Actual Play – Prayer Circle Playstorm (8/15/2013)

GM: George Locke
Players: Sean Nittner, Lizzie Stark, Emily Care Boss, and Jason Morninstar.
System: Prayer Circle LARP

After The Artist Colony George and Lizzie invited some of us, those interested, to stay for a second playstorm. This one centered around the power of prayer. I really enjoyed the previous game and still had good energy, so I gladly signed up.

The format of the game is a denomination not specified Christian church-going family that has just lost a very important woman in their lives (she was many roles: mother, patron, ex-mother-in-law, mother-in-law, and ex-wife). Her final wishes were that the family come back together in the church and find a way to forgive each other. I think George said one of the themes of the game was the contrast between God’s unconditional forgiveness, and humans very conditional forgiveness.

The Game

This game ended up hitting extremely close to home for me.  My character was divorced for reasons that striking resemble my own divorce, and although my character lost his ex-mother-in-law, it hasn’t been that long since I lost my father and sister.

We started in a prayer circle discussing why we were there, all playing our characters to the hilt, and then flashed back to a moment of pain, when one of us hurt the other (or, as humans so often do, when we both hurt each other). The flashback we elected was the break up between my character and Lizzie’s character. It hit home like a tidal wave, one that just kept surging. Each ebb in the scene was a moment of dread preparing for the next flood. At one point George tapped me on the shoulder and asked “how long can you keep pretending everything is okay?”

That question was a moment of truth for me. It registered for me the difference between art or play, and the reality that it both informs and emulates. In a game we expect the character to come into conflict when they want mutually exclusive things. But in reality, my experience was just a lot of endurance, and only letting out the truth in small, often passive aggressive, doses. I’m not saying everyone operates the way I do, but I did feel, at that moment, the strong connection between my life and the life of my character’s severed. In a game, I would push forward as though everything I had created with this person, a house, two children, a life together, was easily gambled, even expendable. In life, I was never so brave.

Thoughts on this game

I really didn’t know what I was getting into playing this game. It stirred up a lot of for me. Thinking about my ex-wife, thinking about my dad and my sister. I remember leaving and really wanting to stay connected to someone. Bless her heart, Emily walked me home.

Jason also had a lot of good feedback on the LARP, which he gave there. Mostly to do with how different denominations would respond to it, and that the game should pick a particular denomination and keep it true to that.

We got to sing in the beginning of the game, which was great. Emily has an amazing voice! I think it would have offered more closure for me if we sang again at the end.

Actual Play – The Artist Colony Playstorm (8/15/2013)

GM: Lizzie Stark
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, George Locke, Kira Scott, Marc Majcher, Emily Care Boss, Jason Morninstar, Terry Romero, and more.
System: The Artist Colony LARP

I had this amazing dinner that Jason and Steve invited us to on Thursday evening. At that dinner we met some really awesome people, Ajit, Lizzie and George. Lizzie and George are huge fans of Nordic LARP… and later that night they invited us to one!

Artist Colony, which Lizzie is renaming now, is a LARP about people at, you guessed an artist colony. Everyone is given a random mix of cards that contain: relationship status, trauma, a descriptor, art form practiced, how long you’ve been at the colony, and your expectations or motivations. From this your character is assembled.

At first I played “J”, a clingy writer who just wanted to socialize instead of writing. In fact he hated his writing because it was a mythical (and fake) retelling of his past. J had grown up dirt poor and he wrote short stories about a scrappy young girl named Beatrice Bee, who was a poor orphan, but her scrappy sensibilities and ingenuity got her through every challenge. Boxcar Children meets Nancy Drew. Only for J, that was a total lie. His experience being poor was that it sucked and no about of do-it-yourself-ness made that any better.

After two nights though J left and I can back as Anton, also a writer but of non-fiction, who was just there to work and flee his own demons. I only played Anton for one “night” and didn’t fully feel I was in his shoes, but I was getting there.


The LARP took place over several “days”, each of which last 20 minutes. The days were broken down into private creation, cocktail hour, and late night socializing.

Daytime for doing Art – The days passed by Lizzie telling all of us to go stand somewhere alone and close our eyes. She told us to think about the work we did, how it was different from working at home, and asked us questions for us to answer to ourselves. What is your space like? How is today different than the last? Are you inspired? Frustrated? We closed our eyes, focused on our work, and then the day was done.

Cocktail hour – Lizzie asked who was first to head down for drinks and playing J I was there immediately. All I had come to the colony for was to socialize. Kristina (Kira’s character) was also an earlier arrival, and so we started talking. She was a composer with a private cabin in the garden of the colony, and seemed of a like mind to do more socializing that actual work.

After hours – Lizzie collectively gave us the choice to sit out at the veranda, go skinny dipping in the pool, or party in someone’s personal quarters. The group decided what to do, then Lizzie set the stage and we played from there.

