DICK! You couldn't even kill me correctly! You just infected the whole room!
Mr. Ellis (echoing the sentiment of everyone in the scene): WHAT?!

     So after I finished my little mock-angry display, I settled down and let the GMs explain the situation in words people could actually understand. Shizuo died, I puttered around the LARP area for a while doing nothing in particular, and everyone else more or less worked their stuff out. By this time it was dinner, and since I hadn't made any plans, I was pretty much on my own. So I managed to corral Josh, another player and friend, into doing dinner with me so I wasn't sitting in some random place doing nothing. Then Mr. Ellis showed up and asked if I wanted to head to Kelly's with him. Josh caught up with me, we caught up with Mr. Ellis, and it turned out he was part of a group going over to the restaurant. And this would probably be where I should have trusted my gut. 

 What went wrong

          Well, as it turns out, a whole bunch of people at the LARP had the exact same idea all at once. So where the group with us took up two whole back tables, the group as a whole now occupied half the room. This, and I should stress this, was no one's fault. We all just went "Hey, there's an Irish pub sorta place, let's go check it out." To add to the fun, there was an undercurrent of tension in the room. I wasn't sure how it got there, but the place was empty, and the feeling was mounting, and it felt like the bass line from every '80s horror movie's ending credits theme (You know, that "bump. bump-bump. bump. bump-bump" bit right before the creepy synths step in) would start up any minute. But this was where everyone I knew was, so I figured it was okay to hang out. And we got into a lively conversation, but eventually things started to go a little south.

         The first clue was that a member of the group actually had to go up to the bar so they could get someone to serve us. Someone who had a slightly frightened look in their eye. The second clue was how empty it was apart from us. Only a bunch of Homestuck-heads and us, really. And the third was when, shortly after giving our orders to the more organized members of the group who then ran it up to the front, one of the cooks up and quit on the spot. Still, between a concentrated group effort and the patience of the waitress involved (as well as the good fortune to have someone in the group who could calculate it all and didn't mind), food slowly trickled in. The tension alleviated a little as we all kept up a steady stream of conversation. It relaxed me. I felt like I wasn't the only one who was tense. Finally, we all made our way back towards the convention center, still talking. 

         The night had started to wind down for the most part...while we still had our major investigation going, it was mostly sitting and talking about what we'd found out and what it meant. But the final event of the evening was about to commence: A fighting tournament. And, given my character's MO of "Show up, beat everyone up, leave", it was perfect: Show up to the fighting tournament, beat everyone up, and then leave. Okay, well, it wouldn't be that easy. LARP fighting tournaments tend to go in the direction of "The people with the most powerful characters fling them at each other". And Shizuo was nowhere near the top.

      I held my own until the plot took precedence, using a special ability I had misread earlier to a much better effect, and even getting off a line of "I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm doing"8. The plot intervened midway through, and Shizuo got taken out when he tried to warn the rest of the group, an act he did by shouting and punching through the electrified fence surrounding the tournament area. This marked the second time during the day my character died, though it was for a good cause, and I was having fun, so it worked out. The day ended with Shizuo's body being dragged back to the hospital, and we all headed off to the bar.

       The night wound down with a few games of Cards Against Humanity (Think Apples to Apples, but raunchy) with Abby, Josh, and a few other friends from the group. This time, the server seemed to be a little nicer, though it might have been that I was exhausted, hairy, sort of beardy, and looked quite out of my mind (much like a less-imposing Alan Moore).  The GMs of various LARPs were having their own drinks, sort of a members-only affair, so when the game wound down, I stumbled my way back up the stairs only to find that Mr. Ellis had the key to the room, and as far as I knew, everyone else was asleep. I paced back and forth, then finally knocked on the door. Thankfully, Gerry was up and let me in. 

      I tried to make my way carefully and quietly through the room, but wound up in my buzzed state crashing my head through the hangers on the way in and the way out. Thankfully, in my drunken-ox meanderings through the room, I didn't manage to wake anyone up. Once I got in, I turned off the light and went to get ready to sleep. It was at this point, Agnes suddenly sat up in bed, took a few moments, and then got ready to head out of the room. I stopped, mid-meditational thingy, and waved at her curiously. She waved back and then left. Huh. I thought, followed by Oh, crap, I woke her up.9 Thankfully, I lay down, and then remembered which way I should turn and fell asleep on my side so I wouldn't snore through the night, a little nervous about tomorrow.

- Room navigation is inversely proportional to the amount of alcohol in one's system, and should be accounted for.
- Read your character sheet carefully when LARPing. You never know what you might find or what you may have misread.
- If it looks less like a group and more like an advancing horde, it may be time for you to disengage and find somewhere else to eat
- Do the plot, but be wary of how long a scene might take and how much investigation you need to do if you want to do other things. 

- The conclusion!
- Deja Vu!
- Two-man renditions of rock opera!
And we finally get back to book reviews. It's been a long time coming.

1. And chances are, you have probably seen my nose, so you know exactly how massive.
2. The most frightening sugar-crash, of course, was the sugar-crash en masse during the hell that was the Paradigm shoot, also known as "why Caius should never direct a TV show". But that would be an article in and of itself, and one fraught with conflict and people getting angry at me for mentioning Paradigm. 
3. Said perfect record being built on one character who was immortal and the other one who tended to pull strings more than get into direct conflict, but hey! A record is a record.4
4. Considering the circumstances of deaths in LARP and the stories surrounding them, deaths are actually a little more impressive sometimes. It means you get a good story and you do a lot of risky, crazy shit.
5.Says the guy who is finally getting to the conclusion of his con write-up almost a month after the event
6. So much fun that I have a self-imposed ban on playing him in another LARP until at least 2014, unless something way too enticing to resist comes along. The definition of "something way too enticing to resist" is of course very loose.
7. Killing someone when they're either completely unaware or completely incapable of fighting back. 
8. This phrase, or the much shorter "I don't know what I'm doing" is something of a minor "oh crap" moment in roleplay, because chances are if I say it, I'm letting the bastard bits of my brain take over and taking a backseat to whatever they come up with. It's sorta become my catchphrase, though my rep is definitely gonna crumble because whatever was going on in the LARP where this started to pop up was more due to, like, a syzygy or something than me. But it worked out.
9. This turned out not to be the case, but at the time, I thought it was true. 

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