Thursday, December 6, 2012

Strange Tales on the Road to Virginia: Nekocon 2012 (Part 4: And Then We Came To The End)

When we last left our hero, he had collapsed in a slightly paranoid manner on the floor...

        I lurched back into consciousness to the movements of people packing. After a brief conversation with Agnes cleared up the misunderstanding from the previous night and let me know that it was time to pack up (also that it was Sunday), I packed everything into the red Time Magazine shoulder-bag I take out on the road and headed for breakfast again at the coffee bar. A quick check of the time told me that I should be heading to the LARP room to meet up with my group for the big endgame, so I headed over at a lesiurely pace while eating my muffin and drinking my cappucinawhateveritwas.

       The last day of a LARP always makes me a little nervous. I feel like I have to go all-out on the last day, and usually fall short of my expectations(1). Still, I'd had The Drop to guide me all of the previous day, and while I didn't fancy my chances too much, I fancied I'd get some stuff done. Besides, I'd taken the role of muscle for my group, and muscle doesn't run the show. They just make sure the show keeps running. Due to a mixup, most of my group and another group had been told to show up early to go over stuff. This meant we all showed up about an hour or so early, only for no one to be there. Thankfully, despite missing the buffet, I'd upped my caffeine intake, so I was at least awake enough for the rest of the day. The final battle was split into groups, with my group going on the ground team to take the fight directly to the villains of the piece. 

        During the first part of the day, there wasn't much I did apart from looking threatening and working out possible plans. While my more plotty instincts were hampered by the fact that the character I played wasn't really the guy you went to for plotting(2), I still have a lot of planning headspace allocated to whatever I was doing. So I was looking for little plans on the fly as we started the final assault on the enemy base. While I found a few, the metagaming line came in once again and kept me from putting too many of them in play. Besides, like I said, it was other people's show, and I was cool with that. Finally, the LARP opened up and we were underway.

       Sunday at a LARP is a very odd's both very fast, because everyone wants to finish the plot, and very slow because the pace is very much relaxed. We're no longer feeding off the energy the con is putting out, and while the con is winding down in an air of desperation, an air of trying to keep the party going until the very last moment, we're seeing the conclusion of three days of exhaustive make-believe. And that sounds pithy, but dammit, it's three amazing days of exhaustive make-believe. So this Sunday, the group I was a part of was taking care of a specific plot element in a bigger plan, a plan to bring down an evil alternate universe for good. The Drop was taking its time to hit, and I was a little jumpy. Also, that mocha-coffee-whatever it was had gone right through me.

      Still, this is where the rest of my group came through. When you're at a loss in a LARP, it helps to either be part of a group, or to be good at doing random stuff.(3) In this case, I had a group, and had been pulled along in the story by working as a bodyguard for Abby's character. This had worked out well in the department of giving me loads of people to hit, though not much time to do random stuff, as is my custom. Still, I was having fun. While various battles and scenes raged around us, we led a team into an alternate universe to rescue trapped children. And then The Drop hit again, in one of the best ways. One of the GMs mentioned that there were little more than nameless, faceless grunts. I checked my sheet, cracked my neck and knuckles, and with a big grin on my face said, "Nameless, faceless grunts, you say?"

      As it turned out, Shizuo's character sheet had a power on it that allowed him to pretty much grab a random object and clear a room full of nameless bad guys, affectionately called "mooks" by the roleplaying and gaming communities. So while the fighting and rescue mission went on, I did crowd control by tenderizing the poor scene extras. It was a short job, but a fun one, and one that let Shizuo have the fight I couldn't let him have by rolling like crap all weekend(4). The bigger battles finished in their titanic fashion, the GMs wrapped everything up, and surprisingly it all took less time than we thought due to our working through the plot at a frantic pace. Through the entire weekend, people felt like there was some odd time-dilation going on-- as it turns out, we were getting more done than we thought, which was the reason Friday night felt like Saturday, and Saturday felt like Sunday, and Sunday felt like an extended Saturday. 