Thoughts on the game

Lizzie was playtesting the game so we played a very truncated version. The whole thing in just over an hour. Because of that many of the scenes were very short. Her plan was for this to be a 3-4 hour LARP and I think in that time much deeper relationships would be created. She also mentioned that she wanted to see if we felt the monotony of doing the same thing every day, but personally, especially with changing character half way through, I was on my toes the whole time.

Jason played a remorselessly angry and self-loathing Alexander. He hated all of us openly, but would never have opened up in the context of the game. I think for this very reason, there was a mechanic called the *fist bump*. In the middle of a conversation one person would fist bump another, and then instead of speaking in character to each other, they gave their inner monologue the the audience, even though the audience was usually just the other person. I used fist bumping a lot in the game and it was especially meaningful with Alexander, because both of us put on fronts and both of us hated ourselves. Albeit for different reasons, and different fronts, but it was great to see behind the curtains. Just like John Stavropoulos’s “What is your character thinking/feeling right now?” question, the fist bump created a new tension that the players where aware of each other’s feelings, but the characters weren’t.

Sex, for me at least, was  big part of the game. J had sex with Kristina the first night and after that, was glued to her. She was a drug for him. The fact that she took other men back to her cabin to have sex on her piano as well didn’t matter. After that first night he felt liberated, and on the second day, he had the courage to write a story about Beatrice that he truly thought was honest, which made him elated. A lot of that excitement was drawn from my own experiences of connecting with new people. In my personal case it isn’t usually sexual, but the excitement of sharing something with someone is intense. I don’t think it’s necessarily (or even often) transformative, but it feels like it is in the moment.


Actual Play – Always/Never/Now (8/15/2013)

always-never-nowGM: Will Hindmarch
Players: Sean Nittner, Kevin, Aaron, and Jason
System: Always/Never/Now

YUP! My first game at GenCon was A/N/N with it’s creator and all around awesome dude Will Hindmarch!

The gaming group were all new to me and thanks to Games on Demand awesome organization, all came ready to try out something new. Kevin had never role-played before but hopped right into gear. Jason and Aaron came together but were totally game to interact with everyone at the table (as I found out early on).

I really like playing in games that people have run multiple times before. I’m finding this as I run the Torchbearer scenario “Under the House of the Three Squires” over and over, that the more I know it, the smoother my descriptions are and the more confident I feel as the players throw out awesome ideas and I respond in kind. Will is definitely a zen GM of this game. His opening description through to his closing finish were all off the cuff, natural, and engaging.

I played Tank, because I love chicks with technical toys. One of my Keys (behavior that grants XP in the game) was that of camaraderie, and so I had to pick another player at the table that I had a strong relationship with. I took a bit of a gamble and chose Henri, played by Aaron. He was sitting across the table from me I know from experience that one-sided relationships like “hey, my character feels XYZ about your character” are not always reciprocated in con games with people that don’t know you, who are sitting across the table next to their friend. Aaron was awesome though.

We had this great opening scene of attaching a cyber leg to this malnourished kid in Ethiopia. A place we operated illegally out of , but Henri was still trying to do good with his life and Tank had his back. The scene where we air lifted off and the were waved away by the family and the kid, now standing on his cyber-leg, was great.

700The play is the thing

I don’t want to talk too much about the adventure since, even more so than Lady Blackbird, A/N/N really has a story line associated with it. As the description of the game says:

You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-ins, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now. 

Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…

Now he’s back—back in trouble—and it’s up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.

What I particularly enjoyed about the game was that it set you up with the right expectations. Your first lead doesn’t take you to your old spymaster, but you do learn something about him. Your second doesn’t either, but you’re not expecting it too. I think managing expectations in spy/investigation games is critical. Too often players want to figure out a clever solution to short circuit the investigation and get stymied when they can’t find the answer right now. I think part of this is because many investigations present themselves as simple questions (like “who done it?”) and hyper-competent player characters are legitimately frustrated when their amazing skills only lead them to the next bread crumb in a seemingly endless trail.

A/N/N presents the protagonists as hyper-competent professionals, who never-the-less, are confronted with challenges that have the financial and tactical resources to give them a legitimate challenge. This is conveyed in the fiction clearly, so it’s satisfying when it’s represented in the mechanics.

Thoughts on this game

Alex, played by Jason, was hysterical. His character was so comical that when we rose up and was about to do something super bad ass, I drove off god damn cliff to make that bad ass thing happen!

Four arms are better than two. Especially when two of them are cyber-arms.

Henri’s code of non-violence was broken is the most bad ass way!

Games on Demand was loud for sure, but not so much so that we couldn’t all hear the awesome at our table. Great times!