       But soon the post-LARP celebrations had ended and it was time for yet another series of goodbyes and "I'll get in touch when I get home"s. Mr. Ellis and I made our rounds, him a little more relaxed, me a little more nervous and ready to be home. The weekend had been fun, but NekoCon and its frantic energy were leaving Virginia, and so should I. So we packed the car, finally said our long round of goodbyes, and took a final check of the room. Then, well...

     We struck out just before it got dark, and headed north. Mr. Ellis driving again, me on navigation, exhausted and ready for our own beds, our own houses, and the warm glow of the power that had turned back on while we were gone. We kept each other talking to stave off the tiredness, pounding the remaining Cokes (and in one case, Five-Hour Energy) for the quick hits they'd give. The GPS was still its snippy self, giving out directions in a put-out tone of voice because we had to drive long, straight stretches again. We flipped through the music library as it grew darker outside, coming across first a bridge, and then a long span over a large body of water somewhere just outside Virginia. 

      "Hey," Mr. Ellis said suddenly, "Did we go this way on the way down?"
      "Nnnnope." I said. 

       I had an odd feeling of uncertainty, though. 

       "You're sure?" he asked.
      "...Yyyes?" I wasn't sure myself. 

      What I wanted to say was that I'd dreamed it, but that was crazy. It was the only way I could account for it, though. The red and white lights over the reflection of the water looked like they were kinda dreamlike, anyway. The area was dark with occasional lights to lead the way, the only other lights the headlights from cars. And it stayed that way, for a time. Mr. Ellis put on The Father of Death by The Protomen, and we traded off, him taking the lower male voice (5), and me taking the higher one. It's an album that's kind of a mutual bit of ground. He got me into The Protomen way back when we both still lived in the desert, I emailed him the first leaked demo(6), he told me when the album was out so I could get a album which we both agree is amazing. 

      But soon the lights of Philadelphia loomed in through the windshield, and I felt a certain amount of relief. Partly that the journey was over, and partly that I was headed back to the warm glow of my newly-restored power. I stumbled through the desolate train station, managed to barely board the train home, and relaxed as it rushed off through the night towards someplace familiar. The tour was over, I'd survived, and I had some interesting experiences from it. And while it had its share of nervous moments, it was something I'd gladly do again.

- Sort out transit before you leave
- Things will come together as they happen
- If two people experience deja vu, there's a chance it either actually happened, or you two have very weird dreams
- Conventions screw with your sleep schedule if you're not careful.

Sod your next installment! No more travel articles from me until 2013!

- Pandaemonium by Daryl Gregory (and I've wanted to do this one for a while)
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Other reviews of books (Glad I'm getting back to those, right?)
- A new feature: People other than me writing! That's right, read the post before this one, because we're going open submission

(1)This was not of course a problem, as I was already strolling under the bar I'd set for myself quite nicely. In the past, falling short has included not thinking up an amazing master-plan for the first LARP I'd ever went to, and not thinking of the amazing master-plan fast enough the second time. 
(2) He was more the guy you went to so either the plot broke up, or so that your plot kept going due to him being hired. 
(3) I strongly recommend the second one, though it's got a fifty-fifty success rate. The extra risk comes with an extra reward. Try something. It may work out. It may turn out to be bigger than you expected!
(4) We use rock-paper-scissors to do rolls in LARPs. This does not stop anyone from calling it a "roll" occasionally. 
(5) Sadly, we had no one to do the female voice. Although happily for the women I know read this, as it means you're not trapped in a car with me for hours on end. From your perspective, that should be a definite boon. 
(6) The demo of "Breaking Out" has been a minor point of contention for us. I like the demo better than the final cut of the song. Mr. Ellis assures me vehemently that the opposite is true, but I'm a sucker for the Jersey Shore sound revival (read: Stuff that sounds like Springsteen, but a little faster and harder)(7). Here, take a listen: This is the demo, and this is the final cut. Now that you know where he and I fall on the divide, decide for yourselves. 
(7) Can something be a revival if the sound isn't actually dead yet? In a word, "yes". In a sentence, "Yes, because I'm the tupping writer here."

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